This guest post is by Steven A. Lowe of Innovator Consulting and Custom Software Development.
“There’s a sucker born every minute.”—P. T. Barnum *Note.
“They apparently all have Internet access.”—S. A. Lowe
Rubix D. Newby—Rube to his friends—left the family farm to strike it rich in the Big City. On the road he happened upon a garish collection of tents and lights.
But not just any old circus, this was the famous Internet Marketing Circus. He scurried towards the gate. Fishing in his pocket, he wondered if he had enough money to get inside.
An old man by the gate whispered “No money required to get in, son, but best keep a hand in your pocket anyway.” The T-shirt he was wearing was faded and barely legible. “The Secret is Free,” it said.
The barker in front of the gate was wearing a black tuxedo with tails and a top hat. The top hat jiggled back and forth as the barker shouted into a megaphone.
“Step right up folks, and be amazed!” he cried. “Ladies, and gentlemen, young and old, draw near and listen as the story unfolds! Opportunities for riches beyond your wildest dreams await you online through Internet Marketing schemes! So step inside, where gurus and ninjas await! With secrets and contraptions that will never abate! With these treasures and tricks you can build a fortune online! No effort! No labor! All in your spare time!”
The barker pointed his megaphone right at Rube. “The sky’s the limit on how much money you earn, but what is the limit on the time you can burn? So step right up, and go on in, it’s not MLM so you don’t even need to bring a friend!”
Rube flowed with the crowd through the gate, mesmerized by the bouquet of booths, tents, rides, barkers, hawkers, carnies, signs, lights, sounds, smells, and promises inside. “Where to begin!?” he thought.
While Rube was gawking at the spectacle, a furtive young man dressed all in black and wearing a strange sword caught his attention. “Psst!” said the young man, “Have I got a deal for you!”
“Oh?” said Rube. “What is it?”
“Why, it’s a push-button cash machine niche site generator!” he said.
“Oh?” said Rube. “What good is that?”
“What good is it?” asked the man. “Why, it’s my own secret ninja guru formula and system guaranteed to bring you unlimited cash flow, practically overnight!”
“How interesting,” said Rube. “What do I have to do to make it work?”
“That’s the beauty of it!” said the man. “You just pick a niche by following my simple yet comprehensive formula, using a few tools that I conveniently provide for a small fee, then just push a button to automagically generate a web site that starts making you money instantly! And for a limited time, I am willing to sell this to you and only you for $97!”
Rube knew he didn’t have $97. “Not interested,” he said, and started to walk away.
“Wait!” the man said. “Just because I like you and don’t want you to miss out on this spectacular opportunity, you can have it for $7!”
Rube stepped in something. “Must be elephants around here,” he thought.
Rube laughed. “Mister, if I had a magic cash machine I wouldn’t sell it for any price, I’d just push that button over and over and over!”
The man suddenly vanished into the crowd. Rube had a sneaking suspicion and reached into his pocket. One of his dollars had gone missing.
“What a strange fellow,” thought Rube, wiping off his shoes in the straw.
Rube noticed a crowd gathering around a man wearing a suit covered in neon dollar signs, gesturing at a large circular device. He shook the straw off of his feet and shuffled over to the back of the crowd.
“Article marketing is the true secret sauce for building authority!” the man shouted through a megaphone. “A thousand articles on ten thousand sites and you’ll be an authority practically overnight!”
“That sounds like a lot of work,” Rube yelled over everyone’s heads.
“Ah, my friend,” replied the man, pushing through the crowd, “ordinarily it would be!” He draped one arm around Rube’s shoulders, and steered him towards the strange device. “But not if you have this magical Spinner! Care to give it a try? Five spins for a dollar! Lifetime use for only $97! Step up and speak a few words into the magic funnel.”
“Well, okay, I’ll try it,” said Rube. He gave the man a dollar, and considered what to say. “The effect is amazing!” he said.
The machine whirred and spun and spouted great gouts of flame and billows of smoke, then intoned “The outcome is astounding!” “The consequence is impressive!” “Extraordinary is the result!” “Amazed by the effect, you will be!” “Become awestruck by substantial ramifications!”
The spinning and the smoke made Rube a bit nauseous. He was glad he only paid for five spins, as they were starting to sound rather silly.
Rube thanked the man and wandered away. Soon he noticed another barker in front of a dark tent. The man was dressed up like a spider.
“Master the web! Feel important! Instant authority!” hollered the spider-barker. “Superstar rankings! Fully automated mega backlink generation!” he continued.
Rube still felt a bit ill from the spinning, and was becoming somewhat disenchanted with the circus. But, he still had one dollar. “Surely one of these things has got to work,” he thought.
“I could use some instant authority,” said Rube, and handed the spider-barker his last dollar.
“Excellent choice, son,” said the barker. “Nothing builds authority faster than a thousand carefully-chosen backlinks! Just take the lighted path to the center of the tent, and prepare to be amazed!”
Rube stepped through the entry way and followed a dimly-lit path to the center of the tent. A spotlight snapped on as he stepped up on a small pedestal.
“Speak your mind, and let your authority be recognized!” intoned a disembodied voice.
Rube thought for a moment, and then said, “Farming is hard work!”
A fanfare of music swelled, and the lights started to rise. Rube saw that he was surrounded by bleachers, but they were empty.
As the illumination increased, Rube heard the screech of rusty gears, and noticed an odd bellows-like machine at the top of the tent. “Commencing generation of massive authority-building backlinks!” shouted the voice. The machine sprayed something onto the bleachers with a loud Hroof! and a Hurrrm!
Now the bleachers were no longer empty, but were covered in …ants! There were thousands of them, arrayed around him in neat concentric circles.
As the lights reached full glare, the screeching stopped and all was quiet. Suddenly, all of the ants pointed at him and whispered, “Farming is hard work!”
This did make Rube feel important—for a moment. “But they are just ants,” he thought. “And they seem to be dead.” He was very disappointed, and headed directly for the exit. He crunched over a few hundred ants on the way out.
“This circus is not fun,” Rube thought. “And now I’m broke. Might as well go back to the farm.” He dejectedly shuffled back towards the gate.
“I guess I’m not cut out for this Internet Marketing thing,’ he ruminated. “It’s too complicated, and costs too much money—and seems to be run by some very strange people!”
Lost in thought, he stumbled into a sign that had only two words: “Simple Truth.” The sign was in front of a plain table with two chairs. Sitting in one of the chairs was the old man from the gate, except now his T-shirt read: “There is no ninja sauce”. The old man gestured at Rube to take a seat.
“I got no more dollars,” Rube told the old man.
“Don’t need ‘em,” he replied.
“Then what do you want?” asked Rube.
“I want you to succeed,” he said. “Have a seat.”
Rube sat. The old man continued, “So, your money’s gone, is it? Went broke fast trying to get rich quick, eh?”
“Yeah. I guess I don’t understand this stuff; best give up,” Rube said.
“There is another way,” the old man said. “It’s not flashy, it’s not sexy, it’s not overnight, and it’s not a fully-automated push-button solution guaranteed to bring you loads of cash on autopilot while you sleep for only $97 per month. But it always works, and it costs nothing but time—and motivation. Oh sure, you can accelerate the process some if you spend wisely, but the knowledge and tools are essentially free.”
“What is it?” asked Rube.
The old man chuckled. “It’s called ‘Getting Educated’. Learn the fundamentals. Internet marketing is not about tricks and gimmicks, it’s about serving people. It’s about relating to prospects and customers online the same way you would relate to them in person. That means finding them, listening to them, and caring about them. That means creating the most valuable content or product that you can, tracking and refining your methods, and never stopping learning. It’s about real marketing, not trickery. And it works every time.”
“Where do I go to do that?” asked Rube.
“Well, there are a few good places, and in time you should visit them all,” he said. “I suggest learning about blogging, especially content marketing, then perhaps social media, how search engines work, and copywriting, for starters.”
“But wouldn’t these whizz-bang doohickeys be faster and easier?” asked Rube.
“If they actually worked, they might be,” the old man said. “If they added value instead of noise, they might be. If they solved problems for people instead of gaming the system, they might be. If they provided lasting value instead of temporary gimmicks, they might be. Now, suppose you bought one, and that it worked for a while and then stopped; how would you fix it?”
“I don’t know,” replied Rube.
“That’s right. You wouldn’t know how to fix it. And if it didn’t work to start with, you wouldn’t know why. So you would be depending entirely on something you don’t understand, that may be of dubious construction and quality. Does that sound like a good business model?”
“Well, no,” said Rube, “of course not.”
“Right,” said the old man. “You’ve got to learn to earn. You got to give to get. That’s the way of the world. The Internet is no different.”
“Okay, I’ll give it a try!” said Rube.
“You do that,” the old man said. “And remember what you learned on the farm—prepare the soil, plant the seeds, tend the crops, and be patient. You can only reap what you sow, you know.”
Rube stood up to leave. “Thank you. Anything else I should keep in mind?” he asked.
“Yes,” the old man said, and handed Rube a tattered card. It read:
- If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably not true.
- If it’s advertised as a “trick” or a “secret,” it’s probably a scam, or a loophole that will evaporate sooner or later, if it even works at all.
- People on the Internet don’t read; they search and skim; you have to capture and hold their attention.
- Always add value, and then add even more.
- Love your work; it will bring lasting success.
- Above all, please don’t pollute the Internet!
Rube put the card in his pocket, and found he was once again alone on the road to the Big City. But now he walked on with a confident smile.
Steven A. Lowe knows 101 Ways to Land More Business Using Landing Pages. When he’s not studying marketing and copywriting or reading problogger.net, he runs Innovator LLC, which specializes in innovative consulting and custom software development.