How To Start A Cult: A Guide To Launching Your Business Into Overdrive

Disclaimer: This post might offend you. But you are going to walk away armed with knowledge that less than 2% of the population can claim. And once you apply it to your own business, you will see immediate results. 

How Watching TV Might Actually Be A Good Thing

Normally, I wouldn’t condone wasting hours in front of the television. If you are trying to make a name for yourself – whether that is in business or not – you probably shouldn’t be vegging out in front of the TV killing brain cells, but just this week my wife and I watched a documentary that had me thinking a LOT about business, branding and loyalty. If you watch nothing else this week, watch this film:


Without boring you to death with a drawn out synopsis, let me just sum this movie up in one sentence.

“The Film Kumare Is A Documentary About How To Start A Cult.” 

You won’t typically find me frantically scribbling notes on a Friday night while trying to watch a film with my wife, but Kumare is just that kind of movie.

Why Would You Want To Learn How To Start A Cult?

Here is a list of skills that cult leaders posses, that you probably don’t (at least not at the cult leader status):

1. Ability to make people love them. I mean REALLY, REALLY love them.

2. Ability to persuade people to take action. Not just any action, but LIFE CHANGING ACTION.

3. Ability to cause people to “believe” (In other words, bypass logic).

For all those purists out there who are reading this list thinking “I would never want to be that way. I am honest and genuine and real.”

Allow me to now reveal who inspired me to create this list. People that I consider real, genuine cult leaders:

Anthony Robbins

Gary Vaynerchuk

Brandon Burchard

Starting A Cult Is Actually A Good Thing

Could you use these cult powers for evil? Yes.

(Here is a list of the top 10 cults to prove my point)

But you don’t HAVE to. You can use your cult powers that you are about to learn for good.

You can actually HELP people with your cult. You can TEACH people with your cult. You can MOVE people with your cult.

But first, you need to learn how to be a cult leader.

Cult Leader Training 101

Becoming a great cult leader requires these three easy steps:

Step 1: Become the Guru.

Step 2: Build “Favor Capital”.

Step 3: Show You Are The Guru.

Become The Guru

In business parlance we call this “establishing authority”, but the reality is that the super successful in business go beyond that. They set themselves up as “Gurus”.

So how can we achieve this status? How can we set ourselves as the “guru” to whoever we are trying to “recruit” (aka our target market)?

The answer lays within the meaning of the word itself.

To become a Guru, you have to become a teacher and in today’s world that means you have to start producing content.

Do you have to have a masters degree in internet marketing to become an SEO guru? NO WAY!

It is important to remember that you don’t have to be a guru to EVERYONE – just to someone and you will have started to become a cult leader.

Some of the best advice that I have ever heard regarding establishing authority came from a fellow copywriter Colin Theriot. Essentially he teaches (as a copywriting guru) that you only have to be one or two levels above a certain target market in order to establish authority and become a teacher. You could literally become a guru by the end of this week by going to your library, picking up 3 – 5 books and reading them all. This simple action will put you ahead of a LARGE amount of people that you could become a “guru” to.

If all you did was reconstruct the information that you learned from those 3 – 5 books and put them into a new bit of content – whether that was a blog post, a podcast, a video, a digital product, etc. etc. you would have elevated yourself to guru status.

If you sat down this evening and typed out a 5,000 brain dump, where you simply wrote everything that you knew about your industry and then printed that out and bound it into a book (or used a service like this one to print it out) and then simply handed that book to your prospects – you would immediately been seen as a guru. Hands down, no questions asked, people would think you were a genius.

In order to become the Guru, you need to just get out there and become the Guru already.

Build “Favor Capital”

One of my favorite books of all time is Influence: The Psychology Of Persuasion. In that book you will find the hidden key to cult leader success – something I like to call “Favor Capital”.

So much of what we do on a daily basis in business is geared towards financial measurements. We hear the term “ROI” being tossed around and it conditions us to measure only immediate ROI. If you look at 99% of the internet marketing campaigns being launched these days, they have excellent short term ROI – but less than stellar long term results.

That is simply because fewer and fewer people are establishing “Favor Capital”.

funny gifs
“Favor Capital” is based on the idea of reciprocation. If I do something nice for you, you will do something nice for me. There have been numerous studies (and even a term given to this idea) that prove that people are more likely to reciprocate back what you give first. The most interesting thing that they often will reciprocate much MORE than the original gift and will do so even if they don’t particularly like you.

Lucky for you as the future cult leader, human beings have been conditioned to respond to gift giving in kind.

So how do you use this to build your cult?

Give first. Give without the intention of receiving. Give often.

One of my favorite SEO bloggers of all time Alex Becker just published a post outlining his exact steps to how he reached his first 6 figure month (read the post and watch the video here). What does he claim the secret to his success is? Giving, giving and giving some more.

If you want to gain a TON of clients – regardless of what you do – start giving stuff away. Reports, consultations, information, referrals, etc. You might feel like you are working hard for free, but the reality is that you are making solid investments in “Favor Capital” and this type of capital doesn’t have diminishing returns. You can cash in on your “Favor Capital” reserves as often as you want for as long as you keep doing nice things for others.

Show You Are The Guru

This is different from becoming the Guru (otherwise known as establishing authority) this is about HOW to spread your newly found guru status so that you can build your cult exponentially. This has to do with the right way to SHOW that you are a true Guru.

In the film Kumare I immediately noticed something that I myself need to work on massively.

Kumare himself isn’t out recruiting people – his two assistants are.

Looking at many of the top Gurus – particularly in the internet and business world – you will find that the most successful cult leaders do very little talking of themselves. They spend the majority of their promotional time talking about the success stories that they have inspired.

For example, listen to Tony Robbins when he tries to sell you something. Go to his website, sign up for his free whatever and sit back and watch a master at work. The majority of his pitches are:

“I worked with this one person and know they are rich, happy and full of life.”


“I remember at this one seminar, this guy gave up alcohol cold turkey because he was so moved.”

Cult leaders don’t talk about themselves, they talk about their results and they framework those results in terms of real people. This is why testimonials are so powerful on landing pages, this is why association publicity (being interviewed by someone famous causing a celebrity trickle down to your reputation) is so powerful.

Human beings don’t like when one of our kind stands up and starts claiming authority or divinity or whatever – this isn’t to say that we don’t LIKE having someone who is in authority – we just don’t like it unchecked by our social ties.

This is why free works so well. Free allows us to establish testimonials, success stories etc. AND build “Favor Capital” at the same time.

Cult leaders know this and now you do too.

Go Forth And Multiply

Whether you are a small business trying to sell SEO or you are a Chiropractor looking to fill your schedule, you need to build your cult. Here are some action items that you can take right now to start working towards cult leader status:

1. Decide on your knowledge base.

If you already have a knowledge base (like you are a qualified Accountant) then you are ready for step 2. If you don’t have a knowledge base yet, go get one by heading to the library and reading as much as you can – but pick one and stick with it. Nobody follows a leader who goes in circles.

2. Create a freebie.

This doesn’t have to be a report. It could be a free consultation. It could be a free DVD – whatever. In this freebie you need to display your knowledge base.

3. Email people you know with your freebie.

If you literally don’t know a single person – then skip this step – otherwise sit down and start emailing.

4. Share your freebie with as many people as possible until you have a rolodex of “Favor Capital”.

Don’t just give stuff away without keeping track of who is taking it. You can call on these people later. Whether you are using an opt-in list or literally just writing down names and contact information on a sheet of paper – do it.

5. Cash in on your “Favor Capital” by asking for referrals.

This is how you can maximize your built up “Favor Capital” – instead of giving something away for free and then asking for something back directly, ask for referrals. You will end up with a MUCH higher ROI – why? Because people will send you referrals until they feel that they have paid off the debt from taking your free offer – and more importantly, if the person IS interested in your offerings, they won’t feel pressured by you which further solidifies your cult leader status.

6. Repeat!


10 Comments How To Start A Cult: A Guide To Launching Your Business Into Overdrive

  1. Simon James

    Excellent article Michael. I would just add that the other thing cult leaders do, is to find people who are wandering through life with no sense of purpose and then they give them a powerful vision to aspire to.

    1. admin

      That is very true – and the most powerful way to deliver that vision is to simply be transparent and truthful about your own life. You don’t have to make a million bucks for people to want to be you – sometimes just a higher skillset is enough.

  2. Adam Dukes

    Just an awesome article, Mike! I have read it 3 times now and am watching the movie now. I am also sending it out to my group as well.

  3. Donna Johansen

    I was hesitant when I read the title but this is a fantastic bit of writing Mike! You have given me solid examples and reasons why this is so. I love it!

    1. admin

      Thank you very much! The title was a bit tricky of me wasn’t it? 🙂

  4. Pingback: Emergency Cash Solution – Part 2 | Mike Shreeve

  5. Mormo Zine

    Wonderful article! I’ve always wanted to start a cult and now I know how! Also thanks for sending to Alex Becker! Great stuff!

Comments are closed.