Are the Blind Leading the Blind in Business Today? What You Need to Know Before You Open Your Wallet

Everyday, I receive newsletters and read blogs from people at organizations that provide business advice. These groups charge people money to be a part of such groups. Women and “Mompreneurs” are particularly targeted. Beware. I’m going to help you learn how to sift through the posers, fakers, wannabes and alleged “experts”, “gurus”, “divas” and “launchers” who are essentially stealing your money.

Upon close examination, it seems the women at the top of these groups claim to provide empowering information and data for those starting and growing small businesses. The reality is you likely know at least as much as they do, if not more. I would estimate that about 98% do not have the expertise, experience nor education to help you be successful.

There’s no point in naming names here, but some of the larger women’s online business groups charge between hundreds to thousands of dollars per year just for the “privilege” of being a member. Don’t kid yourself with the free-level membership offering because they are just building a database so they can target you with countless emails encouraging you to “get more” when you upgrade to the paying level of the membership. And good luck opting out of those.

Some of these Muckety Mucks are making a boatload of money while NEVER having been a leader/manager/executive in any company – big or small. Some have never owned a small business before. Some have NEVER been in sales, marketing or operations. Some have been an executive but it was decades ago so they don’t understand 21st Century and how to mesh the new technologies with tried and true traditional business strategies.

Instead, they are modern-day snake oil types who simply use either ghost-written articles or ask YOU to submit content to populate their relatively useless websites. So think about it: You’re paying for your user-generated content to people who may not have a business license, certification, degree or at least worked at a mid-management. Stop flushing your money down the toilet on these leeches.

These are very strong allegations, but how do I know? I’ve written the content, the blogs, etc. and gotten zip in return. I spent the money in the past but never made one sale thanks to being part of a group that has thousands of members. You know who WAS and still is making the money, right? That’s right, the “lady experts” who are running the sites.

I guess because I am not insecure I have always shared my knowledge freely, mentored and coached on my own time. I didn’t go out and get a certificate from some fly-by-night online school and charge for it. Instead, I took the knowledge I received from people at ABC Television, The Walt Disney Company, Intel, Cisco Systems and Pepsi and applied it with patience to those who needed the knowledge and expertise of someone who not only has “been there and done that” but is STILL doing it. It’s basic human decency – especially in this economy.

This blog/article is not meant to be me patting myself on the back, but instead I would like you to closely look at what you are spending your dollars on in 2012. Stop wasting your precious money on groups that are incestuous and simply just trying to constantly sell to each other. Let me give you an example.

There is a Facebook Business group that has over 10,000 members. No one manages the group. Instead, each and every day it’s filled with thousands of posts from people hawking their wares. They are ignoring the free, educational posts that could make them successful. Instead, they just post and post and post and do not bother to read the previous posting on best practices in business.

So here are the takeaways from the above:

• Really (and I mean really) investigate the leaders of groups, organizations, chambers, networking groups, etc. before you invest a penny. It will be well worth it. This applies to both online and face-to-face groups. Peel the layers back and see if there is anything truly educational that you can’t learn on your own that they can provide. Otherwise, the web is a plethora of information*

• Do NOT spend dollars for the sake of “networking” unless you positively know there is something valuable or tangible that you will learn and apply to your business These types of groups are rare and rarely free!

• Take the opportunity and use free consultations. You’ll get more in that no-cost hour than ten $25 lunches where someone is trying to get you to buy into their MLM, energy drink or skin care line.

“Do NOT be fooled by “chief executive ladies” who promise to get you in the press. What’s pathetic is these same groups charge EXTRA for that service. One mention in the press is NOT going to put you or your company a household brand. If you want to get noticed, pay a decent publicist for a couple of months or build your own media list a little at a time or simply subscribe to HARO (Help a Reporter Out). It’s free…just like the advice you got right here.

I’ve owned a couple of businesses in the last 4 years after 25+ in four Fortune 500s and I just had to share with you the pitfalls of being a small business person – male or female, boomer or not – in the 21st century. Don’t be the best kept secret after paying for empty promises from groups that see you as prey. You’re smarter than that. Don’t just have a Merry Christmas; Have a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

*Write me if you would like a list of sites that are chock full of reputable people who are genuinely experts.

About Mary Ann McQueen Butcher

Mary Ann McQueen Butcher is the Managing Partner of Authentic PR. She has worked as a successful executive for four Fortune 500 companies, responsible for the sales, marketing and launching of many products including new businesses for Intel including Eye On Market, Linksys and Cisco Systems VOIP solutions and TV stations for the ABC TV Network. Her experience is backed up by her undergraduate degree in Journalism and her MBA in International Marketing – both from New York University.

Mary Ann has spent much of the last 4- years helping organizations learn how to make a name for themselves without spending a fortune. She is all about ROI. She knows that marketing dollars are scarce so she develops and implements plans that can be measured. Her mantra is “If you can’t measure your marketing efforts, there’s no point in doing it.” She comes from a background that instills accountability & ongoing communication with clients and vendors. Follow Mary Ann on Twitter – @AuthenticPRPro