Jim's Marketing Blog

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Can we really trust business gurus? 5 Things you should know

All business advice is not created equally.

Whilst some business advice can help you achieve breakthrough results, other business advice can cause you to lose your money and sometimes, lose your business!

The challenge for small business owners today, especially those looking online for free business advice, is that it has never been easier for someone to create fake proof that they are an expert.  As business owners tend to look for advice in areas of business where, by default, they typically don’t know a great deal, it’s extremely simple for the fake experts to fool them.

Some fake experts are easy to spot

The fake marketing expert, who attends networking events because their marketing isn’t generating enough leads, is easy to spot.  The success guru, who can’t afford a high quality website is equally transparent.  However, some fake experts are less easy to spot.  You have to dig a little deeper.

Here are 5 things to consider, when you check someone out:

  1. ANYONE can claim to be a published author, thanks to services like lulu.
  2. ANYONE can claim to be a social media expert, thanks to software that allows them to gain tens of thousands of followers.
  3. ANYONE can claim to be the host of their own radio show, thanks to services like blogtalkradio.
  4. ANYONE can call themselves a guru, but very few genuine business experts ever do.

The bottom line:  Free advice can be extremely costly, if you are making business decisions based on bad information.  Never act on advice until you are satisfied that the person advising you is an expert.

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  1. Matt Hooper | Fun Matters

    February 21, 2011 at 09:38

    Can you really trust anyone!

    I like to think I’m a fairly good judge of character but unfortunately I have worked with companies that claim to be experts but have only ended up being experts it costing me a lot of time and money!

    On the other hand I have been lucky enough to work with some fantastic companies that have massively helped to develop and grow our company.

    Can anyone give any advice on dealing with companies that don’t deliver on the same level as the service you paid for?

  2. Jim,
    Usually the advice is worth what you pay for it, right?
    If people spent as much time researching business solutions and experts for their business as they did for their next holiday or organizing a night out maybe they would see better results.
    Thanks for bringing this up, nowdays everyone is a ‘guru’ at something or worse a ‘ninja’. Never understood how being a Ninja something to look forward to since they are professional killers…


    • Hi John. In Matt’s case (the previous comment) he actually paid a company top dollar, and was extremely poorly served.

      Price can be an indicator of quality, but not always.

      You have to do some research before proceeding with any kind of advice, paid or free/

      BTW: I love your comment about ninja’s! ;)

  3. 1. Start small – however desperate you are to go for the big bang bells & whistles solution, do a little bit with them and make sure money is involved – this cuts both way – I insist on doing this with my new clients as much as new colleagues/suppliers.

    2. Ask to see evidence – actual materials / proposals / documentation / testimonials (with names & phone numbers) – a good advisor will have these at his/her finger tips and be happy to share. Is it congruent – does it make sense – are there awkward gaps in timescales or their understanding of what the work was (ie, did they borrow it from someone else).

    3. Do a pilot project. Something low risk. Debug/debrief, if it was good, do something a bit bigger. Yes, this is the same a #1 – for a good reason!

    (Head Boffin)

  4. Jim, I love your bottom line: Free advice can be extremely costly.

    I tend to trust my gut. All this is still so new to me, but my intuition rarely disappoints. When deciding which blogs to follow, I pay attention to how I feel there, and if I feel good, I follow.Same goes for Twitter following. I know “online” is not face-to-face, but the energy comes through just the same.
    What do you think Jim? Rookie mistake?

    • In my experience Lori, our gut instinct is one of the most useful and under deployed defence systems we have.

    • I agree with Lori, I primarily make my decisions on who feels “right” to me. In an environment where Internet Marketing screams at you via yellow highlighter and red arrows, it is sometimes hard to make the right choices.

      As another neophyte in this arena, it is tempting to take short-cuts with attempts to generate traffic for your blog/social media. However, when you this urge is dampened when you read quality sites like Jim’s or CopyBlogger.

      The “Third Tribe” concept, promoted by CopyBlogger appeals to me. As well as Jim’s measured content marketing approach.

      • It’s true. Our gut are made of past experiences so we are able to deploy it with a simple glimpse.
        Expertise is a term used by entourage to define someone brilliant in his field.
        If you know you’re an expert in your field, show it but don’t *say* it.
        True experts know that to succeed the secret is to develop it without expressing it.

        Here’s an advice that someone gave to me a while ago: don’t be attract by the shiny gold fish, look all around there are plenty of quality fishes.

  5. Anyone who uses the word “guru” is automatically someone who should be avoided!

  6. I watch their curated and original content for a while…via Twitter, Quora, etc. If it is consistent in theme, high in quality, valuable AND value-added, and in a nod to the other comments above, feels right intuitively, then I’ll deem them a business thought leader. I’ll admit, it takes me a l-o-n-g time to call someone a “guru” (i.e., the next step up)

  7. Hi Jim,

    Good post, I agree totally. Interestingly, these so called guru’s seem to be popping up everywhere without any experience, or background. Also many sites / blogs list this as an easy to start and run ‘home business’, along with ‘dog walking’ etc.

    Now in relation to gurus’s (not my preferred choice of word) there’s three things to consider; the cost of not doing it eg, losing a lot), the cost of doing it with a fake (suicide, potentially lose it all), invest with an expert that can prove their expertise (move yourself & your business forward, and recieve great insight & ROIidiot).

  8. Billy Delaney

    June 12, 2011 at 14:06

    Hello Jim, good advice and gratefully received.
    My tuppence worth!
    Find, develop and support friendships with people who have proven they know what they are talking about.
    Have permission to ask for insights from them.
    Ask them about a decision, plan or idea in you thinking: they will tell you what you do and don’t want to hear.
    Pay them in some way if you can, they are worth it.
    I heard this once and never forgot it.
    “He who says does not know, he who knows does not say”
    When the guru’s, ninja’s and “thought leaders?” show up I run that past them. Sorts out a lot of rubbish pretty quickly
    Thanks for a chance to speak.
    All the very best, and nice touch with the language.

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