The following article was prepared by Mike Taylor, C.P.M., for distribution to ISM affiliate newsletters

A Healthy Dose of Skepticism
September 2006

Finding information on the internet is infinitely easier now than it ever used to be. But with improved access to good information, also comes the overload of questionable advertising. As a buyer, I learned a long time ago to be skeptical about sources and resources. When a seller makes me an offer, I wonder about it. When a seller, whom I donít recognize, asks me to recommend him to other buyers, I wonder even more.

Fortunately, the internet is a great place to be skeptical about potential sellers. Itís much easier today to do some looking around and reference checking. Unfortunately, the internet also makes it much easier for questionable entrepreneurs to look and sound legit. Take this example I received today:

Itís from commercial web site that claims to support small businesses by providing them with legal information and connecting them to local law firms. They web site owner sent me an email asking that I recommend them to our small business suppliers. Here are some of the actions I took to try and decide what to do:

  1. Donít be impressed by a flashy web site. Anyone can purchase the services of very skilled we designers for very little money Ė a nice site doesnít mean squat.
  2. I looked the web site to read ďAbout UsĒ. No names, no phone numbers, no addresses, no business legal information Ė I wonder why?
  3. If I had found any names of company officers, I would have also done a Google search on the names, just to see what turned up. If the company chair was ďAndy FastowĒ I might have second thoughts.
  4. I always like to check and see who owns the web site Ė that can sometimes tell you a bunch about what to believe. Go to the WHOIS web site Click the WHOIS search button and put the website name in.   Try  for example. I expect to find the name, address and phone number of the company that owns the web site. In this case I didnít find it; they have it hidden Ė I wonder why?
  5. Do a Google search on the company name to see if any interesting news articles or problems surface.
  6. Read through the literature on the web site to see if there are any clues or other interesting bits of information. In this case I found this sentence, ďFor example, when a potential client is on Google and he enters a keyword phrase, he will then see our paid sponsorshipÖĒ So law firms pay this company to advertise for them on Google and refer potential clients to them. Innocent enough; unless you think that a paid marketing company might have a conflict of interest in recommending clients.
  7. This made me wonder how much clients pay for the privilege of getting recommended. Funny, I couldnít find anything on the web site about how to become a paid client. Maybe itís an exclusive club?

And so you can see how it goes. Maybe Iím just a little jaded after all these years talking with salesmen or maybe Iím just old and skeptical. [o.k. Iím guilty of all three counts]. But the bottom line is still the same. Before I jump in and start using, let alone recommending any new seller, Iím going to do some homework.

Got you wondering? Here are some of my other articles along the same line:

Good hunting!

Mike Taylor

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