The Dark Side of SLP Business: Ethical Gray Areas with Maggie Patterson

Brianna Miluk:
Hello, hello, and welcome to The Feeding Pod. This is your host, I'm Bri, Brianna Miluk, and I am a speech language pathologist and certified lactation counselor. I specialize in infant and medically complex feeding and primarily see patients in the home health setting, although I do have some that I see an outpatient or via tele practice.

I'm also an instructor at the university level and a PhD student studying communication and information sciences. I have a huge passion for evidence-based practice and supporting information literacy in speech, language, hearing, feeding, swallowing sciences, specifically as it pertains to social media and translational research.

This podcast is meant to share anything and everything related to being a pediatric feeding SLP, feeding therapist, with sprinkling in a little bit about working in academia, being a PhD student, and how to access, appraise, and implement research into clinical practice. 

Some episodes may contain guests, and I'm already looking forward to some of those coming up, while others might just be me rambling about something that's been on my mind. Regardless, my goal with this podcast is that you walk away not just with newfound knowledge, but with the inspiration to think critically and not be afraid of research. So, without further ado, let's get into today's episode.

Hello. Welcome back to The Feeding Pod. Today's a special episode and I'm really excited because if you've followed me for any amount of time, then, you know, I've shared episodes from the Duped podcast. So The Dark Side of Online [Business]. And I just decided to take a second. I was like, I'm just going to reach out and see if I can get somebody to come represent the podcast for me.

And I was able to get in touch with Maggie Patterson. And I'm so, so excited to have you here. I am so excited. I briefly before we got on today, Maggie and I were talking about how, like, I was like, did you ever expect, you know, a speech language pathologist to ask you about like the, the dark side of online marketing and business and what that's like, she was like, you know, at this point, I'm not really that surprised.

And the reason. Part of the reason that is and part of the reason I want Maggie to come talk to all of us is because business is everywhere and these types of strategies are used. It's not discipline specific. And so as speech language pathologists, as those of us that are online looking at other SLPs, they're selling courses, they're selling certifications.

There's y'all y'all know how I feel about that. And so they're selling all of these things. And these dark marketing strategies also play a role in our field. And so I'm really excited for Maggie to kind of give us a little bit about the ins and outs of it, but I highly encourage you all. And I'm going to say it throughout to go to the podcast, listen to the episodes to really get more in depth information about what we're going to talk about today.

So before we dive into it, Maggie, could you just give a quick little introduction about yourself, the work that you do and why you all decided to create this podcast. 

Maggie Patterson: Yeah, that was a really, that's a really great question. Why did we create this podcast? But a little bit about me I am a business consultant. I own a agency that works with tech companies. I've been in the online world for about 10 years, and I've had my own business for over 18 years at this point. So I, you know, as I say, I've been around the block and my background is in communications and marketing. So when I see a lot of these things in action, And knowing that I, I'm working very actively with tech companies and I see what they're doing and then I see what's happening online.

I'm like, Oh, wow, this is just not the way it should be. And also I have a really unique understanding because of my communications background in terms of how these tactics are manipulating us and me and my podcast partner. Michelle Mazur are both communications professionals. So we really take that lens from a, yes, these are our experiences, but also like from a theoretical, from a, like, why does this work?

And why it, why are we falling for this? And so through my work, working with online business owners over the years because I do do some mentoring through masterminds and other programs. I really discovered that there was just like this really seedy side of online business. And we tend to think of online business as being this very small thing, but the nature of business now is it is all very much online.

So it seeps into all these pockets. And I really knew because of my experiences and Michelle's experiences, we had an opportunity to do some consumer awareness. And I love nothing more with the Duped podcast when someone sends us a message and says, I didn't buy something. Or I was able to prevent myself from doing that.

And that's exactly why we do the podcast, because it's really hard to get people to shift how they do tactics in their business, like how they might be talking about testimonials or the promises they might be making to the audience. But what we can do at a very grassroots level is impact individual consumers and help educate them so they are making informed decisions and really engaging their critical thinking before they believe the thing they see on Instagram, an ad gets them, they sign up for an SLP certification that's not worth anything. 

Brianna Miluk: Yeah. I, I love that. And I know you don't know this about me, but I'm actually getting my PhD in communication and information sciences because I am so interested in that side of stuff.

And, you know, the, the theoretical premise and the- those parts, the science that literally goes behind communicating and how marketing happens, how advertising happens and, and how the sharing of misinformation and pseudoscience ultimately happens as well. And so I think it's so interesting and I feel like that's probably why so much of what you and Dr. Mazur talk about is because I'm like, yes, this, this makes sense. And I love to know the why behind something and it gives me a little bit of that. It's like, Oh, wait, why did that happen? So I appreciate all, all of the content that both of you put out on the podcast as well. And I already look forward to, to the next season of it. If there will be another one. 

Maggie Patterson: Oh, it's coming very soon. We're working on it. 

Brianna Miluk: Wonderful. Wonderful. I'm so excited for that. Okay, let's kind of just go ahead and dive into some of these topics. So I want to highlight a couple parallels of topics that really stood out to me when I was listening through your podcast and that, that kind of draw parallels into the field of speech language pathology.

So one of the first ones is when you talked about, and this is, Ooh, this is a big topic that I like to talk about as well. And I've done a couple of presentations on, Ethical Business and Name Only. That was the title of the podcast. And really talking about how like ethical is a buzzword. Okay. And, and saying that you run an ethical business is a buzzword. So can you just give a brief kind of understanding of that or, or just, you know, give us the brief synopsis of like, why ethical in what you mean by ethical businesses in name only. And then I have a couple of examples for what that sort of looks like in the SLP field.

Maggie Patterson: So I think what's really interesting is the way the online business world has come to be is we've reached a point of- I'm not going to say maturity, but there's more and more people who have been around long enough. They are savvy enough. They're doing enough critical thinking that they've started to spot that maybe this tactic, maybe this scarcity or this income claim or something else is not quite sitting right with them.

So what has happened as the market's kind of maturing is the tactics that were always very easily used to manipulate people they're becoming people are pushing back against them. So what we have is people claiming they are ethical as a way to kind of wash over, you know, just kind of gloss over those tactics and say, No, no, no, I'm different.

And what we really see is we have people saying like, well, I'm an ethical marketer, but the problem with that is what is what does ethical mean? Now if you are in a field where you have a, you know, a college, you have certain ethical principles, you know, I always use lawyers as an example. They have certain things they have to do so they are not disbarred. And that's very common in a lot of professional worlds. It's not a thing in the online business world. There is no single ethical standard. So if you're, you and I are having a conversation and you're trying to sell something to me and you say, Oh, well, I'm ethical. Like, what does that mean?

Because ethics are very individual and it might be ethical for me to execute a certain tactic. I mean, it's not illegal, but that doesn't mean it's actually ethical. So we have to be really mindful when someone says, Hey, I'm ethical to dig through as like, what are your ethics? How is that showing up in your business?

And not just taking that as face value, because it really truly is a buzzword designed for us to kind of disengage our critical thinking to trust that person. And really what we see is people claiming this that are incredibly, from my point of view, unethical. They're executing marketing tactics and sales tactics, and even how they're treating people within the offers they have and their clients, very poorly.

And that to me is highly unethical, but they are baiting and switching us by saying they're ethical so that we just, we trust them and we go ahead and we invest money with them. 

Brianna Miluk: Yeah, absolutely. And I think for, you know, the field of speech language pathology, one is, is ethical business. Another buzzword is evidence-based practice.

So a lot of companies will claim to be evidence based and their actions do not actually show that what they're doing is evidence based. And so also recognizing that some of these terms, while we have like a scope of ethics, or excuse me, we have a code of ethics, scope of practice. We have a code of ethics that tells us kind of like the bare minimum, what we should be doing.

Ethics is not black and white. And when you step outside of that bare minimum, it's like, what do you do now? And in speech language pathology, we have tons of. online businesses, but ASHA's not really telling us what to do in terms of marketing ethically, in terms of advertising ethically, or using certain types of, I mean, really psychological you know, strategies to change people's way of thinking.

So one thing that I noticed a lot is the use of scarcity. I know you mentioned that briefly. So scarcity is this like, fake sense that, like, if you don't do something now, or like, if you don't, you know, buy it at this point, it'll never happen again, or it only happens sometimes, and in speech language pathology, what I see is, like, there will be certain memberships, or- For the most part, I feel like it's in the membership space where there will be a membership and it's like you have one week to join.

And if you don't join during this one week, you can't be in this membership until we launch our one-week thing again. And a lot of times there's like a ton of marketing, a ton of testimonials, a ton of these like advertisements beforehand that lead up to it to tell you, Hey, from this date to this date.

If you don't sign up, like this is what you're going to be missing out on. And they, they give you this sense of scarcity, like. You have to enroll now. Because if you don't, you can't get in the membership. And, like, you may never have a chance to. They create this fake sense of it. Like, you will. You'll have another chance to.

And if it doesn't work for you right now, that's okay. And also, like, maybe being in that membership at all doesn't matter. You know? Maybe you don't have to be in it. But they create this, like, fake sense that you have to be in there. Or the other one that I see with scarcity is the, like, early bird pricing.

Maggie Patterson: Yeah. 

Brianna Miluk: If you buy this course now, you know, you can get this type of pricing with these benefits with like this additional handout or this additional like live call or whatever. And every week that passes by, the price goes up and you lose one of those like bonuses. So slowly over time. And so again, it's creating that scarcity of like, you don't want to be left out.

Maggie Patterson: Yeah. And I love that you brought up scarcity because that is one of Dr. Cialdini's six principles of persuasion. And what's really interesting about scarcity is, as humans, we very much need that push to take action, right? So there is really, you know, what we could consider ethical scarcity, like real, true, natural scarcity.

Great example. I have a program right now. It is a yearlong cohort. It starts on October 2nd. Well, I can't enroll you on October 7th because that's not how it's going to work because it is a closed system. But I'm not doing that as a way to create drama. I'm like, if I'm talking to someone, I'm like, listen, there'll be another round if you're not ready.

That is the way to really look at it from that perspective. So it's, you have to be like, is this true scarcity? Like, is there a true urgency here or is it being manufactured? And is it artificial? Is a way to move people along and really things like early bird pricing with reducing benefits. That really and truly is fake scarcity. They, they use that as a tactic to force a decision, not because it's actually truly needed. 

Brianna Miluk: Yep. Yep. Yeah. Like, or I feel like with the membership one, that's one that really gets me where it's like, why do they have to only sign up during this tiny amount of time? If it's something that's just an ongoing, like, it's just like an evergreen business.

Like, sure. If it's like, Hey, I'm launching this, you know, I have this course and there are only 25 spots. Cause that's all that I can manage on zoom, you know, like whatever that is, that's, that's real, right? Like there are 25 spots and when they're filled, they're filled. And that's just how it's going to be.

But that fake scarcity of it is yeah, definitely, definitely frustrating. So. I think, you know, this is just one example of, of ethical marketing. Like I said, listen to the episode, you'll learn so much more about these different types of marketing tactics that again, some people may feel that they are ethical in doing that they, they think it's okay. Cause ethical is not black and white, but I encourage everyone to always spend your values. And so you realize like, what are you okay with ethically? And then recognize some of those patterns in businesses that, that you want to invest in. 

Maggie Patterson: And just, you know, to kind of add to that, one of the things you touched on briefly was scope of practice. So for each of us as a practitioner in our field, in your case, speech language pathologists, what is within our scope of practice? So if you are a speech language pathologist with a very specific set of experience is staying within your scope of practice, not trying to serve people who are not truly qualified or skilled to serve.

And what tends to happen is, you know, my background is in marketing, communications and business. Well, what if I all of a sudden decided I was going to be a mindset coach? I would be really out of my scope of practice. So understanding for each of us and with anyone we want to do business with, you know, are they really and truly operating their scope of practice? What are their skills, experience, and everything else? Because we have a lot of people that are very much out of their lanes. And I think for each of us as professionals, we really need to be not chasing the money, really being like, no, I am, I'm going to do harm. Or there is, I'm putting my clients in jeopardy if I decide to take this on.

Brianna Miluk: Yeah, I think that's a good point too because not every, I feel like people talk about like putting a patient in harm when you're just direct one on one with a patient, but who you learn from, where you take information from that informs your practice to then share with the patient can also cause harm.

And so like you being the person that's sharing that information, you could also indirectly cause harm because somebody is trusting your information, trusting what you're putting out, especially if you're making those big claims of like evidence based and, you know, research backed, but really it's like, well, what research did you pull from?

Cause if it was just like the anecdote or like your clinical experience, it wasn't based on empirical data. I don't really care as much about your research backing versus someone else's. And I think, again, that goes into the not just scope of practice, because ASHA does tell us we should be implementing evidence-based practice, but also the ethics of like, how do you weigh, weigh that out?

Maggie Patterson: Yeah, and a really, really simple example to really kind of bring that together for people is, if you're, let's say you're working with families, I'll just use this example because it's probably one of the more common ones. If you are using marketing tactics that really push people into, you know, engaging your services, when they financially can't afford it, or you're putting them in jeopardy, like, you can be crossing the line into a financial abuse if you're using the wrong marketing and sales tactics.

And I truly believe with speech language pathologists, people don't get into this because they want to be shady. But if you learn that from a mentor, that that's the way to, you know, grow your practice you're going to get into some slippery slopes and potentially be doing more harm than good for your clients, and nobody wants to be doing that, but it's really easy to get turned around and start doing things that you probably wouldn't do otherwise if you didn't have someone in your ear telling you that that was the way to do it.

Brianna Miluk: That's actually such a great example. I have, I've seen this in a couple different practices, but especially local where there is a very controversial procedure. So it is a tongue tie release being done with a lot of, a lot of kids unnecessarily. And one of the things that they will do is they charge for this very, very short, like two minute procedure- $800, $1,000, $1,500 and what I've seen them do is families go in desperate, they are on Medicaid and instead of sending them to an ENT, for example, who accepts Medicaid and will do it for medically necessary, like a medically necessary procedure, they send to a dentist who's like, well, you can get this medical credit card and you can pay through this medical credit card and then make payments to pay it off.

Because they convince the family that this is what's needed. And like, to me, so unethical, like you should be helping that family find alternatives that are affordable to them because there are and just because maybe that other provider doesn't agree with your recommendation to release the tongue type.

Well, that's a whole nother conversation. Maybe it wasn't actually necessary to begin with. And that, you know, goes into a whole nother thing, but the business practice of that, or like the only way to make money in this field is if you do cash pay. It's like, well, that's leaving out a very vulnerable population that needs support and needs help.

And so how can we actually navigate that? So that sure, maybe we do take on some cash pay clients, but by just leaving out Medicaid patients, like to me, and that's an ethical thing that I have, I could never do that. I could never only, you know, only accept cash pay. 

Maggie Patterson: And a really, really important distinction here is- If you're in a helping profession, you start taking guidance and business advice from people who don't understand the dynamics of being in a helping profession, it can get very messy because something that may be okay for me to do as a business person and a marketer in a helping profession becomes very predatory.

So you have to be very, very particular about where you are getting guidance, and if you are getting guidance from people who know nothing about your scope or nothing about your field, you can absolutely get into some trouble. 

Brianna Miluk: Yeah, and I think, you know, a lot of that goes back to starting with what are your values, what are your ethical limitations, and then that way, if you do seek help, like, okay, I do need a little bit of business help because I don't understand XYZ or I need some support, but you know your values so that when they say something from a business lens, you can say, thank you, but that's not going to work.

So how can we adjust? How can we modify and take that information and change it? To what works for your values. So, okay let's move on to the next topic. So the next one is the culty side of online business. Side note when you all mentioned the book cultish my, my sister is actually friends with Amanda Montell from when she used to *talking at the same time* 

Maggie Patterson: Oh that's amazing.

Brianna Miluk: Right?! And I was like listening to the episode and I was like, wait, I read that book because that was my sister's friend from LA. And like oh my goodness. And she also wrote the book called Word Slut. If you haven't read that one, it's also fabulous. But yeah, I was like, Oh my gosh, so a cultish tactics. So cultish tactics that are used in business.

So could you kind of provide an overview of what that means? Because I think the word cult immediately people kind of go to like the documentary on the cult that, you know, everybody was living on the farm together. And like, you know, you go into that, but there's also like, there's a lot of manipulation that happens in cults and those types of things can present themselves in online business. So could you give us a quick overview? 

Maggie Patterson: Yes, so when you hear, like, I love that you brought up when you hear cult, you think of people like wearing all white, living in a secluded thing. And in there's a Netflix series. I don't know if you've seen it, that it's How to Become a Cult Leader and there's actually a line from Amanda Montell in there that where she is talking about how we are in the golden age of cults because like in the 70s, it was around social change in this it's about the algorithm. These tactics are widespread because we have the algorithm serving them up to us on the regular. So what you might not think is a traditional cult, there may be those tactics bleeding in, and I always refer to Dr. Steven Hassan's BITE model, and BITE stands for behavior, information, thought, and emotional, and it's about course of control.

So you may not have a super extreme example, but I will give you like a very general business example. When you have someone telling you, well don't tell your husband about this, don't tell your family member about this, they don't understand. They're trying to control your thoughts, the information and everything else. If you've ever been to what they call a large group awareness training, the room is really, really cold.

They're controlling the environment, they're, they're not giving the agenda, they're controlling the environment around you. Those are cultish tactics. So you may not be in a traditional cult, but culty things show up throughout our lives, sometimes in corporate, sometimes in groups we're involved in and it- It very easily can cross the line into something that is coercive and the most important thing to remember is we all as humans, we very much want to be like, oh, that would never happen to me.

The reality is, is we are all incredibly vulnerable to these tactics. Because we are human and recognizing them getting familiar with them and really and truly admitting that you are indeed vulnerable is one of the best ways to protect yourself because you've got a healthy dose of skepticism, and you're not just taking things at face value.

So as much as you might be like, well, that seems extreme. It's not extreme once you really start to look at it. That- these little tiny examples show up all the time. And unfortunately, in the online business circles, we both run in these things do show up more often than not. And it leads to financial abuse.

It leads to a lot of emotional issues. A lot of people are very, very preyed upon and some very poor outcomes happen. And I unfortunately hear about them frequently, like stories like, I was depressed, I spent $15,000, I didn't tell my husband. Then they encouraged me to drain my retirement savings.

Like it's very easy to get kind of trapped in this loop. So admitting you are vulnerable is really part of it, is really the most important part to make sure that you are not going to fall for those tactics. 

Brianna Miluk: I think it's such a good point, too, because admitting vulnerability doesn't mean that we're saying that, you know, you aren't educated or that you don't have information literacy skills or you don't have a good support system.

Like, it's not saying that because many people that fall for cultish tactics are highly educated, are very, like well-versed in, in different, you know, topics of interest, you know, depending on what it is. But. But they can still fall for it and it's because they are psychologically motivated and they're manipulative to get you to think and feel and do a certain way.

So one thing that I see in the speech language pathology field and one that I talk out on a lot because it really gets me upset is like fear mongering. So convincing people that like I, one specifically in the SLP field that happens a lot is like, if your child uses a sippy cup, they will have speech issues, they'll have feeding issues, they'll have oral facial issues, like all of these types of things.

And we have no data to support that. But what they do is they scare you and then at the very end, they're like, but here's a link to my storefront with a straw cup, or here's a code so you can buy this cup that I'm affiliated with. And they went through all these scare tactics first. So that's one. The other thing is in terms of cultish tactics is shaming people.

Like if you don't take this course, or you don't do this mentoring, you won't be a well-trained therapist and you like, you have to do this or you won't. But then what they do is you do the course, but they only give you a little bit and they're like, well, if you really want to be trained, you have to now buy this one.

And then if you really, really want to, you got to buy this one. And none of them ever give you a full picture of information and by the time you're done with it, you've spent thousands of dollars, and a lot of times you still are like, I still don't really have a picture of what this training was about.

Maggie Patterson: Yeah, and I think that if you actually look at more, you know, for lack of a better term, brand name cults, that's the exact same thing that happens. There's an escalating commitment in terms of your investment in leader, in terms of the money you spend, the time you spend, your commitment to the group. And we do see that happening with people who are very charismatic in the business sphere, unfortunately, and I'm on a personal mission to do what I can to stop it.

Brianna Miluk: No, I think that's a, like, if we think about, you know, brand name cults, it's like, not everybody was letting the cult leader sleep with their wife immediately. Like, I feel like that's a big one, right? Like, that's not the part that happens first. 

Maggie Patterson: No, and they break you down over time. I mean, it's no different than any other abusive relationship. When you start, I'll use a domestic violence kind of abusive relationship example, because it's more tangible for people. When you start dating someone, they're not horrible to you right out of the gate.

And it's the same thing with someone who is executing any sort of coercive control over you, like, you tend to, and there's a quote from the docu series The Vow, you don't join, you don't join a cult, you join something good. Everyone thinks they're doing the right thing, they're doing the right thing for their child, for their family, for their personal development, and then what happens? Over time, they break you down and then that's when things really take a turn. 

Brianna Miluk: And they, they give you this feeling of being trapped where once you've invested and that's a whole nother psychological thing. And I've talked about this on my page and on my podcast before, but like sunk cost fallacy, that's when things like that happen.

You're like, wait, I've already spent all this time and money and energy learning about this thing and believing in this thing. How am I supposed to just walk away and make you feel like? If you do walk away, like, well, you can't come back. Like, don't, you know, don't ever ask for help. Don't ever, like, nothing.

And truly, if, if the people you're interacting with will not support you having a change of mind, having a change of passion or what, you know, belief, like, you probably don't want those people in your life anyway. Um- 

Maggie Patterson: Absolutely not. 

Brianna Miluk: Yeah. But cultish tactics make you feel like you can't leave. Like, well, I, I have created my whole identity around this. How can I change? And you can please know you can, you can say, wait, I think maybe I was a little manipulated here and you can walk away, but I understand that it is very, very difficult. 

Maggie Patterson: And just, this is something I do always like to share here, please do not, if this is something you have made a bad investment, you have been, for lack of a better term, duped, because that's what the name of the podcast is, there is no shame in that, you are an exquisite company, I have personally made some downright terrible investments and absolutely been manipulated, it happens to the best of us, and don't let the shame be the thing that keeps you trapped in that. 

Brianna Miluk: Yeah, because the shame is part of it. They want you to feel shame. That's purposeful. They want to get you in a position where you feel shame if you were to change or walk away. That's on purpose and it's okay. I like, I, it's one of the reasons I like Brene Brown's work because I'm like, get comfortable with feeling shame and feeling those uncomfortable emotions.

It's okay. You know, it is just another emotion that we have. And does it feel good? No, I don't like it. But we- It's, it's way better to sit in it and move past it than continue to sit in it over a long period of time because then it becomes even harder to change. 

Maggie Patterson: Absolutely. 

Brianna Miluk: So, okay, next thing I want to talk about shifting subjects a little bit is the episode you did on the very tired tropes and specifically sales tropes. Because I feel like that's one that has a lot more parallels in my field. And so could you explain what you mean by tropes and sales tropes specifically? 

Maggie Patterson: So within the sales realm of online business, and those could be, they could be selling many different things. Might be coaching, might be programs, but there is very much a set of standardized tactics that have evolved over time.

And what we see is we are taught. That these are things you have to do to be successful, and we see them modeled all the time. And what I see a lot of, and I'm sure you've spotted this, is when you have people that are not sales experts, that didn't, don't have sales experience. You know, your average speech language pathologist is not going to be someone who's like, Ooh, I want to be a speech language pathologist because I want to market and sell. So you convince yourself that you're not actually good at it. And then- 

Brianna Miluk: The thing I like least about what I do is like, I'm like, Oh yeah, I gotta, I gotta let people know I got a podcast episode coming out. Like it's the worst. 

Maggie Patterson: Yeah. So when it comes to sales, what I see a lot of is people convince themselves that you're not good at sales when sales is really just a conversation.

I think that's the thing you have to remember. But then we, we go and we see these things modeled and then we're taught them. So things like, don't put the price on your sales page. Well, from my point of view, with my set of ethics and values, you're now infantilizing your potential client. And the idea that you're not putting prices on the sales page is very much about manipulating them because you want to get them on the phone or in person or whatever the case is. Those posts, you know, those post it note walls, that's another thing. 

Brianna Miluk: Oh yeah. 

Maggie Patterson: I'm enrolling a program and I've got behind me, you know, on my closet doors, all the names of the people is, it's designed to create fear of missing out. We want to create that FOMO. The idea that you have to invest in your business at a certain level or you're not serious that one erks me because I am a very serious business owner, but I'm not making these investments. And they manipulate that in a lot of different ways. They tell us their sad stories. The, I was scared to invest in, you know, but now here's how my business is now. They use a lot of aspirational things and it's very, very manipulative. And then there's a whole pile of things that happen around payment plans. Like, I saw a program yesterday. It's a six-month program and it has 13 payments. That doesn't make sense. 

Brianna Miluk: Yeah. 

Maggie Patterson: But it's designed to create a bite sized payment. So if I'm on the client end, I'm now like, well, it's only $299 a month now. It's now in reach, but I'm going to be paying for that for months past when the experience is done. And if I'm a person learning that sales tactic, you're thinking, oh, I'm making it more accessible when really sometimes making it more accessible, and I'm totally doing air quotes, is actually just manipulating people so that you can get the sale.

And I feel like so many of these sales tropes in particular, they are designed to keep all the power for you as the person doing the selling, and with zero understanding of the impact or any care for your potential client. You are there to extract money from them, and using these tactics, it's icky, it's gross, and I do not recommend them.

Brianna Miluk: Yeah, absolutely. I completely agree. I have seen so many where they don't list the price. right away, or it's not obvious on the website. Like it's not one of the first couple things you see. Or, you know, maybe they share information about the course. And then when you go to the checkout page, there's like three more things you go through that really convinces you why you need it.

Or do you want to upgrade to this also? Or what about that? And then it shows you the price or you don't get the price until you fill out the interest form. That's another one that like, Fill out the form. Like, I don't know. We want to even see if you're like, a candidate for this. Like, we don't even know if you, you qualify to be part of this. And a lot of times, every single person that fills out the form is gonna qualify. They just want you to feel... Like you've been chosen, you know. 

Maggie Patterson: Yes. They're creating a sense of exclusivity and who doesn't want to feel like they're special. 

Brianna Miluk: Yes, exactly. The other thing that I see is like like if, if you were a serious, like you kind of said a serious business owner, if you are a serious therapist or like, you know, money shouldn't matter, you should invest at all costs because like, this is what will help you become XYZ.

And we're going to talk about certifications here in a little bit, but I feel like this kind of goes into that a little bit in the SLP field as like a sales trope a little bit is like, well, if you get this, you get this certification and that's why you should invest because like, oh, there's this thing, but we'll talk about that later.

The other thing is too, so like I use payment plans for some of the things that, that I offer. And I like go back and forth on it all the time. Like since listening to your podcast episode, I go back and forth. And the one thing that for me, and this is a perfect example of like your ethics and your values, right?

So the one thing for me is I list on my page. On like you go through, you see the prices and then immediately says, if you are in, you need financial assistance, email me. And I have never not given someone a different payment method, a different pricing that works for them and their situation. And that to me is how I say, okay, here's a couple options.

Cause I get it. And like, I also, I like if a payment plan, like if I can do that and not cash out a lump sum at once, I choose that. I do that for my, my tickets at the Peace Center where we have the Broadway shows. I'm like, I can do it over six months instead. Sure. Cool. I'll do that instead. But if the difference for me and the way that I make it work is like, it's not a payment plan or bust. Like, you're allowed to communicate with me other things that will make this work for you and your specific situation. 

Maggie Patterson: And that's taking, that's creating a win win for both of you. And that is, you know, that's not the scenario that, that troubles me. Especially, you're dealing with an end consumer. People have like real budget constraints they have, and they're, you know, they're often dealing with their children. So like, they want to get these services. That makes perfect sense to me, and that is something where you are working with the client and you are making it accessible. You're not creating a situation to be like, the person who truly cannot afford some business program they do not need, I'm now creating a no brainer price and trying to move them along. That, that is important. 

Brianna Miluk: And manipulating them into like... you should invest in this. Like, what do you, it is affordable. Find a way like, or, you know, people be like, it's basically the cost of like a Starbucks a week. Like, or it's the cost of a, you know, what, and they kind of make it seem like so much less, but for some people it, it can be a lot.

And I think the other thing is too the, the types of courses that I sell to professionals oftentimes it is the organization or the business they work for that's paying for it. So, you know, it's a little bit different in like the continuing ed space. But again, it goes back to the ethics behind it. And like, why am I doing the payment plan?

Is it just so that I can get more people in and it's a one-sided thing? Or like, do I have other options and other alternatives and, and ways for people to gain access too? So. 

Maggie Patterson: Yeah. 

Brianna Miluk: But yeah, I, I, it is something I go back and forth on still all the time. And I've, I've taken out some of my like longer-term ones because I'm like, okay, this is just.

You know, if you, if you have if you're the course is a month long, you don't need to be making, you know, payments for six months. Like let's do a three-month type of thing. So it's a little bit better, but again, still, still more equitable for everyone. Okay, moving to the next one. So seriously shady sales practices.

This was another one where it was talking about things like word salad, hiding prices. We kind of already talked about hiding prices, but what is meant by like word salad around sales? 

Maggie Patterson: So this is, we see word salad show up pretty much everywhere, but it's when there's just a lot of big words that don't actually make sense, but it's designed to make you think this person has some secret, they're super knowledgeable, and what it does is it just confuses us.

We feel like, well, they must be smart. I'm not very smart. I should trust them. And that might be sometimes that might show up as a professional using their superior, you know, professional knowledge to make us think they're the smartest. Therefore, we must trust them. Or it might be someone who's trying to sell us business coaching and is throwing around words like certification and evidence based and, you know, mindset and, you know, they just start to string these things together.

And, you know, a lot of big words, a lot of words that don't seem to go together. And we see a lot in the online business world, like people using like, take a quantum leap to your best life in the 17th portal. Like, you're like, what is that? And. 

Brianna Miluk: What is a quantum leap? 

Maggie Patterson: Well, the quantum, yeah, the quantum leap was a show back in the 90s, right? Like, from my perspective, but there's very much these kind of words that are just, they work their way into the vernacular and they don't actually mean anything. 

Brianna Miluk: We see that too in like pseudoscience spaces, so like scientific jargon, where they just throw big words that sound scientific, but they don't actually make sense, or maybe it makes sense grammatically. But it doesn't actually make sense to the scientific community. Like. 

Maggie Patterson: And this is why there's a field of study. Like, there's an entire science communications is a discipline. 

Brianna Miluk: Yep. 

Maggie Patterson: And it's designed to take the gobbledygook and make it like, so the average person could do that. That's what a lot of public, we saw this around COVID, right? You know, public health agencies trying to communicate this in a way that is not creating hysteria and people understand it at like the lay person level. And. We, we, people do this in the reverse, right? They just want you to think that they're super smart and they've got the secret. So they use these word salads.

And you see this, if you ever see footage of a cult, like a true, like, charismatic cult leader and, you know, kind of the brand name cults, you will absolutely hear them using word salad. You're like, what are they even talking about? And if you're ever having the reaction, whether this be a professional or someone you want to hire, that you're like- This is over my head, that's a red flag, at least at the very minimum a yellow flag, maybe they're just a bad communicator, but nine times out of ten it's not that they're a bad communicator, it's that there's something going on there that should give you some pause.

Brianna Miluk: Yeah, I agree because I feel like if you are able to actually break it down. To where somebody can understand it at the layman's terms that shows a lot higher level of understanding of the information than someone that's just spewing it out, you know, as is or with those made up words. And I think the other thing that I see with like word salad on sales pages is if you go to like a web page that's trying to sell a course.

It's like page after page after scrolling after scrolling after scrolling and it's like story and this and that and like. It takes you like 10 minutes to get to the bottom of the page that even tells you like how much the course is or, you know, what the, what the real offer actually is. And then it's like, Oh, here's the offer.

But, and like the, the, they'll do like, so they do the hiding prices, but also do like, this is worth this much, this is worth this much, this is worth this much, but you get it for this price. And like, also show this idea of like, And it's a lot of times like arbitrary things. Like I'm like, why is that thing worth this amount of money? Like says who? 

Maggie Patterson: And I think one thing for everybody to just remember in marketing and sales, like exhaustion and fatigue as a strategy is designed to wear you down. It's just like how Old Navy keeps sending you an email when there's a sale three times a day. It's designed to wear you down. And that's, I mean, that's, it, it is a proven sales tactic, but that doesn't make it a good one.

Brianna Miluk: Yeah, it works, but that doesn't mean it's okay to use. Yeah, that's that, that like cognitive overload of just like so much information, so much stuff. And then you're, yeah, you're more exhausted. You're like, fine, just like, where's the, where's the checkout? I'll just, I'll just go. Okay. So next thing is certifications. So, you know, what is meant by certifications, and I'll kind of give an example in the SLP field, but first, you know, what is meant by certifications, especially in the online space? 

Maggie Patterson: So that's a great question. So you, as speech language pathologists, have actual certifications, but what has happened is, as the market has matured, as it has, you know, been around for longer, what we're seeing is people very much creating certifications based on their body of work and I'm like, gonna hey, I'm going to certify you in my duped method for spotting you know, course of control in online business.

Like they're totally making things up because you can charge more for it. So they're not actually necessarily certifications and you have to really be able to parse out, like, is this actually helping me as a professional? You know, will I get ROI from this? You know, is it valid? Is it recognized? You have to really ask those things versus just being like, oh, I'm going to take this thing.

You know, it'll sound good. If nobody knows what it is and nobody respects it and it's just Susie down the street creating a certification, it's not worth, it's not worth anything. So you have to be really thoughtful and I think it's much more important for people to get certifications through recognized bodies in their field that have a code of ethics, that have scope of practice, that have, you know, all kind of that scaffolding around it versus a random person who's created a certification as a cash grab.

Brianna Miluk: Yep, absolutely. Completely. And we, we see these in our field. There are there was one that was a certification that came out not too long ago that was like a medical speech language pathologist and they had put that like, oh, you can use the abbreviation MSLP at the end of like your, you know, credentials.

So when you put like, MS, SLP, you know, all of that, that they can put that in there. And it's like, nobody recognizes that. That's not a real certification. That's something that a business made up a for profit business at that, you know, made up, or we see like sensory certifications or, you know, all of these different ones out there. Now you can get a certificate to track the course you took for your continuing ed units. 

Maggie Patterson: Yes. 

Brianna Miluk: That's fine. That's fine to get a certificate to say, I took 14 hours of this course. But that is different than someone claiming you become certified in something. Cause it's just made up and there's no regulations around it. Like I could put whatever I want that you're certified in XYZ that I just made up. 

Maggie Patterson: Yeah, I mean, we could have this conversation. I could be like, you're now certified in the duped method. What the hell? No. 

Brianna Miluk: Yeah, it's like no, I just, I just, I just made that one up. 

Maggie Patterson: Yeah, literally you saw how I made it up right now.

Brianna Miluk: Yeah. Okay, so last thing I want to talk about and then I have a couple just rapid-fire questions for you. So, triggering and traumatic stories. This is another one that will come up, especially I see it in the SLP field to talking to professionals when we're really trying to like- Kind of not challenge them in their thinking of like, Hey, I'm going to share this information to you and I don't, I don't want you to like, you know, challenge me on what I'm sharing.

So starting with like a triggering or traumatic story to start or sharing those types of stories to kind of scare caregivers into thinking that you need this service or you need this thing. So how can kind of like that storytelling go wrong, trauma dumping, those sorts of things, how do they find themselves in these online business spaces?

Maggie Patterson: So we see a really wide range. And sometimes this is like, I was broke living on my sister's couch and then I invested in this thing and my life is all better. And sometimes, It's people sharing very deep, complicated, and frankly disturbing things as a way to create vulnerability, to create a bond with their audience, and ultimately to manipulate you into thinking, oh, my gosh, what a turnaround.

And this can be very, very subtle. It can be, you know, it can be a little tiny thing that gets dropped that grows over time, or it can be like the lead story in how they market and sell. And as a professional, we have to be very thoughtful about what we bring into our practice. So if I'm a speech language pathologist, because I had a speech language issue growing up, I would want to be very thoughtful about how, when, and why I share that.

Or if I have a client example, being very, very thoughtful about how you show that up, so you're not creating an experience that puts, you know, you do not want people to be having, you know, a fear response, a fawn response, a freeze response when they're interacting with your marketing, and that's what happens a lot.

I have CPTSD, and I often will see these things, and I like literally have a physical response, and is that intentional on the person sharing that story? Sometimes, yes, because they want me to disengage my critical thinking, and other times it's less it's less designed to manipulate you because it's just something they've been taught.

We've very got much to this place that we have to be very vulnerable online. And what we have is really a culture in business where we're weaponizing storytelling. The story becomes, you know, you have to use stories. You have to use it. And we really don't do it with a thought and intention and with respect for our audience.

And yes, you can share stories, but be very mindful and very thoughtful about what they are. And I do believe very strongly if you are going to share things that are potentially you know, challenging for people in your audience, at a minimum, be using a content warning. If it's even, you know, more complex, potentially a trigger warning and learning how to use those in your marketing. And I honestly, if you're constantly having to put CW before everything you put online, we need to have a conversation about what you're doing in your marketing. 

Brianna Miluk: Yeah, I think especially like you said, if it's something somewhat related, right? Like I had a language disorder and this is why I went, or I had a traumatic brain injury. And I like, so I became a speech language pathologist or this is my story. If it's something that has nothing to do with the topic to me, that's more of a red flag. Like if you're going to be talking about pediatric feeding and you all of a sudden bring in some traumatic story you have that has nothing to do with feeding a child or around pediatric feeding or the topic of speech language pathology.

To me, even if there's not always that intent, it's a little bit, it's a little manipulative. Because it's like, well, now I might not be as quick to question what you say because my emotions are high and my critical thinking is low. 

Maggie Patterson: Yeah! And I think, you know, I'm sure it's very natural for people in your field to have had some sort of personal experience, whether that be themselves, a family member there's reasons we choose the things we do.

And there's a huge difference between saying, hey, I had XYZ happen to me growing up. That's why I'm really passionate about the work I do. That's one thing. Whereas telling every little thing like this impacted me socially and I was this and I was that and like, you know, it caused like getting into- 

Brianna Miluk: Crying on the camera that's another one. Like starting to just like cry in front, like. Yeah. 

Maggie Patterson: And here's the thing. I am all like, you know, we've all got the whole range of human emotions, but we're also, we're running a business and we do need to understand that our, we don't have to share everything. We can have a personal and a private persona.

Like there are lots of things I do not share and I will never share in the context of my business, but if we're sitting having coffee and it comes up, I will 100 percent tell you because it is not something that needs to be in my business, right? So we have to be very um mindful of that.

And I think with the online world and we see how things get shared now, we see this constant crying on camera and everything else, like, the oversharing is really, really not healthy for you or your potential clients or anybody in your realm, really. 

Brianna Miluk: Absolutely agree. Okay, so let's finish with a couple rapid fire questions. These are meant to be like one word or very, very short response. So first one is what is your favorite book currently? I know favorite books can, can shift. So what have you been reading lately that that's been a good one? 

Maggie Patterson: Okay. My favorite book of the year is Toxic Positivity by Whitney Goodman. Everybody needs to read this and especially anyone who works with clients. 

Brianna Miluk: Awesome. Okay. What is something kind someone did for you recently? 

Maggie Patterson: Oh my goodness. So one of my friends, and it's actually been ongoing all year, she decided for my birthday, she was going to bring me flowers every month for a year. And that has been so joyful for both of us. 

Brianna Miluk: That's so special. I love that. Okay, last one. If you could hang out with any business leader, who would it be? And it could be for different reasons, but. 

Maggie Patterson: Yeah, it's not going to be a business leader. I just want us to hang out with Dr. Steven Hassan and talk to him about online business tactics and get his read on the cult situation.

Brianna Miluk: I love it. I love it. Okay. So in closing. Where can people find you? I'm going to make sure to link everything in the show notes and, you know, make sure everyone has access to where your podcast is. But where, where else can people find you?

Maggie Patterson: I hang out on Instagram as, @BSFreeBusiness. The duped podcast, which is and is on all major platforms. I also have another podcast called the BS Free Service Business. So if you want to talk about the tactics of building a business, that's there. And yeah, those are the main place. Oh, and my website, 

Brianna Miluk: Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Maggie. I appreciate you. This was incredible. And again, I cannot emphasize enough enough that this is such a small piece of what is in all of these episodes and so many more episodes that Duped has put out. So please go if any single piece resonated with you or you're like, Ooh, that makes me feel weird. Cause I feel like maybe, you know, I was manipulated by that, go listen to these podcasts episodes because it will give you so much more information on it, as well as solutions, what to look out for, how to make sure that you don't become victim to these things over and over and over again. So thank you so much, Maggie. I appreciate you and I look forward to continuing to follow along.

Maggie Patterson: Thank you for having me.

Brianna Miluk: Thanks for tuning in to The Feeding Pod this week. If you enjoyed today's episode, please don't hesitate to share this podcast with your friends and colleagues and leave us a five-star review wherever you're listening from. If you're interested in learning more about pediatric feeding and swallowing, be sure to follow Bri, me, on Instagram @PediatricFeedingSLP. Or check out my website where you can get access to more courses and information Again, thanks for being here and listening to my ramblings, and I hope you'll keep listening. Until next time, cheers.


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