List Management, Fake Endorsements, and The Syndicate
As a list owner, I feel a certain responsibility to you, my dear reader. Therefore, it’s my goal to provide you with rich content mixed with occasional offers for products and services that may benefit you.
Obviously, if I endorse somebody else’s product or service as an affiliate, then that means I’ve either purchased the product myself (or at least gotten a review copy) and found it exceptional enough to endorse.
And, in fact, many of the products I endorse on my blog and via email are products I’ve purchased and continue to use to this day.
Now, what if I formed a mastermind group with my competitors and we all got together and decided that we would promote each other’s products every time, without fail, no matter what?
Don’t you think that would diminish the value of the endorsement?
Of course it would.
Why Endorsements Work
A genuine endorsement is the use of your reputation to build trust for a product, service, or person who might not have been trusted as quickly otherwise.
For instance, you don’t know Adam. But you’ve known Brian for many years and you’d trust him with your life. Brian says, “You’ve got to listen to Adam. He’s brilliant.”
Now Adam has risen in stature and importance because of Brian’s endorsement.
But if you discovered Adam was paying Brian for the endorsement, it wouldn’t mean as much. And if Brian had agreed to endorse Adam no matter what — even if he began doing unethical or illegal things — then that would REALLY be suspect.
Now let’s look at a real-world example…
Exposing the Syndicate
Let’s say twelve Internet marketing guys get together. They all agree to promote each other’s products no matter what.
Furthermore, they all agree to promote just one guy’s product each month during the next 12 months. They all promote Product #1 in Month #1, Product #2 in Month #2, and so forth. This way each guy has the full endorsement of the rest of the group during his particular promotion.
If I was a part of this group, that would mean I’d have to promote 11 products as an affiliate, one product per month, based on a predetermined schedule. In exchange, the other 11 guys would then promote MY product during one of the 12 months when it was my turn to be promoted.
The catch? I absolutely MUST promote all 11 products… without regard for the quality of the products or the integrity of the creators of those products. In other words, my endorsement is guaranteed and cannot be negotiated or revoked.
Sound a bit fishy?
That’s because it is.
Here’s the pattern that emerges as illustrated by Alexa traffic rankings (hat tip to Salty Droid for coming up with this idea)…
The Proper Role of a Teacher, Blogger, or Publisher
Part of the role of a teacher, blogger, or publisher is to provide information that helps your readers reach their goals while filtering out irrelevant offers and reducing the signal-to-noise ratio.
Obviously, if a teacher has agreed in advance to wholesale endorse and promote products that don’t even exist yet, then you can be sure he’s not doing a good job of fulfilling his role.
The truth is, there are many reasons to NOT promote another person’s product or service.
- Product/service not up to your standards.
- Product has not been created yet and cannot be evaluated.
- Reputation of product creator is questionable and/or dubious.
- And the biggest reason of all…
The product/service is not a good fit for your list!
Remember: If you publish information or are responsible for providing guidance to a list of subscribers, then you need to always have their best interests in mind. You need to be thinking about how to best help them… and protect them.
But if you are part of an organized group of competitors who’ve pledged to promote each other, you simply can’t do what’s best for your readers.
What happens if I (as a member of the group) don’t feel like one of the products is worth promoting? Or what if one of the members of the group gets involved in some shady business dealings? What then?
The answer is… I can’t really do anything unless I want to risk losing my position in the group — and missing out on the windfall I’d receive from the promotion and endorsement of the group.
The Syndicate Is Real
It probably comes as no surprise to you that within the Internet marketing community, such a group exists. They call themselves “The Syndicate.” And industry insider Ray Edwards says they actively plot and scheme how to take your money.
There is a very real conspiracy to extract as much money from you as possible.
Right now, as I write this, there is a group of “gurus” sitting in a circle in some hotel suite.
Each one of them is talking about their own version of Method X, and how he plans to sell it to the masses.
And they are all agreeing to promote one another’s Method X.
…and that’s why you keep getting email after email from the same group of people promoting one another.
Kinda creepy, isn’t it?
But this is what happens behind closed doors.
Backlash from the Product Launch Machine
If you’ve been trying to make money on the Internet for any length of time, you’ve probably gotten sucked into the orchestrated promotional efforts of the product launch machine.
At first, it feels exciting to be a part of these virtual events. But it doesn’t take long for the launch buzz to begin to feel like a drain on your attention, your focus, and your wallet.
In some cases, this feeling leads to public outcry. For instance, after the StomperNet launch, Rick Butts advised his list to unsubscribe from anybody who promoted StomperNet.
And when Michel Fortin announced that he was unsubscribing from lists by the hundreds and purging his way to email freedom, there was a chorus of support and agreement.
Let me be clear: I’m not against selling, advertising, affiliate marketing, or even product launches. I think they are legitimate ways to sell under the right circumstances.
But I am against phony endorsements, disingenuous recommendations to buy, and syndicates designed to defraud.
-Ryan M. Healy
P.S. What’s your take on all this? Leave a comment and let me know.