From Infomercial To E-Commerce, Video Professor Starts 3rd Decade Of Business

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Adotas has decided to start interviewing and provide our readers with more investigative articles on leaders in the online ecommerce, advertising and marketing industry. We want you to get the real insight from leaders who have proven through their success what online marketing is all about. One of the first and most known leader in ecommerce is John W. Scherer of Video Professor.

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John W. Scherer is a familiar face on both television and the Internet. He’s the guy who asks you to “try my product.” That product is a very successful line of self taught computer tutorials. Video Professor’s first lessons dealt with MS-DOS. Today the company offers dozens of titles dealing with the most important and innovative programs for business and home, in addition to lessons on planning online travel, investing online, setting up and using digital devices and the latest about protecting yourself online with more titles to come.

Scherer is also a very successful entrepreneur. He’s a hands-on CEO who pays very close attention to the marketplace, which could be the reason that he’s been a successful businessman for over 20 years.

Video Professor was one of the first companies to enter the world of e-commerce. While his television commercials remain very successful, Scherer recognized early on the potential of marketing on the Internet. He’s also very blunt about his own early experiences, the lessons learned and how he will move forward.

Interview Exerpts: John W. Scherer

JS – Well you know we have been on television forever. We’ve been doing our commercials and I’m telling people to try my product and they call and the call center processes the order, sends it to us, we charge the customer’s credit card, and everybody’s happy. Since we have gotten online doing business, we’ve run across a few pitfalls that we weren’t aware of and many [other] companies weren’t aware of [either]. The biggest pitfall we’ve found is incentivized sites and incentivized traffic. We’ve done a lot of business there in the last couple years and we’ve learned a lot. I would say we are probably experts in incentivized traffic.

Adotas – In our current fast-paced world, legislation and enforcement are lagging behind the technology. Scherer says agencies like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are bringing justice to what could easily be described as the wild west of marketing.

JS – It was very encouraging to hear that they’ve investigated some incentivized sites and incentivized businesses and are cleaning them up, and I think they should. I think that’s the way to go but I can tell you this; I can tell our viewers, listeners, readers, that if the FTC and the agencies aren’t cleaning it up, Video Professor is going to clean it up. We have been doing this and we have learned a lot and we’ve stopped doing business with two of the companies. Two of the companies that were actually under investigation by the FTC; we no longer do business with them.

Adotas – As he moves forward with his own e-commerce strategies, Scherer makes it clear that only the honest and ethical need apply to partner with him.

JS – So what we’re putting in place is that we’ll only do business, and our contracts will say this, we will only deal with companies that are reputable and will police their down line. If they don’t know who they are dealing with down line, then we aren’t dealing with them. We’re not paying upfront, we get an order and until we bill the amount, we don’t pay. That creates good business. I think that there is a real need and a real place for incentivized business on the Internet, but not bad business.

I’ll be glad to help the FTC and the attorney generals, share with them what I know and what we’ve learned. We understand what these guys are doing. So to do business, I say to the incentivized sites to police your down line. If they are going to do business with us, we are going to know what ads are running, where these orders are coming from and [if] they are going to be good, clean orders. And it is good business, it can be great business. We personally like it. There’s good business to be done, great business to be done, it’s just got to be done honestly.

Adotas – In a business full of jargon, Scherer cuts through the clutter of words when it comes to being a savvy marketer. He says that tried and true marketing strategies stand the test of time in the transition from traditional media to the Internet.

JS – What makes me a savvy advertiser is what we learned years ago, if you have a good product and there is a need for that product, and you let people try it for FREE, they’re going to buy more and more. We didn’t start yesterday, we didn’t start last month, we have been doing FREE products I believe 10 to 15 years at least. That’s what works … that’s what makes us successful.

Adotas – Scherer says he’s been approached many times by people who want to buy his business, but keep him around to run it. He figures as long as he’s running the operation, he might as well still own it. So what does the future hold for the Video Professor?

JS – We have a lot of stuff, a lot of exciting stuff going on. There’s some stuff I can’t talk to you about, but in a couple months, come back and I’ll tell you all about it. But exciting things on the Internet with e-comm and how we do business and what the consumers can expect out there from us, we’ve got a lot of great things coming.

There’s a new Sheriff in town with a familiar face.

15 COMMENTS

  1. Interesting interview, given the fact that the good Professor is subject to a myriad of BBB complaints, among others, for their business practices (including making it difficult to timely cancel so that folks are forced to make purchases). I think the incentivized businesses have something to learn from him.

  2. I think after watching the whole video it is admirable how Video Professor is taking a stand on issues of fraud and bad affiliate partners. I wish more partners would look for the value, not the quick buck

  3. Kudos to Mr. Scherer for taking a stand on weeding out the weenies. Sounds like he learned some tough lessons a long the way, and wants do try and do something to clean up those who promise the world and cheat you instead.

    Mr. Scherer is very clear about who he plans to deal with moving forward. The guy has been in business for over 20 years, he must be doing something right!

  4. What a wasted interview opportunity. 75% of this article has him talking about what most of us already know – surely we can learn more from a guy like that??

  5. How is jamming $90 on peoples credit card after they pay for shipping on a free trial 10 days before an admiral business model? They have more problems with more advertising companies than anyone out there. These are the last ecommerce “experts” out there that should be glorified. Next time do an interview on a reputable company and a person that actually does the job not panders on late night television.

  6. The professor should be heard. He has been in the industry throughout several ebbs and flows and remained on top of his game.

    Thanks guys for the interview. It’s really interesting to hear the voice of a seasoned veteran who has advice on what could truly make the marketplace better and isn’t afraid to be honest.

  7. <p>I’d like to thank “The Doctor” for helping make our point. I just got back from a meeting with the BBB, of which we are a member and active supporter.</p>
    <p>One item of discussion during our meeting was the significant reduction in complaints from Q4 of 2006 to Q4 of 2007. A total of just 20 complaints, and when compared to total sales a complaint rate of .008%.</p>
    <p>Because we work closely with organizations and agencies like the BBB, we were able to quickly identify the source of a short-lived spike in complaints. The source being rogue incentivized sites.</p>
    <p>Once we identified the problem, we eliminated it.</p>
    <p>John W. Scherer’s point in both the text interview and the video version is that this is a great business, but we’ve got to be continually vigilant. Working together as businesses, with organizations like the BBB and the government we can make sure that E-Commerce can realize its incredible potential.</p>
    <p>We stand ready to work with anyone who asks to simply make business better for us all, by keeping out those who would otherwise hurt us all.</p>
    <p>Video Professor<br />
    </p>

  8. John is very passionate about this topic and it shows. He clearly isn’t tolerating the fraud. also I love the office. Interesting, he’s bit like Citizen Kane meets the bombay company. All thats missing is the log fire and the mittens on the radiator.

  9. This could be a coincident, but last year when we stopped promoting Video Professor in our incentive program (not the type illustrated by Mr. Scherer) our BBB complaint levels dropped from a few a month to zero.

    Prior to removing the offer, we had to hire extra customer support just to deal with an influx of consumer issues related to Video Professor.

  10. We’ve now heard from three prominent industry players who have been filtered for dissenting. We’ll be taking our unheard cases to ClickZ. It would appear this signature piece is only allowing it’s subject to have the last word. Shame. Journalism indeed.

  11. Did you guys see the article where they said that this guy was going to sue his own customers because they were suing him? He finally dropped it but this stuff is a total scam.

    His billing practices are horrible and are borderline fraudulent.

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