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Direct Marketing, or Multilevel Marketing, is a popular industry with moms and other young people. However, despite popular claims, very few people will actually achieve the level of success they expect when they sign up. I wanted to share with all of your some helpful marketing tips and tricks to help you rock your MLM business without annoying your friends and family.
Direct Marketing companies have been around for years. Our mothers, and maybe even grandmothers, hosted Tupperware parties. This was partly to create opportunities to socialize with other moms and partly to create extra income for the family. Now we have hundreds of MLMs in multiple industries ranging from fitness, fashion, food, fun and more. It doesn’t matter what company you work for, the methods of achieving success in direct marketing can apply to all of them.
MLMs are not a good fit for me personally, but they are a perfectly great fit for other people. If you’re struggling with your MLM right now, or are on the fence about joining one, then this post is for you. Before we know how to find you success, we have to first explore the options of where you are and why.
Grab a drink and relax. This is a long post and there’s a lot to cover, but I hope by the time you finish reading, you find a few things that will help you grow your business so you can become a success story, too!
Why Do People Join a Direct Marketing Company/MLM Anyway?
Today, people tend to sign on board a MLM for two reasons: 1) You love the products and want a discount. 2) You want to make extra money without having to take on a “normal” job and report to someone else. For some people, both of these apply.
You may have figured out by now that working for yourself isn’t as easy as you thought it was. It involves careful planning and time management, motivation and dedication, networking, researching, and trying again and again to turn No’s into Yes’s. It takes a small investment of money and big investment of your time. The more you put in, the more you should get out, but only if you are doing it the right way. Keep reading to learn the difference so you can transform your business into a successful one.
Are MLMs a Total Scam?
This is, unfortunately, a very common misconception about the entire direct marketing industry. This concern is what holds people back from growing their MLM business, makes them reluctant to join, and quite possibly, could be why you feel like you’re running into walls with your friends and family although you’re putting in the hours.
The short answer, no. They aren’t all scams. I’m sure some are out there, but for the most part, it’s just a different approach to distributing products through channels other than a store. I actually personally know several people who have achieved 6 and even 7 figure income specifically by working their direct marketing business. However, it’s not for everyone. You have to be willing to do more than sell products in order to achieve high levels of success in MLMs. For this reason, many people will try and fail. This is why many of the companies have to include the phrase “Results not typical” when they promote the super successful people– because it’s rare for someone to reach high level of success in direct marketing. Rare, but not impossible.
It’s easy to get discouraged. It’s difficult to put in the time and/or investment and not see a return. Post after post you wonder why you’re not moving up in the rankings, pay scale, or whatever it is that incentivizes you. Does this sound like you right now? Trust me, I know because I’ve been there.
Back in my college days, I think I was around 19 or 20, I invested $3,500 into a Mary Kay business. The woman who signed me up, a mom of teenagers who probably should have been looking out for my best interests, convinced me that to be successful, I had to purchase a ton of inventory. So I did. Mind you, at the time I was only making $7.50/hr in my full time job, so saving up that amount took a LOT of work for me. I worked overtime and took on a side job in order to make it happen. I was working seven days a week. I’m sure you can guess what happened. My inventory sat on my shelves and I eventually just gave up. All of that time and money down the drain. But I didn’t have what it takes to be successful back then. Now, I know a lot more. I’m sure if I wanted to pursue direct marketing it would be a successful venture. But at this point in my life, it’s just not for me. That being said, I feel like I should at least share some ways that you can find success in yours and learn from my mistakes.
How Can You Be Successful with Direct Marketing from the Beginning?
It sounds convincing right–someone recruits you and paints a pretty picture: Work from home. Be your own boss. Work any hours you want. Earn a FREE car. Make thousands of dollars.
Except, no one starts out at the top. In fact, very few make it that far. But the ones that do all share one common trait: They create value and build relationships. Sure, the products are great. Some will sell themselves without any effort on your part (ahem, Lipsense). But to truly be successful, you have to sell YOU. Let’s face it, the market for MLMs is VERY saturated. I see dozens of posts in my social media news feeds daily. Everyone’s posting the same things. It’s hard to compete when everyone else is already doing it. But…. that doesn’t stop other people from doing it a little better and growing a little more. Success in direct marketing is all about setting yourself apart enough to get noticed. What can you do to create an experience for your customer that the 5 other people posting the same products are not doing?
Do you have what it takes to do a little more in order to get a little more?
How can you attract new customers outside of family and friends?
Simple. Sell the story. There are two stories to sell. First, you tell the product story. Anyone can post an ad about a product. They don’t particularly grab my attention and sometimes I see them so much that I will hide the post in my news feed. If enough people do the same, those posts will be shown less and less by Facebook’s algorithm. I don’t do it to be mean. But I just don’t like being advertised to in that way. Just the same as some people will skip the ad on a YouTube video or fast forward through the commercials on their DVR. Posting ads creates no value. Successful MLM distributors (or whatever you wish to call yourselves) need to create value to potentially reach a customer, even if your customers are friends and family.
The second story to tell is the career path. You usually have to sign up 5 or so more people to get to the next level. You make money on their sales and performance. Then you want them to do the same to further build the team. Everyone makes money and the pyramid (I mean, let’s just call it what it is and be okay with that), grows bigger and bigger. But if it was that easy, everyone would be doing it. This story is, quite often, the most difficult to tell people newer reps don’t know how. This is where mistakes are made and you feel like you’re spinning your wheels to the point you almost beg people to sign up. But why isn’t it working? I can tell you exactly what you are doing wrong….
Why Your MLM Business Isn’t Working:
Most people in MLMs, especially new team members, tend to go for the grand experience when recruiting: you paint that pretty picture we talked about. You try to sell the bullet points in the company’s marketing materials, the same ones that you connected with when you joined. But remember the most common concern about MLMs? People tend to think they are scams. And here’s why selling the bullet points is not working for you. You probably aren’t driving a free car yet. You probably aren’t yet making thousands of extra dollars a month. Sure, some people are. But you’re not. And your family and friends know this. They are watching you to see if you make it. They want to see it work for you before they will buy the story.
I once saw a girl who was working for a MLM post all day long about how people should sign on board her team to make up to $5k/month right away. But then 5 minutes later, she would post to the same friends asking for job referrals and explaining that her rent was late. Uh oh. That doesn’t make the pretty picture look very pretty, does it?
Let’s take a look at what WILL work for you.
Creating Value for Customers Beyond Sales:
There are so many ways to create value for customers with products. Stop posting all those ads. Instead, teach people about how the products work and why they should make the purchase. One of the greatest resources you have in marketing your business is you. Get your own website with a blog and post often. I would recommend three times per week. Don’t post ads. (I can’t say this enough.) Instead, make it fun. Educate people but don’t be too “salesy.” Create the same type of valuable content in videos (maybe shoot for one a week). You can then share the blog posts and videos on social media and all of a sudden people might actually be interested because instead of advertising at them, you are creating value for them.
By using some of the ideas below, you will begin to build a community filled with fun and engaging content and people who are actually interested in what you have to say! At this point, you will have a very welcoming audience who will likely buy what you are selling (the products or the career path).
Here are some creative marketing ideas that may work for you by industry:
Essential Oils (DoTerra, Young Living, etc.):
What not to do: I don’t see too many offensive things by essential oil reps. However, when our boys were younger, I did have several people suggest oils to me on posts where I was seeking advice for common ailments. But I didn’t know anything about essential oils and I needed to learn. It wasn’t until one person gave me some samples and explained how to use them that I felt comfortable placing my order…..for an entire kit. Your products are the “what,” but don’t forget the “how” and “why” to complete your story. An incomplete story is often a missed opportunity to win a new customer.
What could work better: Create fun DIY tutorials and recipes for things that can be done with essential oils (cleaning products, bath bombs, beauty regimens, etc.)
Create a roundup of tips to beat the cold/flu and include a few of your oils among other products from other companies so it’s not entirely promotional. (example: breathe oil in a diffuser and Vicks infused tissues could both be included in season cold must haves).
Create a tutorial on how to use one particular oil in several different ways. When customers learn about how one item can become so many things, they are more likely to see the value in that product and make the purchase. Sometimes when customers do make that purchase, they don’t really know what do next. So creating a friendly and helpful experience for them shows your value and they’ll come back to you for more!
What not to do: Create a group on Facebook and invite everyone you know, their mother, and the 5 people who they were friends with in 3rd grade. I am pretty sure I’ve been added to over 20 LuLaRoe groups over the past year–without my permission–and it’s just not cool. In fact, I love leggings but for this reason, I just wouldn’t be a customer because I hate spammy tactics. Another problem for MLMs–the bad reps ruin it for the good ones and make it more difficult for everyone. Inviting a friend to a real life party is one thing. But adding people and their friends on Facebook without asking is not the same thing. That’s the equivalent of pulling unsuspecting people off the street and shoving them into a room all of a sudden asking them to buy some leggings. They are thinking, “How did I get here? And how do i get out?” among other things I probably shouldn’t include in this post.
What could work better: Get a group of friends together with your favorite LLR pieces and go somewhere pretty (the beach, the park, downtown, etc.). Have a photographer (either professional or a friend with a camera if you’re on a budget) come with you to take lots of photos of everyone modeling the outfits. Use the photos to create a fun “look book” to showcase the different styles. This would also make a fun video! Bonus points: team up with a jewelry/accessory MLM rep and include that in your look book with each outfit. Then, you two can cross promote each other on your individual networks and reach twice as many people! Jamberry nail wraps could also work well with this concept!
Create a themed style guide featuring items in your line: Girls Night Out, Job Interview, Vacation Casual, etc.
Collaborate with a Stylist and put together a guide that teaches a process: i.e. How to Dress for Your Body Type; How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe; etc.
Remember: People like to shop “new” products. Avoid taking photos of your clothing items on the floor or any setting that is distracting. Keep pets and clutter out of the photos. Also, customers come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. When putting together a photo shoot, be sure to include people of multiple races and sizes so each potential customer can relate to the ladies in the photos.
What not to do: Spam people via Instagram DM or Facebook post asking for “models” for your products…. which you will only offer them a discount for. Models get paid. They don’t pay to promote your products, not even with 40% off. I’m certainly not a model, but I am a social media influencer/blogger who has worked hard to build up my audience. I receive these DMs all the time. It’s super annoying. I usually delete them or report them for spam. I’m not a billboard and I don’t owe you anything to do you a favor. If that is all you plan to do with your MLM business, don’t expect it to grow very big. Sure, it doesn’t take a lot of time to copy and paste the same message. Little effort will get you little results. And you’re also missing opportunities to build real connections with people–and that’s what you need to truly be successful in your MLM business.
This particular MLM also seems to be into the vague posts. I see people trying to lure their friends in with vague status updates and requests. It comes across as though they are ashamed to just be honest about it. Don’t hide the company, the products, or-most importantly- the story! Be proud of what you do and why and let that passion shine through as your paint a very clear picture for people that shows them why they should buy your products or join your team.
What could work better: Most of the products I’ve seen are focused on health, weight loss/slimmer appearance, and hair growth. Team up with someone who has experience in one of these fields and post helpful content that isn’t just selling the wraps. If someone wants to lose weight, the wraps will be helpful in repairing the skin, but they still need a healthy diet and exercise. Try posting a weekly healthy recipe or a workout guide that would compliment the wraps, and therefore, create more successful results…..and happier customers.
Happy customers tell their friends what worked for them. Unhappy customers also tell their friends what did not work.
Hair growth ideas: Girls with long hair will need to style it. Come up with some fun Hair Style tutorials (braids, buns, etc.).
Makeup and Skin Care (Rodan + Fields, Mary Kay, Younique, Arbonne, Lipsense):
What not to do: Post ad after ad on Facebook selling the products based on pricing (usually it’s like, “…Get all this for $xx, regular price $xxx!). Don’t get me wrong, sales are great. But if I am going to spend money on skin care products, I’m probably just going to pick them up from Ulta or Sephora the same day. And I’m probably going to repurchase products I already know and love.
Mary Kay tip: Don’t sell sampling of your products as a “makeover.” Applying makeup is not a makeover. It’s just a sampling. You can have fun with it, but overselling will lead customers to expect greater results than you will likely deliver.
What could work better: People need to see the products in action. Why are your company’s products better than the ones I already love to use? Maybe it’s the ingredients. Say that. Explain what harmful chemicals are in competitors products and why they are dangerous. Maybe your products can do amazing things (again, ahem….LipSense). Show me! I have always loved beauty products and I love lip colors. When I saw a video demonstrating LipSense for the first time on Instagram, I absolutely HAD to have it! And what did I do? I made my own video because it really does work! In this case, the product solves a problem: smudged lip colors no more. Sometimes people need to see things in action before they will buy. The more you show HOW they work, the easier it will be to sell.
Makeup and Beauty: These go along with many special occasions: weddings, date nights, job interviews, senior photos, holidays, etc. Create a special “look” tutorial post or video incorporating your products that customers would find valuable. Anyone searching for those occasions would love to find a specific guide on how to do it.
Skin care: skin care routines are usually in the morning, at night, or both. These routines are especially trendy with YouTubers. Go look up My Morning Routine or Morning Skin Care Routine and you’ll be sucked into the endless vortex of awesome videos by so many creators. Then, create your own “routine” video incorporating your products but also other ideas.
Team up with a local photographer and offer a complimentary headshot clinic for ladies. If they bring a friend, they get a discount or a free item (much like the parties). You apply a makeup look for them and then the photographer will take a headshot for them to use on social media or a business card. You collect the ladies’ name, number, and email and send the photo along with your info and the photographer’s info. This helps grow your list while still offering something of value to potential customers. It also allows the photographer to build up their portfolio and list as well. If the photographer is really talented, consider paying them for their time. The investment will be worthwhile for your business (you could post some of the photos on your social media and list out the products used in each look) and the photographer could arrange to contact you to provide makeup for future client sessions. Depending on your circle of friends, you could also have someone come for hair. Cross promoting brings in extra clients since each of you will have your own communities and the more value provided for the customer, the better.
Similar to other beauty product parties, consider a specific theme: How to Contour, Smoky Eye Look, etc. rather than a general sampling of products. Be sure the instructor actually knows how to do these techniques. Most people have been to a cosmetic party at least once, but putting a very specific theme gives them a reason to attend yours!
For skin care products, summer is coming. Creating tutorials for how to transition into a new season will be helpful: a few ideas include Summer Skin Care Essentials, How to Achieve a Natural Beach Glow, Caring for Sunburn, Travel Skin Care Tips, etc.
Before and after photos are a great way to show how some products work, but too many of those can also clutter up a news feed and turn people off just like advertising. It is great to use before and afters of yourself so people can see a relatable example. But try to convey the results in a way that also tells a story. Who are you? Are you a mom? Have you suffered from skin problems for several years? Have your tried other products before? How long did it take you to achieve the results?
This should go without saying, but don’t Photoshop your before and after images. You’re not fooling anyone. Similarly, be sure to take them in the same setting if possible (same outfit, same lighting, same location) so we can better view the results with an equal comparison.
Health and Fitness Companies (Beachbody, Isagenix, HerbalLife, Thrive, etc.):
What not to do: For the most part, this category does well with knowing who their customer is and how to be an example rather than just sell products. Don’t forget that your target audience will likely need a lot of guidance in order to have great results with your products. The success definitely doesn’t end in the sale with these. Follow up will keep your customers motivated enough to not only achieve results they are happy with but also reorder.
What could work for you: When helping people on their health and fitness journey, accountability is super important. For this reason, many successful coaches (or whatever you call yourselves) will create challenge groups on Facebook. These are groups that people ASK to join, not unsolicited sales pitch groups. Together with other people on the same journey, the coach will interact one on one and deliver activities that involve the products and other types of personal development that are very useful to the members (posting photos, sharing stories, reading the same book, etc.). They build those relationships and check in on a regular basis to help ensure everyone is on track. They put in the time, even after the sale is made.
Again with the health/fitness category, sharing things on your blog or in a video tutorial will help attract people to you. You’re also selling your story big time in this industry. Your personal results will go really far when people can visibly see a difference in someone they actually know or relate to. I must say, I am always inspired to see mamas bounce back quickly after having their babies, though I’ve never been quite so lucky. Sharing tips and tricks on how to stick with it, find motivation, and those kinds of things are a great way to build connections and relationships with your customers.
You could create a workout playlist for your team to listen to while they work out. Or, you could share some great products that compliment your industry: fitness clothing, water bottles you love, anything that could make someone’s fitness journey a little easier and more comfortable and fun. Share what’s working for you and what isn’t. Come up with new recipes that are aligned with your health and fitness journey. Keep each other accountable.
Gift Products (Origami Owl, Scentsy, Thirty One, Pampered Chef, etc.):
What not to do: Don’t invite people to a Facebook Group or Event “Party” without their permission. Social media has definitely changed the way that people run their MLM businesses. On one hand, it’s useful to reach so many more people than back when I did Mary Kay (yep, I’m old enough to have tried this out before social media-gasp!). But on the other, it takes the personal elements out of it. There is still something to having a group of ladies get together to socialize and talk about the products in person where they can see them and try them out. For me personally, calling it a party just doesn’t work. If there’s a party, I expect food.
What could work better: Think of popular gift giving occasions like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, or Mother’s Day. Put some time into creating a real party with actual snacks and fun. Team up with friends selling for other MLM companies. This allows customers the convenience of trying a variety of new products and shopping all in one place. It also doubles your audience without doubling your effort. I always suggest that each consultant bring one appetizer and one dessert to the party and try to get 10 guests each. If you have 3-5 consultants, this could mean you have 30-50 guests and plenty of snacks for everyone to enjoy while they shop. It’s also 3-5 times your regular audience. So your efforts will be multiplied.
Make a fun photo booth at the party and take pictures of your guests having a great time! Post them on social media. Chances are, your party guests will willingly share the photos, thus promoting your business to their networks of friends and family. Obviously it will look like tons of fun, so you should have more people wanting to book a party with you. This is WAY more effective than trying to get people to share your advertising and promotional posts online. Remember, your friends and family are not responsible for growing your business. YOU are. So you have to get creative and make things sharable.
Each consultant participating in the party should donate one or two items for a prize. Combine ALL of the items from every consultant into one big gift basket. Hold a drawing to collect information from your guests: name, email, and phone are enough to get people interested without feeling like they are giving away too much information. This will help build your list. One lucky winner gets the gift basket and you get a chance to connect with the guests again after the party. You could even allow bonus points for them to share a photo from the party to Instagram with a party hashtag and tagging all of the reps who participated. (Super easy for them, super helpful for you to get your business in front of new eyes!)
Scentsy: Finding ways for guests to get hands-on experiences with the products is a great way to get them to make a purchase. Again, get creative. For Scentsy parties, why not create a fun icebreaker game where guests are blindfolded and they have to guess the scents of the wax? Pass a few of your favorites around and see how much fun they have sampling the products!
For Thirty One: there’s only so much you can do with bags. But, the way you can showcase them is really fun. YouTube influencers LOVE to create “What’s in my Bag” videos. Come up with scenarios for different types of customers: What’s in my Diaper Bag? What’s in my Planner Bag? What’s in my Travel Bag? etc. You can collaborate with other people and feature them in your posts so they all bring a new perspective that’s entertaining for people to watch.
For Origami Owl: these necklaces and charms are very personalized. What resonates for one person may not with another. However, this is a BIG one for selling the story. Feature your customers each week telling stories of how and why they chose each charm. Maybe it represents their first baby, or a loved one that they miss. Maybe they are a cancer survivor. Whatever their story is, that personal touch will connect with others more than just the photo of the products, although they are very pretty.
More Tips for Everyone:
Social media is a great tool for marketing your MLM business, but always remember that being social is a two-way conversation. You may get a few sales and signups from posting the generic promotional photos each week, but I guarantee, the more you create opportunities to truly interact with your audience and build a community, the more your business will really grow. This doesn’t mean asking a question in the caption of your promotional post. People who scroll past the advertising images won’t even read that. You have to always be thinking about how you can create value for your audience. Stand out from all the other posts in their feed by offering them something rather than asking them to buy something from you.
I always recommend that people who promote their business in any way on their personal social media channels use the 80/20 rule. Only promote your business 20% of the time. The rest of the time, keep it personal. After all, when these people connected with you that’s what they chose to welcome into their feed. Had they known you were going to be posting daily ads, perhaps they would have reconsidered…..or maybe one of these days they will just unfriend you. Don’t let it get that far. Pull the reins back a bit and remember how social media works. And if you’d like to increase engagement, be engaging. Commend and like other people’s posts. The more you interact with each other, the more Facebook will show you each other’s feeds.
Consider teaming up with bloggers and social media influencers to promote your MLM business to their audience. A personal recommendation from someone who isn’t selling will go further than someone trying to sell a product. How it works? You provide the products you wish to be featured and pay a sponsorship fee. The blogger/influencer is legally required to disclose to their audience that the post is sponsored. However, they share their honest opinions and recommendations with a much larger audience than the one you’ve built so far, so you’ll reach a lot of people and you’ll reach NEW people. They will tag you in their social media posts so everyone can find YOU rather than just finding the products. They will also link to YOUR personal direct marketing online store. Again, it points all of the traffic to you. You’ll get new followers and likely new sales as a result. I’ve worked with a few MLM brands in the past. While I’m not into selling, I do enjoy being a customer and using many of the products! I’ve tried ItWorks, LipSense, and Beautycounter so far. I offer all of my MLM rep clients exclusivity for a period of time so that I only promote them and their business. I still get traffic and people clicking over on these older posts so they get continued benefits of warm referrals, honest testimonials they can use when promoting their business, creative photos they can use on social media to help tell the story, and the ability to reach my audience. If you’d like to work together, feel free to contact me!
But for now, I just want to help you do what you’re already doing better…..
Your Friends are People, NOT Billboards:
There are two types of spam: private and public. The private kind, although still annoying involves a personal message or a phone call. I’ve had people call me and ask to meet for coffee to discuss working together. I assumed at the time they wanted to hire me for marketing since that’s what my husband and I do. Turns out they just wanted me to sign up under their MLM. It was a waste of both of our time. Often times, this type of unwanted contact comes from people who I haven’t even spoken to in years. Some MLMs train their reps to literally write out lists of everyone they’ve ever met, even childhood friends. I guarantee if you don’t have ongoing relationships with these people, trying to sell them on your new venture out of the blue will be nearly impossible and you’ll likely end up losing that connection.
The public kind (worst offenders!): I’ve also had friends use me as their personal billboard, posting their links, ads, and videos on my Facebook wall, tagging me along with 80 other people in a photo that I’m not even in, or asking me to share the post with all my friends and family. I choose to use my social media for connecting with people, not as a billboard. For this reason, I even keep my own business promotions to a minimum. I find it highly disrespectful to be used as a billboard. So before you drop that link or tag someone in your promotional photo, think twice about the value you are adding. Are you really adding value or just being annoying?
The impersonal elements of social media sometimes make these little actions seem like no big deal, but I bet if I walked up and slapped my business bumper sticker on your car, you wouldn’t like that. My social media is my personal space, not yours. Most people feel the same way. Always add value rather than being a nuisance. The successful people at the top of the MLMs don’t have to spam family and friends to get attention. They have people coming to them because they create that value.
When you’re doing it wrong, it may seem like your friends and family aren’t supporting you as much as you thought they would. But when you do it right, you’ll see that many of them do want to support you, but they want to be seen as valuable individuals rather than transactions.
I’ve seen a couple consultants guilty of posting their internal information out to everyone: (i.e. “I need 5 more people to ______ to reach my goal.”). This is a huge mistake! The people reading that post are real people with lives and stories of their own. They are not numbers. And that request is not building any relationship or value. It comes off as self-serving and desperate. You are better than that! Show them why!
Thanks for Reading!
I hope you found these tips helpful and can start your day tomorrow with a new perspective on how to grow your MLM business. Just because it’s not for me doesn’t mean that I don’t wish for you to succeed! Remember why you signed up in the first place and how excited you were. Turn that passion into a story and use the personal elements of your story to create value and passion in others.
The more you focus on the PEOPLE you are serving, the more success will come to you.
Questions? Leave them in the comments below!
Also, let me know which MLM you are working for!
If you would like more ideas like these, please let me know!
Owner and operator of Paperclips & Pacis, a lifestyle blog sharing the best of #momlife and #entrepreneurship. Wife to Drew, Mommy to Andrew (age 4), Aidan (age 3), and Avalynn (newborn). Cat mom x2. Lover of Disney World, office supplies, and social media. Instagram: @paperclipsandpacis