How Predatory List Building Tactics Work

I alluded to this last month when I posted a piece on integrity in marking within the prepper niche.  You can read that piece here.

Well, first let me say I am sorry in the piece mentioned above I promised to tell you the next week what I am about to tell you now.  Again my sincere apologies, by the end of 2013 I was running on empty and as many noted not being myself.  I disappeared as planned for two weeks and got a great deal of personal battery recharging done.  I will add to my apologies, if I was an ass to anyone in December, I am again very sorry.  We all have breaking points, I am not even sure why, but I was close to one of my own.  I needed time to refocus and I think the first week back we had last week, shows that it worked.

Well now that I am at full steam let me explain something I want you to be aware of.  While so many are concerned about keeping your data from the NSA or what have you, there are others that want it only so they can market to you.  OVER AND OVER AND OVER and such people often sell things of value and they often sell garbage, the only real concern is does it make them money.

I have met many of these people in the prepping niche and they indeed disgust me.  When you try to discuss actually valuing people with them they defend their actions with bottom line numbers.   What excuse do they make next, I don’t know because at that point I am done.

In any event there is a common tactic that goes on in internet info marketing and I am now seeing it more and more in the prepper niche.  I am also seeing some of my good and trusted friends pulled into these things.  They are doing so because they want to reach more people, I have no problems with that but have warned them all about what I am about to tell you.

There are people who understand marketing on the internet at the level I personally do.  Most of them don’t really care what they sell or to whom though other than from an analytics stand (how do I use this data to sell more).  They are largely the type of marketer that Bill Hicks was talking about when he said “if you are in marketing or adverting kill yourself“. (ADULT LANGUAGE WARNING FOR THAT LINK).

What these people do is a simple process,

  1. Identify a niche that is hot
  2. Identify the key names and authorities in that market
  3. Set up a program to involve as many of the “authorities” as you can
  4. Give these authorities a sweet deal, pay them, expose them to a larger market
  5. Run this “program” to simply harvest as many contacts from the collective authorities database as you can
  6. Build follow up products and market to this database with automation over and over and over and over
  7. Find another niche and repete

The goal of said individual is to build dozens of such niches and when anything pops up that you can sell into one or multiples of these verticals do so.   People like this are concerned with open rates, click though rates and sales conversion percentages but not with the customers needs or well being.  They will sell a good product or a bad product or a junk product they don’t care, if it converts they will use it as a harvest mechanism.

Now here is the shocker, I don’t see a ton wrong with this, seriously.  I won’t do it ever!  Yet, I won’t try to stop it and frankly if I had the power to do so with a wave of my hand, I wouldn’t bother to.  People are free to sell what they want and buy what they want in my view, but my problem is that this technique is deceptive.  So my tactic is to inform you so you know it when you see it.  Also if you are one of my friends who are now being sucked into the second one of these, I want you to understand it and hell next time you do one, send your contacts this article first, so they can take one very simple step to protect themselves.

Here is the big problem, twice now someone has run a program like this that has involved well known authorities in the TSP community.  One of them is done,  and the other one is in progress.  Both times these people approached some of my best known TSP guests.  Then you guys get an email that is from someone you trust because you trust me.  It doesn’t matter that I have told the producer to never use my name.  My brand and TSP give credibility though the name you know because of me.

So you sign up for the free updates or class or whatever.  Trusting that it is quality and that your email information is safe.  It is called credibility by association.  Now understand I am credible, my friends are creditable but the third party is an UNKNOWN FACTOR, they may or may not be so.

Now my first question is what were they doing the day before this new bundle or seminar or what have you.  Most times it was some other info niche or it was well, you don’t know there is nothing to see, a blank slate.  This is not always bad but it is a huge red flag to me.  What you have now is a person or group of persons seeking to gain creditability in a market based on the real work done by others.  They know that many consumers will be happy with the initial program and forever associate them with the way they learned about them.  They gain instant market presence based on that which was earned by others.

So you might think I would say to just stay away from anything like this.  Well, not so fast.  The people being “used” are always great folks, the product of the initial collaboration is likely quality.  Right now one such event called “The Survival Summit” is being put together and to give you an idea of friends of Jack that are involved the names are things like Coffman, Harris, Wildcraft and Wheaton.

Do I think Survival Summit will be good, yes.  Would I give these people my actual email address, no.  Here is how this works you assemble your team, you set up tracking codes and you tell each participant I will pay you X% for every sale that results from your audience.  Now the problem is many of us run in the same circles.  I am also sure if you examine some of the other names there is overlap with ours and more and more circles.

So now the psychology works this way.  You dear TSPr get an email from Harris and say that sounds cool, sign up or your don’t.  Then you get one from Wildcraft, next from say Wheaton.  At this point it doesn’t matter who you clicked the link for, you’re sold that the event promoter must be creditable.

Now what do we know about this promoter, are they creditable.  The answer is we don’t know.  I talked to them directly and I do know they are seasoned internet marketers.  Hell I am too, that isn’t necessarily bad you know.  But we don’t know, they have ZERO track record in the prepper space.  I also know their privacy policy says,

“Do we disclose any information to outside parties?

We do not sell, trade, or otherwise transfer to outside parties your personally identifiable information. This does not include trusted third parties who assist us in operating our website, conducting our business, or servicing you, so long as those parties agree to keep this information confidential. We may also release your information when we believe release is appropriate to comply with the law, enforce our site policies, or protect ours or others’ rights, property, or safety. However, non-personally identifiable visitor information may be provided to other parties for marketing, advertising, or other uses.

As a marketer on the net for almost 15 years let me translate that.  This says they can collect any data they want, they agree not to sell your data but may they themselves use your data anyway they want to sell to you in the future.  They may also use your data to sell a third parties stuff too you, they will also sell information about user behavior to others for, “marketing, advertising, or other uses”.  In other words it is double speak and semantics.

The solution?  Simple when you see something that smells like this, in the words of Ronald Regan, “trust but verify”.  Simply set up an email JUST FOR THIS ONE THING, then forward it to your main email.  That is all.  You can do this with G-mail or other free emails if they allow forwarding.  You can use one like Yahoo too but then you have to log in to get your invitations, confirmations, etc.

Once the event is over you have three choices,

  1. Cancel the forwarding and leave the email account just sit and rot
  2. Delete the account
  3. Leave the forwarding in place and watch what happens (you learn the truth good or bad this way)

You will also likely want to clear recent cookies from your browser after spending time on their sites but the truth is unless they have your email address they really can’t do much with it.  Info marketers are not NSA types.  They simply want a database to market to.

Why do I think it is important that you know all this?

So you can choose to support someone  you like in one of these efforts if you want to.  So you can get the value provided if you want to.  Yet I want you to know how to do so that you can choose to KEEP THE LONG TERM RELATIONSHIP WHERE YOU WANT IT, with the people who have earned your trust.

So hey if the next guy/group to pop up ends up being legit with this one simple step you will know it!  When you get nothing but good quality information to that stand alone email you ONLY USE FOR ONE THING, then you know that provider is solid.  When you start getting “37 Things to Horde” and “Get Off the Grid for Pennies a Day” and “This One Trick Obama Used to Become a Millionaire”, all actual programs by the way, you will know what you need to about the party sending it to you.

I want to be very clear I believe all of the speakers at this event and MOST PARTICIPANTS in anything like this are solid as hell, they are not out to do anything to harm you.  They are not deceiving you.  Hell the new party that came from nowhere isn’t really deceiving you, they just are not telling you what I have.

The fact is what they are doing is actually quite transparent, if you know what to look for.  Let me just say whenever you get an email from a trusted party about some new thing they are doing with some new party, ask yourself who the heck is this new person/company.  If they appeared out of nowhere just use a bit of caution.

Now look nothing they are doing is actually harmful really to you personally, in that I mean the consumer. The party they are really preying on are the “experts” they assemble.  Frankly it is a lot like Google getting Yahoo to give them a customer list!  You know I expose this audience to a ton of people every year but I work hard to only expose you to genuine individuals who have a track record or nothing to sell, either is fine.

The key though is I always have turned down invitations to author ebooks for bundles and do seminars like this coming one because I know full well what the game being played is.  They want you to trust them due to my name, well unless I FIRST TRUST THEM, it isn’t going to happen.  My question is always up till now what have you done, seldom is there a satisfactory answer to that.

The key is now I have introduced you to many fine people.  They all have huge integrity and I love seeing their names with my name.  They see these opportunities for what they are as well, they see the good.  They know they can make some honest money and reach a bigger audience.  There is nothing wrong with that, again though, I would refrain in the future from giving these people your email address.

What if I already did it?  If so relax, you are not on a terror watch list, and MOST of these people use a solid email system like Aweber which you can opt out of anytime you want.  Just from now on know how this works.

I mean these people might have something to sell you of real value down the road, they might be the salt of the earth, I don’t really know.  Good marketing doesn’t equal bad person!  Yet again when dealing with an unknown, make them earn your trust.  Never trust anyone simply due to who mentions them to you, “trust by verify” actually means, don’t trust what you don’t know and don’t trust it until you do know.

If any of my friends are out of sorts about this post, I am sorry but let me say.  Many of you are yourselves in someways leveraging your creditability gained from TSP in these types of things.  To be fair it is creditability well earned!  Yet when you email your audience about “the next great thing” due to our past associations you are also emailing a pretty large portion of my audience.  Hence I feel full disclosure on my part is the only honorable thing to do.  And you guys all know how I feel about honor.  There is quite simply nothing more important to me than honor.

30 Responses to How Predatory List Building Tactics Work

  1. I find this interesting. I have nick named this effect the wave. Because I will get a wave of emails generally around 20 with almost the same subject and messages from a large number of sources. Sometimes the stuff is good most of the time it is crap right now bitcoins are the big one. I assumed it ment they all used the same ad engine. This makes perfect since to what I see on the ground.

    Thanks for the informative post.

  2. Thanks for your integrity and for looking out for us.


  3. I noticed a funny thing a while back; For a good chunk of time, I was getting assorted porn spam in my inbox. After several months of not clicking on the links, the porn ads stopped and the Viagra ads started up! When I failed to click on those links, the Viagra ads were slowly replaced with life insurance ads.

    Gotta love the logic train in the mind of a spammer!

  4. This is very interesting, Jack. I hadn’t really thought about this, and was actually curious when I looked at the schedule (I’m speaking on post-disaster herbal medicine in this summit), I actually was asking myself if you might be in there too.

    The folks that started this seem like good folks to me, and have a DVD out about low-light tactical operations (Own the Night). I have written some articles for them in the past and we both have podcasts at the same location ( They are (in my opinion) sincere about the information they are trying to put out to the public, and have a genuine personal interest in the subject of preparedness. In other words, I think if there is any of the marketing-scheme you are talking about, it is probably the work of the marketing heads behind the folks who came up with the idea.

    There is no doubt as to the affiliate-type organization of this event, and you’re right that everyone is basically handing over their own personal email list in the process. Excellent point.

    It so happens, that I am not in this for the money, and don’t even have time to set up affiliate links into the event and post them all over our websites, etc., even if I really wanted to, for the small amount of monetary return. So I don’t really care about the affiliate aspect of it, and am usually willing to talk about any of the subjects I teach at my school for free to anyone who wants to listen. I do it because I love to teach.

    We survive just fine as a school, but it’s because of our community approach to everything we do, in my opinion, not because we know or implement any kind of good marketing skills. 🙂 So I guess my lackluster approach to making a dime off this as an affiliate somewhat protects me from being a data-mine for the marketing folks behind this event.

    Anyway, your post here is really a well-timed post for me. To repeat my point that I may not have made clear: I do not think the two brothers who started this are in it to strip out email lists, run a marketing scheme and then move on to another “fad,” but it may well be that they have some web marketing guru types behind this who are doing just that, and do it over and over – same concept, different fad topic – all over the web.

    • Modern Survival

      @Sam, it is good to hear what you put in your second paragraph. That is encouraging.

      But on your last paragraph, ” I do not think the two brothers who started this are in it to strip out email lists, run a marketing scheme and then move on to another “fad,” but it may well be that they have some web marketing guru types behind this who are doing just that, and do it over and over – same concept, different fad topic – all over the web.”

      That may be true but in the end the motivation is the list. People need to know that! This is a perfect execution of a very well known formula. These guys know exactly what they are doing and why they are doing it.

      Like I said, people can simply use a stand alone email for things like this, let people earn trust in time, don’t just grant it to them via association.

      Funny when I asked them what they had done in the past they gave no mention of what you just mentioned? They said up till now they had done “other things”.

  5. I really like the ‘temporary’ email option. It is much better than using your regular email address. Yes, any time you get marketing emails there is always the ‘unsubscribe’ option, but while using that may take you off that particular marketing list, it just confirms to the owner of that list that you are a valid and active email address so they will then send you even more stuff from other marketing efforts as well as sell your email address to other marketers for more money as it is a valid and active address. The only way to truly get off those lists is for them to get a bounce reply saying the mailbox doesn’t exist.

  6. Very well written article Jack… perfect, I agree with it 100%

    Steven Harris

  7. As a guy in the process of starting a e commerce
    business, I’ve been doing research into marketing and
    the process you describe seems a little shady. My thoughts are, build your business and get affiliates above the table & out in the open. I guess I’m still new enough at this to be ignorant enough to think you should have a solid background with a solid base of your own before you try getting affiliates
    and not by riding somebody else’s coattail.

    • Modern Survival

      Your instincts and mine are the same! I said it wasn’t wrong to do it, but I am trying to say it isn’t wise to do it.

    • David, I completely agree with Jack. There is nothing technically wrong with doing it, but it is a shady way to go and your peers will never respect you for it. If you have a good product and/or company the sales will come, taking shortcuts like this I think are a bad way to go in the long run.

  8. Loud & clear! I have found that there are a lot of ways to manipulate affiliates and ads to leverage a large income but, that’s not the way I want to operate. I’d rather be know for selling quality stuff & putting out good content than to be the guy know for email dredging.

  9. What am I missing here, Jack? Is this post because the name of the event, “The Survival Summit” is too close to the The Survival Podcast? I went to the web page for the event and saw all the affiliates. Many have been on the TSP, some even built their audience here. But I’m still not clear as to how that affects the TSP listeners. Was an email list leaked or hacked? Or is it the fact that there is overlap in the audiences of the different affiliates? I don’t plant to attend it primarily because I don’t know who they are, despite knowing the affiliates, and secondarily, because I’m sure I can find a TSP episode dedicated to each of their agenda items.

    • Modern Survival

      Did you read the entire post? If you actually read it in full it would be impossible that you would ask that question that way.

  10. thewarriorhunter

    good looking out, jack, thanks!

  11. Jack, I have been dealing with this kind of marketing tactic ever since I entered the Holistic/Primal/Paleo health industry. A couple at the top do this all the time and personally I don’t like it. Over the last year a bunch of amateurs think they can make easy money and are jumping in calling themselves Primal/Paleo lifestyle experts. I think for my genre it greatly dilutes the message and confuses people even further, especially when trying to figure out what the Primal/Paleo movement is all about and who’s information is legit. We all use affiliates to generate more cash flow to some extent (I only use ones that I actually believe in and use their products, but don’t have the capability to warehouse and sell them), but the affiliate marketing platform of group marketing is something totally different. There are many in my type of business who just straight take other authors or product info, repackage it and use affiliate marketing to make money off of our hard work. They know who they are and they also know, I know exactly what they are doing. Needless to say they never contact me for interviews or to be a part of their little schemes, which makes me smile, because they know I have integrity and I’m running my business the right way.

    Like you said though there is nothing wrong with that type of marketing, it is in every type of industry. But having your followers understand this type of marketing ploy is important. If you get an e-mail for 50 downloads of various Primal/Paleo e-books for $29.99, you should ask yourself would any good product resort to or participate in that type of marketing concept? My opinion is no…period, but that is for the consumer to decide for themselves, not for me to make that decision for them.

    Great article, you voiced my opinion pretty much to a T, well except I lack the marketing expertise you have, but you know what I mean 🙂

  12. Bundles and seminars explained! Thanks for clearing that up, I wondered what the flurry of these things was all about. I figured it was exposure for the participants, not email mining. Naive!

  13. All good points, but it all seems completely inevitable. Just look at how many sites/people are trying to sell the same things/products? So some of course will take a different course to gain an edge, or as has been verbalized in these comments “to generate more cash flow”. I basically agree with your perspective Jack. In the end it seems to me people will figure out who is just selling them and who actually has something valid to say or offer as information/ideas and hopefully a product ! It is completely obvious to me that we will see a great thinning out of preparedness type websites in the near future and beyond. Simply because the vast majority are all trying to sell the same stuff ad infinitum, rather than actually say something meaningful or useful or even practical. Most simply repeat what someone said or did and have little if any original content or ideas or experience of what they speak. Basically parroting others and playing off of someone else’s experience with little or none of their own in the real world. So it ends up being simply talk and marketing ! It will all come out in the wash sooner than most think I imagine. I have been observing this for quite some time and it was a factor in my own site creation. It simply is NOT possible for all those cooky cutter sites to survive when most don’t even have their own products and are just resellers of the same redundant items and commentary/nomenclature. So all manner of schemes or methods will show up before the thinning takes place in full force. It will be a natural occurrence of good product/information Vs redundancy and obsolete items/ideas/thinking. This is all part of the morphing I recently discussed on BOF. This is not the first markets I have studied and analyzed. Just my thoughts none the less.

  14. My favorite: “This man discovered this weird trick to cut his electric bill in half! Take advantage of this secret info before ‘they’ take the site down!”

    The weird trick? Solar power. (gasp!) Ive been to their site and it looks good but I’ll never buy anything from a group using lies, innuendos and fear mongering to push their products. Tisk!


  15. sounds like today’s episode should be interesting. The only thing that has bothered me recently is a sponsor who I have done business with is now selling the hype rather than sticking to the product

    ILB Publishes Bombshell Report:
    An Unfolding “Squeeze” Could Take Silver to $140

    Don’t sell me Bullshit to scare me, just give me good prices over spot.

  16. Thanks Jack: I did notice something was off kilter to me ,but also decided I can watch and see what they present. I do not have to buy anything. I’ve learned most things on line / on air are marketing tactics. I agree with your assessment.

  17. There are entire podcasts dedicated to just this very marketing tactic. Niche sites to make money off others. I appreciate your integrity!

  18. I got an email “invitation” from a “trusted TSP Adviser” and because of that I looked into “The Summit”. Just as Jack said, it made me wonder about “what the real motivation” was behind putting the Summit together. I concluded it must be to gather email addresses. In cases like this I use Yop Mail. Temporary email address to get the links I need and not have my “real” address subjected to endless pitches in the future. Thanks Jack for your insight!

  19. I forgot to mention in my comment that Jack’s timing was perfect, as I recently received an affiliated marketed product (via e-mail) for authors from Jack Canfield, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul. Now this guy has made millions and millions of dollars with what I think is an average book at best, and turned into a mass marketing juggernaut. They pound in the free videos how he is so successful and all he wants to do is give back and help authors do the same as him. Of course the pitch finally comes, oh he wants to help you alright by pitching a video serious for the low, low price of $1,095. Wow I thought he wanted to give back and help, well as long as you make him richer and you poorer.

    • Modern Survival

      You know what I would respect that more if he said,

      “I sold a shit load of books, they are pretty good but I sold a shitload more than you would think based on how good they are. Want to know how I did it, give me a grand and I will tell you.”

      I would actually respect that. But pissing in my boots and calling rain by telling me my one grand in your pocket is your charity or some stupid shit, no that I don’t respect at all.

    • Yeah it was total bullshit. I learned long ago from these marketing dipwads to just watch the free videos and call it a day, because you are going to get the same info from a bunch of their buddies doing the videos you pay for. It sucks how many people have gotten rich on the back of others, but such is life in America today!

  20. I get it jack… you’re doing the “Show how much you care about us” tactic…. Nice one. Keeps me coming back everytime…

    The funny thing is, I’ve had thoughts about this in the back of my head before when listening to you. (That you have a strong marketing background, etc). Obviously credibility is built over time and through enough positive feedback interactions. Just something about advertisers and marketers…. But like you said, nothing wrong with good marketing. But like Bill Hicks suggests, if a dollar is the only thing you consider and see people as purely the way to achieve it, that’s were deception comes in.

    Thanks a lot for this post. A good public service annoucement. Reminds me of that Conan Obrien video from the other day. Until you realize/find out people are actually plotting and scheming you don’t even know what to look for.