Internet Marketing Systems: Truth or Scam?

Over the past 6 months I have either joined a trial period or bought 8 marketing programs. Each program was presented through a very long and drawn out squeeze page (another term for a sales page). For those of you who are regular readers you know my views on such pages: The more bull on a page the bigger the fool. A good and valuable product can be presented in a few paragraphs. After that the marketer is just trying to baffle you with bull.

Back to the topic at hand. These sales pages had common elements (see if they don't sound familiar), they include but are not limited to:
  • Never before revealed secrets
  • Rag to riches or a 'I'm-just-like-you' story
  • You will make $X,000 or $XX,000 per month
  • Easy, no work, 15 minutes a day etc
  • Proven system
  • Testimonials galore
  • I should be selling this for $1997...but for a limited time only
And the list goes on and on.

So what I have learned from looking at these programs?

1. Most of the marketers are making money but they are NOT making money delivering value for the majority of their students. Why do I think that? Because so many of the folks I talk to at events, seminars, online etc all share about the same experience-some good info but limited productive content. I have looked at so many programs I am almost to the point of thinking that most of these people throw together garbage and then start selling each others products to their lists. God help the people on those lists.

I have seen the statistic battered around that only about 3% of those people trying to start a business online succeed. I don't think the failure rate in these programs is that high but its not even a 50/50 success rate either. I think what follows below, in part, may explain why. (Disclaimer: this is not an exhaustive study. One reason is because when I emailed the marketers only 2 responded and neither wished to share this information. One could speculate it's because they don't know or they know the numbers are low. Also I recognize its not a statistically significant pool of take it with a grain of salt. My goal here is to cast some light on the practices of some unscrupulous marketers). In my ebook and newsletter "Don't Scam Us" I devote a chapter to identifying red flags since it is impossible to identify every scamster online.

2. 7 out of the 8 courses were either videos (from interviews or seminars)or rehashed PDFs (readily available content found elsewhere-note ok to be basic IF good instructional material is added for clarity) and private label right material. Now some of this content was interesting but anyone subscribing to the program or buying then system would not get what the sales page advertised. Most entrepreneurs will cut their own path at some point but when it comes to training they want clear direction and deliverables. Much of the content I reviewed provided neither. One program by Holly Mann did offer a very comprehensive how-to get started course that is straight forward, no bells and whistles-it was precise, complete with clear explanations.

3. Though coaching was emphasized none had a true customer experience process in place. All emails were from a no-reply account so there was no way to reply, ask questions or get more information. You were on your own. There were no phone numbers to reach people. Several had 800 numbers in the membership site but most went to a message recorder. Of the messages left (about 10) I got 1 call back. And that was an upsell call and not an answer to the question I had left.

Just a word on customer experience, like corporate America, internet marketers who want to succeed will figure out this is a must for their businesses. Customer Experience is not service! It is a business process that helps customers succeed so that they buy more and refer people to the business. So contrary to what I have heard at some business development seminars it is an avenue to more revenue not a detour away from cash flow.

Why is there so little attention given to customer experience? I can think of several reasons but suffice it to say that the root cause is a preoccupation with making money by any means available to them. On one site there is actually a video presentation where the speaker downplays customer experience and in the same context talks about several marketers he knows that have been shut down for violating FTC laws. Hello? Where is the integrity? Besides breaking the law its clear that the road to FTC trouble was paved with customers that were abused and misled.

4. Most programs were sold for $77-$150 and the subscriptions were $67 to $97 per month. Based on what I have seen so far I would never consider buying a course for several hundred dollars or more--there are just too many horror stories about bogus programs. Any program possibly worth such a price better provide more detail than what is offered in these ridiculously long pitch pages. I digress....

In all these programs there was not one tip, secret, or technique that could not be found elsewhere for free. The only tangible value with these courses was that someone had organized some information for you already. That's it! And that is ok if you know that going into it. If you have access to a user group, another marketer with experience, other marketers with which you can form a mastermind group, then you can discover 99% of what these big name marketers are selling online. My take-away was that only one or two courses were a true course. The others packaged articles and videos of rehashed information. Seeing the information offered I can understand why consumers move on to what hopefully will be a course that meets there needs. I would like to hear from you if you have bought a course and what you thought of it. My email address is above in the blog header.

5. I have collected nearly 1000 emails from these marketers I signed up with. There was no follow up to the material or inquiry about my satisfaction (remember the sales page sold personal attention--had that not been pitched this would not matter). All the emails (yes, all) that followed were pitches to buy more stuff. Even though you were supposedly on the inside they still pitched products with little to no substantive detail. You had to pay! but they did offer a refund.

Back to quality of help. I asked my wife, who has no internet marketing experience, to go through some of the training and contact the sponsor with any questions she had. Most of her questions were, as you'd expect, basic and most of the answers were half backed. It was clear the the information was all she was getting and beyond that she was on her own. I am fairly certain that there is not one sales page out there that will tell you to not buy the product unless you have so much experience. All of these programs produced no results unless you know how to drive traffic to your site and that is another critically important caveat to success that none of the sales pages let you know about. While on the topic of representations, beware of "review" sites. If a "review" site is not giving details then it is most likely an affiliate trying to sell the product. I recommend you pass.

6. All 8 courses offered guarantees,cancellation and promises of integrity and no spamming.

Let's take spamming first. On seven of the sales pages I used a first name that was joined with partial name of the program. For example, Bobintblueprnt or SueprgXYZ etc. This way I could associate a salutation name with the program it should come from. Within in two weeks I received emails using that program's specific name from other marketers. So much for no spamming.

A word of caution here. Please do not take my meaning to be all marketers act this way--not at all. Just be aware that it happens and in this little test case it happened most of the time. So be aware and use caution if you want to protect certain emails accounts. I would recommend one gmail account to handle all your trials and subscriptions.

Now lets talk about charges and cancellations. With 3 of the 8 I had a very simple online process to go through and with others I had some hoops to jump through. Two programs tried to make charges against my account during the trial period and after I canceled. The Delta Squadron cancellation process is to open a trouble ticket. I opened the trouble ticket and received an email with a video link. The video extolled the benefits of the program (np--its ok for him to like it) but after a while I closed it. I was looking fro cancellation information not a pitch to stay. I received an email acknowledging my cancellation trouble ticket. What I did not know is that to really cancel (asking was not enough) I had to listen to the entire video to get directed to a web page. That is a highly questionable process.

In the mean time Delta Squadron tried to charge $97- that was rejected- and then, very interestingly, they tried a few minutes later to run $37 through-that was rejected. Thank goodness for Bank of America's safeshop program. To Mike's credit when I followed up I got another email explaining the video and assuring me there would be no more charges. Its been almost two weeks no more charges. I don't know what it would have been like to try to get my money back. I suspect they would have stood on the technicality that I did not jump through the appropriate hoops to cancel. Mike also tried to process a charge I did not know about it. I made a copy of the sales page so unless it was in some small print it was not authorized (it happens and it too is a shady practice). When I learned about this charge I canceled because such behavior is unacceptable.

If you speak to your credit card company they will tell you that it is a common complaint from people that online businesses try to harvest credit card numbers, have spotty or questionable cancellation practices and try to run through charges. You can learn more about such situations on ripoff and scam watch sites that report on these problems.

Mike Filsaime's cancellation process is straight forward. You call a phone number and then get directed to I don't know why they do not direct you to the cancellation site right away. At the site you have to fill out some user name and password information or the last 4 digits of your credit card and the cancellation process goes through. As of this posting I cannot tell you that it has been completed without a snag.

So my conclusion is as follows. Do not buy a course unless you get some solid information about what you are going to receive. Disregard 99% of what you read on the sales page. Be certain you have protected your credit card. I hope you never use a debit card!!! For more information on what to look for in a good program read my earlier posting on internet marketing courses: Mike Filsaime et al. What to look for in an internet marketing course