Can You Still Make Money Online Building A Guru Business?

A Critical Analysis Of Online Marketing Gurus

Recently I came across an article titled about observations that called online marketing and especially starting some kind of “Guru” business a crumbling niche.   

In one of the responses Tara McMullin said in her article “From Personality Cults to Collective Intelligence”

No $2000 course has made growing my business much easier. A course can even out our journeys, level our learning curves a bit, or answer a particular question. What a course can’t do for us is support us in the daily ups and downs that running and growing a small business entails.

In my observation these women are right.

What does this mean for us dealing with Online Marketing? 

​Do the tactics of “Online Gurus” still work? All of these gurus are walking a fine line with their claims which are typically unrealistic (more on that later). These gurus are selling the dream because that’s what people buy (and want to buy). In general most of what they teach does work (for some people). The problem is that it’s hard to find the line between genuine marketing that is used as a tool to sell and what I call “entertainment”This makes it so hard to determine where the “envelope stuffing scam” begins. 

The “envelope stuffing” scam

The classic “envelope stuffing” scam originating in the United States during the Depression in the 1920s and 1930s.

In this scam, someone is offered entry to a ponzi-scheme where they can earn $2 for every envelope they fill. 

After paying a small fee to get to know the “great opportunity”, the “victim” is sent a template educating them to send out similar letters and post similar ads. 

Originally found as printed adverts in newspapers and magazines, variants of this scam have expanded into more modern media, for example people who teach “how to make money online” using Facebook ads and all the do is teach people how to do the same. 

Why it get’s more difficult if you look a motivational speakers

Take for example people how want to be a motivational speaker. That’s essentially what these marketing gurus are and teach.

And that’s what they are selling. For me, that’s the legitimate way of “envelope stuffing”

An internet marketer teaching you how to be an internet marketer. And that’s the problem. Typically what the gurus sell is both entertainment (selling dreams) as well as a legitimate way to build a business (especially if they teach you how to help REAL businesses to use social media and online marketing. 

Gurus Are Entertainers

I remember talking to someone I met at a Toastmaster’s event. She was making a typical $60,000/year from a corporate job. She spent over $10k buying info products, going to marketing seminars/conferences etc. The started a few projects that never got anywhere. She understood that she was buying the “dream”. For her these products where entertainment. Nothing wrong with that for her. So for people buying “the dream” everything might be okay as some form of entertainment. 

What about the claims Online Marketing Gurus Make?

For example I have bought Eben Pagan’s products I will rephrase what he is teaching about marketing:

  1. You need to sell the dream, that’s what people buy. It’s your moral obligation to use all the manipulation tactics described in this thread, everything that works to sell. You’ll only tell them the good stuff without the bad stuff.
  2. Once people buy into your program you’ll tell them what it ACTUALLY takes to “make money online”. This usually requires A LOT of work and resources. It can be done using funnels and all these stuff but it’s not easy and not what people were promised in their marketing. This is the reason why a lot of people think these gurus are full of s**t. And of course, this requires their customers to walk the same ethical line they are walking. And even more important: This requires the commitment to really HELP people. The gurus 100% believe that what they teach works and is good for people.

This is where gets really problematic. A lot of there customers are not at the point where their focus is to help people. They are trying the same tactics without the “right mindset”. They are in for the money. They copy the tactics they learn without the mindset of providing value first (which is what the gurus preach and live all the time). 

The problem here is that all of this is a marking Ponzi scheme. 

The motivational speaker (aka internet marketer) teaches other people his funnel-building-stuff to repeat his success. However, this is VERY difficult and requires a lot of testing and a lot of ad spent. The internet marketing world follows the 80/20^4 curve. (Read Perry Marshall’s book about the 80/20 Curve

What these gurus teach you is “how to become a guru” or internet marketer yourself.

In order to be successful, you have to become the guru of your own niche solving real problems for real people. Yet this is not the same as creating a course “with the knowledge you already have” to make 6 figures in 6 weeks

The Problem: There can only be so many “kings of the hill” in online marketing.

Of course, every once in a while some of their students are able to CREATE another “blue ocean” and get rich using the same principles the gurus teach. These stories become their testimonials yet there are exceptions sometimes due to pure luck. The other testimonials come from people how already have an ESTABLISHED business of some sort. They are already making $10k/month and ALREADY have knowledge and expertise. Some of these people are really able to pull of 6 figures in 6 weeks or 3 months or whatever by changing their marketing. But they have put in years of work to build this expertise before serving their customers. These people become great legitimate testimonials as well. However, almost nobody currently making $12/hour at Mac Donald’s has the ability to pull this of in a very short period of time. If you look at the stories of gurus they usually spend years learning copywriting and other things until they found their blue ocean in the online marketing ecosystem teaching other people to “make money online”. Unfortunately, there is not so much these gurus can do about these people. The principles they teach are sound. They are serving some people whether is entertainment or helping existing businesses immediately. The average guy working a $8/h job will have to learn valuable skills first and get rid of the “shiny object syndrome”. Most people are not able to leave this behind because this takes usually takes years, especially if they don’t focus on ONE skill and one business idea. Legitimate gurus know this and if you take a look at their youtube channels they openly admit this (though not in their funnels and sales webinars). 

The belief is what makes all the difference

One last thing, why the gurus serve the Mac Donald’s guy as well. In the end, they BELIEVE that everyone who puts in the work can get successful following this system. The belief is what makes all the difference. This is someone I only understood after reading Charles Duhigg’s book about habits. You need “belief” to change habits. Even the Mac Donald’s guy can change and be successful if he changes his habits and focuses on providing value. This belief is provided by the guru cult and groupthink. Without it, it’s almost impossible to change. In the end, it boils down to the “intent” of the guru whether he is just starting out or in the business for years. The ones starting out usually put a lot more effort into helping you because of the lack the credentials yet. 


Here is what I came up with: 

  1. Stay away from gurus who are just in “for the money”. Always! Do your research!
  2. There is some room for teaching the “envelope stuffing business” (e.g. motivational speaker) if you have intent to help people. It’s blurry line because sometimes it’s just entertainment and most people don’t take action anyway.
  3. If you want to become a “guru” or successful “internet marketer” or even become a fastlane entrepreneur?Be honest with yourself. What is your intention? Are you just in for the money? Are you able to help people and solve real problems? Are you passionate about what you do? Are you are to solve real problems for real people?
  4. If you are just starting out and want / need to make money: Forget the guru business model (for now)! You’re not ready yet. Focus on building you skills first (and get paid for that or do it for free). 

In 2016 I bought my last high ticket item after attending a webinar. It was an evergreen webinar which was disguised as a live webinar. I was frustrated and offended once I found out. I’ don’t even remember the content of the webinar. It was a joined venture webinar of three TIER 1 gurus. Yet I still bought into the $997 offer at the end from one of the TIER1 gurus. They were using all these sales tactics on me and they worked. I don’t regret it. It was the best thing I ever bought. I’m still grateful despite the tactics they used. The offer included some personal coaching. They really believed in me. This kind of belief can change EVERYTHING. It’s something that’s hard to describe. It’s where all this perceived value comes from. Recently I went through the last recording of the coaching. One of the gurus left me with the question that applies to all of us working in the online marketing industry:

“What’s your Leonel Messi question? Or LeBron James question?”

What are you passionate about waking up every morning? What would you do if money was no object just because you enjoy doing it? Build a business upon that. For some people, it is to become a guru or coach or motivational speaker. For some, it’s being a solopreneur or building a multimillion empire with 1000’s of employees.For some, it’s none of that. There is no right or wrong. It’s up to you. The gurus you can trust are the gurus that have 100% believe that they can help people. Even if their products might be of low quality in the beginning. It all starts with believing! This is why there is no such thing “as perceived value”.

If somebody value’s something it’s real. ​The only gurus I would despise are the ones who do not stand true to their money back guarantee. This would be a scam.Because belief is necessary for change. The real gurus are not in for the money even though they charge $997 or more to teach you some kind of “envelope stuffing”. The thing they teach is a self-fulfilling prophecy. This is a legitimate Ponzi scheme because only the people who take action become successful. This takes years of hard work. As soon as you enter any course you’ll know this. 

As some said in the fastlane forum who’s make 6-figures per year selling non-fiction books after he joined a course from a Tony Robbins coach:

My life has dramatically improved ever since I joined the group. If Steve gave me this information for free, I doubt I’d act on it. But since I paid for it (and not a meaningless amount like $10 for yet another book, but $197/month), I took it more seriously. I had to justify the investment to myself so I had to act on the advice.When you receive information for free or even for a low price, this effect is non-existent or weak.That’s why experts charge so much money and offer more expensive products even if the content is almost the same. I had a problem with that in the past (how can you charge people so much for information?), but now that I understand the psychology behind it (and the value it provides to clients who would otherwise not act on the advice), I think it’s smart (obviously I’m talking about people who share good advice, not fake gurus).When you’re selling information, you aren’t really in the business of selling information. You’re in the business of transforming lives (doesn’t matter what your niche is, the end result is to inspire your client to act on your advice, even if you give advice on landscaping) – and charging high prices is one way of making sure that a higher percentage of people will benefit from your advice and value it more.

Legitimate gurus WANT to help people and transform them

Providing value is a habit for them. If you meet them on the street or at an event in the audience they will share everything they know for free. Yet if you happen to see their ad and land in their funnel they will sell the hell out of you using all the tactics described. And because you paid for it you are more likely to take action. In the end it all comes down to intend and believe and you taking action with getting distracted.If you want to build your own online business helping people to transform you might be able to help change people lives.

You provide real value whether is in the form of solving a real problem or in the form of entertainment. If you believe they get their money’s worth and they believe the same it’s a legitimate business. The belief makes all the difference!

I think we all agree that the tactics of online marketing DO work. However just as Hillary said in the end of her article: 

1) Get the hell off the beach/vacation/spa table/retreat lounge chair and get back into your business god damnit.

​2) Focus more on value value value. Lay more groundwork. Do more footwork.

More knowledge and online courses will not help you to put in the put in the work that is required to build a successful business online.

You need to set up a system. This is what FindFocus is all about. 

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