See my original post on Goodreads.
One big sales letter.
I'm sure Russell is successful, and I wouldn't necessarily call this a scam - but the end goal of this book is clearly to sell subscriptions to his online marketing software. He lays out his sales tactics, and cleverly uses them on the reader to convince them that they need to become an online marketer.
While this shouldn't come as much of a surprise, the greater concern I have are the ethics of his methods. Despite admonishing the reader to "Be honest. Tell the truth," his examples and scripts contain numerous examples of unethical copy, including obvious - albeit small - lies.
For example, when teaching the reader the importance of scarcity to drive sales, he states that "fake urgency will backfire on you." But then teaches the reader to "just think of a reason why you might 'run out' of whatever you're selling. […] There's always some way to create real urgency." How is fabricating scarcity ethical?
Later in the book he states that his funnels are built on variables that can "be manipulated for maximum monetization." There is very little discussion of providing quality service to customers. Although the word "value" is inserted over and over, there is little evidence that the author understands the definition of economic value - in fact, he repeatedly insinuates that "value" is established by the marketer based on the total revenue desired - not the cost or worth of the product being sold.
Russell encourages taking advantage of the emotionally vulnerable, by targeting "people who are in some kind of pain right now and will buy more than one thing at a time."
Further white lies include the recommendation to write an article, give it to another website, and "have the blog author post the article in their name so that you are not seemingly tied to it at all" as well as baiting a potential customer with the promise that "there is no catch," at the beginning of a funnel which is intended to upsell another product.
Perhaps the most disturbing tactic employed in funnel hacking is what Russell calls Value Stacking. "Here's a trick for creating bonuses: take the most valuable part of your product - the thing people want MOST - pull it out, and offer it as a free bonus."
How would you feel if the next time you went to buy a car the salesman offered a special bonus: "If you buy today, we'll even throw in all four tires AND a spare FOR FREE! And that's not all - if you make the decision right now, we'll even include the brakes, engine, and steering wheel. These could easily set you back thousands of dollars if you bought them separately, but we're giving it all to you for FREE!"
What kind of honesty is that?
Again, I don't question the author's ability to make great sales and rake in the dough, but when you're offering the customer something they should have received anyway, you're not doing much to build trust and provide value.
In the end, it is all about the sale. Which is why the book ends with a chapter hawking the authors software as a service - a package that costs $99/month. But of course it doesn't stop there. The service itself is a funnel - for plans going for $300/month and more, ending in the Inner Circle upsell which carries a reported price tag of $25,000.
I read the book because I've never been a strong salesperson. And now I know why - I won't lie to a customer, no matter how small or insignificant the lie to get an extra few bucks.