Revolutionary Character


It may be the single most important word in business.

I just finished an in depth interview with Professor Tamar Fankel of Boston University Law School which I’ll be posting next month.

But you can get a preview here and now…

Tamar has been a professor at Boston University since 1968 and it currently a Faculty Fellow at the Beekman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. She chaired the forum that led to the
creation of ICANN, the Internet naming system.

Despite of her Internet credentials, Tamar is best known for her work in securities law. She was a pioneer in helping define law in the fields of both securitization and mutual funds.

Quite an impressive career to say the least.

So what is Tamar focusing on now?


A book she published on the subject just came out from Oxford University Press. It’s called “Trust and Honesty: America’s Business Culture at a Crossroad.”

You’ll hear more about this book and the ideas in it in depth when we publish the interview with her, but it’s not too early to start thinking about how trust applies to your business.

It’s all about trust

Going back to the start of this article, trust may be the single most important word in business.

I’m not talking about being blind trust. Healthy skepticism is one of the most important tools in the entrepreneur’s tool kit.

I’m talking about being trustworthy. Literally: worthy of trust.

And no, I don’t mean a new sales technique or copywriting tactic. I mean being worthy of trust.

Internet marketing is a very new field. Many people have been attracted to it because of the low cost of entry, the ability it gives to sell-at-a-distance, and the anonymity it provides (or seems to provide.)

Being a new, and largely unregulated, marketplace, the Internet has attracted a lot of bad players. In this way, it’s not unlike any other industry or field of human endeavor.

The problem is that in the Internet marketing field many of these bad players are often looked up to by beginners as the model of how to conduct business online because of their supposed (usually self-reported) success.

This problem is like the proverbial elephant sitting in the living room that no one wants to talk about, but make no mistake: it’s costing us all dearly.

What bad players cost us all

When businesses behave unethically or in a “screw the consumer” way on the Internet, it effects everyone who sells on the Internet. It diminishes the level of trust buyers have for the medium. It reduces opt-ins. It reduces sales. It reduces profits. And it reduces the ability of good players to reach prospects and customers who need their products and services.

In her book, Tamar points out that in markets where dishonesty becomes institutionalized,  distrust reaches epidemic proportions and economic activity grinds to a halt.

A classic example is the Third World nation where nothing can be accomplished without bribes and no property is safe from corrupt officials. Countries that do not get a grip on corruption-accepting attitudes like this can never make long term economic progress.

Is the Internet in danger of degenerating to this point?

Maybe, maybe not, but as Tamar points out, it’s the culture that a community develops that determines its long term prospects.

What kind of culture is forming around Internet marketing?

This is not an idle question, but if we don’t like the answer, what, if anything, can we do to change things for the better?

Tamar has three recommendations:

1) Don’t bury your head in the sand and hide from the subject,
2) Bring it out into the light and discuss is openly, and
3) Realize that culture is malleable, changeable. It’s not carved in stone. If we don’t like the way things are, or where they’re headed, we can do something about it.

Coincidentally this morning I saw a review in the New York Times for a book called “Revolutionary Characters.” It’s about the nature of the people who made the American Revolution possible. (You know, the one we celebrated yesterday.)

The book asks: Why are the leaders of today so inferior to the leaders of 1776?

The reviewer says: “Mr. Wood (the author) points out that it was the trust George Washington inspired in people ‘that enabled the new government to survive’ its tumultuous and fragile early years.”

Am I saying that players in the Internet marketing world should look more to people like George Washington and Bejamin Franklin for inspiration and less to people like Donald (gag) Trump and his Internet marketing equivalents?

Yes, I guess that’s exactly what I’m saying.

It has to begin somewhere. It might as well begin with us, now.

– Ken McCarthy

P.S. For over 25 years I’ve been sharing the simple but powerful things that matter in business with my clients.

If you’d like direction for your business that will work today, tomorrow and twenty years from now, visit us at the System Club.

Monetizing viral video
Is it bunker time for Microsoft?

31 Responses to Revolutionary Character

  1. Ara Rubyan July 5, 2006 at 12:31 pm #

    I was taught that people will trust you when you have demonstrated two things:

    1. Putting the other person’s interest ahead of your own.

    2. Doing what you say you’re going to do.

    What do you think?

  2. Dan Keldsen July 5, 2006 at 12:36 pm #

    Ken – Must say I agree with you on this, although I’d expand on trust to include responsibility – specifically, personal responsibility for both the good and ill of our own actions as keys to working as a truthful and trustworthy person.

    Keep up the good work.


  3. Svein Berg July 5, 2006 at 12:41 pm #

    An absolutely important and timely point!

    I believe that trust is created by putting the focus on giving before getting. In business this translates into focusing on the services you provide and the positive results they create for your customer first and on profits second. Profits should be a result of providing excellent service to your fellow men, and not its primary and only goal. This also includes a long term view on what you are doing.

    One day well be old and be in the position of looking back on a long life lived. At that point, I am sure that all of us will be more proud of the way we provided great service to other people than whatever amount of money we got in return for that. Thank you Ken for educating us all!

  4. Ed Osworth July 5, 2006 at 1:01 pm #

    What a wonderful post to start the day with. In my opinion – you are right on the money.

    Years ago, I was very well known in the internet marketing circles. I produced and sold online a well known book on selling real estate “by owner” that made me buckets of money. It was one of the first (if not the first)PDF ebooks sold on the web.

    I was well qualified to write it, as I had owned my own real estate office. It was quality stuff – so much so I sold all the rights to where it still sells quite nicely almost 8 years after I wrote it.

    The circle of “gurus” was small then and most were concerned with sharing and selling genuine and valuable knowledge at reasonable prices.

    So I got into the “internet marketing” mode and started new sites promoting my marketing knowledge (I started direct marketing copywriting in 1984) and resale rights opportunities.

    As years went on I got more and more disgusted with what I was seeing happening in the ever widening circle of “gurus”. Folks would approach me with JVs and all their focus became on “how much money can we squeeze out of this”. I always asked for samples and frankly was appaled by lots of it.

    I got the reputation of being difficult to work with because I would not participate in selling crap. First it was a few “gurus” acting that way, then it seemed like more and more got on board the “money train of substandard information”.

    It got to the point a few years back where every time I worked online I felt like taking a shower afterwards to wash off the residual dirt I was seeing online and in my emailboxes.

    The only “guru” I still would regularly read was Ken. He never seemed pushy and gave away more info in his “free” lessons than many of the products I saw for $200.

    So I left the internet marketers circle and went into retail for a while and did excellent at it. Got away from the whole scene and it was so refreshing. At least when I sold a physical product I knew folks were getting real value for their money.

    As it turns out I am going back into online marketing to promote and publish more “information” products and also self publish some books. These are not marketing info but books and CDs on spitituality.

    As I had been out of the loop online – I needed to get a fast update on what is working today.

    So last week I dropped a grand on a set of CDs to get me up to speed.

    From who? Well the only guy I still trust. The one who provided value for free. The guy who expressed his opinions openly, even if they ruffled a few feathers.

    A guy by the name of Ken McCarthy.

    The lesson – trust pays in hundreds of ways.

  5. Susie & Otto Collins July 5, 2006 at 1:19 pm #

    Trust is not only the most important word in business– it’s the most important word in ANY relationship.

    It’s about time that we, in the business community and in our personal relationships started focusing on trust building more of the time.

    We appreciate Tamar for writing this book and You (Ken) for telling us about it.

    Relationship Coaches and Authors

    Susie & Otto Collins

  6. John J Gomez July 5, 2006 at 1:48 pm #

    Thanks guy’s. Its wonderful to know that there are people who have the consumers best interest at heart. Buyers communicate too. There isn’t any better feeling when you have confidence in the business you trust.

    My question to business ethics today is from a repeat consumers stand point; Am I truly valued as a consumer or among the masses?
    The issue with me and many others is the long haul. Thanks again Ken!

  7. John Jaworski July 5, 2006 at 1:55 pm #

    Hey Ken,
    Great post. Unfortunately the world seems to be filling with people that ya really shouldn’t trust.

    There are exceptions, but they seem fewer and fewer.

    I think it’s the whole “get rich quick” dream that has been the downfall of many a good man.
    In this industry the abuse runs as rampant as in the MLM industry.

    At the last System I told a bunch of people about the overload that I had been feeling. One of the most freeing things I have ever done was unsubscribe to a bunch of the lists that I was on.

    How did I decide who to unsubscribe to? Simple. Did I get content from them or just pitch. If the answer is pitch – no matter how good what you are pitching is… adios amigo!

    I surprised myself when I found myself unsubscribiung from one popular Internet Marketers list. I had spent some dough with him, but still the content was lacking.

    He had taught me that when you are in a relationship with your prospects and Customers it’s a lot like dating, you don’t ask to marry them on the first date. And he didn’t. But now that we had a relationship, I am treated like an abused spouse. Never a “Hi Honey, how was your day?”, just come into the inner sanctum of my inbox and beat me over the head with pitch after pitch.

    So I unsubscribed. Does he care? Probably not, I think he has a pretty big list. But I care.

    For anyone experiencing overwhelm I recommend unsubscribing from the noise of the pitch. It has done wonders for my productivity and mental health!

    Never forget that trust is a fragile thing. It’s really hard to cultivate and really easy to lose.


  8. Lee July 5, 2006 at 2:21 pm #

    Amen to that.
    As a newbie, I spend a lot of time looking at marketer’s materials, modeling a few and avoiding most.
    Posting names and details in a public forum seems a little risky, maybe we should all compile our lists, good and bad, to discuss in person at next year’s System?

  9. Tom Paine July 5, 2006 at 2:25 pm #

    There is an old saying that The bottleneck in any organization is always at the top. Now let us assume for a moment that the top is Washington. Trust must begin there and Government must be the absolute epitome of truth to inspire truth through out the entire Republic. Government must be the best example of truth and of following the law. It must be vigilant in correcting those agents and representatives at the very hint of prevarication or illegal activities. It is the omnipresent example of truth or fraud, which ever the case maybe. I ask myself Do I believe all that is told to me by the Government be it the city dog catcher or the chairman of the Federal Reserve
    I can not answer in the affirmative. Lying is the way of our public servants. Change must occur or we are another Roman Empire about to Fall.

  10. Virginia Van Vynckt July 5, 2006 at 2:48 pm #

    I, too, have unsubscribed to many of the lists I was on. I got tired of feeling like a “mark.” I look forward to reading Tamar’s book. I think Mitch Axelrod hit the nail on the head at the System Seminar–“buyer beware” is giving way to “seller beware.” Or at least one can hope…

  11. Richard Farmer July 5, 2006 at 3:03 pm #

    The problem is that even if an honest person is elected, unless we can institute term limits, one
    way would be if we only voted for
    people who would take Congress’
    pension away and put them on
    Social Security like all the other government employees.

  12. Laurel Holub July 5, 2006 at 3:41 pm #

    I was inspired to read your posting on trust.
    I am working on “comimg up higher” in this area of my life, and to be honest, as an MLMer, I constantly need to refocus on viewing my prospects as someone I am in relationship with & wish to bless, not someone to get me to my goals.
    I am reading “The Greatest Secret in the World” by Og Mandino, and that gives me the nudge that I need to realize that it’s not about me, but as Zig Ziglar says” If you help enough people get what they want,
    you’ll get what you want”.
    Do unto others is just as true in the internet marketplace, as anywhere.
    May God bless you in your endeavors to make the internet a safer & more properous place for us all.
    Laurel Holub

  13. Gary Raimo July 5, 2006 at 3:53 pm #

    Great Topic! I think you hit the nail on the head with this. There are so many rip off artist out there. Even the ones who are supposed to be established, reputable marketer/trainers prove to be nothing but hucksters teaching others to be hucksters. So bold as to even state in Video, Audio and written word that “I produced this course and sold it for $850.00 to generate some income” This told to folks he had already sold the same course to for $2495. It all turned out to be crap. Once they get the money they are gone, No support nothing. Great topic. The internet info market needs to hear it. I fear though that as long as there are going to be folks that by the crap like it is gold we will continue to see this as an issue.
    Thanks Ken for the voice in the wilderness.

  14. Chris King July 5, 2006 at 3:55 pm #

    Right on!
    This is an excellent article, and the posts are even better. I usually use themes for my blogs and e-newsletters, so am planning to do each about “Trust” and will link them to this Blog. Thank you for being worthy of our trust!
    Chris King

  15. Ken McCarthy July 5, 2006 at 7:05 pm #

    Dear readers,

    I just removed a post to this blog that was personally insulting and factually inaccurate.

    About the person – “Anon” – who posted it

    I looked up the IP address he used.

    It’s and I found out two things about this address.

    Not only did this person post anonymously, but also

    1. The IP address he used has never posted to any one of my six blogs before and does not appear to be connected to any of our customers (in the post, this individual claimed to be a customer.)

    2. The address is not connected with any known domain name.

    Kind of unsual to say the least.

    To “Anon”:

    If you really are a customer, you have our number. As people who do business with us know, we answer the phone.

    If you have a legitimate issue with anything we do, we want to know about it and, if we’re in the wrong, make it right.

    Posting insulting messages to a blog anonymously from a masked IP address is not going to get you anywhere with me, with your business or with your life.

  16. Shel Horowitz July 5, 2006 at 8:25 pm #

    Ken, you’re absolutely on the mark. In my book, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First, as well as in three years worth of newsletters, I emphasize the importance of trust over and over again. I’d venture to say it’s a key driver of business success. It’s why Johnson & Johnson bounced back so quickly, stronger and more profitable than ever, after the amazing commitment the company made to making things right when someone tampered with Tylenol years ago.

    People interested in trust in the business environment may want to consider signing the Business Ethics Pledge, — a movement that I hope will ultimately make crooked business as unthinkable in the future as slavery is now.

  17. Paul Schmidt July 5, 2006 at 9:34 pm #

    An interesting but seldom referred to URL on the subject of trust from ezine publishers has this to say:
    “Many of us subscribe to ezines (email newsletters). And some of us even check the ezine publisher’s privacy statement before we subscribe. But, most of us do not know how ezine publishers are tracking you across the net with their ezine. is dedicated to:

    * Alerting everyone to the problem,

    * Explaining why the problem exists and how ezine publishers violate your privacy,

    * Promoting Best Practices of Ezine Management, and

    * Enabling ezines which honor individual privacy to proclaim their good practice with the Ezine Privacy Button.

    This is one facet of “Trust”…but I’ll bet it affects all of us.

  18. Joe Welzen July 5, 2006 at 9:59 pm #

    Right on Ken. The slickees and the scum bags need a good swift boot in the rear and out of the market place.

    How about people writing or posting notes about their less than desiraboe experience so others can avoid them? Maybe put them on a caution, beware list!


  19. Douglas Lietz July 6, 2006 at 2:10 am #

    Thanks Ken for your insights. You always have meaningful stuff to stay.

    I perked up when I read about the credentials of your interview guest, Tamar Fankel. Someone with roots in the heavily regulated securities markets, and with a great deal of online expertise as well.

    I just signed on to do some marketing for a television production company that helps small cap, public companies ‘visually’ deliver their message to the retail and professional investment community.

    One of my objectives is to help this ‘traditional’ TV broadcaster, expand its horizons into the world of web 2.0, rich media and streaming video. Our core value proposition is to build investor confidence and shareholder trust for the emerging public companies we work with.

    I’m telling you this in hopes that you may get inspired to start a new post about web 2.0 video communications for companies that do business in the regulated securities sector – publicly listed companies. Building investor trust is such a key component for them.

    I know you are a strong proponent of online video. So I’d love to hear your comments… and comments from Tamar Frankel would be great too.

    BTW, I just started a blog with help from your friend, Sherman Hu of – had to give him a plug because he’s been so helpful.

    Anyway my first post on my new blog went up this morning (a work in progress). It may be of interest to you and your readers. I commented about a recent study done by PR Newswire out of New York. They surveyed investment industry professionals on the topic of restoring investor confidence. The results showed that “…companies looking for new ways to communicate with investors should consider new technologies such as audio and video webcasts…”

    A link to the full PR Newswire release document can be found on my blog at [See Recent Post: Video Communication Tools For Restoring Investor Confidence].

    Here’s hoping to hear back from you Ken. Keep up the great work that you do.


  20. martinrocks July 6, 2006 at 5:17 am #

    Thanks Ken and all the other posters.

    As a newbie I have been facing a big dilemma about what to do online because I have doubts about many of the products being promoted. You start to feel brainwashed and doubt your own judgement.
    Like John Jaworski I have started to hit the unsubscribe button a lot more for two reasons:
    1. I need to reduce the info overload.
    2. I worry that I’m going to become a lemming and get convinced by a lot of bad practices.
    Let me give you an example. There was one product for sale where the guy was saying he had difficulty managing his 3,000 – 4,000 Adsense sites/blogs. My brainwashed side said “Wow, that guy must be making a fortune” but fortunately my integrity intervened and asked “What kind of person is polluting the internet with so many automated sites?”
    Plus you get a lot of advice which sails close to the wind, viz:
    “Don’t put more than 10 blogs on each blogger account. Keep opening new accounts”.
    I don’t want to put an extra burden on Ken, but I would be grateful if he and like-minded people could start a organisation which has a quality kitemark for best practice online.

  21. Tom Paine July 6, 2006 at 8:39 am #

    “It is one of the maladies of our age to profess a frenzied allegiance to truth in unimportant matters, to refuse consistently to face her where graver issues are at stake.” – Janos Arany

  22. Beth Botsis July 6, 2006 at 11:44 am #

    Hi Ken,
    Trust in online business is an immensely important topic and I’ve read the comments here with interest. As many others can probably also say, I’ve had my own disappointing online experience which cost me dearly in more than mere cash and I understand how people become disillusioned. It’s really tragic that some will sell out their own personal integrity and conscience for the sake of profit. This experience and many of the sales tactics I’ve read from some so-called “gurus” who are teaching others how to market online (not all, mind you) prompted me to author an article titled: “When Does ‘Psychological Selling’ Become Con Artistry?” It comes down to the comments made by another person here: the first priority should be having the customer’s best interests in mind and providing something of true value to them, whether it be a product or a service, and the profit comes secondary (a nice by-product, if you will) as a result of providing that real value. Anything other than that is what Dr. Tony Alessandra calls “selling malpractice”, and I agree whole-heartedly. From personal experience, however, I also know there are some very honest and trustworthy online business people who do operate with the customer’s best interest in mind and who don’t deserve to take a hit for what others do. There is integrity to be found online (Ken is just one good example of that). I’ve been fortunate to find a couple of good, trustworthy and knowledgeable online business people who truly want to see me succeed and are willing to give me honest feedback on products (Interestingly enough, none of them want payment for their advice. Who do you think I’ll go to for affiliate links, etc. when it’s time to buy? It’s just plain good business!). One must proceed with caution and with eyes wide open. The more people doing business online operate with integrity in a responsible fashion, the better it will be for all of us. Thank you for starting a dialogue on such an important topic.
    Best to all,

  23. van cook July 6, 2006 at 12:32 pm #

    Lack of trust could really hurt the Internet. I have reached the point, I am hesitant to search on the net anymore. All I get are sites with little or no content and a bunch of ads. Google, Yahoo, etc. should take a close look at these largely automated sites to see if searchers are getting what they should or if they are having to waste their time endlessly searching among the content-free sites. For my part, I have quit clicking on ads on sites that have no appreciable content!

  24. Laurie Weiss July 6, 2006 at 1:00 pm #

    Thank you for this post.I am as excited by the response to it as I am to the post itself. One of the main reasons I am learning internet marketing is to provide tools to help people who experience social pressure to conform to operate with integrity, despite the pressure. These responses affirm the need. My major product, The Integrity Course, provides the tools. I’ll be happy to send you (or anyone who reads this post) some sample materials. The sales letter is at

  25. Chris Bradley July 6, 2006 at 4:08 pm #

    Hi Ken,

    Great post by you and awesome comments by everyone else, well, except mr. anon. I talked with a few people at Perry Marshalls last seminar who had nothing but high praise for you stystem seminar and I plan on going next year.

    To add my own comments to this…I refer to these so called gurus as used car salesman. They will sell you any and everything under the sun. When i first became involved in internet marketing, I signed onto as many lists as possible, mainly for 2 reasons.

    1 – To get as much info as possible. Its a shame that so many of these so called gurus dont practice what they preach. Many of them will tell you to provide good solid content in your newsletter to build rapport, trust with your list but they dont do it themselves. Instead, they prefer to “milk” their lists. I use this phrase “milk” b/c thats what i heard from a very well known guru who has a testimonial on every product, so it appears, on the net. He used the phrase, once you build your list, you need to milk it for everything you can and thats exaclty how i felt when i was on his list for a short time.

    2 – I wanted to find out who actually did provide solid info and wasnt out their for themselves, who’s recommendation could i really trust? and as someone had just commented, those are the people i go back and use their affiliate links when im ready to purchasea product. I do go back and see if they are promoting it on their site before i go the producst sales page. Unfortunatly, there arent many on good list.

    One other beef from these guys is i dont even talk to my mother as frequently as they email me. Personally, if you email me 3-4 times a week, you are just flat out annoying and even if you do have good info, it doesnt get read and you are usually unsubcribed pretty fast.

    As for as outting some of these guys, I dont think too many people are going to be naming names but here could be one solution…. as an old saying goes.. if you dont have anything nice to say about anyone, then say nothing, so one could ask for opinion on a product or guru and if theres dead silence, well, enough said!!

    Just my 2 cents,


  26. Ken McCarthy July 6, 2006 at 5:57 pm #

    Hi all,

    I’ve just completed another interview to my series on this subject: the co-author of “Snakes in Suits” Robert Babiak.

    He consults with big companies on how to detect and deal with scammers and con artists among their own employees.

    I also just found out about a company based in Boston – Business Intelligence Advisors – that big investors hire when they need to know if a CEO is telling the truth or not. The company hires former FBI and CIA agents to do the work.

    This company was the cover story in the June 26 issue of Barron’s. (Sorry. I have no link.)

    I’ll be posting the whole series of the interviews I’m doing on this subject some time in late July or early August. They will contain practical suggestions we all can use to make better decisions about who we do and don’t get involved with in business.

    No quick fix, but some definite wisdom that would normally be hard to get anywhere else.

  27. Janet Beatrice July 8, 2006 at 10:02 am #

    I agree that we shouldn’t name names of those we don’t like. In fact, I unsubscribed from a good newsletter when I got endless emails asking why I hadn’t signed up for the writer’s $5,000 bootcamp (I think you can guess why).

    But could we name names of those we do trust? I’d love to hear some. Today I got a very good email from David Frey and I’ve enjoyed Robert Middleton as well.

    Also, I encourage everyone here to sign the “ethical business pledge” that Shel Horowitz has published at I have a whole page devoted to it on my own website.

  28. Mark Attwood August 22, 2006 at 7:31 pm #

    Hi Ken
    I’m a latecomer to comment on this post, but…absolutely spot on. I have a handful of people in life that I have trusted on issues about life. My Dad taught me about how to be a decent human being, a mad German chef who I love to death taught me how to cook from the heart (and gave me a bit of philosphy on the way)…there’s a couple of others, but it’s a short list! Embarking on this internet marketing journey has been the best trip of my life (outside of raising a family) and I’ve done a few things in my time (RAF pilot, wrote and perfomed in a number of UK TV comedy shows, published poet, publisher etc). When I got into the internet properly, I was sucking in every piece of info I could get. Got my fingers burnt because I was indiscriminately buying everything that came my way. Got information overload. Burnt a few brain cells. Then, I found Perry Marshall and very quickly found you. I even came to Perry’s seminar to meet him and you, so I could shake you by the hand, but also to look into the eyes of these guys that I had built up a “trust” relationship without ever meeting. Your system home study course transformed my life – talk about overdelivery for the price! I apologise for being long winded here, but about an hour before I read this post, I emailed a friend of mine and told him to stop what he was about to do (he’s putting some online video up for his financial services business) and do X,Y,and Z that I had learnt from “the only guy on this planet whose internet marketing advice I trust with my life”. Trust is what it’s all about, Ken, and you’ve got mine.

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