Multicultural MLM - Barbara and Skot Welch
This is a test-- take a moment to think about your organization. Does it make you smile or frown? Smile, I'm sure. You have a committed team of "movers and shakers" who are up to the Network Marketing challenge. They want to change their lives as well as the lives of others-- an admirable mission.
Now visualize your downline in your mind-- what do you see? Chances are, you see a bunch of polished, professional "go getters" . . . that look just like you.
What don't you see? If you're like most people in Network Marketing, what you don't see is a culturally diverse organization.
We have been involved in the Network Marketing industry for some time now, including six years on the corporate side-- organizing large international events and assisting some of the largest product launches in the industry. We're proud to be a part of Network Marketing, and saddened by what we've observed to be a pervasive absence of diversity in the crowds that fill industry events.
You may meet people from diverse economic or social backgrounds with diverse life experience, but none of these are differences we can see-- and that's the diversity missing in our industry. The absence of African-American, Latino, bi-racial, Asian and Native American faces in the crowd is marked.
We don't bring this to light to make anyone feel bad. On the contrary, we do so because we recognize the absolutely trailblazing industry of Network Marketing as one of the last frontiers where people can find compensation and reward based "not on the color of their skin but on the content of their character."
We ask, what would happen if we all decided to step outside of the "boxes" we call life and tried to build a few bridges of understanding? If you build a few such bridges in your MLM career, we guarantee at least two things will happen:
1) You will increase your MLM business-- it will affect your bottom line for the better (whether you do it or not, it is still affecting your bottom line).
$1 million, $5 million, or $10 million is good, but . . . doesn't $2 million, $10 million, or $20 million sound better? African-Americans as a community spent over $390 billion in 1996-- a figure that's expected to reach $450 billion in the very near future. If those figures represented a national economy, you'd find it ranked as the 14th largest in the world.
2) You will enrich your life beyond your wildest dreams by making some great new friends.
Creating diversity isn't always easy-- in fact, it's going to take some hard work-- but we know without a doubt that true Networkers are some of hardest-working individuals in any industry, and up to the challenge!
Here, we offer you four keys to making your Network Marketing business multicultural. Our objective is to offer insights and practical advice that will build a better and more diverse culture in your organization. And don't forget, with this diversity will come a competitive advantage that will last for generations to come!
Putting these four keys into action will get you results-- and there's no overnight solution. You can't change a culture overnight when it's been in place for centuries. Remember, this involves people and relationships-- and any good Networker knows that working with people requires time and patience . . . and more time and patience. Be open-minded, take notes, look introspectively, and you'll begin to make real progress toward a diverse organization.
...if any industry should be diverse, it should be Network Marketing. We're the level playing field, right?
1) Personal Networks Create Powerful Business Networks
If you want to expand your business, start by expanding your horizons. Does everyone in your personal network look like you? If so, that should tell you that, while of course you're not a bad person, you are a "comfortable" person-- comfortable with where you are, where your business is, and with your current network.
Statistics published in the highly publicized government census document, "Workforce 2000," show that by the year 2000 (we're talking next year, here) America will begin to experience a greater racial and multicultural "browning" than ever in its history. The Latino population is the fastest growing segment in the country. African-Americans are the second. There are more professional people of color in the workforce than ever before and it is only continuing to increase.
So what does that mean in terms of your network and Network Marketing business? It means that there are many people of color with plenty of savvy, stamina, tenacity, and money who are going to end up in somebody's organization. Why not yours? Making it yours will involve stepping out of the box and meeting some new people-- people who may not look just like you, but have basically the same dreams, aspirations, and desires that you do.
At a huge convention we recently attended, we were able to count the people of color on one hand. That's a shame-- if any industry should be diverse, it should be Network Marketing. We're the level playing field, right?
Well, when a person of color looks across the industry landscape, they see very few people who look like them among the masses, and almost no one making the big money in leadership. Now, before you dismiss this with the assumption "they just don't want it enough," consider this: How welcome would you feel at an all Latino or African-American family reunion if you were the only "different" person there? How welcome would you feel to be the only "different" person on a university campus? How welcome would you feel if every time you opened one of your company newsletters, no one there looked like you? How welcome would you feel if every time you showed up at a convention, the music being played and the entertainers headlining the event all sounded and looked the same?
You get the point. These are some of the core reasons for the absence of diversity in Network Marketing. Our organizations are a reflection of our personal networks, and for the most part, our personal networks consist of people who look like us, act like us, talk like us, and believe like us. In order for this to change, we as an industry must begin to build bridges to the various cultures through opportunities to which they can relate. This change can take place only if-- and we do mean if-- we are willing to first change ourselves. This starts on a smaller scale.
Let's assume you have been successful in creating a powerful network from your existing personal network. Let's also assume, for instance, that your existing personal network is made up of all suburban housewives. Now, imagine if you began to expand your horizons and your personal network began to include inner city residents and people of color who introduce you to an entirely new source of potential prospects and customers. Bottom line-- you've made new friends and tapped into a potentially lucrative network, and, in the process, introduced a new market to the exciting world of Network Marketing and its world of opportunities.
2) Product Pricing
Pricing in the direct selling industry has always been an issue for the ethnic community. It is not that many of them can't afford the products, because they can-- it's just that, by and large, the ethnic audience is far less likely to believe the hype still perpetuated by some in the industry that direct selling companies must charge ridiculous prices to pay their leadership bonuses and overhead. That is simply not true.
Skot remembers being in meetings when he worked for a direct selling corporation where the whole idea was to get more products into the hands of more people. They would waste days hypothesizing, debating, and pontificating about how to do it. When he or someone else would bring up the dreaded "P" word, it was as if they were blaspheming. No one wanted to admit that the "emperor" was naked-- or that price was the issue. You can add all of the supergalacticphytobionutritional ingredients you want, but when your product is overpriced, ethnic consumers are suspicious. They're wiser to people selling "The American Dream in a bottle" than you might think. Understand their paradigm-- the "American Dream" for at least the past 400 years has not dressed like them, has not celebrated like them, has not felt like them, and has not looked like them.
We're asking you to enter into a school of thought that rejects the common "pity them/here's a handout" mentality. The $390 billion spent by African-Americans in 1996 obviously bought a whole lot of products. In short, people of color are not looking for a handout, just a sincere opportunity to attain the "American Dream"-- at a fair, affordable price. That means the price of your products and the cost to get started.
Don't "price out" the fastest growing demographic segment in the US. One thing is certain-- until the ethnic consumer sees our product prices more in line with retail pricing, sharing your opportunity with that audience will be relatively difficult.
"A picture is worth a thousand words." Here's a quick exercise for you to do. It's called the "culturally friendly test." Take an evening to go through all of your company's materials, from the vision video to the sales and marketing plan to the corporate brochure to the product-offering catalog. Next, take a blank piece of paper and list those cultures of people who are not currently represented in your organization. Finally, next to the culture, make a note of what material you could share with them that would contain a model or family identifying them in their culture. How much of your company's material is culturally friendly?
The images you present to your prospects are powerful. They can just as easily attract as repel.
0-1 Printed Pieces/AV = Not Culturally Friendly
2-4 Printed Pieces/AV = Somewhat Culturally Friendly
5 or more Printed Pieces/AV = Culturally Friendly
What kind of verbal or written images is your company supporting-- culturally friendly and inclusive, or culturally unfriendly and exclusive?
The images you present to your prospects are powerful. They can just as easily attract as repel. Are you offering images of Network Marketing and of your own business that give the message to people of color that they matter and are welcome? Mainstream visual media is highly mono-cultural-- at the least, yours should be representative of the ethnic populations. Ideally, the image of your business should be that of a cultural "mosaic" to which any and everyone will feel drawn and honored by.
Here's what typically happens and why this is so important. Someone comes to you and boldly declares, "This is a business opportunity for all people!" You look through the literature, but there is not a face in the place with whom you can identify. Still, giving them the benefit of the doubt, you agree to go to a meeting and meet some of your potential future "family" members. With an open heart and mind you arrive only to find out that you stick out like a sore thumb. After further observation, it is readily apparent in the music, show talent and video pieces that who you are as a person was by no means a part of the thought process when they sat down to stage the event. You're uncomfortable-- and you tell the person who invited you "No, thanks."
The goal of changing our industry's imaging is one in which we all need to be involved. A company's lack of visual commitment to diversity is a hindrance to the business-building efforts of its independent representatives. Encourage your company to value diversity and provide visual evidence for you to share with the people you're meeting as you expand your horizons. Network Marketing is touted to be the only business truly for all people-- let's reflect that in all aspects!
In a recent demographic study of ethnic buying patterns, the number one need for ethnic consumers was to be respected.
4) Commitment: "Be Real"
What do your prospects from other cultures want? In a recent demographic study of ethnic buying patterns, the number one need for ethnic consumers was to be respected. They want to be recognized as individuals and not be viewed as though their individual likes and dislikes represent the mind-set of their entire culture. In a word, they want people who approach them to be real.
One of the funniest things we've ever seen was a commercial put out by one of the major fast-food chains around the time when "hip-hop" culture was beginning to be a mainstay in our society. With all the marketing muscle and resources that this fast-food behemoth possessed, they made the tragically hilarious decision to recruit somebody from the mainstream culture to create a commercial for this subculture. It was pathetic-- and for many, offensive. They used just about every stereotype of that culture and crammed it into 30 seconds. What did it tell us? It told us that the company had no real commitment to the community they were trying to tap into. It said loud and clear: "We want your money but can do without you." This attitude leaves ethnic consumers feeling exploited and hypersensitive to the messages they've gotten for years.
Forget the hyped up, covert methods of getting people into the business and remember the "golden rule"-- treat others the way you like being treated. Jesse Jackson or Minister Louis Farrakhan speak no more for all of "Black America" than Newt Gingrich or Rush Limbaugh speak for all of "White America." Generalization will get you in trouble. We happen to be African-American, but we don't speak for all African-Americans. Every culture includes as much diversity in shade, talents, convictions, gifts, and abilities as the colors of a rainbow.
When you approach prospects, know something about their culture-- know some of their history. You don't have to be a scholar, just show that you took the time to care. Americans have this gross generalization about the French-- "They are all so rude," Americans complain. Well, Skot has been to Paris three times and loved it! The French he met were not rude at all. He went knowing some words, having at least a small sense of their culture and didn't try to convert them to our cultural paradigm. They were French, he was American-- how awesome!
In approaching people from other cultures to be part of your organization, remember that all human beings have basically the same fundamental desires. Social Scientist Abraham Maslow, the creator of "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs," hypothesized (and we paraphrase) that all human beings have a need for self-actualization, food, shelter and the need to be fulfilled, no matter the culture. Talk to people from other cultures with that in mind. And have fun!
Anything worth having is worth working for, and the rewards of diversity are huge! The foundation is already laid. Network Marketing is the business of the present and of the future, and to reach our full potential we need to lead by example, not lip service. Change is not always the easiest, but we all know that if you want to stay competitive in any industry these days, change is the rule-- not the exception.
The choice is yours. Expanding your horizons and building bridges to other cultures is the right thing to do and the way to stay competitive in the new millennium. Let's do our parts and re-think traditional industry practices so that Network Marketing can lead the way of diversity in business.
BARBARA & SKOT WELCH are co-founders of the Grand Rapids, MI-based Generations Products, Inc., "the first major Network Marketing company specifically designed with a multicultural focus in mind." Currently, the company's products are haircare, personal care, and auto care, and soon will include a nutrition line and catalog business. Prior to starting the company, Barbara worked in the financial arena as a banking officer and Skot with one of the largest direct selling companies in the world as a global marketing/promotions strategist. For the five years preceding that, they were principals in a business consulting firm, Judah Creative Consultants Worldwide.
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Reprinted with permission from Upline, Welch Feature - May 1999, 888-UPLINE-1, http://www.upline.com