BizzSpot & BBB taking a page from the Merchant Circle playbook

November 22nd, 2008 by Will Scott

BBB, BizzSpot partnership takes a shady tack to entice local businesses.

So, it’s taken me a few days to get back to this, but I was blown away by a recent cold-call from a company purporting to be the marketing arm of the Better Business Bureau.

I think everybody knows that the BBB is a commercial venture, but this was a little over the top.

Here’s why I liken it to Merchant Circle: The caller says “This is Valerie calling for William Scott. Calling on behalf of the better business bureau if you could please contact me at 888-xxx-xxxx. Thank you.”

Message from Valerie of BBB (.wav file)

Notice, nowhere does the caller indicate she’s calling to sell me something. So here I am presuming it’s something about a complaint or a renewal or something.

I feel compelled to get back to them.

Surely it’s not as bad as Merchant Circle telling me I’ve got bad reviews, but c’mon, why else would the BBB be calling.

So I call Valerie back and she instantly goes into how she’s so excited to hear from me because we are a search marketing company. She then asks me how I would self identify and I say “internet marketing” and she walks me into a search for “New Orleans Internet Marketing” (for which we’re second organically and #3 on the map behind neworleansinternetmarketing [dot] com which I feel pretty good about given our low level of effort).

Local Handyman Columbus OH

Local Handyman Columbus OH

She blows right past that and then walks me through an examples of a search for a “Local Handyman in Columbus OH

” at which point she shows me a sponsored listing in the right hand margin at about half-mast. In the example it’s at least top of page.

Clearly I was impressed. Makes my organic and earned map ranking pale in comparison, no? 😉

So I asked “how much”? And <em>I think</em> she said $195.00 a month! Really though, it’s a bargain compared to $300.00 for Yelp! I’m not 100% sure that was the quoted amount and I may call back just because.

Like a dope I hustled to get off the phone. She offered to let me talk to a specialist and I said no rather than sticking around to get the real dope.

Handyman Columbus OH

Handyman Columbus OH

Then I decided to do a little more digging. I backed out from “Local Handyman in Columbus OH” (a little long-tail to get much bang for that $195) and tried something more likely “Handyman Columbus OH” I saw our sponsored link and two 10 pack listings for different advertisers on BizzSpot: “Affordable Handyman” and “Handyman Professionals”. The website address on the “Handyman Professionals” listing goes to some guy in San Francisco (?!).

And, the on-page optimization is awful — no h1, bad title — a generally weak offering.

In short, I’m confused. BBB & BizzSpot have put together what looks like a mediocre listing product, with some attempt at distribution.

It seems as though the BBB is taking advantage of its members in a Merchant Circle style approach to position a weak eLocalListing knockoff at 4X the price. I know it’s not the eLocal co-brand because Steve would never let such drek out the door.

If anyone else has gotten this call and stuck around to listen to the full rap I’d love to hear about it.