List Management, Fake Endorsements, and The Syndicate

by Ryan M. Healy on August 23, 2010

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)…

syndicate product launches List Management, Fake Endorsements, and The Syndicate

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.

About Ryan M. Healy

is a direct response copywriter. Since 2002, he has worked with scores of clients, including Agora Financial, Lombardi Publishing, and Contrarian Profits. He writes a popular blog about copywriting, advertising, and business growth, has been featured in publications like Feed Front magazine, and has been published on sites like WordStream.com, SmallBizClub.com, and MarketingForSuccess.com.


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{ 54 comments }

Chad Kettner August 23, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Ryan, I fully agree. I will never buy from that group. Some of them actually have pretty valuable products and information – but they don't respect me enough if they're sending BS endorsements my way… and why would I buy from somebody who treats me this way?

Jonathan Boettcher August 23, 2010 at 3:36 pm

I'm with you Ryan… I agree 100%. I just checked my 'spam/product lists' inbox and it was full of such subjects as:

Chris Farrell is AWESOME…
the cats out of the bag
Chris Farrell Delivers.

and on and on… and the funny thing is, all this guy is teaching is what any marketer with half a brain has been doing for a few years anyways… yet you just know their price tag is gonna be $1997…

Tim August 23, 2010 at 4:19 pm

unsubscribe from those promoters

John C. A. Manley August 23, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Too bad a syndicate could be a good thing. I used to encourage that amongst naturopathic doctors. If each doc in a city focused on helping one health problem — they'd each be experts and each doctor would no where to refer their own patients to get the best care.

If this syndicate got together and divided up different focues — email marketing, sales copywriting, video, traffic generation, landing pages, Adwords, etc — That could get rid of the problem many businesses face of having to create backend products without losing their expertise.

This could be a good thing… if people just didn't get greedy and focused on seeing how this could help their customers not simply sell them.

In the end these “clever schemes” always backfire and they have to think up something new.

Antone Roundy August 23, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Up to a point, what these guys are doing is just smart business: build industry connections, promote each others' stuff, time your product releases so that they drown each other out (not sure whether that'd be illegal or not by itself).

But if they're promoting each other regardless of product quality or value for the price, that's unethical at best. And if they're agreeing to a pricing scheme or taking products off the market during other peoples' launch periods to reduce competition, I'd expect the FTC to be breathing down their necks really soon.

I don't remember all of these guys being so rabid about promoting so many things in past years. Some of them are definitely losing the respect I used to have for them lately. I've wondered recently whether the economy is hitting some of the big name guys a lot harder than they're letting on, because some of them are definitely drifting into darker territory than I would have expected to see them in. What a shame that they can't be happy with the honest money that's still out there to be earned.

Dave Jackson August 23, 2010 at 6:29 pm

I'm with you. The thing that Iv'e noticed is I keep unsubscribing, getting confirmation that I unsubscribed, and yet, I keep getting follow ups. It doesn't take long to see the same people in the testimonials to see the truth in this post. My favorite is when you seem someone who endorses a product that is in direct competition of their own product.

Ryan Healy August 23, 2010 at 8:27 pm

Chad – That's a good point. Some of their products really ARE valuable. But fake endorsements leave a bad taste in the mouth…

Ryan Healy August 23, 2010 at 8:31 pm

I've been off most “mainstream” email lists for a while now so I've never even heard of Chris Farrell. Wonder if your price prediction will come true. (I would be shocked if it doesn't.)

Ryan Healy August 23, 2010 at 8:32 pm

I think cooperation among competitors can be a good thing so long as it's somewhat organic. It crosses the line when you're “forced” to endorse certain competitors' products at certain times.

Ryan Healy August 23, 2010 at 8:34 pm

When you subscribe, some gurus will put you on multiple lists across multiple platforms. So if you unsubscribe from their Aweber list, you'll still be on their 1ShoppingCart list. And if you unsubscribe from their 1SC list, you'll still be on their ARP3 list, etc. Frustrating to say the least.

Ryan Healy August 23, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Hard to say how well they're doing these days. Internet marketing is a market that is constantly being refreshed with new people who are exploring it for the first time. According to Ray's post (linked above), the launches have done over $70 million combined so far this year.

Jay August 23, 2010 at 9:07 pm

From the comments appearing thus far it certainly appears that this “syndicate” may actually be responsible for restraint of trade. The Sherman Anti Trust Act has been referred to as the “Competition Law”. The purpose of this “Law” was, according to research done in the past, was to oppose the combination of entities that could potentially harm competition. The history of the Antitrust act included an attorney for Standard Oil Company who had apparently devised a new type of agreement to overcome the State of Ohio's actions to stop corporations from owning stock in other corporations in which there was undue pressure to restrain trade in some form or another.

The Supreme Court of the US stated that “The purpose of the Sherman Anti-trust Act is not to protect business from the working of the market, but to protect the public from the failure of the market. It was not supposed to stop competition, but to protect competition.

The Sherman Act revolves around many years of litigation, however, it would seem that the description of the 'syndicate' that is being discussed could easily be thought to be a violation of the Sherman Act via damaging competition. It does not allow competition to take place, but rather, depresses it.

There are a lot of brilliant Anti-trust researchers and legal minds that have been involved with this Act that could probably give a much more learned opinion, however, there certainly appears to be a “duck” in here somewhere and you know what they say about a duck. It appears that what is being done is very dangerous scenario. It damages the competitive spirit.

Ryan Healy August 23, 2010 at 9:15 pm

Thanks for the comment, Jay. I'm no legal expert, but from what I've read it appears that the Syndicate could actually be charged with the violation of a few anti-trust laws.

Michel Fortin August 23, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Antone, I agree with you that this is smart business up to a point. For example, that's why many associations exist.

But you nailed it when you said: “Agreeing to a pricing scheme and taking products off the market during other launches to reduce competition.”

I'm far from being a lawyer, but this is exactly what appears to be happening, here.

But let me add another viewpoint…

You said it's no problem if they join together to “time their product releases.” That's probably where it starts to fall apart, because these are not releases.

They are not even product launches, for that matter.

They are close-ended sales events.

They are deliberately priced high, and taken off the market after a period of time (often, through faux scarcity), to make room for the next “launch du month.” The goal? To siphon as much money from the market as possible.

Whether this is actually legal or not is arguable, and by arguable I mean in a court of law. But it does appear to be unethical — at least, to me.

But legality aside, there's another side to this.

Specifically, what constitutes “competition?”

Defined, competition is: “the effort of two or more parties acting independently to secure the business of a third party by offering the most favorable terms.”

Whether they're acting independently is debatable. The question is, are they truly competing against one another? In other words, are these guys truly competitors?

They sell information, true. But it can be argued that information is not really competitive. After all, just because I bought a Stephen King novel doesn't preclude me from buying an Anne Rice novel at the same time.

One can sell information on, say, affiliate marketing while the other on, say, traffic generation. So they are not quite “competitors.”

But herein lies the problem…

Marketers are not authors providing information per se. They are more like publishing houses selling products. As publishing houses, therefore, they seem to be colluding.

Even the term “information products” is debatable, too. Because the “information” most gurus sell today isn't really information. What they are really selling are business opportunities packaged as information.

Again, I'm not a lawyer by any stretch. So take this with a grain of salt. This is just my opinion. However, to me, something doesn't smell right.

My 3 cents.

Randy Cantrell August 23, 2010 at 10:10 pm

I'm rather happy to see such conversations as this one. I suspect they're long over due. I hope it will be a sustained conversation that lasts longer than the next guru's launch.

Things are not always what they appear to be. Sadly, good people – unsuspecting people – spend money they don't have hoping that they'll find the Promised Land many web-based hustlers loosely promise. Just this week Mike Young, a Dallas-based net attorney posted a story about an Internet marketer who killed his wife (http://mikeyounglaw.com/internet-lawyer/interne…). Six figure debt makes me wonder how many of the launches he purchased, hoping to strike Internet gold.

Sadly, I suspect the universe is filled with more stories of despair where the “cartel” lured people into buying a product based on the false hope offered by the elements Ryan writes about here.

The trickery of some marketing simply works. We used to call it what it really was (and still is): MANIPULATION. It works even when it makes no logical sense. For instance, I'm amused at the limited offer of digital “products” due to their ability to be SOLD OUT.

Manipulation always benefits the manipulator at the expense of the person being manipulated.

I love persuasion and have practiced it for over 37 years now. But at its heart, persuasion has the best intentions toward the person being helped. The benefits are mutual and truly, everybody wins when it's practiced properly. Gaming the system to extract the most money from unsuspecting people is not persuasion. It's hucksterism at best. Criminal at worst. Perhaps one strategy is to game the market all they can, while they can – full well knowing it cannot continue. I'm hopeful that it can't continue, but some days I have doubts.

We need people of integrity to push this conversation forward. Anonymous people like me appreciate it. Some of us are out here still trying to do business the right way – seeking an honest exchange in value where we provide something of high worth to our customers. I might add, something of lasting value.

Randy

Walt Goshert August 23, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Surprise… the new Filsame/Farrell product:

$1997

This stuff is really getting boring.

Humm… who's up next month?

D Bnonn Tennant August 23, 2010 at 10:45 pm

Ryan, I see John Carlton promoting Mike Filsaime's products pretty heavily. And Rich Schefren. Aren't these guys both part of the syndicate? I wonder what John's relationship to them is. I've always respected him.

Ryan Healy August 23, 2010 at 10:46 pm

There's a whole launch calendar that's continuously updated at http://jvnotifypro.com

shelhorowitz August 23, 2010 at 10:51 pm

You raise important points. I turn down probably three endorsement opportunities for every one I do promote. And most of them, I have tire-kicked the product. If I haven't, I say so. And quite frankly there are sme people in the “syndicate” who I won't promote no matter what. Not people I want to be associated with.

Ryan Healy August 23, 2010 at 10:52 pm

I don't know what Carlton's relationship is. Personally, I really like Carlton and think he's a good guy. I've met him in person and done business with him — and I respect him.

Could be he's not totally aware of how his endorsements affect how other people view him… or maybe he's just not thinking through all the ramifications? I don't know.

Ryan Healy August 23, 2010 at 10:55 pm

As you mention, at some point the product doesn't even matter anymore (whether it's good or bad) — the decision to promote is based on the association alone.

Don August 23, 2010 at 11:42 pm

It would be interesting if the U.S. Department of Justice became involved in this.

A couple of points worth emphasizing:

1. Some of the “syndicate” members' overpriced products purport to teach you their own “actual strategies” by which they make “their” money. Sounds tempting, doesn't it? Of course, they fail to tell you that their syndicate participation is really the biggest factor in their income. And since you aren't – and never will be – a syndicate member, how could you possibly achieve the same results? Obviously, you never will. But they are happy to take your money and sell you false hope (and regurgitated information) at astronomical prices.

2. If you've been an affiliate for any of these people, you have been used. As Frank Kern says in the video on the Salty Droid's blog, they consider the purpose of the outsider affiliates (that would be you) as simply to lend “social proof” to the launch. He says point blank that the (non-syndicate) affiliates aren't expected to make any significant money to speak of. At the same time, the syndicate members are acquiring your customer list when you send your followers over to sign up for the pre-launch shakedown. They win, and you lose. Then of course there are all the “free SEO links” that affiliates give them by doing so.

By the way, affiliates – how can you compete with the “big bonuses” the syndicate members themselves give away when people buy through their affiliate links? You'll see many of them giving away their previously high-priced products for FREE. Very few people are going to buy from a non-syndicate affiliate under those circumstances. The deck is stacked against you before you even put up an affiliate link!

For an illuminating overview of a recent “syndicate” member's launch, read Salty Droid's analysis of the Ryan Deiss “Perpetual Traffic Formula” launch here:

http://saltydroid.info/ryan-deiss-perpetual-tra

http://saltydroid.info/ryan-deiss-scam-ryan-die

Ryan Healy August 24, 2010 at 2:56 am

All good points, Don.

John Thomas August 24, 2010 at 4:05 am

Ryan,

I unsubscribed from these syndicate guys a long time ago. Frankly, they never took the time to earn my attention in reading their emails. I was just pitched to and pitched to and pitched to.

I'd rather buy from someone who earns my trust and respect.

Which is one reason why I keep reading your emails.

Thanks!

- John

Ryan Healy August 24, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Randy – That's a really sad story about Ellery Bennett, especially for his daughter. No matter how it's accumulated, personal debt is almost always a bad thing. I think there's another blog post lurking in there somewhere…

Ryan Healy August 24, 2010 at 1:31 pm

Thank you, John! :-)

Jonathan Boettcher August 24, 2010 at 2:55 pm

Haha, yeah I don't think anybody had heard of Chris Farrel until now – but he's Filsaime's new right hand man apparently. With each successive volley that comes from the gooroos a few more drop out of my inbox. I should note that these emails go to a separate account that I check once monthly (if I remember). I couldn't stand having all that garbage in my inbox daily – it would kill productivity. (ask me how I know ;).

Jonathan Boettcher August 24, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Hmm… funny how the gurus talk a lot about “testing” things like price points and all the rest. I *suppose* all that testing *must* have been done long ago, and their conclusion must have been that $1997 is indeed the single most profitable price point known to man.

Then again, the more cynical side of me says they charge it because they can, and it lets them pay a $1000 commission while keeping a grand in their own pocket…

Ryan Healy August 24, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Most gurus NEVER test price points. I suspect you're correct about the reasoning behind the $1997 launch price — lets them attract affiliates and still make a bundle.

Matthew Loop August 24, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Good post and definitely some things to think about, Ryan. I think there's a fine line here and it's easy to single out gurus that are making the most money in the market. I don't think this syndicate has been a secret, or the “elite” have even tried to keep it a secret. If you're on multiple email lists, it kind of jumps out as obvious. Also, like you mentioned, there are well-know JV promotion websites.

I've bought many of their products and been to several high-end seminars and have never been disappointed. My business has grown exponentially because of what I've learned. If someone delivers great value and the ideas / strategies enable me to do exceptionally well legitimately online while ethically servicing my market, I don't have a problem.

The gurus, just like many of us, are in business to many things including to make money doing what we love. As long as you're transparent in your message and deliver a fortune in real use-value for your customer / subscriber, then good for you. For those that aren't transparent, sick the Droid after them.

There's plenty of abundance in the internet marketing niche, enough for every marketer that has a good product / service to make a fortune treating people right.

I don't agree with promoting stuff that a person has never bought or experienced for themselves, though. Not sure how many gurus do this but that is wrong.

spoonfaceboy August 24, 2010 at 5:12 pm

I hope John Carlton doesn't escape getting lumped in with the other hucksters.

Have you read his foreword in Harlan Kilstein's 2006 book “Steal This Book”? It contains gems like:

“He's one of mine and I'm proud of him.”

” He is without doubt my top student, and now one of the very few writers I recommend to clients.”

Dr. Rabbi Harlan and golf guru Carlton — two peas in a fraud.

Lest you doubt his awareness of how his endorsements affect how other people view him …

I read Carlton's posts urging readers to put away their credit cards and thought, “What a guy.”

I also read about three e-mails a week from Carlton asking me to check out the products of one of his partners in the 'biz” and I think, “What a guy.”

He's aware.

Stay Jaundiced,
spoonfaceboy

Don August 24, 2010 at 7:03 pm

“Good post and definitely some things to think about”

Then perhaps you ought to actually think about those “some things,” Matthew, before you start parroting the “company line.”

Here is a cruder, but more clear version of what you just said, from the comments on the Salty Droid's blog:

“I don’t give a rats a** if he is a felon…But if a guy can make millions, lose it, make it back, lose it again, and MAKE IT BACK AGAIN…I don’t care at all what kind of person he is…I want to learn from that guy!”

(In reference to convicted felon and longtime fraudster Perry Belcher, currently on 10 years' court-ordered probation, and a central figure in Ryan Deiss' operation.)

http://saltydroid.info/rated-g-reports/perry-be

Peter Fuller MBA August 24, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Some great comments above.

And a very informative post.

Months a go I decided to unsubscribe from all of these gurus promoting these product launches. Now my email is clean again :)

Not only was I tired of receiving these emails with thousands of dollars worth of bonuses but the testimonials just did not ring true anymore.

But what really stood out for me was that the product was taking a backseat to the whole process. The launch process was more important than the product and they all started to look the same.

Most of the products nowadays are about traffic so wouldn't you think that they would market using the techniques they were talking about verses only using the JV Launch,

Peter

Ryan Healy August 24, 2010 at 9:32 pm

Thanks for the comment, Matthew.

I don't necessarily think it's a matter of singling out gurus by how much money they make. The Syndicate is a closed group of Internet marketers who promote each other's stuff at predetermined prices at predetermined times throughout the year — which is a bit shady, possibly even criminal.

But I agree with you in that I've also gotten a lot of value from certain information products — even though some of them have been big let-downs.

Ryan Healy August 24, 2010 at 9:36 pm

Don – I don't remember who posted that comment, but I do remember reading it and thinking… “Hmmm… modeling a criminal sounds like a really dumb thing to do.”

But then again that's often what happens in Internet marketing. Just look at how many people bought and read The 12-Month Millionaire by Vincent James — a man who is a convicted felon.

Ryan Healy August 24, 2010 at 9:37 pm

You made a good decision by unsubscribing.

I agree — in many cases the product is now secondary to the launch. For proof, just look at how many launches are based on 8-week and 12-week coaching programs that don't even exist yet.

Ryan Healy August 24, 2010 at 9:41 pm

I haven't seen John or talked to him in years, but do you think perhaps he has changed his mind about what he wrote? People sometimes have momentary or even long-term lapses in judgment.

I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt until there's a preponderance of evidence against them.

P.S. I do have Steal This Book and I have read the introduction.

Don August 24, 2010 at 10:41 pm

Ryan – And just to pre-empt any apologists who might take you to task over your not-glowing, but accurate reference to “The 12 Month Millionaire” because a few think it may have “delivered value..” (an insidious term often used to justify an amoral viewpoint):

The “advice” contained therein was culled primarily during the author's fraudulent business period, which ultimately resulted in jail time and the loss of all his ill-gotten gains. Curiously, the “felon millionaire” promotional angle was used as a twisted “badge of honor” to hype the book, but apparently buyers overlooked the fact that duplicating his advice might very well have put them in the same predicament.

Similarly, last year when Perry Belcher was selling his bogus “Social Media” marketing frauduct (immediately after being convicted of fraud), he attached it to his claims of making millions of dollars. Thus, one might have expected that in buying that product, they could have achieved that level of income. The truth, however, was that Belcher's earnings claims included the income he had previously generated that had made him a convicted felon. In fact, he subsequently admitted this on the Salty Droid's blog. (For some, apparently, dishonesty is a reflex.)

D Bnonn Tennant August 24, 2010 at 10:49 pm

Query: if Belcher is a convicted fraudster, is the Belcher button a fraud too? I've seen a few copywriters recommending using it, but the only “proof” of it being the highest-converting button has been Belcher's own claims.

Ryan Healy August 24, 2010 at 10:55 pm

I've split-tested the Belcher button. The first time, it won. The second time, it lost. What beat the Belcher button: a plain blue underlined link.

Sam August 25, 2010 at 7:15 pm

I don't understand why people don't get that the offline world and the online world is different. Is it truly anti-competition behavior when the competitor's site is one click away? I don't get it how it hinders competition?

John Carlton Lost My Respect August 25, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Not only is John Carlton aware of what's going on, he is100% part of the problem.

I used to read John's blog back in 2007 and before – back when he would get a trickle of comments. Often times he would get only one or two comments from the same few people.

Toward the end of 2007 is when John got involved with the hucksters. I specifically remember thinking to myself, “Hmm… it's interesting that John Carlton would agree to be interviewed by Eben Pagan for Pagan's Print Persuasion course.” Not long after that, Pagan began promoting Carlton. And then Carlton promoted another internet marketer, and they promoted him, and the chain reaction had thus begun.

From then on Carlton was sleeping with the enemy. He began to promote one affiliate product after another, without regard for the quality of the product.

I even emailed John to let him know the kind of garbage he was sharing with his list (for a commission) and how doing so is the easiest way to burn relationships with his list. It was obvious he hadn't even reviewed all the crap products he was promoting.

Since releasing his “Simple Writing System” frauduct, John has relentlessly JVed with anyone who would promote him.

I have bought John's other products (pre Syndicate phase) and am happy with the quality. However, I stopped watching Simple Writing System (SWS) because it was so bad. SWS barely skimmed the surface of persuasive copywriting. There were gaping holes everywhere in SWS! For $2,000 (for coaching) or $800 (for just the DVDs) that is completely unacceptable. I returned the product and will NEVER buy anything from John again.

John cares only about making money, plain and simple. Before he got in bed with the Syndicate and other IM scum I respected him and believed he actually cared about the success of his students. It is obvious he exchanged caring for his students and buyers for windfalls via never ending product launches, regardless of the quality of the products or tactics used to sell them.

Let me be clear: John Carlton knows exactly what is going on with the usual suspects and he is part of the con. Don't let him fool you; he doesn't care about you or your success.

soylent green boomer August 25, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Matthew – I'd pay good money for something that can break that awful *WAIT* exit splash pop-up you and everyone else use. I wonder if Guindon minds being collared by hey-buddy panhandlers and squeegee artists …

Don August 25, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Here's at least some of that propenderance:

“Harlan Kilstein was my first freelancing student to nail a million in fees in a single year… and he did it his second year as a pro. This earned him well-deserved notoriety online, and he has since become a guru in his own right, creating the gold standard for a freelance site at overnite-copy.com. He is an experienced regular at my Hot Seat events.”

http://www.marketingrebel.com/action-seminar/

http://saltydroid.info/category/harlan-kilstein/

Georg_Marvin August 29, 2010 at 7:06 pm

Thanks for the eye opener Ryan! You and Ray Edwards verified and articulated that which most of us suspected that which almost seemed obvious of the “if it seems to good to be true…” by these slick but sick professional internet hucksters but we had no way of proving with any authority that a bonafide “racketeer syndicate” existed and promulgated high dollar “make you the next millionaire” garbage products, wasted our invaluable time and monies.

Guys like yourself, Ryan, and like Ray Edwards are much appreciated not only for your rarefied integrity but your primo model, top–shelf work in the fields of copywriting and I.M.
You're on a great roll – don't stop now.

The Cleaner August 31, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Well Ryan, can you help me spend my $ 2.000 on the same (or better) teaching provided by a honest “guru”?

Let's say I wan't to learn how create an info-product – who else offers a quality course on the subject?

Thanks!

JosephRatliff August 31, 2010 at 6:02 pm

Wow Ryan, looks like you've written another thought-provoking piece here.

Didn't Mike Filsaime “retire” from IM anyhow? Yet, he's involved in this newest launch (from what I see that is). Hmmmm….

Ryan Healy August 31, 2010 at 6:47 pm

I don't think I've ever purchased a course on how to create an info-product, so I can't recommend any particular course.

I can recommend searching high quality blogs to see what they have to say on the subject. For instance, use the site: function in Google. Type in…

site:terrydean.org “product creation”
site:terrydean.org “how to create info-product”

You can do this with any good blog and dig up old (but still relevant) articles.

Hope this helps.

Ryan Healy August 31, 2010 at 6:48 pm

I've learned that gurus never retire… they just take a month or two off. This is what they think “retirement” means.

Ryan Healy August 31, 2010 at 6:49 pm

You're welcome, Georg — and thank YOU for the compliment. :-)

michael_webster September 1, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Michel Fortin writes: “Even the term “information products” is debatable, too. Because the “information” most gurus sell today isn't really information. What they are really selling are business opportunities packaged as information.

Again, I'm not a lawyer by any stretch. So take this with a grain of salt. This is just my opinion. However, to me, something doesn't smell right.”

Well, I am am lawyer who specializes in franchise law – business opportunity law. Mr. Fortin's opinion is quite correct. In fact, over 2 years ago on Copyblogger, I made the same observation.

Many if not all of these product launches are: a) selling business opportunities as defined by the FTC, http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/franchise/netbusop.shtm, and b) they aren't registered.

This is easy money for the FTC, and it may also lead to the DOJ looking at a criminal anti trust investigation, http://www.justice.gov/atr/public/guidelines/21

It is very straightforward to make the relevant complaint to the FTC, and I would be happy to show, assist or coordinate in any way I can.

Ryan Healy September 1, 2010 at 4:15 pm

Thanks for the extra info, Michael. I was unaware of any business opportunity laws and disclosures.

Makes me wonder how far the definition of a “business opportunity” extends.

For instance, a book may provide information on how to start a particular kind of business, but that's probably not considered a business opportunity because the information is so cheap.

Does price (or “investment”) determine what is a business opportunity and what's NOT a business opportunity?

michael_webster September 1, 2010 at 4:24 pm

Typically, the fee element runs from $200 to $500, which is why you see a number of pitches at $497 – just under the FTC threshold. If you are a) selling a marketing plan, b) that meets the states fee element, and c) the marketing plan is designed to make you money, then you are very likely selling a biz op. (Selling internet marketing techniques for under $50 probably won't be a violation, unless you string them together.)

The FTC and States run their biz op sweeps every 2 years, and the last one was in 2008. In 2004/2005 the FTC moved away from targeting the usual suspects, vending, atm, and other location based scams, to online marketing.

Oddly, it is relatively easy to get a “pass” in this area by filing with the local state authorities. I

Welly Mulia September 2, 2010 at 6:39 pm

Hey Ryan

Coincidentally, I posted this same topic on my blog just 2 days ago:
http://welly-mulia.com/why-i-dont-like-online-product-launches

You and other readers here are welcome to join the conversation.

Best!
Welly Mulia

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