White Shark Media, (WSM) like many Internet based companies, presents itself with an impressive website and a classy, Miami based corporate address. In reality, the Miami location is just a virtual office and all of the people that I worked with were based outside the US, in Nicaragua. They just use the Miami address to appear as a US based company. All SEO consultants, sales, and others I spoke to were outside the US. The address they use in Miami belongs to a well known virtual office provider. White Shark Media’s pitch is that you have to commit to a 3 month program of PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising on Google and/or Bing and that they very aggressively promise incredible results in the 3rd month of the campaign. My company was careful to save all of their sales pitch conversations and have the WAV files to support the aggressive pitch and grandiose promises. In our case, I laid out a very specific set of financial goals in the sales discussions, explaining how much we currently spend on marketing and our metrics of the ROI that we get on our marketing budget. I explained that we had never used PPC before but that we were interested to explore if PPC could return a better ROI than our existing marketing spend. The descriptions of our current marketing budget, number of leads, and number of customer wins, over a long period of time, was carefully laid out for WSM. I explained to them that the ONLY purpose of my willingness to participate in the discussion of using PPC was if it could be proven to exceed what we were getting from other types of marketing. The 2 sales people that I spoke with at that point, over many conversations before I signed up, heard me detail, time and time again, the minimum ROI that I would expect from a PPC campaign to be successful, otherwise, we would not go forward with it. WSM sales team were “over the top” confident of “blowing my targets away” and assured me that by the 3rd month of the campaign, we would see results that were far, far, better than our other marketing efforts. Specifically, WSM drew out a timetable that in the 1st month of the campaign, it would likely lose money, because the PPC metrics take some time to take hold and improve. WSM represented that in the 2nd month of the campaign, it would “break even” and the campaign would pay for itself, but not become profitable. Lastly, in the 3rd month, WSM boldly and confidently assured me that the campaign at this point, in the 3rd month, become so profitable, that it would recoup any losses from the 1st or 2nd months and overall the campaign would be cash positive and I’d be overwhelmed by the results. WSM claimed to have several credentials and expertise in PPC, making sure they tell you that they are Google “Certified” Adwords consultants. WSM claims to have dozens of happy customers, and all of the usual attempts at establishing credibility. In my case, WSM claimed to have a former customer in the exact same industry as ours, that was SO successful with their PPC campaign, that they were able to essentially “graduate” from needing WSM’s consulting and now manage everything on their own. WSM represented that they had PPC expertise, had experienced PPC consultants, and assured me that based on the target numbers I established with them that would determine the success or failure of the campaign, that they would EASILY be able to exceed the results we were getting through other marketing efforts. Our recorded conversations with their sales people and then again with their account managers show WSM’s people had ZERO hesitation about the target numbers we set out and were enthusiastic, boisterous, and made promises like “wait until you see what happens” and “we can definitely do better than….” the numbers I put forward. Knowing little about the key metrics in PPC, like CPC, CTR, position, etc., my team “relied” on the statements made by WSM represented that they had the expertise, knowhow, talent, tools, and wherewithall, to make my company more successful. So we signed up. We paid a mandatory startup fee and agreed to a monthly service fee. It didn’t take long for my radar to go up and that things didn’t look good. Within the first week, the CPC (cost per click) for the keywords they started with, was so high, there was no way that enough leads could be generated to get to the levels WSM claimed were going to happen. I questioned it and the account manager said that it takes time for things to gain traction and to be patient. After 45 days, WSM admitted to me, in writing, that the CPC for my industry was too high to achieve the results that I needed. So I questioned why they didn’t just pull out the “playbook” from the other customer in my industry that they claimed was so happy? They just danced around an answer and tried to avoid it. By this time, the Google Adword campaign was a bust and WSM admitted that it wasn’t going to succeed. They offered no refund of their fees to date and no refund of all the money that went to Google for “clicks”. Now, they had a new pitch. Microsoft and Bing have teamed up to compete with Google in the PPC space and the CPC’s would be much lower on this platform. So we would have to “start the clock over” on a new 3 month campaign on “Bing’s” PPC network. I still raised that WSM needed to stand behind their failures on the Google campaign. They started dancing and the account manager told me that she’d ask people above her about what could be done. Again, they were enthusiastic and boisterous, about how “THIS TIME you’ll really see this is going to be great” on Bing, because the clicks were so cheap compared to Google. Using the same predicted timetables, I let the Bing PPC campaign run for 2 months and it was even worse than the Google campaign. The best that WSM was able to generate was an average of just ONE SINGLE sales lead (conversion) per day at a cost that was 50 TIMES more expensive than our non-PPC spend! Yes, 50 times higher! Once I was able to fully understand the metrics of PPC and how purchased clicks turn into conversions (leads) and the likely ratios of conversions, I put it directly to the entire team at WSM how on earth did they expect the Google campaign to have any chance to deliver what they promised? They admitted they were at fault and never should have made the claims that they did for the Google Adwords campaign. When it came time to have a serious conversation with WSM about their failures to live up to their hype, ultimately, the manager I was given woudn’t even return my call when it was clear that I wasn’t going forward without compensation for their admitted mistakes. In the end, they wanted to live the “teflon” life, where they keep the money you pay them, even though they didn’t deliver ANY value back and because they aren’t really in Miami and are in Nicaragua, good luck chasing them in court. .
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