This post is part of "The Yodle Challenge," a series of 7 posts. You can start at the beginning or see all posts in the series.

mike-delucaYesterday, I sat down with Mike DeLuca, Yodle’s Senior VP of Sales & Marketing. I tried recording the video chat, but Pamela let me down. I feel badly about that, because Mike is a nice guy and I think he was pretty excited to have the chance to get me back for being so mean about his sales team, but I totally cannot do his wit justice by reporting his zingers myself.

Instead, here is a summary of our conversation. We touched on four main topics: Yodle’s strategy for advertising itself, the breakdown of fees for Yodle’s services, how Yodle is different than other services, and what kind of results Brea can expect to see.

Yodle’s strategy for advertising itself

I hate to sound like I am harping on this, but I am still bothered by the way Yodle advertises its services, so I started out by asking Mike why Yodle resorts to cold calling for sales. He claims—and I suppose he should know—that cold calls are still the best way to generate clients. And, I also suppose, Yodle is just as interested in clients who are not web-savvy as those who are, so it is either cold calling or junk mail for those folks. A phone call probably is the more promising approach.

I also wanted to know why Yodle’s┬ásalespeople can be so aggressive, and why they often call the same person repeatedly. Mike claims both result from the exuberant sales staff, who are just as fired up about their service as he is. So in their excitement, the sales staff sometimes ignore the notes on file for a phone number.

Mike says they are working on this, but that getting a couple hundred salespeople to fall in line is not easy. I believe him. They have to know people are unlikely to relent and hire Yodle on the 10th phone call. More likely, they will get irritated and complain about Yodle’s tactics on a popular law practice blog, and then Mike will have to issue a challenge to try to reverse the damage. And here we are.

Breakdown of Yodle’s fees

Yodle, like many companies that try to sell things, does not really want you to know how much they charge until they deliver the sales pitch. I think this is probably because of sticker shock. They want to make you understand the value before they show you the price tag.

But since we are hopefully going to show you what value Yodle can deliver through the Yodle Challenge experiment, I browbeat Mike for some numbers. In particular, I wanted to know what we would be paying Yodle for.

The monthly ad budget ($1,000 per month, in Brea’s case) is mostly for ad buys, although Yodle does mark up the ad sales a touch. It also charges a setup fee and a monthly service fee of $57. The setup fee is variable, depending on whether you want a “pre-fab” website, a premium site, or a custom site, along with other options. Mike says Brea’s setup charge would be under $500.

What you pay Yodle for, in addition to ad buys on Google, Yahoo!, etc., are free placements, website optimization, and conversion tracking, together with the backend ClickRank algorithm that drives it all. Your ad campaign is supervised by Yodle staff, though, so that if you were a landscaper/snowplower, ClickRank would not keep running landscaping ads in November (assuming you are advertising in Minnesota).

The algorithm is pretty neat. Brea and I talked about it in our video chat last week, but Mike and I talked about it some more yesterday. The best part is the A/B testing. A/B testing is kind of like using a girl scout to advertise your car wash for an hour, then a swimsuit model, and going with the more successful one. ClickRank does this constantly with your ad copy to find the most-effective ads, the most-effective keywords, and the most-effective bids for those ads that result in the most-effective positioning on search engine results.

How Yodle is different than the competition

FindLaw, Nolo, and other legal advertising services are already a very popular way for lawyers to get into online marketing. According to Mike, the main difference between these sites and Yodle is in what they advertise.

FindLaw, for example, mostly advertises FindLaw, and you pay to be a lawyer in its vast directory. Yodle, on the other hand, advertises your law firm, so when people click an ad, they go to your web site, not Yodle’s.

Results with Yodle

Mike especially wanted to point out that Yodle was not promising any particular results for Brea. Whether or not she gets clients from Yodle depends partly on how many leads they are able to generate for her, and partly on what she does with those leads. And this is advertising, after all, there are no guarantees. Also, Mike wanted to lower expectations, so we are more impressed, no matter the result.

I do not think anyone at Yodle made any promises, though. Still, I did promise Mike that we would ignore any promises and judge Yodle solely on the results we see. In the end, all we are interested in—and all I suspect all you are interested in—is how many quality leads Yodle can produce. In other words, is it worth the cost? Time will tell, and we will see.

Next up, we will unveil Brea’s new, Yodle-built website and talk about why it should work better than the one she has.

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