An Open Letter to a Desperate Business : You’ve officially lost my trust and therefore my business!

Dear Desperate Business Owner or Marketing Manager:

I just got your last email and I’ve had enough.  I know that when I shared my email address with you and confirmed it, I was “officially” giving you permission to market your services to me but enough is enough.  I marked the last communication from your staff as spam so hopefully I won’t ever hear from you again.

It’s unfortunate that it’s had to come to this.  When I signed up for your service, I had high hopes.  You offered a free 30 day trial of your Web 2.0 application and it was presented in such an attractive manner that I couldn’t WAIT to try it.

As you’ve probably already guessed –  there was a significant lack of trust on my part when I agreed to your free trial.

What you may not realize is only one of those questions was whether or not the product would perform as promised.

I had other concerns.  Since this is a Web 2.0 application, this is not simply a product that I download and use.  To use your wonderful application, I must subscribe to your service.  That requires a higher level of trust.  This is not a one time transaction –  in purchasing your service, you are asking me to enter into a relationship with your company.

IT’S NOT A TRANSACTION, IT’S A RELATIONSHIP!!!

The trust element raised the bar significantly and changed the rules of the game.  When this went from a one time sale to a long term relationship – this transaction went from being a Minor Sale to a Major Sale.  (Pick up a copy of my book Beyond the Niche: Essential Tools You Need to Create Marketing Messages that Deliver Results for more on the differences in marketing the Major Sale vs the Minor Sale.)

Trust is a huge part of the Major Sale.

I understand that you probably weren’t aware of the differences between Minor Sales and Major Sales when you created the marketing for this service.   Perhaps you thought marketing was simply a matter of B2B or B2C.

I forgive you for not buying and reading my book.  That’s why I’m composing this open letter to you.

I trusted you enough to give you my real email address.   Perhaps you don’t recognize the significance of that.  Sharing my REAL email was in and of itself a huge trust step.  I maintain a Hotmail email account when a company hasn’t even earned the right to an email account I access on a regular basis.

However, while I was willing to share my real email address, I didn’t trust you enough to share my real phone number when I signed up for your free trial – even though that was a “required” field on your form.

I hated lying to you, but as I’ve stated before- I didn’t know if I could trust you with that information. In order to explore whether or not I could trust you and enter into a business relationship with you, I was required to tell a white lie when I filled out that form.

As you’ve obviously discovered – that phone number I entered into the form is not mine.  (I owe an OFFICIAL apology to whomever has been fielding the telemarketing calls from your firm.  Sorry about that.)

See,  I’m just like a lot of people who are using the internet.  I’ve shared my contact information only to have it shared and sold repeatedly.  That’s why I get so much SPAM on a daily basis!!!  I have no idea whether or not I agreed to allow this or not because I rarely read those privacy policies.  What I have learned over the years is not to TRUST anyone with sensitive information – especially someone I’ve only met on the internet.

From the tone of the emails you’ve been sending me this week, things are really desperate on your end.  You’ve obviously been trying to contact me via phone – and discovered you can’t.  So now you’re barraging me with emails as you desperately try to contact me.

Today I got the THIRD email in one week (yes, I had to provide you with a working email to download your free trial) with the title “Response Required”.

Response REQUIRED?

I’m REQUIRED to write a hefty check to pay my income taxes in a few weeks.

I’m REQUIRED to show up for jury duty when called.

I’m REQUIRED to tell the truth to the nice US Marshall when he asks me questions about the unusual activity going on across the street.  (Hasn’t happened – yet!!)

I’m struggling now to think of things that I am REQUIRED to do.   As I try to think of the things that I absolutely MUST do – most of the things that come to mind involve police officers, jail time and/or hefty fines.

Most of the things that I’m truly REQUIRED to do include dire consequences and quite honestly, I can’t think of a single downside to me NOT responding to your inquiries.

When I got the first email from you this week, I ignored it.  I’m not ready to buy and I’m definitely not willing to try to justify my decision on the phone to a pushy sales rep.   I didn’t mark this communication as spam because, at that moment in time,  doing business with you was still a possibility.  I’m still about 15-30 days away from making a serious purchasing decision about this service and at that point, you were still in the running.

When I got the 2nd email on the next day – I started to get irked.   However, I get that sometimes spam filters keep legitimate emails from getting through so I didn’t hit the “mark as spam” button – YET!

When I got the THIRD message from yet another email account from your firm – well, that’s what prompted my actions AND this open letter.

The path to the sale – especially a Major Sale – can be a long and complex journey.  Every step in the marketing process is another opportunity to earn another deposit into the trust account with this potential clients.

Trust is a tricky thing.  It’s hard to gain and oh, so easy to lose.  What’s worse is – as is illustrated by my experience with my pest control company – sometimes the actions of one member of an industry can destroy an individual’s trust with EVERY member of an industry.  Even though you personally didn’t do ANYTHING to destroy a consumer’s trust – one of your competitors may have.  When that happens, it makes your job of building trust with potential clients/customers/ patients that much more difficult.

On the bright side, once you’ve established a trusting relationship with these consumers – you’ll find they’re your most passionate brand advocates!

When the Pest Control Company is your most Annoying Pest!

There are times when, if it wasn’t for the media telling me how HORRIBLE the economy is – I wouldn’t know it. This is not one of those times. This is a sad tale of a business obviously struggling to survive the great recession of 2008 and features my former pest control company – Truly Nolen.

Back in 2007, I contracted with Truly Nolen to provide pest protection for my home and yard.  I paid to have my yard treated despite the fact that I pay a monthly fee to my homeowner’s association and their guy rides around spraying what must be water on my lawn every 4 months.

My complaints about my homeowner’s association are legion but they can wait until another day.

Today, I’m telling the tale of Truly Nolen – how I came to choose them as “my” pest control provider – why I decided to NOT continue that relationship and most importantly, how I have become involved in almost a “Fatal Attraction” style “service provider breakup” with them.

Why I chose Truly Nolen as my Pest Control company

I chose Truly Nolen as my first provider of pest control in southern Florida because of the car. In a word – it’s ADORABLE!!! It’s a yellow VW Bug outfitted with ears and a tail.  You used to see it driving all over town. Looking back, I realize it probably wasn’t the most REASONED buying decision I’ve ever made.

Truly Nolen’s Performance as my Pest Control company

I signed a one year contract for pest control for my home and my yard – because I actually SAW a grub on the sidewalk. When I complained to the guys hired by my homeowner’s association – they told me I didn’t know what I was talking about. Those brown spots in my lawn weren’t from insect damage – they were because I needed to water more often.

I hate being lied to!

So I call Truly Nolen.  The Truly Nolen guy comes out and makes a BIG production about the infestation of cockroaches living behind my dishwasher.  EWWW!!!!  My home is less than 3 years old and I’ve got cockroaches!!!  EWWWW!!!!

I’m thinking, “Boy, am I glad I signed a year contract with these guys.”

As the Truly Nolen dude pokes, sprays and heads merrily upon his way –  I feel safe and protected.

Three days later, I am confronted with one of said cockroaches on my front door. EWWWW!!!

So I call and tell them to get someone out IMMEDIATELY!!!  They say they can’t get anyone out until next week.  

Wait – I’m not feeling so safe and protected anymore.

When the Truly Nolen guy finally arrives,  he is obviously having a bad day.  Obviously, Truly Nolen must not PAY their technicians when they have to go back out to retreat a house.  Or maybe they treat him as badly as they’re treating me.

This scenario plays out repeatedly over the next year.  I see bugs – I call – they apologize, stall and then give excuses.  I anxiously await the call to renew my contract.

Truly Nolen never calls. Instead, my doorbell rings as I’m getting ready for church one Sunday morning (yes – Sunday morning….) and my teenage son answers the door.  As I’m getting ready, I see a Truly Nolen guy walking the perimeter of my house.  Before I can get my clothes on, he’s gone.  I ask my son who was at the door and he told me it was the Truly Nolen guy.  He told me the guy had asked if it was ok for him to treat the house and my son said, “Sure.”

I am now officially upset and sure enough, they follow the treatment with a bill for ANOTHER year’s services.

I call and tell them that not only do I NOT want their sub-standard services for another year but the services they provided were based on a verbal contract with a minor which is a HUGE problem for THEM not ME!

Truly Nolen becomes my most annoying pest

Actually, I think I’m being QUITE nice about this with the young lady from Truly Nolen.  She replies, “Oops!  Let me have you talk to my manager.”

She puts me on hold – 15 minutes later, I hang up and call back.  She answers, and I ask to speak with the manager.  I’m now told that the manager is on vacation and he’ll call me when he gets back.

A few weeks later, I get another bill from them – which I call and am told that the manager is STILL not available to talk to me.

I ignore said bill.

Yesterday, I got a collection notice in the mail.  I call the “collection” agency and get an answering machine that loops endlessly telling you to wait for the beep and it never does.

I feel extorted.  Of course I’ll pay the bill.  It’s not worth it to TRASH my good credit over this amount.  Truly Nolen will have won.  They will have gotten to a little bit MORE of my cash.  [NOTE:  After this blog post was published- Truly Nolen representatives contacted me.  Not only did they promptly remove me from collections and credited the account – they also assured me they would be making the auto renewal of the contract more visible in the future.]

The real pity here is Truly Nolen is selling a SERVICE.  They may think they’re selling pest control, but you know what – I can’t SEE pest control – all I see is the surly Truly Nolen tech.  In her post You May Not Be Doing as Badly as You Think, Cath Lawson writes:

Selling a service, especially a more costly service, to your first few customers is far harder than selling a product, because you’re selling the invisible – they can’t see what they’re going to get.

Truly Nolen “got me” the first time with clever branding and effective advertising.  They won’t get me again no matter how cute the mascot or how effective the marketing message.

That’s the way this whole “customer service” stuff works.

When you please a customer – if you’re lucky-  they’ll tell 3 people.  If they’re pissed or disappointed – they’ll tell 16.If they have a blog – they’ll tell thousands – perhaps tens of thousands – as long as the blog post stays “alive”.

Over at the Ignite Social Media blog there’s a GREAT post on Your Customer’s Hierarchy of Needs. You have to get  passed the “satisfied customers” tier – before you can begin to achieve customer advocacy.

So here I am – pissed off and feeling really abused.  It’s not the money – it’s how they’re GETTING my money – via extortion.   It’s the accumulation of multiple bad experiences with several different technicians with the final straw being a hidden renewal clause.

All I can do is wonder what in the world they’re thinking.

What are YOUR customers saying about you online?  Are your customers blogging about your piss poor customer service?  Are your customers pissed off enough to contact a blog which specializes in airing poor customer service?

You build your business reputation one customer service contact at a time.  If you’re a business owner – protecting your online reputation should be a high priority.  Is it?

Authors note:  Over the course of the past three years – this blog post as served as a “lightning rod”  for people who are upset with their pest control company – or looking to find a reputable pest control service. 

In response, I’ve finally launched Florida Pest Control Reviews. as a place where consumers can leave their authentic experiences with various pest control companies throughout Florida. I’m going to close comments on this post – and ask that you head over there to share your experiences.

Bugs are just a part of living in Florida – but they shouldn’t be the lesser of two evils when it comes to dealing with your pest control company.  Feel free to share your experience at

Florida Pest Control Reviews

Everything’s relative… setting your life thermostat

Today in my little corner of south eastern Florida – it’s 60 degrees today.

BRRR!!!

I don’t expect you to cry me a river – especially if you’re living in the path of the bitter cold that is blanketing much of the northern United States. However let me assure  you that temperatures in the 60’s feel positively FRIGID when you’ve spent a few summers surviving “surface of the sun” heat indexes in the mid to upper 120’s.

Meanwhile, a check of the weather back in my hometown in Indiana reveals that the current AIR temperature is currently -11 and the wind makes it feels like -29 … and those temps are °F by the way!   It’s even worse where my in-laws live.  It’s -20 and it feels like it’s -40 below just an hour north!  (Yes, I’m deeply concerned about the state of the plumbing in my Indiana property!)

But this whole weather thing has got me thinking about how where we are (and who we’re with) affects us and how our experiences shape our view.  In other words – there’s more than one setting on your life thermostat.

For example, I know that the weather today at my house would have felt positively tropical in January when I was living in Indiana five years ago.  Unfortunately, KNOWING that doesn’t make it FEEL any more tropical today.  Living down here for four short years has reset my thermostat – without my “permission” I might add.

That’s right.  I didn’t make a conscious decision to TRY to reset my body’s  thermostat.   I didn’t attempt to use “positive thinking” to change my body’s physical reaction to temperature so 60 degrees would feel cold to me.   As a matter of fact,  the opposite is true.  I desperately didn’t WANT to be a “Flor-idiot” who complains about being cold when it’s 60 degrees outside.

It didn’t matter what I desired, by moving to southern Florida, I changed my physical environment and as a result, my body’s physical responses have been altered.

Setting your Life Thermostat

However, there are other aspects to setting and regulating your life thermostat – beyond that of your physical perceptions of hot and cold.  Call it self help, call it self awareness, call it authentic expression or call it creative productivity –  the input you allow into your mind greatly affects your life thermostat settings.  (Oh, and if you think you can separate your “business” from your “life” ….. good luck with that.)

Just as your body will get “adjusted” to your physical environment – your mind will also get “adjusted” to the environment you create there as well.

Way back in 1997, I taught myself to code in HTML.  When word got out around town that I had acquired this skill, local business people started hiring me to create websites for their businesses.  One day about a year later, a very progressive woman who called herself a “life coach”  hired me to create a website for her business.  This turned out to be a significant “life thermostat altering” event.

What you read – what you watch – and the people you choose to accompany you on this journey called life – all have a dramatic effect on where your “life thermostat” is set.

Because I started working with forwarding thinking, successful people, my life thermostat settings changed… to the point where I find it difficult to relate to people from my “previous” life.

I recently was contacted by a co-worker from my past.  She was laid off from a subsequent employer and worrying about what she would do when her unemployment ran out in a few weeks.  She contacted me in hopes of landing a “J-O-B”.  However, her passions don’t lie in administrative work – and as much as I would have LOVED to have a passionate virtual assistant, it was easy to see that she was not that person.  So, in the course of the conversation (which lasted less than 40 minutes), we came up with a plan for her to start her own business based on the very things she was passionately devoting her time to during her unemployment.

I was surprised at how blatantly OBVIOUS what she SHOULD be doing was – and then I realized that my life thermostat settings have changed DRAMATICALLY since we last worked together.  She’s been punching a time clock, rubbing elbows with other “wage slaves” over the past decade.  Meanwhile, I’ve been spending the last decade connecting with other people who breath “rarified air” on a daily basis.

I am honored and feel privileged to be surrounded by such an amazing group of successful business owners.

Don’t underestimate the power of your surroundings to impact your perceptions and thinking.   What changes have you made (or do you need to make) to change your life thermostat?

Twitterpated by Twitter

“Twitter is stupid.”  Before you lash out at me for that line – you should know that I didn’t say that.   Laura Fitton of Pistachio said it in her Twitter for Business keynote at Webcom Montreal, November 2008.  Laura is an EXPERT on Twitter and makes her living speaking on and educating business owners about the Twitter phenomenon so she should know! 🙂

I recently wrote about  how important it is to overcome doubt because sometimes when you’re starting a business a “stupid” idea can turn into a run away success.  Twitter is a GREAT example of a “stupid” idea that has become quite a success story.

Twitter may be “stupid” – but it’s a growing phenomenon. I wouldn’t go so far to say it’s a necessary evil – even though it appears to have been an important part of the Hitler regime:

I remember when I first signed up for Twitter – and quickly forgot about it.  I couldn’t imagine why anyone would CARE what I was doing!   A few weeks ago – I placed the widget in my sidebar and started to make an effort to “tweet” and to follow others.  The more I use Twitter – the more I can see how important it is to stay “connected”.

Because I’ve been twitterpated by Twitter, posts like Kalena’s 16 Must Have Tools for Twitter Users and  Twitter – Social Media’s Hidden Gem are now catching my eye.  Because of Twitter, I’ve discovered Darren Rowse’s TwiTip blog which is a blog devoted to all things Twitter.

The thing about Twitter is that it really is like blogging -which is why it’s called “micro blogging”.  Like Blogging, Twitter is incredibly easy to use while at the same time being very difficult to master.  If there’s just ONE blog post you read about Twitter – make it Liz Strauss’ 25 Traits of Twitter Users.  Liz writes:

Certain signs and characteristics seem to show in the folks who live the social media culture. Certain value and actions make people who care about having relationships and conversation before transactions easy to spot.

It’s a must read because, as Liz’s post points out – not everyone “gets” Twitter.  Despite what you may have read in the latest “get rich sitting on your ass” email newsletter, signing up for Twitter is NOT going to get you tens of thousands of visitors to your blog and it isn’t going to put money in the bank for you.

If you use Twitter to brag about how many followers you have – or you just blast Tweets about your latest blog post – then you won’t find Twitter to be a rewarding experience.

Twitter is a communication tool.

I’ll say it again – Twitter is JUST ANOTHER communication tool.   There are other Twitter-like micro blogging applications that are competing with Twitter.  Over at Splitbrain they’ve said goodbye to Twitter and hello to a new micro blogging communication tool.  Does this mean Twitter is a business failure?  Of course not.  It means that someone had an idea about how to make Twitter better.   (Remember this as you’re going through the steps to starting a small business. Can you do it better, faster, cheaper? Then maybe you should!)

One thing I will say for any start up that tries to make Twitter BETTER,  they will benefit from the fact that Twitter “broke ground” with micro-blogging.  It’s taken a couple of years for people to figure out what Twitter was good for and for Twitter to “catch on”.  Anyone who can make a better version of Twitter will have to thank Twitter founders for going through the arduous process of educating the masses over the last two years on the benefits of micro-blogging.

Those who don’t remember history are doomed to repeat it. Over 100 years ago there was another communication tool hitting the scene – the telephone.  It might surprise you to learn that people yawned when they heard about the telephone just like I yawned when I first heard of Twitter.

There’s a story that says the early telephone sales force wasn’t greeted with enthusiast demand when they first began selling their new fangled communication tool.  The story goes that the single most effective “sales spiel” used to “sell” the new way of communicating was to tell people that the telephone made it so they could talk to their neighbors without getting dressed to go outside.  It wasn’t until that “benefit” was communicated to prospects that the telephone began to “catch on” as a communication tool.

Ah – the first tale in the never ending saga of being human in the age of the electronic mob.

Wikipedia reports that “Twitter had by one measure over 3 million accounts and, by another, well over 5 million visitors in September 2008, a fivefold increase in a month.”  I’m seeing other evidence of a groundswell around Twitter as well.

I use the Google Keyword Tool plug in to check for keywords when I begin a post.  (It’s something I recommend you do and cover in more detail in my 8 Week Power Blog Launch course.)  So, as I began this post, I went to check on what’s happening in Googleland around the term “Twitter”.  What I saw was the average search around the term “Twitter” is in the 550K range.  However last month (in November)  that number skyrocketed to 1.2 MILLION searches.    Yet more evidence that people are twitterpated by Twitter!

However, there’s another reason why Twitter is becoming the latest bell of the ball.  See, Twitter promises free and easy communication with a mob of people  Since communication is the foundation of advertising and marketing – well the appeal is obvious.

Advertising and marketing are simply communicating what it is your business can do for people to a mob of people.

Since Twitter is “free” and “easy to use” that makes it a “Free – easy to use marketing tool”.  VIOLA!  A small business owners favorite marketing combo – free + easy!  This is why when a new means of “communication” comes down the path, it doesn’t take long for the marketing “gurus” to line up and announce that the SUREFIRE KEY to making untold riches is to simply utilizing the new method of mass communication.

Oh but here’s the “reality check” in the Twitter as the surefire path to riches scheme–  If you don’t have anything to say – and you don’t know who you’re talking to – then Twitter won’t do much in the way of your marketing or your business.  As a matter of fact, unless you’re a major company (like Dell) whose customers follow you just so they’ll know about the latest sale – you won’t find that using Twitter will put any cash directly into your pocket.

However, if part of your job description is that you have your finger “on the pulse” and to be “in the know” then Twitter is an indispensable tool.  Since being “in the know” is an essential part of every blogger’s job description – that’s why Twitter is important for bloggers.

Are you twitterpated by Twitter?  If so -why?  If not – why not?

Creating a Website that Does Almost Nothing.


business successs secrets

I’ve worked with hundreds of business owners in creating websites for their business – and often discover during the process that there’s a lot of “magical” thinking out there when it comes to web site development.

Many business owners just assume that by simply creating a website, they’re going to automatically experience floods of traffic from qualified prospective clients/customers.

They expect the website to collect and process leads while acting as a 24/7/365 sales force that never sleeps.

Of course all of the above is possible – but only if you build the website with accomplishing those goals in mind.

In Steps to Starting a Small Business, I advise small business owners to:

Remember, when you’re starting your own small business everything is going to take longer and cost more than you planned.

Chances are, you aren’t a MASTER at all of the jobs you’re going to need performed in your small business, so you should probably plan on farming out at least SOME of the work.

One of the jobs I recommended you farm out is the development of your website because there truth is, unless you’re an experienced web developer, the first website you create is going to be a piece of shit.

(Sometimes even experienced web developers need a little help at seeing “the forest for the trees” which means, it’s possible for an experienced web developer to create a piece of shit for themselves – even though they “know” better!)

Whether it’s your first website or your first blog, you wil no doubt be FILLED with pride when you complete it.    If there were such a thing, surely your website would win the “good for a beginner”  award.

The problem is, no one is “grading” this project.  This is your BUSINESS we’re talking about!  If your business is small, then you REALLY want to do everything you can to make your business look – professional, established and trust worthy!

If money is tight, the last thing you want to scrimp on is your web presence!

Here’s one of the first websites I ever created – talk about long ago and far away: WADERS.  I created these web pages by hand using Notepad.  I thought WYSIWYG HTML editors were for the weak and addle minded!  (Turns out they were MAGIC for those who charged by the hour!)  The site was created when you accessed the internet via dial up and a 28.8 baud modem was FAST!

When you come to those pages “organically” there isn’t anyone explaining my beginning programming status.  There’s no commentary saying, “These were created without an WYSIWFG HTML editors.”  “Look ladies and gentlemen, she’s an economics major performing low level (HTML) programming!  Let’s hear it for her!”

Thank goodness the websites I later created for pay were better than those I created in my humble beginnings!

If you’ve read more than 2 blog posts on this blog, you’ll know that I’m all about “integrity”, “authenticity” and most of all “trust“. I believe that trust is the foundation of any successful business.  I am CONVINCED that “branding” and “TQM” are attempts at QUANTIFYING the trust a company has established with its customers.


The Exclusive Concepts website features a blog post headline:  Bad Advice in the Wall Street Journal: Creating a Website for Almost Nothing. Scott writes:

Instead, the title should have been, “Creating a Website that Does Almost Nothing.”
(NOTE:  YES, I STOLE THIS FOR THE TITLE – IMITATION IS THE SINCEREST FORM OF FLATTERY!!!)

The Wall Street Journal is offering bad advice to millions of small business readers by recommending an “on the cheap,” “don’t bother to think it through” approach to the 64% of small businesses (businesses under 100 employees) that don’t yet have a website.

I find it ironic that while the WSJ continues to tout the fact that the web is changing the world, the author, Vauhini Vara, would have you think that your company can capitalize on this by launching a cheap website that is nothing more than a hope and a prayer.

After reading the article it is clear to me that “objective” experts informed very little of the information provided. In fact, the first thing I did when I finished the article was to see if it was labeled as an advertising supplement.

Scott goes on to THOROUGHLY dissect and dismantle the article.    He’s brilliant, he’s articulate and he’s right on the money.

Because I recognize the TRUTH in what he says, he’s already gone a LONG way towards building trust with me.  Not because he’s referenced in an article oniMedia Connection – because he’s writing and sharing his expertise.  I recognize the truth in his analysis and truth leads to trust.

Building Trust is What Blogs Do Best!

Scott was inspired to share truth (one of the signs of a good SEO practictioner, according to Ron Belanger’s article) instead of hiding behind a veil of secrecy.   In doing so, he’s instantly gained my trust – while alerting me to a reason why the WSJ doesn’t deserve mine anymore.

There are SO MANY small businesses with websites that do almost nothing.  When they start looking for answers – they find websites that shouldn’t get an ounce of trust.  These peoploe don’t know what they don’t know, so it’s buyer beware time.  They’ll spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars on empty promises.   If they survive long enough, they might find the answers they need.

It’s one thing when a no name nobody slaps up a one page sales page and buys adspace to promote this garbage.  However, when the Wall Street Journal presents it as “news” – well – this comes at a time when I thought my opinion of the press couldn’t get any lower!