The Good News About MLM is Also True

Yesterday a well known social media speaker and author made some comments about our industry that got my blood boiling. The gist of his comments was that there are many more network marketers who make false promises and engage in unethical behavior than good direct sellers and companies who live by a code of ethics and actually profit from the business. I considered posting the entire exchange I had with him here, but decided that it would probably get your blood boiling as much as it did mine, and would be counter-productive.

And the thing is, I know where the blanket statements this person was making come from. The fact of the matter is that there are people and companies in this industry that have made crazy statements that lead to disappointments. In fact, I address this in this post: Direct Sellers, Cut the Crap.

But I also think it’s irresponsible for people with a great amount of influence on the social web to be making sweeping generalizations about a good industry without data to back it up. (And honestly, you can find horror stories and charlatans in any industry. Just look at social media speakers and authors!)

This speaker has since deleted some of the more inflammatory things he posted, such as the statement:

If my book becomes popular with MLM people, I’m putting in a manufacturers recall and personally driving around to rip copies out of peoples hands

…and I’m glad. Because I believe a lot was said in the heat of the moment that was destructive. (NOTE: This was not deleted. I couldn’t find it before but it’s still there. The speaker did not delete anything.)

We as people who love this industry have to do more to get the good news out about direct selling. We need to tell our stories without hype. Yes, a lot of people make a few extra hundred dollars a month. And that’s a car payment. Or tuition for a child’s school program. That money makes a big difference in a lot of people’s lives.

No one should be saying that MLM is easy. In order to make money, you have to work. But there is a system in place that, when followed, can bring success. Not everyone will be successful in MLM, just as not everyone will be successful in social media. It takes work. But to classify an entire industry as being made up mostly of bad people is a lie, and one I won’t stand for.

There is so much that’s good about our companies. The charitable giving programs. The DSA Code of Ethics we comply with. The opportunity we provide to those willing to work. The recognition. The friendships. The hope.

Have we had black marks in our history? Yes. No one denies it. But I also refuse to let an entire industry be condemned for the unfortunate actions of a few.

Walk in my shoes for a while. Meet the incredible, ethical people I know in companies throughout this industry (I know a LOT of them.) Watch the tears streaming down faces when people, for the first time perhaps, have been recognized for their efforts. Live this life before you condemn. It may change your entire perspective.

Your thoughts?

12 Responses to The Good News About MLM is Also True
  1. Sabine Haller
    April 4, 2011 | 12:24 pm

    I have to say I have had many bad experiences with MLM myself. It is usually the american companies which are pushing on the UK market which are the worst. I am just calling it “US-talk” now. Overhyped, unsustainable and plain untrue.
    I am about to change the business model for my own company from markets to direct sales, although I am not ready for recruiting yet. Therefore I have been attending every direct sales party going in the last couple of months to see how it is done, what I like, what I don’t like etc. Not so good for my wallet, but bought many nice products and got some insights. The worst one I attended was for a slimming suit and some health drinks. It was the typical “get-rich-quick” presentation. 90% of the evening was dedicated to recruit more agents and show them that they can earn a car and buy a house within months of doing this – the leaflets were still in US$ !!! They couldn’t even be bothered to adjust them to UK£! The other 10% of the evening were about the products, but the sales guy couldn’t answer most of the questions regarding the products and just kept referring to brochures. YIKES. The typical MLM event that I hate.
    Overall I preferred the events by companies based in the UK (with the exception of the cooking utensils company), but I still felt the parties were more about future bookings and recruiting more sellers than about the products. I am hoping I wont be doing that in the future, as I find it unpleasant when I attend one of those parties.
    I love your site and I am getting lots of information from it. Hopefully I will be able to contribute as well, once I am set up and running properly and stop panicking, every time I think about all the work that will be involved…

    • Jennifer Fong
      April 4, 2011 | 1:32 pm

      Sabine, thanks for your comments, and I hope other direct sellers will read as well. I help to write party scripts for direct selling companies, and I will tell you that when we write them, while we include both a booking and a recruiting bid, the majority of the demo is just that…a product demo. It sounds like you got some reps that were less prepared than they should be. That’s unfortunate. One of the things that is challenging in direct selling is that it’s an independent salesforce. Companies can provide training, but they can’t force the salesforce to take advantage of it. It’s certainly a partnership between the company and the salesforce to get it right. We both have to do our part to make it work.

      Best of luck with your new business. Having run a company myself, I can guarantee you that it’s a lot of work! The rewards, however, are many. Cheers!

  2. Cheri Semple
    April 4, 2011 | 9:08 am

    I added my $.02 on this as well. First and foremost, we all have choices and a responsiblity to make good choices. If the choice doesn’t work out, we move on. I get tired of people saying MLM doesn’t work and they ended up broke because their mean upline suggested they purchase product, etc – did they hold a gun to their head? I doubt it. The person made a choice. If it sounds too good to be true, it is up to the invidual to do their homework and confirm if what is being presented is their reality. It is the person’s responsibilty to research the company, products, reputation, their upline and if they don’t, that is really their issue, not the big bad MLM company. There are bad seeds in every industry – actually many in the “wonderful” corporate world wouldn’t think twice about throwing someone under the bus to get ahead.

    I am also tired of so-called experts who use their influence to voice their opinion on something that is no related to what they do – it is really a disservice. It sounds like the sour grapes guy had a not-so-great experience and it is very possible he didn’t bother to do a check up from the neck up to see if he did everything he could to make it work. Maybe he did but there is a strong chance he didn’t. Since he is still carrying a bruised ego, he probably isn’t willing to really look at it and made a judgement. Licking your wounds online isn’t cool and it’s really a disservice to his followers which unfortunately he seems to have many who think he knows what he is talking about. No interest in anything he offers – he is just another “marketer” with a cutsie company name. I bet if one of the big bad MLM companies (which are abundant in CAN) offered to pay top dollar to have him attend a conference, he would do it.

  3. Bernice Caruth
    March 31, 2011 | 4:00 pm

    I’ve heard those kind of comments for years and it does get frustrating. But, I believe it is our job to help educate, if possible, and develop healthy relationships with customers, current and potential. Sometimes I’ve heard the comment that “it’s an illegal pyramid” (NOT) or “You get the stuff real cheap to resell, don’t you” (NOT). This business is easy to do BUT it takes a lot of hard work and perseverance. I am so grateful that I am associated with a company based on the Golden Rule and has high ethical standards for all aspects of the company.

  4. Christy Busbey
    March 31, 2011 | 11:25 am

    Wow Jennifer, what an advocate we have in you. There are so many misconceptions about MLM and what a shame. In my company I have honestly seen lives changed, families where the husband has been laid off due to the economy and the woman is able to sustain the family while the husband looks for a job, the peace in knowing that if the husband loses his job everything will be ok, the opportunity to be debt free, or live a life you never expected. All those things are available, but not without the hard work and dedication you spoke on. Whether you are in MLM, retail, or any other industry there will always be those that are not ethical. We need to move on and find someone who is ethical and continue to do business with these fantastic companies that are making jobs and stimulating our economy.

  5. Janette Stoll
    March 31, 2011 | 11:20 am

    As the saying goes, it takes a few bad apples to ruin it for the rest of the good people. That said, I think MLM tends to be more offensive w/the aggressive recruiting, hyping the opportunity, than direct sales because MLM is more focused on building a “network”. Hence, “network” marketing. This is my opinion based on my personal experience in the business.

    In general, I think there are more good folks doing MLM with honesty and integrity. Anytime there’s an incentive to sponsor people, it inevitably brings out the greed in people.

    Thanks for addressing this!

    Janette Stoll

  6. Jill Shea
    March 30, 2011 | 5:06 pm

    Right on Jennifer! Thank you for this post.

  7. Jolly Kollamparambil
    March 30, 2011 | 2:38 pm

    Thanks for such a profound thoughts. There are bad apples everywhere. We cannot generalize the subject. MLM business is legitimate business and there are lots of blood and sweat involved in the success of the pioneers in this industry. Thanks again for so beautifully written blog.

  8. Melody
    March 30, 2011 | 12:16 pm

    I’ve heard other experts say they aren’t fans of MLM but they don’t handle it in such a fashion. This is very disappointing!

    There is a saying, “Be careful when you point your finger, because three more will be pointing back at you.”

    I make a decent living from my business and have never had to resort to unethical behaviour. Thank you for sticking up for us Jennifer!
    Melody recently posted..Quick Breakfast Ideas To Fuel Your Family

  9. Dawn McGee
    March 30, 2011 | 10:41 am

    Jen,
    It’s so sad that there are still so many people out there that twist and subvert a legitimate industry (Direct Selling and Network Marketing) into a horrible thing. We just have to take the high ground and prove that it’s not always that way.

    One of the aspects that we introduce into our business training is our responsibility to be better messengers of the industry and to work hard at changing our industry’s image to be a positive one. It would be great if other leaders in the industry jumped on board with that as an aspect of their business model too.

    And from a personal perspective, once I put my company’s name and my phone number on my car, I became a much better driver too! So let’s all behave like someone is watching!

  10. Anne Schabert
    March 30, 2011 | 10:39 am

    Jennifer, I agree fully with you. Through experience, however, I have come to believe that those who talk negatively about the industry have not achieved the success that they dreamed of and must look for a scapegoat to explain why success has eluded them. It does take hard work! It also takes commitment and putting the needs of others before our own needs. It all comes down to attitude. Too many people come into network marketing wanting to get rich and that becomes their main goal. Only if we put others and their needs first will we get rich in this industry. It takes commitment and focus – “How can I help this person? What value can I add to his or her life?” I believe that that is the reason you are so successful because that is your heart. Thank you for sharing that heart with each of us.

  11. Dave Van de Walle
    March 30, 2011 | 10:25 am

    I watched this back-and-forth and, honestly, the one thing that really struck me was this comment: “You’ll excuse me if I don’t believe your industry stats from the very association that is paid by the companies themselves.”

    I like the speaker a lot, and he remains one of the people on my “hope to meet in real life” list. However, he goes on to say that he’s in Internet Marketing – an industry that could be tainted with even more negatives (since, other than the FTC’s rules on bloggers, “affiliate marketers” can pretty much say just about anything, just couch it with a “your experience may vary” and prey on the weak to make a sale).

    I’m 100% behind ethical marketing – no matter the industry – and am sorry that your universe got painted with this brush.
    Dave Van de Walle recently posted..Mobile Is Killing Your Business

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