Category Archives: Rant

Scamworld: Watch this

As someone who has been on the receiving end of the boiler rooms, the live seminars, the mentoring programs and all the rest of it… never once making making back 5% of what I “invested” I can certify the stuff they’re exposing in this 15 minute video is the real deal.

For me personally, the biggest breakthrough came in my own business when I consciously started shutting out all the ‘gooroos’ and started working on building a business founded on the same fundamentals that have always made businesses work, not on the latest scheme. I did get a mentor, but a personal one that I work with directly – not a ‘program’ – and that has been hugely beneficial, to this day.

In short, what I am saying is if you still look at the Frank Kern’s and the Andy Jenkin’s of this world with rose colored glasses, then you really need to consider what is being put forward in this video. The Internet Marketing industry has a deep vein of corruption in it, and while there are a few honest guys out there, they are few and far between, and far less vocal than the Syndicate.

Enough said, I’ll let the video speak for itself. Please leave your comments – positive OR negative below. I believe it’s important to get the discussion started on this topic.

Once you’re through with the movie, here’s more depth recommended reading.

GoDaddy’s Discount Domain Club… uh, DISCOUNT?

So a while ago, actually September 29th, 2011 to be exact (I just looked up the receipt) a Godaddy salesrep talked me into joining their Discount Domain Club. Previously I had a reseller account that I was using to save some cash on my domain purchases; however I had discovered that simply using coupons on Godaddy got me better deals than I could get as a reseller. Ok, so ditch the reseller account and move all the domains (yes, manually) into my main Godaddy account. While doing that, the rep talked me into the discount domain club. So no, I didn’t just randomly answer one of their sales calls, that indeed would have been a waste of time. I actually had a reason to talk to them (they try to phone me every now and then to upsell me on this or that). After all, I’m well aware they like to use sneaky tactics like slip selling.

Ok, so according to their website, the Discount Domain Club does the following for you:

No need to shop around for the best deal. When you’re a Discount Domain Club member, you know you’re getting the lowest price on popular domains, including .COM, .NET, .ORG and more.

Cool, right? Now there’s no more need for remembering all those coupon codes, I can just toss them out the window now, because I’ll be getting the best deal by not looking around for a better one.

Wrong.

Here’s proof. Let’s start with the receipt showing my purchase of the highly esteemed membership in the Discount Domain Club:

Yeah, sorry, I cut off the bit with the date, because that also included my account into and such, but this covers three years worth of exclusive membership rights to the best domain deals on the planet.

Ok, now let’s see how this plays out in reality:

Today I just renewed a few domains, and as you can see, my initial bill came to $92.30.

Keep in mind my esteemed membership in the Discount Domain Club, which guarantees me the best domain deals, without shopping around or looking for coupon codes right?

Ok, well just because I don’t exactly trust Mr Parsons as far as I can throw an elephant, I sneakily decided to test a generic 10% off coupon I found lying around on the web: chill8. Let’s see what happens:

Woops! Does that show a FIVE DOLLAR DISCOUNT now? Hmm, that’s awfully strange. I thought I was guaranteed the best price without shopping around??!

My cynicism piqued, I decided to try an even better coupon that I like to reserve for special occasions. I define special occasions as ones where Bob Parsons gets to buy more than just one new bullet for his gun as a result of my purchase, but Godaddy defines them as transactions where I’m spending more than $75.

That coupon code is gdbb1901 and Godaddy emails it to me inside of every receipt that I get from them. Strange… you’d think that given I belong to the exclusive Discount Domain Club, there’d be no need to mail me further discounts? I guess that slipped past someone.

Ok, here’s what happens when I apply that baby:

Oooh! Now I’m saving $12.49! So much for the $161.98 I blew on the Discount Domain Club, I sure hope those 6 automated Express Domain Name Appraisals that were included are worth something. I haven’t used one yet, but I bet they’re amazing.

GoDaddy – Home of the Brutal Slip-Sell

I’m coining a new term: slip-sell.

(No, I haven’t done even a tiny amount of research to find if this has been used before. I’ve not heard it before, therefore it is new according to my perception of reality 😆 (and yes, I just used WordPress’s new Emoticons inserter thing – never saw that one before!).

It’s not like a cross-sell, that’s asking the customer to add in a complementary product. It’s not like an up-sell either; that’s asking the customer if they want to upgrade their order to add some extra value.

No, instead it is quite simply sliding something useless into the customer’s order without asking them first.

Sometimes it’s fun to shoot at elephants, so today I’m taking a shot at Godaddy.

First off, let me just say I have quite a few domains with Godaddy, and in fact I have upgraded a two of my accounts to their account level that gives you the best prices on stuff. I forget what they call it, but it costs $170 or something for three years (my recollection is fuzzy, I did it a while ago). Theoretically, having paid for that status guarantees me the absolute best price on anything I order. At least, that is precisely how it was sold to me. Fine… so what happens in practice?

In the screenshot below, you’ll see the line “Special Savings” off my receipt.

This beauty shows up only after I entered a coupon code in my cart. Not sure if the coupon will work for you, but it is gdbb1901, and it works on orders over $75. Apparently it also works on accounts that are already guaranteed the best deal.

Ironically, as soon as I enter the coupon code, they show up this little message saying something to the effect of “Congratulations! You qualify for multiple discounts!” Essentially they’re telling me that “oh, by the way, we noticed that you used a coupon, so we just remembered you’re supposed to get stuff cheap, and we’re adding that deal in for you as well. Pretty swell of us eh?”

My understanding of that account level was that it is meant to function like Wal-Mart: where the lowest price is the law. Instead, apparently it continues to function like Sears: where the highest price is the norm, but keep an eye out for our weekend sale promos because we’ll probably be slashing the price by 60-80% soon.

So okay, as long as we agree to define the relationship in this manner, we can still get along ok.

Then today when I was entering my order, (I was renewing a batch of domains), I specifically selected 1 year on all the renewals. Get into my cart, and they’re showing 2 years. Hmm, sneaky way to grab a double sized order out of me! No problem, I only had to close that browser, delete my cookies and go back into the cart in order to get it working to the point where I could select 1 year again. Minor inconvenience. So far, so good.

At this point, I email my buddy and explain triumphantly that I’ve managed to dodge several of Godaddy’s tricky little tricks. Oh, and don’t get me started on the “Round up for charity” which used to be auto-selected.

I complete the order, and just before I move on to something else, I glance at the receipt.

Spoiler alert: This brings us back to the slip-sell.

I see this line item:

Ah, gotta love the fact that Godaddy has my back! Always helps to have someone back there with a knife handy, what with all the masked thugs running around and all. They’ve kindly added in an SEO package for me! I can’t imagine what $23 worth of SEO gets you these days, but I can’t imagine it is anything more than slipping a handwritten note to one of the summer interns at the mighty Goog telling them they might want to check out this cool site.

So that’s what I’m defining as a slip-sell: slipping in a completely useless item without asking the customer. Kind of like if McDonald’s were to slip in a $5 body mass index evaluation with every order.

As the old saying goes, you can polish a turd, but at the end of the day, it’s still a turd.

</rant>

The True Guru Marketing Strategy

Salty Droid

I don’t consider myself to be as naive as most in the internet marketing crowd appear to be these days, though I’ve been there, done that, and bought the t-shirt. After all, back in the day, Google Cash is the make money ebook that got my ball rolling to start with.

That said, until quite recently I had at least a semblance (and in some cases, a bit more than that) of respect for the likes of StomperNet, Kern & Co and some of the other big names in our industry.

That was until I was introduced to the Salty Droid. Yes, it is indeed quite salty, but at the same time, a bit of an eye opener. Regardless of what you may think of the Droid himself, his writing style, or his caustic method of name-calling, you can’t really argue too much with the PDFs he’s posted of actual legal documents that reveal some of the goings-on behind the scenes at StomperNet. Feel free to read for yourself, if you’re bored or interested. It’s not really the thrust of this post.

All that got me to thinking though. These gooroos, when was the last time you saw them running a PPC campaign? How about out-seoing each other for top spot in one of the launches? Nope, the only action you see from them is via their list.

These guys have built up massive lists, mostly back in the heyday, and now their prime contribution to the internet marketing niche is their ability to drive traffic via their list to whatever offer they choose.

Which got me to thinking… what’s the real winning strategy in internet marketing?

Well, you might say it is SEO, or PPC, or PPV, CPV, or some other acronym with a couple hundred dollar price tag, but in reality the winning strategy is having a list, and knowing what to do with it. Add to that having your own product.

The best education you can get from these gooroos is to watch them rather than transact with them.

At the end of the day, your long term security comes from having a list. Google can slap you silly, but they can’t take your list. Perhaps an affiliate manager dumps you – still they can’t take your list. It doesn’t really matter what kind of nasties come your way, if you can hang onto your list, and maintain a trustworthy connection with them, then you will be ok, long term.

Sure, there are many different means of listbuilding. I’ve chosen PPC primarily for my own, because it is *fairly* dependable. Ideal? No, free would be nice. But SEO is a wizardry that I’ve yet to master, and in the meantime, I’ve got PPC. Perhaps you choose JV traffic, or something else. But build yourself a list.

Next up, have a product. Having your own list puts cards in your hand. Having your own product(s) gives you jokers. Or aces. Or whatever is good in your game of choice.

If you look closely, this is the true strategy that the gooroos are using. They’ve got products, and they’ve got lists. Between those two things, their methods vary slightly, but that is the basic idea. You can bet your bottom dollar they didn’t get rich by gaming the system with some new-fangled software that now rules the interwebz. Afterall – how often have you even seen them using these tactics they flaunt so frequently?

Ok, time for review:

Build a list, get a product. Order is not important.

Stores Online Is A Ripoff

Just around the time I was considering leaving my day job to work from home full time (circa fall 2007), someone gave me a flier for a local ‘internet marketing’ workshop, hosted by Stores Online. I figured, hey, it’s free, and knowledge & another perspective can’t hurt, right?

Well, naive as I was at the time (there’s been a lot of water under that bridge in 3 years!) I didn’t step outside the process to observe (as I should have), but allowed myself to get sucked in, hook, line, and sinker. Needless to say, I now enjoy watching these sort of things unfold from a detached (and somewhat cynical) marketing standpoint; watching presentation techniques and closing devices and the whole bit. Back then? Not so much.

So we go to this Stores Online presentation, they give you a free something or other (I think it was a day planner or something stupid) and do their best to wow you with the potential profit that exists in selling things online. Well, I already knew that. Thing is, I’d ready the 4 Hour Work Week just a couple months earlier, and Timothy Ferriss had several amazing examples of guys that had made a lot of dough with their web stores. With that in mind, I was an easy target. I had already sort of decided at the time that I wanted to start my own web store, and they were presenting an opportunity to do just that… or so I thought.

Anyways, at the end of the evening, Stores Online said we’ll give you a one day workshop for free – you just have to pay for your lunch – and we’ll teach you about all this fancy internet marketing stuff. Ok, sounds like a plan. Thank you so much for the opportunity Stores Online!

(side note – you can request a ‘free invitation’ to a Stores Online workshop near you at their homepage. Nothing quite like inviting yourself to a party, is there?)

Stores Online Pro: Slick Marketing Masters

Want To Conquer The Internet? Don't Get The Stores Online Scam

Thing is, I already knew 97% of what they were talking about from an internet marketing standpoint, but I wanted the tools they were offering to get going quick. So I go to this day long presentation – because that’s what it was, not a ‘seminar’ – and I ‘learned’ all about their product. Not so much about internet marketing…

Anyhow, before lunch they’d steeped you full of success stories, we’d heard from live speakers ‘living the dream’ – and they’d put the offer on the table (unspoken: so you have time to phone whoever you need to at lunch). After lunch they stepped it up a bit, finally closing near the end of the day with a strong scarcity offer.

IE – if you don’t act TODAY, you’re totally screwed.

Well gee, thanks Stores Online – I guess I’d better drop the wad on your offer then!

Kind as they are, those Stores Online Pro folk, they offered I believe it was a 7 day money back guarantee. I spent several thousand dollars with them to get I think it was 5 web store licenses. That allowed me to use their store builder software on 5 sites. If memory serves, it was roughly a grand a piece.

So I jumped on board, planning on getting this up and running as soon as I’d quit my day job, which was scheduled for a month or so away. Of course that put me way beyond any guarantee period they offered, and think about it for a moment – unless you went home immediately the day after and jumped into this thing full tilt for seven days straight, you’d actually have no idea what you’d truly gotten into by the time the guarantee period expired. The learning curve is STEEP!

In other words – unless you got buyer’s remorse the very next day, and were smart enough to act on it, you’re screwed. Personally, I had no idea what I’d really gotten into until months down the road…

Stores Online Review In A Nutshell

Ok, so let’s get down and dirty here. What is it that makes Stores Online such a ripoff? Here’s what I can remember off the top of my head:

  • The upfront cost of $1000 per license is a total ripoff. All over the internet you can find software packages that will allow you to accomplish the same thing as Stores Online Pro at a fraction of the cost – often between the $150 to $300 price point. And in many cases, that fee will give you unlimited licenses.
  • Their software “Stores Online Pro” platform is archaic, antiquated, and asinine. It does not (at least at the time when I was immersed in it) have the ability to integrate with 3rd party industry standard applications. Things like RSS feeds, a dynamic blog, email auto responders and more were simply not on the table, despite the Stores Online claims of being cutting edge. PHP? Forget it. Critics will say that Stores Online provides an auto responder – but I say it is absurdly simplistic and incapable of handling even the most basic of standard auto responder functions.
  • Their software conveniently integrates with drop shippers like Doba who also have shady reputations, and also lock you in to monthly fees, just so you can list products on your site. It is a bit of an old boys’ club in my opinion. Estimated fee to have a drop shipper account? Something like $30-$50 a month. On top of that, you’re getting pricing similar to what you might find on Amazon (how you gonna mark that up enough to cover costs and get rich?) Oh – and they never tell you about how much work it is to find a true on-demand drop shipper on your own. Virtually impossible for the market I chose (digital picture frames). Despite the amazing ‘training resources’ Stores Online provided, I only ever came across suppliers willing to send out big batches of product. Definitely not what I was looking for. (True drop shipping means you get an order for product XYZ, and your supplier ships the required quantity directly to the end-user on your behalf. No inventory required.)
  • Speaking of fees, don’t forget the $30 hosting fee Stores Online charges you to have your store online! Yeah – in a world where $6 or $7 per month gets you unlimited domains with unlimited databases and email accounts the $30 Stores Online fee is a blatant rip off.
  • Their store software is not at all intuitive. Web design with Stores Online flies against all known standards you’d find elsewhere, and instead you’re left stumbling around in their menu system. Want a custom theme? No problem – but you’re going to have to pay $100 per hour for a programmer’s time. They never told you the stock themes sucked, did they?
  • It claims to be database driven, but you still end up managing things manually. I found keeping track of items a real chore.

The Stores Online Slimy Sequels

The other thing that you’ll never hear about is once you drink the Stores Online Kool Aid, they will give or sell your contact information to a whole slew of other blood-smelling sharks. After a while I began getting rather intense sales calls from all sorts of business growth type companies with a coaching program for this, that and the other thing. Apparently Stores Online is in bed with other coaching outfits that will give you ‘advanced training’ that isn’t available through Stores Online themselves – training that is specific to the Stores Online platform, and if you honestly want the fast path to success, well by golly, you better be on board! (I’m talking about PMI here). I also heard from legal eagles trying to help me setup the legal side of my business, I heard from business growth guys who wanted to help me build a business plan, I heard from SEO gooroos who wanted to help me rank better than Google itself.

Imagine that – so many pleasant conversations with nice sales people, and all I had to do was give Stores Online my credit card number.

Stumbling Through The Stores Online Nightmare

When I finally did quit my day job, I did indeed dive deep into the Stores Online system. I picked a niche (digital picture frames). I researched drop shipping suppliers (ended up being pretty forced to use Doba and Operation Dropship – both have monthly fees). I got setup with a credit card merchant account solutions (another $40 a month). So far I hadn’t sold a single thing, and I was into it for at least $150 a month, just to have a website.

I spent literally hundreds of hours on this store. Once the thing was built, I poured countless hours into writing articles, link building, even making review videos – all in an effort to build the site and generate traffic. I tried this, that, and all sorts of other things. I went through their coaching, and walked away with nothing to show.

After a while other projects began to take up more of my time, and I began to let it slide. Sure, it had generated a few thousand in revenue, but the profits were nowhere near break even considering I needed $150 to stay open. Roughly 18 months later, I sat down one sunny afternoon and had a long, hard look at my Stores Online fiasco.

I decided then and there to pull the plug.

There is definitely such a thing as throwing away good money after bad, and I’d had enough. I consciously decided to scrap hundreds of hours of hard work, cut my losses, and turn the site into an Amazon affiliate site, based on WordPress. WordPress would finally, at last, give me the freedom I needed to actually do things I’d wanted to do for so long with the site. Amazon gave me a totally free, hands-off source of products at the best prices. Sure, I was only getting a 4% cut, but it was for zero effort, and zero ongoing cost.

I bought a WordPress plugin that allowed me to import Amazon products into WordPress, and within 2 days I had a fully functioning Amazon store. Then I pretty much walked away from it. That first month, I made a clean $50 profit from that site, and it continued to generate $30-$50 a month after that. Unbelievable. Finally I was free of the Stores Online boat anchor, and I was actually seeing some positive cash flow for once!

Store Online Preys On Innocent People

You’ve probably never seen an ad on the internet for Stores Online. Ironic, seeing as they apparently are the grand masters of selling stuff online. However, you might have seen their direct mail on your kitchen counter. They are masters at offline lead acquisition, pulling you first to an evening info-session, then further into an all day sales pitch. The model is tested and proven in all sorts of industries, and the Stores Online marketing department is at the top of their game.

They get you in a time-sensitive crunch, where you don’t really have time to research who they are and what they do. Everything is structured so that you get pulled into the little world of Stores Online; they keep you isolated from truly reputable sources of information that would open your eyes to see what a sham they’re running. This goes for the pre-sale part as well as the post-sale.

The travesty of all of this is that they do an excellent job of sucking in very well-intentioned people, taking many of their precious dollars, just to sell them a dream. I’m not saying Stores Online can’t be made to work – I’m sure their success stories are true, but those are a tiny percentage. I know, because I joined a forum full of people like me (screwed Stores Online customers trying to make the best out of a bad thing) at the time.

The Stores Online Alternative

My Stores Online saga was a rather unhappy experiment early on in my business, and thankfully I’ve since moved way beyond that point. Looking back, it serves to keep me humble, knowing I’ve been taken in with the best of them.

That said, I’d love it if my experience can serve as a warning to other people, and hopefully prevent others the same level of frustration I encountered in dealing with Stores Online.

So if not Stores Online, then what?

Well, if you’re just getting your feet wet in internet marketing, then the best thing I can recommend is to join our member’s list – it’s free, just enter your name and email below – and we’ll show you step by step case studies of live websites that are actually making money. We’ve learned the hard way so you don’t have to. We’ll show you how to do it for a fraction of the time and money it would take with Stores Online, and more importantly, you’ll be getting sound marketing advice that has been proven over and over online. Not by someone we read about, but by us. Enter your name and email below to get started. Unlike Stores Online, we will not sell or rent your contact information to others!

Further to that, don’t sell physical products. The markup is slim and you have to deal with suppliers who can disappear or cut you off at any time. Selling information products is FAR more profitable, in many cases  you’re close to 90% profit on a sale. Some retailers have made good money on the internet, but the majority that make it big are either selling information or services, and usually both.

That said, if you’re really interested in the Stores Online concept, and want to build your own web store, then I recommend thoroughly researching your options beforehand. There are some amazing options available now based on the WordPress platform; you can also go with Yahoo stores or one of the other solutions. But please heed this simple advice:

Do NOT Swallow The Stores Online Pro Fishbait – It Isn’t Worth It!