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Last week, Allissa Haines wrote an article on how to review someone before you hire Experts, mentors & coaches.

I want to talk a little bit about buying internet products.

Product launch season must be just ’round the bend. Why do I think this? Well, it’s been months since the big internet players have released products, people including Chris Brogan, Johnny B Truant, Dave Navarro, or Naomi Dunford.  Many of them are starting to drop hints that stuff is coming ‘soon’. I’ve determined that when the big dogs unleash their products, all of the smaller players are usually close behind. Plus, it’s summer and no one does a product launch in the summer.

Be prepared, be very prepared!

The people who are successful at product launches and teaching people to do so are successful for a reason: they know what the hell they are doing! They’ve studied the psychology of buying, how to design a squeeze page, how to maximize conversion, the value of social proof, and a lot of other words and phrases that may not make sense to you but are proven ways of getting the customer to part with their money.

Some of these products are worth every penny you can scrape together.

Some of these products are utter crap.

Trust me on this, I’ve bought both. I’ve gotten stuff that rocked my world and made my business week a little easier or profitable. I’ve gotten stuff that was nothing more than a few vague platitudes dressed up with fancy type and cool layout.

How do you determine whether an internet product or course is a good buy?

We’re going to dip a bit into Allissa’s list here, since some of the items came from me.

1. What kind of business does/did the Advisor run?

Does it have anything to do with the product they are selling? Maybe it’s because I’m old and have a lot of experience, but I’d like to think that you know more about a topic than I do before I buy your product. Direct experience is often the best teacher.

The other part of this is: if they’re teaching something that doesn’t relate to their current business, does the knowledge come from past experience? Many of us in the massage world are on our second or third careers. Me included. At this point, I could effectively teach you how to: develop a killer Power Point slide set, speak in front of 600 people, manage 20 technical people and 40 projects, design a switching power supply, write html code, and design a website using divs. Why? Because this is what I did for over 20 years and many of those skills still apply (granted the power supply design stuff is rapidly falling behind the state of the art).

2. Does it have a great website? Can you see the past email campaigns to clients/customers?

If you can’t be bothered to put together a decent website, then you probably can’t be bothered putting together a coherent product.

3. Is the advisor actively communicating with clients/customers (not just colleagues) in the current forms of media (Facebook, linked in, etc)  Is he/she practicing the techniques they preach?

If nothing else, it gives me an idea of what your techniques actually look like when implemented. That’s one of the ways I learn best.

4. How long has the Advisor run a successful business? If he/she is no longer running a business, why not? How long as it been?

I see a lot of “How to be an epic (insert business title here)” written by guys that are 19 years old. Unless that job title is “video gamer”, it’s unlikely that you have a lot of real world experience in the field. Don’t get me wrong, there are some areas where young people have the advantage: how to engage in social media, how to sell to Gen Y, how to write software are examples. How to manage a team? Probably not.

There are also a lot of people that cashed out a few years ago (at Intel, it was called “Calling in Rich”). That’s great, but was your success so long ago that the world has evolved past you? Or are you like Tom Peters or Guy Kawasaki always staying in the game and keeping up?

5. Have you tried any of the advisor’s free products and found them helpful?

I bought a product from Dave Navarro based entirely on what I got out of a product he provided for free. Why? because if he could offer me that much new knowledge in something free, then the paid products would be outstanding. I haven’t been disappointed.

Free stuff lets you see whether the expert teaches in a style that’s compatible with how you learn. There are many learning styles, so you need someone who can make that connection with you.

6. Are the people hawking their products doing so because they have an affiliate relationship with them? Are the affiliate links clearly noted?

This is a big one. You’ll see a lot of product reviews that come out the week of a product launch. This means that the reviewer was given a preview copy and asked to write a (favorable) review in exchange for getting an affiliate link. This affiliate fee can be as high as 40% of the selling price, so for a $200 product, that’s $80 for everyone who buys by clicking on your affiliate link. That’s one hell of a motivation to write a glowing review.

This is where I was burned in the past. I didn’t understand the whole “affiliate marketing launch” strategy and bought a product based on multiple rave reviews. I found that the product was mostly a lot of platitudes that didn’t really help my business. I also left a comment on a blog with a “I wish they had done B instead of A” and received a personal email from the product creator requesting that I address future issues with him in a private email first and could I please go and edit my comment to something a little more glowing. Needless to say, that email cost him my respect and any future business.

The problem isn’t just the money spent on these dogs, but the time you’ve lost

Some reviews are honestly positive, even with affiliate links

Some reviewers are all about the money, but then their blogs never catch on because everyone figures out that you’re just a shill. Some reviewers are about trying to spread the word about a great product. The trick is in knowing which is which. One way to do that is to look at their archives. Do they actually write about stuff other than product reviews? Do you trust them?

As a blogger, this is the potential quicksand. I’ve spent over a year developing your trust, dear readers, and I’m not willing to sacrifice that trust to make $80. If I recommend a product to you, it’s because I’ve found it to be useful to me. The products I advertise (my webhosting company for example) are things I use and stand by. The fact that I make some money IF you choose to buy them is a bonus, it’s not my primary means of income.

So, before you buy that bright-shiny-new-whatever, or hire that business or life coach, do a little research. It might save you some money and some time.

4 Responses to How to buy an internet product

  1. Good read, Kelli. As usual, you’ve combined your wit with your excellent business sense and created a real gem. And to the guy who asked you to address issues with him in private – what a schmuck! What is it they say – even bad publicity is good? Someday soon I’d like to be doing a product launch of my own! I know I’ll be asking you for advice when the time comes 🙂 Keep up the awesome writing!

    • Shocking as it is, some gold is just ‘gold colored’. It’s hard to tell, though, from the descriptions which is real and which is fool’s gold.

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