MLM: Been There, Done That

After my last blog, I was mildly surprised to learn that a number of people started following my blog.

I checked out their profiles with the intention of returning the favor by following any of my followers that seemed interesting.  Viewer traffic is what makes the Internet world turn, after all.

It was interesting alright.

I found it more than a little ironic (and amusing, given my last topic) that most of them were affiliate marketers.  But that shouldn’t be surprising.  That’s how most bloggers make their money, through some form of affiliate marketing or ad sponsorship.

Some of the sites, though, started sounding awfully familiar to me.  And a few of these people were involved in something called “Empower Network” that supposedly earned them a lot of money blogging.  Travel, freedom, cool lifestyles and a lot of “You Can Too”.

Being a curious and cautious kind of geek, I started doing a little bit of research.  Mind you, it wasn’t exhaustive, but I found out enough to satisfy my curiosity.

For a mere $25 a month, you too can have an optimized blog site to drive traffic to you and receive some basic training materials.  And if you get other people to sign up for the basic plan, you get a commission on it.  And if they get other people to sign up for the basic plan, it sounds like you get a commission on that, too.  But only the basic plan.  If you want a commission when someone buys into a higher plan, you have to be at that level first.  The next level is $100 a month, by the way.  And they have advanced training materials that you can buy for one-time payments (starting at $500).  Oh, and have I mentioned the no-refund policy?  I found that out by reading up on this business with the BBB.

And then there’s this promotional website promising that if you “do these three things, you will make money every time”.  Just give them your email address to get the free video.

It’s no wonder that all sounded so familiar.  See, I used to belong to Amway, the Great-Grandparent of all MLM companies.  Amway absolutely had some great products to sell, but the fact remains that their real product has always been Amway itself.

Multi-Level Marketing may have gone viral, but some things never change.  The parent company might or might not have a great product, but the real business is selling (and often overcharging for) memberships, member services, and motivational ‘training materials’.  Some people do indeed make serious money doing that.  Most people don’t.

I’m not going to tell you that all MLM’s are scams.  There are legitimate, legal businesses like Amway that use MLM.  But I am telling you that you will not make serious money at it without becoming an evangelist for the brand and convincing other people that they can make it work for them, too.  And that’s the best-case scenario.

Now I don’t know whether Empower Network is one of the better MLM’s or not.  What I do know is that I’ve lived that wanna-be lifestyle before and I didn’t like it.  My family and friends are not potential downlevels.  My church is not a ripe customer base.  I’m not abandoning my social commitments to attend rallies and seminars.  I don’t want people losing money on my conscience.  I especially don’t want losing my money on my conscience.

I also know that Empower Network has a “C-” rating from the Better Business Bureau and that they are not BBB Accredited.  They’re not necessarily and probably aren’t a bunch of scammers, but personally I’d shy away for that reason alone.  Yes, they’re getting rave reviews from their members.  Of course they are.  How else are they going to convince you to join up so they get their commission?

That’s all I have to say about that, but I’d like to leave you with a final thought.  All business ventures include an element of risk.  Do your homework and make sure you know what you’re risking.

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