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8 Blogging Lessons I Learned from Being Scammed by a Marketer

This guest post is by Chris The Traffic Blogger.

This past month my fiancé and I went to a wedding expo. No, I am not one of those guys who lets the girl run around and do everything for the wedding! So I was there getting sold on everything from limos to flowers, and watching marketing at its finest (and worst).

Most of the vendors practiced the art of scummy marketing—you know, making mediocre products look worth much more than they actually were. Even though I understood this, I fell for a marketing scam that ended up costing me initially $1600 and quite a few phone calls to my credit card company to get the transaction voided.

However, I’m not upset that I was scammed. The experience actually reinforced several things I have learned over the years about marketing, and I’m going to use the story of what happened to me to reinforce these core concepts with you. But before I get into the lessons I want to share, here’s exactly what happened to us:

We entered a raffle for a free honeymoon. When we were called and told that we were selected to win, my fiancé and I were ecstatic. We were told that we had to listen to a one hour seminar on pots and pans from the company and then we could collect our reward. That should have been red flag #1.

The seminar lasted two hours. Red flag #2. The pots looked amazing, but they cooked twice as long as they were advertised to cook when the saleswoman made chicken for us to try. Red flag #3. A quick internet search for the company in question came up with articles about how it was an expensive scam. That should have been the biggest red flag of them all!

Despite these red flags, my fiancé and I still bought the pots. Why? Because the saleswoman made the decision ours, and a no-brainer. It was only after we made the decision to buy that we found out she was lying to us, on everything from prices to quality of the pots.

So what did the saleswoman do that made us believe every word she said? What made us think that the all expenses paid vacation was really that, even though it would have cost us a couple hundred dollars in taxes and then enough fees to pay for a second vacation? I’ll show you in this post, but please keep in mind that the entire point is to use this marketing knowledge for good. You know: to promote great products and deliver on the promises you make, not rely on legal gimmicks and tricky documentation to confuse your buyers into buying mediocre products.

Every single day that you post on your blog, you are selling your audience on your blog’s value. Use the following information that I saw on display at the marketing seminar to improve the value of your website and your products.

1. Presentation matters

As you probably already know, the average person looks a fraction of a second at your site before deciding if they want to click away. Sometimes, they don’t even read a single word of your headline!

In this blink of an eye, your graphics are the only way to hold their attention. Having a really nice, eye catching graphic is essential to your blog’s success. Personally, I saw around a 30 second increase on the average time people spent on my first blog, once I had an eye catching graphic for the title.

2. Internet readers are a mix of skim and full readers

Some will just read your headlines and sub headlines before deciding if they actually want to read your paragraphs between them. Make an effort to create interesting headlines throughout your article, not just at the top. A mixture of bold and different sizes for your headings will also draw the eye to the information you want readers to focus on. Lists and numbers do this naturally and our brains want to read each and every bullet, especially if there’s an ounce of OCD in us!

The trick is to hit as many sense as possible in your audience. This is difficult to do online, as you are limited to just site and sound, but offline you can go for touch, taste and smell.

3. Relatability is huge!

I related quite a bit to the saleswoman who spoke to us at the seminar. She was from Jersey (I grew up going to the shore quite a bit) and had an awesome accent. She also grew up in a large family, played outside all the time as a child, and ate meals with her family every night. I related to this so much and this drew me into the experience by recalling memories of my past. I really felt like I had a lot in common with the presenter.

I don’t care if you talk about picking your nose as a child, do everything in your post to try to relate to your audience in any way possible.

4. Interesting facts really do make a difference

Saying something like, “X% of internet readers find facts interesting” goes a long way towards making people believe you are researching the information you present. If you actually do the research and come up with cool facts then readers will pay far more attention to your post.

Also, any fact about life that people ignore is going to have the same effect. For example, the lady at the seminar mentioned that ground meat in the supermarket appears to bleed red, but that’s dye because ground meat can’t bleed! In that moment, I actually admired the intelligence of the statement because I had never thought of that before. Do this to your audience as often as possible, as it greatly improves your credibility and will lock people into reading your entire article.

5. Laughter works

No matter how dry a personality you have, always attempt to incorporate humor into your posts. I don’t care if you have to steal cheesy lines from standup comedians, do as much as you can to make your audience laugh. It helps to hold their attention and keep them locked in throughout the experience of reading your blog.

What’s more, if your headline is funny, then people will pass your post around simply because of the headline! That will greatly improve the chances of someone new being exposed to your work.

6. Price points make decisions easier

In fact, having price points naturally makes people consider the consequences of buying, or rather, not buying your product. Here’s the strategy that the saleswoman used to sell her pots and pans to us.

  • Step #1: Pick a really expensive product that does work for what the audience needs.
  • Step #2: Explain why this product is way too expensive and unnecessary.
  • Step #3: Pick a really inexpensive product that is of low quality and can’t get the job done.
  • Step #4: Explain why this product is subpar for the job and will break, eventually costing you the same over time in repairs or repurchases as the expensive product.
  • Step #5: Show your product that is right between the two other price points.
  • Step #6: Explain why your product is perfect for the job and just the right price.

7. Selling is about never actually selling

By picking the right price points and products to showcase those price points, you create a decision for your audience. When done correctly, this decision is obvious and a no-brainer. Just as it was for us, buying pots for twice the price (or so we thought, it ended up being over four times) of a regular set of pots and getting a lifetime warranty on them seemed like a great deal. It made no sense for us as a young couple to pass up this opportunity!

You can create the same simple decisions for your audience and if you have a product to sell, I highly recommend that you make comparisons to cheaper/worse products and more expensive/equally useful ones. That way you can say that your product is of higher quality yet cheaper than what you would pay anywhere else for that same quality. If you do this, then your audience will not feel sold to; instead, they will feel like they are making a conscious choice.

8. Time limits create hype

By the end of the seminar we were on the fence about the pots, but being told that we only had ten minutes to decide if we wanted them made us buy them. Why? Because we had just been sold on the value of these pots for two hours, the presentation was wonderfully entertaining, and the price points made the decision a no brainer! Of course we bought them, and almost everyone else there did as well.

You can create hype with your blog, even if the purpose isn’t to make money. One great way to do this is to offer a special report by the next day that requires a subscription to your list to see it. In 24 hours I have increased my normal subscription growth by 50% doing this.

Each of these eight lessons rely on the previous one to work. As a blogger, these kinds of ideas create a template for your posts. If you start off with the first point and work your way down, you can create an awesome post that sells the audience by convincing them to make a decision. Most people want to skip all the way down to the deal, without taking the time to build a relationship with their audience. This could take months, weeks, days or even hours, but it rarely happens in a few minutes.

As an internet marketer and blogger, understand that people need to trust you before they will believe in your products and services. Even if you just want to get more subscribers, you need to first convince them that you are valuable. It’s no different than getting them to open their wallet!

If you have the opportunity, go to one of these scams and see how the salespeople target your emotions, sense and reason… just don’t bring your wallet!

Chris “The Traffic Blogger” writes to help bloggers learn how to drive traffic, build relationships and earn revenue through blogging. His most recent efforts have been on teaching others What to Tweet to get more followers and make money on Twitter.

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Comments

  1. Interesting analogy

  2. Josh Sarz says:

    Lots of scams happen here in my hometown every day. We call it MLM. Hah

  3. Ben Norman says:

    Although I agree that an eye catching graphic is good (something I’m still in the middle of creating) I do think less is more when it comes to design. The amount of times I visit a site that’s so full of “eye-catching material” that I can’t even read the content without getting distracted is becoming larger and larger.

    Thanks for the post though, all interesting stuff.

  4. oh my I remember many techniques on how to catch a person to buy something. I used to “sell” donations in switzerland. who wants to donate nowadays! Sometimes I feel its easier to sell somebody something offline then online. You can use at least all senses not just the eyes. I know one funny trick on how precious stone sellers, sell their stuff to foreigners in india. 3 shops in a row selling all the same. the foreigner goes to the first one, he will leave because its overprized. the second shop will advice him cheaper stuff but the quality isnt there. The foreigner will visit the last one and find the for him perfect price which is by the way 10 times more then the actual value (and most probably a fake). Who wins? The one fellow who owns all 3 shops.

    Thats number 6 in your list.

    • raj says:

      Helene

      Good observation on the Indian roadside selling techniques – I am originally from India, and these selling tips are not just limited to foreigners. The trick is to start at 80% the quoted price off the bat, and walk away if you don’t get the right deal.

      Like some of the recipes on your blog – maybe you can feature some stuff in mine: TribeDesi.com

      Thanks
      Raj

  5. Hi Chris,

    #1 – Point Pleasant or Belmar, or Wildwood? North or South? I am a Jersey guy too, living abroad. Hitting up places like Bali and Phuket now, but I did enjoy the shore for quite a few years.

    #2 – Scam artists are often damn good at what they do. We were whisked away by a street hawker in Bali, where we were told that we won a $500 cash prize. When we arrived at the time share presentation, we quickly saw that we were lied to. Usually, my BS-meter goes off quickly – Tri-state thing, but you know about that – but this guy was good, really good, at charming us, and I admit, we got took. A little different, but in the same respect, his mastery of persuasion was amazing, especially considering that English was not his native tongue.

    #3 – Scam artists teach us the best lessons. Instead of cursing them, we should always take a high energy lesson from the occurrence. We can learn about persuasion, presentation and all the good stuff you mentioned in the post. You can also learn what not to do, like using pressurized, low energy, forceful selling tactics, or simply outright lying to folks, to get a sale. Always a lesson available for the open-minded entrepreneur.

    #4 – Laughter is an uber-effective selling tool. Puts folks at ease instantly, and draws them in. If you can make somebody laugh you have an inside track to a sale.

    Thanks for sharing Chris!

    Ryan

  6. Cheryl says:

    Above all, do honest business and your customers will return – time and time again.

  7. Sami says:

    What an article

    it’s completely true especially the end
    the sum is every marketing business or MLM marketing is based on trust first. Eeverything else is secondary .
    what I notice is that many people have a wrong idea about network marketing & MLM business !
    they don’t wanna even to make a search to know what they are afraid of ..!

    thanks for the useful post =D

  8. Archan Mehta says:

    These days, scammers seem to have positioned themselves as if they are the real deal. Nothing could be further from the truth. By the time you wake up to that reality, the scammers are rolling in your dough and laughing all the way to the bank. If you keep your needs within limits, marketers out to make a quick buck may not be able to hold your attention; nor dupe you out of your hard-earned money. It is better to stay away from expose and curl up in bed with a book instead. You don’t need most of the stuff that is sold at such places anway. Why bother to attend? It is better to attend seminars and conferences, if that’s what you are looking for, that is, intellectual stimulation. Which brings us back to reading a book.
    Cheers.

  9. Kenny Fabre says:

    Chris

    my brother this was a very valuable experience for you and I’m very proud of you that, you learned from it.

  10. I agree with all the points you listed in your post Chris, especially number three (relatability).

    Being very relatable to your customer (or website visitor) can definitely work in your favour, as long as you remain completely transparent about what you are offering and what they can expect to receive.

    Misleading people through the telling of half-truths and setting of unrealistic expectations will destroy any venture. Your sales presentation (or ‘About’ page) should always give straightforward, honest information so that word-of-mouth about you, your product and your website stays unanimously positive.

  11. That just blows, Chris. I’m sorry about your “free” honeymoon. I have to admit that I’m a sucker for a great personality; I’ve ended up with gym memberships when I was just stopping by; I’ve even bought a car when I was just stopping by – thank heavens my boyfriend was with me; he knows loads about cars.

    We have several “shows” in and around Seattle each year – The Women’s Show, the Home Show, etc. They’re full of sales people and it can be a challenge deflecting their offers. I’ve finally learned to keep my contact information to myself; but it’s hard, because they are good.

    I can’t believe she lied. There are companies out there, even MLM ones, that have great products that people can sell; why sell a crappy one and lie?

  12. Andy says:

    Nice post, Chris. I especially like the bracketing technique you explained. Positioning your product in the middle of the market makes sense, but it isn’t something I see many people doing online. Good stuff.

  13. Carlos Ramos says:

    @Josh Sarz: True to that.

    Marketing is very useful and, as you say, almost everyone has had a bad experience: That feeling when you realize you just paid too much for a bad thing that does not behave as advertised. On the other hand, lessons are learned! Thanks for sharing.

  14. Rajnish says:

    I really like your lessons but I feel bad also because as a web developer worked for many client (100s) and around 3 people have cheated me till now but I haven’t did anything bad to them when am capable of doing.

  15. Very useful and interesting article. I will be following these steps and I am confident that my posts will improve a great deal.

    I particularly liked the price points part. In that way you simply leave the buyer with a no-brainer decision and offer they just can’t refuse. I am sure that it even makes them feel that if they didn’t take advantage of this opportunity then they would simply be completely out of their minds.

    Thanks for the share!

  16. Daniel says:

    Nice article.

    Have had an experience with an MLM company, whereby my wife got an invite(partner in tow) to a seminar that included a whole raft of the usual forms of manipulation and persuasion.
    I kept nudging my wife, to keep her from falling under a trance.
    Thankfully, after persuading her that the whole thing seemed quite on the nose(this was confirmed after doing some online investigating) she agreed to not go ahead with it.

    I do note that the author has related a bad experience from being scammed by a combination of various marketing ploys, then uses those same particular set of marketing tactics as a template for selling products or services on a site.

    Am I being too negative? No

    Not all product marketing is a scam, though some methods(systems–products.) are best avoided.

    There would be many reputable marketing systems out there, that do not have any hidden secrets that you end up discovering after having already committed.

  17. Just to add to point #7, the principle of “takeaway” selling which I have seen in action in many IM seminars. You essentially give the audience reasons why a particular product is not for them which almost leads them to a sub conscious decision to buy the product instantaneously.

  18. Dan says:

    Very timely, as my fiance had asked me to look into a company that was claiming we won a free 3day/2night trip from a wedding expo. Sounds like the same company. After I did my research I decided it wasn’t even worth going just to claim the free trip. Glad you were able to get out ot it!

  19. ashish kumar says:

    LOL nice one. They are all over the net they just keep on telling about what they have done and after few videos they will ask you to buy this and that.

    i don’t know what’s wrong with them. Some time they mail me some bad shit like today i Killed the Queen, or ride your own ferrari like we do…

  20. If attending expos in the world trade center or any place, better watch out to those who will approach you and offer something like bags and mugs in exchange for filing up an entry coupon that will give you an opportunity to enter a draw to win free vacation and hotel stay for several nights and days. But all who filed up will become winners. And within a week, someone will call you that you won blah… blah… and ask more information from you especially your credit card and source of income.

  21. Time shares and MLM thrive because the people who run them are masters of marketing and sales. Just like the movie you wished you hadn’t spent money on, but you did because of the awesome movie trailer. When we are being sold the sizzle, it doesn’t mean the steak is going to be any good. But you have to focus equally on both the product as being worthy to sell and the techniques you use to market the product.

  22. Good list. Scams sure will make you think twice about a lot of things. Always sucks be screwed over, especially online when its impossible to really find out who is doing it to you.

    Humor I agree is important. But it’s also extremely difficult, or at least I think so. I find it hard to be funny through my writing in general. What if a joke is funny to me but nobody else?

    I’m hilarious in person though. Or at least that’s what I like to think… Did I just make a joke? Someone laugh. Please.

    Good article.

  23. Sorry you got scammed. But I’m glad you turned it into something positive. :-)

  24. Thank you for all the great tips i will start using them on my site right away and i look forward to reading more from you. YOU ARE AWESOME.

  25. Wow! So sorry you experienced this, but I’m grateful that you took the time to write this article to educate us. Thank you!

  26. Lillian says:

    This is a great post. It’s important to keep your blog full of engaging content that readers can relate to. For business blogs, this is often easier said than done. Blogging is often forgotten, as it’s one item on a long to-do list.

    Blogmutt (www.blogmutt.com) is a great tool for businesses with (or in need of) a blog. A crowd of writers provides original, relevant content for your site each week. Check it out!

  27. Caricatures says:

    I do agree that presentation matters. And I’m glad it’s number 1 on your list. Though it’s very sad to see great-looking, eye catching sites which has absolutely rubbish content.

  28. Surminga says:

    Presentation is truly number one in life and in what matters, first impressions count. But without any substance in content behind the presentation nothing counts