Web Site Marketing: What Stealing Taught Me

August 22, 2008

I first learned about web site marketing by stealing. I was desperate - it was the 90’s and there was far less information online about web site marketing then. I had a basic web site on a free web host (not recommended). And I also had a good idea of what my visitors were looking for. But aside from that, I was clueless.

So I decided to resort to stealing. It’s something I still do today - and you can do it too, if you want to improve your life.

I Stole To Learn About Web Site Marketing Because I Was A Skinflint

When I began my search, I did come across an internet marketing course. And although the product sounded appealing, it was quite expensive and I was a skinflint. But I really enjoyed the sellers newsletters and I spent a long time studying them, trying to work out why I kept reading them.

Then when I’d sussed it out, I stole his ideas to sell my own product online. *note - I was so pleased with the results that I did go back and buy the original product later on.

Stealing Isn’t Copying

Now notice I’m saying I stole his ideas - I didn’t copy. And the product I sold bore no resemblance to his. All I did was study how he did what he did, so I could learn how to sell my own product. And you should do the same thing too, if you want to learn about web site marketing, or anything else for that matter. Study and copy someone who is brilliant at doing what you want to learn.

Don’t Be A Clone

I’m not suggesting that you become a clone of that person. After all, you’ve got to bring your own originality to anything you do. But learning from someone who is excellent at what you want to do will not take away your own originality.

You Can Steal From Anybody

If you want to be a brilliant novelist - read books by brilliant novelists. Study the novel from cover to cover to work out what they do to get readers to keep turning to the next page. Type pages from their books, to get used to creating brilliant writing.

If you want to be an amazing salesperson
- watch other brilliant salespeople to discover how they do it. Find yourself a mentor who’ll let you watch them work, read books by great salespeople, or get one of their videos.

If you want to be a brilliant web designer
- seek out the best website designs and work out what makes them so good.

If you want to be an excellent swimmer
- watch the best swimmer in the pool and copy their technique.

If you want to be good in bed - practise a lot. Unless you’re into that sort of people watching.

Did you ever steal from anyone to master web site marketing, or any other skill? Do you think it’s ethical to steal from others in this way? Or do you worry that you’ll become a clone if you steal from the best in the field?

Image Credit

Stealing by Ben Scicluna

Further Reading

Are Criminals Better Entrepreneurs?

The Recipe: 26 Practical Resources For Starting An Online Business
7 Must Do’s Before Starting An Online Business
107 Great Resources For Entrepreneurs

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22 Responses to “Web Site Marketing: What Stealing Taught Me”

  1. Dr. Cason on August 22nd, 2008 10:28 am

    Stealing hmmm….I have looked around a lot at what I liked and then picked it apart to see why I liked it.

    http://thepioneerwoman.com has a great look and following and I found even if I left I was always going back to her. This was intriguing. So I took some the things I found nice and tried to emulate that. I try to do nice photography and create a sense of realness. Of community.

    I try not to do what she does. Because in the end I know I can’t and it would only look like hers and I wouldn’t be authentic. Besides I live in Guam not on a farm!! I’m no pioneer woman!

    I think of it as flattery and I tell a lot of people about her site. I like it.

    Dr. Cason’s last blog post..The Last Days of Summer

  2. Alex Fayle on August 22nd, 2008 11:02 am

    In my last business in the Professional Organizing industry, we talked a lot about coopetition instead of competition - meaning we helped each other because the more that the public knew about organizing and the better the organizers were collectively then the more business everyone would get.

    In other words no one had to steal because we freely gave it away to anyone who wanted. There were (and still are) others who sell the information and they’re a huge part of the industry, so stealing doesn’t diminish selling/buying, which seems counter-intuitive but works!


    Alex Fayle’s last blog post..My Summer Someday List

  3. Brad Shorr on August 22nd, 2008 11:19 am

    When you steal someone’s idea, how do you know they didn’t steal it from someone else? All people borrow, steal, adapt - whatever you want to call it - as they go about building their business. As long as you’re not copying intellectual property, trademarks, etc., you should always be on the lookout for ideas you can use.

    Brad Shorr’s last blog post..Timing Is Everything for Your Blogging Style

  4. cathlawson on August 22nd, 2008 11:28 am

    Hi Dr Cason - It’s nice that you can borrow some ideas and also send visitors to the place you borrowed from them. That kind of borrowing is almost always flattering to the person you borrow from.

    Hi Alex - That’s a really smart idea. I’ve seen that happen iin a few industries. I guess it really is essential to work together to raise the awareness of potential customers - particularly if your business is based on a relatively new concept.

    Hi Brad - that’s a good point. I guess there’s a lot of repeated borrowing going on. Good point re trademarks etc though. If you steal someone’s logo - especially if it’s trademarked - you’re going to be in trouble when they find out.

  5. Mike Goad on August 22nd, 2008 12:29 pm

    What you described isn’t stealing…, it’s learning how others think. Ideas are not property, they can’t be stolen.

    In fact, US copyright laws explicitly exclude ideas from what can be copyrighted.

    Stealing is unethical. What you described isn’t.

    Mike Goad’s last blog post..What does ?Gay New York? mean to you?

  6. cathlawson on August 22nd, 2008 1:22 pm

    Hi Mike - I already knew that. I don’t steal and I don’t condone stealing at all. It was just a shameless attempt to come up with a better post title.

  7. Al at 7P on August 22nd, 2008 1:34 pm

    I like the new word Alex introduced - “coopetitin.” Brilliant!

    I think ideas can’t be stolen, they were meant to be shared (I’m a big fan of open source).

    To take someone’s idea and to make it your own by mixing in your own personal flavor is indeed OK. Depending on how original the first idea was though, attributing proper credit might be in order.

    Al at 7P’s last blog post..Why Should I Help You?

  8. cathlawson on August 22nd, 2008 1:36 pm

    Hi Al - it is a great word isn’t it - and a great idea too.

    Good point about attributing the proper credit if you’ve taken quite a bit of a really original idea and made it your own though.

  9. Evelyn Lim | Attraction Mind Map on August 22nd, 2008 5:46 pm

    i was told that if you actually “copied” from about 10-20 articles on the web, you are really borrowing and not stealing. I’d think stealing would be if you copied every single thing word for word and not bothered to add any additional value of your own.

    Evelyn Lim | Attraction Mind Map’s last blog post..Guest Post: 7 Tips On How To Handle Rejection In Life

  10. cathlawson on August 22nd, 2008 5:55 pm

    Hi Evelyn - I guess taking things from 10-20 articles is more like research than plagiarism - so long as you write the new article in your own words.

  11. Barbara Swafford on August 22nd, 2008 8:34 pm

    Hi Catherine,

    I think we learn everything we know from others, in one way or another. I don’t see it as stealing. I see it as lessons in life. After all, we can also learn bad ones, too.

    Barbara Swafford’s last blog post..Four Day Open Mic - 8/21 to 8/24/08

  12. cathlawson on August 22nd, 2008 8:53 pm

    Hi Rita and Barbara - I know - but lessons doesn’t get as many folk clicking as stealing. And true Barbara - we can learn from people’s mistakes too.

  13. Lodewijk on August 22nd, 2008 10:18 pm

    Good message here Cath. Stealing is a great way to get ahead a lot faster than going through the process of discovery yourself. It’s kind of like reverse engineering the success of others.

    This post reminded me of two quotes (you’re in good company):

    “Copy from one, it’s plagiarism; copy from two, it’s research.” ~ Wilson Mizner

    “To copy others is necessary, but to copy oneself is pathetic.” ~ Pablo Picasso

    Lodewijk’s last blog post..A New Home

  14. cathlawson on August 22nd, 2008 11:06 pm

    Hi Lodewijk - Great quotes - I love the Picasso one.

  15. Vered on August 23rd, 2008 3:35 am

    I agree with Barbara: I don’t consider this as stealing. Observing and learning from experts is a great way to improve and get ahead. It will not turn you into a clone, because you are still YOU and will apply what you’ve learned in a way that’s unique to you.

    Vered’s last blog post..Obsessed With SEO?

  16. cathlawson on August 23rd, 2008 4:54 pm

    Hi Vered - I guess most folk realised that I wouldn’t actually really steal.

    I agree on the not turning you into a clone part. I type from other people’s books as I heard it can improve your writing but I’m still nothing like Joanne Harris.

  17. Davina on August 23rd, 2008 5:03 pm

    I don’t see it as stealing either. Ideas are pretty intagible things. Our different perspectives and unique voice puts our own spin on it. Of course if it is copyrighted material and we take ownership of it then it is stealing but I wouldn’t do that.

    Davina’s last blog post..My Turn To Be Seen

  18. Annie Anderson on August 23rd, 2008 5:15 pm

    Hi Cath,

    I really enjoyed your thoughts on “stealing” - and like many others have already said, it’s not stealing, per se. More like sharing or learning.

    I don’t particularly like MLM type businesses, but their concept of creating duplicatable processes is a good one. Obviously, copying word for word is stealing but taking the concept or the idea and putting your own spin on it, isn’t.

    ~ Annie

    Annie Anderson’s last blog post..Later today

  19. cathlawson on August 23rd, 2008 5:34 pm

    Hi Annie - Hope you’re feeling better after your trip to the dentist.

    I know what you mean. Duplication can work very well - it’s just a shame that those further down the line make very little in MLM.

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  22. Jeremy on October 9th, 2008 12:11 pm

    One of the things I do is study websites looks and navigation for hours at a time, I wouldn’t call it “stealing” per se, but I do take many ideas from a bunch of sites when I create one.

    Jeremy’s last blog post..Small Rental Assistance Program SRAP 2nd Round Classes

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