Internet Business Ethics 101
Class Sit up pay attention, you’re about to learn something… Something I’ve paid dearly to learn, but you don’t have to… as long as you pay attention and heed my advice.
Being a victim is a hard pill to swallow. No one likes to admit they were a victim. Criminals, rapists, child molesters, conmen and the like know this and count on the fact that a lot of their victims will not make public what happened to them. Knowing this, they live free to strike again another day.
There are plenty of fake gurus, lame products, and “takers” in the Internet Business, home business, and marketing arena these days that count on the same quirks in our human nature to get away ripping people off. Over the last few years I’ve been taken in by one… I’ll name names below, but keep reading for now.
Hardly an hour goes by without an email showing up in my inbox (just think how many were trapped by my spam filter) hawking the latest plan, formula, or product that just earned someone hundreds of thousands dollars in just minutes or days without doing much of anything. These are obvious lame products, yet people still fall for them. It’s hard to imagine, but people still fall for the Nigerian scam letter from the wife of the late Mr. x who was the so and so in charge of so and so’s vast fortune…
Before I go any farther, let me say that there are honest and ethical people in this business. In fact, I would bet that most are. Just like a barrel of apples, one rotten one can ruin the whole thing. It’s a shame that one or two rotten apples can tarnish those who go out of their way to help others and to make sure their products and services are first class.
If you’re really sharp and have followed my blog for a while, you’ve noticed I’ve removed a few names from my blog roll. One of the names I’ve removed lately is Eric Graham, The Conversion Doctor.
I have a DVD product in which I interview Eric, it’s called Masters of Online Income – The Eric Graham Interview - I’m pulling that product from the market today – the last day of 2009.
Why? Because I no longer feel comfortable promoting or being associated with Eric in anyway. Over the past year my opinion of him has steadily dropped. You’re known by the company you keep and if I’m selling a DVD that features me interviewing Eric, people will assume that I approve of his business tactics and dealings – I do not.
The DVD we made contains good material. I worked hard to create it, and have never recouped what I paid for the time I spent with Eric – but I don’t want to sell it anymore. There’s nothing dishonest in the material on the DVD, and if you have one, it contains good advice. But I feel uncomfortable selling it.
What exactly happened?
I have followed Eric’s blog for some time. He calls himself the “Conversion Doctor” because he has performed hundreds of tests on his web sites and his client’s web sites to determine what factors will improve your sales. The things he’s suggested that I’ve tested tend to be true.
The truth is, I paid for one of his packages that included a day together followed by a year of email coaching (among other things) and he has not followed through on his end of the deal. I’ve since been in contact with others who have had the same experiences. In fact, there are several complaints to be found from his dissatisfied clients (I’ll give the link to a few below).
From time to time Eric promotes a “special” on a “package” that includes some variation of a day-long visit where he would flies into your town and spends the day working with you. Usually the package is combined with 6 months to a year of email coaching, 2 to 4 phone calls and / or web meetings, creation of joint ventures, new products, offloading his overflow of copywriting work to you, opening the doors to you to other “big” names in the Internet Business arena from his “huge” rolodex, etc. In the video promoting the package I purchased, he totals up its value to be around $47,000 and offers to discount it to $4,997 if you’ll provide a video testimonial of how much he’s helped your business. The day-long visit can be used for anything – working on your business, creating new products, etc.
I took him up on one of these specials at the end of 2008. We had some scheduling issues and instead of Eric coming to my location, I went to his location at the end of December 2008. During the planning of the trip, all using his public email address, we had no communication issues what-so-ever (this would later change).
We spent the day together and planned out a membership site, tweaked an existing sales letter I had for an existing product, and recorded the video for the DVD. We also recorded a video testimonial from me about how much we’d accomplished that day. I had assumed the testimonial he wanted would be at the end of the year after he had helped me improve my business – so I was a little surprised when, at the end of the day, he want to record a testimonial.
When I returned home, I realized he had never given me the email address for his coaching program. I had to ask him for it.
That’s when things started to go south. I had problems with the video from the start. My video camera had jammed so we used Eric’s video camera for the interview. I happened to have a small external hard drive with me and left it with Eric for him to copy the video to and ship to me. It took a while but it finally arrived, at which point I proceeded to drop the box the drive was in (geez). When I connected it, it didn’t work. I emailed Eric to have him copy the file to something else and he no longer had it. His email responses started taking longer and longer. He could not locate the file. A couple of months went by. I took the drive out one more time to try it and got it working – and was able to copy off the video. I proceeded to work on editing it and creating a DVD.
With most email coaching programs like this, it’s common to ask the coach one question a day and get an answer back the same day or the next day, at most a couple of days. Most of my emails to Eric went unanswered – what I mean here is completely ignored, no responses at all. The few that were answered took weeks and some took 3 months – without any mention of the lapse of time. It’s like he just woke up one day and answered a 3 month old email. I would get fed up and send him a scathing email saying how frustrated I was with his help and how disappointed I was in him and would summarize the questions I’d sent him that he never answered. A couple of times, in response to these hostile emails, he would forward me a month (or more) old email to me that I never received asking me if I ever received it (“did you not see this” he would ask). I have all his email addresses and domains in my spam white list, so I know he never really sent these “missing” emails.
Back to the DVD: for some reason I had a lot of problems editing the video from Eric’s camera – the video and audio out of sync – like a Japanese monster movie. After a ton of work I got it fixed up and created a really nice DVD.
The time had come to make the sales letter. I had figured Eric would help with this, but that was not to be. After several emails he sent me a long copywriting preparation worksheet – which I really like by the way – to fill out and then create the copy from. There were also flash videos of him talking about the worksheet and a sales letter template he had made (which he said was just for me but later he made public on his blog). So I created the sales web site and got it launched.
All along I was looking forward to Eric promoting the DVD to his huge email list. He had said he would mail his list about it. I had been a subscriber to Eric’s email list for years and never saw any email from him promoting the DVD. I thought this was strange. I emailed him a few times about it with no response from him. So I went to his blog and I noticed he’d had a few blog posts that I didn’t get email about either… one of which was about my DVD… but looking in my stats, I had no traffic to speak of from his blog. So I filled out the form to sign up for his email list and instead of it saying I was already subscribed, it let me sign up… seems I’d been removed… strange. I emailed a blogging buddy of mine who I knew was also on his email list and he said yes, Eric did send an email about the latest blog posts, include the one about my DVD… that included a link to my sales page… but where was the traffic??? I could understand if people showed up and didn’t buy, but I only saw 5 to 10 visitors from his blog and no bump in traffic what-so-ever around the date of his mailing about my DVD. My conclusion – he either has a very small email list, or it’s very stale.
Over the course of the year, I slowly stopped trying to get help from Eric. I’ve sent a few emails telling him how frustrated and disappointed I was. Also over the course of the year, he has made several more videos advertising the same or similar packages, one or two using my video testimonial. I’ve asked him to stop using it.
He was supposed to help me get other “big names” in the business to agree to do more of these interview DVDs for the Masters of Online Income site (which was supposed to be a membership site). During the visit he gave me a list of web sites and names. That was his help in opening doors for me. I actually did email every one of these names (that I could find contact info for) telling them that I was working with Eric he had given me their name and that I wanted to interview them. It’s pretty easy to count the number of positive responses I had – 0. I assumed, as you probably would, that he would pick the phone up and call one or two while I was there and we’d get something setup and started. Our original plan was for this to be a membership site with me doing one of these video interviews a month.
It’s embarrassing to admit to the world that I was taken by Eric. He’ll probably say I didn’t follow his plan to the letter and that’s why I was dissatisfied. But the facts stand that over the course of a year he responded to and answered only a small handful of emails and never followed through on the other items on the list of things in the package.
I’ve also exchanged emails with two other people who have had the same experiences and I’ve heard from a top Internet Marketing Coach who says he’s heard the same complaints from several of his clients about Eric.
My point here is not to bad mouth Eric but to present the facts. I do actually think he knows how to improve conversion and that when he says things like “make links blue and underlined” he’s right. But I want to warn people NOT to purchase one of his package deals or other consulting services. He’s running one now titled: “How to Make 2010 Your Best Year Ever!” for $1997. My advice – DON’T DO IT!
He’s also raising the price on his Web Site Evaluations.com, “due to extreme demand” by $1000 on 1/4/2010. That makes the price almost $3000. Again, he does not take credit cards for anything over $1000 so you have to wire the money, use an online check, or overnight a check. My advice – DON’T DO IT!
Here are a few links to others who have been taken as well:
http://www.elanelan.com/EricGraham.htm (this one contains screen shots from the video promoting the same package I signed up for)
You may be wondering why I’ve not pressed Eric for a refund. First, read the posts at the 3 links above. Eric does not take credit cards for these big packages, only checks or wire transfers for items over $1000. Geez, I wonder why!
But, I didn’t pay Eric with money; we traded something of equal value to the cost of the package. I have asked for it back, or the cash equivalent, but, like the complaints in the links above, he has never respond to those emails. Actually he responded to one with the copywriting worksheet and videos mentioned above, contained in a forwarded month(s) old email he says he sent but that I must have never received… with no mention of my refund request or returning my property.
So that’s today’s lesson. There are good guys you can trust, and I’ll keep them in my blog roll. But there are a few rotten apples that will spoil your day. Do your homework before spending a large sum of money with anyone – use a search engine, type in their name and add the word scam, rip off, etc. – you might be surprised what you find.
You can thank me later!
Oh… please Digg, Stumble, etc. this post so that as many as possible will see it…
Until next time,
Update: Ryan Healy posted a blog post titled Internet Marketing on Life Support – he referenced my issues with Eric and also two other problems in the Internet Marketing field. Eric responded to his post with some pretty farfetched lies about me and what happened between us… and tried to make this sound like it was my fault! Eric has had a huge response to his post.