Rant: Learning From The Flaws of “Gurus”

Let me preface this article by saying, I’m not here to bash John Chow.  He’s just doing a good job at being a “model subject” for the rant I’m about to write.  He’s one of the leaders in the internet marketing niche and has provided a lot of helpful and informational content over the past few years.  It’s gotten to the point now, however, where I’d almost say if you’re looking to make it online as a blogger, you need to look at what he does and do the opposite (or don’t do it at all). At least, keep it in mind when you’re starting out.

When it comes to blog posts and communicating with your e-mail list subscribers, you generally want to provide value and you want to pay attention to your readers.  They are the ones who made you successful, after all.  Granted, there are people who get really busy and become really popular, to the point where it’s almost impossible to reply to every comment and every e-mail (which is one of the reasons why Pat Flynn continues to amaze me – the man simply understands how to make a connection with an audience).  Even so, you should still respond to some comments and make some effort to remain connected.

Anyway, here’s what set me off today.

I’m on John Chow’s e-mail list and I regularly read his blog.  I wouldn’t say I’m huge fan, but I think it’s good to monitor the leaders of a niche (especially if it’s a niche you’re in), because there’s always something to learn from them whether you like them or not.  For those who don’t follow John Chow, most of his blog posts and nearly all of the e-mail sent to his list are promotional in nature.  I’m fine with this – I’ve opted to receive this e-mail, as I like to see what others are promoting.

This is borderline flaw #1, what I like to call “promoting without providing.”

Promoting products and services is fine as long as you also provide value. And it’s not to say John doesn’t ever provide value.  When you opt into his list, you do get a copy of his eBook, and it has some good information (along with, surprise, tons of affiliate links).  Also, you always have the option to opt-out of receiving the e-mail.  So, I’m fine with this.

Flaw #2 is really what set me off today.  I’ll label it “reckless promotion,” and it’s something I think there is no excuse for if you want anyone to take you seriously.  Here’s the e-mail John sent to his list Monday morning – I’ve changed some names and removed the links so that I’m not inadvertently also promoting the same thing.  I’ve bolded the areas that I think are reckless:

Hi Eric,

This weekend I am heading to jd’s event. jd’s event has become THE event in the Affiliate, Internet Marketing, SEO, Domainer, Internet Business and Make Money Online world.

Everyone at jd’s event is successful and making some serious money, or you don’t get invited, plus $3,000 to get in.

Normally jd charges between $2,500 and $15,000 for sponsorships.

This year he is auctioning the sponsorships off, starting at one dollar.  (http://jdevent.com/1.php) (Use “auctioning the sponsorships off” as the anchor text)

Each day after someone wins, he will be making one of his famous videos about the winning company, and showing the world the next day at jdevent.com where he pulled of an Alexa ranking of 7,000 within a month of going live.

He’s also teaching about why most sponsorships are a waste of money, and how to use small investments on sponsorship to make a lot more money back.

(This is good stuff I would not miss.) (http://jdevent.com/1.php) (Use “this is good stuff” as the anchor text)

The sponsorships may go for a steal, so I would jump on this. (http://jdevent.com/1.php) (Use “jump on this” as the anchor text)


Not only was this e-mail not written by John, but he couldn’t even take the time to read it himself before he sent it to his list. Reckless promotion.  In case you don’t quite understand what I mean, you’ll see that the bolded language above was actually provided to John by, presumably, “jd” to instruct John and other affiliates where to insert their affiliate link (i.e. which anchor text to use).

It’s fairly common for creators of products and services to provide affiliates with a “swipe file,” or an e-mail template to send to their list to promote the product/service.  This is fine.  But do you really need to make it blatantly obvious that you’re promoting something where you didn’t even take 2 minutes to read the e-mail you’re sending before you send it?

Most of us can’t afford to be reckless like this, so we need to learn from the mistakes of the “gurus” who can afford to screw up.  The bottom line is this: If you want to make it as a blogger (or make it in any other capacity where you provide content to readers), you need to provide value and make an effort to connect with your audience outside of promotional agendas.

Okay, I’ll calm down.  I’m sure it was an honest mistake.  If you think I’m misreading his e-mail, please let me know, and I will gladly rescind everything I’ve written in this rant.

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Darshan Shah
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18 Responses to “Rant: Learning From The Flaws of “Gurus””

  1. Eric, good point. Thanks for your post.


    Eric G. Reply:

    Thanks Florin, I appreciate it!


  2. Nice catch Eric, a lot of people would just skim over the email, ignore the promotion blah blah content and not notice. This is a great example of how to insult your subscribers, making them feel like they aren’t even worth the time for basic proof reading. Unfortunately this happens often… or maybe its a good thing because over time it will separate those who treat their list as nothing more than a captive audience to sell to, and those who consider their subscribers as their colleagues and potential partners and feel honored that they are interested in the value in the information and products that is shared with the audience.


    Eric G. Reply:

    It’s crazy how often it happens, and it really makes you wonder how some of these guys made it this big to begin with. You’re absolutely right – it’s insulting that someone wouldn’t even skim over an e-mail before sending it. At the end of the day, it’s probably not going to matter, but at least there’s a valuable lesson in it for the rest of it. Thanks for the comment, Colin!


  3. I almost laughed out loud at that email. I’m not a big fan of John Chow, mainly because I find it difficult to find the content through all the advertising – but you make a good point about following the leaders in your niche (even if they’re “recklessly promotional”).


    Eric G. Reply:

    As soon as my initial anger blew over, I was laughing too. Thanks for commenting, Andrew! I appreciate it.


  4. I hate to through gasoline on this fire….. but I rarely find great stuff on John’s site anymore, let alone the list. The site is all about promotions and the gem posts are far and few in between.

    Feel better? :) I understand where you’re coming from…


    Eric G. Reply:

    I absolutely agree, Moon. Don’t worry about throwing gasoline on the fire. :)

    For some reason, I still subscribe to his blog and list. I guess I’m worried if I don’t follow him, I’ll miss out on those rare gem posts.

    (By the way, sorry for the delay in replying to this comment – somehow it wound up in my spam filter!)


  5. The man who really does more than he / she is paid for will probably soon be paid for much more than he / she does


    Eric G. Reply:

    Interesting comment, I like it. :)


  6. Oh my gosh that’s crazy! I have unsubscribed from many of the top online-earning gurus for just this reason. One more affiliate promotion without any helpful content from PotPie.Girl and I’m ditching her list, too.

    I agree — if you’re not providing useful content and help to people, please don’t try to sell them stuff!


    Eric G. Reply:

    That’s great to see that you’ve actually taken the step to unsubscribe from these lists. I still haven’t gotten to that point yet, but I often delete the e-mail now without even opening it.


  7. I a bit suspicious about the internet nowadays. More often than not they have forgotten to put value in the materials they endorse. I have followed John for some time and I’ve learned a lot from him on how to succeed in blogging, but I always believe that value is an important element that will build our success online. :-)


    Eric G. Reply:

    Absolutely right, Walter. And I agree, John has taught a lot of people about how to succeed with blogging – there’s no question that he’s provided value in the past. I think when bloggers get to the point of internet celebrity status, however, the idea of providing value sometimes takes a back seat to earning money. :)


  8. Although I’ve since left Johns mailing list, I still stay on a couple (not to buy) but to actually examine how it progresses. I don’t know, maybe I’m just a nerd but I also use it to educate myself against those that are blatantly promoting stuff – much like what you said in the post.

    After a while, you find this pattern, usually goes.

    1. Intro to affiliate product
    2. Here’s the benefits
    3. Getting close!
    4. Here it is!
    5. Oops, I made a mistake (forgot something usually)
    6. Okay, no really, here it is
    7. Did you get that thing I sent ya?
    8. Okay what if I threw in this stuff?
    9. Seriously, please buy
    10. I need the commission :(
    11. Ah, screw it, next product!

    You just read them in amazement to see how far they’ll push you. Really helps you to deter away from becoming that kind of affiliate marketer.

    Thats what I like about you Eric – you’re the no BS type. Posts are always full of win and you’re not pushing the hell out of every next product. My hats off to you good sir!


    Eric G. Reply:

    Good stuff, Murlu, that e-mail pattern is pretty much spot on. I love #5 (the “oops, I made a mistake”) – it’s hilarious how often you see these “mistakes.” I’ll add a few more that I often see after step 10:

    11. This offer expires in 24 hours!
    12. You only have 4 hours left!!!
    13. I hate to say it, but you only have ONE hour left.
    14. I’ve decided to extend the offer by an additional 48 hours – this will be your last chance EVER to get a deal this great.

    I agree, this method is extremely pushy. Part of me wonders how effective it is. On the one hand, yeah, it’s annoying. On the other hand, no one actually forcing you to buy anything, so if you do decide to make the purchase, maybe that pattern works for a reason?

    Thanks for the comment, Murlu, I appreciate it.


  9. Most of the time, I don’t even open these emails. There has to be a killer subject before I even want to open it.

    Basically I know that 70% of the time, the guys are just sending me a swipefile or at least the same affilliate product that a couple of the others are also promoting (usually up to a big launch).

    Every now and then I get irritated enough to cancel my subscription…


    Eric G. Reply:

    Yeah, you are definitely right about that, Rasmus, except I think it could even be higher than 70%! For some reason, I still don’t cancel my subscriptions, and I don’t know why.

    Maybe I get pleasure out of hitting the delete button in my e-mail inbox?


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