Weeding out phony gurus

Do your own research

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There’s only one true and tried way weeding out phony  gurus and that is by doing as much research as you can. This means burying yourself in every piece of information you can find on a particular figure, devouring everything you can about the marketplace you want to enter, and thoroughly reading up on verifiable literature.

Internet scams done by phony gurus always seem to be something of the past. A threat only to greedy middle aged people who have no idea what a “hashtag” is but have always dreamed of making a fortune with very little effort.

The truth is that everyone can be a victim. It’s not just for “greedy” or “lazy” people looking for a quick fix. Someone who’s feeling a little lost and just wants to find a new career or make a little extra income, can fall prey just as easily and fast. Not every phony guru is going to pull off an obvious scam. These are not cartoon villains preying on ridiculously obvious targets. The situation is a lot more nuanced, but almost invariably they rely on a lack of knowledge of their victims.

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Take the time to understand what you’re getting yourself into before throwing money at people claiming to be the ultimate source of knowledge in the whole world wide web. The more you know, the less likely you are to fall for someone that’s presenting common basic concepts as new and mysterious secret weapons waiting to turn you into the next secret multi millionaire.

Even if someone seems to be trustworthy, there’s nothing to lose by doing a quick google search for a review of their services and overall reputation. You’re always one search away from finding whether someone can help your business successfully grow or burn it to the ground and leave you out on the streets. This is one of those situations where it pays to be skeptical and overprotective.

Don’t believe the show offs

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Have you ever seen Mark Zuckerberg star on a badly edited video showing off his 5,000+ square foot house and standing in a garage filled with expensive cars while telling you that you’re about to learn the secret to his success? You haven’t because there isn’t one. In fact, just like most successful entrepreneurs he actively works towards keeping us out of his mansion.

From a pragmatical point of view, there’s no excuse for looking as low budget as some of these phony gurus. Professional cameras are easy to use and widely available, and even your phone can yield pretty amazing results. Editing software can be acquired at moderate prices and the basics of it are just a Google search away. There’s absolutely no excuse for putting a seemingly low budget video out there. Specially when you’re boasting about being a successful millionaire and could have easily hired professionals or at least a writer to come up with a better script.

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Even when you give them a pass on the B movie aesthetics, it’s hard not to be suspicious of someone who seems to be strangely eager to show off every single thing he or she owns and can’t really explain how they got it. Chances are the cars are rented, the size of the house seems bigger thanks to editing tricks, and the mountains of cash are false. When you have no way of explaining your wealth or what your business entails, it’s probably because none of it is actually real.

Do protect your contact info

Your email address is the Holy Grail for phony marketing gurus. Once they get it, they can sell it to even shadier individuals and try to draw you into elaborate schemes. While most of us dread spam and hate deceitful information, they live for it.

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If you keep coming back to a website and finding all sorts of entertaining and valuable content, by all means subscribe to their mailing list. Be less liberal with websites claiming to have a big secret that will change your career if you only become part of their mailing lists.

Don’t be afraid to get to know who you’re dealing with before giving them all your trust, money, time and contact information. Remember that lots of vulnerable people have lost a lot to unscrupulous phony gurus.

You’ll know when you’re dealing with a reputable guru because you won’t be constantly harassed into giving sensitive information about yourself. It’s common for them to offer extra info or deals for those that subscribe to their mailing lists, but they won’t be trying to get your email address at all costs by hinting at some hidden information. In fact, real gurus are not interested in hiding things from you…

Don’t confuse a hidden agenda with valuable information

Do you know why phony gurus need to hide the valuable content they allegedly have? Because if they put it out in the open, people would find it’s actually really plain and sometimes worthless advice rebranded to sound interesting and new.

Part of that rebranding involves playing a little with your emotions. Offering a mind numbing secret that will completely revolutionize your life once you hear it. Your hopes and dreams will finally be within reach. Your career will be completely changed by what they have to tell you and the balance in your bank account will begin to grow exponentially. Don’t fall for that.

Don’t get your hopes up for the world-changing advice

The truth is they have no product. It’s all smoke and mirrors. There’s no secret knowledge that this mysterious stranger will let you in on when you give him your credit card number or email address.

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The least dangerous phony gurus have no business either, just a website that looks like it was designed a few decades ago and few testimonials that keep alluding to some product that’s never clearly defined. The more devious ones have a slightly more defined strategy that revolves around making themselves richer by selling vagueness and giving nothing to their audiences.

Do identify the sales pitch

If you feel like every recommendation, opinion, thought or review is really just a sales pitch in disguise, you might be in the presence of a phony guru.

Real gurus are all about having content that is somehow of value to the customer whether in the entertainment front or because it offers new information on a subject of interest. Though the content can sometimes be related to a sales pitch that’s not it’s main purpose. Giving out information that’s going to be of value to the audience is the main objective of reliable gurus.

In the case of phony gurus, though, content is only there to make the sales pitch appear less obvious. Value is an afterthought that is often missing on their content. If it were up to them they would probably replace every element on their websites with a form for you to input your credit card number.

An easy way to distinguish between the two is to identify whether the sales pitch seems blatantly careless or if they are selling a valuable quality product. phony gurus are known to push crappy products that they haven’t even tried themselves and have nothing to do with their overall “brand”. This is like seeing a wellness coach inexplicably advertise an e book on knitting. If you see no valuable content whatsoever and are presented instead with a never ending stream of sales pitches, beware of what you’re getting yourself into.

Don’t be another casualty of false urgency

This one is a little trickier. Legit gurus sometimes hold time sensitive offers that really are a “once in a lifetime opportunity” kind of deal. The key word here is that it only happens every now and then. The phony ones, though, do it all the time.

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They go out of the way to highlight how important it is that you buy any given product right now. They’ll emphasize how it will never be available again. In fact their offers will only be up till the end of this sentence so you better hurry and order right now or else you will never get to learn the secret to being as successful as they are. Yet the following month, the same product will still be there.They might even give it away for free if you buy the next fad product within a suspiciously short time frame.

In this instance distinguishing between the phony guru and the real one is not the easiest feat, and it might involve losing the chance to get in on some authentic offers by truthful gurus. The truth of the matter is that every business and every deal has an inherent element of risk and you success will involve your capacity to assess risk and your nose.

Do trust your instincts

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It’s normal to be a little scared and nervous when initiating a venture, but if you’ve got an overwhelmingly bad feeling and can’t shake the impression that something’s off, give your instinct some credit and take yourself out of the equation. At least till you are able to dissipate or confirm your suspicions.

If you were right and it was a scam, you’ll know it because they will turn more aggressive. They’ll be contacting you at all times, practically begging or even demanding your credit card number while trying to make it seem like a smart investment. Fortunately you would have put a little distance between you and the scam, so it will be easier to just walk away.

Don’t believe everything is as extremely complicated as they make it seem

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Phony gurus are incomparably successful in one aspect: making you think the internet is more complicated than it is. According to them learning your way around WordPress could be as hard as trying to play “Stairway to heaven” using chopsticks under water.

They thrive on you not knowing what new technologies are out there and count on you being scared of every corner of the internet. The truth is Google’s algorithms are not impossible to understand, social media strategies are not quantum physics. Your Facebook profile is not  rocket science. You aren’t likely to become homeless if you don’t follow every single new trend.

With a little effort you can find everything you want to know about anything. If someone can’t help you to understand a hard concept without much difficulty, then you can probably assume that they don’t understand it themselves. Being successful at marketing goes a little beyond understanding the theory anyway.

Real marketing gurus are not successful because they’ve memorized stuff on textbooks. Everyone can know why ROI’s are importants and it doesn’t take a lot of time to understand how to use keywords. Successful marketing gurus are sought out because they go beyond that and manage to find innovative and creative solutions that were not obvious to others. They can interpret data, identify problems, and find solutions in a way that others can’t.

Don’t fall for oversimplifying success either

phony gurus are complex individuals. Don’t be surprised when they oversimplify as much as they overcomplicate stuff. The former happens when they’re trying to explain their success.

Maybe it’s because telling you “I got all this just by changing one simple thing” and screaming that “you only need to follow these 3 simple steps to achieve success” it’s a lot more catchy that telling you success is achieved through a galaxy of different aspects all combined in a myriad of different ways and dependent on an infinite number of different variables.

Either way, ask Bill Gates or Stephen King why they’re successful in their fields and though they might use umbrella terms for the sake of extension, they can’t outright say “I’m successful because I woke up every morning at 7 and read an ebook on marketing strategies”. Their lives didn’t magically change because of one simple incident that threw them in the right track. It was likely a slow cooking recipe that took a long time simmering.

Breaking bigger things into smaller more digestible bits is a great strategy, but anyone that tries to sell those small capsules leading to the ultimate success, must be regarded as fishy to say the least – regardless of how many followers they have.

Do identify vagueness and lack of value

Always look for the value behind any offer. Most phony marketing gurus sell “something”. Literally, “something”. They just spill some vague sounding proposition that never really gets to the point of anything. It’s a sentence about nothing followed by a sentence that vaguely references an old school concept and a bunch of buzzwords peppered through.

When you’re selling something as abstract as knowledge or information on a topic, it’s easy to ramble but real gurus are able to channel that into concrete plans with defined goals. There’s a thought out product, verifiable experience, and a real business standing behind the sales pitch. It’s not just a string of words put together to get your money.

Do foster a healthy dose of skepticism for those offering a quick solution

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Honest gurus are not trying to turn you into a millionaire by tomorrow. They’re offering information that you can take in at a steady pace to incorporate into whatever plan you’ve already put in motion. They’re putting out content designed to amplify your knowledge of the niche you’re in.

The sketchy ones are more interested in selling you an unrealistic get rich plan. They’ll try to capitalize on ideas anyone would find appealing, i.e: “Make a fortune working from home”, or “Become a millionaire working only 4 hours a week”, but they have no way of delivering on their offer.

There’s simply no way they can help you achieve any of your goals and dreams. First of all they’re not interested in helping you, they’re only in it for your money. Second, they wouldn’t know how; all their knowledge is focused on schemes and reprehensible practices. Finally, there’s no quick solution, growing a business requires constant work and long term nurturing of ideas and actions, so even if these sketchy characters wanted to help you, the quick fix is a lost cause.

Don’t let phony gurus kill your spirit

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Yes, they deserve a special circle in hell for trying to scam grandma, but they don’t represent all marketing gurus. Don’t let their sketchy targets taint the way you look at every marketing expert. Know that there are people giving sound advice for free, spreading knowledge, and only charging for real products.

Although bad experiences should not be forgotten, you shouldn’t let them completely control what you do either. Learn how to identify the phonies, so that you can take advantage of what the real ones have to offer.

Karim Dahmani
Karim Dahmani
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