I tweeted this recently and got a ton of confused responses.
“Aren’t you an internet marketer, Ramit?”
No. HELL NO.
People typically think of an internet marketer as someone who sells an ebook, uses email funnels, and writes long sales pages. They also think of cheesy flashing yellow highlights, fake testimonials, low-quality products, “get rich quick” photos.
Do I write long copy and use an email funnel? Yes.
But our company is not an internet marketing company (our mission: “we build no-BS personal development brands that deliver real results”).
The difference? The “results” part. We actually care about the impact we have and if people find success using our stuff. I want to share three stories about why that matters, why I never, ever call myself an internet marketer — and why I believe you should avoid giving yourself the label, too.
1. Internet marketers brag about their money and lack of effort
Years ago, I took a co-worker to an event filled with internet marketers (mistake #1). As we sat down, I told him, “Watch how people introduce themselves. They’ll talk about two things: how much money they make and how little they work.” He said, “No way. Who talks like that?”
I said: “Just watch.”
True to form, as we went around the table, the introductions went like this. “Hi, I’m Mike, I run a XXXX company. I made $500,000 last year and I work about two days a week. Trying to see if I can cut it down to one! Ha ha ha!”
I stared straight ahead and wondered why I was in that room. I couldn’t wait to leave and take a shower.
I have trouble understanding people whose only goal in life is to make money and work less. If you want to do it, fine — but it’s not why I’m on this planet.
"Guys, my fucking goal in life is not to take a vacation. It’s to make an impact." http://t.co/wK7GRPfGXO
— Ramit Sethi (@ramit) June 16, 2015
In an episode of “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” Norm MacDonald asked Jerry Seinfeld, “Could you ever be friends with someone whose jokes you don’t like?”
Jerry thought about it for a good 10 seconds, then replied:
If you think about something you truly care about — raising your kids, for example — and you saw someone who simply tried to cut as many corners as possible, could you be friends with them? Could you respect them?
I feel the same way about people who build bad products. I pour my heart and soul into building our products — and so does my team.
We’ve spent YEARS building things that we eventually scrapped because it wasn’t up to our standards. Because we didn’t think that product would be as helpful as it could be (even if it would make us millions of dollars). So when someone slaps together something that’s low-quality, something that they know doesn’t get results, and happily sells it, that offends me.
You can tell this is true since there are virtually 1,000x more blog posts on marketing and conversion and upsells than on creating great products. Especially in internet marketing.
Notice that there's ~1,000x more blog posts on marketing (traffic, copywriting, A/B tests) than on building a great product. Who knows why?
— Ramit Sethi (@ramit) January 17, 2017
2. They plagiarize
Internet marketers love to steal from others. In fact, there’s an industry term — “swipe file” — that normalizes stealing!
I recently called out Jason Treu, a so-called “executive coach,” for directly plagiarizing me. After I reached out asking him to explain himself, he blocked me on Twitter. Eventually, I decided to send an email about it to a few of my friends. Specifically, around 800,000 of them. From that email:
So some guy ripped off my amazing article from December 2015? I checked and compared the two articles. Yup. Total plagiarism.
This actually happens way more than you know. I hardly ever write about this kind of inside baseball.
I COULD have just shrugged and moved on. But I didn’t. I wanted to call him out by name — and email this to you — because it’s important to stand up for yourself when people take advantage of you.
At some point in life, you’re going to get bullied. Someone is going to try to take advantage of you. I want you to know when to fight back.
Once he realized he was having a very bad day, he deleted the post. Actually, he took down his entire blog and went private on Twitter. Here, you can read the entire email I sent.
Sadly, this is very common. The IM industry is rife with people who openly copy others’ property. Even crazier, many don’t even think there’s anything wrong with it. They shrug and say, “Well, I made a couple edits…it’s fine. Everyone does it.”
Here’s another example.
Original copy from my Dream Job sales page:
“Swiped” copy in this “foundational” sales page:
My favorite part is how, later on that page, they talk about “integrity”:
This company supposedly teaches “the foundation” of growing a software business.
It is a complete scam.
(And yes, they admitted plagiarizing my material.)
True integrity means you create world-class products with original ideas, techniques, and frameworks, like invisible scripts, barriers, Big Wins, the Briefcase Technique, and the Demand Matrix. It means you have concrete, proven results and offer a money-back guarantee. It means you actively discourage the wrong people from joining your courses (in our case, we prohibit people with credit card debt from joining our flagship courses, which costs us millions of dollars a year). It means you have technical knowledge, like personal finance, psychology, and business. And it means you’re recognized by people who matter. It doesn’t have to be The Today Show, The New York Times, or The Wall Street Journal. But someone who’s used your material and can leave honest reviews of it.
Do I sound too self-righteous for your tastes? I don’t care. I’m personally offended when people copy the craft that I’ve spent over 15 years developing.
This happens over and over. There are some very good people with very good ethics who consider themselves internet marketers — about eight people. In my experience, the other 90% of internet marketers employ questionable ethics and sometimes commit outright fraud.
I can share more stories if you want.
3. They make empty promises
Finally, you can tell a lot about someone by their heroes. If you’re learning from John Doe, the guy selling an ebook about how to make ebooks so you can teach others how to make ebooks…find better heroes.
There are some genuine reasons why you find disproportionately low-quality material in most internet marketing:
- Low barrier to entry. “I failed at life, so I’m going to become a life coach”
- Big promises of riches attract get-rich-quick seekers, who then employ increasingly dubious tactics to make money
- Low industry regulation
Here’s one example — a coach who posts photos like this on her Instagram account.
What you may not know is that this coach joined our program then went delinquent on her payments to us. When we first contacted her, she wrote, “P.S. I hope you received my previous email, I’m not a person who doesn’t pay back debts.” After we contacted her again, she stopped replying.
Yet she continues to promote her coaching services to others.
I see this more than you can imagine. Do you see how unethical this is? It’s personally offensive that someone with few skills would sell a business coaching program when they can’t even pay their own bills.
The worst part is, most people can’t distinguish between legitimate coaches and the bad ones. In fact, there are a lot of blogs that look more beautiful than ours! How are you supposed to know who to trust?
That’s why I encourage you to be diligent and do your homework. Not just with others — do it with me! Google around, study our successful students, follow me on Twitter/Instagram to see if you agree with (and even like) me. If you don’t, you should unsubscribe!
That’s the difference between internet marketers and the rest of us. An internet marketer doesn’t welcome transparency. They don’t care who is giving them money. And they don’t actually care if you implement their material or not. Internet marketers just want to do the least amount of work for the most amount of money. And they’ll plagiarize, swindle, and lie to get there.
I’ll never associate myself with people who do that. And neither should you.