Today I outted myself as an under-employed MBA. If you missed that one, please check out my IG; it's a bit of a story.
Why did I do this? It is certainly not because I have a misplaced sense of shame. I had to close my eyes before I hit the post button.
No, I did this because I am making it known that I am no longer interested in working for a company that sees me as a commodity. I am only interested in work that allows me to make my own hours, charge my own rates, and work where I want to.
Craziness, right? Not in the world of network marketing.
Oh goodness, now I've gone and done it. I used dirty buzz words... "network marketing", "MLM", "relationship marketing". Just give you the good ol' days where ads screamed at you from the TV every 12 minutes. Am I going to try to be your friend now?
Short answer, yes. Long answer, no.
In marketing, we have the "Four P's"... Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. It is an old school of thought that if you can correctly balance those four metrics, you would achieve maximum exposure and profit. You had to have the right product (example: chewing gum) at the right price ($0.25 for six sticks), in the right place (at the checkout counter where you also buy cigarettes and water), and the right promotion (Kills bad breath fast!)
When I was an MBA candidate at Rutgers Business School, a few of my professors were arguing the validity of adding an additional "P"... for people.
The argument was that you could have the right product, at the right place, for the right price, and promote the right message... but if you did not have an actual person who could speak to its benefits and create a relationship with potential customers, a vital piece of the marketing mix was missing.
The two biggest companies I can say have this fifth "P" down to a science are Apple and Starbucks. They seek out and hire promoters of the products... people able to make recommendations, speak to strengths and weaknesses, and navigate a potential client through the purchase process. Apple, for a time, had an entire retail position dedicated to that journey called the Personal Shopper.
This whole idea of relationship marketing is not new. However, with the advent of the internet, all of a sudden it became a lot easier to reach a lot of people... which is why MLMs suddenly seemed to appear everywhere for everything.
This is not a bad thing. The only difference between your bestie selling Shakeology and the kid at GNC pushing Vega One is a brick and mortar storefront. With a brick and mortar storefront, a person chooses to get inundated with sales pitches for different products. On social media, a person probably just wanted to see some cat memes and got hit with leggings, shakes, lip gloss, or all of the above. It feels more intrusive when that sort of marketing occurs. It puts the potential customer on edge and leads to the exact opposite of a meaningful connection.
So, how do we, as network marketers, get around this? By being completely honest. If we are truly the Fifth P in the marketing mix, we are living our products. We are products of our products. Our lives have changed for the better because of our products and all we want to do is share them with the world.
When I worked for Apple, I talked about how my Apple iPhone changed my life by giving me freedom from my computer.
When I work at Starbucks, I talk about how Starbucks has made my life better by providing me with free coffee, health insurance benefits, and an outlet for my creativity and extraversion.
When I post about my own coaching opportunity, I talk about how taking control of my daily actions and focusing on what I find most satisfying has kept me from spiraling into a pit of despair since losing my job.
Network marketing is sticking around, but network marketers need to realize where exactly they fit into the marketing matrix. If there was anything I learned from my training this weekend it was to be honest. Honesty is the only proven way to succeed in business.
If being honest means realizing that you are not a product of the product, then get out of the water. This isn't for you.
If being honest means being vulnerable, then close your eyes and push post anyway.
If being honest means being a friend, then call out your bestie if she seems too "salesy" and offer ways to improve. Give her examples of what you would rather see.
Open and honest communication is the only way this gets better for all parties involved. We are not commodities. We are people with desires looking for other people like us. That makes us the luckiest people to be in business with.
Stephanie Cansian is a rebelliously positive Central Jersey citizen with her husband and their dog.