I went to a fascinating workshop last night organised by a multi level marketer and hosted at Shine in Harehills.
The evening kicked off with a series of presentations from the Business Link Yorkshire Ideas Team, Job Centre Plus and HMRC. Three competent, wide ranging presentations. For me, just too many talking heads. Still I suspect all three were able to put ticks in boxes and they certainly gave the evening a solid air of credibility and professionalism.
After a short break things got really interesting.
We were presented with an introduction to Multi Level Marketing and how it differs from pyramid selling (pyramid selling is illegal and only those in at the beginning can get to the top, MLM is much more meritocratic in that if YOU do the work YOU get the rewards was the message I picked up). The person making the presentation was a Multi Level Marketer for one of the largest MLM oufits in the world, Herbalife. A little web research on Herbalife leads to some very mixed messages. Clearly for many people it works well; they make money and enjoy good health. The internet suggests that this is not everyone’s experience.
After the presentation one of the current herbal life distributors told us how it had transformed her life and it could transform ours too. We could make money while we are on holiday, get repeat business, never have to talk with strangers, enjoy low start up costs etc. It all sounded too good to be true.
This was not enterprise education – this was recruitment. This was not impartial and independent advice. It was MLMers doing their stuff, recruiting more MLMers and piggy backing on the credibility of Business Link, HMRC and the Job Centre.
Finally we had a very brief and very credible presentation from Robert Looker. He provided a balanced and professional introduction to the concept of the franchise. Robert was open about the fact that he worked for Exemplas. He did not point out that Exemplas were one of the partners behind Business Link Yorkshire.
I think Business Support organisations have to engage with MLM schemes. They are in our communities. The vast majority of those ‘Need an extra income’ signs fixed to lamp posts lead to MLM organisations. We have to find ways of making sure that they add value in our communities and do no harm. MLM works for some people not all. Its reputation is mixed. Typically it requires you to have a network of friends with disposable income (not massively common in super output areas).
I don’t beleive the public purse should be used to provide a platform for any single MLM organisation – although it should be used to educate about MLM. If the workshop had been an impartial ‘All you need to know about MLM’ then I for one would have been much more relaxed. I was pretty shocked that one MLM outfit had established this platform of credibility to promote themselves directly into the community. This was neither independent nor impartial.
I have been involved in the development of the Business Link brand for over 15 years. I understand independence and impartiality. I also understand how easily these brand values are compromised – and I think they were last night.
Developing more enterprising cultures in ‘areas of deprivation’ is difficult and fragile work. There are always ‘get rich quick and easy’ schemes looking to part people from their cash and we need to be very careful to help people make good choices as we prompt them to flex their enterprise muscles. We bear a burden of responsibility as we encourage people to be more enterprising.
I doubt that our responsibilities are best discharged by wrapping advocates for one direct MLM organisation in the shrouds of publicly funded business support. I am sure it is the herbalife agents who will be following up interest. I am also sure that it was the public purse that picked up the tab for the refreshments.
I am distictly uncomfortable.
Am I the only one?
There are at least three major challenges in marketing our enterprise services:
- More than 90% of the population does not see what we do as relevant to them – when it comes to enterprise they are pre-contemplators
- Getting our messages through – what are our key messages and how to we get them where they can be heard – by the people that matter?
- Giving people the confidence, conviction and commitment to act on the messages – to give us a call, to come to a workshop, to make an appointment, to have a conversation
Now the default setting for the VAST majority of enterprise projects are these:
We won’t worry about the pre-contemplators – we will target those who already have ideas they want to act on or already have the belief and the conviction that they can make progress. This makes it easier for us to hit our numbers.
Our core messages will be:
1. we can help turn your dreams into reality (if you don’t have dreams don’t call us)
2. We can turn your business ideas into reality (ignore the fact that the ‘Dragons’ mash up and humiliate most of the poor saps that go to them – with our help you can’t fail)
3. It is quick – and relatively easy – (if you haven’t got the skills we can teach them to you) – you can be up and running in just weeks or months. 10 000 hours to master a field – forget it – who is Malcolm Gladwell anyway? 3 half day workshops and a bit of one to one on the business plan will “see you ‘reet”. (Glad no-one is measuring survival rates on our projects!)
4. To get people to take action we will lure them in by hinting at the availability of money, childcare, bouncy castles and food. We will even pay them the bus fare (yes, it costs a lot to administer but – what are we to do…?)
5. We will spend a lot of money on marketing collateral, leaflets, web sites and e-mail marketing campaigns (digital exclusion! – you mean some poor people don’t have e-mail accounts – never mind they could never become proper business people anyway – they are not our target group).
6. We will attend every possible event and push our services hard – just like those guys who sell SKY TV and Credit Cards in the Merrion Centre – “You mean we shouldn’t be selling enterprise like any other commodity? Why not?”
We know that these approaches:
- are expensive
- have very low hit rates
- attract a whole load of people who just want to get the money without putting in the work
- attract people easily seduced by the idea of a quick fix – rather than composing a life and a livelihood
- elicit more suspicion, frustration and cynicism than enthusiasm and engagement
- provide us with very high customer acquisition costs. (interesting that most entrepreneurs are very interested in this number – yet most projects funded to support entrepreneurs don’t worry about their own cost per customer acquisition at all – ‘We are below targets – lets throw some more money at marketing then!’).
What about looking at marketing approaches that work.
Word of mouth.
Reputation building, seeking referrals and recommendations – based on the fact that we are bloody good! That we do inspire, transform, care and coach. That we are more than interested in people and their passions. That we are with them for the long haul.
Worrying more about what every customer says about us to their mates, in the pub, in the clubs and on the streets, rather than some abstract and easily manipulated percentage that represents ‘customer satisfaction’ – YUK!
Being the kind of people and the type of service that our customers can’t wait to recommend to their friends.
Once we start to spend time and money on developing marketing and enagement strategies based on:
- reputation management
- social networking
- gatekeepers, and
- the needs, interests, cultures and values of the communities we serve (rather than policy goals and outcomes)
we would start to see the basics of our own businesses transformed.
- 10% of customers influence the purchasing decisions of the other 90%
- 91% of customers are “likely” to buy off of a recommendation
- 92% of customers “prefer” a word of mouth recommendation
A one day workshop looking at strategies and techniques for marketing enterprise projects.
Using both the Change Cycle of Prochaska and DiClemente and the Enterprise Coaching Model this one day workshop will help you to develop ways of marketing enterprise programmes.
The day will focus on marketing enterprise in communities with lower than usual levels of enterprise.
- Developing Collateral (that might just work)
- Working with Gatekeepers
- Building Word of Mouth Strategies
Workshop costs £299 plus VAT.
Super output areas and other ‘deprived’ communities are dominated by a psychology of poverty.
- Poverty of aspiration
- Poverty of belief and
- Poverty of opportunity.
Only by understanding the psychology of the groups and individuals with whom we want to work and by developing focused social marketing strategies are we likely to receive an invitation to do our work.
Marketing in poor communities is different.
It needs a different approach.
You Will Learn:
- What is Social Marketing and Why it Matters to Enterprise Professionals
- Developing Marketing Collateral that Might Just Work
- Learning from Current Practice
- Developing Market Segments that Work
- Strangers, Prospects and Customers
- How to Build a Word of Mouth Strategy
- Using Gatekeepers to Reach the Market
Who Should Attend?
- Enterprise coaches, advisers and other enterprise professionals seeking to work with ‘hard to reach’ communities
- Marketeers and PR professionals charged with promoting enterprise services and project
- Anyone who is seeking to ‘engage’ a community in enterprise
“If you want to reach people no one is reaching you’ll have to do things that no one else is doing. In order to do things that no one else is doing you can’t do what everyone else is doing.”
Craig is a preacher in the US and this quote was in the context of taking the church into the community. However I think it is relevant to the challenge of engaging individuals in enterprise – especially those from the poorest communities.
What are you doing – that no-one else is - that gives you a chance of connecting with potential clients that no-one else is engaging?