As you get more familiar with the online business industry, you’ll start hearing the term “scam” very often. You’ll also encounter a lot of hype and exaggeration in the marketing and messaging of various products and services.
First lets define “scam.”
According to BusinessDictionary.com, a scam is a fraudulent scheme performed by a dishonest individual, group or company; in an attempt obtain money or something else of value. Scams traditionally resided in confidence tricks, where an individual would misrepresent themselves as someone with skill or authority, i.e. a doctor, lawyer, investor. After the internet became widely used, new forms of scams emerged such as lottery scams, scam baiting, email spoofing or phishing.
When purchasing any product, training material, service or business opportunity, make sure to do some research first. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The internet is littered with programs that promise overnight results, success and riches, and every day thousands of people fall for them.
There are programs that promise crazy results like “Lose 30 Pounds In 30 Days,” or “Look 10 Years Younger In 10 Days,” all the way to “Make Your First Million Dollars Online This Year.” You name it, and there’s probably someone selling it.
At the same time, many people who have false expectations buy legitimate programs that they don’t use properly. When they don’t get results, rather than blaming themselves, they call the product a scam.
Keep in mind that all forms of advertising tend to highlight the success stories rather than the failures. Just because they do does not mean they are a scam.
For example if you go to a Gym, you’ll only see photos of those who successfully transformed their bodies by losing weight and building more muscle tone. The gym is not going to go out of their way to advertise that 95% of people who signup each year never go, or that those who do occasionally go don’t have any substantial results.
Is this a scam? No.
The formula for, eat less and exercise more works, but most people are not likely to follow it and that’s why they don’t have the results. The gyms are fully aware that many people sign up but don’t go, so that’s why they sign up many more people than the gym can handle. That’s how they make their money and pay their rent and staff. If they only relied on the income from those who actually show up, they won’t be able to stay in business. They are providing a service that is very beneficial but most people are not using it to their advantage.
Learn to differentiate between genuine scams, where they take your money and give you nothing in return, and programs that use marketing to focus on success stories.
Some competitors might use the term “scam” a lot when describing their competition. They’ll create a report, press release, videos and blog posts making false reviews of someone else’s programs with the intention of capturing all the qualified leads that are doing last minute research online.
Let’s say you’re planning to buy a particular coaching or training program and decide to do a search online to see what others who have bought the program had to say about it. If you happen to come across a blog post that calls the program a scam, you’re more likely to click on it and read that review first than believe the reviews that give it a high rating. Once you’re on that site or blog post, you’ll learn about their bad experience (which in many cases might not be true) and then at the bottom of the page they’ll refer you to anther program that they make a profit on.
This form of accusation is used a lot in marketing and even political campaigns where one party will highlight the faults of others so they seem like the better option.
The only way to avoid scams is to do your research and choose established companies, vendors and mentors you want to learn from. If they’ve been around for a few years, the chances are they’re doing something right and they have enough happy clients to keep the business going.
Research the names and social media profiles of anyone giving a positive testimonial and find out if they are a real person or a fake account.
Understand that there’s always a learning curve and that you have to put effort to get results. Most programs provide some benefit. Try to focus on the benefits and what you can learn from that training rather than labeling everything a scam. Sometimes one point only could have a huge impact on your results.
Something else to keep in mind is that many programs are promoted by affiliates. While the company that created the products and services is established and legitimate, the affiliates promoting it might use exaggerated and false advertising to steal sales from other affiliates.
I have seen some extremely exaggerated video ads created by an affiliate to one of the companies I represent. First I thought the videos were a joke, as certainly anyone with a right mind could tell this was pure exaggeration.
This particular affiliate was very successful in bringing in leads and sales and has made millions of dollars online. But many of the leads he brought into the company are very upset with their purchase, as they were lead to believe by his false advertising that this will be a simple system that will make them millions of dollars online with minimal effort. When they logged into the program and found out that they actually have to spend hours learning, implementing, outsourcing and spending money on setup and advertising, they got upset and started calling the company a scam.
This affiliate has now been flagged and no longer uses those ads, but I am pretty sure there are still many out there doing exactly the same thing but have just not yet been caught.
At the same time we do have to put some of the onus on those who purchase programs that offer ridiculous results in a short period of time. Their unrealistic expectations and lazy attitude has led them to believe this hype without questioning the results.
As you start to connect with more affiliates and online business owners, you’ll find many with false representation of their lifestyle. In many cases, they’ll rent a villa and exotic car for a few days and create marketing videos misleading the viewers into believing that this is where they live and what they drive each day. Then they’ll use the video footage and photos in all their marketing material to show how successful they are and how, if you buy their products and training, you can do the same.
Others use more advanced marketing strategies like getting a celebrity to endorse their programs in return for a big chunk of their profits, something newbies are not likely to be able to replicate or afford—which means that they will not get the same results that are advertised.
Some create the false illusion that their system is so easy that anyone can do it with minimal effort; but if you check their lifestyle and schedule, you’ll find that many of them work extremely long hours.
Some fail to mention that they are part of a bigger team and that a large portion of the revenue numbers they are boasting have to be divided by other partners, full-time staff and contractors that work behind the scenes. When you factor in all the expenses and parties that have to be paid, their final profits, might not be anything worth boasting about.
You’ll also encounter many fake webinars and presentations that give the illusion that they are live with other attendees watching and commenting, but the reality is the names and comments you see on the side or bottom of the screen are automated by the funnel system they’re using. They might also present a group panel of experts on the webinar and make it appear as if they’re having a real live conversation, when in many cases the people on the webinar have never met or even talked to each other. The pre-recorded scripts are combined in a recording studio to give the illusion that there was a conversation going on. The scripts are loaded with psychological triggers designed to get the viewer to buy right away rather than wait to research the offer and assess if this is the right fit for them or not.
As you start attending webinars, which I highly recommend you do, you’ll start to notice the difference between those who truly provide value and those who are only after the sale. The educators usually like to provide value to build trust and a strong relationship with their followers and clients. Whereas the internet marketers who are only after your money will tend to present in a more scripted marketing tone.
The presenters will usually start with their rags to riches or struggle to success transformational story, which could take over half an hour to forty-five minutes. They then share a few valuable tips, like two tips out of their 10 step training program, and extend the webinar as long as possible. At the end there’s always a product for sale, like their full training program that will reveal the secret to their success and how they achieved their results.
Usually this format is reserved for products that are higher in price. The higher the price, the longer the webinar and the more dramatic stories you’ll hear.
Now there is nothing wrong with this type of sales process—as long as it’s genuine, and they use real stories and offer products of value. Listening to someone else’s story can be motivational and inspiring.
I recommend you start attending webinars so you can start comparing how the speakers use them to make sales. Try to spot from their conversations if they’re genuinely trying to help you or using psychological triggers to make you buy something you don’t really need. This is a great way to perfect your sales and marketing skills for free!
What About You?
If you’re going to promote your webinars one day, make sure they’re live and don’t promise things you don’t offer. If you want to automate your message and allow people to access your training 24/7, then there’s nothing wrong with promoting the content as a presentation or a webinar replay. You’ll still be providing value and using effective marketing scripts without lying to the user.
As you build your business and start thinking of ways to market, ask yourself: do you want to provide real value in the marketplace and genuinely help others or are you after quick money and willing to exaggerate, lie and sell products to the wrong people?
Remember, once you build a reputation as a shady businessperson, scammer and liar, it will be very hard to get your reputation back.