What Machiavelli Taught Me About Online Marketing

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This blog post is going to be different from the usual posts where I’m either posting training videos or some other stuff that’s directly related to your marketing.

Today’s post is all about human nature – and if you truly get it, you’ll spare yourself a lot of angst, anger and disappointment. Your marketing will be much more effective too.

Way back in 1995 (when I was in college), I stumbled upon a little book in the library. It was titled, “The Prince” by Niccolò Machiavelli (You can download it here).

If you want to know who Machiavelli is, you can read about him here.

Since I was bored, I decided to read the first few pages… and it was so interesting that I xeroxed the entire thing and took it home to read it.

Over the years, I’d have read it over 50 times and the advice within still holds true and is timeless. That’s because human nature NEVER changes.

I’ve applied many of Machiavelli’s principles in my life and online marketing, and every single time I followed his advice, I did well.

Every single time I didn’t and tried to prove him wrong, I ended up looking like a fool.

In the first week of 2019, I reread his book all over again… and saw exactly what I was doing wrong. You can bet that I’ll be making a few changes.

I’ve listed a few quotes taken from his book, and I’ll tell you how it applies to online marketing. Some people might get offended, some might not believe it, and some might think it’s rubbish.

That doesn’t matter. One or two of you will truly understand what I’m saying, and when you do, it will all become clear to you.

Let’s get started.


Principle #1 – You can’t change the masses.

“He who seeks to deceive will always find someone who will allow himself to be deceived.” – Machiavelli

Here’s the truth – far too many people are idiots. Make no mistake about it.

For the past 3 to 4 years, I’ve tried educating my list and telling them not to buy crappy infoproducts from serial product creators, and here’s what happens – people STILL buy the rubbish anyway.


“Of mankind we may say in general they are fickle, hypocritical, and greedy of gain.” – Machiavelli

That’s why.

People want EASY money without doing work

And the guys who are creating rubbish product after product promising push-button riches are laughing all the way to the bank.

The people trying to be ethical and creating useful products with honest sales copy earn peanuts in comparison.

Many marketers who get into the ‘make money online’ niche are torn, because they can’t come to terms with this contradiction.

They don’t understand why crap with blind copy and fake stats sell so well… BECAUSE they don’t know that there are people waiting to be deceived.

So… there’s a choice to make. There’s ALWAYS a choice to make.

I’ve done my best to avoid promoting or creating crappy offers despite knowing that it’s a goldmine. The end result – I sell PLR that makes a few hundred sales, while those that launch rehashed crap make 5 figures.

You can join the gang and sell stuff to those who want to be deceived, or you can go the tougher path and work your ass off to do what you think is right.

Either way, you’ll need to know how the cookie crumbles… and come to terms with it


Principle #2 – Know when to bend the rules

“Any man who tries to be good all the time is bound to come to ruin among the great number who are not good. Hence a prince who wants to keep his authority must learn how not to be good, and use that knowledge, or refrain from using it, as necessity requires.” – Machiavelli

In my first two years online, despite having a list with about 1000 people on it, I didn’t promote a single affiliate offer. Seeing people promote crap constantly had left a sour taste in my mouth.

This is probably the BIGGEST mistake I’ve made in my 3 to 4 years of online marketing. I had drawn a line in the sand instead of being flexible.

After 2 years, I realized that I was leaving money on the table. So I said, “Screw it, I’ll promote offers that I think are worth mentioning.”

Since then, I’ve made thousands of dollars and landed on many JV contest leaderboards. I stopped trying to be a saint.

The same applies to the people you associate with.

I’m friends with many marketers, and I can tell you this – if I was stringent and only promoted people who were ethical, I’d only have about 4 or 5 people to promote.

There are some marketers who are very good when it comes to creating their own products… but at times very lax with the affiliate offers they promote.

In other words, sometimes they promote absolute rubbish.

I don’t know what their situation is. Maybe they need money, or they need to reciprocate for the clown they’re mailing for… or they actually think the product works.

Whatever the case, if I was to judge them stringently and avoided associating with them, I’d not only lose friends, but have fewer good products to promote.

So, trying not to be too good and knowing when to bend the rules is crucial to your longevity in this business.


Principle #3 – Understand human nature.

“The vulgar crowd always is taken by appearances, and the world consists chiefly of the vulgar.”

“For, besides what has been said, it should be borne in mind that the temper of the multitude is fickle, and that while it is easy to persuade them of a thing, it is hard to fix them in that persuasion.”

This is a HUGE ONE!

The world is filled with hypocrites. People with no integrity to stand by what they believe in. No guts. No brains. No backbone. They’re missing a lot of body parts.

This is the vulgar crowd that Machiavelli refers to… and they’re the majority.

I know, I know… it sounds harsh and depressing… and Machiavelli’s world view is bleak, but he’s right.

A few months ago, I saw Marketer A calling out Marketer B in a public post on Facebook.

Apparently, Marketer B had ripped off some of Marketer A’s sales copy or something and had used it as his own.

The comments that ensued on the thread were very interesting to say the least. The ‘vulgar crowd’ was up in arms about it… and commenting and saying how it wasn’t ethical and so on.

Some of them tagged Marketer B in the post, hoping for an explanation. The crowd wanted blood!

What happened after that, was that Marketer B showed up and apologized in the comments.

Probably the only reason he apologized was because he got called out… and even based on his comments, he didn’t seem too contrite. (I actually like the guy. I don’t even know why, but he seems cool.)

Anyway, you’d have expected the vulgar crowd to tear him a new one, BUT here’s what happened…

People started praising him, and liking his comment and everybody was easily placated and the drama came to an abrupt end.

I’ve seen situations similar to this countless times. This is what Machiavelli meant when he said that the crowd is fickle.

Always be aware of this when building your tribe, making alliances and so on. You can go from zero to hero in no time if you know how to play the game… and the reverse is true, if you’re clueless.


Principle #4 – It is what it is.

“How we live is so different from how we ought to live that he who studies what ought to be done rather than what is done will learn the way to his downfall rather than to his preservation.” – Machiavelli

There is right and wrong in this world. Right is right even if no one is doing it… and wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing is. That’s the truth.

However, like I mentioned earlier, the vulgar crowd is fickle, lazy and only wants to be told what they want to hear. It is what it is.

If you looked on ClickBank, you’d see that some of the top products being sold are about how to lose 20 pounds in 2 weeks, or some other hyped up products that just don’t work.

And yet, these products sell thousands of copies!

EVERYBODY KNOWS that you just need to eat clean, be on a moderate diet and exercise. That’s really all there is to it.

But telling the masses this ‘ugly’ truth will just make you unpopular and no one will care.

The masses just don’t want to do it.

They do NOT want the pain and discipline that’s required to lose weight. They don’t want to hear what ‘ought to be done”.

They want fast and easy results. They want to lose weight overnight They believe that buying the weight loss book or popping the weight loss pills will make them slim.

They’ll do everything EXCEPT what they need to do.

They’ll talk about fat shaming and try to change the world, instead of changing themselves.

Things have reached a stage where obesity is the norm in the US and people who are at their ideal weight are in the minority.

Statistics for diabetes, hypertension and other obesity-related diseases have skyrocketed… but people are busy talking about positive self-imagery and other new-age stuff that still leaves them fat and sick.

One of the reasons the military is so effective at getting people in shape is because they have no time for BS.

You do what you’re told and that’s that.

You exercise till you’re half-dead, you eat what you’re given… and nobody has time to listen to you whine about how you feel.

You go to bed dead-tired and wake up the next day and literally hit the ground running.

That’s exactly why soldiers are in excellent shape. That’s also why most people do NOT want to join the army.

Now let’s look at online marketing.

Most goddamn newbies just DO NOT want to do the work.

You could tell them what to do… and they’ll say “OK!”… and then proceed to conveniently ignore all your advice. (Just like how most will ignore this post.)

They’ll buy new products. They’ll tell you what they’re GOING TO DO, they’ll tell you HOW they’re going to do it… And they’ll go on and on instead of just doing it.

They’ll have a hundred opinions on everything about marketing, but wouldn’t have made 5 cents online.

Last year, I created a free training showing people how to set up a PLR store. I received over 50 emails from people saying they can’t wait to set up their own PLR store.

They had big plans and bigger talk. So, I decided to set up a Reseller PLR store to help them out.

I told them about it… and received several emails from people saying they couldn’t wait for my store to open.

So, I worked my ass off, created a bunch of PLR and uploaded over a hundred products to my store.

Now all they needed to do was buy the PLR and add it to their own store. With some traffic, they’d make sales.

Finally, I announced the grand opening… ahem… crickets and tumbleweeds.

Guess how many people bought from the store when I launched it?

About 10 people. That’s it.

When it was time for action and to have skin in the game, they slinked off and God knows where they are now.

This is the norm. It really is.

Of course, my store is not going to go to waste because it’s passive income and will get sales over time.

Similarly, several marketers have told me how exasperating coaching can be.

They’re more excited and eager to see their student succeed than the student himself.

The student can’t give 2 shits about his own success.

Nope. He’s too busy buying the next push-button product and allowing himself to be deceived. If you mailed for that product, you’d have just got the sale from him. Period.

My point is this – most people do NOT want to help themselves. They just don’t.

What they’ll do is leech off your time and energy. They’re askholes. They’ll ask you for advice and not follow it.

Be VERY CAREFUL where your time and energy goes… and don’t try to change the world. Tell them what they want to hear.


Principle #5 – Appearances are everything.

“Everyone sees what you appear to be, few experience what you really are.”

This is a fact that most people don’t seem to get. I’ve seen marketers on Facebook saying, “People should accept me for who I am.”

Half the time, these guys are boring fools with the personality of wet sand. They want to build a tribe, but no one cares.

They start a Facebook group and there’s barely any engagement or interaction.

They don’t know what they’re doing wrong.

To build a tribe, you must play a role. You must craft a ‘stage personality’ to stand above the noise. You must find one or two quirks in your personality and exaggerate them a little.

When I got on Facebook about 3 years ago, I decided on an image I’d portray. Basically, I’d be irreverent and say the things that others were thinking, but were too polite to say.

I’d be crude, funny, politically incorrect and a pain in everyone’s ass. I’d blatantly flirt with the ladies and talk about porn. Stuff that no one else wanted to do.

Within a short time, I became very popular. I’m highly polarizing and know exactly who I want in my tribe. I’m very public and yet, very private too.

I’ve NEVER done a Skype interview, or a Facebook live or anything. I know exactly how to portray myself. It’s a code that I NEVER break.

A few weeks back, JVZoo was giving out t-shirts and bobblehead dolls to marketers as a sign of appreciation. It was all so cool, and I mentioned on my Facebook wall that I wanted a doll too.

I didn’t expect much to come of it – BUT the CEO of JVZoo, Laura Casselman actually told me that I’d get a doll and stuff. How cool!

Her PA contacted me, and said I’d have to do a Zoom interview with her and then I’d be a JVZoo Superhero.

It sounded like fun… but here’s the thing – part of my code states, “No interviews”.

So, I declined the offer (and shed a silent tear) … a necessary sacrifice because the code is everything when it comes to maintaining my image.

How I appear to be is what people see, and I’ve maintained some sort of mystery.

The moment I get on camera and start talking and saying the same old shit that every other marketer is saying, that’s game over as far as my stage personality goes.

People believe what they see. It may seem dumb, but like I said before, “far too many people are idiots”.

There are some folks who actually think that I’m in love with Liz Tomey, because I call her Bae. Some think I’m into porn and running around chasing women.

I often portray myself as someone who is relaxed and takes the piss. Hard work seems anathema to me. I’m the anti-marketer. Zero talk about hustle. No motivational pics. Nothing.

I’m the lazy bum marketer who just bumbles his way around and gets lucky in the JV contests or launches.

This makes me very popular, because like I mentioned earlier, the vulgar crowd is just like that. All talk and no action.

In real life, I actually have some very strict routines and practices. I lead a quiet and minimalist lifestyle. I’m extremely hardcore, and not very approachable.

I hardly post pictures of myself or with my family, or girlfriend, etc. The photos I have on FB are about 10 years old.

Who I am online is still me to a large extent, but I’ve inflated some parts, distorted some and fabricated some. All for the sake of a personality that gets attention.

It may all seem strange and contradictory… but it works and I have very high engagement on my posts and I’m popular.

While popularity doesn’t necessarily translate to sales, it’s always good to have a following.

If you want to build a tribe, you need to create an image that you want others to see. An avatar of yourself that’s exaggerated slightly and stands above all the noise. That’s how you get noticed.


Principle #6 – Model success, but put your own spin on it.

“For since men for the most part follow in the footsteps and imitate the actions of others, and yet are unable to adhere exactly to those paths which others have taken, or attain to the virtues of those whom they would resemble, the wise man should always follow the roads that have been trodden by the great, and imitate those who have most excelled, so that if he cannot reach their perfection, he may at least acquire something of its savour.” – Machiavelli

What Machiavelli is saying here is that by modeling others who are successful, you’ll attain similar success.

He also says that even if you imitated others to the best of your knowledge, you may achieve success, but they may still be better. This is very true.

Modeling someone else’s business is just the beginning. To truly achieve success, you’ll need to put your own spin on things, and be unique.

You can only be the best you that you can be. You can’t be a Frank Kern or a Gary Vee, or anybody else.

Too many people try to be like other people without realizing that if they tried being original, they might be someone that’s a breath of fresh air in their industry.

When I first started in PLR, I bought from most of the existing PLR sellers at the time. I went through their funnels, their products, their everything.

I knew who was good, who was bullshitting, who was stealing affiliate commissions and so on.

I studied their funnels, sales copy, etc. When I hit the scene, I put my own spin on things and created sales copy that was different from all the rest… BUT at the same time, the modules in my PLR were similar to what the rest were offering.

I modeled what caught my eye, discarded what didn’t appeal to me, and injected my own ideas and flavor… and I’ve done quite well. At least people think of me when they think of PLR… so that’s a start.

My point is this – model other successful people, but always be yourself.


Principle #7 – Don’t put up with shit.

“If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.”

I don’t have many enemies in this industry. There are a few assholes out there who don’t like me, but they’re usually dodgy serial product creators that took offense to what I said. Screw ’em.

For the most part, I’m quite likeable and don’t debate or force my opinions on anyone.

However, when I do encounter people who have an entitlement mindset or those who annoy me, I have zero hesitation when it comes to tearing them a new one.

I’ve had subscribers try to be snarky with me. I dealt with them swiftly and booted them off my list.

Even fellow marketers are not spared.

There was one particular marketer from Capetown (one of the slimiest bastards in this industry) … anyway, he was hounding me to promote a launch that he was a JV manager for.

Since the product was created by someone else and it was good, I said fine.

I even roped in Tiffany Lambert and Liz Tomey and told them it was good. All three of us were on the JV leaderboard for that launch.

A week after the launch ended, Captain Capetown booted me out of his Facebook group along with a few others and laughed about it saying that he didn’t need people who weren’t contributing in his group.

I decided that this ungrateful ass needed to be dealt with swiftly and mercilessly.

So, I made a Facebook post and mentioned him… and next thing you know, he messaged me in private begging me to take it down. Literally begging.

So, I said fine and removed it. After all, I do try to be nice… ahem… but I monitored this fool to see if he was actually contrite. As expected, he wasn’t.

A week or so later, I received an email from him when I clearly hadn’t joined his list. I knew he had either stolen a list or bought one from someone else.

I then made another post mentioning his name and how he was spamming.

Many other marketers joined in to say he was spamming them too. Previous to this, no one else was openly saying what he was up to.

I got the ball rolling and turned this guy into a running joke… and I had women messaging me about how creepy he was and how he tried to grab every opportunity to touch them while talking to them at IM events and so on.

So, he got what he deserved, and he has been avoiding me since. He even went through all the email addresses to find and remove mine, just in case I tore him a new one again.

This year, I’ve applied this same zero tolerance policy on Facebook.

I’ve been blocking and deleting self-righteous assholes who get on my nerves.

Some of these idiots are waiting for a chance to get offended and act like everyone else has to walk on eggshells for the common good of society.

I used to be patient before and put up with their nonsense, but I’ve realized that if you give them an inch, they’ll take a football field.

Now they get booted out without mercy… and guess what? My life is actually better.


Principle #8 – You can’t do it all.

“Princes must delegate difficult tasks to others, and keep popular ones to themselves.” – Machiavelli

There are some tasks that are no fun. Approaching people to promote your launch can be unnerving to many people. So, delegate this task to a JV manager.

You’ll have to pay… but it’s well-worth it, if it gets you moving.

  • You’ll not be the one directly approaching others. (Difficult task)
  • You do get the honor of boasting about your successful launch and praising your affiliates. (Popular task)

The same applies to other aspects of your marketing. Want to be a Kindle author but can’t write a sentence to save your life?

Hire someone to do it for you. Tons of celebrities use ghostwriters… and then act like they wrote the book themselves. The difficult task of writing is delegated, but the fun part of saying that they’re an author is embraced.

Outsource what you hate to do.


Principle #9 – You must be on the good side of both sides.

“He who becomes a Prince through the favour of the people should always keep on good terms with them; which it is easy for him to do, since all they ask is not to be oppressed. But he who against the will of the people is made a Prince by the favour of the nobles, must, above all things, seek to conciliate the people, which he readily may by taking them under his protection.

Thus it is well to seem merciful, faithful, humane, sincere, religious, and also to be so; but you must have the mind so disposed that when it is needful to be otherwise you may be able to change to the opposite qualities.” – Machiavelli

If you’re going to create and launch products, you’ll need to be on good terms with your affiliates. These are the ‘nobles’ … the people who will promote your products and get you the sales.

At the same time, to be a popular vendor, the crowd of buyers needs to like and trust you. Then they’ll buy from you without thinking.

Herein lies the problem – trying to do both effectively is not easy. If you have many affiliates promoting you, they’ll expect you to reciprocate and promote their stuff when they launch.

But what if their stuff is a pile of shit? What are you going to do?

Turning them down may cost you their support for your future launches.

If you accede to their requests and mail for their crap, the people on your list who buy it will be pissed off that you wasted their money.

Now you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

I’ve circumvented this problem by avoiding most of the affiliates whom I know promote crap. Even in the PLR scene, there are a bunch of them who sell rubbish.

I’ve avoided associating with them just so I’ll not have to reciprocate.

Has it cost me sales? You bet it has!

I’ve probably sacrificed thousands of dollars in earnings by being discerning and not promoting every Tom, Dick and Harry.

But this is the price to pay for the choice I made. Like I mentioned earlier, “There’s ALWAYS a choice to make.”

I’m very good friends with the affiliates who are decent people… and I have a fantastic relationship with my list. So, I’ve got that part right.

To take my income to the next level, what I need to do is create other streams of income online… and NOT sacrifice my integrity for more sales.

You’ll need to decide for yourself what it is you want to do.

Just know that it’s a balancing act on a tight rope while you juggle two balls… and if something goes wrong, it’s your balls on the line.


Principle #10 – You are in control

“A wise prince should take another course: choose wise men for your advisors, and allow only them the liberty of speaking the truth to the prince, and only on matters about which you ask, and nothing else. But you should question them about everything, listen patiently to their opinions, then form your own conclusions later.” – Machiavelli

The above paragraph is self-explanatory. Listen to the reputable people in the industry, take in all the information you need… and at the end of the day – make up your own mind.

Do not follow other people’s advice blindly!

I did this several years ago when I didn’t know better… and was rewarded with a lifetime ban from Google Adwords. All because I listened to a reputable dumbass on the Warrior Forum.

Over the past two or so months, PayPal has been shutting down marketers’ accounts left, right and center. No one seems safe, and no one really has any real idea why it’s happening.

Marketers who thought they were safe ended up being shut down too.

I’ve seen a ton of different theories being spouted out by everybody and their grandmother. Some marketers want the platforms like JVZoo, etc. to up their game and so on.

Throughout all this, I’ve been reading what everybody was saying… and I finally decided for myself.

I’d postpone all launches for now. Better to be cautious than sorry.

If I was going to promote anyone, they’d put me on delayed commissions… and I’d be highly selective of whom I promoted. Even then, I’m not 100% safe.

So far, my PayPal account has not been shut down. But my sales have dwindled greatly, and that’s fine.

I don’t rely on my online income to survive, because I never really liked the whole unpredictability of online marketing.

Something or another is always changing… from the SSL thing to GDPR to PayPal. God knows what tomorrow holds.

So I took steps early on to ensure I could pay the bills and put food on the table should the whole online thing go bust.


I’ll let Machiavelli tell you why… “A prince being thus obliged to know well how to act as a beast must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.”

When applied to online marketing, it means that you must be clever like a fox to avoid the traps of online marketing, and fierce like the lion to go all out and succeed despite all odds.


To conclude…

This has been a long-ass post, but Machiavelli’s advice has guided me many times throughout my life and kept me in good stead.

There are some people who despise the principles because they’re harsh and the truth can be bitter. I’m here to tell you to give the quotes above some thought.

It’s not about following them blindly… but understanding and applying them intelligently in your marketing and life.

I’m sure you can do that.

If you’ve read this far, you’re a prince. The vulgar crowd would have left by now.

Stay cool.

~ Arun

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    • Tiffany Lambert
    • January 18, 2019

    Bro! I like it. I haven’t read this but I will. Have you ever read Art of War? One of my favorite reads.

      • Arun
      • January 19, 2019

      Bro! Yes… read it a long time back. Now I just study Trump… HAH!

  1. Reply

    Arun, this was an amazing read! I admire your business path, some to the asshole character reveals, for instance, I know the Capetown douche and I still get emails from this prick after all the unsubs. As I was reading this, it felt like it was something that I had been needing… it spoke to what I’m doing now, what I aspire to do, and/or what I have regretted doing throughout my 66 years thus far. For me, it was like when watching an old Super 8 movie… when you sense something is off, so you try twisting on the projector’s focus knob, then suddenly everything becomes clear again. I downloaded “The Prince” so I’ve only got 43 more pages to read.

      • Arun
      • January 19, 2019

      What an action taker you are. Machiavelli would be proud of you. No time for regrets. Colonel Sanders hit the road at 65 and became an icon about 10 years later. There’s still time.

  2. Reply


    The struggle huh? Suppose it comes down to your own personal land in the sand.

    The prince states truth about human nature and how to align yourself…

    The bottom line, for me, is how I view my actions and outcomes at the end of each day.

    Most days I have, at some point(s), failed and fallen short.

    But some days I succeed and meet my own ideals while making a decent income.

    So, for me, it’s okay not to excel re income, but to fail to meet my own standards hurts like hell.

    Peace and love


    Ps the prince is one slippery mof!

      • Arun
      • January 19, 2019

      Thanks, Phil. I wish you success in all that you do… for most days.

    • Bill
    • January 19, 2019

    This is an amazing post. Some parts of it were painful to read. I was forced to confront my own faults and admit that there are several things I need to improve. Thanks Arun for being brutally honest and telling us what we need to hear even if we don’t want to hear it. You are a good man.

      • Arun
      • January 28, 2019

      Not that good. LOL!

    • Travis
    • January 19, 2019

    Absolutely AGREE with everything you said. Machiavelli’s advice is used by politicians all over the world to con the people and keep them under control.

    Your post may not go down well with many readers because it forces them to dig deep and see the truth. It’s much easier to pretend that everything is fine and dandy and go along with the status quo.

    I have a good idea which spammy marketer you’re talking about. His emails were being sent to my paypal email address. I never use that to check email. It’s impossible to unsubscribe too. Looks like I’m not alone in this.

    Keep up the good work!

      • Arun
      • January 28, 2019

      Thanks, Travis. Yes! His emails were going to my PayPal email too. I wonder where he got the list from.

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