5 Reasons Why Internet Marketing is Like High School

On a beautiful Sunday afternoon down here in Panama I wrapped up my final “how to make $100K in 12 months” breakout session at the SovereignMan.com conference, and if I may be so bold to say, the sessions were a hit.

I was lucky enough to have a full house Sunday afternoon, cramming 92 people into a room meant for 60.

People are hungry for this information.

Men and women from all walks of life want to create a mobile income – one they can earn while working from one country today and then a different country halfway around the world tomorrow – because they understand the world is changing rapidly.

Many good “in person” jobs are disappearing, and nowadays “the money” is made online, through industries built on intellectual property serving a global community. That’s the essence of internet independence.

But without a doubt, learning how to make money on the internet – or even getting your website set up on the internet – can be extremely intimidating.

Whenever I speak, I try to use as many analogies as possible. And I often find myself reverting to explaining internet marketing using analogies to high school.

After all, I had a pretty good time in high school, and it “coming of age” high school movies happen to be my favorite movie genre, so it’s a perfect fit.

As a result, last night while I was sleeping I literally came up with 5 reasons why internet marketing is like high school. Seriously!

I woke up at 5:32am here in Panama with my list, and I jumped up and ran over to my old laptop to write this email before I forgot it, so I could send it to you this morning before I hit the local Panamanian gym for a workout.

I even pushed back an article I had prepared for you on “how to write ad copy for your website”, that I’ll save for tomorrow…and you wont’ want to miss that.

But for now, with the help of specific examples from some of the greatest high school movies ever filmed, I give you the 5 reasons why internet marketing is like high school (for better or worse).

And hopefully this will help you get a better understanding of how to structure your business for success. Because if there’s anyone who can teach us powerful lessons about life and business, it has to be characters from high school movies.

Reason #1 – You need to develop your own niche to survive

Remember the kids in “The Breakfast Club”?

“Saturday, March 24,1984. Shermer High School, Shermer, Illinois, 60062…You see us as you want to see us – in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. You see us as a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal. Sincerely yours, The Breakfast Club”

There was Judd Nelson – the tough guy criminal, Emilio Esteves – the jock, Ally Sheedy – the pretty popular princess, Michael Anthony Hall – the brain, and Molly Ringwald – the outcast basket case (surprise, surprise).

Each character had their own “niche market”, and by the end of my high school years, I’d found that everyone had pretty much found their own clique in high school.

That’s how you “survived” the great jungle of adolescence, by hanging out with those who were most like you.

That’s exactly what you’ll be doing online. You can’t be generic mass market. You need to “drill down” and start connecting with people in your market place on a different level than everyone else.

And when you do that, you’ll discover that being in front of the right people at the right time is much more lucrative than trying to impress everyone.

Reason #2 – When you create true fans (friends), you’ll succeed

As I wrote in my original article on the 10 Pillars of Internet Independence, “Fortunately, it doesn’t take a million clients to create a 6-figure income…If you have 1000 clients per year at $100, that’s $100K. It’s easier to repeat sell to clients than to get 1000 new clients every year, so consider that as you plan your business.”

You know who had fans? Ferriss Bueller. Now that guy had 1000 true fans, built up by creating value and helping them (plus by creating his own legend). Take this example from the movie:

Blond Sherminite: Ferris Bueller, you know him?
Shermanite with Jersey: Yeah, he’s getting me out of Summer School.
[pause] Shermanite with Jersey: S*%!, I hope he doesn’t die. I can’t handle
summer school.

People depended on Ferriss Bueller. And when you build your fan base (by creating massive value), they’ll depend on you too.

The more fans you create, the more money you make.

Be the “Ferriss Bueller” of your niche market.

Reasons #3 – You dressed to impress & now you create to impress

High school was definitely a silly time, and I remember trying to buy clothes to impress girls. (I had no idea what I was doing in the fashion department, trust me.) But that’s what people do in high school, they dress to impress.

For this point, we’ll call on a pretty good lil’ movie I watched over the Christmas holidays called, “Easy A”, about a sweet young girl named Olive Penderghast who finds out that creating a certain image (and creating a little buzz) can turn her from another invisible
student into an overnight sensation.

Now it’s not a perfect analogy, because as you’ll find in the movie, sweet lil’ Olive gets a bad reputation.

But if you create a positive image and vibe by delivering massive value with an incredible product and blog, then you’ll get a GREAT reputation and can quickly go from no-name to superstar in your niche.

You absolutely must create something that gets prospects in your crowded marketplace to sit up and pay attention. You won’t succeed doing the same thing every one else does.

Reasons #4 – SEO is just like having a big keg party

This is my favorite analogy, and I used it Saturday morning while speaking in front of over 240 people during the main session of the conference.

After all, when I first mentioned “Search Engine Optimization”, I felt like I was losing the crowd with tech speak.

But when I used my keg party analogy, people “got it”, and it made understanding the internet a lot easier.

So here’s how getting people to your website with SEO is like getting people to a keg party in high school.

Let’s imagine we have two guys whose parents are out of town for the weekend, and both want to have the best keg party their high school has ever seen.

Now who is going to get more people to their party?

The guy who has more friends telling other people about his party. Maybe his parents have a bigger liquor cabinet, or maybe the most popular girls will be there. Anything that gives him an advantage will cause kids to tell other kids that his party is the place to be.

On the internet, getting people to your website for free works the same way. Whoever has the website that the most people talk about, and link back to, will get the most visitors.

The more links you get back to your site, the higher you will rank in the search terms. It’s pretty simple.

Of course, the hard part is doing the right things to get those links back to your site, but it’s really all about creating massive value for your readers – and simply giving them a reason to tell others about you and your products.

SEO is simply a high school popularity contest on the internet.

Reason #5 – You have to show up every day

Listen, unless you were like Ferriss Bueller in high school, you had to show up everyday to high school.

And that’s what you have to do online to build your internet business. Every day you must create. You must build value. You must demonstrate a raison d’etre, because if you don’t, your competition will.

So you need to take my time management tips seriously (much more serious than you did in high school), so that you can carve out your most creative time to create the content with massive value.

And you have to do that every day.

Alright, that was an amazing trip down memory lane…makes me want to watch those movies again today, but I have the internet to conquer.

And hey, if you can think of a way that internet marketing – or marketing in general – is like high school, let me know in the comments below.

Back tomorrow with your free ad copy teleseminar,

Craig Ballantyne

“Only the meek get pinched. The bold survive.” – Ferriss Bueller


    Thank you, Craig, for being a great mentor. I value all your input to such timely information. God bless you and have a great time in Panama!

  • miguel

    Wow…..this is the best email or post since it is both, that I have seen in a long long time that accomplishes many things in such a short read.

    You go Craig boy!

    Awesome shit

  • Steve Snyder

    Great article. I am remembering the Ally Sheedy and Molly Ringwald characters flipped from how you describe them in The Breakfast Club. I have not seen the movie in awhile, but have definitely seen it plenty of times. Keep sending the wonderful content.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Steve, yep, I had them wrong. Good catch!

  • How can you forget Fast Times?…
    No problem, Rat. What you need is
    my special Five Point Plan.

    Point three was “Act like wherever you are,
    that’s the place to be”

    Great advice. You have to have confidence in your self.

  • Hey dude, Ally was the basket case. Awesome stuff as usual Craig. I just got on your mailing list recently and I am really enjoying the content. Stuff that is worth my time to stop and spend a few minutes with. Thanks.

  • Oh, and marketing is like high school in every way… like simply attracts like… trying to fit in with people or situations that don’t jive with you feels unnatural and forced… projecting a very relaxed focused message that is totally you at your best and truest brings just the right followers who will get “it” and totally buy your stuff, whatever that stuff may be, because they simply get you.

    • Anonymous

      That’s a great point Leslie, thank you.

  • Hey Craig,

    Glad you had a fun and productive time in Panama! I love the movie references too – I think you could link the Keg party one to Sixteen Candles – Jake Ryan’s parents are out of town, he is super popular and has a huge bender. Another Molly Ringwald movie is always good (btw – SHE was the princess in Breakfast Club and Ally Sheedy was the weirdo basket case – details – details)!

    Totally entertaining and informative read as always! Going to go listen to some Simple Minds now – 🙂

  • Absolutely loved today’s post. I can totally relate to all the points you made and I sometimes feel like the boys in the movie “Dazed and Confused.” In order to get into the big boys club you need to go through initiation. Who knew trying to make it online would cause so much pain at first. Anyway, still plugging along thanks to your encouragement.

    • Anonymous

      Keep up the great work Dave, it will pay off.

  • Enjoyed your creative article using the high school analogy. Here’s one I thought of: most Internet Marketing niches can be divided into two of the main high school groups, jocks and nerds. The jocks are the well established, well-monied large corporation Internet giants. We smaller compaines are the nerds. We must use our brain-power, planning, networking and customer focus to gain market share.

  • Maldek


    thank you for sending out this newsletter.

    But dear friend, you are missing the point. With all the effort you put into “marketing” and your “lists” you could as well run a real life business for even more money.

    The whole idea of internet business as *I* understand it – and I am full time running such a business since 2002 – is to minimize my work time and to maximizes my freedom.

    Yes it is nice to be able to live in a foreign country and enjoy a different coulture but what is all this worth if you spend your whole day in front of your computer doing borring marketing work?

    What worked for me:

    1) Find something you LOVE doing. Not just somewhat interested in – you must love it. Since you love doing it – you will be good at it.
    2) No matter how good you are – improve yourself to the point where YOU would admire yourself how damn good you are.

    Now it is time to help others improve. Create a product that helps other people improving themselfs.

    3) Create your internet presence and make it GOOD. Not fancy, not complicated – make it in a way even the dumbest person in the world will be able to understand how you can help him and how to place an order.

    4) Find places (websites) where your desired customers hang out. Place payed ads, if they have google adds use them.

    5) If you are indeed as good as you should be and never stop improving yourself you will become a “legend” soon enough.
    You do NOT have to spam your customers daily, you dont have to make ANY “affilitates” at all nor do you need any “launches”.

    As long as your product is outstanding and YOU are outstanding in the field, sales will follow.

    Make your product so, that YOU like it – dont worry about sales, you are helping people after all – they will beg you to take their money.

    That was the solution.
    Now the problem is; most people on the internet business are suckers. Medicore in their field at best. They have nothing of value to sell, nor do they help anyone. These people rely on “lists” instead of starting with 1) on MY list just here.

    But then the number of people who need money and the number of people who are outstanding are not equal, and there is no easy fix for that.

  • I particularly like the “show up every day” analogy. Not always easy with a J_O_B. Keep the faith, and keep plugging. Also, I’m still trying to develop a unique approach. So far, I am focusing my content on my workout routine, much of which has evolved from your Turb Training. Thanks for your efforts.

  • Leanne Ellington

    And just like in high school, people are constantly seeking out someone that inspires them– someone to follow, look up to, or emulate. We might as well give them something insanely AWESOME and VALUABLE to follow or be inspired by. Love this post Craig.

  • nice post and a great analogy, you´ve got buena onda I wish you & yours more successes; may the worst of your best days be the best of your worst days. If you´d like me to do some fast & free campaigning for you just holler, could be a good learning exercise for your downline (upline.)

  • Ken

    Thanks for another great post. This is one of my favorites due to the insightful analogies.

    I especially appreciate Leslie’s comment “Oh, and marketing is like high school in every way… like simply attracts like… trying to fit in with people or situations that don’t jive with you feels unnatural and forced… projecting a very relaxed focused message that is totally you at your best and truest brings just the right followers who will get “it” and totally buy your stuff, whatever that stuff may be, because they simply get you.”

    I am thinking about where I want to be regarding a product or role, and this post, along with Leslie’s comment, is something I will definitely keep in mind. Thank you both!