Tuesday, July 15, 2008

6 signs of a deceptive marketing expert

Con artists have web sites, and they use many tricks to fake credibility and seduce gullible visitors.

Some scams involve a person posing as a digital marketing wizard, online sales genius, or ecommerce expert. Using classic circus tricks and sophisticated influencing techniques, these "marketing experts" prey on trusting souls. Nice people, who aren't trained in detecting unscrupulous vendors of magically effective money-making schemes or miraculous solutions to their problems.

Unwary seekers of fast, easy riches may be robbed of huge amounts of slowing acquired, hard-earned cash.

Here are some warning signals that mark a "marketing expert" as a fraud to avoid.

6 Signs of a Deceptive
Online "Marketing Expert"

(1) Fake Endorsements

"Quotes" from reputable sources, like USA Today, Forbes, New York Times, or BusinessWeek, praising or at least mentioning vaguely, the expert. Impressive, right? These are all positive reviews. He really must be a #1 Authority of some sort, eh?

Look a bit closer.

There are no links to the articles quoted. Even after doing a Google search, and digging 22 pages into the search results, these alleged citations of praise do not appear.

Articles by credible, mainstream news media should appear early in a search results list, because the search engines favor such authorities. If these alleged quotes do not appear, it's because they don't exist and never did.

(2) Fake Testimonials

22 pages into the search results, and all you see are good things being said about the guy. That overwhelming bias should be the first warning that something's not right.

No legitimate companies or real people get zero complaints. Nobody gets all positive reviews. No company is perfect. So the overwhelming flattery and piles of positive hype should make you pause. Try clicking on a link and see what happens.

When you click on a link, the site is either a spin-off by the alleged expert (name dot com, ask name dot com, namemarketing dot com, etc.), or it's an affiliate, i.e. chump who bought into the expert's system, and agreed to "give back" to the expert by saying nice things, and only nice things, about him.

(3) Enforced Reciprocity

You're bullied into feeling "obligated". Your obligation is not only demanded, but specifically stated. Since the marketing wizard liar has shared his precious, fool-proof secrets with you, at an astronomically high price, you are necessarily duty-bound, as a person with a conscience, to "give back" to the expert.

After all, he had to spend far more time and money collecting and analyzing all these exotic hidden truths. He had to travel to special locations, wine and dine entrepreneurs, set up meetings with busy CEOs, prying valiantly into their deepest psyches -- to find all these great marketing ideas. Yeah. Right.

In reality, or so goes the spin he's putting on it, the expert is getting ripped off by you! The material he's providing is infinitely more valuable than the price he's charging for them. But that's okay, because sacrifice is mandatory. And now, it's your turn to sacrifice something.

You're guilt-tripped into "giving back". That means investing more money in his products, equipment, books, videos, audio seminars, and other, endless, super-success training material. Or investing in his company's stock. Or becoming a distributor.

(4) Guilt-Trip Distributorships

"You love these products, right?" the dealer/expert asks, aggressively. "You believe in them, don't you?"

You feel a trap springing up, but to be logical and honest, you reply, "Of course I do."

"Well, then, don't you want others to enjoy and benefit from them, too, along with you? Or are you selfish, concerned only for your own personal gain? If you have a heart of caring for others, you'd naturally want to bring them the benefits you're enjoying. Becoming a distributor is easy...(etc.)"

When the main point seems to be your becoming a distributor, and then your recruiting still more distributors, you've got a very fishy situation. You must be aware that most scams involve loading you with product, and psychologically coercing you, soon after becoming a customer, into becoming a dealer.

How many sales people sell you a product, then turn around and try to get you to become a sales person for it? That's not normal, and in some cases, it's not strictly ethical either.

(5) Massively Overpriced Products

Charlatans and con artists tend to inflate the prices of their products. Insanely high prices is an old trick to increase awe and expectations. They hope you're dazzled by the high prices, so that you automatically assume the products simply must be good, since they cost so much. It's called "perceived value" and it's one of the oldest scams in the world.

Books by legitimate marketing experts generally cost $25.00 to $50.00, unless the topic is extremely technical and written for top tier executives. Even then, marketing books remain on the lower end of the scale.

$800.00 is not a reasonable price for an online marketing book, nor is $5,000 a justifiable price for a set of audio CDs. 28 audio CDs on a topic seems more like brainwashing than education.

The fact that the author provides wild claims, exaggerated reasons why the stuff costs so much, basing the price on the awesome, huge amounts of money you'll make once you read and apply what you've learned. Another good reason to see this guy as a snake oil salesman. Legit experts make modest claims.

(6) Not Mentioned by Real Experts

A final test is: Do the real online marketing experts endorse, quote, or link to the guy?

If you do a little research, it's not hard to discover who the experts are.

You can start by looking at the most successful companies, and seeing who they consult. Or look at the top universities and see who they study and teach. Or then again, go to a blog by an established expert that all the other experts quote, and see who they link to and write articles about.

In marketing and sales, the genuine experts include Seth Godin, Al & Laura Ries, Jakob Nielsen, Tom Peters, Phil Kotler, Ann Handley, W. Chan Kim, Harvey McKay, John Hagel III, Clayton Christensen.

One way to determine who the experts are is to go to Amazon or Barnes & Noble web sites, and search for "online marketing", see what books are the best-selling in that topic.

Then read the industry reviews, or check the back dust-jacket cover blurbs.

Is the book favorably reviewed by the New York Times, Fortune, Forbes, BusinessWeek, Harvard Business Review, Kellogg School of Marketing?

What individuals endorse it? CEOs of successful, well known companies? Good! Top rated university professors who teach marketing? Great! Other unknown marketing authors? Bad. Members and affiliates of his own programs? Not good.

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