“The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell.” Confucius, The Confucian Analects. (551-479 B.C.)
“God looks at the clean hands, not the full ones.” Publilius Syrus, Moral Sayings, 1st Century, B.C.
“He has honor if he holds himself to an ideal of conduct though it is inconvenient, unprofitable, or dangerous to do so.” Walter Lippman, A Preface to Morals, 1929
Internet marketing is now an integral component of our society. The world wide web has totally revolutionized the way business is done. As with anything, it has a positive and negative aspect to it. But remember, as valuable a resource as the world wide web is, it is still a web and as webs are made by spiders, there are some internet marketers who, like spiders, are working predaciously, diligently and daily to construct their webs to entrap their prey and suck their lifeblood, i.e., their money, right out of them. Now, to be sure, not all internet marketers are predators. Many have excellent services and products to offer. However, there are those who are not so noble and who simply want your money and will do just about anything to get it. This article gives you several tips to keep you from being burned by such individuals.
What is an internet marketer? Basically, an internet marketer is a salesman who sells his goods or services on the world wide web. As we all know, there are good salesmen and bad salesmen. The good ones understand that the basis of all successful business is relationship and they focus on building positive and enduring relationships with their customers. Then there are the other kind, the ones who only want your money and once they’ve got it could care less about helping you or giving you post-sale service.
Another way of looking at an internet marketer is like that of an auto mechanic. The really good ones are rare. They are honest, trustworthy, do excellent work, take responsibility for their work, charge a fair price and serve the customer with respect. They know that all good business is based on creating positive and enduring relationships. Because they have this understanding and are ethical and honest by nature, their businesses endure and thrive.
However, not all auto mechanics are good… or honest, as most people know. Finding a good and honest auto mechanic is a difficult task, akin to finding the proverbial needle in a haystack. It is a sad reality of life but true nonetheless. The analogy of the auto mechanic applies to internet marketers. There are good ones and bad ones, the good ones being very rare and hard to find. In order to protect yourself from the bad ones, here are some things of which to be aware.
1. Beware of Smiles, Wiles and Feel-Good Stories.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.” This applies directly to dishonest people. Such dishonest people, such “wolves,” who are really good at their craft and have highly developed hunting skills, don’t advertise or announce their villainous intentions. Just the opposite. The best have mastered the art of disguise, of being like a harmless sheep. They’ve mastered the art of the smile, the pleasant personality, the warm [but insincere] handshake or pat on the back. They’re often also expert communicators with skills in word usage, phraseology, and neurolinguistic programming which is, in general terms, the science of how words affect emotions. In other words using specific words and phrases to evoke certain reactions, one of which is to get the customer to buy the salesman’s product. Thus, the efficient wolf disguises himself to appear wonderful, trustworthy, friendly when in actuality he’s really just the opposite. Let’s be clear: not all wonderful, trustworthy and friendly salesmen are wolves, but the best-of-the-best predatory wolves do don such disguises. This is why one must beware and be wary of smiles, wiles and feel-good stories. Such behavior may well have an untoward design, i.e., the intent of separating you from your funds without remorse by a wolf in hunting mode.
2. Beware of Offerings with No Recourse.
This is huge. Online seminars, webinars and teleconferences that offer special offers or have guests offering special offers but where neither the event is recorded and downloadable or there is no downloadable contract from the guest for his product or service are highly suspect. Some webinar hosts make a point of saying the webinar will not be recorded. The purpose of this is to motivate people to get on the call. That’s fine. It’s simply a marketing technique. The problem arises if an offer and/or a guarantee are made during the online event that are not downloadable. If there is no download of the program in which an offer or a guarantee is made, there is no official record of the event and therefore the buyer has no recourse if a problem arises! Any complaint or request for satisfaction simply boils down to personal opinion of what was said by the host or the buyer and seller. The buyer may say to the seller, “But you said during the webinar you would guarantee such and such.” The unscrupulous seller may well respond, “No. You’re mistaking. I said no such thing.” Thus, there is a problem, a problem which could have been avoided if a downloadable file of the event were offered or existed.
Too, if there is no downloadable guarantee of a product or service offering during the online event, then there is, likewise, no recourse to the buyer! Sales people can say anything they want, promise anything they want, talk about 100% moneyback guarantees all they want but if there is no proof of it, no downloadable document or recording, it’s all worthless, and the burden of proof is on the buyer to prove that what the seller said and promised was exactly that. The end result is that the buyer may well lose. The seller gets his money and walks away, wiping his salivating chin with his dirty paws while smiling with a sneer, having gained another prey for his wall… or bank account. The solution for the buyer is to demand a downloadable mp3 or similar file of the event or a downloadable guarantee that spells out the terms of the offer exactly. If no downloads are made available, the buyer purchases any products or services at his own risk.
As a matter of note, it is plausible that if the internet marketing industry does not take measures to fix this issue by making downloadable documents or recordings available to verify purchases and insure guarantees, the government may well step in to require such actions and instruments. And who wants more government control? Honesty, ethics, and good business practices are naturally accompanied by documents or instruments reflecting the integrity of the seller while insuring the buyer’s safety. Any smart and ethical business person will take measures to not only ensure his customer’s satisfaction and good will but his own personal integrity as well. Wolves, masquerading as sheep, have no such intentions, let alone actions. Therefore, the solution is to “get it in writing” whatever “it” is that is being purchased.
3. Beware of Deadlines to Purchase.
One common tactic of internet marketers is to create some “call of action to purchase” by placing a time limit on the offering. This technique has been used forever. Some people do need a push to buy. However, if a product or service is good, why create such an impulse-buying, pressure-filled demand in the first place? Any person who has your highest and best interest in his heart, will not pressure you into making a snap decision. However, he will do so if he only has his pocketbook and personal profits in his heart. If the product or service stands on its own merit, no pressure should be required to sell it. Therefore, a pressure deadline to purchase carries a red flag. It may be that a pressure deadline is justified. However, it may also be simply a nefarious sales ploy, and a buyer would be well advised when confronted with such pressure tactics to back off, regroup, reassess, think, ponder and consider the situation before he pulls out his wallet.
4. Beware of Inflated Promises.
Over-promising and under-delivering. How common is this reality? There are even internet marketers who tell you they’re under-promising and over-delivering, and they may be right. Yet, there are those who more commonly promise what they never can or intend to deliver. If there’s a promise, get it in writing via some downloadable instrument. See item #2. Remember, too, that a product or service is only worth what a person is willing to pay for it. A person can tell you his product is worth ten times what he’s offering it for. Well, if the product is really worth ten times what he’s offering it for, and if people really are buying it, why offer it for less? Too, is the seller offering names, addresses, phone numbers, contact data or records of buyers who actually purchased his product for ten times what it’s worth? This is really not suitable for privacy reasons so how can one be sure the salesman’s words are true?
5. Beware of Word Usage.
Internet marketers are often seasoned salesman who have crafted their sales artistry. No problem. However, a problem does arise when the art of using words has benefit only to the marketer. All sales transactions must be a win/win exchange. Everyone must benefit from a sale. That’s what good business is all about, right? Of course.
Here’s an example of word usage. One marketer guaranteed her product if the buyer did “exactly” as she said to do once her product was purchased. See the problem? It’s like Nancy Pelosi telling people to pass the health care bill first and then find out what’s in it! It’s absurd. When a marketer requires the buyer to give her money based on doing “exactly” what she says, before she delivers her product, be wary. How can a person know what she means, infers, or expects when she uses the word “exactly” but doesn’t explain what “exactly” means before a purchase is made? What if “exactly” means doing something the buyer is incapable of doing? It might also be untoward, impossible or even illegal. If the buyer fails to perform “exactly” as the marketer demands, the marketer is off the hook for any guarantee made, and if the product costs thousands of dollars, guess who wins and who loses? Therefore, the warning is, pay attention to words.
6. Beware of Inflated Prices.
A product is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. It’s a common practice for some internet marketers to say they are worth enormous amounts of money per hour and their products are worth thousands of dollars, some tens of thousands of dollars. That may be the case… or it may not. A good conversion rate for an online product is considered to be 3%. This means that of 100 people visiting a website, if 3 out of a hundred people purchase the product, this is considered good. This also means that 97% of the website’s visitors rejected the product for various reasons, price perhaps being one of them. The old adage, “Talk is cheap” is a good one to remember here.
7. Beware of the “Free” Offering.
Nothing is free. For example, many “free” online webinars, teleconference calls, etc. require you to give them your name, email address and any other personal data they can get in order for you to get their “free” webinar, product or service. “Free” means without cost. For someone to advertise something as “free” should mean exactly that, free. However, many internet marketers require a person to give them their contact data, email address, etc. before they get the “free” offering. Giving personal data places a cost on the webinar, product, service, teleconference, etc. which invalidates its “free” status. The key is that the internet marketer wants your email data so he can build his most valuable asset, his email list, which he can personally use or sell to other people. If “free” were truly free, the recipient of the product, service, webinar, etc. would never be asked for anything, and this includes email data. Therefore, a red flag arises. If a person says something is “free” when it’s really not free, the buyer would be wise to stop and contemplate the situation as well as the ethics of the marketer before making any hard decisions.
8. Beware of Webinars That Don’t Match Their Billing
Webinars are excellent tools. Most of them carry an outline of what one can expect during the webinar. However, there are webinars that don’t match their billing. For example, if a webinar’s preview statement is, “Join this webinar and you’ll learn six things to be successful in making green cheese,” and the webinar didn’t answer these questions but rather gave an extended half-hour sales pitch on the host’s revolutionary green cheese maker, then be careful. If the host did give six things to do in making green cheese, fine. The problem is that many webinars offer preview questions that never get answered because the host is too busy promoting his product instead. The webinar, therefore, was a waste of the listener’s time and effort. If webinars don’t match their billing, beware. If the webinar’s billing doesn’t meet up to expectations, any product the host is selling, and the host himself, most likely will also not be reliable.
9. Beware of Terms and Conditions [T & Cs].
Read them! How many people actually take the time to read the Terms and Conditions of an offer? Yet, often buried in the T & Cs are statements that the promoter can use whatever information you give him however he wants to use it! Clicking on the Accept button without reading the T & Cs can be costly in more ways than one. In one marketer’s T & Cs the very last sentence of an extremely long document stated that the buyer would have to pay all attorney’s fees if the seller defaulted in his service and litigation were initiated! Small print and last lines – beware and be wary of them? Read the T & Cs!
In summary, salesmen want your money in exchange for a product or service. That’s why they’re in business. It’s the free enterprise system and it’s a good one. The good salesman understands that if he wants your money and good will in the form of continued business and referrals to others, he will treat you right, give you an excellent product for a fair price and excellent follow-up service. The bad salesman will get your money and run. He doesn’t care about the next sale. And when the sale is on the web, it can be extremely challenging to get restitution for a violation of promises made prior to a sale. It’s not like a person can drive down to the local store and talk to the sales person about a defective product or service. When a sale is transacted on the web, the store may be on the other side of the country or even the world.
Remember the words of Confucius: “The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell.” It would be wonderful if all salesmen were superior men in the light of Confucius’ statement, but they’re not. Perhaps in a perfect world this would be the case, but believing this world is perfect is living in Pollyanna Land. So… beware when being motivated or conditioned to buy a product or service, especially on the web. Use common sense to mitigate getting burned. After all, it’s your money. Protect it.