The Worst Case of Sleazy Sales Tactics in History by SuperMedia

October 23, 2010

To some organizations business is a collaborative process. Grunts at the bottom share suggestions to decision makers at the top on policy related issues. Solutions to problems that impact the good will of clients and the success of the consultants or grunts. In other organizations, unless you are in a position of power, your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions are worthless. You are more or less an assembly line worker who can only impact the decisions that you have been given “authority” to control. Decisions such as what to do when you have a customer complaint.

Companies of the future are nothing-like companies of the past. The old ways of doing business just plain sucks compared to the “Google” or “Zappos” type business environments. You don’t find many mindless slaves who are told to do as they are told without permission for contribution of ideas for improvement.

Before I ended my employment with Idearc/SuperMedia in 2009, I happened to hire one of the best family law firms in the Dallas area to represent me for my Mother’s estate. My Mom died tragically in a motorcycle accident in October of 2008. While at the Idearc/SuperMedia office during this time, I witnessed first hand the questionable actions and backstabbing tactics on behalf of SuperMedia’s sales management team. This deeply disturbed me. I attempted to correct this problem as an employee but was ultimately pushed out the door by Bill Brewer, the new head honcho of Texas Sales at Fuller Drive in Irving Texas. Bill, in all his infinite wisdom, had been on the job for just 2 weeks.

On SuperMedia’s website they claim:

We stand side-by-side with plumbers and painters, landscapers and exterminators, roofers and dog groomers, movers and mechanics. We are the voice of house cleaners, window cleaners, carpet cleaners and pool cleaners. We are their catalyst of commerce.

So to resolve this longtime customer issue, I sent this long email last week to SuperMedia’s management team and public relations department decision makers.

from

Mike Stewart <dallasseoguru@gmail.com>

sender-time

Sent at 4:08 PM (GMT-05:00). Current time there: 8:11 AM. ✆

to

Andrew.Shane@supermedia.com

cc

scott.klein@supermedia.com,Peter.McDonald@supermedia.com,Sandra.Williamson@supermedia.com,Cody.Wilbanks@supermedia.com,mike@smbseo.com

date

Fri, Oct 15, 2010 at 4:08 PM

subject

Hammerle Finley Law Firm – Potential Win Win Here?

mailed-by

gmail.com

Thanks for talking with me this past week. First, a quick recap of the Hammerle Finley Law Firm Verizon Yellow Pages advertising account, and then some suggestions for a good resolution for SuperMedia.

From the information I have gathered, HF has been a loyal customer and a big advertiser with the company for more than 25 years. They first started dealing with GTE Yellow Pages in 1984, basically at the infancy of lawyer advertising. Because they grew so quickly to a large and respected law firm in the community, a lot of area law firms followed their lead with advertising dollars. In fact, the sales reps often bragged to them about how they sold so many ads based on “what Hammerle was doing.” Pete Hammerle, the law firm’s Executive Director and marketing guru, actually was asked, and appeared, on a customer panel at several kickoffs/seminars that GTE put on for their marketing managers. It was a very good relationship, and HF placed the bulk of its marketing dollars in the company’s yellow pages. By 2007, HF had decided that it would drop all of its yellow page advertising with competitors and contract only with the Company (by then it had morphed into Idearc.) Considering the degree of fragmentation in the yellow pages market by this time, I think this was a very strong commitment on part of Pete.

Unfortunately, their move coincided with the dramatic drop-off in quality and ethical standards at Idearc. I saw that while I was on the inside, as you have seen me rant about on my websites. I know that I don’t have to convince you of the problems that mired down Idearc at that point.

Because they had concentrated all of their advertising in the Idearc books, HF was able to identify the problems with the Lewisville distribution of the book. Their telephone calls dropped off dramatically when the competitors’ new books came out. They found out that their clients had never received the 2007 Idearc book. Then, in June 2008, the 2007 book was delivered bundled with the 2008 Dallas Yellowpages on a “secondary distribution”. When Pete Hammerle complained, Idearc compounded the problem by denying that there was any delivery issue, and gave him a sheaf of delivery receipts containing forged signatures. (Note that Idearc publicly made it a selling point for later books that they had installed a tracking method to fix their delivery problems). By the time the 2007 book was delivered, it would only be in the marketplace for 60 days before being replaced by the 2008 book.

Then the Denton Yellowpages came out, and their advertising was so full of mistakes that it was worthless to the law firm. HF had paid for a solo forced tab, such as had appeared in countless years before it, but that year, for the first time, the salesman sold two forced tabs in the book – and the other forced tab was to another law firm that appeared before the HF tab in the book just a few pages in front (likely a coupon tab.) Some HF attorneys were completely left out of listings, and attorneys who had been removed from the advertising by HF were left in. They were invoiced $1500 more a month than the contract amount.

When HF refused to pay for the mistakes, their salesman, Scott Mobley, responded by saying they would be dropped from the North Collin County book. Left without any advertising in the area, HF went ahead and signed up for advertising with competitors. It turned out that Idearc left their ads in the book (albeit with many mistakes) and then invoiced them for the entire book.

The ultimate problem, however, came when their long-time Idearc salesman, Scott Mobley, started working with the head of the family law section for HF who was secretly plotting to take the law firm’s entire family law section, move across the parking lot, and start a competing firm. Rather than refuse to help this management employee steal half of the law firm’s business, or to disclose the manager’s plans to HF, Idearc’s sales rep Scott Mobley and his manager John Klein, who were assigned to Hammerle Finley’s account once again, schemed on how to get both accounts in the book. Two Idearc cohorts met with Pete Hammerle and said Scott Mobley was too busy and they were bringing in another salesman to work the HF account. They then proceeded to try to sell HF new advertising priced to include all of the attorneys in the Firm, including the 5 attorneys they knew were planning to leave. When the HF lawyer manager moved out with the entire section, it was in large part because he had Idearc advertising that was already under contract (signed while he was still an HF employee) and well under way.

(That last issue is one that is going to be raised in a lawsuit {and quite possibly on my sites} against Idearc and is going to lead to some really bad publicity at a sensitive time for the new company.)

Rather than resolve these complaints, Idearc sued HF.

With all of this history, I know you are wondering why I think there may be a way to salvage this long-time customer.

If it had been any other year, or any other top management, or if any type of ethical constraints placed on salespeople, then none of those events would have happened. When the complaint was received that the books weren’t delivered, then the company would have admitted that delivery problems were a huge issue that was being faced by the industry and given HF credit. When the misrepresentations and mistakes were brought to light, the company would have listened, evaluated them, and given a credit. The company would not have said it was pulling the ads, and then billed for them. And, most importantly, the company would not have allowed its employees to help a rogue manager commit fraud.

I’ve spoken with Pete at length, and I know that he is willing to believe that the old group and its philosophy is gone, and that the new company will be different. He is interested in the products and the new management direction at Idearc. He is a savvy marketer, and sees that there is a definite advantage to a web campaign that ties-in with the Firm’s website. He would like the door opened to talk to someone about a new contract. And where HF goes, so does the bulk of the legal advertising dollars in Denton County. He is willing to explore advertising, but he cannot do that while he is at odds with the company.

If you really want to show the world that the old Idearc is gone, and the new SuperMedia management is going in a successful direction, then I think you have a chance to do that here. For more than 20 years, Pete and HF were one of your biggest supporters and swung a whole lot of business your way. They are willing to do that again. When you do a risk-reward analysis, I think you’ll see that chasing a very difficult lawsuit (and facing a counterclaim) is bad business, and having a new contract, with new money, as a showcase for a new product is very good business. I’m willing to help you sell that to Pete and HF. Can you give me a response as soon as possible on this?

Cheers,
Mike Stewart

“Computers are incredibly fast, accurate and stupid; humans are incredibly slow, inaccurate and brilliant; together they are powerful beyond imagination.” — Albert Einstein

P.S. Hammerle has a new website http://www.Hammerle.com, the only remnants of the old site is the thumbnail on SuperPages.com. The thumbnail is of the Lawyers.com site. It would be great to get someone in “I-Care” to correct this. Just like past problems, it would be nice to move forward from that outdated website design, lol.

So, what was SuperMedia’s formal response? TALK TO OUR LEGAL DEPARTMENT. I don’t talk to legal departments. The response from SuperMedia doesn’t shock me. They had the opportunity to win a big on back. They screwed up, but they sit behind some God forsaken bullshit 4 page microfont contract and want to keep the philosophy that the company has no corporate conscience.

From Seth Godin’s Blog:
The corporate conscience

There isn’t one.

Corporations don’t have a conscience, people do.

That means that every time you say, “It’s just my job,” or “My department has a policy,” or “All I do is work here,” what you’ve done is abdicated responsibility–to no one.

It’s convenient and even comfortable to blame the anonymous actions of many working in concert on a evanescent brand or organization, but that starts you on an inevitable race to the bottom. Organizations have more power than ever before. They are better synchronized, faster, and possess more tools to change the economy and the people in it than ever before. And the only option available to the rest of us is for individuals to take responsibility (it’s not given) for what they do and how they do it.

The very same tools that permit organizations to synchronize their efforts are now available to you and to me. I guess the question is: will we use that power to humanize the systems we’ve created?

PS It’s not just about being a good citizen: when bad behavior comes back to hurt the company, it hurts you, too.

Considering that “Attorneys and Lawyers” account for 13% of the revenues for yellow pages publishers, I am sure once my new “Attorney Yellow Pages Advertising” website is complete, lawyers everywhere will have a new place to discuss these sort of injustices.

As a libertarian, not that it matters other than my addiction to all things political, I firmly believe that social media will be the deciding factor in how business is done. No longer do you get clients from name recognition alone. Reputation is vital to the success of any business entity. Activities like those mentioned above do not go unpunished. We have been forced to pick sides, whether it be Democrat or Republican, since the early days of voting. Social media and online reputation has thrown a wrench in the way the gears of business turn. You can not avoid your questionable actions. Future elections will be decided in social media, not yard signs and bullcrap TV ad promises.

My response to SuperMedia’s management teams response to this email? “How about telling the legal department to call me!”

looks like the old walking fingers is flipping us the bird, huh?

Otherwise, I will be seeing you folks here later. Standing by the good guys. You know, the big local law firm that has padded the pockets of your crony executives and sales reps for countless years only to be stabbed in the back by your so called “media consultants”.  Just a bunch of mindless cold calling commission sales reps. They (specifically all the new folks you hired to cut salary costs) don’t know the first thing about real media buying.

 


Guest Post: SEM Scams from Big Media Yellow Page Companies Like SuperMedia

July 7, 2010

Super Media Search Engine Marketing programs are a scam because they over promise and under deliver, and the company is motivated by making money, not making YOU money.

Could this be one of the reasons the stock is at an all-time low Today?

Super Media receives the honor of being the first company on my SEM Scam list. Next on the hit list is Reach Local. They have many of the same problems as Super Media.

We have all heard “If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is.” Why then do we not listen to our guts when some smooth talking salesman from Super Media, or Yellow Pages, or Dex talks us into an appointment, and then delivers a perfect speech, with just the right amount of pressure to get us to sign a long term (12 month) contract for an internet marketing program?

I will preface this list by telling all of you that I am a former employee of Idearc Media, now Super Media. That is how I know some of the things I know. Before anyone decides that I am disgruntled, let me say that I am only upset, because Idearc Media made a liar out of me. I wanted to believe in this company, and from day one in training, I saw signs posted all around the training room that spoke of Integrity, and always doing the right thing. The trainers even spoke of NEVER selling a client anything they don’t need, and even implied that you could be terminated for such behavior. Then I got out of training, and stepped into the real world. That is when things went sour. Not because of a boss, or fellow employee, but because when I smell B.S. I ask questions, and that is not perceived very well in the corporate world.

Long story short – I was excited about the “new” SEM packages that Idearc was offering, and I bought in 100%. I hit the streets running, and sold a good amount of these programs, in addition to selling their other products, Yellowpages, and Direct Mail. I was a top 5 sales rep (top 3 for a while and tops on my team for a few months) and made over $75,000 my 1st year. Then the reports for my clients SEM program started rolling in, and let’s just say that the news was not good. There was red flag, after red flag.

Now you reap the rewards of what I learned about Super Media Programs, as well as their competitors. Listed below are the reasons I can think of why you should run from this SEM program, FAST, and don’t look back. These are just he one’s I can think of – there are more.

Read the rest of this entry »


Another prediction about yellow pages….

June 7, 2010

If the yellow pages publishers don’t consider migrating from a saturation distribution to an opt-in business model, they will no longer be viable for the future.

Consumer’s hate junk mail. They hate waste. They think recycling is cool. They also don’t like spam, pop-ups, or other annoying things… like DIRECT MAIL!

Opt in and privacy is the thing of the future. Just think about what a fuss folks are making about Facebook privacy policies.

The best business models have always been those that embraced and then succeeded via creating an authoritative subscription base. What do you think made folks loyal to newspapers in the old days? What made folks loyal to yellow pages? Well, if you think about it, yellowpages companies used to have subscribers. Folks that ordered a phone and expected to get a book.

Yellow pages companies are all in agreement that 1 in 9 folks actually WANT to get (or OPT IN TO) getting the residential white pages.

SuperMedia Dallas Gallup Usage Study

Now the funny thing is they are trying to make folks think that people actually see white from yellow or yellow from white. To tell you the truth, they think White Pages is Yellow Pages and vice-versa. They don’t distinguish the difference.

The real problem is that they are no longer having to publish (in the case of SuperMedia and AT&T they are actually doing it aggressively to cut costs) white pages in many areas, but are doing nothing to lower advertising rates for the savings to clients.

Keep cutting costs by shipping jobs overseas while customer service goes to shit, saturating folks with books they don’t want, and lying to Wall Street and shareholders….. while having the audacity to pad your own pockets in the process, and watch a company disappear.

Here is to hoping the magazine industry buys the yellow pages. Maybe some sales jobs might be left, vs automating a system to buy ads online, which is the longterm plan for some ***cough/ SuperMedia /cough*** yellow pages companies.

Video killed the Radio Star…. What killed the Yellow Pages? Opt Out Will Kill The Yellow Pages!

Magazines understand the value of mailing something to a SUBSCRIBER cheaper than paying an illegal immigrant $100.00 per day to deliver. They also understand the concept of creating offers and pricing folks WANT to OPT-IN TO.  I never understood why yellow pages companies list things A-Z or why they create a separate category for COUPONS. Shouldn’t COUPONS be with the ADS? I mean, you don’t have the same room as you do with a website. Seriously….

GET A CLUE! Keep drinking the Kool-Aid. I would love to have a debate with Scott Klein, Bill Brewer, Sherry Taylor or the other folks that I “worked for” at Idearc/SuperMedia, obviously they don’t have a clue what clients and consumers think, nor do any of them care.

I am sure you can afford to buy a clue. Considering that they all can afford to go on corporate incentive trips.

Just a suggestion, there are many folks that know how to fix the problem vs putting lipstick on a pig and hoping to sell before the bacon is spoiled! You don’t need to buy a clue to understand this. Expecting to fix a broken company with people that continue to see everything the same way is essentially the definition of insanity, “doing the same thing and expecting a different result.”

Oh, and hey….. “10 Brownie Points” to the first person that can remind me “How many people research online prior to making a purchase?”


Fake Yellow Pages Ads Hurt Your Business

December 8, 2009

Recently I called a few paving companies in Dallas to inform them of the new ad in the front of the book. I wanted to see if they were aware of what had taken place. I was shocked to find that a large percentage of the numbers in the Paving Contractors heading for new ads either do not work, are not real businesses, or they state wrong number when you call. Is this due to sales fraud at Idearc (which was obvious while I was with the company) or is this just a representation of all the errors in the phone book? Take a moment and make a few calls and find out for yourself.

This practice, from both the sales and advertiser perspective, hurts the perception of the value of the yellow pages as a resource, but advertisers that do not pay for advertising also takes phone calls from local paying clients. The industry needs to look at a method of monetizing all calls as well as reducing the fraud and abuse of “sales reps” vs real media and advertising consultants. I recall while at Idearc in Texas a few Hispanic reps explained a process of working with “day workers” and pre-paid cell phones to place ads under headings that did not have credit restrictions and these individuals basically offered the day workers help in creating a new company with $850.00 per month worth of advertising in the Greater Dallas directory.

Not the direction the industry needs to be heading. With so many issues to deal with, sales fraud and advertisers cheating the company by taking calls from other paying clients is not what they need to succeed.