Yodle Once Again Provoking Ire with Pushy Sales Tactics

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Internet marketing & advertising company Yodle has been off our radar for a while. I first wrote about Yodle back in May 2009, I got a call from a pushy Yodle salesperson, and I expressed my annoyance on Lawyerist:

what Yodle actually does, as far as I can tell, is employ a bunch of jerks to call me (four times last week, plus an email for good measure), insult me, and try to bully me into becoming a client

Commenters reported similar experiences. Yodle responded by offering three months of its services to prove its worth. We called it the Yodle Challenge, and bankruptcy attorney Brea Buettner agreed to take part. In the end, Yodle did generate some profit for Brea, who called the campaign a success even though she decided not to stick with it.

But recently, the comments thread has gotten lively again (we’ve also discussed Yodle in the LAB), and it sounds like not much has changed in Yodle’s sales department over the last few years.

Full disclosure: Yodle is a long-time advertiser on Lawyerist.com.

Here is a sampling of the recent comments:

Never have I handled a more unprofessional and insulting sales call then I have with Yodle’s sales reps. – Brianne

Not only does Yodle attempt to be deceptive about their intentions, but I also had one call back and threaten to send an angry e-mail to my boss. They not only call every day on at least one of the phone lines if not more at our office, but hey also send e-mails which is disruptive. – B

They incessantly called me for like three weeks and I told them no. They somehow got in touch of one with my managing partners who transferred it to me. Then Yodle tried to bully me into setting up a phone call saying my managing partner was interested. I sent an email saying no again and the Yodle guy replied to MY E-MAIL and CC’ed my managing partner. My managing partner told him no again. Shouldn’t this be illegal? – Erin

I tried them out for a while a couple of years ago. The return on investment was horrible and needless to say, I didn’t renew. They have started calling me again, and as they did in 2009 as noted in comments above, they claimed to be “with Google” and “from Google” but when pressed, admitted they were calling from Yodle. – CA lawyer

The last comment in particular struck a chord. I remember hearing lots about how the sales reps were “with Google” or similar language, and didn’t mention Yodle until I went into cross-examination mode. It seems to me that, if Yodle is still provoking these kinds of reactions three years later, it has a systemic problem with its sales department. I’m guessing it encourages this kind of behavior, either explicitly or implicitly, probably because it works despite the bad press it generates.

Have you been contacted by Yodle? Did you feel like the sales reps you spoke or exchanged email with were deceptive, pushy, or insulting?

Or, have you hired Yodle? How did it work for you?

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  • Kirk

    I’m so glad to see this post! I just got off the phone with a Yodle sales rep. It was horrible. It started off okay; they went through the usual schpiel about what they can do for me. But then the talk turned to money, and the hard-pressure sales tactics began in earnest. I told them I wanted to think about it (like I would do with any serious business investment–they are asking me to spend $15,000 per year!), and then the guy kept asking about my object (is it price or is it..what?). He went on and on, really making me feel stupid for not seeing the brilliance of their service and how much money I could make. Argh!

    This is really hard for me right now because I have moved my practice from anther state about a year ago, and it has turned out to be much much harder for me to find clients than I imagined. The phone is just not ringing. The easiest thing (I suppose) would be for me to pay one of these companies $1,250 per month, or $2,700 per month, or $6,000 per month (Lexis) and just let them worry about it. But G–d— it! I just don’t want to do that.

    I keep asking myself, what would Atticus Finch do? I personally don’t mind being poor and honorable, but I’ve got a family to feed.

    • Jim

      Hey Kirk, glad to hear you are open with taking sales calls. Because if you think about it, EVERY person that speaks to salesmen needs to “think about it”, or “will call you back next week.” How many people are cold-called and say, “wow that makes sense, here is $1,000!” Very, very few. Do you not believe they are thoroughly prepared for those objections? You are playing the same game, considering you are just a salesman with a higher title.

  • The fees that some companies charge are fairly outrageous given the amount of effort required. But isn’t that what people say about lawyers?

    I am a lawyer in a small firm. In my experience, the quickest and easiest way to make the phone ring is Google AdWords and creating a profitable AdWords campaign yourself is actually not that difficult.

    There is a great blog that I read and am not affiliated with at http://www.ppchero.com that will likely help if you decide to go the self-managed AdWords route. Frankly, I’d even be willing to help out gratis; just contact me through the contact form at my website.

  • Yodle was an awful experience for my firm. They said they could capture clients and direct web traffic to my website—their performance was terrible—probably the single biggest waste of money that we’ve had in 7 years of practicing law.

  • The truth about Yodle’s “marketing” is that they give you a stock webpage that resembles the ones they give hundreds of other lawyers across the country. There are many hilarious comparisons here from criminal defense attorney Mark Bennett, who took screen shots of dozens of Yodle “adversites” and compared them: http://blog.bennettandbennett.com/2010/11/yodle-lawyer-marketing-sucks.html

    As Bennett points out, the adversites are not only generic (and thus, frankly, embarrassing for your colleagues to see), but they may even be unethical. I considered Yodle recently, but after looking at Bennett’s comparisons, I decided that after working hard to build a practice on sincerity and integrity, I am not going to jeopardize that relationship with clients and colleagues by having my name on websites that use the same stock phrases with exaggerated boasts about what kind of lawyer I am.

    The Yodle salesperson I talked to was nice enough and respectful, but when I told him I had to talk it over with someone and get back to him before making a decision, he kept trying to come up with ways to drop the price so that I would make a decision on the spot. I wouldn’t mind that so much (I appreciate the price being cut, although it tells you something about what the sticker price is worth if they will drop it that quickly), but then when I still had to get back to him, he waited a week and then called me four days in a row. I mean, seriously, if you’ve left me a voice mail and I haven’t returned your sales call, I’m either too busy to do it or I’m not interested.

  • David Rubin

    Hello Sam – I’m David Rubin, SVP of Sales at Yodle.

    Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I’m disappointed about the issues that you’ve raised and want to let you and your readers know that we take misrepresentations and/or a lack of professionalism by members of our sales team very seriously. While we already have strict policies in place around these areas and are continuously working with the team to ensure that they’re representing the company in the most professional way, some of the examples in your post definitely suggest that we have room for improvement. We have a large sales force, and by and large they do an excellent job, but we still need to do better.

    As an aside, another reason I’m so disappointed with reading your post is that our sales team has put a greater focus on reaching out to attorneys and law practices over recent months – largely because we’ve been seeing such tremendous success driving value to the thousands of legal practices we’re already working with. While no amount of success can justify sales reps misrepresenting themselves or being unprofessional over the phone, I would like to offer you the opportunity to see the other side of the story and talk to a couple of our customers in the legal space that have had a very positive experience with us. After all, people unhappy with a company are usually much more likely to post online than the often silent majority. Looking forward to hearing back from you.

    Thank you,

    David

    • Thanks for responding. As I mentioned during your call, I don’t think talking to customers would be helpful, since it is the sales process that gives rise to this post, not your ability to deliver leads.

    • Jabez LeBret

      David,
      When apologizing for a bad experience you are best to apologize. Adding in comments like “largely because we’ve been seeing such tremendous success” takes away from the genuiness of the act.

    • J

      If you’re so disappointed in the sales team using deception and rudeness to misrepresent your company, then why do yodle employees testify to their management training them to act this way?
      There are yodle offices that actually reward their sales reps for causing the customer to hang up. They are actually given incentive to frustrate the customer into hanging up before giving up the sale!
      I wish the Better Business Bureau and Google would get wise and bury yodle so they can’t hurt anymore businesses.

  • I did a test of Yodle on behalf of my own virtual law firm at http://www.mdfamilylawyer.com and other Directlaw subscribers that offer low priced limited legal services. The economics didn’t work. I advised our network of law firms to stay away.they sales staff never really understood a direct to consumer business model and were focused on telephone call tracking for more expensive legal services.

  • Neil

    I’m an attorney and to say these guys are pushy is a gross understatement. Today alone they called five times, and even when I said I was with a client (I wasn’t), they kept pushing and the guy became quite hostile. They kept trying to get me to commit to a time to view their presentation which would only take twenty minutes. Unfortunately those morons don’t understand that twenty minutes is precious time for an attorney. Fortunately I just added them to my call block. If they still get through to me somehow they will hear a few expletives plus a click as I hang up. I will NEVER use this company based on this alone, even if they offered it for free.

  • CrystalE

    I’m a new solo and after considering all sides, I signed up for yodle – for $650 a month. I don’t know anything about Adwords and don’t want to. They charged me a one time fee of $150 to set up adversite. For my firm this is a HUGE CHUNK of money, doubling our overhead costs. Really hope I didn’t waste my money! It’s been a week – no leads.
    I agree website content is terribly generic and poorly worded. I’m re-writing mine. I like my marketing guy but the sales man was a joke who lied to me. When I reported it, I got no response.

    • Crystal E

      Follow up: After a month with Yodle the above review still holds true but with a few additions.
      Once they get the money and the initial setup (if you are persisitent), they are no longer interested in you as a customer. They could care less what your website looks like, what changes you would like to make to it, etc. They don’t even fix their own mistakes. I haven’t even paid my second installment of my 3 month contract yet. That was the first time this month that I had been sought out for any assistance. They really don’t care about you after they get your money and your name only comes on their radar again when they want more money. Please avoid at all cost!

  • Thank you for the input, I was getting ready to sign up but the comments were invaluable. Thank you so much.

  • Help me Rhonda

    You can strike back at Yodle if you have been wronged and they have acted in the ways stated on this board- which are violations of Google Partners and without a relationship with Google Yodle will be hurting.
    I am very serious here these steps below can really have a strong BITE so use them if you have been legitimately wronged and it will hurt them.

    Here is the best way to get these guys thrown off google

    Go to this link for a Google complaint
    http://support.google.com/adwords/bin/request.py?&contact_type=gap_complaint

    1. Make a third party adwords complaint telling Google they misrepresented themselves as being part of Google. This is a BIG no no and will get Googles attention and may get you some satisfaction (refund if you are owned etc)
    On the complaint form specify that this company told you they were GOOGLE when they called (if that is what you feel has happened)
    On the complaint form let Google know you have complained (see below) to the BBB and attorney generals office
    http://support.google.com/adwords/bin/request.py?&contact_type=gap_complaint

    ALSO make a similar complaint if you were not shown EXACTLY what Yodle paid for those links from Google and if your local listing has been HIJACKED with a different number put on them.

    It is a violation of Google Partner policy to charge you for calls for sign ups from things that you should be getting free like local listings and map listings.
    2. Make a complaint to the bbb (bbb.org) about Yodle if you have been wronged.
    3. Make a complaint to the Attorney General in Your state AND New York where Yodle is located
    4. Make a complaint to the Federal Trade Commision and dispute the charge if they fraudulently charged their card.

    It is most important that you fill out the Google Form and also Yodle MUST SHOW you how much THEY PAY FOR CLICKS– if they do not Yodle is in violation of Google Policies and this will get you the relief you need

    Stop letting these guys ruin and take advantage of small businesses

  • They called me and are offering a ‘adsite’ and 1st page placement for $599/month. I’m not sure. I would like more business, but feel uneasy that their website gets the attention,not mine.

  • Neil

    Love these guys – after telling them to not call again, now they have tracked down my cell phone and are calling me there. The guy called with the same spiel.

    Yodle: “Can you handle any more Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases?”
    Me: No
    Yodle: “You mean if I could guarantee you more cases each month, you’d say no?
    Me: That’s right
    Yodle: ….
    Me: Bye.

  • Every once in awhile I like to set up meetings with these “SEO Experts,” Lawyer Marketing Companies. I set up these meetings not to purchase their service, but rather to see what outrageous dollar figures they attach to their service. I craziest figure was over $400,000 a year for a company to handle our website and other meaningless fluff services to jack up the price.

    My advice, if your law firm has the ability to employ a marketing team, (2-6 people) you can successfully keep everything in-house and benefit from a strong ROI.

    I don’t know what Yodle’s costs are, but I will soon find out since I just got off the phone with a sales rep. I’ll ask for the full package… they will get all excited and sometimes bring me a gift to the meeting. Received an Ipad once!

    • Please report back.

      Also, if there are iPads involved, I’m totally doing this, too.

    • employ a marketing team, (2-6 people) you can successfully keep everything in-house and benefit from a strong ROI.

      Absolutely, assuming of course that you can afford in-house folks and that they know what they’re doing.

      • Sam-
        My only update so far is a template email from the sales person. I asked for information on their service, he sends me information about how great the company is and client testimonials. Strike 1.

        The iPad took commitment. I can barely handle sitting through a generic SEO presentation. This took multiple meetings while keeping the sales person optimistic.

        Gyi-
        You are right, one of the hardest parts about in-house is finding the right people. This would be a great topic for a blog. We use a handful of techniques to build the right team.

  • Thank you for writing about this. Based on what I have read on this site I will never use this company. I have never heard of them but I have no time for pushy sales people in my life.

  • Have an update for you. Just got off the phone with a Yodle rep. I can smell them coming since they always tell my receptionist something along the lines of “He’ll know what I’m calling for” or “I’m just returning his call” or some bogus info like that. When I pick up, and as soon as I find out they are Yodle, I let them know I think they are complete liars and scam artist and my 13 year old nephew could give me a better ROI using Google Ads. Yet, even after this, they continuously go into their sales pitch, try to say they’ve changed, etc. etc. Its amazing. To be honest, even if they were the best ROI in the business and I could get all the cases I wanted from them, I still wouldn’t want to use them.

  • Just got my first call from these guys. I had to tell them three times “I’m not interested, remove my number” before they agreed to do so.

    Debt collectors are more responsive than that. What a joke.

  • Rob

    I just spent 1.5 hours with the sales man and told him I was going to think about it over the weekend…at which point the heat was turned up and it was like talking to a used car salesman. $$$$ is $$$ to a solo, regardless of amount. Checking out other ways to generate leads and also like to see that the price doubled from August. Thanks to the Internet, I just saved $$$ on this service ( not the way Yodle wants)

  • I have been receiving calls from Yodle since 2009 despite my repeated request that they not call my office. Almost every call involves a very rude and pushy salesman that ends the call with “I guess you don’t want your business to be successful.” Luckily I have a great receptionist now that would be in very hot water should she let a call from Yodle through. You would assume that my receptionist would have an easy time picking out the Yodle calls but it seems more and more difficult with each call. They knowingly mislead her to believe they are from other companies or are a potential client. I do not care if Yodle could promise me $100,000.00 a month in income, I would never use their services.

  • Thanks for the post. They have called our company several times as well & were seemingly relentless. I turned them down but they called back days later & asked for the owner. The sales rep told the owner I said we were good to go & he just needed payment verification. When the owner told him no he got upset & yelled “good luck” before hanging up the phone. I would never use this service & your post confirms we made the right decision.

  • I have not gotten any calls from these jokers recently, but they constantly lied to my staff to get to me. I have a very simple, two word, seven letter and utterly unprintable response to them when they call. Then I hang up and remind my staff of the key words that they use to get to me.

  • I had the same experience about two years ago. Horrible sales person. This last time though I had a very professional sales person and I ended up trying it. It has been ok, not great, but ok. I’ll get my money back for the three months worth of expense I committed to paying and maybe generate some profit. There are some things I don’t like about it and when the time expires I’m going back to Google ppc thru a great company I’ve used on and off for the past two years. I’m new to this blog and don’t want to violate any protocol so I’m not naming names but for me the Google ppc managed by an outside company has been a good move. I tried a few other things and like it the best.

  • Etan Ben-Ami

    Perhaps we ought to pass the hat and hire someone to bother the folks at yodle with our own irrelevant sales calls. Turnabout is fair play.

  • JK

    Just received a call from a VERY pushy salesman from Yodle. I tried to be polite and end the conversation. He wasn’t having it. Asked me if we had a website “because [he] couldn’t find it”. When I said I had to hang up as a client was coming in he very angrily said “Oh. You have a client coming in when you’re outside?” – I guess he heard traffic from the open window. I asked to speak to his supervisor and he hung up on me. Do they seriously think that’s the way to get business? After reading all of the reviews about them I will be sure to hang up immediately if they ever call again.

  • Richard Blaine

    They use the usual sales tactics where they refuse to disclose any package prices (which they could easily do) until going through a lengthy sales presentation then they pitch a $1200+ a month option with a 90 day committment even though they already claimed there is no contract. They also try to hit you up for a $400+ site building fee. Then, when you get to their service agreement and actually read it you find out you are giving them authorization to record your calls that come through them (they use dedicated lines for tracking and record them). Of course they tell you the recording is optional but authorizing it by signing the agreement is mandatory, so once authorized they can obviously do whatever they want no matter what verbal discussion takes place since the agreement contains the usual boiler plate indicating it can only by modified in writing. They conveniently ignore this when telling you they won’t record if you don’t want them to. If they are not going to record why do I need to authorize them to in writing? No thanks. Way too much trouble and just not worth dealing with them.

  • Christopher Miller

    Just got off a call today with a Yodle saleperson. I rarely take such calls, but because I had heard of them before in a somewhat positive light I took his call. He went through the run down, showed me the different tiers of service. Showed me a fluff video about how Yodle is in good with Google. I was even really thinking about trying them out when he got down to $499/mo.
    Here was the bad: The guy talked to me as if I knew nothing about the internet. But if he had taken a second to actually look at my current website he would have seen that on the side I do web development and have a few of my own webapps for lawyers out there. A few seconds by him on my website may have clued him in that this thing called The Google might not be a new thing to me. He talked about how the Yodle ‘Adversite’ was the be all and end all of websites that convert clients, as well as getting listed on hundreds of different web directories. Said my site needed to be optimized for mobile. If you looked at my site on mobile you will see it is optimized for mobile. Then showed me their google ads content, of which several seemed spammy as all heck.
    But even still I was possibly going to try it out. Even if they generated one client for me it might have made economic sense. But I told him to let me think about it for a few days. It then took me about a half hour to get off the phone. I am a polite guy but did not appreciate being derisively told that I am not appearing on Google for odd search terms when I am on the first page for all the ones I care about. I did not appreciate when I said I had client work to get back to this was just dismissed as if it was nothing. The guy basically almost had a paying customer who wanted to think it over before buying (can’t imagine that is an atypical response from a lawyer), and he basically then turned a sale into a non-sale by being a jerk. Can’t imagine this is the right way for a sales team to do things.

    • Josh

      Summed by my experience exactly. I wanted to think about it, maybe ask around, read some online reviews. By the time I finally managed to get off the phone I hated the company and the sales rep.

      • notme

        Felt exactly the same. When I finally got off the phone, I felt like I almost became the same guy who purchased penny stock from the Wolf of Wall Street.

    • Frienchy

      This just happened to me and I was livid. Once I asked for time to think it over it was impossible to get off the phone. I’m a polite person as well but can admit to wanting to tear him a new one verbally. However, I sternly told him that I would not be bullied or forced into becoming a client today and he got quite upset and ended the call abruptly. The Yodle salesman are jerks to say the least.

      • Norma P

        I got the same. I felt like i was being interrogated everytime i told her “no, i cant afford that”! She was like, “let me tell you this”, and would talk me into it, over and over until i caved in two hours later!!! I felt like i was raped after i got off the phone because she was in such a hurry to get off the call once i gave in!!! Im not happy at all, especially now after i have been reading all about how yodle is and how one cannot get out of the “contract” until the end of the term!!! That really sucks, or can i get out of it!!! I dont recall signing anything

        • LatheMan Goody

          Just talked to someone at yodle about increasing our client list for Property Management. The call started off with the first 26 min of the salesperson bragging about how great their rating was with the BBB i googled while we were on the phone its not as great as they say. 30 min into the 1 hr call we were sitting here wondering several things, one being them pushing us into facebook pages that they would control. I dont facebook business because its not something i want. We are selective on who our clients are and their privacy is important. The salesperson when asked how many cities they serviced in my state of AZ -they dodged the question, so we asked a similar one and it was dodged, then when my broker asked her about “How many Prop managment companies do you service in AZ?” she responded by walking around the question. She never answered any of our other questions and when we were prompted to pay up and we hesitated saying we needed to discuss it further, she said i can put you on hold for a few minutes while you decide (she said this same thing 4 more times, as if we were actually comsidering it). She then became beligerant and insulting to the point that she figures we couldnt afford it. But then said its not that much money to set up a website and that godaddy cost $150 a month for similar ( not true, I just paid $279 for a year of service and i have control of what goes on my site, and it is mobile accessible). Then she knocked the price down a little more by removing setup fees, like they are doing you a favor. This sales lady would not take no for answer, we made up something to the effect that we had a client come in and had blocked out time for them. First thing out her mouth was let me put you hold and come back when you are finished. Then she went to get her manager to try talking us into this. It took us over 30mins to finally end the call. If yodle contacts you, RUN, or say youve got wrong number. I know they will harass us on the phone lines now until we cave lol fat chance. The number of emails they spam your inbox with is crazy. Now we know what their game is, i will just try generating good leads with a website hosted by godaddy and whatnot.

  • So where do I begin. So I am a online marketer, and as an online marketer I can honestly say that Yodle/Outrank gives us a bad name. They are underhanded, sneaky, over promising and under-delivering charlatans. I now have 3 clients that had to deal with them, and when I get on the phone, they don’t answer any questions. Not only that but they make it impossible to leave them. Everything they do is for their benefit and never the client. They should be ashamed of calling themselves a web marketing agency.

    And really from the looks of this comment thread, I am going to say that this “Boiler Room” operation is still beating hard earned money out of people.

  • Ted Sulcer

    Yodle’s sales personnel are pushy, and they are trained that way. (By the way, if any Yodle execs read this Roger Plummer is a master sales trainer. Great hire!) One-call close is the mantra. The sales managers reward the Sales Executives when a prospect hangs up the call. The sales managers keep track of how many “hang ups” an SE gets over the course of the day. Yes, they get rewarded for making a prospect so mad that the prospect hangs up the call. Why does Yodle train and reward this behavior? Yodle has to keep the cost of opportunity low. With the amount of overhead– I only know about the Austin office but I’m betting the other offices has the same amount of useless space— and the product price point, Yodle can’t have SE’s using a one-month or even one-week sales cycle. Plus, Yodle SE’s can earn up to 75% commission of the first payment amount. SEs aren’t rewarded well for clients continuing. A new client has to be at Yodle for 6 months before an SE can get renewal commission on a client and then its 5% of the monthly amount. So churn and burn and push, push, push.
    As for Yodle’s product, it does help. However, if you are a company that has a fairly internet intelligent employee, you can do SEO stuff yourself. I took what Yodle taught me about SEO and applied it at my new company. They think I’m great. I appreciate what you taught me Yodle.. We were getting front page and at the top at that within 2 weeks on the Keyword Searches. We use Google to track, the same way Yodle does and our websites are better. You will hear the term “Adversites” from Yodle sales personnel. It is a cool term, but it is nothing more than a flat landing page. Optimize for mobile you can easily do that with your internet or website designer.
    Also, if you are thinking that Yodle’s sales pitch sounds a lot like the old MCI “switch your long distance pitch” it is because Yodle’s sales execs and sales managers all come from MCI. All of the sales managers have the same “rah-rah” “go-go” sound. But they have no depth. The fact Yodle still uses a 5 page script during their sales pitch is all you need to know about.

  • notme

    Super pushy and obnoxious after cold calling me. Wasted my time for too long. Should have hung up but was stupidly being polite until I finally did have to hang up after an hour and 20 minutes. Would never use them.