I do not usually like to get involved with this topic, but the whole online marketing scene is slowly becoming, well, works of fiction. In the same manner Hollywood uses computer animations to compensate for extremely difficult scenes, companies rely on similar “smoke and mirrors” tactics to influence you.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. I think that if you need to embellish a certain amount of information to get a point across there is really nothing wrong unless, of course, the information is so twisted and so far from reality that it becomes a flat out lie. I am referring to the way companies are marketing their website design or hosting services by focusing only on the tiny pieces that offer some value and exaggerating their comparisons to the competition. The culprit? Well, I found one today while reading through some social media advertisements.
It appears that ThemeCloud is trying really had to reel in some new clients by promising WordPress sites for just $1. Being in the business of providing domain registration assistance, hosting and designing services since 1999, I knew the catch had to be amazing to fool people into this one. So, I went to their website to check it out. And I was not impressed… not one bit.
The only truth behind their $1 WordPress website is that you actually can get one for that much… but only for your first month. So what do they do to convince you that they offer a superb deal after that first month? Well, that is where the truth is bent into what I can only describe as a flat out lie. And here is why.
They take it up a notch by providing one of their very own devised comparison charts: showing you the comparison costs between getting a WordPress website with and without ThemeCloud. And it was actually quite funny. For starters, they show how expensive the competition is by itemizing each component and listing the average yearly cost (e.g. domain registration, hosting, purchasing a theme, etc.). They even made the mistake of lying about the cumbersome function of installing WordPress, creating the databases, and setting it up. I call it a lie because every reputable hosting provider today offers quick installation features that perform this automatically for you at no extra cost. I have been doing it this way for years. Turns out that according to their comparison, that setting up a WordPress site on your own can start at $200 for the first year alone.
Then they show you their benefits: everything is included at a starting price of $7.95. But they failed to tell you that is a monthly payment. So let’s get down to the math. Sure, at $1 to start and $7.95 for the remaining 11 months, they are a bit of a bargain coming in at just $88.45, as long as you pre-pay the year because if you choose a month to month payment program with them, that goes up to $105.94, which is still good when compared to the do-it-yourself cost. But wait, there is more. Sorry, I just sounded like one of those cheesy infomercials. But, there is more… more deception, that is.
A closer look at their pricing structure and you will notice that the bargain is for their entry level sites. They have 2 more levels, and, yes you guessed it, they cost more. How much more? Well, let’s say that the bargain is no longer a bargain. The $200 competitor cost they tried to scare their potential clients with has all the function, features and power of their “Sell Online”package they are advertising at $24.95 a month. Now let’s do the math again. If you were to choose that higher end package because you need to sell online, you are in it for $275.45 instead. Yeah, no longer a bargain, is it?
WordPress is a robust platform with an exceptional online community for support. It may not be as easy as reaching a support tech, but the support is there and the community is very willing. With this said, WordPress itself offers a massive collection of plugins and themes that are free, as well as premium themes you can purchase. In other words, you do not need to pay more for that unless you simply want the convenience.
The Bottom Line
I guess that what got to me was the advertisement. It was written wrong and targets the wrong people with deception. It was obviously targeting people that either have limited resources or simply do not want to spend too much. But it was done through a deceptive lie. What do I recommend? Re-write the ad and market the right clients. There will always be those who are willing to pay more for the support, that is a given. Many people do not want to be bothered with managing or working the site and will seek professionals, like myself, to do that for them. To target these clients, all that ThemeCloud needs to do is emphasize the value of their support department to attract clients… not by a poorly researched and executed comparison like the one they provide on their website. My own online research has revealed that they do have an amazing support team and that this is where the value really is. There is no need to misinform the public about the other offerings just to get them to come on-board.
The intent of this post is simply to bring awareness to poor marketing practices I feel are deceptive and result in giving clients a less than satisfactory experience. Please, read everything you see twice, three times, four times, if you have to. Run it by friends who are knowledgeable about the topic and shop around. Question every advertisement you see, especially if the company is providing you with their own in-house comparison that shows you how much better they are. Of course their comparisons will show you their superior quality. Why would it not? They made it up. So, simply take the time to read between the lines, visit their websites, and dissect everything they have to offer and make your own comparisons and analysis. It is really not that hard.
MiAGon Design follows a simple principle: to help people and businesses and making them happy… whether they work with us or not. Seriously. MiAGon Design has offered countless businesses with advice on how to improve their online presence, as well as design concepts they should engage with. Not all those offerings resulted in new clients. And that is fine because it at least gave businesses new insights to improve their websites, branding and products.
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