A successful entrepreneur shares her thoughts on business success and failure.

Is Internet Marketing Just An "Old-Boys Club"?


Frank Kern and his Porsche
Frank Kern shows off his Porsche.
I am at a conference called Mass Control, put on by the venerable Frank Kern. Frank is considered somewhat of a rock star in the Internet Marketing world. (If you’re not in Internet Marketing, when you think about your industry, just substitute some wiseass who has made tens of millions of dollars and thinks Ferraris are pieces of crap, and you get the idea.)

Frank, like many of the Internet marketing “gurus”, got his start in the old days of Internet marketing — which was actually something like 1998, or maybe 1999. Back when, as Frank and the other gurus will tell it, nobody thought it was possible to make more than $100,000 in a day. Now that record has been shattered, and Frank and many of the others who speak at these conferences have made $2 million, $3 million, or even $5 million in a single day from a product launch. Typically, they also all promote other gurus’ products to their huge mailing lists.

As you listen to Frank, or any of the other “gurus”, recount their stories, you can’t help but notice two things: All of the gurus seem to be male, and pretty much all of them are white. At Mass Control, for instance, there aren’t any female speakers, and probably 85% or 90% of the attendees are male.

Today, I was speaking to one of the attendees, and, in a moment of attempted bonding, he asked me the following question:

“Erica, don’t you think Internet marketing is just an old boys’ club?”

I looked at him, surprised. “No, I don’t think so,” I said. “But you have to remember, I came from web hosting.” As I state in my speaking gigs, as far as I know, my company was the only female-owned web hosting company to make over $600,000 in revenue in the first nine months of 2007.

As I thought about it more, however, I realized how insidious his comment was. It would only be said by someone who 1) isn’t successful in this industry and 2) wants to bond by commiserating with someone else of a like mind. His comment is a “mind trap” designed to let him off the hook for his own failure.

The Real “Sucker Punch” That Causes Most of Us to Fail

Frank talked this weekend about negative influences: the news, for instance, which constantly reminds us that we’re in a recession and that people are getting laid off. But there is another, deeper influence that many of us have to deal with, and that is the voice in our own heads that constantly reminds us how terrible we are at whatever we attempt.

That voice is the real sucker punch that causes most of us to fail. It reels you in with “You can’t be like [insert guru’s name here] because you’re not [whatever they have already accomplished.]” It can be as simple as “You couldn’t have won the race because you can’t bike like Lance Armstrong” or as deep as “I don’t need to make a million dollars because I don’t want to sacrifice my entire life to my work.” (News flash: Most millionaires don’t, either!)

Whatever your version of these thoughts are — and I guarantee you either have them now or have had them at some point — they stop you cold when you attempt to achieve your goals. If you really want to make a million dollars, travel to 60 different countries, or quit your job, the primary thing holding you down isn’t “The Man”, but your own thoughts and fears.

So, What About Internet Marketing?

Is Internet marketing just an “old boys’ club”? Well, there is sure a preponderance of evidence that it is. All of the speakers here are male. They have already bonded with each other. They all promote each others’ products. They love to sell high-ticket items, shutting out those who don’t have an extra $2,000 to $5,000 laying around.

That’s the story you could tell yourself, and it would be “true” in a sense. But I choose not to participate in telling myself that story, because I choose to make my success or failure my own problem. Instead of using this story as a crutch, I choose to let it empower me. There are no female speakers here? Great: I choose to be the first. No woman has done a multi-million dollar launch in the Internet marketing industry? Thank you; I accept your challenge.

It is an honor for me to be a part of this industry. When I discovered Internet marketing last year, and signed up for Mass Control, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Later, as I spoke at two Internet marketing conferences, I realized what an amazing group of people had found each other. Here were people with similar life goals to mine: work less; make more money; work from anywhere; enjoy life. I have met some of my closest friends and mentors via Internet marketing.

Here is just a partial list of people whom I consider friends. All of the people on this list have made at least several hundred thousand dollars in Internet marketing, and many of them are millionaires. Yet, they are amazingly approachable, friendly, and considerate:

I am continuously awed by the generosity this community provides. Last year at this time, I remember turning to the person next to me at Mass Control 1 and asking, “What is a continuity program?” (Turns out it’s what us web hosting folks call MRR, or monthly recurring revenue.)

This year, I have built a list, added over 1,000 new subscribers to my blog, and am getting ready to launch my own continuity program, Inspiring Innovators. When I have a question, I call these guys, or ask them on Twitter. If I need help, they are there for me. When I speak with them, I know they are committed to helping me make my next million dollars in this industry. They want me to succeed even when I am down on myself. And really, that’s all I could ask for from any friend.

Shaking Out Your Own Story

There was probably at least one person who read this blog post and is now thinking “Yeah, but Erica, they like you because you’re already a millionaire” or “Yeah, but you’re a cute girl,” or something else that you aren’t. Clearly, that’s why I’m successful and you’re not.

Or maybe it’s just a story you tell yourself to make your failure okay with you. I choose to not accept failure. My story says, “These people are my friends because we can help each other. I am there to support and listen to them, and they are there for me. We enjoy sharing in our mutual successes and encouraging each other to get up and try again when we get knocked down.” Which one is “true”? Well, does it matter?

The real question is: Which story will help you achieve your goals?

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After selling my online business at age 26 for over $1 million, I created this blog to help you grow your own business quickly.

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