bait and switch

The Case of the Bait & Switch

When it comes to online business, nothing is ever quite as it seems. Welcome to the bait and switch where what you see is not what you get. From absentee program leaders, to big promises that never materialize, in our first episode of Duped, we’re tackling the massive bait and switch problem that’s rampant in this industry.

We decided to do this limited series podcast as a way to explore some of the most pressing and concerning issues we see in online business. Our goal is to spark discussion, get you thinking more about each of the issues, and to offer up solutions.

In our inaugural episode, we’ll be diving into the premise of the show and asking why nothing is as it seems.

Enter the bait and switch.

We wanted to start off by talking about this phenomenon as the hype and reality of online business is often mismatched.

First, let’s talk about what a bait and switch really is. In business, it’s a morally suspect sales tactic that lures customers in with specific claims.

In researching this episode, we came up with so many examples as we’ve seen a lot of bait and switches over the years. Let’s talk about the top three bait and switches we see at work in online business.

The Case of the Missing Program or Course Leader

We’ve definitely had this one happen to us. A specific person who’s the brand is used to market and sell the program, but once you’re on the inside, they’re never to be seen again.

Or you literally have no way to ask them anything. They’re the reason you buy, but they do so little with delivery that you’re questioning why you bought.

Why does this happen?

  • It’s how programs and courses and coaches are scaled. But their personal brands never shift enough to make it clear that the leader isn’t all that involved anymore. 
  • It’s because they don’t care about service, they do the minimum to fulfill the offer, the actual product is just an excuse to make money. They’re good at marketing, not at program delivery.

Big Promises That Don’t Ever Materialize

If there’s one thing online businesses do REALLY well, it’s making big promises. You know how to make millions. Build your dream business. They’ll say anything they can to get you to type in that credit card number.

But then the big promises don’t happen. What was promised was a “results not typical” situation but you blame yourself. Then you rinse and repeat and do it again.

Sunk cost fallacy where you think if you just spend a bit more, you’ll achieve your goals, is very very real. As Arkers and Blumer found in a 1985 study is a “bias resulting in from an ongoing commitment.” 

We’ve become so committed to the BIG promise happening that if we just buy one more thing, that one will be the one. We’ve invested our time, our money, so now we expect the reward. A 1999 study from Thaler explained “when the cost outweighs the benefits, the extra costs incurred are held in a different mental account.”

Why does this happen?

  • In many ways, this industry doesn’t know how to market or sell without using these typical and tired tropes. They hit the make money message hard without knowing they can deliver. 
  • They’re inexperienced and have oversold. They’re lacking knowledge. They’re mimicking what they see working for their coaches or celebrity entrepreneurs. 
  • They may get results when they worked 1:1, but they “scaled” their business and their support team can’t deliver.

The Scam of Invented Authority

This probably could be an entire episode on it’s own, but online business, as an industry is built on what’s called invented authority. The “expertise” of coaches, consultants and creators is based on a series of manufactured credentials.

This shows up with everything from “business coaches” who’ve never had a business to fancy brands with affluent imagery to exaggerated experience and embellished revenue claims.

Authority is one of the six principles of influence from Robert Cialini, and we’re probably going to reference it a lot in this episode, and in future ones.

The bait and switch happening here is really about saying you’re something you’re not. So you’re misleading people, and passing yourself as an expert when you’re anything but. It’s a facade to sell your thing, and based on well, nothing.

Why does this happen?

  • People lie about income as it’s a stand in for actual expertise. It’s really about inspiration and aspiration. They think no one will buy from them without the “proof” of a money metric.
  • Ego! People want to show they’ve made it, so they rely on invented authority to fake their way through.

Why the Bait and Switch is a Problem

These are just a few examples of this in action, but the reason this matters is when we fall prey to the bait and switch we’re being duped.

The problem is that we think it’s our fault. When it’s not. It’s how we’re being marketed to. It’s how we’re being sold to. And these people are really, really good at what they do.

Solutions: What Can You Do to Protect Yourself from the Bait and Switch

  • Be very clear about what you’re buying. Ask all the questions, dig into the details, if it’s a celebrity entrepreneur figure out all the details including access to the leader, what calls are really like, and who’s delivering the program. 
    • Read those long-ass sales pages to figure out who’s really involved. If you’re not sure, ask! 
  • Slow down. Consider waiting to buy, make people earn your trust, or even wait for the next time 
  • Don’t outsource your agency in decision-making. Don’t rely too much on anyone else from the person selling to your peers to that random person you met one time at an event. You never know who to trust and who’s legit. 
  • Beware shiny promises that seem too good to be true. Normalize slow, sustainable growth and stop believing you’re entitled to being an overnight success 
  • Don’t make these promises in your own marketing/sales. Anyone who tells you to do this is maybe someone you shouldn’t trust.

Finally, if you’re in the midst of a bait and switch, be willing to walk away. There’s more damage to be done to your business and your mental state by sticking around.

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