In my call for blog post topics, I got a suggestion to write an article about the stigma of network marketing. I’ve been resisting it for a while, but rather than skirt around my opinions and dodge the inevitable, it’s time to rip the band-aid off.
It was 2003 when I was first introduced to network marketing or back then it was referred to as an MLM or Multi Level Marketing. It was for the revamped Amway program and was called Quixtar. I was at Rutgers at the time after transferring schools when my mom’s second divorce created a necessary change in tuition spending. Money was tight and we were primefor the sale of second stream income "opportunities."
The Promise: Make money on what you're already purchasing. Don't you want your dream life to come true with all of this passive income?!
The way it worked:
1) Shop through their store and use their special credit card (I still have it by the way) to earn income points.
2) Recruit your friends and family to do the same.
3) Once you hit a certain level you can collect a higher percentage of what other people purchase.
Sounds harmless. Wrong.
The products were overpriced and the weekly meet-ups turned into cult-like pump up groups to get you to recruit everyone you knew. "You’re so close to silver, gold, platinum. Who else can you talk to about this amazing opportunity??" "Here are some business books to perfect your pitch. It's just like getting an MBA."
I had signed on hoping for a financial win fall, but only two people joined under me. I probably made $60 the whole time I was in and sure you can argue that I didn’t put the effort in. What I did put in was probably over $2,000 of my hard-earned money from buying vitamins that made me sick and coffee drinks that were double the cost of Starbucks.
This was 15 years ago and now the bar is set even higher with the onslaught of pressure from Facebook and emails from people you may have met once that have THE product that will change your life. I have bought some of the products and the jewelry is cheaply made and the clothes are over-priced compared to the Thred Up winnings I buy without commitment.
"But I Should Support My Friends"
I absolutely do. When they ask me to join their group, I politely decline and ask if they need help from a coaching perspective as most of them are struggling with their feelings around personal worth and being a visible leader. Whatever their reason for signing up, I wish them well and can support them from afar without getting drunk and purchasing $300 skin care packages that I don’t need.
I Am Not Their Ideal Client
1) I don’t wear leggings.
2) My skin is in great shape (thanks mom!).
3) I have low maintenance hair.
4) My jewelry is from 5 years ago and I'm not looking to add on.
5) I don’t overpay for anything if I can avoid it.
I love supporting my friends through the process of building their own business - not buying products that ultimately makes someone else rich off of them.
So is there a stigma? Absolutely.
Will there continue to be one? Most likely.
Why? Because it comes off as exploitative and inauthentic. I connect to brands with a story and heart. The products being sold have a story, but it's not the whole story. If you want more information, I would recommend this blog post: Did you know that 99% of women lose money in MLMs? Why Are They Still Signing Up?
This may be controversial and I may lose friends over it, but now you know where I stand. If you'd like to tell a different story, I encourage you to do so.