You Can't Ignore the Web in 2008
I got called today from the folks at Canadian Select Farm Foods earlier today, and like many people, I like the idea of having a closer connection to where my food is grown. I've had a couple phone calls from these folks, often asking if I received their meat in the mail (such a shocking concept), but saw them as just having a bit of a disorganized sales team more than anything. According to their friendly sales folks they sell all different kinds of meat products and seem to be offering you the ability to bulk buy Ontario meat which is grown without hormones and on farms which have been audited by the company for quality. I don't eat meat all that often, certainly not enough to buy one of their 18 month packages, but if it was as their sales team claimed it was then I'd be tempted to go in with someone and split it with them. Before leaving they gave me a business card without a website, so I asked for one Their sales guys had done the best job possible and had left me as a potential customer, right until I looked up their website.
The website address I was given didn't exist. So sure, maybe the sales guy wrote it down wrong, so I searched for "canadian select farm foods" which was the business name I was given. There weren't many links with that restricted phrase, just 30 actually. No obvious business site poped up using that name, but there were a bunch of other listings for this search string. So sure, maybe either the domain expired or they are just really bad at search engine optimization. A number of the links from the search were just typical yellow page type directories with information like: name, address, phone number. None of them listed a website.
Fortunately, the net does encourage people to ask questions, get feedback from other people, and write reviews of businesses and their products. There were a few for the company in question: Ottawa Kiosk, Red Flag Deals, and Who Calls Me, had the most useful information. The thing with public web forums like this is that I really have no idea if the person posting the feedback is someone with experience as a customer, a competitor, a ex-employee or a sales manager. Given the range of feedback on some of these forums, I think that we're dealing with a mix. The feedback was mixed, although the concerns were mostly around returns, pushy phone sales people and bad post-sales service.
Our consumer culture has changed now where more and more people are voicing their satisfaction or dis-satisfaction with things they have purchased through forums. Informal consumer reviews are available for pretty much anything these days, and companies need to be keeping an eye on this feedback and where possible responding to it appropriately. Commenting in the forums where possible is appropriate, but mostly this is a place to get the kind of honest feedback that a company needs in order to succeed.
Given the generally poor coverage on the web for this company, I really can't see buying from them. Given their lack of a web presence though I do really wonder if I should just throw away their free sample. I mean seriously, it wouldn't take an amature more than a day to put together everything that I was given. I was left with a cheap business card, a 8x11 photocopy with some basic information on it and a chunk of frozen hamburger. How do I know that he didn't just buy some half priced stock from the grocery store and freeze it in his basement?
Having a website provides some sort of external point of reference that allows people some abilities to verify that you are who you say you are. It would have been really nice to have found out more about this company on their website and had links to individual farms which they support across the province. If the sales rep had a business card with the website and a domain related email address then I would again have some measure of confidence that the guy who came to my door was sanctioned by a business to be able to do so. Listing a hotmail account is bad form because he could easily have a different hotmail account every month.
About The Author
Mike Gifford is the founder of OpenConcept Consulting Inc, which he started in 1999. Since then, he has been particularly active in developing and extending open source content management systems to allow people to get closer to their content. Before starting OpenConcept, Mike had worked for a number of national NGOs including Oxfam Canada and Friends of the Earth.