Brand Marketing

Internet Marketing: Better join the light side of the force

Written by Philipp Steinweber

Internet Marketing: Better join the light side of the force

We love Internet Marketing, but we really hate Internet Marketing too.

Selling products and services on the Internet is a great possibility for creating an income. It allows many people to live the lives they want, especially where they want. It allows people to travel the world while working on whatever their passion is. Yep, working! (Most of them work hard by the way, even though their Instagram looks like a travel magazine).
We work with those people every day, helping them to achieving their goals.

Of course there is the necessity of marketing those products and services. Otherwise an online business is like one of those shops in the middle of nowhere, without any signs and advertising, where you think “who the heck ever ends up shopping there?” No one just drops by and buys. People have to be brought there and convinced first. Like it or not.

There are two major ways of approaching this marketing aspect. The light side and the dark side of the force. Spoiler: there’s no way we ever sympathize with anything dark. Neither in movies, nor in Internet Marketing.

The ethics of selling things

First of all we have to make something very clear: selling things isn’t a bad thing. It can (and should!) be a very good thing. There’s nothing unethical about convincing someone that your product or service is great, if you really have that opinion yourself. Psychology plays a huge role in marketing – everyone that wants to sell uses it somehow. And that’s ok, as long as the products are not unethical. After all, you ultimately want to give value to your buyers, and help them with a certain problem.
If you want to scam people with a “get rich tomorrow scheme” it’s a different story.

The dark side of the force

Uhhhhh, dark!
There’s the term “dark patterns” in user interface design: It’s used when people are being tricked into certain behaviour. That’s of course not very nice, but we’re not limiting our analysis to UI design here. We simply use “the dark side” for everything that looks powerful from a marketing aspect, but everyone else thinks it’s shit. Bascially: things that don’t add benefit for the user.

So how do you recognize the dark side of Internet Marketing? There are obvious and not so obvious indicators. Examples follow.

Exit popups


“Err… yep I’m pretty sure I just made the decision to leave, that’s why I moved my mouse on that X there, moron”
-> High chance of not returning to that site ever again.

Using that same “proven” design

Nope! We’ve seen that too many times before. Call-to-action buttons have to stand out, but they’d better fit the brand. Whenever I see a page like this, trust vanishes instantly.

You know where we’re coming from. There are many more on the design side of things, no need to list them all. Let’s have a look at other areas instead.

Promising bullshit

There is no “the one secret that makes your life better”. There are certainly products and services which are able to change the life/business/whatever of the consumer, but don’t over promise things. After all, change can only be possible if the person is ready and dedicated to pushing through. You can help the person to change, but you can’t change the person.
And people know that once they’re over 16.

The light side of the force

While it’s between funny and sad listing worst practices, what is more helpful is demonstrating the alternatives. What you should do instead:

Show who you are

This is one of the best sales “strategies” we have ever come across:
We have to rethink sales pages in terms of willingness to purchase. A landing page (or sales page) can come with all kinds of dirty and clean psychological tips and tricks – if people don’t know who you are, they won’t buy from you. The one- pagers don’t work unless they’re connected to something larger, where you share more about you. On average it needs about seven points of contact with a potential customer until he’s ready to buy. This means they should read your blog, sign up for your mailing list, follow you on social media, reply to a newsletter… before they are ready to purchase. Of course this varies according to type and price of your product. Selling expensive intimate coaching requires more of that background information than a $10 ebook.

Share a lot about your personality. People want to know who they’re buying from.

Brand values before conversion

If you’re reading the next “how to increase your conversions 300 times” article, think first: Does an adjustment like this go along with my brand values? There is nothing that should ever undermine those.
What if you’re a life coach with a very gentle temperament, should you have pushy sales copy and popups all over the place? Probably not. And if you’re incoherent in your communication, your conversions won’t increase 300 times.
This also includes visual aspects: meditation pictures and a classy, calm atmosphere everywhere; but a landing page built with a page generator that creates jumping call-to-action buttons? Again: not a good idea.

Your brand – and its values in regard to how to treat and communicate with your customers – always comes first.

Be honest and authentic

That should be a no-brainer and is a beneficial attitude for life in general – unfortunately it isn’t. It’s the counterpart to the above mentioned dark force technique “promising bullshit”. Be transparent and honest. For example when it comes to the benefits of your product, mention things like:
“There’s no guarantee that it works for you, unless you are dedicated to following the practical steps we recommend”. Your customers are most likely not dumb people, and appreciate those honest words (which they know already anyways) more than sugarcoating everything.
Of course quantitatively those negative product features shouldn’t play a huge role. Honesty doesn’t only concern phrases of doubt, but also pointing towards the positive features. But placing 1-2 slightly negative sentences or warnings on a sales page will most likely increase your conversions.

So how about the grey side?

I’m glad you asked, because life isn’t black or white as we know. There are things that simply depend on the situation. A very polarizing thing for example is opt-in popups. They increase conversions (full stop!). But at the same time, no one ever said “Wow, thanks for that popup, it increased my internet experience”. So at first sight it’s part of the dark side. Therefore we’re not big fans of those.

But they have their place. Sometimes building a list is crucial, and is the reason why people put out their free content. So a popup is a bit needy, but under certain circumstances it’s ok. Better than not having great, free content, right?

In the cases where clients are very certain that they need popups we:

  1. Find out if they really need them.
  2. Find a pleasant yet effective solution. For example having them only on some articles, or at least making them easy to close and not have to return.

We do however prefer finding solutions that convert well and put the user first. So placing customized call-to-actions below blog articles is much nicer than an in-your-face popup. We also think that people that sign up after they have been reading your article are much more likely to be your target audience, rather than people who sign up before they read the first word of what you have to say. Quality over quantity.


This list is far from complete. But it doesn’t have to be, as it can be broken down into principles:

The dark side of the force of internet marketing is those things that promise huge, quick benefits by focusing on a technical strategy rather than the end user. They might have some quick effects, but won’t help you building something great that people love in the long run.
The light side of the force of internet marketing is putting a great user experience first. Treat your potential customer the best way you possibly can, with weapons like honesty, authenticity and coherent brand values. They will thank you and refer you in the long run.

The light side always wins. Sometimes it takes longer (sometimes until the third sequel), but in the end it wins.

About the author

Philipp Steinweber

Philipp is the founder of Metamonks and Omooni, and passionate about personal growth. On Soulful Hustle he open-sources the strategies and insights learned from his projects.