Don Lapre in hot water for bilking $52 million

Anyone who’s my age probably remembers spending a late night or two watching a funny little man on tv telling us how he was able to make $50,000 a week “placing tiny classified ads in newspapers” from his “one-bedroom apartment”. Right in those two quotes, you have the makings of a very successful infomercial—mention how lots of money can be made with seemingly little work and cater to others who might be living in a one-bedroom apartment as these people are likely to want an opportunity that will change their lives.

If you have no idea who I’m talking about, check out this video…it’s exactly what I remember when I was younger:

First of all, this guy is good and there’s no doubt about it. As a firm believer that hard work pays off and there’s no easy way of making lots of money, I never “fell” for one his claims, but I will admit that there were a few times when it seemed like the plan would work. More importantly, there are many other people out there that are worse off than me financially and just might jump at the chance to make even 100 more dollars a week.

The indictment

Don Lapre has been running infomercials like these for the last 8 years or so selling all sorts of money-making packages that are guaranteed to turn your life around. The two most prominent ones include the one above and another selling the The Greatest Vitamin in the World. This is the one that’s garnered the attention of the Feds and the United States Postal Service.

According to the case, Don Lapre is being indicted on 41 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud and promotional money laundering. It’s being claimed that he bilked over $52 million from some 200,000 unsuspecting consumers. Essentially, he’s being accused of running a nationwide scheme to sell worthless internet businesses.

The program

I don’t want to get into all the details here because the case file says it all in a 28-page PDF document available from, but I do want to briefly explain what it is that Don Lapre does. Using The Greatest Vitamin in the World program as an example, this is how the program works.

  1. Watch Don’s infomercial and get excited about the potential of making lots of money.
  2. Call the 800 number to order the start-up package and personal website for $35.00 plus $13.65 shipping.
  3. Don’s reps would then call back consumers telling them that there were more fees in running the personal website including a $295 setup fee and $9.95 per month hosting fees.
  4. Don’s reps would try to upsell customers into buying web traffic for their new site guaranteeing them that people would come to the site and buy products or signup as new “investors”.
  5. Customers buy traffic packages ranging in price from $500-2000.
  6. Customers are offered sales incentives: Get 20 new people to sign up for the program and get $1000. Get 100 new vitamin customers in a month and get $10,000. For every 5 $1000 bonuses you earn, you get a 7-day paid vacation for 2.

My two cents

First of all, the vitamins are worthless. To Don, getting new sales people all dropping about $3000 to start their own business is where the money really is. Unfortunately, this is nothing more than a pyramid scheme. The ones at the top who are able to get to everyone who hasn’t joined yet will make all the referral fees. The ones at the bottom will have nobody to recruit because they’ve all been recruited…after some time, the pyramid crumbles because there’s nothing left to do but sell worthless vitamins and the guys at the top take their money and run.

Second, if you really think about it, why would Don Lapre (or any tv pitchman) want to tell you his money-making secrets if what he’s doing already makes him so much money? Do you really believe he’s out there trying to help the community? Do you really think he cares about helping you make more money in life? The answer is no. It’s the tell-tale sign of a scam and it’s no different than all those bloggers out there selling you $47 money-making plans that tell you all the secrets of Internet marketing. Trust me, if I discovered a way to make $50,000 a week, I wouldn’t tell anyone! Not because I’m selfish, but because I wouldn’t want to create thousands of competitors out there. If there’s only $50,000 to be made, that means I’d have to share it with everyone else who copies me. That’s not a good business plan!

I’ll tell you a secret. There are no secret ways to make money! There are however innovative ideas that will make someone millions one day, but those aren’t secrets—sometimes those are flukes or fads or streaks of luck. Facebook is a perfect example—sheer luck. The point is to make real money, you have to put in real work. If you think you’re going to make $50,000 a week with only a few minutes of work, you’re either delusional or you’re the one sitting on top of the pyramid because in any other situation, you’re not going to make anything close to that.

Ok, I’m done venting…the last thing I want to say is that I hope Don Lapre goes away forever! He’s a con artist and a thief. At the same time, I hope none of those people get their money back so maybe they’ll learn from their mistakes.

Social Bookmarking – Sphinn

Sphinn is a concept site that specializes in discussing Internet marketing and news. One of the major advantages of using and being on this site is that it allows you to take part in discussions and network with similar people in your specific field.

How can Sphinn help my site?

If you’re running a blog, Sphinn can give you an advantage over other site owners. Just like most of the social networking site I’m covering in this section, you are able to submit articles and news related to your topic of choice. Naturally, these articles link back to your own website where you are currently marketing yourself or your products.

  • Publish original articles – When you publish original content, submit it to Sphinn so you can start building web traffic that you need for your site. The more original and fresh your content is, the better it’ll rank.
  • Discuss – As a member of Sphinn, you can jump into a conversation about any item on the site. This creates a very interactive experience.
  • Network – Meet other users in the same industry as you and talk about topics that are of interest. You can also add these people to your contacts list.

Is Sphinn for you?

As mentioned above, this site is only for content related to Internet marketing, SEO and making money online. If your site does not fall into one of these categories, Sphinn will not be able to help you out.

<< Back to MySpace Forward to Facebook >>

List Building – Enticement

How exactly do you get people to sign up for your newsletter? Maybe the more important question is: how do you get people to want to sign up for your newsletter? This question will not be completely answered here because there are so many factors that go into your marketing strategy. These factors are then varied based on the industry you’re involved in.

What I can tell you is that you need to find out what makes your visitors/customers “tick”. Researching your site’s demographics can help with this. Here are a few tips you can use to create buzz around your newsletter.


  • Content – First and foremost you need to remember that nobody will want your newsletter if it contains useless information. Always provide new, quality content. If you keep rehashing the same material over and over or copy content from other sources on the Internet, you will not be able to maintain a consistant subscriber list.
  • Free stuff – If your newsletter is primarily used to promote products and services that you’re selling, you might want to think about giving away something for free to get people to sign up. This will show your visitors that you are interested in keeping them around. Free stuff can include a special edition newsletter or a free eBook on a subject of interest for your visitors.
  • Speak the truth – Don’t fill your newsletter with bogus information, half-truths or outright lies. This will ruin your reputation and make you lose subscribers faster than you can send out your next message. This is especially true if your newsletter revolves around the latest news in your industry.
  • Be consistant – If you tout that your newsletter will be delivered weekly, send it weekly. In fact, send on the same day and time. Think of your publication as you would the daily newspaper. If you read it, you probably expect it at a particular time everyday. Your visitors will expect the same from you.
  • No spam – Never spam your visitors! Don’t send them offers that you know they won’t be interested in. Never sell your email list (unless you explicitly say you will before someone signs up) to any third party companies. Most of all, don’t overdo it!! If your visitors are expecting a monthly newsletter, don’t send one daily.

If your visitors know that your newsletter will contain the qualities mentioned above, they are more likely to sign up. The best advice I can give you is to put yourself if their shoes. If you were on someone’s website, what would make you want to submit your email address? On the other side, what would make you not want to submit your email address?

<< Back to Post OptIn/White List Forward to Instant Gratification >>

List Building – Post OptIn/White List

Post opt in is a process in which you have an existing email list and you import it into your email marketing campaign. In other words, these visitors did not visit your site and sign up the “usual” way. This is a common practice among webmasters who have changed websites or opened a new one and would like to begin marketing to his/her existing visitors.

White listing, in relation to email lists, is a business practice when a business has obtained email addresses of interested users from all over the Internet–usually thousands of varying websites with numerous topics. They collect all of these emails and separate them into applicable categories and lists and then sell them to other websites to use in their marketing plans.

Post opt in

Some people are skeptical of performing such a task because it’s very likely that you’re going to end up putting people on your mailing list that may not want to be there. Companies like Aweber allow the importing of email lists, but its main purpose is to provide people a means of adding large amounts of email addresses with relative ease when moving service providers.

However, it is possible to take a duplicated list that you may own and import it into another one. This is where things become questionable. For example, if you run two websites with one about cars and the other about motorcycles, you may want to integrate your two mailing lists so you can promote both of your websites at the same time. The problem is that you don’t know for sure that the visitors interested in your car content will also be interested in your motorcycle content and vice versa.

White lists

There’s a lot of debate about email whitelists. On a personal level, you may have created your own whitelist which is basically a listing of all your good emails after pruning out dead accounts or known spammers. From a business standpoint, you may be considering purchasing a white list.

Marketing firms that have harvested thousands of emails based on various topics are in the business of selling these lists to business and website owners like yourself so you can import them into your email marketing campaigns. The debate about the practice comes from the question of how these firms put these email lists together.

Some companies can be spammers themselves who have done nothing but run automated bot searches of the Internet looking for usable email addresses. Others may have legitimately obtained the email addresses, but did not disclose the fact that the addresses may have be sold to another company somewhere down the line.

With that said, you want to be careful whenever you think about adding email addresses to your email list ‘after the fact’ because you never know how those people will receive you and the worst thing that can come of this is getting marked as a spammer.

<< Back to Spam Prevention Forward to Enticement >>

List Building – Demographic Info

Have you ever watched tv at certain times during a day and wondered why the commercials you see are so different than what you see at night? Or how about a magazine about cars–why are all the ads related to car parts? Of course the second example is more obvious, but the point is that every media outlet has demographic requirements that it must follow.

Your website is no exception. There’s no sense in promoting your products and services to people who have no interest in using them. Learning your demographics for your niche or market will help you find people in particular age groups, cultural societies and various interests groups that fit your ideal customer. Knowing this information will help you better serve your customers and allow you to market specific segments of your business. The hard (and expensive) part is finding out who your customers really are.

As a small business or even smaller website/blog owner, you will likely not be able to afford a big budget market research campaign, so what options are you left with in discovering who your customers are? I found an interesting blog post on Sean Jordan’s website that discusses just this question. I’ve outlined and summarized a few of the important points here.

Finding your demographic

  • Competitors – A perfect way to start out with any area of your new business is to look at what your competitors are doing. It might sting a little to see other businesses doing what you plan to do, but the best part is that you can learn from their mistakes or take the high road and do things better/differently. In terms of demographics, you can sometimes find this information in media press kits or by searching online.
  • Census Bureau – To find your own demographics, it might help to view the demographics of the country, or your local area. This will tell you who lives around your business and can point you in the right direction to finding out who you’ll be marketing to.
  • The Internet – Searching online can yield tons of information about loca demographics. A lot of real estate websites offer basic information to inform potential home buyers. There’s a website called Claritas that allows you to search your own zip code to discover what kind of demographics there are in your neighborhood.
  • Small Business Administration – This website is not just for locating demographic information, but also for starting a new business or growing an existing one. There is a TON of free resources on this site and it should be explored from top to bottom.
  • Existing reports – Most likely, you’re operating in an industry or field that already has some extensive market research reports already created, so why not use them? This will save you so much time and possibly even money in the long term although these reports can cost quite a bit up front.
  • Hire someone – Undoubtedly this is the most expensive approach to market research. You hire a large firm that specializes in such areas and allow them to do the footwork for you. This option is probably not the best approach for a small business because even once you have the results, you may not have the financial requirements to properly manage your marketing campaigns.

Why is this information important?

As an example, your business sells computer games. If you found out that the majority of people buying computer games are between the ages of 13-26, but your local demographics show you that the majority of people in your area are between the ages of 35-55, would you go door to door offering to sell computer games? No. Had you not known this information, you would have exhausted precious time and resources to gain no additional customers.

Running a business online is a little different because you have the whole world at your fingertips, but it would still be beneficial to know how to market your website to get better response to your products.

This has been an extremely concise article about locating demographics, but my purpose was to emphasize how important it is to know your customers. If you’re faced with this issue right now in your business, I’d strongly suggest you begin a search online to explore these topics in depth.

<< Back to Opt In Capture Forward to Cookie Tracking >>

List Building – Opt In Capture

Oh, the infamous opt in! This is the gateway to your profitable mailing list. Don’t abuse it or underestimate it; otherwise you might be in for a rude awakening. If done right, you’ll get a nice group of loyal and dedicated readers of your material and offerings. If done wrong, you can say goodbye to all the extra income you were hoping for.

The key to the opt in form is to make it accessible, but not to make it obnoxious. Feel free to promote it wherever you get the chance, but don’t force it in your visitors’ faces. You may have seen websites that throw out popup or popunder windows and you already know how annoying these are.

Proper opt in techniques

  • Static page – Create a static page that talks about your newsletter or marketing materials and clearly outline what it is someone will be getting if they sign up at your site. Link to this page from your home page as well as anywhere else you talk about your newsletter.
  • WordPress widget – There are many plugins and themes that offer you the option of placing custom HTML code in your sidebar, header or footer. Create an instant webform that asks for their name and email address so they only have to click submit to sign up.
  • Email signature – Start promoting your newsletter to everyone you email! This the best anti-spam way of letting people know what you have going on. I don’t know about you, but I always look at people’s signatures.

No matter how you promote your opt in form, the most important thing to remember is that you don’t want to spam it, force it or oversell it, which brings me to my next list!

Improper opt in techniques

  • Popup windows – Back in the old days, a popup window was used as a useful way to show someone information without having to change pages or open a whole new browser window. Today, they are the most annoying form of advertising and your opt in form should never appear on one. Besides the high probability of being blocked anyway, you’re likely to lose people just because your site looks tacky.
  • Popunder windows – A popunder window carries the same annoyances as its popup counterpart, but this one is designed to show up behind the window you have open. This way, when you’re done surfing and you start closing your browser windows, this mysterious window will be left open. While it does have some potential for catching people off-guard, it too can make your site look tacky.
  • Forced – Forcing someone to signup to your list just makes you look desperate. One way this can be done is when someone emails you to ask a question and you immediately add them to your mailing list just because you now have their email address. Remember that just because they sent you a message does not mean they want more emails from you.
  • Spam – It should go without saying, but obviously you don’t want to spam your visitors to get your newsletter. Not only does this look bad, but it’s illegal and your visitors are likely to get the idea that all of your future communications will be spam-like.

Building a list is not easy and it takes a lot of work to get it right. I’m still amazed at the amount of people that visit my site each day compared to the amount that sign up for my newsletter! However, having patience and doing it right will create a better experience for you and your visitors.

<< Back to Spam Scoring Forward to Demographic Info >>

List Building – ESP

ESP stands for Email Service Provider and it can mean the difference between a successful email manager with proper, spam-free email marketing campaigns and the “stuff” you send. It’s hard to comprehend paying for an external email service when you clearly have email access as part of your webhosting service.

However, the difference is that ESPs allow you to create and manage that email much better. As an example, if your website offers visitors the ability to sign up to a newsletter, you might have these emails being stored in a simple database and then extracted to Outlook. You probably then create a newsletter or some other content and blast off an email to all your contacts.

The problem with this is that these days there are tons and tons of spam being sent all over the world, so the element of trust is important. What this means is that you have less of a chance of your messages actually getting to your visitors when sending email from your own Internet connection.


  • Ability to create templates for sending to contacts and/or the use of pre-made templates
  • A subscriber list, which is uploaded by the user for distributing messages. This may be enhanced with custom fields in order to hold additional information for each subscriber for filtering and targeted messaging purposes
  • A send engine, which allows users to distribute their message to the subscribers
  • Updating of the subscriber list to suppress those requesting to be unsubscribed
  • Statistical reviews of each email sent to measure the success rate of the campaigns
  • Testing of templates for compatibility with email applications
  • Spam testing to gauge the score of the email against known factors that will place the template at risk of being blocked
  • The ability to send both html and plain text formats to improve delivery success rates (known as Multi-Part MIME)

To get you on the right track, I’ll recommend the provider that I use. They’re called Aweber and their pricing is cheaper than some of the other services I’ve found out there, like MailChimp.

<< Back to List Building Forward to Bounce Handling >>

Web 2.0 – Tribe Marketing

Tribe marketing is more of a descriptive title rather than an official name. In a sense, being tribal just means that we as a society take our cues from the group (or tribe) that we most relate to. For example, if you’re close to the entertainment industry, you’re more likely to follow trends that current celebrities are following or creating.

In terms of websites and/or blogs, it’s important to know what tribe you belong to or what tribe you’re creating. For a website example, lets look at my site. The most closely related tribal group I can relate to would be business owners, bloggers, website developers and Internet marketers. What this means is that my content will strike a chord with people in these groups and they’re more likely to respond to my offerings.

What is tribe marketing?

As with any marketing, you want to focus your attention on your niche group(s). Although one of your primary goals is to get as much traffic to your site as possible, what good is a bunch of visitors looking for ways to soup up their hotrods when your site is based on search engine optimization? Your site however, would be of some use to the person running a site about hotrods.

Because people are “tribal” by nature, they are looking to fit in with people who share the same interests and want the same things in life–as well they should be. Your goal is to maximize your site’s potential using these groups of people.

Ways to market

In the next few sections, I’ll be exploring ways to accomplish this goal, but here’s a quick snapshot:

  • Create a forum – Using a forum (message board) allows you to interact with your visitors as well as letting them interact with each other.
  • Blog comments – Allow visitors to comment on your posts to create dialog.
  • Use groups – Use web groups all over the Internet that group similar people together to promote your website to.

If you have passion about your website, you’re probably already doing these things and understand the value of them. Think about it this way: if you went to an online store that sold something you can’t buy anywhere else, how much better would it be if you went to the product page and right alongside the standard description, you got to see other people’s opinions on it, some forum posts about how to customize that product and even a live contact link straight to the owner!

Not only would this make you feel better about the product, but you’re likely to come back and buy other things as well.

My two cents

Utilize the way people communicate and interact with other people. You’d be surprised how much more 100 visitors of targeted traffic is worth compared to 1000 random visitors. Spend your time looking for people that are looking for you and don’t get so caught up with just trying to get your traffic numbers up.

<< Back to Feedburner Forward to Forums >>

Site Creation – Memberships

You’ve seen them before–store memberships, clubs and mailing lists. It seems like you can’t go anywhere these days without being offered to sign up for this or sign up for that. As much as this might be irritating to you, don’t take it personally. These businesses are not out to steal your information or upset you in any way. They’re practicing a great business technique that really works!

Offer member incentives

When you run a business, especially one online, you have a unique opportunity to increase customer retention when you offer your them the ability to become members of your website or blog. They not only feel like they belong, but you are able to offer them the latest news, product updates, special discounts and everything in-between. As an example, on my site, you can sign up to the newsletter that I offer. This allows me to communicate just about anything I think you’d be interested in later on down the road.

The reason this is so important is that you may not come back to my site for a long time because you’re not a regular reader, but if you get updates through email, you’re not going to miss anything. Plus, I can offer you the latest tools right when I find out about them.

If you run an ecommerce site, you really want people to become members of your store because you’re inventory is most likely always changing, so it’s even more important for you to get those updates out. This will increase sales and make the customer feel more important. Offer people discounts, free stuff, special “members-only” items, etc. and you’ll win a customer for life!

Managing members

Every site structure is different, so managing your members can be everything from easy to difficult. What you don’t want to do is mis-manage them. This is especially true of email subscribers. You never want to given the impression that you send spam email. You also don’t want to have a huge list of members only to sit on it and not do anything for them.

Staying connected means sending out information, promotions and updates regularly. You’ll need to cater specific needs to your members based completely on the industry that your business is focused in. For example, if you’re in the clothing business, you’ll want to make sure that your updates and promotions are geared around style trends and seasons. You can offer great deals on summer clothing in the winter and vice versa.


I use a company called Aweber to manage all of my newsletters and mailing lists. Not only do they manage all of your members, but you can create any type of marketing materials you want! You can also setup automatic messaging to send out emails whenever you choose.

Do not waste any more time on this topic! You need to start turning your customers and web traffic into members of your business today!

<< Back to Security Roles Forward to Site Creation >>

Site Creation – Domain Registration

Today, domain names are everywhere and they aren’t always used for a company’s website such as or Domains are now registered to capitalize on all sorts of things like catch phrases, movie titles, personal names, marketing jargon and just about everything else. When it comes to registering your own domain, you’ll want to ask yourself a few questions:

  • What message will the domain convey to other people?
  • Does it make me sound professional?
  • Is it easy to remember?
  • Does it infringe on a registered trademark?
  • Does it have branding potential?

The most important question is: Is it available? There are millions and millions of domain names out there already, so finding one you like may be a larger process than you anticipated. However, there are plenty of after-market places to buy registered domain names for sale.

How do I decide what to get?

After answering the questions above, you should have a clearer path to finding the right domain. If this site is going to be your personal website, try using your name or nickname. If you’re using this domain as a business, obviously use your business name, or find something generic that relates to you business. As time goes on, more and more traffic will be coming to your site, so pick a domain that you won’t want to change a year from now. Your domain name is also part of building your brand name.

There are also lots of top level domains (TLDs) to choose from. You might know the top three: .com, .net and .org, but there are over 1600 TLDs worldwide! Each country has at least one like the United States (.US), Tuvalu (.TV), Montenegro (.ME), United Kingdom (.CO.UK) and Western Samoa (.WS). Picking your TLD can be a matter of geographical location, preference or necessity. Keep in mind that foreign domain extensions often cost more and might carry specific restrictions.

Where do I get a domain?

To search for an available domain name and register it, I recommend GoDaddy. I use them for all of my domain services and setting up an account is free. The best part is that, compared to others, they still offer the cheapest domains when you consider all the free services you get.

If the domain you want is already registered, you might be out of luck unless the owner is holding the domain for the “right price”. Yes, domains are sold as commodities these days and some can command millions of dollars. The best advice I can give in this situation is to contact the owner and see if they’re willing to sell. You can do this by finding out the registrant’s email address using

Alternatively, you can search after-market domains on sites such as,,,,, and just to name a few!


Use your best judgement when registering or buying a domain. When buying, know that there are a lot of scammers out there that will try to steal your money or make a domain seem worth more than it really is. When registering, make sure you’re not treading on someone’s trademark. This can lead to you not only losing the domain name, but also paying huge lawyer’s fees and fines.

A complete list of domain extensions can be found on Wikipedia.

<< Back to Site Creation Forward to Web Hosting >>