Am I being too hard on gurus?
A reader named Domen emailed me today, not convinced about my position that people like Jeff Walker are scammers and criminals:
I don't know Bnonn, people say good and bad things about Jeff Walker. Like for any successful person, so I am very unsure now what he is and isn't. My personal coach is his colleague and that gives him huge credibility for me.
I am still unsure about these people, like Frank Kern and Co. I know some of the internet marketers (let's say a huge percentage of these IM's) sold puffed-up air to naive people, but some have very credible strategies.. Anyway..
Here's what I told him:
Firstly, I understand people feeling this way. There are always three sides to every story, as they say. In fact, one of my clients is a friend of Eben Pagan. He really benefited from what Eben teaches. Yet as a rule, I still think Eben falls into the same category as other gurus.
But what's the evidence against the gurus? Aren't they just making a living like the rest of us — only doing it better?
Well, I don't think the facts bear that out. For example, Frank Kern has given detailed account of how he created a "syndicate" of internet marketers to promote each others' products on a 12 month (or so) cycle. But when you examine how it works (worked?)…it is indistinguishable from a price-fixing cartel.
The whole point of it is to fabricate the illusion of social proof, which drives up sales. But that's all it is — an outright fabrication.
And indeed, Kern (and more recently Mike Dillard of the Elevation Group) have been investigated by the FTC under suspicion of fraud. Both of them have been forced to sign consent orders — basically official admissions of criminal guilt, along with agreement to give back what they can, in exchange for not having to face real justice.
There's also the fact, which I have on good authority, that the refund rate on programs like Product Launch Formula is as high as 30%. That's ten times what you would expect if the program was actually worth the money. And, if true, it means that the kinds of profits that Walker claims aren't merely overhyped, but downright false.
(I'd go so far as to say that lying about your own success seems to be fundamental to the guru business model.)
And I'll be honest. Part of the reason I think these guys are scammers is just the vibe I get off them. Sure, that's subjective — but you tell me that Jeff Walker doesn't have the cold, dead eyes of a killer. I seriously cannot feel right trusting that man; his sleaze-bag vibe is palpable even through the interwebs.
Now, as far as studying the strategies of internet marketing gurus…for sure — these guys are by no means complete backbirths. They couldn't possibly be making a living at all if they didn't have some idea of how to use sound marketing principles. So definitely look at what they're doing and see how you can apply it in your own business.
Just don't expect their products to contain anything more than already meets the eye. And exercise caution, because a lot of what they do is simply unethical, and occasionally even criminal.
If you're looking for the opposite of that, check out www.shirtsleevesmarketing.com.