I think I can credit about 80% of what I’ve learned about online business to James Brausch and his more recent Diego Norte incarnation. It was his blog that finally convinced me to shift my focus from copywriting to product creation.
These have been my experiences so far:
- I’ve followed his blog(s) for approaching 2 years.
- I proofread his first two books and was one of only two people who actually proofed all of the first book. I opted not to do the third because I got tired of correcting the same grammar mistakes over and over AND I’d already read all those blog posts AND I’d finally created a solid product at that point.
- I’ve purchased most of his products.
- I’d considered going to Costa Rica to model him (his personal blog said he’s moving so I doubt that’s a possibility).
- I’d participated in his intern/contractor program on 3 different occasions. The first time, I did every task for about five weeks and then the autoresponder ran out of emails/I quit doing them because there weren’t any new tasks. My two ghost written blog articles were published on his blog.
The thing that gets me about James’ business is that he refuses to communicate with his customers. I can appreciate his motivation to do the most immediately profitable thing. But as one of his most loyal customers I’m really frustrated with my experience.
Some grievances I have (only because I have no other way to contact his business):
- On two occasions, I wasn’t paid for my contractor work.
- His Life Management 101 product was an absolute waste of money. I don’t need to pay for a half hour audio telling me not to watch TV.
- His DVD creation product was mostly a waste of money too. It’s a video version of the instructions you can get for free from Kunaki. Robert Phillips has a more thorough video for half the price if you want help via video. I’d pass on his cover creation product though. If you want to learn to do covers, get my graphic design product coming out soon. The rest of the info is available via Kunaki.
- James has been fairly incindiary to his customers and even peers online. He had a couple of posts back in the day accusing one of his students of lying and stealing one of his products. If you went and read the accused person’s blog it seemed like the story didn’t line up as he’d actually purchased the product in question and had gotten permission IN PERSON to do what he did. It seems like if James hadn’t sequestered himself and refused to communicate with anyone, that could have been avoided.
- I personally got flamed by James’ blog once too for saying something regarding TV. When I read the post response to my comment I thought who in the world would have said watching TV was okay. I went back to the comments they referenced and realized they must have meant me even though I said nothing of the sort. I realized it wasn’t James that wrote that so I wrote a tongue in cheek response saying his contractor in India was overreacting to what my contractor in India said.
- His business’ posts have become 80% junk since diegonorte.com started. They’re obviously written as filler. Most aren’t even worth the time it takes to scan and figure out they’re junk. The fact that he obviously isn’t concerned his business is cranking out junk concerns me as a business practice.
- A couple of times, his franchise system didn’t give me another viable task. I clicked through to the next task and it wanted me to critique and article for example. But there was no article. Another time, it wanted me to comment on something like 20 blogs. I combed through the list of 100+ urls given and found that most of them either 1) weren’t blogs, 2) weren’t in English or 3) hadn’t been posted to in several months. There was literally no way for me to complete the task or to tell them I couldn’t.
- I purchased MuVar 2009 but it didn’t include complete directions. Some features mentioned in the sales letter I got via email weren’t even mentioned. I really don’t like learning from video for most things but what I’ve heard is those videos are the exact same ones as for the prior version of MuVar. I think the software must work, I just don’t know how to do it. I did spend 2 full days trying to set up one page. After the video instructions way didn’t work, I tried everything else I could imagine with nothing to show for it.
- I must have subscribed to a trial version of James’ newsletter last year. I recall receiving a couple of issues and thinking they weren’t worth $25. It was mostly his MuVar testing results which I’d already seen elsewhere. I only received a couple of issues so I forgot about it. Turns out that right around Thanksgiving I get an unexpected $300 charge for subscribing to his newsletter. I might be mistaken but it seems that I subscribed to a one year trial but only got 2-3 months of it. I sent an email to get a refund but never heard back. No doubt they don’t offer refunds and I don’t want to argue with PayPal at this point. I just got the first issue in the mail so I’ll check that out before I do anything else.
- His business offered a Christmas special. I missed it last year so I made sure to check it out this year. It was supposed to be most of his products on sale plus a free trial of his Ranking Factors software. I plugged my url into Ranking Factors and it didn’t work. Great. Thanks. I checked out the rest and the only actual discount was on his email customer service – did I mention that? If you want customer service, you have to pay for it. I was intending to wait until Jan to start working on MuVar again and pay the $25 for them to help me work my $50 MuVar product. Hopefully I don’t have to explain the ethical problem I have with that but it’d still be worth it monetarily to get MuVar working. The customer service option was only $1 so I figured why not. The form only allowed something like 62 characters so I did my best to explain my MuVar delimma. Here’s the response I got back yesterday:
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.
You asked the following question:
I can’t get MuVar 2009 to work. Not enough space to explain.
It wasn’t presented in the form of a question or it wasn’t gramatically
correct so we first had our team reword your request into a gramatically
correct question format. Here is what we were able to reword it to:
How can I get MuVar 2009 to work without enough space on my server?
Here is our response:
MuVar 2009 doesn’t take very much space at all on your server. The script
files are less than 100K.
MuVar does store data about all of your visitors and sales but even the
most modest hosting plan should be able to handle tens of thousands of
visitors and hundreds of sales.
With hundreds of sales, you can easily upgrade to a most robust hosting plan.
MuVar 2009 is extremely simple to use. It is sold on a CD with all of the
script files and step-by-step videos showing every step of installation
and setup. Most people are able to install MuVar 2009 in less than an
hour the first time. After the first time, 10 or 15 minutes is much more
typical. There is nothing complicated at all about installation or
It’s really that simple.
We also offer an email consultation service and a monthly coaching service
if you ever have any specific questions. Training is never an issue with
any Diego Norte product including MuVar 2009.
I hope this answer helps. Please contact us at this URL if you have any
Nashville, Tenessee, USA Office
If you missed that, they not only didn’t answer my question, but reworded my question into a ridiculous question and answered that instead. All I can say is I’m really glad I didn’t shell out $25 for that.
I’d wanted to invest in James’ franchise system now that I’ve gotten a grip on how to create some unique products. I’m not going to though because my experience with it as a user has been so poor. Even so, I’m still interested in seeing how his latest experiment with homepages goes. And even after all that, I still took advantage of his 24 hour special yesterday to add another 10K publishers to my article marketing database.
I have really mixed feelings about Diego Norte. On the one hand, I really admire the hands-off systems style business James has built. I gather he’s now a multi-millionaire because of it. On the other hand, I think half of what his business is churning out is junk and damaging to the relationship his business should be trying to cultivate with its customers. I agree it’s good to be profitable but not at the cost of cheating people out of money and spreading ill will. That doesn’t seem like it’d be profitable long term.
I’d normally avoid saying anything negative about anyone in particular. James just doesn’t have any other way to give feedback except product purchase. I guess the only feedback he wants is product purchases through MuVar. I’m pretty sure the flaw in that thinking though is that MuVar doesn’t measure repeat purchases and lifetime customer value.
Any comments? I don’t want this to be a rail against James post but I’d like to hear any thoughts regarding business systems, product creation, profitability, longevity, etc.