16 Dec Avoiding the Advertising Scammers
When I was leading a local chamber of commerce a few years ago, a company came into my office and offered to give us 50 t-shirts with the name of our city on the front and ads of local businesses on the back. All I had to do was sign and agree to receive the t-shirts. The shirts seemed like a great give-away that would cost us nothing.
A day later a board member called and asked me when we approved this fundraiser. The salesperson told our members she was selling the advertisements for shirts for us. Many businesses bought ads because they thought they were supporting us, instead they were supporting a business that did no business with our local companies.
Earlier this week we ran into a similar situation with a company who said he was raising funds for a local school. Our client is a big supporter of the local school but after a little research we realized this company wasn’t completely honest with us. We did not buy the ad. As I thought about this experience today, I began to think about the many phone calls every business–both retail and B2B–receives every day. In the midst of the busy holiday season it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a passionate ad rep or pay an invoice that looks legitimate without looking at it closely. The scam artists have worked diligently to make sure their offer looks as good as the real thing. Take a minute to review these steps to make sure your marketing dollars go where you need them to go.
Don’t give in to hard sell tactics.
The reason so many people hate dealing with salespeople is their hardball tactics. “Buy Now To Save” they scream at us, sometimes literally scream at us. Walk away. Legitimate advertising sales people are respectful of your desire to make good decisions for your company. They will not bully you into buying their product. Scammers, on the other hand, may offer you incredible discounts on advertising with their publication or media if you’ll agree right now, over the phone. You owe it to yourself and your company to take a step back and review the offer on your own before agreeing. Ask for contact information and offer to call them back with an answer.
Ask the sales rep about their audience demographics and where they find their numbers. Legitimate sales reps know this information and often can show you sales information with references. If a sales rep you do not know says they are selling ads as a fundraiser for a specific group, ask them about their contact person with that group. Know what you are buying and who it benefits.
Do your research.
The internet is a beautiful thing! Scammers can no longer hide behind false claims. Search through Yelp and other review directories. Type in the company’s phone number and read reviews from people who have fielded phone calls from those companies. If you are really uncertain, search for “bad reviews on [insert company name]”. Last year as we were making a major decision about an affiliation with a company we searched for the bad news about the company. As much as I searched I really found nothing credible and have had a great relationship with this particular company so far.
If the media asking you to advertise is a new local media, ask some of their current advertisers about their response. You should already be networking with local Mississippi businesses. Talk to them about media you may be considering and listen to their experiences. Keep in mind how your target audiences and goals may differ, but listen closely to how they worked with their ad rep and how billing was handled.
Don’t be fooled by guarantees.
Advertising and marketing are subjective. We can’t promise you specific results, although we can tell you what our other clients have experienced. No one else can promise you specific results either, if they try, walk away.
Look at invoices closely.
Multiple yellow book companies send out “invoices” for ads you haven’t agreed to purchase. Be aware of what ads you’ve have running and look closely at invoices from companies you don’t recognize. In our area we have two major phone books with a couple of smaller local publications. However I’ve seen many companies confused by invoices that look very similar to legitimate publications. If you aren’t sure, look back at the contract you signed with the real publications and search for the name on your invoice online.
You’ve set apart your advertising budget to promote your business. Before you schedule advertising with a company you don’t know, take a minute to make sure all your dollars are spent where they will do you the most good.