Multi-Level Marketing and E-Commerce Online: Focus on Product or Recruitment?

Ever since I launched the E-Commerce Boot Camp and Digital Influencer Boot Camp, got to meet more folks in the multi-level marketing space who would like to learn how they can use digital marketing and e-commerce to be effective in conducting business online.

I think the usual pitch on a face-to-face basis are usually not taken well when conducted online – especially when done via social media. In fact, even the face-to-face ones do not work – if the person doing the pitch was more focused on selling and recruitment – rather than strive in building a relationship and show empathy to their prospective recruit or customer.

The last MLM I joined was to support a trusted friend, try the products he is selling (picked the one under the category of weight loss), rather than build my own network. At that time, I decided, if I like the product, then I wouldn’t mind promoting and selling that specific item for others to try out. Based on research, the product brand was also prominent so I guess it won’t hurt trying it out.

My product experience did not went well though, as the product taste didn’t suit me. Found myself stuck with monthly deliveries that I can’t consume anymore. Had to stop it after 3 months and it was a bit of a long process done via email to their representative office here.

Prior to this MLM, I had engaged in direct selling mostly under the category of beauty, lifestyle, and garment related products.

Looking at how MLM folks pitch online, I notice that the following is done by those in the health category segment:

Multi-level-marketing wordgraph1. Earning potential

The first minute of a discussion with an MLM person immediately zooms in to the earning potential. This includes how much money can you make from recruits, overriding commissions, rebates, and other benefits.

They will also show pictures of check payments received, cars and properties bought, travel and lifestyle change.

It would usually show also how their life has change from what they were before to what they are now.

2. Product quality

Most MLM sellers would assert how ground-breaking or how their product have save lives. Some will mention identities of persons who got saved or benefited from the product.

Although from my understanding, most of these would fall-under the category of “no approved therapeutic claims“.

Why it doesn’t work?

1. Unknown product and user

If it is your first time to learn about the product, especially anything that is meant for intake, we are wary as messing around with our health is something that most of us won’t take for granted.

Even if the seller claims using it and has benefited, if  you hardly know the person, it is likely you won’t believe it 100%. Unless you know the person before and has seen the transformation.

2. Unable to assert product knowledge or product segment authority

I think a product seller must really know a product so well and how it fares better to known brands available in the market.

If it is a multivitamin product, then why would I let go of my current brand? Unless you can show me a side-by-side comparison on why it is better.

One must observe on how prominent brands are marketing their product and should be able to provide an answer to the question, “why is your product better?” If a specific direct-to-the-point answer can’t be given, then it will be tough.

3. The motivation to make money online and offline.

Definitely, almost everyone wants to earn something extra. But if we can earn from a product or service we truly believe in. Have tried ourselves and it served us well, the natural inclination to refer it to others, and if better, earn from it, will come.

Is MLM sustainable online?

To build a sustainable MLM business online, I think sellers should note of the following:

1. Start with tried and tested credible products to build your identity on.

If you can go for household-recognized brands, the better. This way, you will be looking for customers who may have tried the product before and lost contact with their original supplier and wants to try it again.

Another way is to add established products to which your product item fits in for familiarity and “brand grouping” building.

2. Add new products to your inventory.

Invest in trying new products (and even the established competing products) and see if it will work well for you.

Always think like a consumer when trying out new products. Be critical especially if there are other established products in the market.

If this is too tedious, ask your customers on what have they been buying and consider their product preference to your inventory.

3. Invest in knowledge.

Allot a chunk of your time in watching or listening to health related programs, read relevant articles, and attend workshops.

The more you know, the more you will be able to communicate effectively with your customers. Furthermore, connect the dots on how your product or service can fulfill a need in this space.

3. Write and share stories.

With so many MLM sellers online, I think the ones who will stand out are good storytellers, not pitchers.

They will focus on stories that customers would like to learn and hear more – not necessarily about the product. This includes practical healthy living tips, sports activities, consumer warnings, new products or services, among others.

You can use your blog and social media presence in this regard and start exerting authority on the subject. Remember that you are what you sell. Be real and authentic when sharing your stories. Link to credible sources for further learning rather than assert a “know-all” imagery.

4. Provide a point of purchase.

Make it easy for interested buyers to get the products from you online. Have an independent web presence that can be simple but fully functional. Make sure the terms and conditions, refunds and returns, and data privacy policy are clearly asserted on your website.

Ensure as well to show product seals stating that your product is BFAD-registered and approved to be distributed in the Philippines.

Will you be the “the one”?

The more real you are, the more trustworthy you will become. Sooner or later, you don’t have to sell anymore as people will turn to you for practical advise and trust the products you will recommend for purchase (whether they can get it from you or elsewhere).

I still have to meet this kind of an MLM digital personality. Who knows? That could be you.

The 4th DigitalFilipino E-Commerce Summit roadshow continues with Cebu as the 2nd stop this March 23, 2013.

Janette Toral is an e-commerce advocate in the Philippines. She is the site owner of DigitalFilipino.com.

Janette Toral – who has written posts on DigitalFilipino: E-Commerce in the Philippines.


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