Dear Craig Smith, CEO of Service Magic,

Whew. It’s 2011. Wearing my business owner’s hat, I’d like to think we’ve weathered the worst of the economic storm. That the slowest of the slow times, when we’d wonder if the phone would ever start ringing again, and wondered if the bills would ever stop coming, are behind us now.

I know the fancy marketing types with their pinstripe suits and bowties tell me that lean times are not when I should be pulling the plug on my marketing. “That’s the time to INVEST!” they say. “Increase your marketing penetration because everyone else will be cutting back!” they say, too.

And I almost believe it.  Enough that I’m going to push the marketing effort, the advertising spend a bit harder this year.

But like I said a minute ago, it’s 2011.  The days of pissing away money on marketing campaigns that don’t have measurable results but fill my ego (Yellow Pages? I’m looking at you.) are over. I can only afford to put my money where it’s going to work for me, get me results.  I’m looking at both new and old avenues for promoting my business, and among them is the service you offer, Craig.

And the promise of new leads, new business that you extend to your prospective clients is alluring – like a siren song for a weary sailor that’s battled many a rough sea and just wants to drop anchor in a nice place and call it home.

But if you know your Greek mythology, you know that listening to the song of a Siren never ends well.

I’ve used your service before, Craig.  Used it and canceled it.  I was considering giving you another try, but after speaking with peers who have more recent experience with you, it seems things are the same as they ever were.  What does that mean, exactly?  I’ll tell you.

Lead accuracy.  My experience has been that the majority of the leads I receive are for services I don’t provide.  Someone wanting line voltage electrical work when I offer low voltage landscape lighting.  Another wanting a driveway paved with asphalt when we very clearly only offer brick pavements. Not concrete, not asphalt.  Now is it possible that I made huge errors when I signed up and walked through both the online and telephone processes for setting up my account?  Sure, but not likely.  I’m a college graduate, Craig, from a moderately reputable university. Just like you. More likely, judging by the intellect of the prospective clients I’m in contact with thanks to your service, it’s errors on their end, not mine.

Difficulty in getting fees assessed from bad leads credited to our account.  Once I’m able to discern that these people want services we don’t provide, it should be a relatively simple process to get a refund.  And hey, I don’t want to deny your company the ability to make a buck.  I get that if you start refunding money for every lead a company subjectively determines is “bad,” you’ll be broke by next Tuesday.  But when it’s a service we don’t provide and never claimed to provide on our profile, it should be a no brainer. Credit our account. And make the process simple.  We’re busy people and don’t have time to be fighting battles of $20 here and there. But we also don’t want to be twenty-dollared to death, because like I said – money’s tight.

Buttering the right side of the bread.  In making it so difficult for me to get my account credited for dead wood, you’re showing me that you really don’t value me. You know, the one who gives you money.  Your REAL customer.  I understand that you walk a tight rope when it comes to making both sides of these transactions satisfied, but if you have to decide which side is more important?  “The one that gives us money” should be the answer, every time.  Right now it doesn’t feel like that.

So you know what, Craig?  I’m not going to spend money on you and your company this year.  There are too many other ways I can invest my marketing dollars and too many other companies who treat me like the customer I am. But in 2012 when I’m sitting in front of a pile of reports spelling out how we did this year, I may consider using your service again.  But only if you figure out who butters your bread.

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