Network Marketing as an Online Business

Network marketing can make for a great internet marketing businessI’ve read a lot of blog posts and comments on posts recently where people put down network marketing as a good home-based business or online business opportunity. They have modern network marketing all wrong.
They talk about desperate marketers who tell everyone about their business, whether their target is looking for a business or not. Most recently I read a comment that said it was not as good as other home-based businesses because of all the meetings that you have to attend.
I intend to clear up these misconceptions of network marketing and give you a better picture of what it really is, or at least what it can be when it is set up properly with the right company.

What is Network Marketing

Network marketing has been around for a long time, more than fifty years.
A company has a product that they want to sell, to get into the hands of customers. There are many ways that they can do that. A lot of companies sell them through stores that they do not control. Kelloggs, for example, sells their cereals through local grocery stores and spends a lot of money on TV commercials to increase brand awareness.
Some companies set up their own stores dedicated to selling only their product. McDonald’s and Starbucks are two examples. Both companies own their own stores. Some of the companies manage their own stores, like Starbucks. Other companies rent their stores out to a franchisee, like McDonald’s.
Other companies might sell their product through mail-order, catalog sales, or online. I used to work for a company that did this. They printed a huge catalog that they sent out every year. Customers ordered their products either by calling the sales number or by ordering online through their internet store.
The internet produces new business models and also reinvents traditional business models. - Marc Ostrofsky Click To Tweet
Finally, there are some companies that feel that their products are best sold through word-of-mouth. That’s the driving reason behind network marketing. The company can save money by not building and managing physical stores. They save more money by not having to create commercials or hiring a sales staff. Instead, the money goes to rewarding the people who sign up as distributors and share the product with others through word-of-mouth.

How Network Marketing Works

As I just said, network marketing is a word-of-mouth approach to advertising and selling product. Before the internet, that usually meant in-home meetings, hotel meetings and coffee shop meetings. Network marketers had to find people, strike up a conversation to determine a need, then get the people to a meeting to learn more about the product or the business opportunity. Yes, there did used to be a need for a lot of meetings. Hardly what I would call time-freedom.
Now that the Internet is here it doesn’t have to be done that way anymore. Word-of-mouth now is usually done online through a blog or on social media, so it makes sense that those places are the best place to share the business and products from a network marketing company. But it has to be done properly.
Just as when talking with someone face-to-face, online network marketing still has to be approached the right way. Network marketing got a bad name for a variety of reasons in the past. One of them is that some marketers would try to recruit everyone around them, no matter if they were interested in having a business or not. I’m sure you’ve heard of the “three foot rule.” This is not the best way to build any business. It’s a waste of everyone’s time and makes you, the network marketer, appear desperate.
The same thing goes for being online, especially with social media. The benefit you get from social media over any offline gathering is that all of the conversations are public. You can easily tell if what you have to offer, either the business opportunity or the product, might be something that could benefit someone. As in the offline world, you shouldn’t just market to someone. You need to start a conversation, build a connection and a level of trust, get a better understanding of their situation, then offer what you have if it is still a good fit.
I like blogging. It is a much softer sell than walking up to someone and telling them that they need what you have. In a blog post you can talk about a particular problem then offer your product or business as a possible solution. You can put it out there more as an invitation to see what you have. Then use social media as a means to invite people to see what you have written.

Do You Have to Attend Meetings?

No, you don’t. I haven’t been to any networking or company meetings in three years. I have never been to a meeting put on by the company I work with and I’ve rarely listened to their conference calls. When I did go to a meeting it was usually a local meeting just so that I could see any the products that had been launched, which meant that I usually attended one once or twice a year.
Don’t get me wrong. There is value to the meetings if you are someone who feels that you need to be part of a group, or are someone who enjoys the energy of a party. Meetings are also good for people who aren’t especially self-motivated and need that outside influence to stay focused on their business.
If your business is not on the internet, then your business will be out of business. - Bill Gates Click To Tweet
The internet changes the need for meetings. Before the internet, meetings and conference calls were how you communicated information to a large group, so they were important. That isn’t the case anymore. If you still want a meeting, you can do online conference calls through a variety of services, like GotoMeeting for example. You can record your session and put it on YouTube so that anyone who couldn’t be there can see it. You can then also use your recorded meeting as a prospecting tool.

The Real Power of the Internet

The real power of the internet is that it takes time and location out of the picture. Meetings require a lot of time and are really only effective for local people. The farther you have to travel, the more time consuming and expensive they become. They also require that you be available at that time or you miss out.
With the internet, all of those issues go away. Meetings, if you even have any, can be recorded for playback at any time. All of the travel issues go away because your videos can be watched online from wherever your viewers happen to be, so your business reach is much greater than when you were limited to your local area.

How To Get More Information

I have been building my network marketing business essentially as an affiliate marketing business, for about eight years. It is now possible to perform just about every aspect of your network marketing business online.
Check out this post for a good summary of how to build your online presence, and why.
If you are interested, or at least curious, about how I approach network marketing then find out more about that here.

Disclaimer

There are no guarantees that you will make money in any kind of business, including network marketing. In my experience, you get out of it what you put into it.

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4 Responses to Network Marketing as an Online Business

  1. Hi Ben
    I really enjoyed that simple explanation of Network Marketing.
    I’ve been down the route of hotel meetings to get sign-ups, and pitching to people who wish you would go away. I’m glad I did it, as I learned first hand just how distasteful the whole thing is. And people still do it! I still get weird invitations from people I have known for years, to attend a Wham-up in London. They still believe if they send me enough invites I’ll eventually cave in… the water dripping on the rock idea.
    I completely agree with you about the power of good blogging. I see the blog as a sort of coffee shop where you build up no-pitch friendships and Know, Like and Trust relationships with people. I would never pitch on my blog.
    However…
    One trap I fell in to for a while with Free Content Marketing was giving out too much great quality ‘Free Content’ and forgetting to do the ‘Marketing’ part. If you give everything away why would anyone see the need to pay you. You have to place value on what you do.
    I also agree that the principles of off line will always be there. A heating engineer came to service out boiler system only yesterday, saw my online set-up and started telling me that he want to sack his boss. I now have a new client – a ‘hot’ lead as we used to call them, a face-to-face customer that my experience as an old-fashioned networker taught me to spot…
    Thanks for the great post
    Best wishes
    Richard

    • Ben says:

      Hi Richard. I agree with you that there will always be a place for the offline business. Some people are very good at being where the right people are and striking up conversations. That’s not me. On the rare chance that I meet someone new, I tell them what I do if they ask. Everyone likes the idea of being able to work from home, but I haven’t come across any good prospect in the offline world who actually wants to do the work yet. Maybe when I’m older and people don’t see me as a kid (even though I’m in my mid 40’s).
      I understand what you are saying about giving it all away, and I agree to a point. All of the information is out there to be discovered for free. Most of it is directly stated and what isn’t can be discovered through experience. I’ve never paid for any blogging information. The challenge is in putting it all together into a plan so that it doesn’t seem so overwhelming. I think that is where the value is to get clients to join you, and that’s what I do for the people I work with. A plan and encouragement are worth paying for.
      Thanks for taking the time to visit and share your thoughts Richard.

  2. Psychic Nest says:

    Hi Ben,
    This is such a fantastic article about online marketing. A big business compared to a small one has so many advantages when it comes to marketing. This is the reason why so many new entrepreneurs fall behind although they do everything right. A big business can branch out faster. A small one can afford that much.
    Also picking the right social media for the company along with promoting the business through blogging can help a small business rise faster. I love blogging too. It is not only about branding but meeting new people as well and see their perspectives on the same or similar topic you have in your blog.
    Zaria

    • Ben says:

      Hi Zaria. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment. I appreciate that. I agree that big business has some advantages, but they need so many people to stay afloat, both as customer and employees, that they can’t make real connections with people. Small businesses are more about individual connections and forming smaller communities. That’s what I like about blogging and social media. They are channels through which we can meet people and build those connections.

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