Anyone who has ever been on any of the major social media sites over the past couple of years (specifically Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest) will likely have been invited to a number of face-to-face or online parties showcasing a specialty product or service. They are led by an Independent Sales Consultant involved in a Direct Sales or Multilevel Marketing (MLM) company. These companies aim to minimize the amount of marketing spend to get their companies started.

Many of us can’t help but grow increasingly annoyed by not only the offerings, but the people who are sending it. Whether this is you, or you’ve been mildly intrigued by these offerings, like it or not, these consultants are simply following a basic principle in marketing and communications: Be where your audience is!

So then why is there such a negative stigma around this type of business in today’s digital communications world – a world where you can’t run a google search, play a video on YouTube or even go to your favourite content site without being flooded by “relevant” digital advertisements?

Here are 3 truths to consider before criticizing your MLM friends:

1) Our social media hang outs are not sacred place

I’m no different than the next consumer. I get annoyed just like anyone else when I see message after message, offer after offer of the same thing over and over in my notifications feed. Spam is only the polite way to describe it these days.

But do we actually believe that we have a say in what is marketed to us in our digital spaces?

We are just as likely to get Canada Post to limit the amount of physical “junk mail” we receive in our community mail boxes as with digital. The reality is, the minute we expose ourselves and live in a digital environment, we have no choice, but to accept the risks that come with socializing in that space.  Where you are, marketers, communicators and sales people want to be.

2) In any industry, (MLMs, Real Estate, Financial, Energy, Retail, etc.) there is a right way and a wrong way to conduct business.

Unfortunately, it’s the latter who tend to give the industry a bad name.

Some realtors will put their personal financial gain above the needs of their clients. Some car sales people just don’t listen! Heck, how many vacations have we all apparently won just because we have a listed phone number?

There is malpractice anywhere there is an opportunity for what’s perceived as “easy profit.” Thousands have signed up to be independent sales consultants for these popular MLMs just because they thought they would make a crap load of money by sending Facebook messages and hosting online parties. If it were only that simple!

Sure you might get a few interests in the short-term and superficial support from close friends. But marketing yourself in that way is just not a sustainable business practice in the long-term (which is good news for the haters out there).

3) Sound Marketing and Communications is and will always be about building and fostering long term relationships.

As you can imagine, getting bombarded with offers and party invites at nausea isn’t the best strategy to accomplish either of those things. However, providing your audience with the right content, at the right time and at the right place can. Trust will always be the key ingredient for any buying decision and relationship you build, especially online!

So next time you feel compelled to put every MLM “Independent Consultant” into the same bucket of negativity we keep “sleazy realtors” and “cheap used car sales people”, think again.  It’s unfair, and hurts those who are just trying to make a respectable living using the tools they are given and some basic principles in marketing and communication.

Noel Amante is the Director, Business Development at V Strategies Inc and has been an IABC member since 2014.

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