Network marketing, also known as multi–level marketing MLM), is often misunderstood and vilified, sometimes for no apparent reason. The sector seems to be tolerated in Africa as a legitimate business.
Even disgruntled job seekers who decide finally to join the MLM sector are quickly labelled scammers. Community members start looking at them with an eagle’s eye, telling everyone that they should not be trusted.
Unfounded allegations, say MLM investors who maintain that their business is just like any other legitimate business. However, they fail to make any effort to defend that legitimacy with solid arguments. This could help the average African understand that they has nothing to fear.
“I wanted to join a networking company as a distributor, first. And if everything goes well, invest some money in this business. But some friends told me to stay away because it is a sector of crooks. I trust them whenever they advise me,” said Marie-Ange, a businesswoman.
“They did not say why because the people who told them also did not know why..”
“Most allegations made against network marketing being a thief’s business are unfounded. It is all hearsay,” Jean-Louis Yao Kouassi, a marketer, told MLM Magazine.
“The sector has been growing in many parts of the world. But it is still not happening in Africa. This is partly due, according to my view, to the scam tag strongly attached to it,” he added.
2017 was a breakout year for network marketing, according to Art Jonak, Mastermind Event founder. The number of network distributors grew to 116 million and sales grew to $189.6 billion. This is according to the 2018 Network Marketing Market Report.
A whopping $76 billion were paid to distributors as commissions in 2017, equivalent to $208 million a day. MLM companies generated nearly $1.5 trillion dollars in sales since 2009.
As for sales per region, Asia led the pack with 45%, followed by Europe with 20%, North America and South America with 19% and 14%, respectively. Africa’s sales only reached about 1.8%, the report said.
“Hearsay and gossip are widespread in African society. MLM found itself in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Yao Kouassi explained.
“The big players need to embark on an aggressive awareness campaign. This will help the sector get rid of the scam tag that is torturing it for decades.”
“Also, they must look themselves in the mirror to see what is making them look like scammers. Whereas they claim to be legitimate business people. Then they can get rid of dubious strategies, if there are. It is part of a solution towards clearing the sector’s name.”
Yao Kouassi urged people who are willing to join the sector to watch out where they put their feet. “They must do a lot of research on the company they want to work for, to avoid from falling into a trap.”
John-Paul Iwuoha is an author, impact entrepreneur, business strategist and founder of Smallstarter Africa (https://www.smallstarter.com). He has provided some tips for those who want to succeed in network marketing.
“To succeed in network marketing, you need to join a company with the right products and flexibility. It must also have a compensation plan and support that works for you. The company must have products that will sell well or ‘move’ in your local market, area or country,” he wrote.
There’s no point selling a product nobody is interested in, he pointed out.
“You can make a lot of money from this business via profits from the products you sell, bonuses and commissions. But avoid the temptation to think of this business as a get-rich-quick opportunity. Unfortunately, network marketing is often branded as a ‘quick route to riches’. Nothing could be farther from the truth,” he explained on his company’s website.
Iwuoha said succeeding as a network marketing distributor would require hard work, constant learning and a lot of action. “You will need to study the products and know them very well. This can answer any questions that come up while you engage with potential buyers or customers.
“You need to know how to make sales presentations and follow-up telephone calls. Entrepreneurs who succeed in this business are go-getters, focused and determined to achieve tough sales targets.”