One of my clients has booked a costly course from a well-known online entrepreneur. It was an “effect purchase” that she did spontaneously in the webinar – and regretted only hours later. The course did not help her because she was already confused by too much information and so wanted a conversation partner.
Despite money-back guarantee, she never saw the money again and booked as an apprenticeship. Of course, she did not force anyone to buy – but did she really have a free choice, so I looked at several sales funnel (sales funnels) from various online entrepreneurs. (Note: a sales funnel is a process to sell product and services online)
My conclusion: Often you hardly have a chance to defend yourself against targeted marketing manipulation.
Many online entrepreneurs know precisely how to get people to shut down and buy their brains. All components are tested and strategically designed to have the highest possible effect.
This article is intended to help you avoid accidentally falling into the trap of dubious online entrepreneurs and making sensible decisions about how and where you want to invest your money.
Important: I have nothing against a good sales process or webinars to sell services. But it’s important to me that prospects are not manipulated to invest money they might not have – or buy a product that does not help them.
The typical online manipulation
Attention: The text drips with irony
You see a sponsored ad on your social media timeline that promises you 6-digit sums in a short time or customers without end. The colors are loud, there are a lot of icons (increasing the conversion!), And the face of a coach grins at you (looks work better with ads).
On YouTube commercials of young guys or women in short supply, who have rented a luxury villa and a Porsche on holiday and enthusiastically report on digital nomadism. The ad or spot will lead you to a landing page (the single web page that is there to collect your email address). Here you either get a free PDF with allegedly valuable tips or the invitation to watch a webinar.
The webinar is the holy grail of the sellers because here they have your full attention and can pull all the manipulation registers. The most recorded webinar is 45 – 90 minutes. In the sidebar, you can see comments and alleged live chats with several other participants, who are totally thrilled and find everything that the provider tells excellent.
Do not be fooled – there is software to create comments under different names and play them out minutely.
The standard success story (and its purpose)
In the beginning, you’re promised that you’ll get the most out of the webinar and that you’ll learn a secret trick or insider technique that will bring you more revenue tomorrow – so stay tuned! But first, the provider has to introduce himself and presents his success story.
Then he spent a long time looking for a way to be free. Thousands of Euros and several years later, he finally found the one product/system/coaching/secret/ blueprint that now enables him to make massive sales in his sleep and live his dreams.
The success story is usually a modified form of the classic “From Dish Washing to Millionaire.”
In the past, the provider was burned, depressed, ill, and slept on the couch of his parents.
Even his hamster Goldie has left him.
Now he lives the life of which he (and of course you) only dreamed. He has time for his family, travels around the world, and loves his work. Actually, he would not have to work one more day, but he just loves it – Entrepreneur Mindset and all that. Even his hamster now lives in a gilded house.
The whole story has only one goal: you should think that you have much in common. The provider emphasizes that he owns no special skills and has made it despite his bad initial situation. The real marketing trick is to eliminate your self-doubt and let the following thoughts arise: “If even he has done that, then maybe I can do that too?”.
Note: I love storytelling, and it’s essential to tell your story! But when I hear the same lame story again, I jump out the window. Also, the storytime should be in reasonable proportion to the rest of the webinar time.
The “added value” in the webinar
Now that you’ve been tormented by the provider’s track record of 30 minutes and know your kids by their first name. Here’s a little tip (which you would also have received with a quick Google search or in a book).
You have hope that there will be more because the promises were tremendous and you are brave. But what comes first instead? It follows the principle of “pain & profit.”
The principle “Pain & Profit.”
Now the provider lists all the pain points you might have because you are not as successful/beautiful/ free / … as you would like to be. Often the negative consequences are extremely exaggerated – you may have to pay thousands of euros for a wrong headline, and you have to sell your firstborn to make ends meet.
But if you already knew the product/system/ secret, then your future would be rosy, and you would ride on a unicorn into the sunset.
So you’ll be presented with a lot of pain points and a (potential) profit when you buy the product. It is suggested that this rosy future is within reach – it costs you only this small investment.
With the principle of pain and gain, the bag of tricks is profoundly gripped, and deeply human needs and desires are addressed that each person has: security, love, recognition, longing, belonging, etc. They stimulate your imagination and make you feel that you, too, can create. If it has not happened yet, then your resistances and doubts continue to crumble here at the latest …
Now follows the “Social Proof Principle.” In short: We are herd animals and are based firmly on recommendations and the opinion of the crowd. That’s genetically predisposed to us, and that’s why Amazon reviews work so well. The provider now shows praise and success stories of customers who have already purchased the product and thus become successful.
This social proof is a useful marketing trick to convince you of the added value and to make clear that other customers without special skills have been successful. It selects new examples to represent typical customers – with at least one of them you can identify.
What you quickly overlook: The losers are, of course, not presented to you, but only the outstanding success stories. Often there is also a lack of proof that these successes have actually ever occurred or that the reference donors are not making proper sales.
Rule of thumb: The more exaggerated the successes are touted, the more skeptical you should be (“In two weeks, an increase of 5000%!”).
After the story, the prospect of the bright future and the praises of customers you have invested a lot of time. In the chat, you see the enthusiastic comments that are all excited about the great offer and can not wait to buy finally. In the meantime, you are hoping for added value. But the hope is in vain – now the actual sale follows.
Note to Social Proof: References and customer voices are absolutely essential to any business and should be used. But be skeptical of exaggerated praise. Also, keep in mind: Here are often shown only the top achievements, not the masses!
Now all advantages are enumerated, and the provider tells you a passionate future story: What will be possible! You will not only have more money but also time for your family and hobbies.
As an expert you will enjoy a torrent of new customers, your phone will not stand still, and you will be royally paid. You’ll never have to do it again, your family and friends will envy you for your success, and you’ll sip champagne from your supermodel partner’s navel.
Good sellers can overshadow even fantasy authors.
And then comes the all-important question: what price is your success worth? Because it’s not just about money, but about your precious lifetime! Is that even worth balancing with cash?
Yes, it is – and for a ridiculous price, which always ends in the number 9 or 7. These numbers have proven the highest purchase rate.
The mega bonus
But that is not all! Because the provider is in patronage today and would like to reward the participants who strike immediately and thus prove that they are dangerous.
The offer: If you buy in the next 20 minutes, you will get a Super Mega Ultra bonus on top of that, which consists of 10 parts. This bonus is worth at least once again thousands of euros (whether fictitious or not does not matter)!
The reason: The provider wants to prevent that you think too long about the purchase.
Often, in the same context, a timer will appear, during which time runs down and makes you nervous. And remember: The provider itself took years and spent thousands of dollars to acquire this secret knowledge! How long would it take you to receive the same experience? Especially smart providers also give you arguments to justify your investment in front of your partner, friends, or family.
Finally, a few questions are answered (of course, never critical issues) and potential objections are eliminated, which could also prevent the last doubter from buying. Again and again, the page with the bonus package is displayed, with the fictitious value crossed out and the super discount displayed.
Emails in the wake
Afterward, you will receive at least 3-5 emails indicating that this is really your last chance and the supplier does not know if he would offer the product AGAIN again for this CHEAP. More suffering and success stories are presented that would make even Donald Trump tear up. By the way: Some providers include extra spelling mistakes in their emails because this seems more authentic!
After this manipulation marathon, it is no wonder that customers are buying even though they may not need the product right now, or the investment is beyond their means.
This is how brainwashing works today.
– SARCASM END –
The 6 most effective marketing tricks
Marketing tricks, also called “triggers,” are psychologically effective levers that have proven useful in guiding people in the right direction. They have been tried and tested many times and are often used to sell effectively. In principle, against any of these tricks to say something, provided they are ethically and morally correctly handled by the provider – and not to pull people over the table.
I would like to call you here so that you know them and can make a sensible decision on your next investment that will not make you prudent in retrospect.
Trick 1: simplicity
Let’s face it: people are lazy and want everything as fast, easy, and convenient as possible. Some many products and services promise time or money savings. Online courses are typical because they save time for your own research and tests – there’s nothing wrong with that!
It becomes critical when providers sell quick or exaggerated success without much effort. Honest sellers point out that anything worthwhile requires time and money, and success is never easy. But honesty sells unfortunately much more complicated than cocky promises …
Trick 2: scarcity
Products and services that are exclusive and scarce are perceived as more desirable (think of diamonds). The principle of poverty is often used by manufacturers, luxury suppliers, car manufacturers, and premium brands. Often it is true that there are only a limited number of pieces or the production takes a long time.
But dubious providers will try to artificially reduce their product in some form – although there is no logical justification for this. Often there are “only a few seats” or a small number of pieces. Some also claim that the product (at this price) may not be available later. Pay attention to whether the scarcity is really logical or artificially built by the provider to increase the pressure.
Trick 3: Urgency
This trick can be found in every supermarket with special offers to online marketers: The offer is only available at short notice. The background: If he has too much time to think, maybe he will not buy. The longer the decision lasts, the less likely a purchase will be. Therefore, the offer is limited to a particular time, or there is no bonus after a certain period.
Again, in principle, there is nothing wrong with it, if it is used relatively. Sometimes you want to give customers a loving push in the right direction to finally take action (see point 1: We humans are lazy and comfortable.) But when the pressure gets too high, you deprive customers of the opportunity to act rationally,
Trick 4: Profit & Loss
Clear: Every offer and product should be created in such a way that it represents an added value for the customer. In return, of course, it can have negative consequences if you should not buy the product. Both sides should be made clear to the customer so that he can make a sensible decision.
But dubious providers both sides are incredibly exaggerated. Both the expected profit as well as the negative consequences for non-action is painted with a lot of imagination in all its facets. So please check: What will happen if you do not accept the offer and continue as before? And what advantages could it have if you take the offer? Which side outweighs?
Trick 5: Social Proof
As described in the text above, we orient ourselves strongly to other people and follow the recommendations and opinions of the masses. That’s why Amazon reviews and referrals work so well. Especially if we are unsure and have no experience with a provider, we prefer to rely on the opinions of others.
Instead of praising themselves, many companies like to use references and success stories of former customers to convince them of their offer. So yes: texts and customer voices should be used in any case. But be skeptical if these customer voices are extremely exaggerated or unnatural. A quick reference background check often works wonders
Trick 6: price reduction or bonus
This trick is self-explanatory. Give most people an (alleged) special offer and the brain snaps. Bargain hunters love the experience and the struggle for the best price – they want to feel they have made a good trade. This works for advertising leaflets as well as for online offers.
Sometimes you can actually make a bargain, but most of the time, the provider also deserves the special offer. Again, please turn your head: Is the investment useful for you, and will it amortize over time? Is the bonus a meaningful supplement to the offeror just an unnecessary addition to increasing the perceived added value?
How to distinguish good from bad providers
The question is: how should you distinguish good from bad providers? Often the difference is not easy to spot, so I’ll give you some tips to help you choose.
Long-standing real added value
Right providers are years of experts in their field. Not because they call themselves experts, but because they continuously deliver added value – through contributions, podcast sequences, videos, newsletters, etc. Look at the provider and check how long he already offers added value and how the quality of his work. There are plenty of people who want to jump on every trend move and quickly make an overpriced online course out of a book or a few Google articles and sell it at a high price.
Commitment instead of mass
Follower numbers do not say much about a vendor’s added value, just that it suits the taste of the crowd. Much more important is how committed the provider is.
- Does he answer questions?
- Does he go for criticism or wishes?
- Is he approachable, or does he pretend to be a guru who no longer needs it?
- What are his reviews and ratings?
- How does it behave after customers purchase the product?
Really successful entrepreneurs know that success does not arise overnight or is secure. Right providers promise you no quick achievements, shortcuts, or secrets to success. But they take you a piece in hand and support you as much as possible. These providers also do not work with everyone and explicitly point out which people their product is NOT suitable. They are more interested in long-term satisfaction than in short-term sales.
Good gut feeling
Please do not buy immediately from someone you barely know. Take your time, ask former participants, and see what your gut feeling tells you. We often have a perfect antenna for whether someone is talking bullshit or seriously interested in our welfare. If you have a bad feeling about the provider, let it be better or researcher intensive.
In conclusion: Good products have a reasonable price. Adequate, of course, is very individual, but the following should be clear: You can (usually) not expect big things from a 99, – € course or a 9, – € ebook. High-quality products require a lot of knowledge, commitment, time, money, and experience. Conversely, it must be in a reasonable ratio and should pay off, if you really do your homework and not just passively consume.
I hope these tips will help you to make meaningful investments that will really help you. I believe that lifelong learning is essential to everyone and that every provider has a responsibility to sell their services ethically.