You’ve probably been warned about online scams a million times, but the sad truth is that the best scams are often difficult to detect. They can trick even the most aware writer, and in some cases, they’re attached to legitimate products that may actually have some value to you. Unfortunately, deceptive marketing strategies can turn those products of potential into scams that manipulate writers hoping for online success.
Scammer In Disguise
Tonight, I opened an email from an online marketer whom I have followed online for years. I have great respect for this person and seriously considered buying some of their products in the past. They do have price tags that make you think twice before hitting the “buy” button, but I would have done so had any of those past products crossed my path at the right time.
The email for tonight was an announcement for a challenge, and I was really excited about getting in on a challenge that could help me find higher-paying clients for my content-writing service. I clicked from the email to a long sales letter to get the details, fully expecting there to be some cost. I was still a warm lead ready to pounce on a great challenge from someone I have always respected.
The letter started out talking about this amazing process that would be revealed to the challengers and all the spectacular success that previous clients have experienced with this very process. Then there was a claim that this process would be given to challengers for free. I still didn’t quite believe it, so I kept reading.
Hundreds of words later, there’s a brief mention of a “fee,” just to keep those who aren’t serious out of the challenge. I start scrolling rather than reading at this point because promising something for free and then noting that you charge a fee doesn’t sound honest to me. I have to click through to another long page and then click another buy button before the “fee” of $500 is revealed.
How Marketing Turns Legit Products Into Scams
I have no doubt that the process offered in this challenge could help some people find new leads for their online businesses. Unfortunately, the marketing for this program turns it into a complete scam.
Here is what I have learned after years of working, learning and shopping online:
- This isn’t a challenge. The word “challenge” is used as a marketing gimmick to make participants feel like they’re pushing themselves to the next level and investing in something worthwhile. If you remove the challenge concept, you have just another program that has already been sold by the same company at least a few times. Slap on the word “challenge,” and they suddenly have a new product, but it’s really just deceptive marketing to repurpose an existing program to unsuspecting buyers.
- It isn’t free. The deceptive marketing practice here is to tell you that they’re giving you the program for free, but they’re going to charge a fee so that only those with serious intentions participate. In reality, this is just a deceptive strategy to release a new product. If they were to just promote this as their newest product without the challenge concept, I bet they would charge about $500. Do you see the catch there?
- The prize money isn’t real. This challenge does promise to give each person who lands one client through the challenge $100. Remember, you’ve already invested $500 in the program, but that isn’t even the scam here. If you read the very, very long sales letter, you realize that you have to “prove” that the client was a result of following the challenge process exactly as it is presented to you. It doesn’t give any details on how you are to prove that, giving this slick online marketer unlimited power to decline those $100 payments because they aren’t satisfied with your “proof.”
- The money-back guarantee isn’t real. This challenge comes with a guarantee that they will refund your money if the process doesn’t help you secure at least one new client. The problem is that they state you must “prove” that you followed the program exactly as it was laid out to you and you had no results. Again, they don’t tell you what proof is acceptable, leaving the door wide open for them to decline those requests for your money back.
The Disappointment Cuts Deep
I have to say that I am saddened by this marketing campaign from what I always thought was a trustworthy source of educational material for anyone working online, writers included. The marketing strategy reduces what could have been a great program for me into something that I cannot stand behind.
I noticed all of the red flags and realized that this was not a free challenge in any way, but I know that many others will pay up that $500 without understanding that they were just deceived and manipulated.
The good news is that there are many valuable programs out there from reliable people who have something powerful to teach us. We just have to look a bit harder as online marketing techniques move more and more into the realm of trickery and gimmicks.