Affiliate Marketing Disguised as an Online Course

Selling Infopreneur dreams

At the start of 2016, I restarted my blogging journey after abandoning my old Blogger site. I recreated a new lifestyle blog on WordPress (this one) and was eager to start writing blog posts, sell some sort of product, grow my email list, make big money, and live the infopreneur dream.  I heard about the List Surge class via Griffin’s email newsletter, and I was eager to get started building my blog and email list the “right way.” So I readily forked over $97 for her course, ready for Griffin to share all of her juicy secrets for mega list building.

๐Ÿ‘€ Griffin now sells her List Surge course for a whopping $297! The last time I viewed the course, nothing had been changed or updated. She did add some InDesign templates and placed them in their own separate course of sorts, but still, the price is steep considering that nothing of significance was added and none of the modules were updated.

On her sales page, Griffin claims that the student of her List Surge course will acquire 1,000 new email subscribers in 90 days. Direct quote from her sales page:  “Get 1,000 new email subscribers in the next 90 days with strategic list-building methods for bloggers and entrepreneurs.”

This is the very first line on her sales page. Almost sounds like a guarantee, doesn’t it? Well, it’s just decent marketing copy that I was desperate to believe and foolishly fell for.

One thing I discovered while planning out this blog post, is that there are very few, if any, reviews on Griffin’s course. She posts a number of testimonials on her sales page.

Lack of Reviews

One thing that strikes me is the lack of reviews for this course. I’m still surprised that I have yet to find one comprehensive review on this course, since I believe, at one point, it served as entre to her other online offerings.

Go ahead and do a search for reviews of the course, and tell me what you find. I bet you won’t find much. My search turned up results that were cursory, skimpy, and unhelpful. There is a more lengthy review on this blog, but it overwhelmingly pandering to the point that I wonder if the writer is an affiliate.

Do you ever wonder why these online courses don’t have any actual reviews? Do you ever wonder why these course landing pages, that go on for miles and miles and miles, only list a handful of positive testimonials?

I think Teachable and other online course platforms should include review ratings for the courses posted to the site. I realize that each course creator manages their own “school” and might not post reviews if they had the option, but I think it’s important for potential students to read what other people say about these courses. Most of what we have to go on is an elaborate webinar sales pitch that promises the pie-in-the-sky infopreneur dream if you just follow these marketers’ “proven steps” to success.

Empty promises

Griffin promises that if you follow her course and put her principles into practice, you will accumulate 1,000 email subscribers in 90 days. That is if you purchase expensive software-as-a-service (SaaS), such as LeadPages and ConvertKit for which she is an affiliate.

Griffin leads you through tutorials of these expensive services without providing any information on less expensive or free alternatives.

She also does not show you how to actually drive traffic to your site. She reserves that for her signature “Pinfinite Growth” course, which I was enrolled in from purchasing the 2015 Teachable Summit bundle. At the time of this posting, “Pinfinte Growth,” which teaches you to use Tailwind (also an affiliate product) to spam Pinterest with your blog posts and hopefully generate blog traffic, will set you back $397.

And this is kind of petty, but it was a real sticking point for me throughout the course and other courses she published. Griffin has an annoying, patronizing vocal delivery. I remember she mentioned that she used to teach English to children in Japan. Well, when she talks, that’s what it sounds like. Like you are one of her elementary school students. I found her voice grating and condescending, and it diminished the learning experience for me.

Essential Grid Plugin

Another affiliate product Griffin hawked was the Essential Grid Plugin. I have no clue what this plugin is like now, but when I tried to use it in 2016, it was an overly complicated, bloated mess of a plugin.

The purpose of this plugin in this course is to help you create a stylish and orderly “content library” for which your blog visitors will provide their email address for access to said library of information. The content library is Griffin’s signature ethical bribe, a vast collection of somewhat helpful, somewhat mediocre, full-page PDF documents to help one along her blogger journey.

Essential Grid’s plugin integrates with WordPress, but the user interface was not intuitive. Selecting “skins” and fine-tuning the settings for each gallery item was a pain and presented a significant learning curve. You really do not need to plunk down $34 dollars to post images to a page and hyperlink them. For all of Essential Grid’s motion effects and animations, it’s totally unnecessary.

I don’t even want to link this plugin because I just don’t want to send you down that path, not when there are other free solutions out there. To her credit, this course was published before WordPress’s Gutenberg editor and before page builders like Elementor entered the web design landscape, so maybe it was the best option at the time.

Alternatives

  • Elementor’s free plugin will do the trick. You can see it in action on my Free Stuff page.
  • You can also just align images to the left within the page your editing and add hyperlinks to where the content lives on your WordPress site or wherever you are hosting the content. This is as elegant as Elementor, but it’s also not as maddeningly complex as Essential Grid.

Magic Action Box

Magic Action Box is a form building plugin for your WordPress website. Once you have designed your opt-in form to your liking, the plugin generates a shortcode that you insert in your blog post or page.

Griffin walks you through the steps on how to download the plugin and customize it to your site. Her demonstration seemed easy enough. In fact, I was impressed by how she could choose a predesigned opt-in box, customize it with her brand’s font and colors, and have a dynamic preview of the process as she edited and updated her design.

So I followed her link (I don’t think this one was an affiliate) and downloaded the free plugin. Like most free plugins, there are some built-in limitations that encourage you to purchase the fully-featured pro version.

The free version did come with four preinstalled templates to chose from. but they were limited to “dark” and light “version.” I did pick one and started customizing it. There were several settings that I had to drill down into the get eh opt-in box to actually take shape, And I notice there was no dynamic preview like what I saw on Griffin’s lesson video.

Undeterred, I visited the Magic Action Box site and searched for a solution. I then surmised that I needed to buy the pro version in order to get the dynamic preview that Griffin showed her List Surge students. So I purchased the prove version for $47.

The pro version did provide more pre-designed templates to work with and unlocked the customizations that I couldn’t previously access. However, there was still no dynamic preview.

Finally, I contacted the support team and asked them why I was not able to see the dynamic preview while I edited my opt-in form. They told me that the plugin didn’t’ support this function. It wasn’s included at all!

What the hell was I seeing when Griffin edited her opt-in form and made changes to it in real-time? Did she have a special version of this software? If she did, she did not seem aware of it, because she pointed out the real-time edits as if that was a normal function of the plugin. She didn’t explicitly, or implicitly, indicate that she had a version other than the one that could be downloaded or purchased from the plugin website.

I got a refund and worked with the free version as best as I could, but was never really satisfied with the experience or the look of the form; it wasn’t that attractive to look at or easy to use. But mostly, I felt duped by Griffin. No, she did not advise her students to purchase the pro version (at least from what I can remember). But the fact that she promoted a plugin that didn’t function the way she demonstrated left a sour taste in my mouth.

Months later, when I visited her website, I only saw the Magic Action Box used on a handful of blog posts. It looked like she had abandoned the tool altogether for a different plugin, perhaps Thrive Leadsโ€”another expensive tool. Who knows? Maybe she’s hawking that plugin now.

Up until about seven months ago from the time of this post, Magic Action Box hadn’t been updated in at least two years. The blog hasn’t been updated since 2015. The website looks super outdated, and the plug has only one review in the past two months with a two-year gap between the review before that.

LeadPages

Words can’t describe how much I loathe LeadPages. And out of my entire flopped foray into blogging for money, LeadPages is my most regretful purchase. LeadPages is a lead-generating SaaS that also includes a plugin for WordPress. LeadPages allows you to set up lead magnets (remember Griffin’s content library?) to entice a visitor to download some sort of product or incentive in exchange her email address.

Griffin claims she grew her email list using this very method. People would find her blog through a Pinterest post, or some other site, and be enticed to give their email addresses in exchange for a PDF worksheet or access to her content library.

LeadPages is not an email marketing platform. Rather it integrates with your email marketing service, such as Mailchimp or ConvertKit, and adds email addresses to those accounts through the opt-ins generated via the lead magnets.

Anyway, my experience with LeadPages was less than stellar. After I attempted to create my first lead magnet, an affirmations creation workbook, I was ready to create my mini funnel to start gathering emails.

Griffin does a fairly good job o walking you through step by step how to upload your lead magnet to LeadPages, create your opt-in box, and set your thank you page. Remember that all of this is hosted on LeadPaess servers. That’s what you are paying big bucks for. You are paying to use their software to design your landing pages and store all of your lead magnets. Once a person clicks on your offer, she is led to provide her email address. Then she is directed to a thank you page if you created one. After that, they check their email and the lead magnet for which they opted in is delivered right to their inbox from Lead Pages.

I don’t have a problem with the wth process of LeadPages. I had trouble with the program’s mediocre performance and results. Outside of Griffin’s barebones tutorial, it was hard to set up new pages on my own. They seemed to have two classes of page builders, an older one and a newer one. Griffin demonstrated her tutorial on one of those types of templates, and they weren’t interchangeable. They even had different settings. Just customizing the pages required a learning curve, as the interface was not intuitive at all. And then there’s’ the hefty price tag. In 2016, the standard version of LeadPages set you back $300. This is in addition to their $576 pro version and newer $180 basic package.

SumoMe Plugin

Just say no. SumoMe is a monster plugin that takes over your WP dashboard and could possibly slow down your site. The free version only has a handful of functions/features that you can actually use. You need to upgrade to the pro version (wow, this is sounding familiar) to unlock all of the goodies.

In the course, Griffin attempts to show you how you can use SumoMe to set up contests, opt-ins, welcome mats and the like. The only issue is that she didn’t actually use these herself. If I remember correctly, she admitted to not using SumoMe herself, and that she got the ideas from someone else. So she never tested out the functionality of SumoMe herself, or if she did, decided not to continue using it.

Basically, the SumoMe module was filler to give her course the appearance of substance.

ConvertKit

Griffin is an affiliate of ConvertKit, an email marketing platform. Now, I will be honest, I’ve heard many good things about ConvertKit. My gripe is, again, for people just starting out their blogging journey, ConvertKit is a hefty investment at $300 a year, $348 a year if you pay monthly.

Melyssa Griffin is nothing but an internet marketer

She’s not your BFF. She’s not the little or big sis of your dreams. She’s not some guru to blindly follow. Griffin is a very skilled internet marketer, meaning she is adept at exploiting the desires of aspiring entrepreneurs who are eager to duplicate her success. After making a million dollars (as she claimed in one of her 2017 newsletters) she seems to have changed directions and become “enlightened,” claiming that making millions of dollars didn’t make her happy. Her website now posts podcasts with various other internet marketers and “inspirational” figures.


Sidebar: My thoughts on Pinfinite Growth

๐Ÿ“Œ This might deserve its own blog post, but I’ll try to be brief here. I gained access to Griffin’s Pinterest marketing course “Pinfinite Growth” through Teachable, which hosted an online event called the Teachable Summit, back in 2015. Anyway, via the the summit, I purchased a year’s subscription with Teachable to start hosting my own courses on their platform. Along with that purchase, I recieved access to the summit’s video recordings and courses created by many of the panelists, including Griffin’s Pinifite Growth. The course teaches you how to leverage Pinterest as a buisness marketing platform and drive traffic to your site. Remember those content upgrades from before? Griffin teaches you to post Pinterest-optimized images of your content upgrades to the platform. She gives you some tips on how to add code to some of your images, so that when poeple visit your site, they have several pinnable images to choose from. But the crux of the matter is that Griffin teaches you how to spam Pinterest with you images using the social media scheduler Tailwind, for which she is an affiliate. Tailwind will post and repost your content, flooding Pinterest with your content with the aim of attracting people to repin, share, click on the image, and ultimately land on your website and opt into one of your offers. It just goes to show that gaming the system is how many of these internet marketers get such a large following. Griffin did not gain popularity by organically growing her online presence, but by paying a services like Tailwind and LeadPages to increase her odds. I’m not saying it’s wrong, necessarily. But just know if you’re trying to break into the internet marketing arena, these people are putting down a lot of money to buy shortcuts and bypass the competition.

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