If you haven't read my previous blog post, you should scroll down and do so, or you won't understand this one. When last we left the search engine saga, KDunn & Associates was attempting to benefit from my reputation by planting paid advertising for the search term "Mark Merenda." When you did a Google search for Mark Merenda, there was a paid listing right above the search results — a "sponsored link" for my competitor KDunn & Associates, with the headline "Want More Clients?". OK, that was annoying. Then when you clicked on their ad, it took you to a landing page that contained the language "You searched for Mark Merenda and you found it." That was a little more than annoying. This competing firm was using my name in their marketing. Then today, I searched my name again. Here is the result (click on image to enlarge):
Now "annoying" is beginning to seem inadequate, as the headline on the ad no longer reads "Want More Clients?" but now says "Mark Merenda — How to Grow Your Practice/KDunnMarketing.com." So, a competitor is using my name in its commercial advertising on the Internet.
The basics: Law Firm A, a big personal injury firm that spends big bucks on marketing/advertising, sued Law Firm B because Firm B had been — in a search engine sense — attempting to glom onto Law Firm A's reputation and fame. They did so in a pretty clever way. Using Google AdWords, Firm B bid on certain key words (in this case, the name of Law Firm A) for the purposes of a sponsored link. I have no desire to bore you with an extended explanation of pay-per-click advertising, but let's put it this way: every time someone searched on Google — by name — for Law Firm A (which had "earned" that search with their reputation or their advertising or whatever), then naturally the first "organic" listing in the search results was (as it should be) Law Firm A. However, right above that #1 organic listing, appeared the "sponsored" listing for Law Firm B.
Clever. But not very cool, in my view. It's a sort of confession that…we know you beat us in the marketplace, we know you have a bigger reputation, but rather than earn or buy our own presence in that marketplace, we're going to be the gnat that attaches itself to you and rides on your reputation.
The court ruled that Law Firm B had done nothing illegal and although I disagreed with some of the quotes from the defense attorney ("There is no evidence of confusion here") I didn't think much more of it.
It occurred to me that I hadn't performed a Google search on my own name for a while. So I did, and this is what I found (click on the image to enlarge):
The organic search results were what you might expect. My firm and my blog were the first two listings. But there on top of those results is a paid listing from KDunn Marketing, one of my competitors (at least in some minor sense). Clearly, some genius at KDunn decided that a good way to attract business was to advertise to people who were searching for Mark Merenda.
OK, I guess there's a way I could see that as a compliment. They want to grab onto my coattails. Fine. I don't like it much or respect it much, but it's not illegal. I do think it's borderline deceptive. And I've always wondered how companies that start the client relationship with a deception (like those debt settlement firms implying that they are government agencies with ads that begin, "A program has been established…") can hope for a successful long-term engagement. But who knows, maybe they're only looking for a quick hit.
So far, I was a bit irritated and a bit flattered. Then I clicked on KDunn's advertisement and landed here (click on the image to enlarge):
Note the language: "Your search was for Mark Merenda and you found it."
Well, actually, no, you didn't.
I would think that the unwary attorney, searching for me and my services, would be likely to think (or reasonably infer) that they had found me, and that I was the author of the "Special Report" being offered.
Note to Kathryn Dunn: you might want to try to attach yourself to this blog, as well — it has 7,000 subscribers — subscribers that I earned by putting my best thought and effort into this blog every week for the last seven years.
So what do my readers think? Should I be mad, or should I laugh? All's fair in love and war, or dirty pool?
Welcome to SmartTalk, episode 16, in which Victor and Mark explore whether law firms can be like factories, the loneliness of the solo practitioner, the very model of a modern law firm general, Mark's mad skillz with a calculator, how Woody Allen expresses Mark's business philosophy while The Godfather expresses Victor's, the hugely growing audience of SmartTalk — and Victor and Mark's plot to sell ads on their podcast in order to get free swag.
As an entrepreneur (sometimes defined as "a person who will jump out of an airplane with the idea that he or she will build a parachute on the way down") I have always been very aware of my need for calm, organized, talented people who can help me make my wild dreams a reality, and somehow bridge the gap between my visionary/artistic/insanity-loving/creative self and the real world of consistency, results, practicality, human beings — the art of the possible.
Now along come Molly Hall and Laney Chavis with their new book "Don't Be A Yes Chick!" which shows me what that partnership looks like from the other side, and instructs their target readers (administrators, assistants, COOs, VPs, and all who work for an entrepreneur) in how to work with an entrepreneur in a way that allows both parties to flourish and succeed.
The book, which you can purchase here, is chock-full of good advice, some very practical tools, and a formula for success. Working in an entrepreneurial office is very different than working in a corporate structure, as the authors point out. One is like being in the regular army. The other is like guerilla warfare. In the entrepreneurial office, everyone does everything, and everyone does whatever it takes. There is no room, they say, for the entitlement mentality, no room for negative attitude, and no way you go to your boss with a problem unless you are also bringing a proposed solution.
Although I think the primary value of the book is for anyone who is working, or wants to work for, an entrepreneur (identified by the authors as "intrapreneurs"), there is much of value for the entrepreneur as well. I know I felt myself cringing at times, when I recognized some of my own behavior (like introducing one of my key employees as "the person who does all the work"). I learned from "Don't Be A Yes Chick!" and I think most people who work in small businesses would, as well.
I have some questions, too — questions I hope to ask when I interview the authors for the SmartTalk podcast this month. Among my questions: Why are the overwhelming majority of these entrepreneur/intrapreneur relationships also older male/younger female relationships? Is that why the clever theme of "chicks" throughout the book? Were they worried that some women would be offended by that? Is there some sort of romantic undertone or tension in the relationship between older man and younger female assistant? How does this assistant (or the entrepreneur for that matter) deal with it, if it crops up? How would most intrapreneurs like to be titled? Or paid? What do they find special about working for an entrepreneur? In what ways is it better than working for a "manager" in a corporation? And so on…
Clearly, then, I found this book worth my time. You should be able to read it in an evening, and I think both entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs will find it valuable. Its insights are presented with wit and a sense of fun (the "chick" theme indicating that none of us can afford to take ourselves too seriously), and it includes some very valuable tools and techniques. Buy it here.