Bubble Theory and the Madding Crowd

In the investing world, we talk about bubbles. A bubble happens when stocks in a particular sector are over-hyped, and greed starts driving the market.

In a stock market bubble, investors stop thinking about what they’re buying and start looking around them to see who else is buying it.

Joe Investor sees a sizable group of other investors piling into a stock or sector, driving the price higher. He figures they’ve thought things through, so he’ll go along for the ride.

Jill takes Joe’s lead, figuring he knows what he’s doing. Jerry follows Jill. Julie follows Jerry. The blind are leading the blind.

Well guess what?

There are marketing bubbles too…

Some marketing tactic or strategy is hyped beyond all reasonable expectation… newbies who don’t know any better jump in… and a bubble is born. As the hype grows, it creates a kind of vortex that sucks in more and more people. The number of dupes and the number of promoters both skyrocket.

Some investment analysts are calling the recent LinkedIn IPO a warning sign that a new tech bubble might be upon us. The stock debuted at $45 and immediately started gyrating between $80 and $120, hundreds of times 2010 earnings. In plain English, there was no justification for these prices.

Groupon and Facebook are planning IPOs as well, and they will most certainly garner the same kind of senseless, nosebleed valuations. The bubble will balloon and burst. And overnight, billions of dollars will change hands, just as they did during the dot-bomb bust of the late nineties. Foolish investors holding these stocks will get the shirts ripped from their backs.

With marketing bubbles, the damage is subtler…

Each day, a new crush of wild-eyed marketing neophytes rush in, lured by the promise of easy money, like ants to a Twinkie. Hungry for knowledge, they buy up info-products right and left. And do they learn?

Bubble stuff. All about Facebook and Twitter and mobile marketing and Groupon and other so called “game changers.” Now I’m not saying there is no value in these things. It’s just that they are hyped into the ozone… out of all proportion… beyond anything even remotely real.

And that hype drowns out the importance of learning the basic, bread and butter stuff, without which these neophytes are going to get their heads handed to them.

In the world of investing, the basics are things like earnings growth, return on equity, and profit margins. The boring, common sense stuff that allows you to rationally compare one stock to another. In the marketing world, it’s return on resources invested (RORI). Is marketing this way worth my investment? Is it the best use of my resources?

The fact that there are umpteen million users with a Facebook account makes for great hype. Heck, if it were a country it would be the third-biggest. But what does that mean in terms of the RORI for your particular business?

Most people who market with social media haven’t a clue. Their behavior is driven purely by peer pressure.

They’re going gaga for likes and friends and fans and followers and the rest of it. But they have no idea how many new subscribers or customers or dollars all that exertion is netting them.

Worse, many of them are paying zero attention to the fundamentals of online marketing – like copy and conversion. They don’t even know these things exist. Bubbleheads.

I read somewhere that for many people Facebook IS the Internet…

Pretty strong hype, isn’t it?

I suppose there are people quaking in their cyber-boots at the thought of venturing into the savage outer reaches of the Web… that bastion of evil lurking beyond the safe, mediated womb-world of Facebook. But do you really want those people as YOUR customers? Maybe you do. Depends on what you’re selling.

For the kind of fierce individualists who make good customers for me, Facebook-addicted prospects are about as attractive as a bag of chicken giblets.

And then there’s the whole Groupon thing…

We’re seeing Groupon copycats popping up everywhere, like Whac-a-Mole. They’re hyping the slashing and burning of prices to blue blazes. There are even Groupon wannabes for information products. I’m willing to bet that if it hasn’t happened already, you’re about to get pitched by one of them.

“Let us expose your company to the multitudes,” they say. “You’ll gain hundreds, perhaps thousands, of brand-new customers. All you have to do is let us sell your $1,000 info-product digitally for $17 bucks and pay us a commission.” Come again?

What should you do when they come knocking? If you’ve got a stale old info-product that few are buying and you can still sell it with a conscience, think of it as lead generation.

But to sell a genuine $1,000 product that offers real commensurate value for $17… get serious. Do you really want to pimp your brand and the perceived value of your products in exchange for a bunch of bottom feeding bargain hunters who will probably never even open your files on their computer?

Let your decision on all things bubbly be based on good old-fashioned RORI, not peer pressure.

[Ed. Note: Daniel Levis is a top marketing consultant, direct-response copywriter, and publisher of the highly acclaimed marketing periodical Persuasion Mastery Club. Get a full month of Persuasion Mastery Club (a $78 value) FREE! No credit card required. Just sign up here.

Listen in while Daniel grills one of the masterminds behind what is arguably the biggest info-product success story in the history of direct marketing – The Doctor’s Book of Home Remedies for Rodale Press. Michael Fishman spills his most cherished secrets on everything from envisioning an info-product idea… to developing it through systematic research… to validating it with small-scale tests… and, ultimately, to rolling it out for juicy profits!

Click here for free access to the mp3 and transcript of this priceless interview and a bonus edition of Daniel’s Persuasion Mastery Club premium e-letter.]