Snake Oil.

What if you really like your site, but the people who sold it to you used a proprietary program to build it.  Since they don’t own the program, you can’t leave them and take your site with you.

You go to the folks who do own the program.

What if those people are in another country and the only way they’ll let you use their program is if you buy their services?

You mutter some choice words, but then buy their services because it’s got to be less expensive than starting over.

What if they start penalizing you for buying only the services you want and need and not the ones that have good margins for the vendor?

You ask your geeky friends who they know that can help you.

We hear stories like this more often than we’d like. Ours isn’t the only industry where snake oil salesmen thrive, but it is definitely one that profits on the ignorance of its victims.

Small business owners, mom and pop entrepreneurs, good people living the American Dream are some of the hardest working people on the planet.  You’re stretched too thin.  You’re where the buck stops.  You are, quite literally, chief cook and bottle washer, CEO, CFO, janitor, accountant and Director of Marketing.  And all you wanted to do was enjoy making a widget and sell it to support your family.

Technology moves at the speed of light and you feel pretty darned good about getting your computer turned on and the email answered.  Heck, you’re feeling pretty good that you know what email is and how to answer it.  Unless you’re a geek freak (and we say that with love), you probably don’t know how to sync your cell and office phones, your personal and business computers while having your mobile tweets post to your FaceBook Business Fan Page while discussing ‘best of the industry ideas’ on your LinkedIn forum.  You sure don’t know how to research the latest trends in color and shape or the emotional impact these things might have on your customers’ buying decisions.  You barely recognize the term “web 2.0”, let alone know what it is or how to use it.  You want to hire an expert to take care of that stuff, just like you hire an accountant to do your taxes, right?

And then in comes the slick packaging, the promises of profits with little-to-no work on your part, the super-shiny, glossy sales pitches that deliver a product which doesn’t quite live up to expectations, fine print that disappoints, web developers that disappear, domains that business owners don’t actually own… the list is far too long, and far too common.

Buyer beware, sure, but what if you don’t have time to find time to learn what questions to ask?

Of course, we’re here to tell you it’s okay, we’re not like that and we can help.  But how do you know we’re any different from your average smooth talkers?

  1. Look at us.  Do we LOOK like polished snake oil salesmen?  (We’re having a good laugh at our staff meeting over that line!)
  2. Talk to our clients.
  3. Ask your geek-freak friends to look at our web work.  It speaks for itself.

Soon, we’ll give you a post on how to choose a web developer. Today’s story ends with the client that started the discussion.  We re-created their site so it looks just like it did in that proprietary software, but gave them full control and made some upgrades along the way.  The whole project took 5 business days from first contact to completion, and at a fraction of the cost of the original build.  No more pay-per-click they don’t need and that isn’t serving them.  No more contracts for unwanted services.  No more avoiding contacting the web developer for fear of being ‘sold’.

These are the kinds of projects that make us really proud of what we can do and, more importantly, how we choose to do it.  It’s good to be beachdog.