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How to Avoid Being Ripped Off By Fake Marketing Gurus
A marketing rip-off that makes me sick! If you are interested in learning how to better promote your business, there are hundreds of "gurus" out there ready and eager to RIP YOU OFF! These "con artists" are savvy, slick, and highly skilled in the area of emptying your wallet! Fortunately, with a bit of education, you can avoid being their next victim.
For example, recently I received a phone call offering to help me make my site #1 on google. Intrigued I continued to listen. The caller told me that his company has "cracked the google code" and can easily make me #1 - leaving all my competitors in the dust.
Well, "cracking the google" code was the first tip-off - if these guys were so good at being found on google why the hell are they still cold-calling me? I kept on talking, but now I started asking questions.
"That sounds interesting. What's your website?"
Knowing a little bit about what a marketing savvy website might look like, I new that a peek at their site would help me get a better feel if this company is for real. But instead of getting a domain name, the caller told me to go to google and type in specific keywords. He said his company would be in the top three spots.
I followed his instructions... Well, with some minor modifications...
Instead of heading straight to google's search page, I stopped by Overture's Keyword Suggestion page to find out how popular that keyword is.
Do you know what I discovered?
In the entire previous month only 17 people used that phrase to search the Internet! Now, being in the top three spots for these words suddenly didn't seem like a very big deal.
The caller seemed a bit unhappy about my discovery. But sill, he offered that I search a different phrase. Following the same routine I found 42 searches in the past month. Whoopi! What a deal, right? At this point the caller simply hung up on me!
But several of my friends were not so "lucky". They are now two or three thousand dollars in the whole. And unfortunately for them - they will never see this money again, and their site will keep getting the same lousy traffic it was getting before! What saved me was a bit of know how to properly evaluate the offer.
Because there are so many professionals and business owners who want to achieve "cheap and instant marketing miracles" the most popular scams seem to offer driving traffic to your website, helping you achieve good positioning in popular search engines, showing you how to build a massive email list, and revealing secrets to quickly making a lot of money with your own information products.
These are all needed services and good information on these subjects is invaluable to your success. Problem is how to evaluate if what you are getting is the real stuff or a bunch of bologna?
Here are a few clues to look for.
1. Use your common sense. If the offer is too good to be true - it probably is! It never hurts to ask a few of your trusted businesses advisors to take a look at it before you commit to pay any money for it.
2. Do your own homework. Don't take what the company or person tells you for granted. Heck - we all put our best foot forward in our marketing materials. Research both online and offline.
Take a good look at the website. Does it follow the basic rules of good marketing design? Does it have good Alexa (http://www.alexa.com) ratings? Has it been online for a good length of time?
Can you find out any case studies, customer comments, or endorsements from reliable sources. And for testimonials - anything that shows me just the first and last name initials and name of the state the person is from - I completely ignore as not credible. Look for full first and last name, city and state in the testimonial. If you can find audio and video testimonials that's even better.
Ask around to see if you can "dig out any dirt". Ask business associates in the same industry if they have heard of the company or the person. Check out industry related discussion boards for any negative feedback from past customers.
You can also contact consumer protection organizations like Better Business Bureau, but I found that they are often more interested in protecting businesses who pay them an annual fee, than really looking after consumers' best interest.
3. Ask a lot of questions. Don't let them intimidate you with pre-canned answers. You are about to part with your money - make sure you know exactly what you are getting.
If the company is offering you search engine positioning - check their own results for popular and competitive keywords. (You can easily find this out with free tools like the Overture keyword popularity at
http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion or this simple free software at http://www.goodkeywords.com )
If they want to help you with your pay-per-click - ask to see their own pay-per-click ads. Find out how many different ads are they testing at a time, and - again - are they using keywords that someone is actually searching for.
If they offer to drive traffic to your site - ask how it will be done. They should give you at a least a very good idea even though they may not want to reveal all the details. Ask how targeted the traffic will be. Find out how the results are measured; in "unique visitors" (good) or in "hits" (bad) And these are just the basics...
If they offer to make you a lot of money with teaching you how to start your information selling business - find out if they themselves sell any products outside of the "how to sell your products" ebook or course... You get my drift here, right?
If you are hiring a consultant or a coach to help you out - do they have business experience and successful track record with projects like yours or did they just read an ebook about it last week. (Now, some people are just great teachers - and that doesn't make them wrong - just know that the information will not be as hands on and real-world-tested as you might want it to be.)
4. Can you easily find the contact information? That's a big red flag for me. When I find great deals online but I can't seem to find the company's mailing address or a phone number and all I get is an email - I typically walk away. I want to know that if anything goes wrong I can find the person, and pick-up the phone and try to resolve it. But it's hard to do if they hide behind just an email.
5. Trust your instincts. OK, I know this one is highly un-scientific. But if things just don't feel right - it doesn't matter how good the offer is - give yourself some time to cool off and take a second look at it when you can actually think logically about it.
Fact is, because there is a huge need for marketing information and marketing help, this market attracts a lot of people who couldn't spell "marketing" yesterday but today are eager to share their advise with you - for a lot of money.
If there is one simple answer to help you stay safe and avoid being ripped off, I believe it can be summed up in two words: COMMON SENSE and EDUCATION.
If it looks and feels unreal - it likely is. And the more educated you are about good marketing and how it works, the less likely you'll be to waste your money on shady offers.
About the Author: The author, Adam Urbanski, teaches service professionals and business owners how to develop marketing strategies that increase sales and profits. His website offers more how-to articles and free tips to create a winning marketing action plan (http://www.themarketingmentors.com).