As a startup consultant, I often find myself putting in a little extra effort when it comes to getting things going. Why do you ask? It’s simple, startups are only successful when everyone gives 110%, and sometimes even that is not enough.
Anyway, let me share with you a rather enriching experience I had recently helping a startup with its grassroots marketing campaign. First we sat the team down and explained how we were going to make some cold calls; telephone meetings, person to person. Really going out and going for it, leaving no stone unturned.
The startup I’m helping with is a B2B company, so we started compiling lists of companies of certain types. We went to the local chambers of commerce and took their printed directories, used the old phone books, and Googled every possible category within our target market. We went to online directory websites with a depth of 300 Google pages, and since we were looking for easy and easy fruits, we even went to Google maps to find home-based businesses in our specific business categories.
What we found was quite alarming, although not too surprising in hindsight.
When it came to the websites listed on Google, which were more or less directory-type websites, it became obvious that the information was almost useless, even on the first few pages of a search. Most of the phone numbers were disconnected, out of service, or now belonged to someone else who had no idea what the hell we were talking about and had never heard of the company we asked for; I’m talking about 75%.
When we went to the actual addresses of businesses listed on Google Maps in various cities, we found apartment buildings with new tenants, we found vacant houses for sale, and some addresses that don’t even exist. When we met someone, he would often say that he didn’t do it anymore, or that a tenant had done it, but had moved out. Sometimes it was an ex-spouse, now divorced, who had moved out.
How were the printed directories of the local Chamber of Commerce? Well a little better actually, but nothing close to being trustworthy, at least a quarter of the businesses were no more and remember this is a year from now as directories are usually printed annually by Chambers of Commerce. How was the phone book? Well, the phone books were about the same, just a little worse than the House posts, and I guess that makes sense. What a waste of money for companies that advertise?
Moral of the story?
You can’t trust online data, you can’t trust printed data, and you sure can’t trust online directory websites that are produced for the best SEO results, but never monitored, pruned, or updated.
So what is my advice? Don’t waste time hanging around, mailing brochures, or paying a team of salespeople to knock on doors unless you know for sure your information is up-to-date and accurate. I advise buying lists; contact names, email addresses, phone numbers of competent data providers who constantly update their lists. My advice to Google is simple, “gather your data on Google” and stop promoting fake websites on the first few pages. For all the startups doing business, think about this.