"Earthman"

All Posts by Ben Hunt
My job is to look at the world and wonder... "How can we make things better?"

Web Pro 2 – This Changes Everything!

Published a couple of years ago - 0 Comments

If you’re a business owner, you have probably already been burned on marketing projects.

Most likely you risked a significant budget on a website or marketing campaign that would never repay you. Maybe that happened multiple times.

Isn’t it crazy that business owners and entrepreneurs — the champions of innovation in the world — have been expected to gamble their hard-earned profits on the whims of web designers and so-called “marketing experts” for the past twenty years?!

As I explain in this 25-minute video, I’m as guilty as the next web pro!

In fact, I’m pissed off enough to do something about it.

In the video/audio below, I’ll explain what’s so shitty about the current system, and introduce my “Web Pro 2” model, which I think offers the solution we need.

I believe that Web Pro 2 will revolutionize the way we deliver marketing services for ever.

It will be an open-source project (an evolution of the OSM Client Service system). That means we’ll publish the “how-to” so that anyone can pick up and use the Web Pro 2 model.

Watch the Video (or MP3 is below)

Want to Be Part of “Web Pro 2”?

At the end of my talk, I invite any businesses who are interested in working with this model (who wouldn’t?) to contact me with details.

If you would like to be part of the beginning of “Web Pro 2”, please email me with a short overview of what you currently market, giving your website address, and stating what you would like to achieve. I’ll then review and we’ll take it from there together.

I have a group of amazing consultants ready to go, who’ll work alongside me to help you achieve real growth — at practically zero risk to you! Rest assured, you will get our priority attention.

The only caveat I would add is that you should be willing to let us share at least some details of your success as part of a case study for WP2.

Listen to the Audio

“Slimed by Frank Kern”

Published a couple of years ago - 19 Comments

In April I wrote a blog post about a marketing email I got from Frank Kern that I thought was “insanely scammy” because it suggested that you could take cookie-cutter marketing messages and drop them into any business.

(Which, of course, you can’t! At least, not successfully.)

Well, I have an update for you! I was contacted today by someone who actually bought Frank’s offer. Her name is Susanne Friend, she and her husband are small business owners, running a small aquaponics farm. They market on the Internet intellectual property gained from their experience in their field.

Disclaimer: I am re-posting messages from this customer of Frank’s in the interest of openness. Of course, anyone’s description of their experience is bound to be subjective, and I cannot say whether the statements made are true.

Susanne and Tim paid Frank Kern’s organization an initial payment of $1620, the first of three payments, which would cover “Campaign Transplant Only – No Bootcamp.”

The problem is that Susanne and her husband Tim are pretty sophisticated, so they were ready to do their own research and comparisons. Check out their story…

Aloha Ben,

Frank Kern made us a $4,800 offer in 3 payments for his internet marketing package, called “The Implementation Package”.

When we were considering this purchase, we had a phone conversation with Frank Kern’s assistant, named Joe Rizzo, in which Joe promised us that the templates we would receive with this package would be customized for our business, with only minor tweaking required.

Joe then proceeded into an interview over the phone in which he told us he needed to “find out about our business” so that they could determine whether what they offered “was a good fit for our business”. At the end of the phone conversation he told us our business “was a fit for their product”, and that they would “customize the templates for our business”. We bought it.

Template problem #1: No such customization was ever done.

After purchase, one of Frank’s assistants named Josh Bretow emailed us and said: “I am working on setting up your megaphone account and building your pages right now. I will let you know as soon as those are all set!”. Josh was telling us that the web template site Megaphone was where some of the “customized templates” were going to be hosted; he called them “landing pages”, and “custom pages”.

Josh emailed us and said “Hey Susanne, The pages are half done, I am waiting for megaphone to upgrade your account so I can add the rest”.

Next, “Susanne, The pages are all complete in your megaphone account. Please let me know if you have any questions”.

Next, Josh emailed us a login for a Megaphone account of Frank Kern’s (not an account of ours as they’d claimed), which had standard Megaphone templates (which Megaphone gives to their subscribers for free) that had Frank Kern titles on them, and no other customization whatsoever.

There never was any “our account” the way Josh explained it; just another misrepresentation in a long string of them. I investigated, and found that if I’d purchased a standard Megaphone account for $49/month, I would have gotten the exact same pages, minus the Frank Kern titles.

It’s easy to verify: Megaphone shows prospective users these templates in a “preview” page on their site. Therefore, this claim of delivering customized templates is completely false.

Template problem #2: When we purchased our own InfusionSoft account (InfusionSoft is required to run Frank’s package), and had some questions about it, Frank’s assistant Josh emailed us again and said: “the value of the purchase you made is not in Infusionsoft it is that you get 9 of the most effective marketing campaigns Frank has ever run loaded into your account with all of the copy and setup. So really all you need to do is make a couple of tweaks and they are ready to launch.”

After my husband Tim spent a week learning how to use InfusionSoft by himself (Tim’s a technical guy, and it took much less time than plowing through Franks InfusionSoft “Post-BootCamp learning videos”, which are chatty and not very informative), he discovered that the InfusionSoft campaign templates that Josh had uploaded to our InfusionSoft account, that Frank had supposedly “customized” for us, were useless because they had NO tags configured; the tag values are all empty.

To be able to use these campaigns of Frank’s at all, you need to create your own tags. To do this, you need to know how how to use InfusionSoft at a fairly high level. If you’re at that level, it’s easier to write new campaigns from scratch than to try to customize Frank’s campaign templates, which are not made for our market, nor customized in the least. This claim of delivering customized templates is also completely false.

Template problem #3: The InfusionSoft email templates that Josh had uploaded to our InfusionSoft account, that Frank had supposedly “customized” for us, also had no customization, they were standard emails to Frank’s customers. They are of no use to us, and again, this claim of delivering customized templates is also completely false.

There’s more: These things were invisible until my husband had invested a week in watching Frank’s tutorial videos and learning InfusionSoft: If we follow the steps in their learning videos, we need to buy…

  • a membership to Stealthseminar.com at $80/month,
  • PlusThis.com membership at $80/month,
  • Megaphone account at $50/month,
  • and a Webinarjam.com account for $400/year (when Frank uses GoToMeeting for his webinars!), for an additional total of $245/month. (Ben adds: I think WebinarJam is about $399 per year?)

Nothing was disclosed about this in the original offer.  Frank Kern’s offering was billed as a “complete package” during phone calls and emails. I’d bet these dotcoms are all affiliate software links that pass along commissions to him, and these affiliations were not disclosed anywhere.

This is rather technical, but I hope it’s useful in your fighting the good fight against this type of internet marketing slime.

Why Am I Telling You This?

There are a few reasons.

The first reason is that I want to encourage you to be bold in demanding a refund, and sharing information, if you buy from any Internet Marketer (including me!) and you’re not happy that you got value in excess of the price you paid.

Susanne and Tim requested a refund from Frank’s people and are waiting for their $1620 back. I have since heard that the refund has been made.

When I asked Susanne if I could have her permission to share her email publicly, here is her response…

 Absolutely, you have our permission. However, I WANT you to use our full names, and the name of our business. Here’s the deal – I believe we represent EXACTLY who you’re most trying to help – we’re the “little guys”– business people who want to more successfully market online, but who get taken for a ride when we try to find “expert” help in the field. In this case, what saved us almost $5000 was the fact that at we are a little bit too technical, and we could quickly tell that what we were promised was NOT what was delivered – not even close. Unfortunately, some purchasers might not be able to tell that this offer was just smoke and mirrors!

While Frank Kern offered no explicit guarantee, there are numerous references throughout many of Frank’s videos to his “big balls guarantee”, where he states that if the purchaser is dissatisfied for any reason, he will refund any monies paid but the purchaser still gets to keep the product.

We initiated a dispute with our credit card company, along with our myriad of reasons, and informed Mr. Kern’s office via email that we were doing so. There was no hint of surprise or attempt whatsoever to find out why we were not satisfied. We merely received a reply saying that their “CEO would be refunding our money”, so, I suppose his implicit “big balls guarantee” will be met, in our case. But certainly not our expectations, based upon Mr. Kern’s promises.

The next reason is that it’s a great example of why we should have a Code of Practice for Internet Marketing. Our Code of Practice states that customers must get the value offered and that the information we present must be truthful.

For example, here’s one of the clauses from the Ethical Marketing Group’s COP:

If any other investment, assets, tools, skills, time, or work may be required to get the claimed benefits, we will make these explicit to every prospect prior to purchase.

Now, it seems that Frank’s marketing failed to do that, in a big way, because so many other systems were necessary for his processes even to have a chance of working (including promoting WebinarJam, which coincidentally is sold by Frank’s IM buddies Mike Filsaime and Andy Jenkins, despite the fact, as Susanne points out, that Frank himself uses GoToWebinar… hmm).

Imagine if we all adopt a system like this (which you can do voluntarily for free)! What would the marketplace be like if every vendor gave their word that they would treat every customer fairly?

Announcing the Ethical Marketing Group

Published a couple of years ago - 15 Comments
ben-grumpy

This is me looking pissed off

Anyone who knows me is clear on where I stand on ethics in marketing.

I see a lot of dishonesty, manipulation, and pressure tactics being used online — and it pisses me off!

What’s more, I’ve learned I’m not alone. And this is really exciting!

Just check out my posts on Ryan Deiss’s bullshit, his other bullshit, or this from Frank Kern. Notice they all have a LOT of comments? That’s because there are a lot of pissed off people. Perhaps you’re one of them.

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve spoken with in the past few weeks who have told me about paying good money for some course.

  • Several people have said the content they have received simply doesn’t match what was promised. Some of the braver ones have demanded refunds.
  • On another course the guru didn’t even bother to show up, and left all the attendees to do their homework and critique each other’s work in a social media group! (I understand that was because he was going through a bankruptcy, which says a lot about the claims some of these guys make!)
  • Other courses are nothing more than upselling mechanisms, designed to see how deep attendees’ pockets (and trust) extend.

The Real Problem

The more I’ve thought about it, the more it seems that the real problem is not that most marketers are cheats.

The real problem is simply that the ones who are make the most noise.

The picture in my head is of one of those classic cowboy movies, where the bandits take to the streets and the good folk of the town all quickly bolt their shutters and hide indoors until the gunfight is over.

You see, there are only a few bandits. But they’re loud and dominant, and that makes it seem like the town is lawless.

But… I believe there are a lot more of the good folk! We are in the majority. The ones who want to trade fairly and with integrity, earn an honest living and live in peace.

Now Is The Time To Stand Together

Three years ago, I dreamed of setting up some kind of Ethical Internet Marketing Association. (I wrote a blog post about it here. However I was busy with other projects, and it never happened. Maybe it wasn’t the right time. Maybe I didn’t care enough back then.

I deeply believe that ideas have a Right Time. In fact, that’s one of the big lessons I have learned in my series of “Cracking Content” interviews. If you want to make a real difference, you need to be intimately connected with your Tribe, your right sector of the market, so that when you feel a powerful idea emerge in you, it’s likely to be popping for other people at the same time.

Well, I think that NOW is the time for ethical marketing to get a voice!

A few weeks ago, after meeting with a few like-minded marketers, I was inspired to revisit that idea of some way that consumers (which includes all of us) could more safely navigate the minefield of Internet Marketing.

I reckoned, what if we developed a code of practice for ethical marketing? Then those of us who wish to show the world that we stand for fair business can say, “We subscribe to that!” and customers who want to deal with ethical marketers can see our declaration.

So that’s what I’ve done. I have spent the past few weeks building the foundation for The Ethical Marketing Group, and it took its first blinking steps into the light today!

Here’s how the website looks now. You can see that, at the time of writing, we have just two members.

This is literally day one, so there’s still a lot of work to do!

The Ethical Marketing Group website

The Ethical Marketing Group website

How Does the Ethical Marketing Group Work?

The core idea is the Code of Practice. Any vendors — whether you’re an info-marketer, or you promote products and services, or even market a brick & mortar business online — all of us can simply say, “Look, we follow this.”

And you can do that for free. Just grab a line of HTML code, and put the “Supporter” badge on your website!

There are also three different levels of membership, which show increasing commitment to ethical practice, backed up with support from myself and a small group of ethically-minded marketing consultants I’m building.

(We’re going to have lots more different badges that you can use on your websites and email templates.)

So, if you want to do it yourself, you can! If you want a listing on the Ethical Marketing Group website, you can get that too. And if you would like ten hours of consulting from experts, to help you keep your marketing compliant AND effective, no problem! We’re here to help you to do whatever you want.

Now, for the first time, consumers can easily verify anyone’s level of commitment to ethical marketing standards.

And if you’re a Member (does not apply to Supporters), visitors to your website will shortly be able to submit a message to the EMG if they think your marketing process does not comply with the agreed Code of Practice. In that case, our consultants will do what we can to work towards a positive resolution, learn from the experience, and try to improve all our processes.

(When you work through my draft Code of Practice, you may find it challenging. I did! It has made me go back through my websites to make changes. No one said that doing the right thing is easy. But I believe it’s worth it.)

It is worth saying that the Ethical Marketing Group does not set out to be the ethics police! After all, what is “ethical marketing” anyway? It is actually quite a challenging exercise to sit down and write out what it means to you. So our Code of Practice is there simply by agreement.

We don’t wish to say that we’re ethical and anyone who isn’t part of group is not. We’re just saying to the world, “Here, look at the standard that we declare we are striving to meet.”

And, of course, that standard is bound to evolve. We will be continually testing it, improving it, adding or removing pieces. But that’s how things get better.

Let’s make things better — together!

Is It Right For You?

Do YOU want to be a Founder Member?

I don’t know if you are as inspired by ethical marketing practices as I am. But if you are, I would request that you check out the ways in which you can be part of this movement. I hope there’s a solution that fits for everyone.

If you do wish to join, I have discounted all the membership fees by one third until January. That makes you a Founder Member, and you keep that discount for the duration of your subscription.

(Every member gets a sequential member number, so the next person to sign up with be Member #3, which I think is pretty cool.)

In addition, if you sign up for Annual membership, you pay for only eight months, so you save another third that way too.

Note: If you choose to join, I will assign the membership numbers in strict order of sign-up. It may take me up to 24 hours to get your listing on the website, so please be patient. Thanks.

Recording of Blab meet, 17th November 2015

We had a great 90-minute call on Blab today, where a group of us tackled some pretty serious questions, and arrived at some conclusions!

Download MP3 audio from Blab

Ryan Deiss, Bullshitter Par Excellence

Published a couple of years ago - 39 Comments

I don’t like writing these blog posts, but someone has to.

I got another email from Ryan Deiss, who we all know is the Fresh Prince of marketing bullshit.

Just check this out. (It’s not the whole email. I’ll spare you that.)

Email Subject: “Do NOT publish another blog post…”

ryan-email-lies

Okay, there are a few important things to clarify here.

  • First, there are patterns in marketing that have been proven to work. They have worked time and time again.
  • Second, they don’t always work. Sometimes, proven patterns fail.
  • Third, smart marketers know that, surprisingly often, doing the exact opposite of the current “best practice” can be incredibly successful.
  • Fourth, I’m sure Ryan Deiss knows all this. I’m sure he’s a smart guy. Yet, he’s a shrewd marketer. He’s taking a truth (i.e. these patterns have been proven to work) and deliberately applying a logical fallacy (i.e. therefore they always work).
  • Fifth, that means he’s lying. It means he knows he’s lying, and he knows that lying like this is going to earn him short-term profits.

That makes him a scammer, in my book at least.

Deiss, you’re a lying scammer!

(Glad we’ve cleared that up.)

Now, by all means subscribe to these guys’ email lists, because there is a lot to learn, and I have seen some really excellent articles on Ryan’s website.

I’m not saying for a minute he doesn’t know what he’s doing. I think he knows exactly what he’s doing. But be careful to treat any claims of “universal effectiveness” with a heavy dose of skepticism.

So What’s the Reality?

Unfortunately, the world of marketing is fuzzier and dirtier and less predictable than purveyors of these cure-alls are prepared to admit. Hey, fuzzy doesn’t sell!

I can say, with confidence, that there is no pattern or model or template that works every time. (Anyone who says there is is a lying scumbag.)

The right message, delivery, tone, and length… all these things depend on who you’re talking to, what you want your brand to mean to them, and what you’re trying to sell.

And there’s no formula for that. I’m in the middle of writing a book about how to create killer content, and the rabbit hole is a lot deeper than Ryan Deiss would have you believe!

You know we all have very finely-tuned bullshit meters these days (and it’s a good job, because there’s a lot of bullshit around). That means we’re getting very good at spotting when someone’s trying to sell to us and immediately switching off.

As I’ve suggested, very often, the best way to get your message noticed is to ignore what everyone else is doing, and do something quite different. Even if received wisdom tells you that X works, don’t do it. Why? Because if everyone’s doing it, your market is likely already to be switching off.

Truly successful content is not formulaic. I haven’t cracked the whole code yet, but I can tell you, at the very least, that it requires two things:

  • sensitivity to what’s happening around you (and within you) right now
  • and the self-belief and guts just to create, right now!

You know what else? The key to your most powerful content is within you, right here, right now. No one else can figure it out for you. And no marketing wiseguy can sell you the answer. Just remember that.

Please watch this space. Let’s keep this conversation going.

Internet Marketing is Broken

Published a couple of years ago - 6 Comments

If, like me, you feel deep down that there’s something deeply wrong in the way online marketing information is shared in this world, this post is for you!

Here’s a quick update (17 minutes) to bring you guys up to date about recent thoughts about how Internet Marketing is hollow and broken.

Plus there’s news about the three Open Source Marketing systems we’re starting to roll out, which promise to turn the whole IM world on its head.

Frank Kern Scammy Email?

Published a couple of years ago - 90 Comments

Our Open-Source Marketing community understands that, in order to succeed in marketing, you need to go deep.

You need to ask a hundred questions, challenge assumptions, and use every ounce of your imagination to craft a position that will be unique, compelling, and deliver real value.

Then you get emails like this from Frank Kern, which appears to offer a cookie-cutter solution to marketing (one of my pet peeves).

What Frank’s offering seems nonsensical and I reckon can only possibly work if you’re in certain narrow niches.

The idea that Frank’s people can set up 7 campaigns for you — without knowing about your business in great detail — is preposterous, and the only people who’ll fall for this have to be so desperate for the promise of easy money that they’ll believe anything.

Screen Shot 2015-04-14 at 12.31.35

Now, the email does say that there’ll be a two-day, intensive workshop where I’m guessing you’ll do the deep-dive, but I’m still very dubious that there exist 7 patterns for email campaigns that are universally applicable.

People love to be offered simple solutions that promise great results. Magic beans, shortcuts, cheats, easy money… we love that stuff. So I think this is either clever marketing, or Mr. Kern is a bona fide marketing genius. You be the judge, but personally I think this is over-stretching (at least for the majority of businesses out there).

By the way, the email says, “This is the first time I’m actually having my tech team doing ALL the work for you before you even arrive.”

I think that may be a lie, because I got the same email from Frank on November 17th, 2014, where Frank offered me…

I’m doing a live IMPLEMENTATION Boot Camp 
here in San Diego in January …and I wanted to see if 
you’d like to come.

And again on February 5th, 2015, where he was curious to know if I’d be interested in…

I’m doing a live IMPLEMENTATION Boot Camp 
here in San Diego in February …and I wanted to see if 
you’d like to come.

In fact, I have received this same email at least five times in the past year, every one claiming:

This is the first time I’m actually having my tech team doing ALL the work for you before you even arrive.

So that’s either a deliberate deception or a silly mistake. Let’s hope it’s the latter.