Yesterday we told you about our total nightmare hiring a bad “SEO Expert” to run our marketing campaigns for BigBrandWholesale.com. In that blog post I talked about how we also hired this same company to create a new website for us and change our site to the new site. Sounds like a pretty simple task for a “Web Design Professional”, eh? This is where our nightmare began.
The website template style we were using in late 2018 was unfortunately being discontinued by our web host, BigCommerce.com, which meant we had no choice but to have a new website designed. We decided that since we were going to be putting big bucks for a new site we might as well change our company name / url, which is something we had been wanting to do for 5+ years, but it’s such a time consuming process (changing our social media, changing our legal documents, changing our business card, etc) that we kept putting it off. So we shopped around for web design companies and discovered BrandLabs.us who happened to be located in our home state of Michigan. We were really excited to be able to work with a local company.
Let me mention that BrandLabs is NOT a “cheap” or “budget” company. In fact, they are one of the more pricey designers, but I had the belief that spending more meant we would be getting a better end-product. Since our company was doing phenomenal we wanted to hire best-of-the-best.
The first quote we got from BrandLabs was something like $30,000+ for a complete website build. However, we basically wanted a site that was the same as what we currently had, so it didn’t make financial sense to shell out that kind of money to end up with nearly the same thing we had before dropping almost 30k. An alternate solution was to purchase a template through BigCommerce, and pay BrandLabs to make it everything we were seeking. This option was supposed to save us a bit of money while providing the end result we desired. The amount we paid BrandLabs was supposed to include a fully functioning website (and mobile site) in addition to a seamless change-over from our old url / company name to the new url / company name. Basically BrandLabs would build the site using the BigCommerce template of our choice (and expense) and when everything was perfect they would “flip the switch” to instantly make the new site appear in place of the old site. Visitors going to our old url would be instantly redirected to our fancy, new site. Again, this sounded like a simple task for a design expert who does this for a living… or so we thought.
THE NIGHTMARE BEGINS
JULY 2019: The day the “switch was flipped” turned into total chaos… it was the first time I ever cried at work...no joke. BrandLabs did not correctly perform the redirect, so customers visiting our old URL were sent to an error page that stated our site did not exist. We immediately got flooded with customer inquiries asking why we went out of business, if they would be refunded for their order, if we were still planning to ship their purchase, and so on. When we told Brand Labs that the change-over isn’t working, they first told us to be patient. They explained that it can take a “couple hours” to fully work. We impatiently kept clicking the “refresh” button on Google and prayed that our new site would pop up… it didn’t. No matter how many times we clicked refresh, the same white page with the big error message appeared.
On the second day of it not working we were begging Brand Labs to look into it. They again insisted it can take time to work. They said “Give it time”. Meanwhile we have no way of making money, so we continued to click refresh... and hope. We kept assuring our customers we didn’t close and that, “any moment” the new site would appear.
By the 4th day, Brand Labs told us that the reason it is not working is because our buyers must have a “poor internet connection” or “they need to clear their cache / cookies”. So we spent endless hours walking every single angry buyer through the steps needed for them to clear their cache. Clearing the cache did nothing, but what it did do was piss our buyers off even more.
On the fifth day Brand Labs FINALLY looked into the issue and realized they did not perform the changeover correctly. They fixed their errors and the site worked. BUT that is just the beginning of the issues.
Literally overnight we went from being a successful small business to making NOTHING or near-nothing. It was the scariest time of my life. In desperation I begged BrandLabs and Jesus Christ for help. Brand Labs explained that this isn’t uncommon after a change like this and the best solution is to have their company manage and run a marketing campaign for us. The goal of the marketing campaign was to trigger cashflow / immediate sales to help us out. The campaign was pretty damn expensive - so expensive that we would have to pay them thousands of dollars before any marketing was actually done, but our options seemed slim: either pay for marketing so we can get our business back on track or continue to watch our bank account balance go down...down...down...
At this time the USA economy was utterly booming, so we wanted to get back in the game, so we rushed to hire them to market to solve the problem.
AUGUST 2019: A month ago, when the site and company name was changed, we predicted that it is possible we may lose 10-15% of our business sales. We expected that some customers may not realize we are the same company so they might not buy… but we didn’t expect to lose 70% OR MORE of our company.
At this time we are now paying for the Marketing Management Service through Brand Labs. According to the contract we signed, this is supposed to “increase revenue 30% or more, average”. Of course we understand that an average does not mean a guarantee… but you would expect that the marketing service would AT LEAST pay for itself, right? Like, it wouldn’t make sense to pay $3,000 a month for marketing and only generate $100 gross from the marketing… that is a total loss and therefore a waste of money. But this is exactly what happened. In fact, the marketing campaign was so terrible that we had a NEGATIVE .04% conversion rate. You can read all about our BrandLabs SEO Service Nightmare here.
Customer complaints about the site not functioning kept rolling in. Every time we would contact BrandLabs they would charge us for troubleshooting, then they would claim the issues are fixed, yet the complaints never stopped; the shopping cart isn’t working, the customer CAN’T PAY, the site isn’t there, the links do not work, the videos aren’t appearing… every online company's worst nightmare is no way to sell their merchandise online.
Then things got even worse... one of the Troubleshooting ideas that BrandLabs suggested would be the solution to our problems with Google not being able to "find" our site, was to delete all of our old data / listings because the data and listings were associated with our original company name / url. In desperation, we rushed to delete all of the data in hopes of our site functioning. (Later I would discover that there was absolutely no reason whatsoever to ever delete data and the correct solution would be to use a simple program like SwerveRedirects to keep all of the data when changing URLs). After the data was deleted we immediately lost all Page Rank and our inventory system became a total nightmare.
We took a massive financial hit in July and August and by the end of August we were even worse off than in July because now we had little data on top of everything else. I was becoming suspicious of BrandLabs. Nothing seemed to make sense. I began researching their company more thoroughly - something I SHOULD have done in the beginning. I began contacting the people who had taken the time to leave them a review and also experienced nearly-identical problems as us:
Everyone I spoke to stated that BrandLabs was NEVER able to fix all of the errors and that they ended up having to hire a competitor web designer to solve all of the problems. “UGH… this is not good”, I thought.
I also started looking into people who had left perfect reviews. Here's an example of the oddities that I found:
For example, this dude left a perfect review:
So I looked him up on Google and found his facebook page:
According to Joe's facebook, he is associated with two different companies; one is TheHungryDudes.com, but when you visit this site you get this error message:
Ironically, this is the identical error message our site got when BrandLabs "flipped the switch" for us and nothing worked.
The other site Joe is affiliated with is not designed by BrandLabs and is instead designed by a company called Flair :
which leads me to believe one of the following things is likely to be true:
- BrandLabs designed the (faulty) site TheHungryDudes
- OR BrandLabs designed the website for AckroydsBakery and they ended up having to hire a different company to fix the work so they hired https://www.flairconsultancy.com/
- OR Joe posted a totally bogus review to help out Brand Labs
- OR, for some super strange reason, Joe had a BrandLabs website that he loved 10 months ago but no longer has it now
- OR Joe paid BrandLabs to design a site that he simply does not mention as a business he is associated with.... which would be very odd.
SEPTEMBER 2019: We discover that one of the reasons why we are suffering so bad is because, in addition to the glitchy website, the mobile cell phone version of our site is not working AT ALL on Androids. We immediately address the issue to BrandLabs and are told that the issue must be on our end because it works fine on their end. I then record a video proving that the site is not working on my Android. I send them the video and they finally acknowledge that it isn’t working and offer to charge us more to troubleshoot.
At this point we had gone 2 MONTHS without a working mobile site, in addition to a glitchy website, in addition to the huge financial drain of a terribly ran marketing campaign that is nothing more than clickbait (read about this SEO disaster) and data deletion. With these revelations, we had reached our breaking point with BrandLabs. We immediately started calling and emailing other web design companies; we begged them for help and explained how our company is literally destroyed after 15 amazing years in business and that we have no idea how to fix this disaster we are in.
Every web designer we spoke to took one look at our site and agreed it is total non-working garbage. The web designers that glanced at our marketing campaigns couldn’t believe the ignorance of BrandLabs work. Over and over again we were told, “It looks like they either don’t know, or just don’t care”. Every web designer agreed that BrandLabs work was so faulty that it couldn’t be “fixed” because it would cost more to fix it than to scrap all of it and start fresh.
Then, on September 4, 2019 I met the most amazing web designer… Mary from MAKDigitalDesign.com - a family business from New Jersey. Mary and her husband thoroughly reviewed our tragic situation and agreed to help us, but, like all of the other designers, they also stated that BrandLabs work couldn’t be salvaged. On September 5th I agreed to have MAKDigitalDesign try to save our company.
MAK quickly scrapped all of BrandLabs work, meanwhile I wrote to BrandLabs to demand the Contract be voided due to their breach of contract and faulty workmanship. BrandLabs quickly agreed to cancel. They didn’t seem to care much that all of the work and troubleshooting we paid them for was trashed in under 70 days of completion.
MAK proceeded to create the site we have now for us. Since hiring MAK we have used them for EVERYTHING. I can not thank MAK enough for what they have done for us. Mary literally saved our family business. If it wasn’t for Mary's generosity I would not be writing this on our blog today because we wouldn’t have a blog, or a site. I don’t think there is anything my family can ever do to truly pay her back, so whenever I get the chance I give MAKDigitalDesign a shout out.
Thank you again Mary for being a Godsend! You’re the BEST EVER!!!