The World Wide Web can be a great resource or it can lead you down a rose-colored dead-end. How do you know if a company advertised on the Net is legit or BS? We’ll talk about how to tell the difference between honest advertising and Bot produced BS.
“It was the best of times., it was the worst of times….” from Charles Dickens “A Tale of Two Cities” pretty much sums up the current state of affairs with the Internet. In some ways the Net has been a boon to business owners due to the ability to reach prospective clients with a website. If you have a website you created and maintain, great, you’re already leveraging this amazingly powerful marketing tool. If you’re depending on others to leverage the power of the Web for you then be cautious. Things aren’t always what they appear to be and people seldom put your best interest above their own.
Case in point. Here’s a page that we captured 7/8/20 when searching for “home control works”.
It looks legit, doesn’t it. It is NOT. We did not authorize it, we have no relationship with HomeAdvisor, and we can’t strike it from the web because we didn’t create it! The information it contains is not all correct. It’s most likely the product of a Bot deployed by Home Advisor to attract both customers and businesses to their business offering.
So what’s a Bot? Bots, or Internet robots, are also known as spiders, crawlers, and web bots. They are often used to perform repetitive jobs, such as information gathering and indexing a search engine on the Web. In this case they scoured the Web for companies that provide “Audio/Visual & Computer” services, organized the information by company name and location, then spit it out when someone does a search by a company name. Clever those Bots!
In this example HomeAdvisor is trolling for business. They want to “match” a client’s internet request like “hang a flat screen TV” with a company in the client’s locale that can provide that service. They typically make their money by charging a referral fee to the company that fills the request. All without knowing anything of substance about the company filling that request. They certainly have no relationship with us since the logo is wrong, the business hours are wrong, we don’t accept credit cards, and no one (unfortunately) in our office is bilingual (bilingual in what languages, anyway – purposefully vague)! So on the surface authentic but in reality bogus!
When we first started our business we though it might be a good idea to partner with one of there companies. Bad idea! Their referral costs to us cut our margins virtually in half and in the process hijacked our website so that anyone who searched for our company was automatically intercepted by their company! NOT good for OUR business but good for theirs! Uncoupling from them was awkward but not impossible. Thankfully we learned our lessons early.
Our entire business philosophy is not compatible with theirs. We always seek a long-term relationship with our clients. Their focus is “by the job” and void of a relationship with the client. We are never the cheapest or the most expensive but always provide the very best value to our clients. Many of the referral companies base jobs/tasks on a fixed price. That’s how they are able to produce 2-3 quotes per inquiry. Most people end up taking the lowest quote. You get what you pay for.
OK, to be fair, ALL companies like HomeAdvisor have some type of screening process. From extensive to “does someone answer the phone?” Here’s their screening process described.
“HomeAdvisor uses an extensive screening process to screen businesses and business owners/principals. We perform this screening when a business applies to join our network and, if the business is accepted, once again every two years following — or whenever concerns are brought to our attention. If you have concerns that a pro in our network doesn’t meet these standards, please contact us so we can investigate. We’re committed to maintaining a network of trusted home service businesses, and those who don’t meet our criteria will be rejected or promptly removed from our network.”
“Due to the corona virus pandemic, several government agencies and courts across the country are temporarily closing their offices. Please be advised that these actions could impact the background checks that are performed by our third-party vendor during this period, but the HomeAdvisor background check program will continue. As always, we encourage consumers to perform their own research, to the extent possible, before hiring any service professional.”
So here’s the bottom line. In this case, listen to HomeAdvosor’s guidance. “As always, we encourage consumers to perform their own research, to the extent possible, before hiring any service professional.” You need to do your homework no matter who you hire! The best referrals are always personal. That’s how we get 90% of our business. By happy clients telling their friends about what a great job we did for them on their projects. Your always better off getting a personal referral for any company you hire. If you are new to the area then ask your neighbors. Check with the local Chamber and business groups. Do your homework.
If all you’re looking for is a one-off task to be done by whoever, then a referral service like HomeAdvisor may be just fine. Don’t get me wrong. Referral services have their place. They’re just not compatible with our work philosophies. There’s nothing wrong with HomeAdvisor. In fact, they MAY be one of the good ones. Do your homework!