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October 1999

 

Technology

The Shrinking Web: MLM corporations grab control of website marketing - Luke Melia

We're about five years into the Web phenomenon and in this industry, the Web is now getting smaller. The number of sites built and maintained by distributors has actually shrunk in the last two years as companies are taking control back from the distributors who beat them to the Net.

In the early days of the Internet, I watched a flurry of activity as websites were launched left and right by the cross-section of Networkers who were also computer geeks (I use the term as a compliment). Building an MLM website was exciting, fun, and an obvious way to find new customers and business builders. The companies these distributors represented were oblivious, as were the FTC and attorneys general, because there really weren't too many people who had modems at the time.

As the years progressed and the Web launched into mainstream consciousness, those distributors and their websites suddenly appeared on the radar like a jumbo jet. Companies panicked. All the not-quite-legal things distributors were mistakenly saying during small conference calls and hotel meetings were suddenly written down in electronic print for anybody with a browser to see.

Amway was one of the first (aren't they always) to prohibit independent distributors from maintaining their own sites. Other companies followed suit, and Yahoo's directory of business opportunity sites was soon filled with dead links as distributors were forced to take down their pages.

The Compromise

Many Networkers (especially the aforementioned computer geeks) were up in arms over this policy and put tremendous pressure on their companies to delineate a clear Internet strategy. USANA was the first to do so and published rules that allow distributors above a certain rank to have their own sites, which must be pre-approved by corporate.

That was an acceptable stop-gap measure, but the next question was how to make Internet marketing duplicatable without taking regulatory risks. The most popular solution is a system of partially distributor web pages that are hosted by the home office. This concept allows all distributors, geeks and non-geeks alike, to have their own web pages for Internet marketing and guarantees the companies control over statements and claims. An astounding number of companies (Envion, Mannatech, Pre-Paid Legal and Excel to name a few) have rolled out such programs, with distributor costs ranging from free to $50 per month.

Still Want to Stand Out?

These programs undoubtedly benefit the overall distributor base and protect the company (the golden goose!). However, they have an effect on the pioneers that is like taking away shovels from Gold Rush miners. The leaders in this industry have good reason for wanting to stand out, to build their personal "brand," and to offer additional support to their group. And they have good reason to want to do it on the Web.

If you fit that category, I'd recommend picking up your shovel again, and building a support site. The site's objectives should be downline communication, training, and other non-prospecting business goals like selling books, for example. I've spoken to a few web-savvy Lifetime Subscribers who have these types of sites and they have reported that they are an excellent asset.

Just because the Web is shrinking doesn't mean your piece of the pie has to. You can review past editions of this column on our website (http://www.upline.com) for online prospecting tips that don't require your own fancy website. And, please, don't forget that face-to-face conversations over a kitchen table still work pretty well, too.
- LM

 

Luke Melia is Upline's Technology Editor. Luke is currently living and working in southern India. Upline readers are invited to drop by if they're in the area. Luke welcomes your comments and ideas by email at luke@upline.com.

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Reprinted with permission from Upline, Technology - October 1999, 888-UPLINE-1, http://www.upline.com

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