I’m sure Multi-Level Marketing has been around since ancient days. Send out street urchins to sell stuff and take a big chunk of their income. Get them to recruit other homeless kids and let them have a share of what their protegé earns.
But Multi-Level Marketing (or MLM) is big business now, with one estimate* putting it at around the US$200 billion per annum mark, worldwide.
So, we have to ask:
What is Multi-Level Marketing?
How does it work?
Is it a good way to earn a living (here’s a spoiler: no)?
The Long Tail is the other half of the same chart we saw in an earlier Big Ideas article: the Pareto Principle. Vilfredo Pareto took an interest in the head of the chart, where a small number of people accounted for a huge proportion of wealth. In 2006, Chris Anderson published a book that looked at the huge number of products that form the remainder, when you exclude the few that account for the majority of sales.
Amazon lists more than 3 billion products across 11 marketplaces worldwide.
But most of their sales and revenue come from the top few highest performing goods in each category. A small number of books may sell thousands a month. But there are millions of books that rarely sell any in a given month… or year.
Seth Godin is a marketer and a communicator. His stream of valuable ideas about 21st century marketing is something we’ve written about before. And we’ve featured his idea of Permission Marketing in a previous Big Ideas article. But perhaps the most resonant of his ideas is that of Tribes. This is the idea that marketers need to lead change. And we do that by building a coalition of the willing: a tribe of like-minded people who share our vision.
What I like best about Godin’s idea of Tribes is that it works well on two totally different levels. And different managers in our readership will find greatest resonance in one or the other. The idea of tribes can be about:
leading change to build a better future
creating demand for a new product, idea, or service
So, Tribes is a big idea about change leadership or about marketing… or maybe about both.
When I first thought about Social Media as a Big Idea, it seemed like a good topic. Until I started to think about it. Because forms of Social Media are ubiquitous – we all use them, so what can I tell you that you don’t already know?
Branding started out as deliberate mutilation of cattle, to assert ownership. Now it’s about leaving more than a physical mark: it’s about creating an emotional connection.
Brand has arguably become as important as function and quality in the world of products and services. The craft and skills of branding experts are tuned to a high pitch. But that’s not to say there have been no missteps. And there’s been a backlash too.
So, let’s have a look at the big idea that is branding.
The explosion in online business and the effectiveness of Software as a Service have created a new boom: Marketing Automation. This allows marketers to address prospective customers almost personally. But to do so in a way that scales with your business.
It sounds almost too good to be true. So, what is marketing automation, and how does it work?
There’s nothing new in the idea of enchantment. It’s been turning up in fairy tales, legends, and myths for thousands of years. So, when Guy Kawasaki applies the word as a metaphor for how to influence customers, is he telling us anything new?
Like many big ideas, the modern version of enchantment isn’t new. And also like many, you could interpret it as stating the obvious. His book contains nothing a well-read and experienced manager won’t have encountered before.
But, also like many big ideas, the value really comes where we too-easily overlook the familiar. So we need reminding of what we already know. And coining a great metaphor is a good way to do it. So let’s look at what lies at the heart of Kawasaki’s Enchantment.
If you are in the business of selling, who are you selling to? Do you know the characteristics of your customers? To target your marketing well, you need an archetype, which marketers call the ‘Buyer Persona’ or sometimes the customer or marketing persona. And sometimes they use ‘Avatar’.
Each of these terms means the same thing. If you do the work, up front, of characterising the people you want to sell to, you can better target your marketing.
How can your organisation build the reputation it chooses? Certainly through its deeds and through paid advertising. But one way trumps all others: good PR.
PR, or Public Relations is exactly what its name suggests. It’s about building relationships with your public. And it works whether you are a business, a not-for-profit, a political or governmental body, a product or service, or a celebrity; minor or major. Good PR gets the right part of the public interested in you and pre-disposes them to think in the way you choose.
So is it manipulative? Is it just an appealing term for what we now call spin and used to call propaganda? It can be. But in this article, we are going to stick to PR done with integrity. So the answer to those questions is: ‘it depends’. And what it depends on is the integrity of how your PR is carried out. And therefore on the integrity of the people who do it for you: your PRs.