You’ve heard them by many different names: Multilevel Marketing (MLM’s), network marketing, social marketing, or even affiliate marketing (although this term is an improper application of the title). Whatever name they go by, the end result is always the same. Those girls who ignored you in high school are all of a sudden interested in how you are doing, and can’t WAIT to offer you an AMAZING opportunity to be your own boss….by joining their downline.
On the surface, these always seem like such a great deal: you don’t have to create the product or marketing, you just need to sell! Make whatever income you wish! Freedom for family!
The reality is much darker. 99% of women lose money when participating in an MLM, leaving crushed dreams, hurting finances, and strained relationships. For these women, finding work with a purpose can seem out of reach after their experiences, however if you are one of these women, you have already learned so many useful strategies for starting your own business!
Strategy #1 – Product or Service Development
Chances are that when you were hustling your heart out for our MLM, you had ideas on how things could be better if only you were allowed to do your own thing.
Many women, when working for MLM’s, spend a ton of time creating their own resources to improve the value for their customers. Some create bundles of products, gift sets, or other high value purchase items. Others may add health or fitness coaching services in conjunction with the products. While the products and business model are predatory or low quality, you learned how to add value and increase the experience your customers had, and that is a huge part of running a business! Win!
Strategy #2 – Customer Service and Marketing
Ok, anyone who was in an MLM participated in some super spammy behavior that we are all embarrassed by. Recognize it, accept it as a lesson, and let it go. Good? Ok, now what DID this teach us?
First, this process teaches the women involved what NOT to do. Those spammy messages, toxic positivity posts, and constant focus on the products were alienating and counterproductive. So learn from this! What would you do differently with your own business? How DO you want to engage with potential customers and your audience? You’ve learned a valuable lesson in crummy marketing skills, but the good news is that you can take those experiences and leverage them into creating a better experience with your own business!
Strategy #3 – financial management
When we talk about MLM’s, “financial management” is not exactly a term that goes hand in hand, right? As referenced above, 99% of all participants lose money in an MLM. So how can you leverage that poor experience into financial management?
Again, MLM’s are a great lesson in “what NOT to do!” Chances are if you have left an MLM, you know how much money you (didn’t) make. Most business owners don’t pay enough attention to their numbers when they first start out, and can get months or even years in without realizing that they aren’t even paying themselves a living wage. YOU though – you have already learned this lesson!
Armed with being burned once by losing money, you are now prepared to start tracking your finances from day 1 because if you are going to be putting your time and money into another business venture, you are going to make sure you are actually making money this time!
MLM’s are a damaging, costly, and destructive business model. But more than the immediate impact they can have on a woman’s finances and personal relationships, their biggest casualty is self-esteem. So many women come out of an MLM feeling like a failure, and believing that they do not have what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur or business owner. The truth is, many of these women have learned some amazing skills, and are empowered with some hard-earned lessons that can prime them to skyrocket their own business to success
Stephanie Desaulniers is a small business strategist and online educator who teaches home-based artisans, makers and creative entrepreneurs how to create a product- based business they love, without having to take time away from their families. She’s helped hundreds of small businesses identify ways to reduce costs, increase sales, and plan for growth year after year. She has appeared on PALive! And Business News Daily to talk about the value of small businesses in the local economy, and especially women-owned and run operations.