In the early 1980s, my ever-entrepreneurial parents were seduced by the promise of earning big money selling Shaklee Vitamins. Unaware that it was a pyramid scheme, they excitedly pulled out their checkbook.
The process: sign up to be a distributor by someone who was already one of ‘them’ (they make money off of you), go through a training program complete with scripts, manuals, and all else needed to entice family and friends to become a customer and/or distributor (you make money off of them), so you make oodles of passive income.
Who wouldn’t want that?
With Shaklee, you also needed to stockpile products so we had vitamin-filled shelves that went unsold.
Not unlike other sales techniques, with pyramid schemes, later rebranded as multi-level marketing (MLM), it was about the ‘set up’ and ‘the close.’
In my experience, and it was some years ago so the tactics may have changed, the trick was to entice your ‘prospect’ to attend a meeting held by you or someone in your ‘up line,’ without them knowing in advance what you were selling.
It wasn’t like, ’hey Susan, come over Thursday so I can introduce you to some nice people and share my new vitamin business. The products are great and you may be interested.’
Nope… that kind of invitation was, at that time, a big faux pas, off-script, and strongly discouraged.
Once having the prospect as a captive audience, during the presentation the product was revealed, but more importantly, the methodology was to seduce potential newbies with the fantasy of what life could be like: how much money they could make, how easy it was, testimonials from the gazillionaires that work thirty seconds a day and make $100K/month after just a few months.
Again, who wouldn’t some of that?
The psychology of persuasion: hit those pain points!
My second MLM experience was while doing marketing and PR in the film industry. My then boyfriend, a film journalist, invited me to a gathering at his house. By day he was a writer, but unbeknownst to me, at night his alter ego was selling Amway products, one of the first pyramid companies.
I felt bad as he struggled to convince a room full of cynical New Yorkers the value of a pyramid business (scheme) so I bought several products, hoping it would spark others to buy too.
The fantasy of earning big bucks, passive income, got me to join the MLM Ideal Health, which were customized vitamins based on a urine test. I believed in the product after seeing how great I felt taking the vitamins, so it was easy to be persuasive, convincing my friends to pee in a cup and send the sample Fed Ex for their custom formulation. To this day, friends tell me that my passion for the vitamins was so strong that regardless of what it was, they wanted a piece of what I was selling. Contagious enthusiasm.
I stayed on the vitamins for years, but was never able to build my ‘down line,’ or recoup my initial investment of about $3K.
Walking down Park Avenue years ago, a cute guy started talking to me. I thought he was interested until he sounded like an MLM robot. The conversation went something like this:
Him: “I think you should come to this meeting on Thursday at 5.”
Me: “What’s it for”
Him: “Don’t worry about that.”
Me: “Is it an MLM”?
Him: “You don’t need to know anything before - all be revealed at the meeting.”
Me: “I’m in an MLM -- maybe we’re in the same one. Mine is custom vitamins. You?”
Him: No response, he just crossed the street in the opposite direction.
Each time multi-level marketing and I crossed paths, I had an allergic reaction, rebelled, and tried to do it ‘my way,’ which meant going off-script, being upfront with my peeps, and always getting reprimanded for it from my ‘up line.’ Perhaps this is why the few times I truly tried to build an MLM business I wasn’t successful. For me, if the process doesn’t feel natural and authentic to who I am then people sense my discomfort, smell BS, and I can’t do it.
Perhaps I’ve become one of those cynical New Yorkers that my old boyfriend was trying to sell Amway to because now, in with the world of digital marketing and sales funnels, I’m having the same allergic reaction to its methodology.
Have you ever received an email that has an intriguing subject line and the next thing you know, you’ve clicked on a link that takes you to a video or more copy needing a lot of scrolling to get to the point. Scroll, scroll more, scroll even more, and perhaps then you get another click through button. The product or services are interesting but you’ve spent precious time and still don’t know the bottom line financially or if it’s really right for you.
It’s so formulaic that these emails start looking and sounding the same with ingredients that include… pain point targeted questions… benefits you’ll receive… testimonials from happy customers… more about the benefits you’ll receive…and often, a 30-day money-back guarantee, etc.
Sound familiar? Have you spent valuable time going through this process? How often do you actually buy the product or service? What’s your reaction to the experience? For me, generally the only thing the brand, company, or entrepreneur succeeds in doing is losing me as a potential client/customer forever.
Always the non-conformist, I propose a rebellion, mixing it up:
Divert from following the latest marketing and sales trend
Dare to be bold
Step outside the box
We're strangers, so please don’t make it sound like we’re best friends
Respect your readers’ time, intelligence, and decision-making abilities
Look at what kind of selling you respond best to
Keep it simple, and less is always more
I prefer the fluff-less, no BS approach -- just give it me straight in a couple of paragraphs, with one click through if I actually want to buy. Share a brief description of what you’re selling, some credibility about why you/your product, the price (before I need to click further), and maybe a testimonial or two - although, have you ever read a negative testimonial… so how objective are they?
So the big question is... do your digital marketing and sales strategies light you so much that your enthusiasm is contagious enough that people would pee in a cup to get piece of what you're selling? If so, kudos, don't change anything.
If not, I bet your marketing would feel a whole lot better if you do it in the unique style and pizzazz of your brand. It's easy to follow the pack but that's not fun. Taking a stand, having an impact, doing the unexpected... now that's fun.
The right people, aka your ideal target audience, will always find you when they're ready.
Be fearless. Be creative. Be Courageous. Do it in a way that will have others following your style.