Original post: Dec 21, 2015
Latest Update: May 12, 2016
Have you ever had an association with a business that does some things excellently, but also does other things that make you want to run away screaming in frustration?
I have felt that way about the cable TV company (see the posting on Cutting the Cable), about the phone company, about car dealerships, and I feel that way about Stansberry Associates, an investment advisory newsletter service.
They Do Offer Good Advice
I’ll admit it. I have learned a lot from their newsletters. They offer excellent advice, excellent financial education, and their insights are frequently cutting-edge and spot on.
If they offered affiliate associations, I would put a link here and urge you to go sign up for their service.
Their advice is frequently so good I send it on to my own family members, with the admoniton, “You need to read this!” It is advice I wish I had had forty-five years ago.
However, as good as they are at putting together investment advice, there is one thing at which they are much better.
Why You Should Beware
The thing they are better at than investing analysis and advice is copywriting.
Copywriting has been defined as “salesmanship in print,” and the Stansberry group is among the world’s best at writing “newsletters” that are either well-disguised or blatantly open sales pitches to get you to buy more, more, more of their newsletters.
You think they are in business to offer investment advice? They’re not. They’re in business to sell you newsletters. And they are very good at it.
They Know All The Tricks
You can sign up for some real “bargain” newsletters – for as little as $39 a year if you catch one of their promotions. And quite honestly, the value you get even from these bargain-priced newsletters is very good, much better than any other newsletter I have tried. And I have tried many, at least a dozen.
I would imagine most of their new customers start out with one of the lower-priced newsletters. When they do, they get automatically signed up for two or three “bonus” free newsletters, giving you still more value for the peanuts you’ve laid out.
I was tempted to say that they “suck you in” with all these bargains, and if it weren’t for the fact that even these low-priced newsletters give such excellent value, that’s exactly what it would be. Even so, these “bonus” newsletters have several other ads in them for their other products, so they are also a vehicle by which they can put more ads in front of you.
If you simply bought the $39 or $99 or $149 newsletter and that was the end of it, read it, use the advice if you like and no sales pitches, if that were all there was, I would have no criticism.
But wait. There’s more!
They use every trick in the book to get you to spend more money. Okay, calling their techniques “every trick in the book” is alarmist-speak for what they might call “using tried and proven sales techniques,” but the fact remains that once you give them your contact information, you need to be ready.
You will be bombarded with sales pitches, one after the other, as many as five and six a day, many for exactly the same product.
They Are Very Good
Make no mistake: these people are very good — at selling.
They can take a subject you’ve probably never heard anything about, and present it in such as way that you wonder, “How did I ever live without this?” and have you reaching for your wallet.
The latest product (as of mid-December 2015) is a newsletter telling you about purchasing distressed debt (Credit Opportunities), for a mere $5,000. They say that’s for a lifetime subscription, with no additional fees to pay, ever. Oh, except for an annual fee of about $200 to “keep your account active.”
Please understand. I am not objecting to the fact that they HAVE these newsletters. I am not even objecting to them asking people to pay through the nose for them. I am not objecting to the fact that they want you to continue to pay them a ransom, er, I mean maintenance fee, each year. The only thing I am objecting to here is the constant bombardment with sales pitches.
Quite honestly, after reading the sales pitch for this latest newsletter, I believe it would be a very good deal for people in a financial position to take advantage of it. I just wish they wouldn’t continually hound me about it the way they do.
They Also Make it Hard To Opt Out
Another reason you should beware Stansberry Associates is they make it frighteningly easy to sign up for any of their newsletters. Just fill out the form online and give them your credit card information and you’re in for the full treatment.
However, if you want to take advantage of their money-back guarantee, and opt out of their service, you can’t do that online. You cannot do it nearly as easily as it was for you to sign up. No, you must call them. On a phone. During their business hours.
I don’t think I’m in the minority here when I say that if I can sign up for something online, I want to be able to un-sign-up online as well. Making me pick up the phone and call them smacks of underhanded tactics. I’m always afraid they will have their best “customer retention” salespeople standing by to try for the next 45 minutes to convince me not to cancel and to throw up roadblocks every time I try to get a refund.
To be honest, the one time I did finally call them and ask for a refund (for a $4,000 a year newsletter I decided wasn’t for me), they did not give me any hassle at all. So kudos to them for this.
…And In Your Spare Time…
A final reason to beware of Stansberry Associates is the sheer volume of information they will send you.
Think about how much spare time you have in your life right now. If you sign up for anything at all from them, you will probably have to spend a minimum of 30 minutes a day, every day, to get through it all. Don’t be surprised if it takes an hour or more.
If you truly get into following and researching their content and recommendations, you could easily spend several hours on it.
Yes, what they send is valuable, but do you really have that much spare time?
Seems Like It’s All or Nothing
There have been several occasions when I have emailed them and called them, asking them to stop sending me emails that have no content other than promotions of another product, and their answer has invariably been to either ignore me, or to cancel ALL associated subscriptions, even the ones that had good content.
Seems like if you want the newsletter than has the content, then you have to put up with their spam as well.
Love ‘Em and Hate ‘Em
As I said in the beginning of this post, Stansberry Associates is one of those businesses we (well, I) love and hate. Their financial advice is excellent, but their sales policies have beaten me down to the point I frequently want to run for the door.
What I’d Fix
If I could get the ear of whoever is in charge of the policies and sales campaigns at that business, there are two things I would recommend, ask, beg, plead for them to fix.
First, I would ask them to put in place a procedure that would automatically limit the number of sales pitches about each product that get sent to a particular email address. This would be stupidly easy to do in their computer system. I would ask this person to let each subscriber select how many promotions for the same product they receive – one per month, bi-monthly, once per week (I wouldn’t even mind that), or daily. Their default of up to five or six per day is unconscionable.
The other thing I would ask them to do would be to make it as easy for someone to opt out (and get a refund) online as it is to sign up. And while they’re at it, they should give us the options online to elect which types of emails to receive: principal content, special announcements, special offers, etc.
I’m Staying For Now – Reluctantly
I still have some subscriptions with them; I’m not cancelling them, because the content is good. But good grief what a pain.
They are a company I want to like, but they make that impossible.
They are a company I want to hate, but they make that impossible.
Such is the nature of the relationship with them.
Update: April 11, 2016
Out of curiosity, I did a search for others reviewing the Stansberry service, and came across Larry Ludwig’s article, here. Larry has a bit of a different tack than I do, but comes to many of the same conclusions. His post is worth reading.
Since the initial posting of this article, Porter Stansberry has come out with his latest hair-on-fire scheme to scare you into parting with your money. Essentially, he is saying that there is a secret cabal of high-level schemers plotting to devalue the U.S. Dollar, and anyone who doesn’t get their savings out of paper and into gold will be destroyed, and of course the best way to get into gold is to spend more than you can afford on his Brand New Gold Newsletter!
The price for this newsletter? $1,500 up front fee plus $49/mo “account maintenance fee.” In other words, another $600/yr. I don’t know about you, but my savings and investment budget together don’t make enough that I can afford that kind of outlay, on the chance that I might, as Porter shrills, “make 10, 20, 30 or even 100 times my money.”
Want to guess how many emails I’ve received promoting this newsletter? I haven’t counted (I just delete them), but I’d wager it was more than a dozen in the last week, screaming “Last Chance” and “Only available until midnight” and the like.
The Master of Conditionals
As an experienced test developer (another topic for discussion), I have learned to watch for “conditionals” and “absolutes.”
Conditionals, of course, are such words as “might” and “could” and “it’s possible that.”
If you are going to read any of the newsletters, promotions, or advertisements sent out by Stansberry Associates, you also should be vividly aware that Porter and all their writers are masters of conditionals.
If you read carefully, you will see that all their promotions are packed with conditionals, you might earn 100% or more, this investment could return mind-numbing multiples, it is possible to make many times your money…
Bottom line, I’m still on the fence in deciding whether it’s worth it to put up with their mind-numbing deluge of promotions to get the good advice.
(End of original post – Dec 2015)
Update – May 2016
Yesterday, I received (surprise) an email from Stansberry Associates.
The subject of this email was “We’d love your opinion…” – I took a chance and opened it, and it was a very well-written bit depicting them scratching their heads over why virtually no one (0.38% of their subscribers) had signed up for their latest promoted service.
I will include here my response to them. If I ever hear back from them about this, I’ll post that here when I receive it.
Dear Stansberry Associates,You asked: “why have so many people still not given Tradestops a try, despite the proof that it can as much as double your returns… and reduce your risks? If you still haven’t joined TradeStops, we’d love to know why.”
I doubt very seriously that you’ll read this, let alone take it to heart, but here it is.
The main reason is that I am absolutely numb from having been bombarded with your constant, incessant, and overwhelming advertisements, each one more frantic than the last, shrilling that if I don’t go spend thousands of additional dollars for your latest product, I will miss out on what could be kajillions of percent returns, and might even lose my house, my car, my bank account, and be thought of as being beneath contempt by all those “in the know.”
Not only is the tone of each of these emails frenetic and hair-on-fire, but the vast number of them seals their doom.
It has gotten to the point that it only takes me a quick glance at any of your emails to see whether it contains “meat” or if it’s just another one of your endless parade of panicked advertisements. If it’s an ad, I rarely get beyond the first five words before my fingers find the delete key.
It has become obvious to me, as no question it also has become to 99.62% of your subscribers, that your main purpose is NOT to equip us to be successful investors, but rather is to suck as many dollars as possible out of us, your nearly 660,000 subscribers, no matter what it takes.
We have become numb to your barrage of advertisements.
We keep our fingers on the delete key.
If you have read this far, I’m surprised, because I expect you also have your fingers on your delete keys, for feedback such as this.
If you will go back and read the paragraph from your email quoted above, you will see that even that paragraph is an ad. That’s why I’ll be surprised if you read this – I am cynical to the point of believing you sent out that email NOT because you would truly love my opinion, as stated in your subject line, but truly simply as another ad, a desperate grasp for still more victim subscribers. Am I wrong?
I do have a suggestion for you. Re-image your company.
See if you can change the perception of 99.62% of your subscribers away from thinking you are primarily out to enrich yourselves at our expense. Take it as a challenge to develop your public perception – both subscriber and non-subscriber – to being one of “The Company That Cares Whether Their Subscribers Are Successful Investors.”
To do this will definitely mean decreasing your profit margin in the short run, perhaps significantly. But as with the majority of plans implemented under the precepts of TQM (Total Quality Management), the payoff five and more years down the road will be vastly greater than were you to continue on your present course.
As I said above: you asked.
Now you have my answer.
David in Mississippi
A Numb Subscriber