Fact vs. Fiction in the Guru Biz

People are suspicious of gurus.

As well they should be.

One of the biggest reasons to be suspicious of gurus is that if most of their followers don’t actually follow through on their advice, everybody just assumes it would work if actually carried out but if nobody implements, nobody’s the wiser.

While I was reading Joe DiSorbo’s “rant from a frustrated estudiante“, my neurons dredged up an old Amway story. One time I was at this regional rally, there were maybe 300 people there. Somebody on the stage said, “I want everybody who showed the plan 15X or more last month and [I think there were a couple of other criteria, like listened to a tape every day and did their 100 points of volume that month] to stand up.

Out of 300 people, there were two people who stood up: me and one other guy. That’s it.

I  knew him. He was a lot like me – an exemplary student, working real hard, following instructions to the letter, and so far as I could tell, not getting the kind of traction he really needed to get either.  Clocking in the miles and not seeing results.

I was beginning to wonder if this thing worked at all, and I remember thinking, “Hmmm, even if this thing doesn’t really  work like they say it does, there’s only two people in the room who actually know it: me and him. So long as everybody else thinks this works, they’ll just keep buying tapes and coming to all these rallies and never be the wiser.”

Which is exactly what Joe is talking about in his rant – people selling air instead of selling results.

See, if most people never do anything, then it’s much, much easier to sell pixie dust and unicorns and fairy tales than to sell things that actually work. All you have to do is issue a refund to the 5% who actually try it and determine it doesn’t work. You still get to keep the other 95%. There is an entire class of ‘mail order buyers’ who purchase information like this and never use it…who have been deliberately cultivated by their preferred gurus to behave that way.

If I were willing to do that, life would be a whole lot easier. for a little while. The problem with that is that eventually it does catch up to you. Eventually everybody does figure out it’s all smoke and mirrors and the whole thing comes crashing down. And in the long run, I would attract losers and wannabes to myself rather than peak performers. I wouldn’t have the privilege of working with the Roundtable members and cutting edge online marketers like Bullock and Ari and Glenn. (Oh, I forgot to mention – Joe did purchase Glenn’s system, thank you very much, and he’s going to have an intern implement it. Competent intern, no problem.)

I wouldn’t be on the leading edge, nor would I get emails like this one… let’s grab the most recent one in the folder. Came in on Wednesday:


Just thought I’d take a moment to say thanks for the advice I’ve received from you this past year and a half. I had one VERY expensive adword campaign before I ran across your coaching information and put it into practice.

When I got started with your advice, we were launching a brand new church in Fort Wayne. Most of the time, churches start with just 50-60 people. Sometimes, when a guy really has a grip on marketing (I have an MBA  in it), a church might launch with 200 or so folks.

Last September, with the coaching we received through your materials, like the Definitive Guide, not only did our costs drop dramatically so we could use the excess funds in other ways, but our church launched with 579 people on our first service. It has been soaring ever since.

In fact, since then, several businessmen in the community have approached me to help them launch adwords campaigns.

And, the success from those businesses actually led me a few months ago to start a company that specializes in putting adwords campaigns together for small to mid-size businesses (the ones that Marketing Sherpa reported are either being shrugged off like fleas on a dog or not even bothered with at all).

Anyhow, I’ve figured out a profitable way to set up campaigns and run them for guys who want to get started and find the success I’ve discovered. Of course, I am constantly refining the process, which is what led me to looking at your latest stuff… which I discovered I had bought twice!

Well, I thought I’d just take a moment to thank you. The church is soaring, my new adwords firm is taking off quickly, and life is good.


Ray R. Harris

Lead Pastor

The Pointe Church

Is marketing guru-dom all it’s cracked up to be? I for one am not complaining, but as I’ve said in other times and places, I’m definitely a cat on a hot tin roof. When your job is the dissemination of fresh ideas, then buddy you’d better be producing good stuff, consistently, month in and month out. I remember a conversation with Jonathan Mizel about some of his ‘side businesses’ and he said, “I finally got sick and tired of my students making more money than I was.” Which is why he doesn’t keep a high guru profile anymore. He makes a lot more money hiding in his cave and quietly, invisibly, selling non-info products to non-info marketers.

As a matter of fact I couldn’t tell you what his websites are even if I wanted to. He does it all under the radar. In the vastness of the Internet, there are a lot of places to hide. Let’s be frank: You generally make a lot more money keeping secrets than you make revealing them. Doesn’t that kind of make sense?

Can you hire Mizel? Yes, I’m sure you can, if there’s enough money in the deal. But don’t show up with ten grand and expect him to play ball, ‘cuz he won’t. Can you hire me? Yes, I’m sure you can. But there’d better be a very realistic possibility of generating a half million dollars or more, and if the $1250.00 half-hour consultation makes you blink, you’d better look elsewhere. Oh, and I have to like what you’re doing. If my gut doesn’t feel cozy about it, no dice. (More about that in a little while.)

The Art Factor.
Joe’s right, a lot of people disguise the art factor as systematization. But there is an art factor. Case in point: Can I hire somebody to write my own monthly newsletter?

Absolutely not. I doubt it would ever sound like me, no matter what whiz-kid writers I hired to write it, and no matter how much money I paid them to write it. Some years ago a big publisher sold a bunch of subscriptions to a brand new newsletter, to be written by a very famous business guru, who in the 2nd or 3rd month of publication decided he didn’t really feel like writing a newsletter every month. They attempted to get the thing ghost written but the whole enterprise soon hit the skids. Their only recourse was to issue refunds to everybody.

Could I teach people how to write my newsletter? Well, I might be able to teach you how to write your newsletter but I could never teach you how to write mine. Why? Because my newsletter is me on a piece of a paper. Your newsletter is you on a piece of paper. That is not replicable, not duplicatable. Yes, there is definitely an Art factor in marketing.


BUT…and this is a very big but – the Art Factor is NOT the thing that holds most people back.


What holds most people back is not the Art Factor, but the fact that they simply do not put one foot in front of the other and execute. If you’re going to be a marketing guru, yes, the Art Factor is probably crucial to your success. In the “Marketing Guru” market all your competition is absolutely razor sharp, they’re all in it because they’re obsessed and fascinated with the human psychology and with the game itself. If you don’t have a personality that stands out, you don’t stand a chance.

Who else in the marketing biz has a good print newsletter? Let’s see, there’s John Carlton…there’s Dan Kennedy and Bill Glazer… You wanna play in that sandbox, be my guest. Meanwhile I might suggest that there’s less contested real estate to be had out there.

But most markets are not that way. Most markets have zero prime quality newsletters, not three. In most markets, it’s “In the land of the blind, the man with one eye gets to be king.” Like where I came from, the industrial market – you only needed to have a little bit of personality to stand out.

Perry Marshall