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Fake Gurus vs. Real (Spotting Scams from Legit Online Success Coaches)

July 22, 2022

how to spot fake guru scammers

Fake Gurus vs Real (How to Spot Scams from Legit Online Success Coaches)

The world of digital marketing is saturated with Lambo driving, self proclaimed "gurus" who are adept at filling their pockets with the money of their followers.

They're most often nothing more than skilled plagiarists with a knack for selling the "idea" of making money, but is there anything we can learn from their methods?

In this article you will learn...

  • How to spot a fake guru
  • The characteristics of a great online business course
  • Why plagiarism is a much more common problem in the world of digital marketing than you'd think
  • Our picks for best online business courses for 2021
  • How to find a great mentor - and why they're essential for success

The goal of this article is to help you spot the fakers and identify the courses that are legitimate.

There's lots to cover, so let's get started!

how to spot a scam

People love seeing things black & white.

But when it comes to online success coaches, detecting who's fake and who's not is a lot more nuanced than one might think.

I don't buy the notion that just because someone uses tactical marketing strategies to sell info products, that he / she is a scam.

The problem with this online coaching space is that a lot of these coaches can get away with regurgitating information that they got from other programs, repackaging it and claiming that they're experts.

They just got really good at pitching & being a hype machine for themselves / their course.

Sure they might of had some success with their business model that they're teaching.

However when you look deeper, you can see that they haven't spent any significant time in their actual business, a lot of them actually failed at the very thing that they're trying to teach.

I don't believe 2-3 years is enough time to qualify someone to teach with any meaningful depth.

They know this, so they try to fill in the knowledge gaps by looking at other program. So they got all this knowledge in their heads, but they lack the substance.

What makes a great teacher, though, is their substance.

Fake gurus spend all their time trying to "look" impressive.

They spend their resources on marketing and maintaining their image, rather than investing in the actual programs (and their students, too).

Renting a Lambos, excessively showing off their lifestyle instead of the actual biz model, & leaning too much into self-development talk...

Sure, some of their refurbished information may still get some results.

But what I've come to realize over the last 5 years is that true coaching is a lot more than just showing a tutorial on how to build websites, or set up a Facebook ad, or how to find a niche.

True coaching requires on-going input to students and pin-pointing the stumbling blocks that they're facing.

True coaching requires honesty, dedication, and commitment to the students.

The job requirements change day by day, but what needs to remain consistent is that a coach should always be motivated by their love for the craft - and commitment to sharing information and providing honest critiques.

Tough love is essential.

For instance, the other day, during one of our weekly webcast, Dan & Mike critiqued one student's recorded sales call.

Live coaching is only possible by those who have actually spent hours upon hours mastering their craft. This is the reason I was able to change my life.

It literally shaved years off of the learning curve.

I was making money in months, rather than years.

If the coach never gets specific & tactical, and is constantly talking about macro concepts, theories & other stuff you might find in self-development books, you might be dealing with a fake guru...

There's also another problem.

Coaching is time consuming. Coaching is difficult and requires engagement and effort.

Trust me, coaches are absent for 99% of the programs out there.

It's way easier for a "coach" to be flexing in their Lambo rather than being engaged with their students.

Often times you have to join their upper levels with big yearly price tags to get access to the coach.

I won't name any names on here but a well known internet marketing coach charges $36K per year for his mastermind course.

pay to play mastermind course how to spot fake gurus scams

In typical MLM fashion, he has his students do the coaching for him - and you can be assured they're getting paid for upselling, rather than working to get the best out of their students.

But a lot of coaches run their programs like this, they're very rarely accessible even when you join their flagship program.

I don't necessarily have an issue with this model, its just not how we run things with our lead gen program.

We want to empower all students from the ground up, & when we make them successful, they'll invest in our innovative tools and software.

We're not just beating the price of our competition, but making products that are objectively and substantially better.

But more or less, I just wanted to point out the fact that coaching is not easy. 

Coaching is not passive. Its requires you to be always present.

That being said, (and speaking from my own experience) coaching has been massively beneficial.

Great coaching is why I found success - and now I'm seeing it work for our students.

Again this is no easy task to do at large scale, hence the coach really has to love that role of giving / serving others.

The desire to coach cannot come from a place of wanting to profit.
But rather, a coach must be inspired from a place, within themselves, that desires to share with others; to elevate those around them.

Over the years, I've seen quite a few of Dan's own students, try to become these so-called "coaches".

Most of them, inevitably ran out of gas and imploded.

The majority of these programs only lasted about a year or two.

They come in hot & burn quick after realizing just how difficult it is.

Dealing with people, their issues, it becomes an all day affair. 24/7

They begin to realize that running their agency was easier.

Because refurbishing info is easy, but actual coaching is not.

The mind loves lazy work, especially when there's good bit of money attached to it.

But to keep thousands of people still engaged and interested, you actually have to continually innovate.

This is what a lot of these fake gurus don't understand.

People are not stupid.

We can tell when something is rehashed info.

Why would anyone stick around for the long haul, when we realize there's nothing new to see here?

Only a fool would continually pay for a program with a coach who only cares about profit.

I see it all the time. Their money inflates their sense of self. 

It becomes about posturing, "hey, I'm this great coach... look at how much money i make. ppl look up to me... look how great I am"

The ego loves that.

But these fake gurus don't truly know that it wasn't the information that made the real coaches special, but rather their wisdom that came from years of experience & hardship in business while also having innate gifts of being a leader & an innovator.

Being a high-level coach is a pretty complex skill of being able to read people and knowing how to say precisely the right things to impact them effectively.

We're talking about having to undo years of conditioning, removing doubt and instilling new empowering beliefs.

Sometimes that means providing the students tough love to wake them up & make them aware of their own blind spots. 

There are a lot of variables at play when we're talking about truly imparting change on someone. 

You also have to be a dynamic, compelling speaker, have a gift of the gab if you will...

There are a lot of factors...

To think that you can just copy other courses and claim yourself a coach is completely naïve, part of the problem is the low barrier of entry. Literally anyone can throw up a Facebook ad or YouTube videos. 

But that's a topic for another day...

To actually run a company that's gonna change people's lives at scale over the long-term is quite a challenging problem to solve.

I'm not saying I know all the answers.

6 years ago, I just go started with the lead gen business.

But last few years, as I began working with Dan on the coaching side, I'm starting to see just how difficult being a coach is. 

It is not for the feint of heart.

You begin to compare & contrast between others that tried to become coaches, and you soon begin to see innate gifts that Dan has that makes our lead gen program stand out.

One of the original, longest standing & without a doubt, one of the highest success rate programs out there.

Coaching is no joke, it takes talent & very specialized skill to pull off at a high-level.

I've been reflecting on what makes a legit coaching program, and to me there's 3 things...

Top 3 Winning Conditions to run a Successful Coaching Business

Top 3 Winning Conditions to run a Successful Coaching Business

1. Leadership

I believe leaders are born, not created. Now a lot of us can "learn" leadership skills but let's just face facts. Some people were just born as natural leaders.

If leadership doesn't come natural to you, you won't put in the hard-work consistently in the group to change peoples lives. 

You'll avoid that work and probably continually pitch more things.

Other courses, (like Masterminds, etc...) hire "assistants" to do the coaching on your behalf.

You also need a leader that's got some life experience. I'm very dubious about these young 20 something year old "coaches" telling adults about time management when they've never had kids, married, or mortgage or even a 9 to 5.

When you see this going on, they're player a bigger game.

These so called gurus spend their resources on marketing, rather than developing their courses and investing in their students.

These are leaders who are trying sell you a lifestyle. 

They'd rather spend their time flexing instead of informing you as to what they (and their) course actually teaches.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs, a scalable vector illustration on white background

A competent leader has accomplished enough in life & business to where he/she is approaching the upper tier of that Maslow's hierarchy of needs.


A great leader has their needs met - and it is likely that their assets are generating enough wealth where they no longer need to work, but do so because they enjoy it.

Recently, Dan told me this...

"Ippei, you need to start bringing people up because you won't ever find anything more fulfilling than being able to mold someone & make them successful, uncovering people's gifts just like polishing a diamond."

The human mind always seeks new challenges, otherwise it gets bored.

There's nothing wrong with approaching entrepreneurship like a sport, and money is simply used to keep score. 

We all want to make more money that's why we're in entrepreneurship.

But when you meet a truly, "next-level" successful person, inevitably they will start talking about goals beyond money.

You will see that their mind is working on problems other than "how to make more money" but "how can I get better results for students" even if it required doing something that caused the business to make less money.

Versus people that are constantly pitching the next new thing...

Are they an actual coach; or just another glorified marketer / salesperson masquerading as a coach?

I truly feel that one is not able to get "there" in just 2-3 years of being in business. 

Real success takes a decade of business & being successful, where they've gained enough financial resources to really hone in on the focus of impact, and being a truly legit coach.

All these people that still don't own homes free & clear, or very shallow income streams, talking about "impact" is their sole focus is bunch of BS most of the time.

I say you have to judge people on how they operate their business, not based on what the materialistic things they claim they own in their marketing videos.

Once you join their program that promised so many different things, is their focus then now trying to get you results?

Or are they now focused on pitching you the next upsell product?

There's a lot of coaches that act as if they're wealthy, yet their bank accounts tell a different story.

These types of "fake gurus" will inevitably make wrong decisions in their coaching programs where they will put their personal financial gains over the collective benefit of their students / community

2. Culture

Nothing is stronger than culture when it comes to customer retention & loyalty.

Look at the clothing brand Supreme, for example.

With every new drop, their stores (across the globe) see lines of hundreds of people waiting for hours. Why?

Because to own a Supreme is to own a piece of culture. I means that you get to own a sense of belonging.

Apple, Tesla, & any other major brands that have a strong customer base all stress on their culture as much as their product itself.

Why is this important for the student in a coaching program?

Because rising tides raises all ships.

Culture dictates human behavior at the macro level.

And humans are motivated by what they don't have; they compare themselves to what other people have (and what other people are doing).

To change your behavior, immerse yourself in new cultures and you will begin seeing a shift.

But in order for a culture to really stand out. It has to be original. It has to be innovative. More often that not, trends become trends because they go against the grain.

Counter-cultures always produces more impactful movements.

This requires leadership that's willing to stand for something.

Great leadership inspires us to strive for something greater.

Maybe its the fight against the power that has brainwashed us to be corporate slaves.

When a culture strives for a higher purpose, amazing things can happen within.

Synergy, cooperation, team-work, collaboration.

And when that culture begins getting big enough, so does its influence and what its able to accomplish in the world.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

I could list countless things that I'm able to do in my business because I have access to a group of 6900 lead gen students that otherwise I could never do on my own.

Fake gurus that are shortsighted & self-serving can never build a strong culture, because it takes a lot of time & energy and being real.

Frankly, a lot of leaders don't have the personality to pull it off either in my opinion.

Without a strong culture, the members of that community become self-serving.

Its now an environment where there is no collaboration & support amongst students. 

People are in there just to get there.

3. Innovation

Most coaches are nothing more than fake gurus who spend their time on marketing and growing their clout, rather than innovating.

They take the ideas of others and create a digital product - and then wrap it in a shiny package (enough to cover up the flaws), and market the crap out it.

They don't have the work ethic or the creativity to innovate.

Most internet marketers are in the business of copying others. 

There's a difference between being modeling and outright plagiarism.

Plagiarism is good for a quick buck, but fails in the long term.

Without innovation, a culture dies.

What would happen if Apple stopped innovating?

The reason why our lead gen students continue to hop on our lives and there's a liveliness inside our group is that there's constantly new innovation happening in the group.

Take for example, our call tracking software that used to look like this.

Functional, effective, easy to use, but we'll admit that it left a few things to be desired.

We could have easily saved our money and kept it as it was, but instead we decided to invest time and resources into innovation.

Those that pay for Callsling are getting the best call tracking software available at a price that vastly undercuts the competition.

New features like automatic invoicing, pay per lead billing, customizable call widget on your site to increase conversions, mobile app, DFU citations that comes with each number, & more.

Quality matters to us. It is a reflection of not only our business, but we are as people.

We strive to turn good into great - and great into exemplary. 

We also went from using Weebly to our own web-builder which has a lot more built-in features specific to lead gen plus better pricing.

Here's few more new things we've been creating this year.

In the last couple of months, introducing teams where students get broken up into smaller groups and they get a lot more accountability by one of the success coaches to ensure no student gets left behind

And a new training platform about to launch.

Use to look like this.

to now this:

And this new platform has automation built in that's tracking the student's progress inside the training.

That way our coaches can be on top of it if we see any student stuck.

It takes great deal of ingenuity and money to continually come out with these new changes 

We don't charge students anything for it.

Students that joined years ago are still able to reap the benefits of our continual innovation at no additional charge.

This is how you build culture, through reciprocity.

Innovation requires passion.

With real guru's you will find that they're truly passionate about the work of coaching & changing lives.

Fake gurus are passionate about making money, often times with as little friction as possible.

They won't be able to show testimonials like this.

To me, a fake guru is anyone that failed in their original business, so instead, they package and sell the plagiarized ideas as a course. 

Most of what they "teach" is refurbished information from other courses.

A real coach is someone that's spent considerable time in a particular skillset to reach verifiable success at a pretty high level, and this person has come up with his own insights that he can impart on others.

Ideally this person has some innate gifts when it comes to teaching and motivating others. A natural born leader.

The problem is how easy it is today to throw up some Facebook ads and put on the "image" of a real coach, by using expert marketing copy, funnels & videos with rented props.

The best advice I can give you is to do your due diligence.

Longevity is one thing to take into account. 

Most coaches only last a few years.

They market and sell their product - and when they've run out of students to scam, they take their money and run.

Dan's been coaching since 2014. Lead Gen is here to stay.

We are one a small handful of programs that have made it this far

Typically because as the group grows, you have more needs to fulfill and pretty soon the coach realizes this biz is not as passive as they thought. You really have to enjoy giving to others, your time & energy. It has to be a labor of love.

Also, if your training is sub-par, pretty soon you're gonna have a group full of unhappy students not getting any results.

But when you do a coaching program right. When your training is legit. The leadership continues to pour into the group.

For us, it's easy. We love what we do and the Lead Gen business model, simply put, works really, really well.

There's never ending room for creativity. There are endless opportunities for innovation.

And when you combine that with seeing the amazing success that our students are having... well, we'll just say it's a major motivating factor (and makes us really proud, too).

You're building a tribe; a culture of loyal students & fans that will support your cause to the end.

It becomes much more than simply a course, but rather a community of like minded, driven, thoughtful, and passionate people who thrive off of their collective energy.

I now help Dan with the coaching - but I'll always be a student of his, and I'm still learning new things from him all the time.

The power of mentorship is real.

But as someone that's also joined bunch of other programs, I know how real fake gurus are as well.

Don't take anyone's word for it, on who's fake vs. who's real.

Do your own research.

We're proud of the results we're creating for our lead gen students, you can check out the latest testimonials we're updating almost on a daily basis.

Thank you so much for reading this - and I greatly look forward to meeting you if you end up joining. 


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Ippei Kanehara

$52K per month providing lead generation services to small businesses is for digital hustlers, industry leaders and online business owners.

His #1 online business recommendation in 2022, is to build your own lead generation business.

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  1. I think Ippei and Dan are good Business Coach, I see all of their YouTube and free videos and I try a lot of online program (dropshipping and I earn money with this).
    And I think Lead Gen is the best business model! (more passive than Drop)

    1. Thanks man-appreciate the kind words. You are 100% on point. Lead generation is way more passive than dropshipping. Best of luck with your biz and thanks for reading.

  2. One other way of telling is how much free content do they post on a weekly/monthly basis and how long have they been doing it for?

    If someone has been posting for 5 years about different topics, different issues within their own spaces there is no way you can fake that.

    The amount of dedication that takes, especially with time compounding it means they are really into serving their students/audience.

  3. Wow, what Dan has been telling you about bringing people up, molding them, and making them successful, uncovering their gifts is deep.

    Everyone wins at that point. I can totally understand that.

    You never really know what people can offer if you don't ever help make them better. Of course, it takes time and patience, but the ROI can be huge for everyone.

    This is definitely something that many coaches or even managers/supervisors should keep in mind.

    Spread the wealth of knowledge and make the entire team better. This was definitely powerful. Thanks for sharing

  4. Great article. I’ve been burned twice now on courses that promised a lot but ended up having “gurus” who care way more about marketing than they do in actually investing in their programs and students.

  5. The idea of 'guru' has been a hot topic in recent years with so many people claiming to be experts when they really have no business pretending.

    However, it is the sales pitch that makes them believable and because there are not many ways for us to validate what's being said we fall prey into believing their lies without question.

    It's so easy to get caught up these days because society focuses on the material possessions as a sign of success. Well, most of these fake gurus are just renting shit for photos to seem super wealthy and entice people into thinking they can have the same.

    Thankfully this article gives some great points on what to look for and the red flag warning signs.

    Thanks for taking the time to share this and for being transparent.

  6. The most frustrating part about these fake gurus is the blatant cash grab. Not only do they take someone else's course and pan it off as their own.

    But it's all about the money for them. And not any ongoing value.

    The things you highlight in this article just prove the continued value this program offers.

    Do your research people and when you figure out who's fake and just after your cash come back here ready to get after it.

  7. Solid post and agree 100%. Too easy to slap a course together with a couple YouTube videos and proclaim yourself an expert. 2014-wow! That speaks for itself imo.

  8. Awesome post Ippei. Makes so much sense.

    I think what has been a game changer for me is investing in myself through high quality coaching programs like this one.

    People seem happy to drop $40K on a degree that gets them a boring 9-5 with limited earning ability, but then quibble at spending a fraction of that on learning a skill set that can earn
    them 100X what a job would.

    Everything changed for me when I figured out that the only way to succeed is to model success, and now I actively look for coaching to spend my money on because I know it could earn me way more back in the next decade!

    Awesome post man!

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