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How You’re Being Tricked Into Wasting Your Marketing Dollars On Ineffective Programs

By October 14, 2014February 1st, 2018Marketing Insights & Strategy, Podcast, Readings
How You’re Being Tricked Into Wasting Your Marketing Dollars On Ineffective Programs

Have You Seen The $4,000 Toothbrush?

It’s real, I swear.

And it begs the question: what makes a toothbrush worth $4,000?

The answer is pretty simple, actually. It’s worth $4,000 because that’s what someone is willing to pay for it.

The idea of “what something is worth” – otherwise known as its value – is measured in the consumer world by the law of supply and demand. The same way there is nothing inherently “valuable” about a diamond (they make them in a lab now, you know) there is nothing particularly valuable about a $4,000 toothbrush. The object inherits its value based on our perceptions and our willingness to buy it. That’s why the $1,000 ice cream sundae exists and in another month you’ll start seeing the Neiman Marcus fantasy catalog everywhere (I hear this year’s features a peacock floral sculpture for a mere $65,000).

But when it comes to business the idea of value still lies in the return that a product or service yields. So the consumer who uses a $4,000 toothbrush may get just as adequate a cleaning as the guy who gets the free one from his dentist, but you can bet that the business person who drops four grand on a marketing program doesn’t do it for the pretty colors. That guy wants to see return.

That also makes it more challenging to work in the B2B space, because it’s a lot harder to sell something that doesn’t promise a better outcome.

And yet, paradoxically, it’s also a lot easier to trick you, as a business, into spending your marketing budget on something completely worthless.

The toothbrush ad is honest. “I’m pretty. And you have a lot of money, so buy me.”

But the business ad is not always so honest. And that’s what I want to talk to you about today so that the next time you feel compelled to part with your money in the interest of marketing your business, you’ll know where to stop and shut the wallet.

This Advice Is Worth $15,476

You might as well write me a check now because that’s how much I’m going to save you in wasted plans.

The trick I’m talking about is common and it plays to our psychology because everyone wants a deal.

So the trick employs the “fabricated value” method and the pitch usually goes something like this.

This fantastic marketing program will transform your business into a money-making machine.

In this program you’ll learn the three secrets that only the professionals know.

And I’ll share the ONE trick that will increase your website traffic by 400% in just two days.

Plus as an added value I’ll give you my blueprint to success absolutely free. This is the one that I followed to personally grow my business into a six-figure company in less than a year.

I’ll pause here because you’re probably salivating right now. I bet you want to know where you can get your hands on that, right?

Hold on a sec, because I’m going to tell you.

But first, I want to tell you how this trick ends, and it’s always something like this:

Now normally my three secrets alone would sell for $1,987.

And the traffic trick is worth $5,542 because that’s how much my clients make in new business after using it.

I told you the blueprint is free and I’m giving it to you because I really want to get it in your hands but if you wanted to buy it, that would cost another $7,947 because I literally give away all of the tricks and secrets I used to build my own business.

The total value of this package is $15,476 but I want to offer it to you for less.

Would you pay $10,000 for it?

How about $5,000?

Well, what if I told you that today you can have it for just $2,500?

If you’ve been online for more than five minutes I can almost guarantee that you’ve seen some version of this. And so to answer your burning question: where can you get this?


Just look around. You’ll find Facebook courses and writing courses. Social media programs and email programs.

Marketing plans and monthly packages.

And every one of them will assign a value to the product or service and then sell it for well under its value.


Because it was never worth that in the first place. Trust me, if someone – you, me, anyone – has something that’s worth $15,000 we’re darn well going to sell it for $15,000 and not “give it away” at a fraction of its cost.

I’m not saying that the “value” is arbitrary but it is fabricated. Maybe there was one person who saw some return after using or buying the program and that became the measure of worth. Maybe the seller calculated all of her expenses and multiplied that by the number of hours she spent putting the program together then added in the potential revenue associated with using her plan successfully.

Either way it’s utterly irrelevant to you and a complete waste of your marketing budget.

You are being tricked by the psychology of the deal and enticing words like “secrets” and “six figures”.

And if you’re not making six figures then I bet you don’t have the budget to waste on something like this.

I Can Tell You Exactly How To Build Your Business. And This Advice Is Free.

Do you want to grow your business? Build your brand and authority online?

Do you want to master Facebook marketing and have a killer website and rock your email campaigns? Do you want more leads and customers?

Then here is exactly, precisely, specifically what you need to do: work.

Try. Test. Fail. Sweat. Get frustrated. Do it again.

Not sexy, is it?

And not even a secret.

But it’s the closest to a real guarantee you can get. Work, learning, trying something new and systematically evaluating your efforts so that you can cut out the stuff that doesn’t work and do more of the stuff that does – that’s your secret, blueprint and multi-stepped program right there. And I just gave it to you for free. (If you haven’t yet, listen to our podcast with business owner Glen Koedding. He built his business into a million dollar enterprise within two years – with work.)

But we don’t like that advice. We don’t want to hear that there isn’t some magic, secret formula that will surely propel our businesses forward. We want to skip all the ugly, sweaty stuff and get right to part where we know what to do and how to do it.

But I bet you know that’s simply not going to happen.

Here’s another secret for you: even if you did find a magic, secret formula and things went swimmingly for a while, you’d eventually hit a plateau. That’s because the world continues to change even as you keep plugging away at your formula. Technology changes. Marketing opportunities and channels change. People change – and that means your customers’ needs and expectations change. Even your own business changes.

Fifteen years ago my company was helping customers put their message out on CD-ROM. Imagine if we still tried to do that today.

Change is the only constant. And that means programs, formulas, steps and anything that otherwise purports to be “the way” to do something is by default wrong.

Oh, and another thing about those blueprints? They may, in fact, work wonders for Bob Down The Block. But that by no means implies that they will work for you.

Every day we go to great lengths to differentiate. To be special and unique and to be the company that people want to do business with. So if your business is so unique and special, why would you assume that you could do the same thing as Bob and get the same result?

So the next time you’re tempted (and I know how tempting it is to think that someone out there just KNOWS the right thing) and you think that investing a mere $2,500 in a marketing plan or program is going to be the magic bullet it promises, I want you to stop.

I don’t even want you to think because you already know the answer. You already know that the thing you’re being promised is a big, fat load of junk.

You know, even as your lizard brain responds to promises of glory and success, that the only real way to success is through hard work.

Sometimes that’s your hard work. And sometimes it’s the hard work of others that you hire to help you.

So whether you tackle your marketing solo or hire a company like mine to help you, just remember that someone has to put in the work. Someone has to try, measure, sweat and do it again. Not every idea is going to be a winner. Not every result is going to manifest overnight.

But what I can tell you is that if you plan, implement and evaluate the outcome then you’ll find your true path to success and then you can follow it all the way to a beach in Barcelona – because that’s where I’ll be, enjoying the return on my years of avoiding marketing tricks and doing this business thing the real way – through commitment. And work.

Join the discussion 14 Comments

  • AlisaMeredith says:

    “Try. Test. Fail. Sweat. Get frustrated. Do it again.” I cannot believe you just gave away my $2,387 secret formula for free.

  • mohammad umair says:

    You most probably saved a lot of hard earned money of many folks. Thanks for an honest article

  • I won’t mention her name (cause, you know … maintaining professionalism and all) but someone we both know just created a sales page for her latest offering — a super duper deal “valued at” $$$ — for el cheapo. My first thought was, “If this thing is worth that dollar amount, why not promote it at that price?!” Sheesh. I stopped falling for that baloney a long time ago.

    LOVE your audio posts, Carol Lynn! Not only informative but very entertaining. 🙂

  • Louise Myers says:

    Great article, Carol Lynn! I only wish I could replicate the financial success of people who actually do sell like this.

  • Wow, this blog post was music to my ears. I read it a few weeks back and listened to the podcast but I’ve only managed to sit down and post this comment. Seriously, I was starting to think it was only me that got really wound up by these kind of marketing tactics. The problem is, it happens all the time, and supposedly it “works”- at least that is what the marketers say. Perhaps it works on the “pile it high, sell it quick and cheap” stuff, but what if you want to build up at army of loyal customers who will be your brand advocates?

    I got stung earlier this year by a webinar provider which will remain nameless. It’s not a bad product (not that I’ve had the chance yet to properly use it), but that’s beside the point. It was recommended by someone I respect, if it had not, the tactics on the website would have made me run a mile. I hope you don’t mind me sharing this with you since it’s related to what you’re talking about.

    This was what I was faced with on the website:

    Loud autoplaying video
    Countdown timer saying that the price was going to go up significantly in 24hrs
    I contacted sales to ask if this really was a limited offer. I was told it was
    (of course the next day I found that there was still a countdown timer saying it was going to go up the next day)
    You got a horrible javascript alert box when you tried to leave the site. The banner said you could get it for $99 (1/4 the price), but when you went through the various hoops this was the quarterly price!
    In the sign up process there were 3 autoplay videos you had to go through for additional products they wanted to sell me

    The owner responded to my criticisms by saying:

    “Everything you hate, increased conversion on the page. By major factors. It’s called marketing. And it is ok to hate marketing. What are you using it for?”

    So, all those horrible tactics worked for them, supposedly. I did buy it, but in the end only through gritted teeth because the product seemed to be worth it and mainly due to being recommended by a friend. It kind of depressed me to see that these dreadful tactics work. They don’t do they? Please let me have some faith in humanity?!

    • I have sooooo many opinions on this that I may have to turn them into a whole other blog post.

      So first of all there’s one thing you said that’s very telling of this entire industry which is that you haven’t tried out the product yet. I bet MOST people never try out the product. I can say for myself that I’ve bought stuff like that in the interest of checking it out. And I have read/reviewed/implemented them exactly zero times. I’m pretty sure “use my product” is not high on those sellers lists as long as “buy my product” works.

      Yes, those tactics do work because a lot of things work. Lying works. Being deceptive works. That doesn’t make it a good idea. So I’m not saying they were lying but I’m making the point that just because “it works” doesn’t mean it’s good, helpful, honest, enjoyable. If you have a good product you don’t need to be annoying and pull out tricks to get people to buy.

      Conversions may go up but to your point, how about the happiness factor? Are people basically just dealing with your crap so they can get to the point or are they looking at you as an authority and someone they trust? If you want one-off sales then go ahead and be as annoying as you want in the interest of “converting”. But if you’re running a business, if you want referrals, repeat customers, loyal customers, evangelists…. be honest.

      You may sell slower. And build your list slower. But for me that’s a compromise I’m willing to make. Tricking and playing psychology games is something I can NOT do, no matter how big the promise of results.

      Also I would love someone to give me hard stats on the honest approach vs the annoying approach. DOES it work or do people just say it works because… well, because people say it works? I don’t know because I’ve never conducted a test. I’ve only heard people repeating the mantra over and over.

      AND THEN! The part that really got me…. “it’s ok to hate marketing”??? SAYS WHO! That’s very “end justifies the means” and that does not sit well with me. Why must you hate marketing? Why must you use tricks? Why can’t you do marketing that you enjoy, that reflects your integrity and your approach to business and human relationships? I’m not doing marketing because I hate it. I hate those kinds of tactics but marketing doesn’t have to be annoying, deceptive, hateful or anything negative at all. Blogging. Emails. Social networking. All of that can be enjoyable for you and your customers AND it can work, too. “It’s ok to hate marketing”… that kills me. That just goes to show that person’s mindset. It’s not very respectful of their own business or their customers if they have to “hate” what they’re doing before they can be effective. Wow.

      And as an aside I don’t consider that marketing. I call it aggressive sales. That may be a nuance but a guy who shows up on my doorstep and makes me really uncomfortable and I just want to get out of there, he can sell me something, too. That’s not marketing.

      I need to use this in our next podcast. I won’t name names (I don’t know who it is anyway!) but it’s pretty outrageous that they would say that. Thanks for sharing, now I have smoke coming out my ears 🙂

      • I look forwards to your next blog post then! Good to get new ideas for them anyway! I love what you said about “Yes, those tactics do work because a lot of things work…” – very true, but they don’t bring brand loyalty or any good feeling about the product if these tactics are “evil”!

        I got you on the “it’s ok to hate marketing” didn’t I?! I’d love it if you could discuss this on your podcast- would be so interesting! It’s good to get passionate about these things- we need integrity in marketing and in all the things we do on the web.

        I hope the smoke has died down a little now! 😉