In a fast changing world and difficult economic scenarios, it is but normal that individuals will turn towards innovation, fortitude and creativity in order to ramp up or bolster their earnings. The time for that though, as we all know, is past. No longer can individuals supplement earnings by taking on extra work. With the labor markets, worldwide, in depression, millions of people have to find themselves a primary source of income in order to meet the most basic expenses. And data coming out of nations around the world (at one time heralded as economic juggernauts that would help drive the world past the banking crisis) shows that even India and China are beginning to reel under the impacts of European and USA economic issues.
So the outlook isn’t rosy, but that doesn’t mean the end of the world or a shutdown of economic activity. It does however; necessitate a need to look at avenues of income generation from a fresh perspective. And this article intends to discuss a specific route of employment and income creation, its associated pitfalls, the overwhelming misinformation about the work genre, the competitive advantages the industry enjoys and how the Internet is helping push revenues up higher than ever before. Welcome to the world of Network Marketing in the Internet Era.
Network Marketing – An intro
Network Marketing, also called Referral Marketing or MLM (Multilevel Marketing) is a business model where employees are hired as marketers for a business or product, and are rewarded on both, the sales they generate, as well as the sales invoiced by the staff they subsequently hire. Essentially each member has to sell products as well as recruit new sales people in order to reach the highest earning potential. (For this article, MLM and Network Marketing will be used interchangeably)
So for example you sell home insurance for AIG (just an example), and you process 3 policies successfully, you get a share/commission of the sale value.
Now, you can hire more staff to help you sell these policies, and when they do, you get a percentage of the total policy value sold by the people You hire as a reward for increasing the sales force and generating revenues for the firm. In marketing speak, your recruits will be referred to as Your down line, that is to say this stream of income was started by you, making you eligible for higher benefits.
Some people confuse MLM and direct selling. While it is true that MLM or network marketing is heavily reliant on customer referrals, word of mouth promotions and direct selling techniques, MLM is just one form of direct selling.
Network Marketing Criticism
MLM or network marketing has come under the scanner for practices that opponents say are unethical, designed to serve a handful of people, and can rupture personal relationships, but they continue to thrive. In fact some of the world’s most successful firms including Avon and Amway are examples of how well MLM can work for representatives and the parent entity. The issue though, is that many critics vehemently argue that Amway is the best example of Pyramid Marketing schemes that serve the interest of the parent firm and not its representatives.
And here’s the issue. People tend to conflate Pyramid Schemes with Network Marketing which, widespread as it is, is also misleading. Pyramid Schemes stand out from MLM or Network Marketing in that they tend to require entry fees and promise exaggerated returns without any grounding in fact or performance records.
Therein lies the rub. Network Marketing has been used as a convenient label for firms who have been known to indulge in Pyramid Schemes thereby devaluing what is, a legitimate marketing strategy and business model.
Independent Investigations and Findings
This is what the Federal Trade Commission of the USA delved into when it investigated Amway in 1979 for Pyramid practices.
However, court rulings and governmental investigations into MLM have firmly established that Amway is not a ‘pyramid’ scheme. The Federal Trade Commission’s (USA) ruling In the Matter of Amway Corporation, Inc., et al.) in 1979, concerning the business practices of the firm explicitly stated that Amway was not an illegal pyramid scheme.
The rulings reinforced what many marketers propagated for years. Marketing strategies come in all shapes and sizes, and the misuse of a practice does not make it illegal or unethical.
Think of it like this. Internet Marketing is a growing practice for firms and individuals across the world. And we all know the impact spam has had on our virtual existence. Unsolicited, mass communiqués that people dispose of before they even look at them. Usually sent by ‘bots’ or computer programs that flood email addresses, forums and comment posts, it has become the bane of Internet Marketers. Can you say that ‘bots’ are the standard tools of practice for all internet marketing?
No. Because it’s a few individuals who are using underhand techniques, and who do not have the necessary expertise in Internet marketing causing the issue. Not the practice or functional area itself. The same applies to MLM or Network Marketing. The tarring of a whole industry with the same brush due to some unethical practitioners and extremely vocal opponents despite it enjoying significant advantages is frequently overlooked in the den of criticism.