An e-mail arrived in my inbox today. It was from Beth, and it says she's with a company we had done business with in the past. The return address was Beth@---------.com.
She had an interesting offer in her subject line, so I opened it. Inside was a personalized (mail-merged) message. Beth explained the offer, then closed with a friendly invitation to contact her, and her signature. Here's a screen shot I took:
I clicked the link she had included, reached a page on their company website with a little more information, then filled out a form for more details. Within an hour, a man named Sam called about my inquiry.
During our conversation, I mentioned the e-mail from Beth, and asked if I should be speaking with her about this. He then said these exact words:
“Oh, Beth is just a made-up name we use. She doesn’t really exist.”
Red flags shot into the air.
Warning sirens went off.
Am I really about to work with a company who just admitted they lied to me?
What else have they lied about?
Will they be lying to me in the future, as well?
No, thanks. Good bye!
The fake account manager trick was surprising, yet, in a way it wasn’t. It is common practice to use stock photos of friendly-looking people on websites and marketing materials, because it adds a more-personal touch (we use them). However, you cross the line when you name these fake people, create e-mail addresses in their name, tell existing customers the fake people are their account managers, and start sending out personalized messages from them.
That's way over the line. I wonder what they were thinking? Didn't they know people would call and ask for Beth?
When I was told "Beth is just a made-up name," it took this company's credibility to absolute ZERO in about one nanosecond. I was done.
The really sad part is that they could have approached this in an entirely different way.
The same personal message could have been sent from their marketing manager (the real person), asked me to call for more details, and explained “I have hand-selected a great team of product specialists, and they are waiting to help you right away.”
Coming from the real manager would have increased credibility, and explaining that I would be helped by a specialist he hand-selected would have set an accurate expectation before speaking with them.
What about the marketing materials for your law practice?
Are your messages, literature and ads all accurate?
Are you a true specialist in the areas of practice listed on your law office sign?
Scrutinize everything, and make sure you're being open and honest. The truth can always be structured so both you and your potential clients benefit.
You will never regret this approach - and it will never instantly destroy your credibility, as this company's lie did with me today.