The Real Reason Proven Marketing Formulas Have Stopped Working

(It's not you!)

Published on April 1st, 2020
by Michelle L. Evans

Last week, I received an email from Sophie.[1] The subject line was: I messed up (can we talk??)

marketing failed

When we spoke, Sophie shared her frustrations over the past nine months.

[1] Name changed for privacy

During that time, she had spent over $20k hiring a well-known online marketing company to create a ‘proven’ high end webinar marketing funnel… and it didn’t work.

Here’s what happened:

  • Very few people were clicking on her ads.
  • Even fewer people were signing up for the webinar.
  • Her webinar didn’t convert anyone into a client (and she felt weird reading the script because it didn’t sound like her at all).
  • Her emails weren’t getting opened.
  • She had no new clients or even inquiries.
  • It was an expensive DISASTER.

And Sophie wasn’t a newbie business owner.

In fact, Sophie had a healthy business that she’d built up over the past five years based on her expertise combined with networking, blogging, guest podcasting and speaking at industry events.

But she wanted more and the temptation of following a ‘proven system to attract high-end clients on autopilot’ was irresistible…


I wish I could say I was surprised by Sophie’s story, but I wasn’t. This is a story I’ve heard before. Many, many, many times. 

It’s a story I’m intimately familiar with…

… because a few years back it was my story, too.

My Backstory

Before we get into my torrid tale, I want to share my backstory so you have context as to exactly where I’m coming from.

I’ve been a marketing professional for more than 20 years (along with my college d​​​​egree in business and marketing). When I left my job at Microsoft in 2012, I was lured by the stories ‘Online Business Celebrity Influencers’ shared about their ‘easy’ 7- and 8-figure launches, luxury lifestyles and the incredible freedom they enjoyed even though they had little to no previous experience.


Yet below the surface hype, I discovered most of their stories were greed-driven tales wrapped in back-scratching cronyism.

I never set out to expose anyone, but I can no longer remain silent in the face of these shady practices that make smart, talented business owners feel inadequate, fearful, voiceless and powerless. And here we are, let’s dive in. 

​my expensive mistake

In 2015, I made a very expensive mistake by joining a $30k per year high ticket mastermind led by an online celebrity business influencer making big promises to 3x to 5x my business in a single year. All I had to do was pay the fee to unlock access to her high ticket client attraction system.

Everything in that program was built on becoming a clone of the leader along with a healthy dose of ‘fake it till you make it’ built in.

She promised easy money by following her formulas, swipe files, templates, attention-grabbing persuasion tactics, along with doing tons and tons of sales calls to push people into buying and manufacturing credibility by paying big money to be a speaker at industry events

It didn’t feel right… but who was I to question her 7-figure business success?

I tried all of her proven swipe files, templates and guaranteed-to-work attention-grabbing promises. I made sales calls but I couldn’t bring myself to use high pressure sales techniques.

A Confession

Thanks to this experience, I spent big money to be at events and buy my way onto stages as a speaker (#facepalm not my best moments. In fact, during a 9-month period of time I went to over 50 events all over the U.S.

With my small kids at home, I was travelling all the time. At these events, I was speaking, I had booths, I gave out materials. And when I totaled it up, I’d spent nearly $50,000 on events.

And that money wasn’t the only cost. The bigger cost was the stress of spending that money with no return. I was constantly worried about how much money was going out and that NOTHING seemed to work. I felt desperate and sick to my stomach all the time, constantly walking the failure cliff and feeling like any second I'd go falling off into the abyss. My husband had no idea how stressed I was until one night he found me downstairs in the middle of the night crying because I just couldn't take the stress anymore.

Honestly, it was a dark, awful time and the worst part was that I felt like I couldn't talk to ANYONE about it because I needed to look put together. I was concerned with what others would think.

If you’ve been there, you’re not alone, and it’s time for things to change by all of us owning these decisions and sharing them. Because this trickery thrives in the dark as we’re all too image conscious to tell the truth.

Michelle L Evans

Despite doing everything possible, NONE OF IT WORKED.

And it wasn’t just ME, these tricks and shortcuts didn’t work for the other people I was meeting either.

The upside of all this hustle was that I met thousands of people. I had many conversations with peers, potential clients and other attendees.

I’d ask everyone a simple question: how’s your business going?

That’s when the floodgates opened and I realized that I wasn’t the only one whose business was suffering from following these so-called ‘proven shortcuts’.

Here are just a few examples:

One woman I met was trying to make it, and was encouraged to sell her car. She was actually living in this car so she could pay for this high ticket coaching program.

I heard from multiple people (I actually lost count of how many) that were encouraged to max out their credit cards, get additional credit cards, cash out their 401ks or retirement savings and ask family for money to pay for programs.

I saw people showing off their “first class” lifestyle in order to attract their clients when I knew first hand they were nearly broke.

And then there were the threats of being blackballed or bad mouthed if you shared what was really going on.

I wish I was being even a little bit dramatic. But I’m not. This is all true, and it’s the tip of the iceberg as to what’s going on in this industry.

Now, let’s get back to my story...

Then I Woke Up

As I traveled the country going events and started paying attention to the big name launches along with their webinars, video series, events and social media game, I started to notice something else…

 … almost all of these big names were: 


Promoting each other as the best thing ever (hello cronyism bought through paid masterminds and affiliate fees).


Teaching the same old crap wrapped in a new package (even when they knew it didn’t work).

All for the coveted bragging rights of a 7-figure launch.


The more I paid attention, the more I was disgusted by this culture of unethical money-at-any-cost behavior. That combined with the stories I heard first-hand made me wake up and realize this wasn’t something I wanted to be a part of.

I promptly quit my mastermind partway through the year (even though I’d paid for a year) and decided to get my business back on track in a way that felt ethical, sustainable and real EVEN IF my growth was slower.  

Thankfully I knew I could use my years of marketing experience to create a strategy that worked and felt good. All it took is for me to stop buying into the business-in-a-box 7-figure shortcut hype and to realize what was actually going on.

Side Note: I do want to say there’s nothing wrong with having a 7-figure business. It’s a worthy goal for many of us, but the problem comes when we chase that goal because we decide that’s how to define success. Or we fall for the promises we’re being sold about what it takes to build this type of business.


After I really started paying attention to the online business influencer (scam) game, the culture of unethical behavior and lies really got to me. 

Over the next few years as I connected with clients, students and peers I started seeing a clear pattern emerging. And that pattern made me furious.

I’ve connected with many people who have stories just like mine and Sophie’s.

Ethical, talented business owners who are ready to put their perspective, skills and impact into the world who’ve sunk THOUSANDS of dollars and HUNDREDS of hours into trying to follow ‘proven formulas’...

...only to be met with overwhelm, frustration and disappointment.

Even worse… after spending so much time and money following the proven formulas, these smart, talented, ethical people often come to one heart-breaking conclusion:

They think to themselves… I’m a failure.  

Look, if you’ve ever felt that way I’m here to tell you:


You're NOT alone and


It's NOT your fault

I have a friend who’s been working in marketing as long as I have, and she’s worked for some big brands, and lots of startups in her career. She had a successful business for over five years and then she found the online business world. And she, despite her years of experience as a business owner and in marketing fell for the hype too.

The reality is that no matter how long you’ve been in business, had a successful career or whatever else brought you to this point. It doesn’t matter. It’s not you. It’s the way the online marketing game is played.

Here’s the truth about online business celebrity influencers → most of the big names built their business by buying their way into the ‘cool kids club’. Maybe it’s a $50k mastermind, or a big event, but the truth is they’re spending their way to the top.

Bottom line: It’s all about the benjamins, baby.

Does it work?

Kind of… at least for the short term.

That brand of manipulative marketing is designed to create feelings of inadequacy, massive fear and build overwhelming desire for their proven shortcuts even though these business celebrities KNOW they don’t actually work.

That’s why they sell the rags-to-riches stories of becoming a millionaire with just a laptop, wifi connection and a magical breakthrough that resulted in their must-have system for $1997+.

I mean, if you’re scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram feeling like you need help, these promises could be pretty compelling. These ads are designed to hook us and make us feel less than. Because, if you don’t fly in a helicopter, what are you even doing with your life?

I won’t lie - these seductive promises hooked me many times too. And just like my friend, I fell for it too. Even with my deep knowledge of marketing and corporate career behind me. Even without any dramatic life circumstances driving me. Still, I bought it, hook, line and sinker.

You’re about to go deep into why the fake-it-till-you-make-it culture is so 2016 AND why these me-too copycat proven marketing formulas aren’t working anymore (it’s NOT just you).

First, though, we need to understand how we got here.

There is one big problem that’s at the heart of this marketing hype and it’s our job to call it out...

Next: Part 2 (of 6): The Rise Of Funnel Hacking Culture