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Manipulative Email Sales Funnels

There is a lot of online bullsh*t that comes in connection with offering any sort of spiritual mentorship or coaching programme. Today I want to talk about a particular aspect of this: email sales funnels and online marketing.

I feel so strongly about the ethics involved in marketing and selling products — specifically, products that are mentorships or coaching. These include any kind of spiritual programme, anything to do with personal development, or anything to do with trauma work. I haven’t seen anyone talking about this, and I’ve got some opinions about it that are worth sharing.

In essence, the biggest problem that I see is that these marketing emails can be deeply manipulative and unethical.

If you’re in the spiritual development world, you have almost certainly had other people’s coaching programmes, spiritual readings, or mentorship programmes advertised to you on Instagram or Facebook. Maybe you are yourself a coach. Perhaps you want to read, or maybe you offer spiritual work in some capacity, in which case, you’ve probably been offered that and a whole collection of products that are targeted to your marketing. I cannot count how many times in one day I get Instagram ads that are selling packages on how to write email funnels, how to advertise on Facebook, or how to create content on social media.

I think most of it is problematic, and that is because a lot of these products encourage a way of marketing and promoting your products, course, or programme, that is just straight up manipulation and exploitation of people’s vulnerabilities. I hate it so f**king much. I deeply, deeply can’t bear it, and it makes me furiously mad.

There are a few people whose email lists I have signed up for, and I get somehow put in their sales funnel. (For those who don’t know what a sales funnel is, lucky you!) I occasionally get these emails from other people wanting me to buy their products. It’s really depressing when I come across somebody whose ethics, morals, and politics seem to be aligned with my own. Then I get an email from them, and it’s trying to touch upon what in email marketing is described as “the pain points,” which should be a self explanatory term. It’s so disappointing every time. I don’t want to do that to my clients, I don’t want to do that to my students, and I don’t want to do that to any potential clients or students.

It’s not that I’m scared of selling. I’m not. I deeply believe in the products that I offer, and nothing makes me happier than reaching as many people as possible. I love selling these products, and selling places on the Spiritual Life Upgrade to the right people. But I don’t want to do it by making you feel like there’s something fundamentally wrong with who you are, and that I’m the only person that’s got the fix for it.

That kind of manipulation is what I see again and again in this space.

Now, I have no problems with people marketing themselves or their products. I buy sh*t all the time! But they’re trying to sell you something by obviously manipulating you, or sometimes even trying to do it subtly, and it just boils my f**king blood. Why can we not have a way of doing business in this world that is not based in manipulation? The spiritual self-help world, the coaching or spiritual programme world, should not be exploitative in this way.

The way I want to market my skills and my products is to be honest with potential clients and students.

When I set out to write these emails, I do it with the intention of communicating, “This is who I am as a person. This is my history, this is my background. These are my experiences. These are my political allegiances. This is how I feel about specific issues, these are my core foundational beliefs. And these are the products that I offer. This is the way in which you can work with me.” Why can’t it be that straightforward and simple?

I encounter this issue a lot, especially when I was starting out with the Spiritual Life Upgrade, my year long mentorship programme. This was four years ago, and I was trying to work out how to market something like this. At the time, I didn’t know much about marketing. I just knew that what I do is really good and has incredible results. I started looking at buying these programmes that teach you how you write an email funnel or how to create Instagram ads, and with every single one, without exception, at the core of it was just some sort of attempt at subtle psychological manipulation of the target audience. I hated it then, and I still hate it now.

Why can’t we all just be super honest about who we are, what we believe, and what we can offer, and then allow people to make decisions based on that core information?

I can’t be anything other than straightforward and honest about who I am. God, that makes me sound like a contestant on Love Island. (If you don’t know what Love Island is, don’t find out. You’re best not knowing. I spent all weekend binging it and I’m still only on episode 22 of 40. Seriously, save yourselves.)

I understand that it can be very difficult to invest in yourself. The biggest challenge I get with students that end up signing up to the Spiritual Life Upgrade is the obstacle of money. Almost always, it’s not the amount of money. The obstacle they have is spending the money, because they are reluctant to spend it on themselves. They often hold a core belief that they’re not worthy of it, or they’ve been told they don’t deserve it. All of us who have been socialised as women are taught, by our culture and by our society, that we are not meant to take up space. We’re brought up to believe that we’re not supposed to use money for ourselves, and that we’re not here to spend any energy on ourselves.

So I understand that there are blocks, sometimes, to making a purchase, or taking a risk on investing in yourself. If you don’t know somebody very well, and you just stumbled across my Instagram, you might think, “Oh, this person’s cool, but I don’t really know anything about them.” In that case, it can be kind of risky to decide “Okay, I’m going to pay £500 a month for the next 12 months.” But that hesitation is normal. It is absolutely okay to use your marketing materials to address specific anxieties, blockages, and challenges that people may have in signing up. That is totally different than setting up an entire marketing campaign that is focused upon me, as the mentor or coach, telling you what’s f**ked up in your life. These campaigns tell you “I know what’s wrong with you, and I’m the only person that can fix it.” That is when it crosses an ethical boundary.

What I would say to you is this: anyone that you come across that you feel is manipulating you in some way, run a mile in the opposite direction.

If you want to invest even even just $1 in yourself, don’t invest a f**king penny in anyone that doesn’t make you feel safe with them and good about yourself. That’s a really low bar, and yet for me, it is the thing that was hardest to find. Ask yourself, “Do I feel safe with this person?” Do you feel good about yourself after engaging with them? If you don’t, don’t give them money, because any amount of money is going to be a waste when you’re starting off with that dynamic in a relationship.

I think it would be really helpful for those of us who are in this field to begin to actively start rejecting the invitation to manipulate our students, our audience, or our clients. I am committed to doing that in my own business.

Here’s an example: I have decided over the last couple of months to only open the doors to the Spiritual Life Upgrade every quarter. Previously, it was open enrollment; any time I thought somebody who wanted to join was the right fit, I’d let them in. At this point, it’s just too much to have a revolving door of admissions like that. I’m too busy now. Also, the way I think about it is, every single time somebody comes in, it’s like opening a door to this space that contains this perfect set of highly curated energy. Every time I’m opening that door, energy goes out and new energy comes in. Doing so too often is very disruptive, so I have decided to only do it every quarter.

In preparation for this new enrollment policy, I’m going to send emails to let people know in advance. I went back through these products that I bought years ago on how to write an email funnel or sales page. Without exception, they’re all just manipulative f**king sales-y bullshit. I refuse to use those methods. As somebody that is hugely successful in this world, I have a multi-six-figure company entirely based on doing the work that I do on the internet. I sell really well. Not once have I needed to manipulate somebody to join my programme, and I absolutely refuse to start doing that now.

If you are in a position as a member of an audience where you’re starting to feel like, “Oh sh*t, there’s something about me or about my life that’s fundamentally wrong,” that is an effect of manipulation. That is being used intentionally to encourage you to buy something. Run the f**k away and hit unsubscribe!

If you’re somebody who writes marketing emails, or has a product and want people to buy from you: Resist. Resist the invitation to manipulate people, to make them feel bad about themselves in order to buy your product.

Every single one of the women that enrolls in my programme sees drastic change. Their lives are dramatically and significantly better than before they started the programme. That’s because of them, not because of me. I gave them the tools, the information, and support, and I curated a community that facilitated that transformation, but they f**king did the work. None of us that are actually offering genuine transformation — as in, creating the crucible for that transformation to happen, creating the space, genuinely offering the support, and most importantly, really curating the people that are part of that community — should need to manipulate you. Our results should do the marketing for us.

So, if you want to offer something that is transformational, what you need to do is be real about who you are. Be absolutely honest and straightforward about what you stand for, because if you don’t say “I stand for X, Y, and Z,” then you are siding with the power dynamic as it is now. And then just say what you offer. “This is what I offer, this is what I can do, here are my results. These are my previous students, this is the evidence. If you want to join us, this is your opportunity. Click here.” And that should be it.

You don’t need to be manipulating people, and if you feel like you do, then you should not be teaching other people how to do anything. I see so much stuff all the time that really pisses me off. Many of the invitations to these emails tell you to get people to start thinking about the worst periods of their lives. You want me to trigger trauma survivors into being reminded of the worst time of their lives? F**ck no. I’m just not doing it.

If you’re starting out and you feel like you don’t know how anyone’s gonna sign up to your programme, I can tell you one piece of advice that is absolutely universally true: All you can ever do is be yourself.

It takes courage, and often it takes a long time to get to the point where you are able to feel safe enough and confident in who you are to actually show up as yourself on the internet. But that is when your success will come, because you really don’t want to work with people that don’t like who you actually are. If you don’t like me on a personal level, I have absolutely zero interest in working with you. I do not make a practice of offering my time or my genuine attention to people who don’t like me, because any student of mine gets 110% of me. I don’t want to offer that to people unless they really like who I am. And neither should you.

In my marketing emails, I’m going to tell you who I am, what I believe in, what I can do, and what I’m offering you, and then give you the opportunity to sign up. Why? Quite simply, manipulation is not a good look. And if you’re looking to sign up to one of these types of programmes, remember: you need to like the person that you’re trusting with your money, your time, and more importantly, your very delicate hopes and dreams and self-worth. Anyone in that position should never get you there via manipulation. Trust your instincts and resist those impulses. You’ll be so much better off if you do.

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