Categories
SEO

Content Amplification to Become a Recognized Authority

To add to your attractability, you need to position yourself as an authority in your field. And the best way to do that is by becoming a recognized expert, which you can do through, among others, vertical specialization.

But once you do, the next step is to communicate and amplify your digital marketing company. It makes no sense to become a recognized expert when no one recognizes you — or better said, when no one knows you or knows enough about you.

There are many ways to do this, and content marketing is one them. But there are quite a few more. And I did promise you that I would write about them.

So here it is.

Before I dive in, I know you may be doing some of these already. But, and forgive me for sounding a bit Coveyvian, if you do them without doing the first things first, many of your efforts may be in vain or with less ampleur.

So here are some of the most common authority-based activities you can do to help market yourself and become a recognized authority in your field.

1. Claim Your Expertise

By far, this is the most important step to follow.

Branding, particularly personal branding, is not for the sake of getting your ego in the spotlight. In fact, your unique expertise is attached to you, what you do, what you offer, and how you do it. So your unique expertise is your brand.

But creating an identifiable and distinct brand around your expertise adds value because it generates top-of-mind awareness, communicates inherent competitive advantages, and above all, feeds your SEO machine.

People who get to know you and hear about you will feel an affinity with who you are and what you stand for. So they will remember you, look you up when they need you, or tell others about you openly. And often.

To claim your expertise, you need to brand yourself as an expert. “Claim your crown and assume the throne,” as Lisa Sasevich says in Meant For More.

But you don't do it by yelling “I'm an expert!” You do it through implication, and remember that implication is more powerful than specification. You do it by labeling yourself in a way where your expertise is implied.

You do it through your branding, tagline, position statement, and names on your business, products/services, and processes (including your work processes as well as your thought processes, such as your intellectual property).

For example, if people don't know you or they only know your credentials, then saying you're “an authority on hair transplants” is nothing remarkable, and may even seem suspect and self-serving.

But if you said you're the creator of the Microfollicular Redistribution™ process, then you are an authority because you appear as an industry pioneer.

You're instantly claiming your expertise without having to flaunt it. And instead of going up against other surgeons in an already highly competitive and overly saturated hair transplant category, you are creating your own category, and becoming the leader in it because no one else is competing with you.

Nevertheless, once you claimed your expertise, don't forget to promote your brand in everything you do, say, and write. That includes your style, your logo, your tagline, your color scheme, your voice, and all those things that add attractability to your expertise.

Use it in all your collateral materials, in your content, and with your people. For example, each time Seth Godin ends a book or presentation, he signs off with “go make a ruckus.” That's his thing. His signature. His purple cow.

2. Create Your Content

Content marketing is by far the best and most productive way to communicate and amplify your expertise. While the first one above was “claim your expertise,” I could have called this one “share your expertise.”

The goal is create content assets that you can leverage and disseminate. There are many types. You can write or create:

  • Print books
  • Blog posts
  • Ebooks
  • White papers
  • Newsletters
  • Kindle books
  • Reports
  • Tipsheets
  • Cheatsheets
  • Checklists
  • Templates
  • Case studies
  • Quickstart guides
  • Slide decks
  • Infographics
  • Carousels
  • Social media posts
  • Video recordings
  • Audio recordings
  • Podcasts
  • Web apps
  • Phone apps
  • Guest posts
  • Transcripts
  • Infoproducts
  • Courses

This is a partial list. But of all these, writing your book is definitely a priority as it is one of the most effective tools for establishing yourself as an authority.

Authors are instantly perceived as experts on their subject matter. But your book also creates a domino effect and helps other areas (including those I will cover in this article), such as building a following, attracting media attention, creating speaking opportunities, and of course, selling yourself to ideal clients.

3. Speak Your Authority

An expert doesn't have to speak publicly to prove their expertise. Their written, audio, and video content should communicate that. However, proving their authority can often be better communicated in a live, public setting.

There are many reasons for this.

I understand this is not for everyone. But public speaking, though it's a fear for many, is an incredibly powerful tool to communicate your authority.

It's about having the courage to speak your truth and the ability to speak on your feet. Because that is what communicates authority: your ability to speak authoritatively, which can be hard to appreciate in a written format.

While public speaking can be prewritten and rehearsed, the ability to speak in front of others, in a live setting, adds an extra dimension to your content.

It doesn't matter if it's from the stage, lectern, podium, or pulpit, or if it's in an auditorium or in front of a camera, you can truly judge someone's level of expertise, knowledge, and authenticity when you see them speak live.

You can perceive the meta-messages, the messages beyond the message — the subtle cues and nuances you wouldn't be able to capture in written text.

Body language and vocal characteristics — like posture, stance, mannerisms, pitch, volume, inflection, and so much more — offer clues as to the person's level of credibility, clues that are often perceived unconsciously.

More importantly, these clues also convey the level of confidence, belief, and conviction they have in their expertise, knowledge, and point-of-view.

Sure, an expert can be incredibly knowledgeable in their field but still sound dry, boring, or dispassionate. (I know of a few college professors who exemplify this quite well, thank you very much.) And you certainly can communicate your expertise without uttering a single word in public.

But to be a recognized authority, you have to be able to sell ideas, as well as your services, in a public setting. At least in a face-to-face situation.

Also, you don't need to learn public speaking skills. As a former executive speaking coach said, “Speaker training is helpful — if you want to be a professional speaker.” As she said in this article with which I agree wholeheartedly: “Authenticity overrides form.” I also like this passage:

Watch a few TED talks. You'll find plenty of reticent, wonky presenters who are fascinating. What makes a person a strong presenter is that their presence shines through, showing their passion and expertise for their topic.

Kristi Hedges

So grab every chance you can to speak. Host live events, such as YouTube and Facebook livestreams, which you can restream with tools like Streamyard. If you don't know what to say, do live Q&As, opinion pieces, or Zoom meetups.

Of course, there are live teleseminars and webinars, too. While you could (and should) record these to use as additional content assets, they are first done live and provide that extra dimension I talked about.

4. Build Your Following

Social media is definitely important when it comes to amplifying your content. But the true power of social media is reaching your audience and creating a following — people who are genuinely interested in what you have to say.

Some professionals have audiences so large that they've reached influencer status. But you don't need to rise (or stoop, as some might argue) to the level of a Kardashian. And you certainly don't need to create a cult of personality.

But having and leveraging a group of people who follow what you say, post, do, or share can help augment and propagate your expertise.

Whether it's on third-party platforms such as social networks, or on your own platforms such as your blog or email list, building a following along with a connection with your followers also creates a valuable, leverageable asset.

Your followers will resonate with you, write content about you, refer others to you, evangelize for you, and even defend you if your integrity or credibility is ever questioned let alone attacked.

Speaking of third-party platforms, remember that the second largest search engine in the world is YouTube. People search YouTube as often as they do Google to find information, particularly how-to information.

It goes to reason that you need to have video content on YouTube as well. However, the secondary benefit is the ability to create a loyal fanbase of subscribers who are eager to watch every video you publish.

Often, people share videos they find (or from channels they follow) on other platforms — including in their social media feeds, on their blogs, to their lists, or within their own content pieces.

Which brings me to the next point…

5. Form Your Alliances

Without question, owning your own content assets is essential. They, along with your following (such as your list), are assets you can leverage to help promote your expertise and authority. But often, you can leverage other people's content assets, platforms, or followings, too.

One of the many tools I used when I first started out, for example, was creating strategic marketing alliances. I was fortunate and grateful to have created some richly rewarding partnerships and joint ventures that allowed me to tap into other pools of clients, leads, and followers.

Early in my career, I learned from marketing guru Dan Kennedy to “be prolific.” And it is as effective today as it was back then — even with the Internet.

Being a prolific author often means to have a large body of work. But being a prolific authority is to be ubiquitous, too. To be everywhere (that counts).

One way to expand your reach is to run your own affiliate program. Having affiliates is one of the easiest ways to proliferate your authority, which is just a way of paying others a finder's fee or commission for referring someone to you.

But for many licensed professionals, doing this is highly regulated, discouraged, even prohibited. However, there are ways to create alliances and leverage other people, without getting any kickbacks or offering any kind of incentive.

For example, offer your expertise they can use in their content assets.

Offer to write guest posts, contribute to their newsletters, become a guest on their podcasts, respond to their interviews, help in causes important to them, create your own association (or at least join and help them), and so on.

Other publications, blogs, and shows are desperate for content. Make yourself available or offer to provide fresh, unique content they can use.

While you can contribute to others who appeal to similar audiences, don't ignore mainstream media. HARO, or “Help a Reporter Out,” is a great service that allows you to connect with reporters who need experts like you.

Then there are third-party learning platforms you can sell courses on or publish free courses to. There are many, but some of the most popular ones are Udemy, Teachable, Thinkific, Podia, LinkedIn Learning, Coursera, and Skillshare.

There's also marketing and affiliate networks you can sell courses through, like Clickbank, JVZoo, ShareASale, and many others (and let's not forget Amazon).

When you create courses, you certainly can host and sell them yourself. But by also using these third-party platforms, you can leverage their existing exposure, affiliate programs, and database of ready-to-promote affiliates, as well as their existing traffic and clients.

Finally, don't forget to be active on other platforms as well. Engaging others on social media platforms, blogs, emails lists, or livestream events, such as asking questions or commenting on other people's posts, allow you to piggyback on other people's brand and level of reach.

In short, you're demonstrating your expertise to an already captive and targeted audience — even if it's not yours, as long as it is ethical to do so.

A final word.

Being an expert is relatively easy. Being an authority can be just as easy. But being a recognized authority takes work. It's not an overnight process, I agree, But it doesn't have to take as much time as you think.

Just create content assets and use platforms, yours as well as those of others, that allow you to amplify your expertise so that people can find you, learn about you, follow you, buy from you, and tell others about you.

In other words, be become a recognized authority, you need to amplify it.

Categories
Copywriting

How I Broke Into Copywriting

My last post, where a disgruntled copywriter demanded “the truth” about creating wealth in copywriting, inspired copywriter Andrew Cavanagh to share the story of his beginnings on my forum:

“Here's how I made my first ‘money' in copywriting.”

Then one by one, other copywriters started adding their own. The responses were nothing short of amazing! Many of the stories show that there's indeed hope. They also show that we were all struggling copywriters once, too.

And we didn't all become overnight millionaires with million-dollar clients, as “Chuck,” the disillusioned copywriter, postulated.

I loved it so much that I posted my own story. I've decided to share it with you here. (By the way, the picture below is of me, circa 1991. A lot thinner, with glasses, and a lot more hair!)

Michel Fortin (1991)
Michel Fortin (1991)

Anyway, here is my story.

When I first started out, I was a salesperson. And the worst part was, I loathed cold-calling. Especially since I had this excruciating fear of rejection. I still have it. (If you know me, then you know about the story of my alcoholic father and how my fear was the result.)

Update: I first wrote this article in 2007. Since then, I discovered that I have ADHD and suffer from RSD, or Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, which explains why I fear rejection so much.

I accidentally stumbled onto copywriting not by chance or by education, but by desperation. You see, I dove into sales in order to fight my fears head-on. I was working on strict commissions at the time as a licensed insurance salesman. I also had a young family to support.

So I thought that the pressure would help kick me into gear. But I was doing so poorly that my family and I had to eat 25-cent ramen noodle packages for months! Eventually, I was forced to declare bankruptcy at 21 years old.

I remember that time like it was yesterday.

The humiliation and the hurt I felt was indescribable. In a matter of days, the car company repossessed my car, the landlord evicted us from our home, and my wife took our daughter and left me. (We eventually divorced.)

I was desperate to make money. So I had to find a way to get people to listen to my presentation. One day, the insurance company (Prudential Canada) requested feedback from sales reps for ideas to improve sales.

I may have feared rejection immensely, but I was always teeming with ideas. I didn't realize it back then, but I was a natural at marketing.

So I sent a suggestion to the company, which was to have a rider that people could add to their life insurance policies, which would allot a portion of their coverage to a charitable organization of their choice.

Prudential loved my idea and launched a new product called (if memory serves) Charity Plus. They sent me a letter to thank me for my “contribution.” I even remember the sales manager reading it out loud to everyone at the next sales meeting. I was blushing with pride. We were both proud.

Excited, I decided to write letters to people within my territory offering them a free presentation to go over this new product with them. It was an open door, if you will. A perfect opportunity to reassess people's policies.

That's when I had a lightbulb moment and realized that this — writing salesletters — was my “way out” of doing cold-call prospecting.

I could mail to anyone asking if they would be willing to set an appointment with me. That way, I no longer had to be rejected. (It didn't work at first. I tried several times and I was about to give up a number of times, too.)

But then, things “clicked.”

I started booking appointments and selling policies. I later became one of the top salespeople for this insurance company for about eight months in a row.

Problem is, I hated my job. I hated it because I had a poor territory (salespeople were assigned territories), and this was back in the old days when insurance agents also had to visit every single client each month to collect premiums.

(My territory was so poor, some paid their premiums with empty beer bottles!)

So I moved on.

Eventually, I found a job as a consultant for a hair restoration company. Some of their services included hair transplants and surgery, with a doctor on staff.

My main job was as a patient advocate, where I consulted clients on the appropriate hair restoration method for them. I was paid a very small base salary but with commissions on any sales I made.

Part of my job, among others (and similar to what I did in the insurance biz), was to help increase appointments of consultations with prospects.

That included writing copy for direct mail pieces, display ads in newspapers (with dense copy), information packages, and even infomercial scripts. Which is why I liked the job. I didn't have to do any prospecting.

You see, the way it works is that people first read the ad or see the infomercial on TV, and then they request a free information kit to be mailed to them. If the client was interested, they would call to book a consultation with me.

During my first year, I noticed something peculiar. Before every consultation, the clinic asked prospects to fill out a form (e.g., asking about their medical history and other forms of hair replacement tried, etc).

If a prospect went ahead and bought, a client file was created. But if they didn't, I would do some phone follow-up. And if that didn't work either, their consult form was simply filed away in a storage box.

One day, I stumbled onto a bunch of these boxes in storage (I think there were 30-40 of them), which contained several years' worth of filled-out consultation forms of clients who never bought.

That's when a lightbulb lit up in my head.

It reminded me of my experience at the insurance company.

I asked my employer to buy a computer. (At the time, the only person with a computer was the accountant!) We hired a data entry clerk from a temp-help agency, and created a database of all these people who didn't take action.

Next, I wrote a direct mail piece, which made a limited-time offer.

The direct mail touted some new hair replacement procedure that looked a lot more natural than its predecessor, as well as new advancements in the field of cosmetic surgery that were introduced since their last consultation.

That's when things started to explode! I don't remember the exact number, but this little direct mail campaign resulted in over a million dollars in sales.

(Keep in mind, the price range for hair restoration solutions ranged anywhere between $2,000 to $20,000, particularly in the case of hair transplants.)

I even remember on the last week of the promotion, there was a lineup outside the waiting room of people wanting to get a consultation before the promotion ended. I was obviously ecstatic. In fact, it was also my highest grossing week in terms of commissions. (It was around $7,000 Canadian.)

Since then, we repeated this feat several times. Many of my dense-copy display ads would get a ton of new clients and patients, and I was doing quite well.

My base salary at the time was $22,000. But I made a lot more than that in commissions. I think it was around $80,000 back in the early 90s.

Now, over the period of a few years, this company grew by leaps and bounds. I would say mostly because of my help. (Admittedly, my employer at the time, who was also my mentor, was a brilliant salesperson. I learned a lot from him.)

As the company grew, opening several franchises across North America, I was tasked with the job of hiring and training salespeople in them, and consulting their owners (including doctors on staff) on how to market themselves.

And yes, that included copywriting, too.

My employer flew me to almost every major city to conduct these trainings.

Here's the problem.

While I'm on the road training other people about marketing and consulting, I wasn't selling. So my income went back down to $22,000. I was getting worried.

He had hired another consultant to take my place, so I couldn't go back to selling. But I was working really hard while the company made a ton of money. “There's got to be something better than this,” I kept saying to myself.

So I approached my employer and asked for a raise. After much back-and-forth over several weeks, one day I was called into the meeting room. The office manager then said to me, “You're doing fine work, Michel.”

“Oh, great,” I said to myself. “I can feel something good is going to happen!”

She said, “I know you've been working hard training all these franchises while not making any commissions like you used to. We want to give you a raise for your hard work and dedication.”

“Your new salary will be increased as of today by…

(I was grinning with anticipation.)

“… An extra $3,000.”

I said, “Oh, $3,000 a month! Great!”

“No, no,” she said, “your new annual salary is now $25,000.”

I was so disappointed. And angry.

Don't forget, those were Canadian dollars (less than $17,000 USD) and nowhere near the $80,000 I made previously. As you can imagine, being partly responsible for their explosive growth, I felt rejected. And hurt.

Not willing to give up, I kept asking. But with every protest I made, they gave me a different reason as to why they couldn't “afford” to raise it more.

So I quit the very next month.

It was the best decision I ever made.

I went freelance, and shortly thereafter created a company called “The Success Doctor.” (I specialized in doctors since I gained a lot of experience in that field. So the name implied “I help doctors become successful.”)

I wasn't doing too bad. But I was still eking out a meager living charging anywhere between $100 to $500 per copywriting project. (My clients at the time were primarily local doctors with small offices.)

But some of them did work really well. My first royalty arrangement was while working for a hair transplant doctor in Toronto. I was getting paid a salary plus commissions plus a percentage of the clinic's profits.

One day, while working for one doctor, a sales rep came to the clinic selling advertising space on this thing called “the world wide web.” Their services included a web page and a listing in their directory.

My curiosity was piqued.

You see, part of my job as a marketing consultant was writing copy in different media to get exposure for my clients. I was a big fan of the yellow pages. So this seemed like a natural complement.

Plus, I've been using BBS services (dialup bulletin boards) since I was 11 years old. So I knew this would be a good medium to advertise in.

Plus, since a lot of people saw our TV infomercials but failed to call for our information kit, it made perfect sense to be in as many places as possible when they finally did decide to do something about their hairloss.

So I created my client's website in 1992.

Over time, I worked with other types of cosmetic surgeons. Then other types of doctors (e.g., dentists, chiropractors, acupuncturists, physiotherapists, etc). Then other types of professionals and service providers.

But as a result of that one sales rep's presentation (which sold me on having a presence on the world wide web), I decided that I should have a website for myself, promoting my freelance work.

So I signed up on this new thing called Geocities back in 1994, and created my first website. It was nothing to sneeze at. It was just a simple, brochure-like web page with contact information. (I later registered “SuccessDoctor.com.”)

The result? Nothing. Not a single request.

Years before, however, I wrote a booklet called “The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning.” I used it as a way to get clients to hire me offline — the report was much like a salesletter in disguise. And it worked quite well.

So going online, I decided to digitize my report and offer it for free, especially if people joined my email list. (As far as I can tell, I was one of the first ones to do this way back then. At least in the freelance marketing or copywriting business.)

I started with some article marketing. I would chop my booklet into standalone articles, where the byline promoted the “rest of the articles” (i.e., the booklet).

It worked well. But the day my traffic and business really exploded was when I decided to let other people pass that booklet around. As a result of that little book, my site was bombarded with quote requests.

I was doing some salesletters and web page copy for as little as $300-$2,000 each. Mind you, I also did a lot of free ones at the time only to get my name out there and start building my portfolio. I also bartered a lot.

That's when things started moving very quickly.

It was late 1998, and I made a bartering deal for a well-known marketer. I did his long web copy for just $2,000 in exchange for getting referrals from him and for publishing my articles to his list, which was part of our arrangement.

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Bottom line, it does take work. And there's no such thing as “overnight riches.” Thinking that this happens when you first start out as a new copywriter is an illusion. It took me the better part of 20 years to get to where I am today.

However, with so much training and information available, it shouldn't take that long for anyone with enough gumption, bouncebackability, and the right attitude to get there.

It may have taken me 20 years. But knowing what I now know, I can safely say that, if I were to lose everything once again, even overnight, I can easily make it all back — and then some — and do it in a lot less time.

To echo something my friend the late, great Gary Halbert once said, “If you're a good copywriter, there's no reason why you should be starving.”

There you have it!

Now let me ask you, what's YOUR story?

Categories
Copywriting

Lesson Learned, Lesson Earned

Preamble: today, I'm taking a walk down memory lane, talking about my history and the seedy side of marketing. It's not pretty. I tell this story in large part as a warning and a lesson. If you're OK with that, then join me, will you?


After watching a brilliant video with copywriter Jim Clair opening up about the dark side of copywriting, I had an interesting phone conversation with an indie journalist about the state of the Internet marketing industry.

As you might (or not) know, I was well-steeped in this industry, writing copy for and giving talks at Internet marketing seminars around the world.

Up until I met my (now late) wife in the early 2000s, most of the talks I gave were about copywriting. A few were on marketing. After we met and got married, we spoke together on stage about how to create and run online businesses.

But when my wife got sick with breast cancer, everything took a backseat for obvious reasons. Before she passed, she wrote a scathing exposé on the darker side of the Internet marketing industry, called Internet Marketing Sins.

During the conversation with that journalist, I was reminded by how far we've come in some ways and how we haven't in others. For example, we talked about the evolution of marketing online, and how that evolution brought about a certain schism in this industry. (I'll come back to this later.)

It was also one of the main reasons I wrote my manifesto back in 2005, called The Death of The Salesletter, and also why I eventually left the industry.

Let me back up a little bit.

In my early career, I was working as a marketing consultant and copywriter for cosmetic surgeons and hair transplant doctors. I wrote full-page display ads, created collateral materials, and scripted late-night infomercials.

The infomercial invited viewers to call and request more information. We then mailed a brochure describing the procedure. From those who received one, interested candidates would call back to book an appointment with the doctor to discuss their hairloss and available treatment options.

At the time, I studied all the greats in sales and marketing. I attended day-long seminars, bought courses that came in huge three-ring binders, watched hours of VHS tapes, and listened to countless Nightingale-Conant cassettes. (In fact, I owned so many, I had an entire room with a library filled with tapes.)

I turned my car into a “university on wheels,” as Zig Ziglar would often say. My trunk had at least 10-20 of these tapesets at all times — each set containing anywhere from 12 to 36 cassettes.

I remember attending an all-day seminar in Toronto (back in 1990, I believe), paid for by owner of the clinic who hired me. One of speakers was Dan Kennedy. After that talk, I was hooked. I bought all his stuff, subscribed to his newsletter, and immersed myself in the world of direct marketing.

This helped me to create a late-night infomercial on hair transplants that was so successful, it ran for over a decade. The Internet wasn't around back then (or not well known). But when I decided to create this clinic's first website in 1992, I used the same principles I learned with infomercials.

In short, the Internet was a perfect place for mail-order marketing.

But here's the interesting part.

Those seminars had speakers of all stripes: from motivational speakers and business people to peak performance coaches — including former Presidents, TV celebrities, award-winning athletes, and rockstar CEOs.

But these seminars were mostly pitchfests in disguise.

At the time, I didn't know better. I only later learned that there was a seedy side to the seminar business. It was the kind of seminar where speakers usually sold get-rich-quick courses and bizopp programs from the stage — often promising overnight wealth and success.

These kinds of seminars were big in the 70s and 80s. Many of the speakers were mail-order business opportunity hawkers. They would pitch their Joe Karbo-esque moneymaking offers, often “businesses in a box,” to a crowd of hungry (and often financially hurting) audience members.

Most of them were quasi-Ponzi schemes sold by snake oil salespeople — the kind that promised you could make money buying their courses, which only taught you to basically create the same business they did.

And most of these speakers were affiliates for one another, promoting each other, often to the same group of people. Some were even competitors to each other, too. But that didn't stop them. As my friend Paul Myers often said, “The industry is filled with incestuous cannibals.”

I was young, naive, gullible, and broke — the kind of person that a lot of these seminars preyed on. I even wrote saleletters for some of these seminars.

In the 70s and 80s, seminars like these were mostly about mail-order marketing (and a few on real estate and investing). But by the mid to late 90s, they started to include Internet marketing. It made perfect sense. After all, it's essentially mail-order marketing but in a digital format.

I was invited to speak at one of them on the topic of copywriting. I spoke on stage before, but not at seminars like these. So I gladly accepted.

I always loved teaching. That's why I taught marketing part-time at a local college in the late 90s. And part of me wanted to become a public speaker, too. I even remember buying public speaking courses from the same purveyors I bought marketing courses from.

But I made a mistake. I wasn't aware that I had to pitch something at the end of my talk. Little did I know that I had to sell something. The reason is, the seminar promoter would take a 50% cut of your sales. After all, the seminar promoter paid to pack the seminar room and to process all the speakers' sales.

Obviously, by not making a single sale, I failed miserably. I lost a lot of money for the promoter that day. And I felt absolutely terrible.

Other speakers criticized me, and some even teased me about it for years. I felt utterly dejected and I was also in a lot of pain. That's not an exaggeration. With people with RSD (or rejection-sensitive dysphoria, a common issue among people with ADHD), the pain is very real. It can also be debilitating, too.

I thought that I would never be asked to speak again.

And for years, nobody did ask.

But one day, a few years later, the same seminar promoter took a chance on me. This time, I was determined to prove myself. I hated being chastised, much less ostracised, by my peers. My RSD was begging for peer acceptance.

I did it not for the money but for the attention.

This time, I did exceptionally well. I even broke that entire event's sales record and they christened me as the “top speaker” at the end. My pitch? It was for a copywriting course where I shared videos of me critiquing other people's copy.

The seminar industry was rife with platform pitches (it still is, but it's nowhere near the bubble it was back in the 2000s). I do believe that some speakers sold legitimate courses. But at one point, it seemed as if internet marketing was becoming less about education and more about making money.

In fact, what the speakers were pitching started to look more like packaged business opportunities and get-rich-quick schemes. It was at that point that I grew increasingly disenchanted with the industry as a whole.

More importantly (and disgustingly), many of them preyed on the financially vulnerable and gullible. I've heard stories of people refinancing their homes to be able to buy some of these courses. Ouch.

Some Internet marketers even hired boilerroom-style telemarketers who used high-pressure sales tactics to close deals. I heard stories that some of them made up prices just to fit whatever was left on credit cards in an attempt to squeeze out every single penny they could.

Gross.

And to think that I was part of that circle.

I'm glad that I got out. In fact, my exit was largely precipitated by my wife's cancer, which was a blessing in disguise. When her health took a turn for the worse, we stopped speaking or even attending these seminars.

(It was also around the same time my mother passed away from cancer. We set up a hospice in our home so I could take care of her. She died right in front of me. So did my wife just a few years later. But I digress.)

When we were hearing more and more horror stories of people falling for these hucksters, it made both of us sick, and it wasn't because of the chemotherapy.

Speaking of which, this was also a time when a lot of these snake-oil pushers were hounding my sick, dying wife with their infoproducts touting natural cures and pseudo-scientific bull manure. One even accused me of being a shill for Big Pharma and that I should be ashamed of “killing my wife with chemo.”

This was the impetus that led my wife to write her Internet Marketing Sins report. It made us a lot of enemies, and I remember we weren't being asked to speak anymore — let alone to become an affiliate for other Internet marketers during their big launches. We were perfectly fine with that.

Fast-forward to today.

I watch a lot of videos on marketing. And I'm astounded when I see YouTube preroll ads from marketers who are selling their moneymaking courses. New faces and new pitches, but it's all the same old game.

It's predatory at best and illegal at worst.

Which reminds me, here's what I meant about the schism earlier…

Many of the old Internet marketers who are still around — only a few of them are, and others may have left the industry or gone underground, I really don't know — have pivoted to the SaaS industry, and now sell software or services.

Maybe they've seen the errors of their ways. Maybe they've realized there's more money in selling picks and shovels — i.e., software and services that help build real businesses — rather than snake oil (i.e., hopes and dreams).

I guess that's a good thing.

Personally, here's my take.

I don't believe in teaching someone how to make money. Not directly. And not anymore. Money is a byproduct of running a business, serving a customer, and solving a problem. It's better to sell courses that teach people real skills on how to run and grow a business, or to sell tools and services that help them do so.

To reiterate something my late wife said in Internet Marketing Sins: “Make money at the service of others, not at the expense of others.”

Lesson learned. And lesson earned.