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Last month on Forbes.com I wrote about what I discovered to be two debt collection industries: one legitimate, and one rogue. I came to this discovery through my analysis of the FTC’s debt collection complaint data from the first quarter of 2012.

Next month I’ll be co-hosting a teaching workshop at the Debt Connection Symposium & Expo at the Red Rock in Las Vegas on September 10thOne of the things we’ll be covering in depth is how to enhance a debt collection agency’s apparent legitimacy from an online perspective.

The most prevalent and tangible touch-point for a company today is its website. I’ve looked at/for hundreds of collection agency websites, and there is a wide range of quality out there. Regarding the appearance of legitimacy, I’d ask the following questions:

Does your company have a website? More importantly, can someone find your website without having its exact URL?

When you do a Google search on your company’s name:

  • Do you find your website at or near the top of the first page of results?
  • Do you see result after result representing consumer complaints, fraud accusations, or listings of consumer attorneys out to get your company?
  • Do you see neutral or positive results that include your company’s website, press releases, LinkedIn or Facebook page, or articles about your company on other well-regarded websites?

When you look at your company’s website:

  • Can you find your physical street address?
  • Do you list your management team?
  • Do you make it easy to contact an actual person?
  • Does your website appear to be reasonably current?

These are just a few basic questions, but positive answers can make a big difference in what impression is formed about your company – by consumers, by regulators, and by clients.

I recently went looking for the websites of each of the top 150 or so collection agencies, debt buyers, and collection law firms. Many of them included a page with names, photos, and bios of their management team. I thought that said a lot about these firms. I recognize that some feel this industry can “put a target on one’s back” and it’s best to stay under the radar. I suspect this is why some companies do not list names of their executives. But the fact that so many were willing to do so is, in my opinion, a significant statement about the difference between the legitimate debt collection industry, and its parallel, rogue universe, where many companies have no face, no location, and in fact, no name.

Stephanie is the president and publisher of insideARM.com and insidePatientFinance.com. She will be presenting, along with Chief Content Officer Michael Klozotsky and Client Marketing Specialist Jennifer Szumiesz, in the ‘Essential Marketing Tools for Collection Agencies’ pre-conference workshop at the 2012 Debt Connection Symposium in Las Vegas on September 10th.


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