The Illusion of Intimacy: How Online Marketing distances you from your Audience

In September of 2016 I attended an online conference on list building. It was a conference that promised to introduce you to tons of online marketers who would reveal the secrets to building your email list and best of all converting the people who joined into lifetime customers who would be compelled to continually buy from you because of your awesome online marketing skills.

I’ll admit, I fell for it hook, line and sinker. My business was doing ok, but I wanted more clients and I felt certain that online marketing could help me take my business to the next couple of levels, with lots of new clients and lots of money flowing in.

I would spend the next year taking classes, learning tools, and trying to implement everything I learned only to have it flop over and over again, until I got to a point where I was so burned out and overwhelmed (and in debt) that I had to give up the ghost and go back to working at a job.

Needless to say you won’t find my story featured as a case study for the tons of online marketing classes that are being hawked daily on social media for the purpose of separating you from your hard earned money, all while promising you a sure fire way to scale your business to 7 figures, complete with the illusion of intimacy.

Courtesy of Pexels.

The problem is…most of what they’re selling is just the illusion of intimacy and a lot of debt if you aren’t careful.

I want to unpack that statement with my story and help you recognize the potential complications of online marketing, as its currently taught and shared. And I want to make it clear that online marketing can work (and obviously does for some), but its a numbers game more than anything else and if you’re not a numbers person, it probably won’t work for you.

Let’s talk about what online marketers DON’T tell you about online marketing.

  1. You need to invest in a lot of tools and technology and the costs add up quick.

If you’re going to make online marketing a part of your marketing efforts, be prepared to spend some money. Scratch that. Be prepared to spend a lot of money on online tools and technology.

These tools and technology include: Landing Pages, Email Marketing, Survey tools, Facebook groups, Facebook ads and tools to help you get the advantage on said ads, Messenger bots, webinar and video software, countdown timers, scheduling and calendars, and if you offer online courses, platforms to host your classes.

These are just some types of online marketing tech you’ll potentially need to invest in with both money and time. Monetarily you can spend hundreds to a couple thousand a month just on tools and technology, and lets not forget the time you’ll need to invest in learning the tools and technology, as well as the best ways (supposedly) to set these tools up and optimize them for marketing. The time alone is a heavy investment and it can be exhausting.

Online marketers will tell you that’s just part of the game and that you have to invest some skin in the game. What they don’t tell you is how much you have to invest or how much it can benefit them, either in the form of discounts (for them)or through making money because you purchased the tools through them. In some cases the online marketers even own the tools. Regardless of whether they are making an affiliate fee or own the software outright, its in their own interest to promote the tools, because in doing so they make money off of you and your investment in what they’ve told you to buy.

2. Let’s not forget the investment you make in the online marketer.

Chances are that if you decide to use online marketing for your business, you’ll end up investing in at least a couple of online marketing classes. Classes typically range anywhere from $497 to $997, and as with the tools are an investment of both money and time.

To be honest the classes aren’t worth the price they’re offered at. Seems pretty harsh to say that, doesn’t it, but what I’ve found with the majority of online classes is that sometimes the information is outdated (and you don’t get updates for free) or what you’re offered is a lot of information and content that is more theoretical than practical.

Additionally you don’t get access to the actual online marketer. You get video lessons, but no real interaction that actually enables you to connect and form a relationship that’s beneficial to you. You’ll actually see more of the online marketer during the marketing and sales process than afterwards when you’ve become a client. Instead you’ll be foisted off to a team of people who are usually overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people they need to help, which makes the help they offer less valuable because they are focused on a numbers game as opposed to developing real relationships.

In my case, one online marketer had what was essentially an email call center, where you could email in and ask for help from someone on his team. Usually the help consisted of emails that pointed you back to the lessons or offered little in the way of actual constructive feedback to help you go further.

Another online marketer I worked with had a Facebook group where his team would offer commentary and video feedback (a step up from the other one), but they had so many people to deal with that they couldn’t adequately cover every issue, leaving many people to figure out solutions to problems on their own. Even when you did get feedback, it usually didn’t solve the problem, because they were offering standard one size fits all solutions that didn’t always apply to the business or the problem the business was having.

3. Online Marketing is really abut the cultivation of the illusion of intimacy, as opposed to developing actual intimate relationships.

As I mentioned above, online marketing is really a numbers game, more about quantity of prospects than quality of prospects. The goal is to stuff as many people as possible into a funnel in the hopes that by the time some of them get through that funnel they’ll become clients. The rest either stay on as potential clients that you’ll hopefully snag down the line or drift away, realizing that what you’re offering aren’t quite the droids they are looking for.

And through the entire funnel the online marketer uses a combination of NLP techniques and marketing skills to create a sense of false intimacy, projecting this idea that s/he is creating a relationship with you that will last past the sale.

It’s the illusion of intimacy and once you’ve been converted from a prospect to a sale, it goes away quickly.

Congrats you signed up for the class (and paid me money). Now take the class and here’s my team to take care of your issues.

And when you do hear from them via email or social media its usually just to pitch another class, or survey you to find out what you’ll spend money on, so they can squeeze you for something else.

And of course you learn this process yourself and it changes you. In the year I worked my @$$ off to replicate what I learned, it changed who I was a business owner. I became more and more distant from audience and the communication often felt stilted and fake.

I had the illusion of intimacy, but no deep or meaningful connections with my clients. Instead of building relationships I was alienating people.

I got churned and burned by online marketers because I fell for the illusion of intimacy they created. Ultimately it was my choice to buy their services and products and to try and replicate them in my business. I learned a hard lesson and its my responsibility to carry that lesson with me.

But if you want to develop genuine relationships, deep and meaningful relationships with people you want as clients, you have to decide what’s truly important: The Quantity or Quality.

Are you:

Trying to make a ton of money and building shallow relationships that burn out?


Taking the time to truly get to know your audience and build relationships where they get to interact with you, instead of an overwhelmed team of people who are disengaged?

From my experience with online marketing, I’ve come to prefer the latter and any work I do with prospects or clients will be based on building relationships that create genuine intimacy instead of the illusion of it.

Taylor Ellwood teaches business owners how to grow their business with systems, processes, and boundaries. You can learn more at Eccentric Entrepreneurs. If you liked this article, could you give it some claps and share it?