Hell, Karma and Natural Selection

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My colleague Dave Dee, Marketing Director at GKIC, had an argument with a guy the other day.

They were debating the “Leapfrog Principle.” Leapfrog is Dan Kennedy’s teaching that you don’t just obediently climb the ladder of your industry. That takes 40 years. According to those rules, you don’t get to actually become a leader until you have a colostomy bag strapped to your leg.

No, you appoint yourself expert, skip the bureaucracy, and advance to prominence as fast as humanly possible. You assume leadership and LEAP to the top.

This guy he was arguing with had taken this to mean you can just CLAIM to have million-dollar success stories under your belt, you can claim to be a world class expert, and you just start advising people about situations where you have no hard experience.

This guy’s website claimed he’d done all kinds of million-dollar deals when in fact he’d done zero.


Dave Dee fiercely argued this is brazenly unethical.

What the Leapfrog Principle originally meant was that once you HAVE the chops, once you can DELIVER the goods, you don’t seek permission from the Good Ol’ Boys Club and “pay your dues” for a couple more decades. You start doing and proving right away.

Unfortunately, the world is FULL of would-be and could-be experts who plaster “case studies” and “testimonials” all over their website which are actually fiction. The blind lead the gullible and, as a wise Jewish rabbi once said, they both fall into a ditch.

This is EPIDEMIC. Even more so in Social Media, where….

-People live in a touchy-feely gooey reactionary emotional haze, where actual facts are merely troublesome, conversation-stopping buckets of ice water

-Most people don’t have the patience to do a single Google search or fact check before spending money, opining, or trashing somebody’s reputation… let alone dig through Page 2 or Page 3…. let alone seek out original sources.

Fake testimonials are rampant.

Fake case studies are rampant.

Fake “New York Times Bestsellers” are rampant.

Especially in the business space.

There’s a list of companies you can call, where you’ll spend about $250,000 to guarantee 11,000 books per week for a couple of weeks (which is the threshold). They buy your books through the book distribution system. All the right switches get triggered, and presto, you’ve got the New York Times next to your name for the rest of your life.

Some people who do this do actually have customers for all those books, and they are real bestselling authors.

Sometimes all those books just get shipped to some warehouse somewhere. That author is now a “fake” bestselling author.

(HINT: The way you tell if someone bought their way to the top of the NY Times Bestseller list is, there’s 150 books for sale on Amazon for 1 cent.)

If your speaking fee was $5,000 before, now it’s $15,000. So 20 speaking gigs later, you’ve paid for the whole shebang.

I once heard a guy who runs one of these companies give a speech to a roomful of authors about “Authenticity.”

Now, what’s the problem with this?

I’ll tell you what the problem is.

Let’s start with the entrepreneur space, our own tribes of copywriters and people who start brand new businesses. People like YOU and ME who speak the language of sales and marketing. What’s the problem with you and me accepting this?

WE are the folks startups come to when they need to get customers. WE are the place where people who spent their life savings starting a coffee shop or publishing biz or consulting firm or software company, come to get advice.

Everybody comes through our space. In 2010, a couple named Nigel and Lesley Eccles took a train from Scotland to my workshop in London. They ran this tiny little company that hosted Fantasy Football.

Nigel had to explain to me what Fantasy Football was, because I’m a cretin when it comes to sports.

After he explained it to me, I explained to him why his customers buy and how to get inside their heads.

What is "80" and what is "20" for your business right now? Take my 2-minute quiz and I'll show you where you'll get the highest compound interest on your time and money!

His little company was called Fanduel. It’s the billion-dollar sports company that you now see on EVERY TV screen during every commercial break in every sports bar.

I can assure you, in 2010 Nigel was just like you: Terrified, desperate, only one chance to make this work, and the clock is ticking. I had lunch with him and Lesley in a cafeteria across the street from the hotel. I got the impression they’d spent every last penny to be there. And there was no guarantee Nigel was going to succeed. He was living by his wits and the best advice he could find.

Entrepreneurs have spouses and families and reputations on the line.

If they succeed, they build entire ecosystems. Birds nest in their branches. Just imagine how many industries Bill Gates created because he got Microsoft off the ground. How many software companies, hardware companies, retailers?

The PC made the internet possible. How many industries did the internet spawn?

When an entrepreneur wins, it’s a victory for everybody.

When an entrepreneur loses, it’s a LOSS for everybody. Dreams die. Possibilities die. Futures die.

Everything in the world hinges on entrepreneurs. Without entrepreneurs, there are no jobs.

There are no industries.

There are no schools.

There are no churches.

There are no hospitals.

There are no farms or stores or food supplies.

And there are no big corporations. Because all big corporations started out with an entrepreneur and a vision running a small company.

The future of the world hangs in the balance, based on what we teach the new entrepreneurs. We have a moral and social obligation to do the very best job we can.

And NOBODY has the right to dispense thin advice when they have no track record or direct knowledge. Nobody has the right to kill an entrepreneur’s future by feeding their own greed.

So if you’re a fake expert dispensing fake advice, collecting money because of your fake bestselling book or your fake credentials or fake testimonials, then I don’t care whether you believe in Hell, Karma, or Natural Selection, it’s gonna catch up with you sooner or later.

But not before it catches up to some innocent trusting person who entrusted their dreams and their future to YOU.

Dude, you better be able to deliver the goods.

The entrepreneur space has an obligation to be ethical and tell the truth. Because IF MARKETERS DON’T TELL THE TRUTH, IF ENTREPRENEURS DON’T TELL THE TRUTH, then nobody tells the truth and the whole economy crashes sooner or later.

If you don’t believe me, go spend a week doing deals in Moscow or Kiev.


Let’s call it “The false confidence of the truth-teller” and “The insecurity of the liar.”

Truth-tellers almost epidemically believe that the goodness and truthfulness of their product or message will magnetically attract customers. (Especially when celebrated with a positive mental attitude and “pure” thoughts.)

Truth-tellers believe good guys naturally win, and virtue conspires to make you successful.

This is not true.

This is especially not true because liars KNOW they have an inherent disadvantage. Liars know they have to hustle to stay ahead of the karma curve. So liars work HARDER to broadcast their message than good guys, who are often a tad self-righteous about the superiority of their goods.

I for one am guilty of resting on my laurels at times because I know “my stuff is actually better”. So if you’re one of the good guys, you need to set your ego aside and hustle twice as hard to get your message out.

Goodness is usually a liability at the very beginning. Why? Because a lie can travel around the world twice before the truth has time to put its shoes on. Your goodness and virtue WILL catch on sooner or later… but notice I said sooner or later.

Be very wise. Be careful who you listen to. And if you’re one of the good guys… step up your game. NOW.

Perry Marshall

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About the Author

Perry Marshall has launched two revolutions in sales and marketing. In Pay-Per-Click advertising, he pioneered best practices and wrote the world's best selling book on Google advertising. And he's driven the 80/20 Principle deeper than any other author, creating a new movement in business.

He is referenced across the Internet and by Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, INC and Forbes Magazine.

37 Comments on “Hell, Karma and Natural Selection”

  1. One of the best pieces I have read in a while. I am sick and tired of these self proclaimed gurus, sales experts and business coaches. The one thing that makes me laugh my ass off is that these same business coaches have never run a business in life and these same sales experts have never made sales in their life.

    Initially I was skeptical of you too, Perry. But gradually I realised, not every one is only after the money.

    Thanks! Cheers!

  2. The moral of the story is that if you are good, realize that the returns from equity far outpace the returns from income-the fee-therefore get equity… The other stuff while great don’t match up to this!! Bonus if it as the loom and smell of a STAR BUSINESS. I pass fan duel ads in two different cities this week.

  3. I subscribe to the 10,000 hours rule. If you’ve studied and practiced anything for 10,000 hours over the course of 5 years or 25 years, you are a 97+% expert in most any discipline.

    There are ways to create additional perceived standing, and as marketers it’s often worth our time to learn what they are to PRESENT OUR FEATURES in the ways most likely to be received as significant, valuable benefits by our customers. However, these indicators of status and authority themselves must only be indicators…not actual replacements for knowledge and experience themselves. It is absolutely YOUR JOB in your industry to make sure your customers are responding to the real value you offer and not falling victim to the click-whirr reaction created by the cheep-cheap noise created by the deceitful wolf pretending to be the customer’s loving mother. Thanks to Robert Cialdini and Influence: Science and Practice (excellent book, often recommended in Planet Perry) for that visual metaphor, referring to how young turkeys IIRC could be ‘tricked’ by a recorded sound of their mother (perception, a “fake” authority indicator like a bought-and-paid-for best-seller status) even when that sound was emitting from their natural PREDATOR (wolf = deceitful less interested in serving the customer than in simply taking their money as quickly and with as little effort as possible).

  4. Well now, it was a certain Perry Marshall who taught me how to discern the truthful person from the liar. I learned a very great deal from that, not just that the truthful person has the courage to tell a person something that’s negative about themselves. John Paul Mendocha takes it further by making his doubtful past something amusing.

    But my real point is this, namely that most people want to be told what they are doing is right. Well, that’s fair enough, only in business, just being “right” isn’t enough. Improvement comes from examining the things one is getting wrong… and putting them right! Usually this is the point where the businessman starts making excuses like “I’ve run this business for thirty years and… ”

    Which means that such businessmen leave themselves open to being deceived by the very kind of marketer and business advisor who’d not say “boo” to a goose. The kind of business advisor that speaks volumes and achieves silence – the kind of person who joins the businessman in fearfulness. What’s more, they make lots of money doing this.

    Just to add a little weight to this, I am writing a book (and it’s not Dorothy Parker’s “I’m not writing one either” – because it’s all there, it just needs working through). But what really put me on the right track was a friend who had the courage and the decency to say that some parts were rubbish. With that kind of help, I was able to realize when I was writing well, and when I was only able to jot down the ideas so that I could create the scene properly at a later date.

    The point I want to make is that improvement comes by accepting what a courageous person says in response to one’s honest attempts to get things right.

  5. There’s one word I rarely use, often find it banded around inappropriately, but for you Perry and this article it feels just right. That one word, awesome!

    The world is full of shysters, and often they congregate behind cheap suits, fakes smiles and marketing.

  6. For All who still lump “relativism” & “evil” together…
    One of the best statements that touched upon relativism–without using the word, itself, but managed to acknowledge that even tho we don’t always agree about–Right & Wrong…

    We Can All + Still Do Our Part To Make The World–Better…

    Came from Abraham Lincoln’s 2nd Inaugural Address…
    “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation’s wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan–to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”

  7. Perry Marshall is the guy who teached me a lot (and continues to) about marketing as well as life itself.

    Thank you for all the things you do.

  8. Perry, thank you for an inspiring post. Few people could attack this issue without sounding “ranty” and you managed to do this so brilliantly.

    I remember attending a seminar some 8-9 years ago where the guy bragged about the fact that his book was in instant bestseller because he bought the entire first run himself. Needless to say, that’s not what I flew down to learn there.

  9. Perry, Thank you for the great article and reminder! I have been hooked by many “so called experts”, and spent a lot of money to find out most are no further along than me in their own businesses.

    Being that I have been doing brick and mortar sales and marketing for the last 20 years I assumed that when people were going to show me how to take my business online it would be a fairly simple process. What I found is 98% of the people that I have worked with don’t have a clue and they aren’t making making their money off of teaching others. They are making money by trying to teach me, something that was taught to them that they could never implement for themselves.

    It reminds my of the Don Lapree model of infomercial fame. Teach them how you make money by putting little “get rich quick” ads in the paper to call you so you can show them how to put “get rich quick” ads in the paper.

    Same method different medium.
    Thanks for your integrity and thank you for your content.
    I’m glad I found you!

  10. Point taken. I need to say it like it is more often and not shrink back from the challenge of hearing, “Well, Joe says he can get-me-the-moon-stars-and-immortality in 4 weeks.”

    Yeah, karma is a bitch alright. Very different concept than our western values where we take firm positions with a right and a wrong side of evil. However, my own the experience of both good and bad karma is watching it pass through the void never to be seen again. At least by me.

    What goes around comes around… eventually. Often, just a different delivery system. Fighting the phonies, I still rely on number-crunching tracking and ROI analysis. It doesn’t get new clients but it tends to keep the good ones onboard forever.

  11. Amen. So many entrepreneurs are trying to make it and are taken advantage of with snake oil and gobbledygook.
    It is sad/devastating for the victims.

    Thank you for speaking out.


  12. Every time I hear someone proclaim themselves an expert my high school softball coach pops in my head saying “an expert is a has been drop of water”.
    Then there was the president of the University I used to work for who, upon his retirement, told me that doing what’s right and doing what’s popular are rarely mutual but you have to do what lets you sleep at night.
    I generally have the opinion that if you have to tell me how great you are, you are more than likely trying to convince yourself.
    Great posting!

  13. Perry …thank you thank you thank you for writing this post! So many Kardashian marketers out there trying to be famous for being famous.
    Love that you said to throw away the ego and work as hard or harder as the liars. Sometimes it’s so hard to understand why people fall for the ruse so often, but then it’s as much our fault for sitting back and not fighting for our people.

  14. Right on, Perry. The snake oil guys make it much more difficult for legitimate marketeers to connect with an ever more skeptical buying public. Thanks for the “come to Jesus” reminder.

    PS. I hope you took an equity stake for the advice you gave Nigel.

  15. What a wonderful rant! Thank you for sharing a very true observation of the world of small and I am assuming big business. Although I am in NO way a marketing diva, I have preached the merits of consistent marketing to mom and pop florists. 90% of the time it falls on deaf ears. As a 30+ veteran floral retailing, I find it increasingly difficult to answer the one question you posed to Nigel and Leslie. Until I do, I shall forever be catching up instead of leading my company to success. Thank you so much for sharing your insights and inspiration. Looking forward to more.
    Tina Stoecker-Coker

  16. Great article, thanks Perry. I do find it difficult to push myself forward. How does one ‘step up their game’ without feeling that you are being arrogant, pushy and greedy? You certainly don’t come over that way but I find myself being afraid that I would.

    1. It starts by not letting fear run your life. If people think you are being arrogant pushy and greedy – BUT YOU KNOW YOU ARE TELLING THE TRUTH – then you get to sleep at night – and let the chips fall where they may.

  17. Great post Perry.

    I was at that very same seminar in London 5 years ago, and i remember quite clearly when you said to Nigel & Leslie after demonstrating your Swiss Army Knife:

    “3 years from now you could sell [Fanduel] to ESPN for millions of dollars”

    Personally I love the leapfrog principle, it’s fully compatible with the 80/20 principle, and when applied correctly, you can become an expert at speed in your chosen industry – even internet marketing.

    I also see the difference between the words ‘Expert’ & ‘Crook’.

    If you are taking money from young or new entrepreneurs trying to cut their teeth for the first time and you are not an expert, then you are a crook.

    If you have had to cheat your way to the top by paying for “best selling author” status – then you are a crook.

    If you have fought your own battles, have your own stories to tell, spent your own money learning, have hurt, have succeeded, have un-succeeded, been mentored, been a mentor, and have ‘cut your own teeth’ several times over,

    THEN (and often only then) – you have some ground to call yourself an expert.

    Dan from the UK

  18. Perry,

    Ethics are needed for the market to function. Markets are needed for the country to function. Everything we have is a result of the markets/capitalism – two people trying to make each other better off through trade.

    People think they can attack the market and strangle it with regulations and denounce business owners – but when the free market dies – our country and level of existence will die with it. No more new technology – no more new biotech – no more new consumer goods. It will be bread lines and theft and corruption and nothing more.

    I don’t want to see that happen – and I am thankful that I am not the only one who thinks we have a problem.

    In your corner,


  19. Great article Perry,

    Karma’s coming a little sooner for some with the announcement Amazon is going after all those fake Fiverr reviewers… http://fortune.com/2015/10/19/amazon-fake-reviews/

    Also, just FYI – “Leap Frog” theory originally belongs to Robert Ringer who popularized it in his 1974 “Winning Through Intimidation” book (which is ironically more about how to avoid being taken advantage of by the intimidators).

  20. Yep

    Some days it seems the snake oil salesmen are winning.

    And then you drop this nugget of wisdom.

    This was exactly what I needed to be reminded of today Perry.

    Taking the high-road is not always easy to do.

    But it’s always the right thing to do.


    My career in this business started after I picked up a copy of your first AdWords book.

    It literally altered the course of my life. (I’ve no reason to blow smoke here – it’s just a fact)

    Your work caused me to look at marketing in a completely different way.

    Anyone who has followed your work over the years knows you, and the people closest to you, drip with integrity.

    This post is just another example of why your emails get opened.

    You are one of the Good Guys Mr Marshall.

    Keep doing what you do man.

    It’s needed, and it’s appreciated.

    David Tingley

  21. Great article Perry!

    One of the reasons I completely dropped out of the IM space is because of the phoneys. The nature of deception is that you don’t always know that you are being deceived(!) – especially by sociopaths – which it seems so many of the experts are. I’m certainly guilty of backpeddling just so that I don’t get pegged as one of them.

    Thanks for the encouragement to step up.

  22. Agreed. Alright, I’ll do it. I’m gonna step up my game.

    Other agencies promise better results and get worse performance than our agency. I’m sick of them getting clients instead of us because they’re smooth talkers.

  23. Awesome writing Perry.

    It is a constant battle to watch out for the liars, especially when the good guys don’t promote as much nor are as noisy as the charlatans : -)

  24. The older I get, the more I see all this playing out. Our basic mistake is to EVER think we’ve “arrived.” It’s all about the journey, and that’s it. Love your take on it today, Perry!

  25. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for “outing” the company – that I won’t name, that rigs the NY Times best-seller list for a cool $250k. As an author who hit the NY Times list organically – for REAL, without paying anyone off, it absolutely makes my blood boil to see so many charlatans easily buying their way into the NY Times and WSJ best-seller lists…. hopefully the lists are able to crack this just like Google continually defeats new black-hat SEO tactics as they appear.

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