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Tough Call: Trust, but verify

As the general manager of a LBM dealer serving an even mix of pros and DIYers, you wear many hats—and have many responsibilities. For example, while you have a sales manager who reports to you, revenues are still ultimately your responsibility. That statement holds true for most areas of the company. You’re fortunate to have great people in place to make sure the work is done, but if it doesn’t, the buck stops with you.

Among the tasks that can fall between the cracks is advertising. Since your company competes with one big box store and another independent dealer, the owner feels strongly that you need to keep your company’s name out there with regular advertising. You’re trusted with a modest annual budget—how you spend it is up to you. Typically, you do a little radio, a billboard, and some door hangers. But this year, at the urging of an energetic young salesperson with a compelling story, you decided to put all your money into a monthly direct mail flyer.

The salesperson, Johnny, showed you a sample of the direct mail product. Since his company was just getting started in your market, he gave you a special price—as long as you’d commit to a full year. He had ready answers to your questions, including how many copies were printed and mailed to homes each month, income ranges of the recipients, and delivery method (USPS).

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Provided everything he said was accurate, it was a no-brainer. The fact that it consumed your entire advertising budget didn’t bother you—since you wouldn’t have to spend any more time evaluating alternatives. You signed the agreement, gave him a check for the first three issues, and sent him on his way.

A little over a month later, Johnny stopped by to hand deliver a hot-off-the-press copy of the first issue with your ad. The piece looked great, and Johnny said it’d be landing in mailboxes over the next 10 days or so.

But when you stopped by Johnny’s office a few weeks later, you found it vacant except for Johnny sitting at a long granite conference table held up by boxes. When you asked Johnny why no one you’d talked to had received the flyer in the mail, he admitted that they didn’t have money for postage. The boxes holding up the conference table were actually filled with the direct mail flyer you’d advertised in.

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So, as it turns out, you’ve prepaid to advertise in a direct mail product that may never reach its audience. What would you do? Cast your vote below.

Lesson learned. Moving forward, don’t take a salesperson’s word at face value. Invest your precious marketing dollars with a company that has a proven track record.

Be patient. It’s a good product, but the company producing it is just getting started. Trust that they’ll get their act together and start getting you results.

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Demand a refund. You paid to have your message delivered to your audience … and it’s clear that didn’t happen. Insist on a refund, and if they refuse…

Take ‘em to court. This situation was tailor-made for small- claims court. While you may not get your money back, at least you’ll have done what you can before moving forward.

What would you do?

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