Marketing Strategist

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

My Thoughts on Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula

Published last year - 24 Comments
Jeff Walker Product Launch Formula

I got this message recently from someone on my email list.

Im a novice in this but i was studying a lot years ago. The thing that made me step back in it was that in my quest for knowledge i found out this thing about The Internet Marketing Syndicate.

Could you if possible clear for me if there any truth on this Scam and what are the guys i need to avoid get info from?

The thing is that im from Brasil and i know now there are some Internet Marketers promoting similar stuff there. Similar to Lauch Formula of Jeff Walker. Is there any good in this stuff or are only hype?

Thank you in advance.

Here’s my response.

Hi ———.

Obviously, I’m not in a position to comment on the Syndicate, and I really know nothing about “game”. Of course, there is obvious and clear history linking a lot of these “marketers” together.

I am happy to talk about Jeff Walker’s “Product Launch Formula”. In my opinion, it works. That’s obvious, because everyone’s using it, and have been for ten years.

Why does it work? Because it systemizes a model of scarcity and pressure-selling. For me, that’s unethical. Sure, if you have *real* scarcity (like if you only have 2 boxes of the product left, or you’re offering coaching and there are only so many hours in the week) then that’s the truth and you can use it to increase urgency in your selling message. People have been doing that for thousands of years.

But PLF is about creating artificial scarcity. It says, “Instead of just offering the world what you sell, create a buzz around an limited window of opportunity.” Then there’s a lot of stuff around the tactics of how you build up that buzz, and create multiple opportunities to buy, etc., all stuff that’s been tested and pretty much perfected over the years.

At the end of the day, it’s fundamentally unethical. So the question is, what do you want? If you want to make as much money as possible, by persuading or coercing people into buying your stuff, use PLF.

I choose a different path. I prefer to build real trust over time (sometimes a long time) and to earn a small tribe of loyal followers. Not “get rich quick” addicts. People who are like me, and who want to build the same kind of world that I want to build.

It’s down to your own ethics and your own choice, my friend.

What do you think of PLF?

Jeff Walker PLF I’d love to hear your thoughts.
  • Have you tried Jeff’s Product Launch Formula?
  • Did it help you to sell your stuff effectively?
  • Do you think it helped you to sell ethically? (i.e. The right people were empowered to make the right choice for them, with all the information they needed, without being misled or manipulated?)
  • If you offer a guarantee, what percentage of buyers have claimed on it?
  • How have the client relationships panned out?
  • Perhaps you’ve just read Jeff’s “Launch” book? (I have, and found it very interesting.)

Please comment below, thanks.

Web Pro 2 – This Changes Everything!

Published last year - 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 last year - 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 at $80/month,
  • membership at $80/month,
  • Megaphone account at $50/month,
  • and a 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 last year - 15 Comments

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, this from Frank Kern, or this dubious launch tactic from Eben Pagan. 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

Unpicking Unethical Marketing with Eben Pagan

Published last year - 112 Comments

I don’t like writing these posts, but I dislike seeing lies and deceit even more, so here goes.

Next up for an “ethical marketing analysis” is Eben Pagan, who started his adventures in info-marketing selling “dating advice for men” under the pseudonym David De Angelo.

Eben has recently (October/November 2015) re-launched his “Digital Product Blueprint” course, which is essentially teaching you the following…

  1. Digital products are incredibly profitable (which is true, because there’s almost zero cost of sale, although high profit margin doesn’t mean that you’ll get a lot of profits).
  2. And they’re incredibly easy to sell (which is becoming progressively less true as more people jump on the bandwagon).
  3. All you need to do (to enjoy the kind of lifestyle that Eben enjoys) is take some skill or knowledge that you’ve learned, and package it up in a stack of digital products and get people to buy them. (This is easier said than done.)
  4. And the DPB course will show you exactly how to do that. (Well, it will probably show you how some people have done it successfully, but that is NOT the same as being able to do it yourself.)

My hunch is that most people who take this $1997 ($2364 if paid monthly) course will not see their money again. Why? Because most people don’t have the resources, the balls, the spare cash, or the contacts it takes to break into the big time.


I’ve been following Eben’s recent launch with interest, partly because I’m thinking a LOT about ethical marketing recently, but mostly because I wanted to see if I could pick up some solid marketing insights.

I found his sequence of sales videos very well made, but was disappointed to see they were 80% sales pitch for the upcoming product offer, and maybe only 20% had any nutritional value.

One point over which I disagree strongly with the sales pitch is that Eben says that you can ONLY tap into the incredible lifestyle opportunity that the Internet promises IF you have a digital product. (I know this has some truth, because I’ve sold two digital products for six-figures in sales, however it’s not the only way.)

Here’s the timeline of some of Eben’s launch emails…

October 26 — Tripwire

The sequence started with a “tripwire” free offer, possibly promoted with Facebook video ads. I clicked through and subscribed on October 26th. This sent me through to Eben’s “sideways sales letter” (borrowing Jeff Walker’s term from “Product Launch Formula“… more about that later).

These videos are very well written, skilfully presented, and well produced. My only gripe is that they’re mostly sales pitch, but that’s the whole point.

Pre-sales videos

Pre-sales videos

October 30 — Closing in a few hours!

Four days later, I get this warning:

Email title: “LAST CALL: 3 Hours Left…”

October 30th

OK, that’s fair enough. Eben is creating urgency here, which is an extremely helpful factor in getting people to say yes to your proposition. Because the only time you can say yes is now, so it’s important for calls to action to give people reasons to have to decide now.

One of the simplest ways to create urgency is to enforce a limited window of opportunity. For example, “Sale Must End Monday!”

Of course, if you’re going to use urgency or scarcity in your marketing, you need a reason why. Is the time limit real, or arbitrary?

Don't click. I'm not selling anything.

(Don’t click. I’m not selling anything)

Here, Eben’s using a popular, and valid, reason why for the limited window. He’s going to run the classes live, so if you’re too late, you’ll miss the start.

Nothing wrong with that.

(Unless, of course, it’s not true!)

October 30 — Disaster strikes!

Oh no! Just as thousands of people were trying to sign up for Eben’s incredible offer, the unthinkable happens.

Email title: “No… did this actually just HAPPEN?”


Email (split into 2 columns). Click to view full size.

That’s right. Just as the doors were about to close, the darn server goes down. How frustrating!

Now, it’s not my place to say that Eben’s server didn’t go down. Can I prove this didn’t happen? No, I can’t.

However, there are few things that don’t smell quite right to me.

  • Eben has told me repeatedly how professional and slick and profitable his business operation is. So how come he can’t afford the best, most reliable hosting?
  • How come he had another irresistible bonus lined up? How come he didn’t already offer that? Huh?
  • And, despite the fact that the server was only down for (allegedly) 21 minutes, guess what happens next?

November 3 — Doors re-open!

A few days later, right as the course is due to start, we get this lifeline!

(Note how the title of the email has the words “last chance” in quotes, perhaps for reasons that will become clear later.)

Email title: One “last chance” for Digital Product Blueprint

Yay! Another last chance!

Yay! Another last chance!

I mean, what are the chances?!

OK, explain this to me. The reason why you’re giving me another chance is because I may have been trying to buy on Thursday, but was denied because of technical reasons. Let’s accept that.

Now, the server was unavailable (we are told) for 21 minutes. But you’re reopening the doors for a full 24 hours. Huh?

November 4 — The Final Final Warning

Finally (hopefully) today I got this.

Email title: “Another Chance At Digital Product Blueprint”

Final final chance!! Hurry!!

Final final chance!! Hurry!!

Yup, even though the final opportunity to purchase passed several days ago, and the live classes have already started, my friend Eben is giving me yet another chance to buy.

Eben is now giving me two great reasons why. In case I wasn’t convinced by the server crash story, let’s throw in another old favourite: popular demand.

So many people have demanded that Eben reopen his cash register, he has been forced to comply.

This tells me two things:

  1. Eben’s a really nice guy, and this wasn’t planned. He’s just trying to make sure no-one’s disappointed.
  2. And the course is incredibly popular! So popular that the server crashed, and still thousands of people are queueing up demanding to be let in. (This is an extremely common persuasion technique: telling you that everyone else sees the incredible value in the offer, implying you would be stupid not to join the stampede.)

You would have to be incredibly cynical not to believe this account, wouldn’t you? Well, maybe I am incredibly cynical, but I don’t buy it.

Whoah! Wait One Minute!! F*cking 1999???

Did you spot it too? Those few words…

(yes, just like 1999 again)

So you’re telling me this happened to you 16 years ago, and you didn’t learn your lesson then?

Or, let’s just throw an idea out there, maybe the 1999 server crash was either fake, or… maybe (assuming it did happen) the lesson was learned! Maybe the lesson that was learned back then was that “Oops, our server crashed” would be a great reason why that we could roll out for future launches.

Or is that just a tad too cynical?

November 4 — Wait! Yet Another Opportunity!

This arrived during the night.

Email subject: “HEADS UP: Closing For Good In 5 Hours”


That’s the second “last email for the night” I’ve received. Let’s hope this really is “last chance” as he says.

What Am I Unhappy About?

Here’s the rub. It’s okay to sell stuff to people. People sometimes need stuff, and need help deciding what stuff they need. That’s marketing, and it’s what I do for a living right now.

It’s okay to introduce urgency and scarcity. It’s okay to cut prices, and a lot of other stuff.

But those things are only okay if the reason why is real.

And I find it hard to believe that Eben was being totally honest when he sent me that email saying I only had 3 hours to get onto his course.

Let’s say that his server did go down for a full 21 minutes. If Eben is going to be true to his word, he has two options.

  1. Suck it up! It’s 21 minutes. We’ve missed a few sales. Too bad, we should have tested our infrastructure better.
  2. Or, maybe, leave the door open for another 21 minutes after the claimed cut-off point.

But another full day, with yet another bonus, and two more emails… I’m sorry, I don’t buy it.

Still Not Convinced? (Update, November 9 2015)

Have you ever wondered why you seem to see the same pattern of messages from the same people?

There’s a good reason for that. It’s because this is a pattern that has been refined and improved for at least ten years. These “marketers” have all bought into a proven money-making model sold by their godfather, Jeff Walker.

Jeff Walker PLFIt’s called “Product Launch Formula” and Jeff launches it just about every year (creating artificial scarcity to build pressure on buyers).

I looked back at some of Jeff’s PLF materials from way back in 2005, and you’ll never guess what I found!

Here’s where Jeff teaches his followers to manufacture (or pretend… basically to lie) a “Tsunami moment” where there’s some crisis that gives you that “reason why.”


And here’s the email example he suggests you might use (or even adapt), complete with LIE about server crash.


Bearing in mind this is from 2005, here’s another cute “reason why” you have to send out another email, where Jeff recommends you LIE about AOL apparently caching the wrong page.


And here’s another example email, where the email server gets the blame.


And yet another. Are you getting the picture?


So maybe Eben Pagan was telling the truth about his server crash, but I think it is too much of a coincidence.

But how do we know that today’s information marketers are using Jeff Walker’s system?

Well, here’s one clue. Below is a snippet from Jeff’s own sales PowerPoint presentation (again from 2005), where you may notice a couple of household names. Yup, all four of the names below are still big players in information marketing.


What if we were to give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and say that maybe they all wrote their own content, instead of just swiping it from Jeff?

Um, nope! Jeff is happy to prove that there’s no such work involved. His students do just reuse (“Plug and Play”) his materials with only minor edits. The screenshot below is also from Jeff’s 2005 materials.


Guys, there’s a reason why there’s so much SHIT in your mailbox. It’s because that’s what Jeff Walker has been teaching these “Internet Marketers” for the last decade. And the cycle goes on.



Eben’s Response (July 19, 2017)

In the interests of transparency and fairness, I’d like to publish the response I received from Eben here (so you don’t have to scroll right to the end of the comments).

Hi Ben,

I’ve read through your post here, and I’d like to invite you to a conversation. Let’s talk sometime. You make strong points here, and I want to be a good citizen. I will listen to your perspective.

Overall, the more damning accusation you’ve made here is that I lied when I said that a server went down during one of my product launches. I can see, from your perspective, why it seems like I made it up… but in fact, the server did go down, and it took out our entire registration process with it.

Back in the day, 10 years ago, when we would launch products online, it was typical for there to be some kind of major tech problem at some point during a launch. It used to be frustrating, because having a server go down would cost a lot.

As marketers, we like to turn lemons into lemonade, so we learned to keep our chins up when this happened, and send out a message that said “Hey, our server went down, so we’re going to extend our offer”… or “Hey, our site crashed, so we’re adding a special bonus for the hassle.” And we’d extend our offer to make up for the loss.

Over the past several years, these technical glitches stopped happening so much, as shopping carts and merchant accounts and the like have become more bulletproof.

But out of our last 3 big launches, 2 have had serious server crashes during the launch – and caused our site or shopping cart to go down completely. It’s been a long time since this kind of thing has happened regularly, but it seems to be on the rise again.

When it happened in the case you mentioned here, we said “we know what to do here… let’s send an email that says that our server crashed… like the old days.” We didn’t think twice about it.

I am a teacher, and I believe that we offer the best courses in the world in important areas of business and life. And because I’ve put in so much time to create these programs, I really believe in their value.

I am a also marketer, and when I am doing my marketing I use everything I know to talk up my products, and to talk people into buy my courses. I present what I’m offering in the best light possible, and I pull all the stops to motivate people to invest in our trainings.

But I don’t flat out make stuff up. And I avoid saying things that, if you learned about what was happening behind the scenes in our company, you would say feel bad about and say “they deceived me.”

Do we put on the pressure to buy something before a deadline? Yes. Do I turn problems into a reason to send another email? Yes, I do. Do I sometimes use “tabloid style” headlines to get attention? Yes. Do I use intense copywriting that turns some people off? Yes.

But again: I don’t just make things up to trick people. I like to make sales and make money… but not that much.

I have a team of people who works with me, and there are others on my team who write emails, marketing copy, advertisements, and other promotional materials. Sometimes, I see something that goes out or that’s being tested, and I cringe because I feel that it doesn’t give the appropriate impression. And ultimately, whatever comes from my company is my responsibility.

Occasionally, we really screw up, and make mistakes that are embarrassing. We had a situation not too long ago where I asked someone on my team to send out an email to our entire list, and I gave them bad instructions, and they sent out a version of an old email from a year ago… rather than the new email copy that I wrote… and it said something that wasn’t accurate anymore. We sent a correction, but it still felt really bad to me when it happened.

Another point you make here is about the “reopen” offer itself. In our industry, we talk between ourselves about the “reopen or don’t reopen” conversation with launches. Some people don’t like to do it, and some are fine with it.

But the reality of the situation is that the way our bigger launches work, we will open up our course registration process for maybe 3 or 4 days, then close at the end of the week, get everyone into our system over the weekend, and then start our live training early the following week.

This allows us to begin our classes with everyone in them together, so the live trainings can be taken in sequence. It also motivates people to register, and get in before we start. And it motivates me to make sure that I have everything organized to actually teach the course.

Because launches usually have most sales come at the very end, as people scramble on the last day to register, a lot of people come to our site after we close our registration process, and are not able to register. The way these things work, we’ll have often have 50 or 100 other companies sending out emails to tell their lists about the closing of our offer… and a lot of people will learn about the offer or deadline too late, after we close.

So then we’ll have a bunch of people who join our waiting list, and typically many who contact us and are trying to register after the closing. In these cases, when it does happen that we have a big waiting list, or pent up demand, we will often do a 1 or 2-day re-open of our registration. We don’t always do re-opens when we make our offers, but sometimes we feel that it’s right for the situation.

There is something about saying “closing tonight” on our last day… and then re-opening a few days later for a day or two… that does seem a little bit weird. But overall, when we do it, I feel good about it – when everything is considered.

In the bigger picture, these are all decisions that we make to optimize our process both for our customers, and for our business. But we’re not lying and making things up in order to get a few more sales. That’s the key that I’m trying to get across here.

So let’s chat. Send me an email, and we’ll set up a time to have a live conversation. I’d like to clear this up with you.


Ryan Deiss, Bullshitter Par Excellence

Published a couple of years ago - 38 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…”


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.