Multidimensional Marketing and Your Business - Angela Moore
For months now, many of us have been speculating-- what does the millennium hold in store for Network Marketing? Perhaps you're one of the many who's been counting down the days to 2000, and all the goals you plan to achieve by the time the calendar actually makes the dramatic leap out of the 20th and into the 21st century.
Of course, life isn't likely to change dramatically between Friday, December 31st of this year and Saturday, January 1st of next. Have no doubt, though, that the business as we know it will be evolving in the coming years-- and according to Angela Moore, an industry consultant who's emerging as one of Network Marketing's best analysts, faster than we may be prepared for. She asserts that the industry must learn to adapt quickly to changes as they come in order to keep pace with the tremendous growth we've seen in the last decade.
Following the success of her first book, Building a Successful Network Marketing Company, Ms. Moore is at work on her second which looks directly into the face of the industry's future. What does she see? Multidimensional Marketing, she says. In the following Upline interview, Angela Moore fills you in on what changes she predicts to be in store for your business and your company. -- UO
First, how did you get involved in this industry? What was the foundation for the kind of visionary thinking that you're now doing for the industry?
I got involved in the industry almost twenty years ago, working on the corporate side of Avon Products. Initially, I worked in one of their Regional Offices, where I learned a lot about the customer service and distribution aspects of the business.
Then I went into Field Operations, which involved encouraging and guiding a sales force of approximately 5,000 independent representatives covering a specific geographic region. There I worked with district managers in the field. Their primary responsibility was to recruit and train sales representatives. I supported their efforts by introducing new products, working with and coaching them in the field, and hosting motivational and recognition events. We had the same goals as every Network Marketer out there right now, and that is to grow the business the only two ways you can-- getting more representatives and building the average order of each representative we had in the sales force.
From there, I moved to the Corporate Office in New York City, and started the process of developing what we called "enhancements to the core." The core strategy then was traditional door-to-door selling, but we were going through major changes-- women had gone to work and there wasn't anyone at home-- so we had to restructure how we approached the business. That's when I began really working on futuristic kinds of projects-- one of the projects I worked on was actually called Avon Futures, which offered a different methodology for helping the salespeople learn to sell.
In all, I was with Avon for 13 years. After that I started consulting, and that's when I was first introduced to a wide range of Network Marketing companies. Some of my clients were party plan, while others were consumer-- direct or Network Marketing companies with multilevel compensation plans. Later, as a corporate executive with Melaleuca, ShapeRite Concepts and Mannatech, I continued to gain an even broader perspective of all of the different selling and compensation plan methodologies, and an understanding of what each of them offers.
||``Network Marketing companies and their distributors basically built the entire category of nutritional supplements in the marketplace.''
Explain for us, please, the concept of Multidimensional Marketing.
Multidimensional Marketing is a term I've coined to express how companies of the future are going to have to tie together what I call the "best of the best" from each type of marketing strategy consumers have been exposed to. It's a dynamic, blended approach to acquiring and retaining customers, handling the actual sales transaction, and delivering the products or services to the ultimate consumer. This approach is going to help companies and their distributors establish their brand in the marketplace, ensure their longevity, and also offer consumers the attractive option of choosing when, where and how they want to purchase products or services.
Consumers are so used to being able to buy what they want, when they want to, that a large part of the competition for the Direct Selling/-Network Marketing industry's customers is coming from outside the industry. For example, if you look back ten years ago, there wasn't the proliferation of nutritional supplements available at retail as there are now, and I credit Network Marketers for teaching consumers about their value. Network Marketing companies and their distributors basically built the entire category in the marketplace. We educated the entire country about nutritional supplements, and as a result, other companies are capitalizing on our foundation and beginning to capture market share from us by utilizing retail, direct mail and e-commerce approaches.
My thinking is that we've got to be able to offer consumers the same convenience that those kinds of companies offer, and at the same time, hold on to our "competitive advantage"-- our distributors-- in the equation.
What would a Network Marketing company that's embracing Multidimensional Marketing look like? What would they be doing?
First, they would start with the partnership approach, meaning the company and the distributors are in partnership with the understanding that, depending on what services and value each brings to new marketing methodologies, the cost and/or benefit would have to be in some way shared. For instance, there could be ways that a company advertises their product or opportunity directly that causes potential customers to visit their web site in order to find out more about it. Leads obtained from this approach could be given the option to connect to a distributor for personal service. Those consumers who choose that service would be attached to active distributors in the field through an equitable assignment process.
A company that embraces Multidimensional Marketing is one that is using a blended channel strategy to fuel their growth, combining person-to-person customer acquisition and selling, e-commerce and the internet, consumer direct marketing, database and strategic partnership marketing, advertising, PR, infomercials and occasional fixed location retail showcase stores or kiosks. These are all complementary methods, and it's in this combination that our industry will be increasingly innovative.
||``Overall, many companies have not embraced e-commerce and other complementary strategies to the extent that I believe they should.''
Where do you see the industry and most companies now, in relation to that concept and where you're arguing the industry needs to go?
I think the industry, particularly with regard to e-commerce and consumer direct access, is cautiously if not dangerously behind the curve. Unfortunately, we don't have the latitude to move as slowly as we used to-- we live in such an instant gratification society now, and the Internet has brought everything to our doorstep instantaneously. In the past, we may have had time to sit back and watch what was going to happen before making changes, but now we need to move forward as quickly as possible or we will be left in the dust.
I think companies are cautious for the right reasons-- maybe because it's an unfamiliar area or they're concerned about maintaining and protecting their core business and distributors-- but in doing so, they may be overprotecting distributors by not adding all the features that could really make both their businesses boom. We need to recognize that the easier it is for consumers to get to a product and the easier it is for them to recognize a brand name, the more they're going to want to purchase that product. Anything that helps move a company and its products into the limelight will actually make both the recruiting and selling process easier for distributors, so it would be to their benefit. Because of the widespread hesitation to boldly move ahead, we're unfortunately in a catch-up mode. Overall, many companies have not embraced e-commerce and other complementary strategies to the extent that I believe they should.
Why the hesitation?
I think the main hesitation on companies' parts is that they do not in any way, shape or form want their distributor sales force to think that they are competing with them. On this issue, a big mindset change needs to take place, because in actuality, they are allowing companies in other channels or new start-ups to compete with their distributors. The hybrid compensation plans and the blended channel approach of the future are going to take into account how to integrate e-commerce and other strategies with the strength of the sales force.
For instance, the main thing anyone with a web site needs is to get "eyeballs" to the site. In order to do that, one method currently being used is electronic hyperlinks or cross web site advertising. If you're familiar with the web, you've seen banners and links on one web site that, when you click on it, will take you to someone else's site. By utilizing only this approach, a huge component of the equation that's missing is the number of people that other people could bring to a site. I call this the Human Hyperlink™. For the process of customer referral and getting new people to an e-commerce site, there's a great opportunity for companies to gain tons of "eyeballs," and for distributors who refer them to be rewarded. Creating a process that allows for referral source tracking is a really important component of future sites.
The key point that companies need to understand is that these alternatives are complementary strategies, not competing ones. Once they get over that hurdle, I think they'll be able to honestly share their vision with their sales force. When they fully understand the process, they'll realize they're actually protecting the future of their sales force.
||``Progress is going to require partnership between field leadership and the corporate office. First and foremost, both need to recognize how vital each is to the other.''
Have you found that the resistance comes from the sales force itself, or is it the companies presuming that it would be disruptive to the sales force?
Whether or not it's resisted by the company or the sales force probably varies company by company, so the answer might be different case by case. I do think part of it is the perception that the sales force will resist it. I'm sure in some companies there is the reality that part of the sales force will resist it and in other companies there's a sales force that would embrace it.
I think the key thing that already-established companies need to consider with regard to e-commerce and alternate strategies is that new companies and some of their competition already offer this option. The question you pose is an excellent one, as anticipated disruption may only be a presumption on the part of the company instead of a reality among the sales force. I think individuals in the sales force are sophisticated and savvy, and they can see what the competition is doing to their recruiting and sales efforts. Company efforts to create alternate strategies, which include sales force interests in the equation and make their job easier, would be welcomed by the vast majority in the field.
Is one of the dilemmas how to involve e-commerce into the way a company sells while also providing commissions?
Yes, I think so-- currently most compensation plans are not structured to accommodate pay out just on "value added" services. By that, I mean the value that the distributor brings in the food chain, if you will. In other words, acquiring a customer, making a sale, delivering a product, providing customer service, and recruiting a new distributor who generates product sales. Each one of these activities has a value in ensuring a company's and a distributor's success.
Right now, many compensation plans do not make provisions for dealing with someone who comes to them directly on the Internet, nor is there consideration for how to compensate a distributor who connects a person with the company as a simple referral. I think a lot of distributors and future participants would warm up to the idea of being able to find consumers and recommend company products and web sites to them if they knew from that point on, they would be taken care of and serviced directly by the company. It makes a distributor's job easier, and would attract many non-Network Marketers to the industry. For this to occur, everyone needs to realize that the compensation to a distributor for performing only the referral function would be different than the compensation paid to a distributor who takes responsibly for a full relationship.
How do you think that should be valued within Network Marketing?
The value of these services changes over time. When you bring a customer who's going to purchase something to a web site for the first time, there's definitely a value in that. As we all know, we pay out commissions and overrides when the movement of product takes place, so I think some portion of the product sale would be fair, taking into consideration that you don't have to have any involvement in the handling of that customer. The compensation plan could, for example, offer a premium to distributors at the time they first introduce a new customer to the company, or when new products are launched and personally communicated to consumers. Thereafter, a smaller amount of residual income could be offered if their referrals are serviced directly by the company. These adjustments in the plans will help offset the additional expense incurred by the company to develop and offer these complementary strategies.
You have to understand that the combination of e-commerce and person-to-person marketing gives Network Marketing companies a huge advantage over strictly e-commerce companies. This is especially true in the launch of a new product. Even if customers have chosen to be serviced through e-commerce and the web, a launch is an opportunity for their "sponsor" to tell their e-commerce customers about the new product and personally offer testimonials to validate its benefits. That's not so easily done on the web. I think web-based companies look to Network Marketing companies and envy that piece of their formula. When they have a new product or service, they can only introduce it to most visitors in print and photos on a flat screen, and then only if a consumer makes a pro-active choice to visit their site at the right time. It's not three-dimensional, and there is just no comparison to how a Network Marketer can initiate a contact and generate excitement in person. The special magic of Network Marketing is the person-to-person contact that distributors bring. It's the secret weapon in marketing warfare.
E-commerce can make access to and distribution of our products easier. For example, e-commerce is open 24 hours a day seven days a week, and it makes it easy to have products sent anywhere in the country as gifts. Our customers can begin to start using our products as gift purchases without having to order or purchase them, take possession of the product and then reship them again. Many transactions are made markedly simpler and faster. Embracing ethical e-commerce as a complementary channel is in the best interest of every company, distributor and consumer.
Earlier you mentioned infomercials and even showcase stores... what benefits do you see in those marketing strategies for Network Marketers?
The innovation is in the whole package-- in the blended channel strategy itself. Personally, I'm not a big proponent of infomercials. I think our biggest infomercial is the personal testimonial of our distributors. However, on occasion, for a company that is launching or wants to make a quick splash with a great new product, a properly executed infomercial can be a good way to get to the attention of a lot of people. I know of some companies that are doing infomercials for lead-generation as part of their blended channel strategy, and they are finding it to be a useful component.
The fact that Network Marketing is a home-based business is one of the wonderful parts of it, but it can also mean that we don't offer the "bricks and mortar" feel that other companies do. That's where the benefit of one or more fixed-location showcase stores or kiosks comes in. It's great for building distributor pride, and it can make a great image statement to consumers. I've personally helped set up some "company stores," and in my experience, it offers tremendous reinforcement to distributors to see how gorgeous or how extensive their product line is all in one place. Their reaction gives you a flavor of what it can mean to a consumer. If the look and atmosphere is correct in the store, consumers will have a very positive image toward that company. It can be great PR-- and a solidification of the fact that the company exists.
The great news about Network Marketing, as opposed to traditional retail store limitations, is that in addition to any physical company store location, Network Marketing companies can have a presence in all communities, because each distributor is also a "store" which promotes the brand, distributes products and finds new customers. What a dynamic combination!
If distributors are in tune with your concept of Multidimensional Marketing, are thinking in these terms, want to expand this way, and are maybe ahead of the curve of their company currently, are there things they can do to modernize their business and incorporate these ideas into what they're doing independently?
The best thing they could do is work through and with their company-- encourage the company to create platforms they can tie into. Because of the highly regulated nature of the MLM industry, and the need to preserve an appropriate company and brand image, it's not in the company's or the distributors' best interest for distributors to start their own web sites or e-commerce stores. There are a lot of companies now offering distributor web sites that will hot link a person into the corporate home web page, but the missing piece is the one for consumers to directly come on and be able to order product. The best thing for distributors to do is let their companies know that they're not afraid of these concepts as competition but rather see them as complementary, helpful ways for them to do business.
What role do you see field leadership playing, then, as their companies innovate?
Progress is going to require partnership between field leadership and the corporate office. First and foremost, both need to recognize how vital each is to the other. The distributors and the company are going to have to get inside each other's head and realize that they both have common goals, which are business growth, success, and longevity. All of the other pieces of the puzzle can fall into place when everyone cooperates and operates from the point of trust that they both have common goals in mind.
What steps do you recommend companies take in the process of implementing Multidimensional Marketing?
The first step in the process is to assess where you are as a company. What are your strengths and weaknesses, and have you clearly established your brand? Then look to where you want to be. We need to adopt the mindset that we have competition outside of the industry-- this isn't about Network Marketing companies in competition with each other per se. Companies need to look at who, whether retail store or e-commerce-based, is competing for the same dollars in their product category, whether it be nutritional products, beauty products, or long distance services.
Consumers today are pretty sophisticated. They know what the competition has to offer, so we need to be prepared to defend against that. Things are moving at the speed of now-- not tomorrow-- which means we need to move and we need to move fast. Companies should look to what the competition outside the industry is doing, not only in order to grow, but also to inform their distributors of how to combat and differentiate themselves from other products that appear on the web and in the marketplace at large.
The big winners of the future are going to be the people who are able to build brands and recognizable product lines. In order to protect the brand and company image, you have to have one source that reviews everything to be sure that it's in keeping with the professional image of the brand. That image has to be consistent so that consumers get a clear picture in their minds of quality and reliability when they pick that brand. The stronger the brand recognition, the easier it will be to both sell product and get new distributors sponsored.
I don't think we've been particularly good in the industry at brand building, so as we look to the future, I think creating strong brand identities is going to be crucial. I do think the opportunity needs an identity of its own to create interest for potential distributors, just as the product brand creates an attraction for consumers. It's really important that all our community feels welcome whether they choose to be a product consumer or a distributor.
I've felt in the past that if people want to buy the product, but do not wish to be a distributor, we tend to treat them a little like second-class citizens or drive them away. Customers are going to be the lifeblood of the business in the future. We need to remember to recognize the value of customers in the overall Network Marketing community. I often think about how absurd it would be if someone goes into a Kentucky Fried Chicken store to buy chicken but is told by the owner that they need to become a franchisee first because that's the only way to really enjoy the chicken. In Network Marketing, it sometimes feels like we try to convert people to franchisees before they even have an opportunity to try or fall in love with the product. If the product and opportunity each has its unique branding, they can appeal to different audiences, and our industry will begin to attract a much broader audience and gain more widespread acceptance over time.
As an industry, we have to collectively recognize that Network Marketing is looked at by "outsiders" as one of the best new ways to build a business. I often get calls from retail and e-commerce companies that want to add Network Marketing tactics to create a multidimensional approach for their business. They want to add the personal contact, product training, recognition or the relationship aspects of Network Marketing into their list of strategies. Likewise, Network Marketing companies must be ready to add successful components of other channel strategies into our approach to consumers in order to successfully compete in the future.
So in a way, the greater the success this industry has in establishing credibility for itself the more competition it's going to create?
This is true, and it's not a bad thing. When people admire you, that's a great thing, and since success breeds success, it will allow the best of our industry to flourish. On the other hand, we need to realize that concepts employed in other channels that appeal to product consumers can add to our success, and we need to add their benefits to our formula. We should be proud that people outside the industry look to direct selling and Network Marketing as a great way to build their business--because they're right!
ANGELA L. MOORE is a multidimensional marketing strategist, a partner in the consulting firm Cloward, Moore & Tefft, LLC, and author of Building a Successful Network Marketing Company (1998). Her corporate experience includes executive level positions with Avon Products, Melaleuca, Mannatech, National Data Corporation, and ShapeRite Concepts. She supports many Direct Selling and Network Marketing clients, as well as traditional channel consumer goods and services companies expanding their reach into multi-channel marketing and e-commerce. In addition to clients in the US, Angela has supported companies in Japan, Canada, Mexico, Slovenia, Croatia and the U K. Her expanded professional role has included service on the Board of Directors for Junior Achievement of Atlanta and the Sales and Marketing Executives of New York, and presentations at the Direct Selling Association "MLM Seminar" in 1998, and the "Multilevel and Beyond" seminar in 1999. To contact Angela for consulting services, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 208-528-2886. Her book is available through all major retail book marketers including Barnes and Nobel and Amazon.com.
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Reprinted with permission from Upline, Moore Feature - July/August 1999, 888-UPLINE-1, http://www.upline.com