Being Honest is Not As Profitable
So over the past 18 months or so, I’ve been running a membership site at BringTheFresh.com – its a community for people interested in making a living via internet marketing. This basically means you create your own products (software, info-products, etc) and sell them online, or you create websites that sell other people’s products, as an affiliate.
We try our best to be unlike any other internet marketing site out there.
What I mean is:
1) We don’t lie.
This is VERY difficult to do as a marketer. Lies and hype are what this industry is built on. Preying on people’s hopes. Trying to influence them with psychology, to buy something they don’t need. To make them feel like they DO need it, and to convince them that if it doesn’t work, its THEIR fault.
The most prevalent lie is false statistics. These are fake results, or results gained by using a different method, such as selling the very “system” they are trying to convince you to buy. Commonly, someone will sell an ebook or marketing course, and do a “launch” for it, where they get a lot of friends and partners to promote it. They may make $100k, or even $1 million in just a few days (before gigantic refund rates). But no matter what, they net a nice payday.
Then with their next product, they will convince you that you can use their amazing new course or software they created, and it will make you $100k – $1 million dollars. They fail to mention that the only way they really make money is by selling “how to make money”, via product launches. This is frequently referred to “fake it til you make it”. Selling a course about how to make money online, by selling a course about how to make money online. Very rarely do these people actually make any money online by “doing” anything. They just teach you how to fake it like them.
Many marketers feel this is a grey area, and hang around others who do the same. That way they find solidarity, and feel less guilty about it. There is a common excuse that, “Hey the product has some good stuff in it, so lying to get them to buy it isn’t really a big deal.” Its kinda like if you bought a car that was said to get you 100 miles per gallon on “autopilot”, but after you buy it, you only get 10 miles/gallon. But hey, it does have some nice cupholders, leather seats, and navigation, so the salesman wasn’t really THAT shady was he?
Again, its just really tough to get someone to buy an online info-product or course without making it sound like the greatest course out there. The only guaranteed way to do that is by ACTUALLY making it the greatest course out there! And then relying on your customers to get the good word out for you.
That is a great way to do it, but it takes a lot of time & effort. And while we’ve spent 18 months doing this, others have launched 4 or 5 products during that time, and made millions of dollars. And many use fake names, so they are dis-associated with it. There are little groups of “players” and they all promote each others’ stuff no questions asked. They only care about numbers. They have zero interest in what the customer actually gets.
Right now Bring the Fresh converts pretty well, but not near as well as some of the latest launch products built on hype and lies of “push button” success. As a marketer I’m jealous of their numbers. As an empathetic person, I’m not.
When we work on our own sites, its very hard for us to balance what is hype and what is real, AND what is typical. We edit our sales letter almost daily, to try to find the sweet spot where we can tell the truth and optimize conversions at the same time. Its an ongoing, frustrating thing. Sometimes a few words can change everything. But many times the best words are misleading. And don’t get me started on false scarcity! (fake countdown timers, or “only 7 copies left”.)
For certain audiences we need to “dumb down” our approach. For others, that’s not gonna fly.
2) We don’t sell our customers down the river (filled with piranhas).
The bread and butter of most internet marketing products/courses is lead generation. Many times an offer can afford to pay $100 to acquire a $50 customer, because they are going to sell that customer’s data to a boiler room in Utah. The boiler room will pay 25%-35% of whatever money they make from the leads, and these guys are good at selling over the phone!
That boiler room is gonna call you with promises of making thousands of dollars a month by working with one of their “success coaches” on a weekly basis. Nevermind that your “success coach” has never made more than $15-$20/hr himself… as a success coach. And before that, he was a frustrated wannabe marketer like you. He knows a few catch-phrases like SEO, squeeze page, optimization, ROI, etc., so at least he sorta sounds like he knows what he’s talking about. But ask him for an example of one of his own sites. Then check it out on sites like Compete.com, and you’ll see that his only “success” is the paycheck he gets from his boss at the boiler room.
They promise everything from setting you up with a website, to helping with your taxes, to helping you setup a corporation. And charges go from $1k to $20k. The difference in price really only depends on how much money you have available on your credit card. If they ask and you say you have an $8k credit limit, well then the price of their service just happens to be $8k.
These coaching floors and boiler rooms are seeing more and more scrutiny, and some get taken down by the FTC. Others just disappear when leads dry up, and conveniently forget to pay commissions, or provide the service to the customer that they were paid for.
I know a lot about this sort of thing because as I’ve said before, I sold my leads to these coaching floors back in 2007. The money was great. The whole customer getting no value thing pretty much sucked.
Again, trying to compete with guys who use boiler rooms is tough. They typically see an increase of $100-$300 per customer when they sell their leads down the river. We don’t have that luxury, so we have to resort to other high quality offers of our own to try to make up the difference. These would include offering additional products or services we create, or those our friends have created.
But our competitors do this as well, in addition to selling leads, so we need to compete even smarter.
3) We don’t burn & churn our prospect and customer lists.
I see this so many times and believe it is the most short-sighted thing a marketer can do.
Its very important to build trust with your lists and provide them value. Yet many marketers mail them every day with the next shiny object they MUST buy. But mostly, this is the marketer paying back the guys who helped him do so well on his launch. Lots of guys won’t mail their list for you unless you promise to mail their next offer (whether its good or not). So after the launch, you have to hammer your list as a thank-you to all of the guys who mailed for you.
Its unsubscribe city, and reputation game over. (if you used your real name)
I get joint-venture offers daily, asking me to mail my list to someone’s next great converting product. But its always an appeal to my greed. They never tell me whats in it for my customers. Call me old fashioned but I want to know what it is, what it does, see some proof, and try it myself. Otherwise my list will hate me.
Even when I do end up promoting an offer I think will be good for people, I cover my ass by giving a bonus that will make it worth the customer’s while, even if the product ends up being a nightmare. And I let them keep the bonus even if they refund. I want my customers to stick around for 10 years, not 10 days.
In summary, this post is just meant for food-for-thought. I’m no whistle-blower, and I don’t consider myself holier than thou, or someone who should judge others. I’m still tempted to this day to return to my grey area ways of 2007, but in the end I can’t do it. It just doesn’t feel right. I just have to live with a bit of a lighter wallet!
I’m still friends with many of the guys who do things the grey way. I think a lot of them are very bright, and I actually learn quite a bit from them. And some of them are just damn fun to hang out with!
If you find yourself in a similar situation, where you want to be known as one of the “good guys”, I’d love to hear from ya.
I’m open to working with anyone who has similar views, good products, real testimonials, and consistent results. I think a good group of like-minded individuals, with good products, and good intentions for the customer can make a difference, AND help us compete with everyone else!
Until next time,