MLM and the Myth of “Duplication”
You may have read a rant I wrote in a previous newsletter, “My Career as an Enthusiastic, Naive Ambot.“ It chronicles my path from 21 year-old Amway recruit to successful 31 year-old guy with business sense, and the scars that prove it. The short assessment is: It was a priceless experience because I cut my teeth in sales. I developed a lot of skills I use every day.
Downside was, virtually everything they told me was a half-truth. Like the idea that I even owned a business at all. (I had legal title to absolutely nothing.) Now I’m just glad I never scored any big points in that game, because when the thing caved in, the clunk was heard ’round the world. Heck, Amway (Quixtar) is still disintegrating, like a week-dead goldfish when its fins and tail are falling off and floating around in your aquarium.
OK, so anyway, the MLM industry is still alive and well. Most of it now is being done on the Internet and teleseminars instead of living rooms and hotel ball rooms, but it’s still being done. And I sometimes have consultations with people who are doing MLM; this stuff comes up regularly. Just today Mendy and I were talking about this. There are some realities that all of us, whether in MLM or not, should be privy to.
Duplication is Bad, Bad, Bad. In MLM-land, the key to success is duplication. Hundreds, thousands of people duplicate your efforts and that’s how you multiply your time.
Truth is, duplication in marketing is always bad, not good. Duplication is, by definition, copying a USP. When you copy a USP, it’s not Unique anymore. It’s the same. It’s dilution of your biggest asset. Duplication in marketing is commoditization. Being a commodity is bad.
Realize this: Duplication in manufacturing is great. Duplication in printing is great. Duplication of systems and processes is great. It makes 20,000 McDonald’s restaurants possible. But remember, McDonalds may have 20,000 franchises but it’s only got ONE marketing department.
Duplication is an Illusion. Think about this: Any time you see someone who’s really successful in MLM, it’s because he or she is not doing the same thing as everyone else. It’s because they’re not duplicating. Not because they are!
It’s not just that they’re working harder, either, although they may be running Mach 2 with their hair on fire. At the bare minimum, they have more personality, more flair, more magnetism, more charisma. They have a unique voice, a unique story to tell, a uniquely compelling energy.
As often as not there are other things too. They have a slightly better, “under the table” compensation plan. Perhaps they’re using different tools than everyone else. They’ll still stand up on stage and tell everyone they’re a ‘product of the system’ and they ‘just followed the pattern.’ But I eventually came to realize that every time Dexter Yager stood up on a stage and crooned, “You can aaaaall pass me by!” – he was saying that because it was impossible to pass him. You couldn’t beat him running through the maze because he owned the maze. (Duh.) Every time he’d say “This business is not saturated!” – he was saying that because it was saturated. (Duh.)
Recruiting Costs Real Up-Front Money. If you’re going to replace manual labor with automation, you’re going to go negative (many hundreds of dollars at least) for each person you sponsor. You can overcome this with organizational momentum, but it’s expensive up front. Your marketing blade has to be razor sharp.
Candid Advice to an MLMer: Last fall I had a gal in my coaching program who was selling nutritional supplements online, buying Google ads and selling products retail. It didn’t take her long to discover that the click prices have risen to a point where a person running a retail MLM business can’t make a profit just acquiring a customer. Here’s what I told her:
I used to do something similar back in 1997 (offline not online).
These thoughts are in no particular order.
-When you do marketing to promote your MLM business, it reveals the true cost of acquiring a customer, which is somewhat hidden from you in the conventional way of doing MLM. Suddenly the cost to get a customer has a real number and you have a benchmark for seeing how much those customers are worth, how long they last and how profitable they are.
-In most MLM companies, the person who actually acquires the customer doesn’t make money, they lose money. The person who recruited you makes money when you recruit. This leads to all kinds of promotions in which the upline convinces the downline to invest in marketing, not telling them that they’re going to go negative doing it. (That is compensated by the promise of how much those new people are going to recruit and multiply).
-In manufacturing, duplication is the key to everything. In electronic and print media, duplication makes mass communication possible. But in marketing, duplication is suicide. That’s because in marketing, the most essential ingredient is a USP, a Unique Selling Proposition, something that you can uniquely provide and guarantee. But marketing duplication, by nature, is the exact opposite of this. In marketing, the person with the USP wins and the people who duplicate that USP earn money for the person with the USP. Let me explain what I mean by this.
Let’s take a superstar in your business, a Double Diamond or whatever. He tells the world how he followed the system and made it simple and duplicatable and it led to success. That may be essentially true, but if he’s successful he’s doing something unique. Many times it may just be his unusual, attractive personality, his personal magnetism. Often times he’s getting a better ‘deal’ than most other people, or he makes more on tickets or tapes than other people, but the key to his success is, in part, that he’s NOT exactly the same as everyone else. He’s a little extra special.
That said, trying to be duplicatable is a very secondary motive for you. If you have 20 people duplicate what you’re doing w/ your Google campaigns, it’ll just drive the bids up. Not to mention if 200 or 2000 people do it.
What you want to do, from the standpoint of an independent business owner, is add unique things that differentiate you from everybody else so that when people click on your ad you have something to say to them that others don’t or can’t say. Then the world starts to tilt in your favor.
One thing I tell all my students who are MLM folks is the same thing I learned: Once you master marketing, you wake up one day and realize that you don’t need an MLM company in order to be successful. You know how to get traffic, you know how to say something that makes them buy, you know how to make the sale. So at that point, why would you settle for 15 or 20 or 25% commission when you could source the product yourself and make 60-80%?
There are only about ten thousand companies out there trying to sell products. They don’t know how to sell like you do. And some of those products are really, really good. When you’re the marketer, you’re in the drivers’ seat and you’ve got the goods. You can sell ANYTHING you want to sell. In retrospect, MLM was the thing that opened your eyes to a much bigger world – they cleaned you up, put a suit and tie on you, taught you some very important things, and now you’re the boss. Go to a trade show or something and find something you can sell – and sell it.
-With everything I said above, the long term focus of all your marketing is to constantly improve your USP. What do you add to the formula that others don’t? Why should they buy from you instead of any of the other 200,000 distributors? Especially on the Internet, which is a universe of niche marketing. This is a vital question to get answered.
Thanks for your questions, hopefully you’re OK with my frank and honest answers, and I look forward to talking with you on future calls!
I’ll never forget when the light bulb went on. I went to a low-key marketing seminar, big contrast to the hyped-up MLM seminars I was used to. It didn’t take me long to notice that a very large minority of people in that room (not just the speakers) were making six figure incomes or better, and they were not doing this by promising 1000 other people the moon and the stars. They were doing very niche-y, obscure, unusual things, and doing them very well.
I realized I didn’t have to play that silly duplication game any more. So I stopped. It’s been onward and upward ever since.
I’ll never forget the new sense of hope I had when I finally let go of something that was holding me back, and because of letting go, was able to see a whole new set of possibilities. Why duplicate someone else? The best way to have a Unique Selling Proposition is for you to just sell YOU.
To your success
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