Guru Garbage

Marketing Tips for Selling Online

Corey Rudl’s Internet Marketing Secrets course was probably the first business opportunity related product I purchased that I found online. I remember reading an article about some guy who built a simple website about car secrets and made a fortune. He supposedly parlayed the knowledge he used to bring traffic (and orders) to his auto related website and into his marketing secrets course.

Back in the mid 1990’s, I couldn’t afford to shell out 2 grand for a personal computer. That was like 3 months rent for my one bedroom apartment in the “OC”. I got started on a cheaper device, a WebTV that cost me a few hundred bucks. After I taught myself everything I could about it, I created a website called Web4TVTips along with a comb binded guide I wrote with everything I knew included.

I remember being completely fixated with this new device in my living room. I would wake up, check my email, go to work, come home, then just play until it was time to force myself into bed. I spent months learning the ins and outs of the WebTV, as well as some basic html which still serves me well to this day.

I remember even getting a little mischievous when I found a forum post with information about how to open up games like Doom and You Don’t Know Jack that weren’t supposed to be available to users because of licensing issues. I really felt like a master of this dumb little box. I spent so much time in front of it.

I’ve always had an issue coming up with informational products to sell because I felt like I had to be an absolute expert in something to confidently provide guidance to other people. We all know that’s not necessarily true, but this guide was the first product I created that made me feel secure in my own knowledge. I was proud of it.

I was going to follow along with Corey’s Marketing Secrets program for advertising this guide online. His program was packed with useful information. The hard copy pages came in two of those mega-thick three ring binders and they would have been bursting at the seams if binders had them.

If I recall correctly, this product was fairly expensive. I think it was $197. Why $197? Well, apparently someone along the way did some tests and found prices ending in 7 were favored more by prospective customers. Corey mentioned this in his Marketing Secrets program too.

Even though it was a pricey package, there was still a perceived value based on the size. He could have provided all of this information digitally on a compact disc and I would have felt ripped off, but because it was hundreds upon hundreds of pages with data and illustrations, I didn’t feel that way.

If he was going to deliver it in digital form, he would have done better setting it up on a website in course form, but we have to remember this was the very early days of the commercial internet. There were probably very few member type sites back then, and I don’t even know if CD-ROM drives were standard in PC’s around this time. Whether the hard copy idea was by design or it just made the most sense to deliver in print back then, it worked.

The demise of this project was one part a case of life getting in the way and another part of being on the tail end of a dying service, though one can surmise I would have somehow sabotaged this one as well if I had the time. Right around the time I perfected this guide and website, I lost my job, had to give up my apartment, put my belongings in storage, and drive 3,000 miles back to the east coast.

I had every intention of picking up where I left off after a short readjustment period, but that didn’t happen. When I got back on my feet, computer prices had come down a bit so I finally purchased one. I realized my Web4TVTips website did not look very good on a computer. It looked perfect on a WebTV like it was built for, but the design did not translate the same in a computer browser.

I also realized that my computer purchase was very telling to the business I was trying to start. I began reading about the slow demise of WebTV subscriptions. PC’s were coming down in price making them more attainable to the average household. The Web4TVTips guide would have a shrinking audience.

I realized it was a dead end to continue putting anymore time and effort into this idea. It would be like Don Lapre trying to sell his classified ads business idea in this day and age. You might as well start selling a guide on how to become a successful pin boy.

Real Estate With No Down Payment

I donated to the Carleton Sheets real estate empire by purchasing his No Down Payment course. It was so long ago that the material came on audio cassettes and VHS tapes. I noticed them collecting dust on a cellar shelf last time I visited my parents house.

I remember very little content from the course itself, but I do recall it being very beginner friendly. I still don’t think I felt confident enough to enter the real estate investing world with only his course under my arm. He might teach you how to swim a bit, but you’d still be a seal in a shark tank.

Carleton’s infomercials used to run late night on television which was around the time I was stumbling home after a night of partying. I’d come home and make something to eat, sit down in front of the TV, and watch all my friends like Don Lapre, Carleton Sheets, Matthew Lesko, Miss Cleo, Tom Vu, etc.

I always had an interest in real estate, but never felt like I knew enough to risk a lot of money. I figured buying a book or a course was the short cut I was looking for to learn the basics, but I always ended up with more questions than answers.

I even signed up to take the real estate sales license exam which requires some class training beforehand. I was working nights at the time and would stop in at a real estate office on my way home (which was the beginning of the normal work day) to watch some video instruction. I’m not sure what happened with that, but I could not even compel myself to finish these self paced classes.

I probably had a revelation that if I continue on this career trajectory, I will have to schmooze people constantly and network tirelessly, something as an introvert I find extremely unpleasant. I don’t mind talking to people, but would I want to build a career that is dependent on it? No thank you.

I can see myself sabotaging the program because of this very reason. I might love the idea, but I’m not able to push myself into the necessary scenarios. I should really know by now what I’m capable of carrying out and what will die a lonely death from neglect.

I remember watching one of his videos where he’s combing through the newspaper classified ads, circling the ones with seemingly motivated sellers. He gets on the phone and we get to hear both sides of the conversation as he tried to make a deal. This kind of thing sounds no better than telemarketing to me.

If you do a search for Carleton Sheets and his books, courses, and mentorships, you’ll find varying reviews that span the spectrum. Some call him nothing more than a charlatan while others champion his teachings and credit him with inspiring many beginners to take the first step into real estate investing.

I realized I’ll never the social drive to be in real estate, but that’s OK. I have plenty of other things I can start and never finish in complete solitude if I want. I will say that out of the few books and programs I’ve read on real estate, I have read better.

Make Money Buying And Selling

Remember Don Lapre? His infomercials plastered late night TV pitching his Making Money program in the 90’s. Yes, I bought Don’s crap back then. I don’t remember much of what the package included, but I do recall it being heavy on the simple concept of buying and selling.

I remember skimming through his material and not being extremely impressed with the content. I was always optimistic about a new idea or program, so it was still hard to break my spirit even after purchasing an item of questionable merit. I wondered if it really could be that easy. Could selling a product through classifieds really be that profitable?

I believe back then it could have been if you had the right product, pitch (ad), and plan. There were plenty of opportunities I found in the back classified pages of newspapers and magazines pre-internet. This is where people looked for opportunity. Jobs, items for sale, and businesses were all posted in classified ads.

The problem with his formula was there really wasn’t one. It loosely reminded me of the Cash for Stuffing Envelopes game where the ad you responded to is the business he is selling you. The big difference being that Don upped the stakes with TV advertising spots, though I don’t recall if he recommended that same technique or not.

Part of his package was the contact information for thousands of newspapers so you could place ads in different markets and grow your business throughout the country. The allure being that if you could make a few hundred dollars from a single ad each and every month, imagine what you could earn with hundreds of simultaneous ads running all over the country.

I always loved the idea of informational mail order products. The thought of being able to duplicate something over and over for new profit occupied many daydreams for me in my younger years. I would set up an assembly line in my head of what it would be like to create the product, check the mail for orders, preparing and shipping orders, and of course, being rich from it.

My biggest problem was coming up with a product idea. Mine all sucked, but I did eventually find one that wasn’t too bad. It was a single page manual lottery wheel. Cheap to duplicate, cheap to mail.

I crafted my ad to be both enticing and as short as possible (classified ads were charged by the word), and placed an ad in the National Enquirer. It was much more expensive to place an ad in a national publication over a local newspaper, but I had dollar signs in my eyes, so I wanted the most eyeballs as possible to see my ad.

I think I charged $5 for the wheel, but it cost over $100 to run the ad, and in the end I made about 4 sales. I thought about sitting down and dissecting the issue. Was it the product? The ad? Should I not change anything until I’ve tried it for a few months? But in true form, I forgot about this and moved on to the next thing.

It is most definitely my modus operandi to move on after a short time, but I think this one was easier to forget because I was never crazy about my product. I always wanted something new to pitch, but could never come up with a completely unique idea on my own.

As far as Don Lapre is concerned, I searched for him out of curiosity and was shocked to find he was dead. He had been indicted by a federal grand jury in June of 2011 on accusations of running a nationwide scheme to sell worthless Internet businesses. 1

Shortly thereafter he was picked up by law enforcement for failure to appear at his arraignment. A few months later, and two days before his trial was to begin, he committed suicide by cutting his own throat with a razor blade in his jail cell. I was not expecting that.

  1. Don Lapre, Wikipedia (last visited July 24, 2015).

Commodities Trading With Ken Roberts

Ken Roberts is known for being a direct marketing master. When I found his ad in the back of a Popular Mechanics magazine and sent away for more information, I had no idea what type of business he was even pitching. When the information arrived, I remember being taken in by it and immediately wanting more.

The business he was peddling was futures trading. This can be a very intimidating subject for people to comprehend, but his pitch was in layman’s terms and allowed me to believe I could successfully grasp these concepts too. I ordered his course titled The World’s Most Powerful Money Manual, and while I never employed any of his rather simplistic techniques to make an actual trade, I give him credit for introducing me to a love of following the markets ever since.

He made futures trading extremely easy to understand, but his method for achieving massive profits on a trending market were top heavy. Even as a neophyte trader, I recognized the instability of the upside down pyramid he was building. Sure, you can double your position with profit from the previous position and so on, and as long as the market is rising, you’re making money. However, there’s incredible leverage and risk trading on margin, and one limit down day in this type of scenario could wipe out all your gains and more.

This course was not cheap if I remember correctly, but I have absolutely zero qualms about this purchase. Even though I didn’t exactly follow it, this course material was responsible for influencing my many other course and book purchases on technical analysis, open interest and volume, options, etc.

I laugh when I think back during this time. I was young and still working a retail stock type job, but I was bringing the Wall Street Journal to work each morning (mid 90’s before everything was so readily available on the internet) so I could check commodity prices at lunch. I probably came off as pretentious, but that wasn’t my intent. I was just hungry for more market related information.

Over the years I have traded both futures and stocks with no real talent for it. I would say I have always been a break even trader, so despite all I’ve learned, I’m unable to translate any of it into substantial profits. I still loosely follow the markets though, even if I don’t have an active account open to trade.

I believe this is one of those areas where fortunes can be made with a conservative approach while following stringent money management rules. You might be asking, then why haven’t I made millions trading? Well, haven’t you been paying attention? I have the attention span of a fly when it comes to following through. 🙂

Hey, if Michelle Williams (yes, this Michelle Williams) father can teach her to turn 10K into 100K in a year and win the 1997 World Cup Championship of Futures Trading at the tender age of 17, it’s a skill capable of being taught.

But more on Larry Williams later…