So what is the deal with all the Berry Company complaints? BOSS goes undercover to get you some answers on the Berry Company/Yellow Pages.
Considering Berry Company for your website and/or online advertising? Trying to decide if you should sign up? The following information will help you in your decision making process.
Who is Berry?
Berry Company is the Yellow Pages or Yellow Book. The name comes from Yellow Page creator Loren Berry. For many years, Yellow Pages or Yellow Book was considered the number one way to advertise and promote your business to a large audience. Eventually with the introduction of the internet, the physical book use was declining and they introduced various advertising alternatives that included online and the pay per calls program that got so many complaints in Hawaii.
Last year, they had to file for Bankruptcy. Since then they have focusing their efforts on online advertising packages to businesses.
What they offer
According to their website they provide Local Online Marketing:
“Berry is the expert in online marketing for small businesses. We meet with you to understand your needs and then develop an advertising program customized for your business. Our solutions make sure potential customers can find your business when they are ready to buy. We manage your marketing so that you can run your business. That’s why we are the Local Leads Expert.™”.”
They list of services they provide is: Build Presence, Websites, Mobile, Facebook, Online Listing Monitoring , SEO, Drive Performance, SEM, YP.com, Yellow Pages, Generate Promotion, Online Video, Online Display Ads
Ownership: One of the disadvantages reported about websites offered by Berry/YP is ownership. The reps will tell you that you own the site. But, they control it because it is located on their server. If you cancel or drop out, you will lose your website.
Domain Name Ownership Issues: When registering your website through a yellow page company, you are essentially not the owner of your domain name. In fact, the yellow page company actually owns your domain name and rents it out to you for a fee. Not only does transferring the ownership of your domain name cost you money, but you also risk legal complications should you no longer want your website with them.
Confusion: Some of the reports claim that they continually change their policies, rates, process, addresses, and contacts making it very hard to understand how to deal with them when there is a problem. In fact when researching this article I found that each customer reported different processes and services.
Overpriced: The website services they provide are hugely expensive. First there is an initial cost for its creation and hosting as well as paying a yearly fee. One of the companies I spoke to was paying $1500 a month. When we looked into this, they were paying $400 for the yellow page ad which means $1100 of that was for the website and their SEO services. That is monthly. So after a year they have spent $13,200 for a basic wordpress website and SEO services. If you hired someone to build the same site, you would have paid a one time fee of maybe $2000. You can hire an SEO person for $400 a month. So in other words you overpaid by $10,000 at that is annually. And you don’t own your website.
Misleading claims: Many of the complaints I received were from people who felt they got trapped into a contract. They claim they were told they could cancel at anytime if they weren’t happy and ended up not being able to cancel for a year. They were also not clear on what they were paying monthly until they received a large bill at the end of the year.
This seems to vary from client to client, I believe it has changed over time because now they seem to charge monthly but with a year contract. Some of the clients I talked to said they ended up with bills from $10-35,000 at the end of the year.
In fact, I received a call from their collection department once because a company with a similar name as my husbands had a bill with them for $21,000.
Some claim the website services are just a way to get people to advertise on Yellow Pages and that they didn’t get the results they were promised.
Website Design: Here in Hawaii, the websites are made using WordPress with a free theme although I just recently saw some html and Yodle sites recently.
They do little to no customization, the design and content are secondary aspects. Therefore, they can be unattractive, lacking in both features and functionality as well as lacking in overall user friendliness.
Rate of Conversion: Given the lack of user friendliness as well as the ineffective and unappealing design, it is difficult for such websites to both attract as well as retain visitors. While traffic entering such websites is absolutely minimal, it is important to note that the rate of conversion of idle traffic into loyal customers is even lower. Moreover, given the same reasons, it is impossible to measure ROI of such websites.
Inability to include Social Media Marketing: Social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc are great ways to market or promote your business website. However, according to experts, it is not possible to use these methods to market your yellow pages website.
Lack of active Customer Support Program: Customer support is the best way to retain customers and convert them into loyalists. While customer support can be actively extended through a self owned website, it is difficult and nearly impossible to do so with a yellow pages website. Lack of active communication with customers can result in loss of business.
(other source for this section: http://studio1c.com/website-design-blog/451-disadvantages-of-a-yellow-bookpages-website.html)
I started by sending an inquiry through their website.
After a week of no response, I contacted them through the phone number and left 2 messages. Days went by and I was starting to wonder, for a company who is being labeled as “getting desperate”, they sure weren’t in any hurry to follow a lead. Finally I reached someone by phone and she assured me she would get my information to the right person. Three days later I got a call from San.
San was very pleasant. He started by asking about the business. I decided to use my husbands massage business since it was the ideal business Berry Company targets. San started by looking at our websites, asking what our goals were how much business we currently had and how much business we want. These were all reasonable questions, he was clearly calculating to determine the right cost that was appropriate for our ROI.
He told me that on the low end, that SEM would get at least 30 phone calls a month which would amount to $1620 a month. He recommended a $600 a month package for us to be found on Google, Yahoo and Bing.
He guaranteed front page but was honest about it not being in a consistent. He was talking about ads not organic, and did not explain the difference. This is often the way companies are misled. He said we were not ranking for the main keywords which is actually not true, as I personally did the work on this site and it is page one for all targeted keywords.
When I asked if they resell Google, he said “when clients asked us to go online and we invested millions to do that and yes we partner with them we work with them which is why we get better results than any other.”
Not sure why they would get better results as Google doesn’t play favorites. I am also unclear if they resell Google ads at a higher rate or get a special rate. I am looking into this now and will update the article to see if you still get the same value for your ad as if you placed it yourself.
He told me that yellowpages.com gets 4 million users per month via the phone app. The truth is it is 4 million app downloads. This does not mean people actively using the app or anything, just people who downloaded the app. Again, this is more misleading marketing language.
He explained that most websites charge upfront fee something like $4000-7000 (average) and with Berry there is no upfront cost. Mostly true, however in reality if you put a dollar on the kind of site the offer which is very basic the amount is more like $1500.
If you already have a website, they create a new one to” get the new people who don’t know you” rather than rework the existing ones.
Basically they are creating landing pages. Landing pages are a good thing usually. However they copy your other site content which creates the problem of duplicate content and can get filtered out in Google’s algorithmic process.
San explains that this was a 1 year contract, and if its not getting results I can fire them. The way he worded this it implied I could cancel anytime.
BUT when asked him directly if I can cancel after only 1 month, did he tell me that we actually couldn’t cancel but just choose not to renew after the year was over.
AHA! So that is very different from being able to cancel at anytime.
I asked how much of what we spent went to advertising. I was surprised that he gave me a specific amount of $ 99.95 a month for the website building, hosting, maintaining and the rest is for SEM.
What is unclear is if they are marking up regular Google ad rates or they are getting them for a discount and making their money there.
When San analyzed our site, he said the site wasn’t ranking well. But after I pointed it that it was actually ranking very well, he shifted gears to say that online marketing is time consuming and most people don’t have time. But that isn’t the service they were selling me. They were selling me services to improve ranking and traffic not take over existing efforts.
Right before we hung up, he did spring on me YP.com for $73 a month to “increase my organic placement”. He reminded me that if I got one client, it paid for itself and gave me lots of statistics on power of their online yellow pages.
There is no disputing I would organically rank well on Yellow Pages and that all of his statistics were most likely correct. Problem is, people need to be using YP.com. And I know of no one who uses Yp.com.
My assessment is this.
The Berry Company is like a credit card for websites and fills a need for people with no upfront money needing a website and advertising package quickly and does not care about having a flashy website or personal attention. Like a credit card, you have to read the fine print because it looks good on the surface and they prey on the convenience but in the end you pay more in the long run by not having to come up with a large amount of money upfront.
My main issue with them is they are not being 100% upfront with people and I have some concerns about the ethics and tactics of how they go about selling their services.
If you decide to work with them be sure to get everything in writing, and stay on top of them.
If you are able to come up with money upfront and can spend a little time looking around, it is more cost effective and effective period, to get a local company with experience helping small businesses online in your area. These people are generally more involved in your community and will be more of a vital team member rather than a large company mass selling a product they don’t support well.
In my opinion your Ad dollars are more effective elsewhere like Google and even Facebook. I cannot see that this is money well spend, not for small businesses with little marketing budgets.
YELLOW PAGE SCAMS
I should note for you to be aware there are several scams out there from people claiming to be Yellow Pages. This article tells you all about it, so make sure you read this before paying anything to anyone for Yellow Page services.
“When Berry first asked me about the on-line advertising, it sounded like something we needed to remain viable. So the rep preceded to sell the benefits of using their WEB design and tracking abilities. BIG MISTAKE! Once the site was active, we we’re able to track the calls and see what if any effect it was having on sales. However, they NEVER optimized the site and was unable to keep personnel on staff who were competent. Once a good person was introduced and they would contact me – they would be gone in 3 months!” Ron Pederson
“We were called by a Berry rep who told us they could help us get more business online. At this point we already had a nice website that was doing well. We had a quote from a local company to do more online marketing. But Berry talked us into going with them, telling us that they had special relationships with the search engines and could get better results and that their yellow page ads were a must have for businesses. Their cost was more than the local company but they assured us we would getting more business and that we could cancel if we were not happy. We did NOT get the results they promised, and when we tried to cancel 2 months later, we learned that we were in a year contract and could not cancel. We now pay on something that does us nothing and I can’t afford to go with the company I feel would have really helped us. Live and learn. ” Deanna Morimoto
Is Yellow Pages worth it? Read what Forbes says: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kernlewis/2011/03/28/should-small-businesses-still-book-yellow-page-ads/
Reports written by the people who work at Berry: http://www.glassdoor.com/Reviews/The-Berry-Company-Reviews-E19865.htm