I have been in the marketing space for over 5 years. It’s not that long, but it’s long enough to see the trend in courses and webinars and people teaching you marketing so you can build an agency with the goal of making money while living anywhere.
The thing that attracted me to these ads is that they seem like scams. I don’t think they’re actually scams in the way that they’ll take your money and won’t send you the course you signed up for. But I see them as scammy, in that they promise you a way to live anywhere, travel, and make money by taking a course, finding clients, and doing a little work each week. A lot of people are going into these courses with the goal to work anywhere and make easy money, rather than going into it because they’re interested in marketing or starting a business.
This is one of the reasons the marketing space has such a bad reputation. The fundamentals are super easy to learn, so anyone can jump in and say they’re a marketer. But to be really good you need to spend a lot of time learning, getting experience, being hands-on, and trying things.
Let me make a disclaimer though, I haven’t taken any of these courses I’ve seen advertised on Instagram. I would like to, to see if the courses are of any value, but I don’t want to waste my money and quite a few have very sleazy refund policies where they offer 30 day refunds but it’s quite hard to actually get one.
Instead, my plan is as follows:
- “Like” all entrepreneur, business, marketing, course ads on Instagram
- Sign up for their webinar/case study/etc.
- Write about the webinars/downloadables
- Write about all the follow-up emails I get
That’s about it. I just want to document what these people are doing to market their courses on helping you become a marketer or start a business. It’s such a strange cycle but it’s so common!
Step 1: Learn marketing/start dropshipping
Step 2: Get a few clients/sell some products
Step 3: Realize you hate working with clients/hate dealing with customers
Step 4: Start your own course
Marketing is one of those spaces where people don’t really show any evidence for work they’ve done in the past, and businesses are desperate for marketing help that they hire someone without doing research or asking for proof they know what they’re doing. You can really BS your way through marketing work with a client by telling them they won’t see results for a few months, you need to try different things, blah blah blah. A few months goes by, you’ve made your money, the client realizes you haven’t achieved much and cancels the contract and you go get a new client.
It can be hard to find honest agencies that don’t puff up their numbers, use fake case studies, or use their charm and personality to land clients rather than showing hard data and actual results.
The worst ones are the local marketing agencies. I’ve Googled some agencies in my area and NONE that I looked at had case studies. They all offered EVERYTHING: social media, web design, SEO, PPC, CRO. Agencies that do everything, are not good at anything. Specialization is what you want, but small businesses want a jack of all trades to come in and make all their problems go away. These agencies don’t know how to market themselves, no value proposition, nothing special to differentiate themselves from competitors. They just go off the fact that they’re local. (I may do another post on this at some point)
So far, I have liked a few ads and already I’m getting a stream of similar ones as well as some online colleges (and one for teeth straightening). I’ll update this post once I watch the webinars and start getting more emails.
Mike Vestil’s Instagram Ad
So I’m a bit late in writing this (it is December 29, 2018). But I spent about a month liking as many of these ads as I could on Instagram (I actually just deleted Instagram off my phone, maybe I’ll write about why I did later).
I actually did go through a webinar from someone whose ad had all the elements of a typical “Make money online. I want to start a business and travel all the time” offer.
His name is Mike Vestil and from what I gathered he says he does a little of everything: sells courses, does coaching, wrote a book, YouTuber.
His ad was slick and looked well made. He is walking around a big house in the tropics shirtless holding a ukulele and a Macbook, so it’s good at catching your attention. The ad doesn’t mention anything about what he’s offering, it’s just clickbait about how he’s a dropout and lives an “EPIC lifestyle”.
He is really trying to sell you on the lifestyle of having a business. Even though I am not a fan of it, there is nothing wrong with that approach.
I do have a problem with his webinar though. I clicked the learn more button in the ad and get to this page:
So the webinar is going to show me how Mike gets 30-50 sales a day not having to touch any product. I am assuming he is either talking about dropshipping or affilaite marketing. Alright, pretty standard stuff.
But there is a “WARNING! Space is limited.” message saying that I need to claim a spot in this “live” training because it can fill up.
It is just a BS tactic and I am not sure anyone falls for it anymore.
Again, not illegal, just a sleazy tactic to get people to sign up.
I sign up for the 7PM webinar. And here is the screen while I wait for it to start.
While I wait for the webinar I get this gem of an email from Mike’s “assistant”. She is saying she just got off the phone with Mike! He’s getting ready for this 7PM “live training” on a Sunday night. Do people really believe this stuff?
They also welcome me to the family (bleh). It’s so disingenuous. People love throwing “family” around in business.
I’m 100% positive this webinar is not live. But just to get some proof I go back to the webinar landing page and wow you wouldn’t believe it but Mike is going to be doing another webinar at 7:15 PM! He’s going to be doing 2 webinars simultaneously, what a guy.
Obviously I’m being sarcastic. It’s just dishonest to claim you’re doing a live webinar. People are aware of the fact that you can’t be doing live webinars all the time and they’re not going to shame you for offering a pre-recorded video. I just don’t get the need to say it’s live when it isn’t.
The webinar is just starting, it’s been live for 31 seconds and would you believe there are already 403 other viewers! They weren’t kidding when they said this thing would fill up /sarcasm.
I have no way to prove there aren’t 400+ other people in this thing, but from the email from his “assistant” to saying that the training is “live” I highly doubt it.
He also said he “muted” everyone’s chat so we don’t get “distracted”. Ok yeah…
In true webinar fashion he starts off by showing all of the amazing results and testimonials from his students. I’m not saying these aren’t true, because they very likely can be. But most webinars start off showing stuff like this to get you hyped and motivated and to add some amount of credibility to this course.
In short the webinar was a huge waste of time, which I figured going in. I think he spent about 45 minutes talking about himself and why having a business is the best (travel, time to do other stuff, no 9-5 job) and showing testimonials.
He shares his Instagram posts from travels to exotic places and says he works only 30 minutes a day (if he works 30 minutes a day then how is he doing these live webinars all the time?).
He pokes at the frustration many people in his target market have which is that they feel stuck in a job they don’t like and they want to live a fun life (just like him!) where they can travel or do things they enjoy.
I get it, I’ve had that feeling. You’re stuck in a job that’s not fulfilling you. You’re stuck in an office or with a long commute you hate. These courses fill you with the hope that you can leave your boring job, make money, and have more free time.
Then he says, “We have grandmas doing this that don’t even know how to use a laptop.” Ugh really?
Finally at minute 45 he talks about the whole point of the webinar…affiliate marketing.
I’m sure it’s true that there are still lots of affiliate marketers out there making good money. To me, it’s just not a sustainable business model. It’s not a business I’d like to go into or that I’d recommend, but there’s nothing scammy or wrong with it.
Here’s what the gist of the affiliate marketing business is:
- Find some product on ClickBank (people still use this?)
- Drive people to your site with Facebook ads
- The Facebook ads are made to look like clickbait articles (Buzzfeed-esque lists) that feature a link to your Clickbank product
He spent 25 minutes going over this and then launches into 40-50 minutes of selling his coaching program that costs $1997 but if you act fast you can get it for just $997.
Although he uses some sleazy tactics like saying the webinar is live, sending that initial email, and showing off his student testimonials rather than showing how much he is actually making from affiliate marketing, it’s not a scam as far as I can tell.
But it’s something I would definitely never recommend to anyone I know. Doing affiliate marketing like this was a huge business a few years back with all the niche sites and PBNs. It’s still viable but very competitive. To me, it’s not a business I’d like to enter.
Then he goes on to sell his coaching program. No idea how the program is or what’s included, but trying to start an online business is really a trial and error sort of thing that you don’t really need a course for.
I tried affiliate marketing and realized I didn’t like selling other people’s stuff and that Amazon controlling the affiliate share you get is a bit scary. I though about doing dropshipping and FBA but don’t want to take some product from China, tweak it, slap my logo on it, and sell it. I don’t want to contribute more waste.
The great thing about starting a business online is that you can learn nearly everything for free! Setting up a website is less than $100 including buying the domain, hosting, and setting up WordPress (or if you want to do Squarespace or Shopify it’s a bit more).
You can test out all different types of business models and marketing strategies for much less than the $1000 his course costs.
In all honesty it’s not a scam in the sense that he takes your money and rips you off. But I think it’s disingenuous to promote this awesome lifestyle of travel and working a few hours a week and not say how much you actually make from affiliate marketing vs. from other avenues of your business like courses.