Why You Need To STOP Utilizing Internet Marketing Techniques



One thing that bothers me greatly [to say it lightly] is the use of “spammy” marketing techniques by Islamic organizations. Over the top teaser marketing [“we have a cool announcement but we can’t tell you what it is yet”], elaborate and lengthy copywriting, and just general advertising that makes me feel like I’m watching an infomercial. Shouldn’t Islamic programs be promoted based on the merit of what they contain? I’ve always felt such techniques cheapen the content of these programs.

This does not mean that they should not be marketed or promoted, but it means we need to evaluate the particular vehicles and strategies we utilize to do the marketing. Let’s re-orient ourselves around the fact that we’re trying to spread the message of Allah in whatever capacity we can. The people we are communicating with are just that – people. They aren’t units of sales, or sales ‘conversions’ that we measure ruthlessly. The nobility of our programs should be represented in the nobility of our packaging as well.

Leo Babauta recently discussed the history of how these internet marketing techniques became popularized in the general context of blogging, and also offers an alternative to these methods. His post, The Untold Story About Making a Living as a Blogger, is reproduced below with added emphasis on relevant portions.

The Untold Story About Making a Living as a Blogger

In my previous post entitled “The Scourge of the Internet“, I talked about things that bloggers do that annoy readers. The purpose of the post was to remind bloggers that their readers should come first, not their sales or numbers.

The response from readers was overwhelmingly positive. The defense from a handful of bloggers has been, “But I need to make a living.” And really, while I believe they are fundamentally wrong, it’s not their fault.

Why? Because bloggers have been led to believe that in order to “optimize” revenue and make a living, you need to “optimize” your effective tactics. Things like popups, affiliate ads, ads, mega sales, sales pitches and more … these are the tactics that bloggers have been taught are effective … by Internet marketers.

In the early days of blogging, when bloggers were looking to find ways to make money, they looked to Internet marketers. These guys would lure major bloggers (who will remain unnamed) with stories of millions of dollars made using certain sales techniques. Sure, the Internet marketers were spammy with slimy sales pages and sales calls and mailing lists, but they made HUGE bucks. And so the bloggers listened.

These bloggers, in turn, made a lot of money, because it was new and most people didn’t realize they were being spammed. They had a gut feeling, though. Then these bloggers created courses to teach other bloggers how to make money, using their own stories of huge income streams. They became the new lords of making money as bloggers, and they taught new bloggers their marketing tactics. Then a new wave of bloggers made some money (not usually as huge, but still), and they now had some proof they could use to sell these techniques to other bloggers. That’s the current wave, and you’ll see lots of them teaching people how to launch products, build traffic, sell affiliate products, optimize sales pages, build and milk their mailing lists, and more. They’re all over the place, but at their core, the techniques come from the early Internet marketers, who are now legends. Their techniques came from Infomercials and telemarketers (using telephones!), btw.

That’s Not the Only Way to Make a Living as a Blogger

So do you, as a blogger, need to do this to make a living? It’s the only way, right? No.

The way to make a living is to build an audience based on creating something useful, something amazing, something powerful. And to create a product of your own that’s amazingly useful, amazingly powerful. When it delights your readers, they will spread the word for you. That’s your marketing technique.

Notice that the above paragraph does not require any of the tactics I mentioned in my “Scourge of the Internet” post. You do not need popups to create an amazing blog or product. You don’t need ads, or social media share buttons, or clutter in the sidebar, or multiple pages, or constant sales pitches, or mega sales.

What you need is to create something amazing. Sure, pitch it on your blog — once. Then put it on a “books” or “products” page, and let your reader find it if he wants more from you.

You want to make a living — fine. But remember who you’re making a living from. Your readers. They come to your site for great stuff, not to read product pitches, to hear about your mega sale, to get your popup in their faces. They are not there for your goals. You should be there for theirs. And in return, they will buy your product, if it will help them with their goals. They will help you make a living, if you help them first, and don’t put your goals first.

You don’t need to be a spammy Internet marketer to make a living.

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Omar Usman is a founding member of MuslimMatters, Qalam Institute, Muslim Strategic Initiative, and Debt Free Muslims. He is a regular khateeb and has served in different administrative capacities in various national and local Islamic organizations. He works full time in the corporate field, is a PMP, and certified Leadership Trainer through the John Maxwell Team. You can follow him on on Twitter @ibnabeeomar, and check out his latest project - The Fiqh of Social Media.

Omar UsmanWhy You Need To STOP Utilizing Internet Marketing Techniques

12 Comments on “Why You Need To STOP Utilizing Internet Marketing Techniques”

  1. Walid

    Good post. Reminds me an awful lot of Al Maghrib. Some of their marketing is great (videos and flyers are well designed). But the e-mail spam and “we have a cool announcement but we can’t tell you what it is yet” tendencies definitely stand to be improved.

    1. Belal Khan

      There’s always room to improve. In AlMaghrib’s case however, It works and people are engaged and it aids in delivering the brand promise they make.

  2. ibn abee omar

    Every organization goes through a learning process. I’ve done stuff with organizations i’ve worked with that was probably worse than some of what’s mentioned here, but the org should grow out of it. we have to remember, there was initially a vacuum in regards to islamic orgs – no one knew how to market/promote anything. that’s why we had black/white flyers with typos as the standard. even some of the techniques we disagree with raised the standard past that, but now the point is to be self-critical and improve further iA. 

  3. Anonymous

    I think speaking generally, for those people to sit up and pay attention, you’d need to show the numbers from your own work which demonstrates success using the techniques used.

    I think Leo would do better by sharing detailed info about how he makes his money doing what he’s doing.  I do agree that many orgs and people with individual businesses could do better without these techniques, but proof is in the pudding – results.


    1. ibn abee omar

      agreed. although personally id venture to say, even if those techniques work, i’d still oppose it. simply out of the principle that i hate it when someone markets like that to me, so i wont do it. popups are effective, but i hate them when i visit a site because they’re cheesy/cheap/annoying, so i wont utilize them on websites i manage. golden rule and all 🙂

  4. Guest

    As salaamu alaikum and Jazakallah khair for sharing the thought.  However, I dont understand the scope of this..  What problem are you trying to fix with this post?  Who are you aiming this message at?  1 organization?  2?  What solution are you providing or suggesting?  I dont get spammy email from my local masjid.  I get beneficial reminders.  

    If it is 1 organization that you are speaking about… Perhaps that marketing doesn’t work for you (anymore) but it works for the demographic they are targeting.  Maybe you as a 30 year old have outgrown infomercials, but its effective for 18-26 year olds. 

    1. ibn abee omar

      see my reply to siraaj below, even if they’re effective, i would still argue against using them. 

      the article itself seems to answer your other questions. its not aimed at any organization (and as i mentioned in another comment here, i’ve also personally been guilty of some of these things im criticizing), its a general observation. 

  5. Sabour

    Thanks akhi for the great post –  I actually had the exact same conversation with another brother just recently and came to the same conclusion.

    Great to see folks who share the same values =).

  6. Belal Khan

    As consumers of information, whether or not we individually like an
    approach isn’t enough to determine it if works or not. There has to an
    evaluation of the collective response to a certain approach.

    Decisions on whether to use, not use, continue and discontinue a certain tactic is based on evaluation.

    Take this article for example:

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