I joined some online networking programmes recently, wanting to build a wider reach with people in similar working environments to my own; freelance work can get insular and I think it's very important to build relationships with as many people as possible - not only to build my own reach and allow more people to see what I'm sharing (let's not pretend this isn't the purpose of all networking!) but so that I can learn from how other people work, see what is happening in the industry, and ensure that I'm staying involved and engaged with a world which is constantly inundated with new technologies and methodologies.
In one of the networks, recommended to me as a professional network for women who run their own businesses, I was introduced to two people who called their businesses 'Network Group Marketing' - a phrase which, in that exact phrasing, was new to me - but a system with which I'm familiar.
For those who haven't heard the term, let me make it easy to understand: network group marketing is MLM - multi level marketing. It's a pyramid scheme. Associate marketing. A ponzi scheme! I know - I know - a lot of people believe that these are valid businesses, and get talked into investing their money in 'a business of their own' - but if you're being asked to use your social media network to sell skincare to friends from school and you are constantly being pushed for not selling enough (particularly if you're being pushed to sell the chance to sell these products to other investors, and build yourself a team of sellers to manage, and you get a cut of their sales, and - and here's your biggest clue - they all call you "Hun") this is a pyramid scheme, with a fancy new ribbon.
I also know that the biggest names in this line of work (Avon, Younique, Herbalife, Forever Living, Pampered Chef, to name a few) are making big bank - but it isn't all from the successful sales of their products - a vast proportion of their income is from the hopefuls who believe they are investing in a business opportunity which could bring them a comfortable living.
The people walking the streets with the catalogues, or trying to sell the latest weird mascara and odd smelling powder that will make you thin are not the ones who will be making any money from this. Sure, there's a chance of some income -a percentage of every payment goes straight in your bank. But a bigger percentage goes to your team leader, to their team leader, to their team leader and up the chain; you're the one putting in the legwork, and you're getting a token reward to keep you there. To make any real money, you need to invest significantly more money into creating a team of team leaders running their own teams of team leaders...you need to be the spider at the centre of the web.
And each time a new one of these MLM businesses creates a different name to sell what they're doing to women (and men, it's just that this incident was specifically women...) who are just eager to find a way to work and live and balance all the things and responsibilities that they need to balance, I get more angry - because these 'business opportunities' are taking advantage of people in vulnerable positions, and taking from them an investment they often can't afford, on the basis of a promise they absolutely can't fulfil.
Network Group Marketing is just the latest name for this kind of scheme - it's every person you sort of remember from school suddenly being keen to befriend you on Facebook, and - after the briefest of "Hi Hun, how have you been?" catch ups, they can't wait to tell you about these amazing skincare products which have blown their minds and changed their lives. Life changing make up. Miracle cure vitamin powders. Astonishing lifestyle changing mascara. We see it every day - and each time another such "Follow my page!" request appears in my notifications, I get a little more furious for the people being targeted.
Have you ever bought into one of these MLM businesses? What was your experience like? Have you had a positive result, and think I'm being judgemental without cause, or do you agree with my interpretation? Let me know in the comments!
Buy a copy of 'The A-Z of Marketing' today and learn more about other marketing terms you might not be familiar with - and how you can build a better profile and brand awareness for your own business (whether it's through your network group or not!)