The business of a network marketing company is comprised of several moving parts. It involves unique legal responsibilities, complex MLM software, compensation systems, product fulfillment (in most cases) and relationships.
But at the end of the day, it really boils down to a partnership between the company and its leaders. It’s the company’s responsibility to ensure the moving parts work together in a seamless fashion. In this new era of social media where brands are expected to have a distinct voice in the marketplace, add one more responsibility to the list: marketing. Whether you’re a MLM startup or a mature company, this topic matters.
I have the distinct pleasure of knowing Jonathan Gilliam. Jonathan is the founder of Momentum Factor and specializes in helping create brand equity for new and existing direct selling companies. He’s also co-founded a successful network marketing company, which gives him a unique perspective. He did a great job for us at the Direct Selling Edge conference, which is a conference for MLM startups. With all of the social media tools, it’s becoming challenging for companies to figure out their role in assisting the field with their marketing efforts. Now, it’s a new ballgame with new responsibilities.
What got you initially interested in the industry?
I’ve always had an interest in direct selling, the business model is so intriguing to me. What really got me going, though, was when I attended my first convention. It was like, “Whoa! Now this is an interesting business!”
My brother was one of the founders at Stream Energy/Ignite, which also happen to be a client of ours today. I have watched them grow from an idea into a huge player in this industry, leading me to co-found another direct seller, and ultimately, this firm. Its’ been a fun ride, now I’m hooked.
Has the advent of social media really changed the game for network marketing companies?
Yes, without question. It’s changed the game for nearly all industries, but I think our industry can be seen as almost parallel in many ways to the social networking phenomenon. I was one of the first to say that the direct selling industry invented social marketing. It just so happens technology has caught up to what we’ve known all along about social graphs. Now it’s truly changed the world.
Is it still sufficient for companies to allow the field to handle 100% of the marketing efforts?
I’m not sure it ever has been sufficient, though many have tried. Companies need to have a hand in how their brand and products are marketed, because those brands must ultimately be embraced and promoted by field and customer. But certainly it is much more critical today for companies to own their brands.
Do you think network marketing companies have distinct marketing needs above and beyond those of a traditional business?
Direct selling is unique from other forms of business. Our online communities are very different than those of say, a retail clothing company. Networkers are much more “a part” of our brands than merely consumers. Our fans and followers interact differently and have different needs and wants. This is why marketing and social media consultants from outside our industry tend to flop in direct selling, it takes a while to understand the dynamics.
What are three absolute minimums that you would require for all MLM startups regarding their online brands?
The very first thing I would ensure is differentiation. A lot of startups look at Stella and Dot or Mary Kay and say “I want to do what they’re doing.” I tell them someone’s already doing that, so what can we do different to capture the imagination and “special spark” of the company?
Second, I think demonstrating a culture and heart and soul of a company is also critical for the same reasons. These days people are not just starting a business, they’re looking for a sense of community.
Third is a real commitment to marketing, meaning money, talent and resources. Companies have a responsibility to build a strong brand and social media presence, and half-hearted efforts are now obvious.
Can you highlight a company that is doing well with social?
A great example is Premier Designs, the jewelry company. They held out on social media a while until they felt it was time for them. When they finally launched their sites a few weeks ago, they did it right. Their operating principle is “keep it personal” and they have managed to achieve that in the social arena. In the first few weeks of launch they had 10,000 likes with a huge amount of interaction as people responded to their culture shining through in their updates and posts. They’ve done a great job demonstrating their spirit while still remaining exciting and engaging.
What’s your favorite Rocky movie?
Can I choose Rambo?
If you want to stay in touch with Jonathan Gilliam, subscribe to his website, Momentum Factor.
Follow him on Twitter: @MomoFactor
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Email Jonathan at: jonathan [at] momofactor [dot] com.