Network marketing is by its very nature a lifestyle business in which you promote yourself – you are selling people on the lifestyle as much as you are selling them on the product, brand, or service. You need to at least appear to embody that lifestyle yourself if you want consumers to buy in. After all, no one is going to listen to a Younique seller who doesn’t wear makeup or a Pampered Chef seller who doesn’t cook!
So, what should you do?
Promote yourself, including the story of you and your interaction with the brand instead.
Over-Focusing on the Brand is Bad
Let’s talk about exactly what makes focusing on your brand such a problem. It isn’t that you shouldn’t focus on the brand at all; if you avoided talking about it at all, you’d never sell a thing. The problem comes when you talk so much about the brand without even mentioning how you fit into the picture. That leads to overselling.
Browse through any social media site; you’ll see this first-hand. Network marketers posting the same copy-and-paste brand promotion posts that contain the same five talking points. They all essentially do the same thing. Tell you how incredible this product is, gurl, omg, you should buy it! It’s only $19.99 today!
These posts usually come in a series. The first tells you how fantastic Brand X is, the next why you should buy Brand X. Then another highlighting the Brand X story, then another still revealing what sets Brand X apart from other brands.
Then they set up a Facebook page promoting Brand X, and a Brand X Twitter, and a Brand X Instagram.
Brand. Brand. Brand.
Say it enough and it becomes a bit mind-numbing, doesn’t it?
That’s exactly how consumers feel when they read post after post highlighting all the gracious glories of a specific program. It’s cold, impersonal, and no matter how many hey, gurl’s you put in it, it’s not going to win as many people over as if you just promote yourself and tell your story .
Need an example? Network marketing expert Ray Higdon talks a lot about the problems with focusing on a company or brand versus promoting yourself in this video. Ray’s hilarious example shows himself dressed as a promoter for the hypothetical brand “Grapity Grape;” he totally oversells it. By the end, we’re all sort of cringing; this is what happens when marketers focus too strongly on the brand.
Of course, his actual attempts at promoting himself are much more astute. He’s magnanimous, motivational, and most importantly, charismatic. When he shares, he’s sharing something with real value that either teaches or draws his audience in. We pay attention because his self-promotion is believable and engaging!
Everyone Loves a Good Story
Humans are inherently storytellers. Since the beginning of time itself, we’ve passed down stories from ancestors to descendants, sharing lessons, experiences, and situations that allow all of us to learn, grow and evolve. We are naturally inclined to love a good story right at the very core of our being.
But a story coming from an individual is a lot different than a story coming from a brand. The first feels like intimate personal sharing; the second feels like...well, a commercial. Sure, it’s cute, and maybe even a little bit compelling (baby animal commercials, anyone?) but at the end of the day, it’s just another commercial. That's why when you promote yourself instead, it gives ti a more personal touch to help grab the audience's interest.
Human interest stories that come from the individual having the experience, on the other hand, feel highly personal and more like a friend sharing with a friend. Sharing your story is so powerful – you're connecting with people directly, not from behind a commercial face. That makes you friendly, engaging, interesting, and compelling when you promote yourself first.
Beating the MLM Industry’s Trust Problem
Let’s be honest: if we said that the MLM industry didn’t have at least a slight problem with dishonesty thanks to past failed programs, we’d be fooling ourselves. There are, sadly, a few bad apples that have spoiled the bunch. These predatory programs take advantage of people and push marketers to sell products in ways that aren’t entirely ethical or even really successful. This creates the public perception that no MLM is reliable, which simply isn’t true!
Many of these programs verge on pyramid schemes, and they really aren’t anything like valuable MLM programs, but they’ve soured many people on the idea of opportunities as a whole. Network marketers often have to fight to overcome these misconceptions before even showing their audience the truth as you try to promote yourself.
That’s unfortunate. There are some really incredible programs out there that do help people take back their power and make significant cash.
Some of that natural suspicion comes from the aforementioned spamming, copy-pasting of platitudes, and excessive brand promotion. When consumers see yet another MLM post talking about miracle products, it raises suspicion. Is it a real program? Does it work? Is this just another scam?
The way to break though that suspicion is to focus on how to promote yourself first, not the brand (or even the product). When people get to know you as an individual, and they see you engaging with the opportunity, benefitting from it, enjoying it, etc...they’re much more likely to set aside that suspicion and review the opportunity with an open mind.
Which brings us to the next important point.
Risky Audience Research
This point sort of segues off of the previous section, but it deserves a dedicated space because it’s one of the most significant obstacles marketers face. Your audience can (and will) research the opportunity you’re sharing, and when they do, what they find won’t always be positive.
Negative reviews, false reports of scams caused by unscrupulous marketers who took advantage, and disgruntled ex-seller blogs will all work to convince them that what you’re selling is not only not worth their time, but an outright scam, too.
Half the time these reviews aren’t even real; we know that. You know that. But they don’t know that – so encourage direct contact and research with you instead as part of a greater plan to promote yourself with the product instead of just the product itself.
Furthermore, when you push a company or brand rather than yourself, you’re driving your audience to that company and/or brand. Why should they bother coming to you to buy? Why can’t they just buy from the first seller they see – or even go directly to the company instead? By neglecting to promote yourself and only promoting your brand instead, you’re devaluing yourself in the equation.
This is YOUR business, YOUR sales, and YOUR effort – don’t lead your audience to another seller without even realizing what you’re doing! Take control and drive your leads to contact you when you promote yourself. This is your business; you just partner with the brand. You don’t have to give them all the credit!
Okay, But How?
We’ve (hopefully) managed to convince you that the strategy to promote yourself is better than focusing solely on your company or brand. That’s fantastic, but how do you make that happen?
First, understand that branding isn’t necessarily the same when you’re selling a person as it is when you’re selling a company or brand. In big business, branding mostly refers to creating a persona and marketing materials to match that persona – brochures, pictures, flyers, marketing email headers, unified branding across social media, etc. All of these will eventually be a part of your personal branding, but first, you need to shift your focus.
Instead of thinking in terms of creating a persona to represent your business, think about who you are already and what you have to offer your audience. You always want to focus on providing your audience with value – whether or not they buy.
If you’re providing something of value, conversions will naturally follow because people believe in the brand of YOU. When you finally do share the opportunity, they’ll jump on it because they know you have a positive history of sharing value in the past.
Maybe you’re funny. Maybe you’re seriously killer at teaching people how to sell like Ray. Maybe you just happen to rival Gordon Ramsay in the kitchen, and people seriously love your cooking tutorials. Flex those skills and attract people to you!
Crafting Your Personal Brand
Once you’ve figured out exactly who you are and what you do different than other network marketers, it’s time to brand that persona. Create social media pages promoting you as a person and what you do rather than your brand. Share valuable content reliably and often; if you create content people want to share, you’ll enjoy a nice organic boost.
As your network begins to grow, don’t be afraid to get personal now and again. People love to hear little tidbits about the lives of others. Tell a story about your last vacation and how your brand saved the day or vlog from your living room. When you share something about yourself, focus on facts rather than your interpretation.
Expand your authority by sharing stories that highlight exactly why you’re an expert in your field without bragging. A story about how you struggled and overcame an obstacle when growing your list, for example, is a fantastic way to reveal your expertise without coming across as a braggart. Keep your stories relevant, focused on your audience’s preferences, and be humble about your success without denigrating yourself.
Finally, don’t be afraid to be human. Have some fun now and again – the odd Saturday cat meme is just fine! People want to see that you’re a real, live human with a sense of humor, emotions, vices, and yes, even the occasional mistake. It all makes you more believable, and that, in turn, helps you actually sell your opportunity.