The Top 10 Guru Survey and the Truth About Internet Marketing Gurus

by John Zajaros on August 21, 2010

The Truth About Most Online Marketing Gurus?

They Aren’t Gurus!

But I am getting ahead of myself! Let me explain. And yes, I will get to the survey and who the top 10 Gurus are. At least the Top 10 Gurus as far as the residents of Lakewood, Ohio are concerned.

But again, I need to explain.

When I first started my Internet quest, my first fledgling steps towards making a living online, I read anything and everything I could get my hands on in order to get a good start. In fact, I told my wife I was going to pursue it as if I were pursuing a second doctorate, this one in Internet marketing. I had a lot of time on my hands and I was intrigued. And, I didn’t want to work for anyone else ever again…on that point I was dead certain.

So, the entrepreneur’s life was for me…once again!

It was very early in my quest for Internet marketing knowledge and I was wrestling with a ton of information from a myriad of sources. I was at the point we all get to early on…information overload coupled with the uncertainty that comes with it.

Who was I to listen to?

Who were the authorities?

That was the point at which I was exposed to the phrase:

“Internet Marketing Guru”

During my initial Internet marketing studies, while attempting to figure out this whole marketing money online thing, I was exposed to the very best and the absolute worst the Internet has to offer; and that included many so-called “gurus.”

While searching for information, the nuts and bolts I needed to make my Internet marketing quest a success, I took time to dig deep into the offerings of many of the best known Internet marketing “gurus.”

Significantly, I also spent time reviewing the thoughts and ideas of some of the leading MLM “gurus,” although I sincerely wanted no part of the whole “MLM thing,” it was interesting. I also looked at a lot of material being produced by some of the less-known “wannabe gurus,” some just then beginning to make their own way online.

Yet many of them were already calling themselves Internet marketing “gurus!”

The education was an interesting mix of concepts and ideas, an education to be sure. But it was not the education I had envisioned when I started off. It was more about the state of the Internet and the quality (or lack thereof) of the information itself.

The education was less about the practical, nuts and bolts, A through Z approach to making money online I had thought it would be, and more about hazy concepts, why I should buy more of so-and-so’s products, and a ton of outdated material!

I discovered one thing early on in my Internet quest:

The only reason many of the Internet marketing “gurus” were being called “gurus” was because they referred to themselves as such!

In other words, they were self-appointed, self-pronounced “gurus” and nothing more.

Sadly, this remains the case through this writing!

The fact is, many marketing “gurus,” and this holds true more for online than offline marketing, have little, if any, real world marketing experience.

Incredibly, a vast number of these Internet marketing “gurus” have absolutely no “real world,” meaning offline, business experience at all!

This has real implications for those individuals in the inbound marketing consulting field because an understanding of how traditional, brick and mortar business is crucial. Not only is some sort of real world, nuts and bolts experience necessary for practical purposes, it is crucial for both perception and empathy.

The Internet Marketing Quest Revealed!

So, I learned two things early on in my Internet marketing, online business education, my Internet Marketing Quest Revealed:

  1. There are very few Internet marketing “gurus” worthy of the designation, and all that comes with it.
  2. Most Internet marketing “gurus” are simply slick marketers, I will give them that, individuals who are salesmen and saleswomen pushing a particular business perspective…and the products along with it, usually their own.

I realize the definition, and indeed the meaning, of the term Guru has changed somewhat over the years.

However, as far as I am concerned, a Guru is someone who places the welfare of others above their own in order to add to the “greater good.” A Guru is one who seeks to educate and enlighten others, not for financial gain but to enhance the well-being of their followers, those receptive to and following their message.



Let’s look at the term Guru for a moment.

Wikipedia (who else) offers a definition from the more traditional, religious perspective…and then adds to it:

A guru…is one who is regarded as having great knowledge, wisdom and authority in a certain area, and who uses it to guide others (teacher)….As a principle for the development of consciousness it leads the creation [the individual] from…ignorance to the light of knowledge. In its purest form this principle manifests on earth as a divine incarnation (saint), a person with supreme knowledge about God and all creation.

Other forms of manifestation of this principle also include parents, school teachers, non-human objects, and even one’s own intellectual discipline.

….the word “guru” is widely used with the general meaning of “teacher“. In Western usage, the meaning of guru has been extended to cover anyone who acquires followers, though not necessarily in an established school of philosophy or religion. In a further Western extension, guru is used to refer to a person who has authority because of his or her perceived secular knowledge or skills, such as in business….A guru is a spiritual teacher, but is also used to refer to anyone knowledgeable in a particular area (e.g. a computer guru). [bold and italicized passages altered to provide emphasis]

Here’s a very general perspective, if not a cut and dry definition for the term Guru:

  • In the East and in the West gurus are thought of as:
    • Experts, “knowledgeable in a particular field,” sharing their knowledge with others
    • Teachers (usually but not always)
    • Having followers in one way or another
    • Individuals offering guidance
    • Individuals providing influence
    • Selfless individuals contributing to the greater good

Interestingly, if you were to ask a number of people at random who or what is the first thing to pop into your head when you think of the term “guru”?

What answer or definition do you think they would respond with?

I have written about this several times because it continues to be an issue for me and for others, based on the email and comments I get.

And, because this whole Internet marketing guru thing is perplexing to me!

So, three weeks ago I initiated a survey.

The survey was centered on one question:

What do people think of when you mention the term Guru?

I thought my answers would be very different from the ones half a world away, say, in India.

Now? I am not so sure.

The methodology was simple (and yes, less than scientific):

Ask anyone and everyone I ran into one question and then shut up!

Over a period of two weeks, while walking my dog, TuffGuy, I stopped virtually anyone and everyone I could and asked them the same question:

“What is the first thing that pops into your head when I say the word ‘Guru’?”

The survey was not scientific, as stated above, at least not in the strictest sense. But the selection was random, as random as I could make it.

The people were all from the Midwest, a fairly safe assumption given the fact that they were walking on the sidewalk, in Lakewood, Ohio.

The participants were from all walks of life, men and women, young and old, in every sort of dress imaginable, at various times of day and well into the evening, and so forth.

In total, there were 228 people and they took anywhere from 2 to 15 seconds to answer.

Interestingly, they all seemed to “shoot from the hip,” so to speak. Meaning, they all appeared to give it their best shot.

Yes, I had a couple of Ronald Mc Donalds, one Bugs Bunny, and one White Rabbit. The latter obviously a Lewis Carroll fan. Perhaps, more likely, a Johnny Depp fan? But many of the walks were late at night and the individuals who came up with these “off-remarks” seemed quite “happy,” if you know what I mean.

Their responses were thrown out, of course.

These are the top 10* responses (out of a total of 27 total responses):

  1. Dalai Lama
  2. Saint
  3. Computer wiz
  4. Bill Gates
  5. The Pope
  6. Teacher/Professor
  7. Minister-Reverend-Priest
  8. Billy Graham
  9. Monk
  10. Donald Trump-Steve Jobs

*I told all of the individuals who participated in this survey to give me the very first thing to pop into their heads, that they were not to consider it but to “go with your gut!

Interestingly, 62% of the answers had a religious connotation and 23% had computer or computer business implications. The remainder of the responses were from the business world and included Warren Buffet, Richard Branson, and Stephen R. Covey; the field of sports and included Michael Jordan and Pat Riley; and, others included President Obama, Seth Godin, and Tony Robbins. Interestingly, while I failed to mention living gurus or gurus from the past, an oversight on my part, I still had 3 people mention Napoleon Hill and 1 mention Vince Lombardi.

The only mention of a marketing guru, in any way, shape, or form was Seth Godin!

The actual numbers are available upon written request and will be included in The Ultimate Internet Image’s new ebook, Inbound Marketing A through Z to be released on September 7, 2010 to subscribers of The Ultimate Internet Image.


Ultimately, we all assign meaning to labels in different ways. The problem I have with the phrase Internet marketing guru is that it rarely meets any sort of minimum standard, or rather the “Internet marketing gurus” do.

Or, more precisely, what my perception of what a Guru ought to be…is thought to be!

When all is said an done, one thing is clear:

There is a huge perception between the label and the reality.

The Label: Saint and Teacher, Selfless and Knowledgeable

The Reality: Salesman and Marketer, Slick and often Self-Serving

Interestingly, I started out to write a very different piece, my thoughts about one of the first products I purchased from a well-known, often well-thought of Internet marketing guru. The product was a very high-end product, a recycled seminar on DVD hungry students paid thousands of dollars to attend. The product is so full of information and so utterly and completely boring I have yet to get through it.

It is a narcissistic display in once sense and devoid of personality in another. Imagine conflating those two images…I know but it was the best I could do. It’s that bad. Honestly, it is truly awful.

And, it was created by an Internet marketing guru who is next to impossible to reach, completely unaccessible to all but a very small group in the Internet marketing guru clique, say that 5 times real fast.

And yet, he is very successful.

Go figure!

So, he is a slick marketer, a great salesman, and the antithesis of what a guru is all about.

At least to the way of thinking of 228 people from mainsteam America in the summer of 2010.

You see, while they have no idea who he is or what he is about, they do seem to have an idea who or what I Guru is…capital “G!”

The Dalai Lama on the other hand?

A man from a country halfway around the world, following a religion foreign to everyone I talked to, all agree in one thing…he is the embodiment of the term Guru…saint…teacher!

I guess the ultimate questions and the ultimate analysis comes down to this:

Do you want to be viewed and remembered as a slick salesman or do you want to make a lasting impression? Does anyone care what kind of car you drive or what kind of a house you live in or how much money you made on your last product launch? Or can you help push others up, better their stations in life, and help them achieve their dreams…in turn bettering your life and well-being through service to others?

Or you can just brag about how much money you made in how many minutes on your last product launch?

Guru or “guru”? It’s that cut and dried!

Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts, I hope they gave you food for thought. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think or share your story! I would love to hear it and it will add so much!

John Zajaros
The Ultimate Internet Image
The Internet Marketing Training and Services Company
Lakewood, Ohio 44107

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Morri August 22, 2010 at 2:08 am

Interesting..not the article I expected, but I found it very refreshing and something I needed to hear tonight. I agree…helping others is the true calling of guru.
Thank you for sharing this.


admin August 23, 2010 at 1:52 am

Thank you Morri and thank you for taking the time to take in my thoughts and ideas. I am glad you found it useful and I appreciate you taking the time to comment…it means a great deal to me!

Have a wonderful week and please stop back soon!

John Zajaros


social media marketing January 26, 2013 at 2:46 pm

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