In 1998 savvy, successful Network Marketers began looking toward the internet as a way to move their business building efforts from the hotels, motels and living rooms dotting the landscape to websites, chat rooms and web conferences. Companies began to move product fulfillment from toll-free numbers and FAX lines to on line ordering through websites assigned to individual distributors.
The internet's promises were myriad: 24 hour marketing, standardized presentations, the leverage of technology, the ability to cast a wide net to attract new customers and distributors without the limitations of region and distance.
Yet, by the year 2000 the viability of the internet as a business tool was seriously in doubt. The majority of consumers were using dial up connections at 56 kbps or less and could not access many of the presentations and downloads available online. High speed internet connections were reserved for businesses and consumers who could afford the 60 to 100 dollar per month premiums charged for a high speed connection. Consumers, concerned about online fraud, were reluctant to shop online. Finally many of the companies now considered internet bell weathers had yet to turn a profit online.
Additionally many companies and distributorships who found success with traditional network marketing models were reluctant to embrace online technologies or provide support for distributors seeking innovative ways to expand their businesses. Even today, distribution of information, technology and systems across the industry that may compliment and augment an individual distributor's business building efforts is not uniform leaving individual distributors to adopt older strategies which do work but to which they may not be suited or engage in counterproductive budget-draining strategies in search of the next guru with the answers.
Yes, the internet held promise but the overriding question was would high speed internet usage become common place enough to allow the free-flow goods, services and, most importantly, information in the market place?
According to a November 28, 2007 article in the LA Times, internet access in the US has grown tremendously since 2001 from an estimated 4.5% of households to 22.1% of households in 2007. Most excitingly the US currently ranks 15th internationally in the availability of high speed internet opening the possibility of broad exposure in both domestic and international markets for the entrepreneurial distributor backed by effective technology, quality products and a seamless compensation plan.
While it is our opinion that the internet will never completely replace the need for and value of human interaction, social networking sites, forums and chat rooms amply demonstrate the value of the internet in forging new connections and strengthening bonds in the business community.
The truth is that successful network marketers have always had the ability for forge new connections, build large social networks and market themselves over time and space. These marketers, successful using traditional models, were "always on". They were always on the lookout for potential new business partners sometimes to the embarrassment and consternation of their friends and families. A trip to the mall was never just a trip to the mall. A trip to the movies never just a trip to the movies. A trip to the grocery store never just a trip to the grocery store.
As it applies to network marketing, the value of the internet is obvious. The following benefits are listed as illustrations and are by no means exhaustive:
1) standardized presentations that run 24 hours a day 7 days a week
2) order fulfillment that runs 24 hours a day 7 days per week
3) 24/7 business building and downline growth
4) multiple language presentations to grow your business
5) access to new markets
6) access to new warm markets and spheres of influence
7) on-going, long-term, customizable follow up with your prospects
8) time and space leveraged technologies that allow a presenter at home in his or her pajamas to present simultaneously to prospects in multiple locations
9) limitedless interpersonal connections required for business growth
10) ability to customize technologies to allow self-expression for the individual entrepreneur
What should a network marketer do who wants to take advantage of the internet yet has no support from his company or upline? That is a difficult question. Difficult because our experience teaches us that it is very easy for a distributor to get lost in the miasma of guruism in search of information or the "magic bullet" and forget all about his or her company, products or services thereby compounding rates of attrition already present in the industry. An internet marketing system will, in general, be an expense added to the already existing business expenses of autoship, product purchases, and corporate subscriptions. The following list is a guideline to assist you in finding or developing the system that is most appropriate for you and assist you in taking a practical approach to evaluating a system before you attempt to duplicate it throughout your organization:
1) A system should have professionally written autoresponders
2) Link tracking. If a prospect clicks on your link, where did that click come from?
3) Well-designed landing pages that capture prospect information
4) Category sorting for prospects and the ability to customize campaigns to those categories
5) White-listed server. Will your prospects get e-mails send from your system?
6) Can-spam compliant
7) Unsubscribe function that should unsubscribe prospects from all prospect categories
8) System upgrades and new sites included in purchase price and ongoing subscription
9) Internal well-designed presentations
10) Integration with your corporate websites to facilitate product purchases
11) Excellent customer service
12) Initial start up cost of no more than 80 dollars and ongoing subscription rates of no more than 49.95 per month
13) Dedicated web team to keep the system running
14) Form code generators that allow you to integrate independent pages into your system
15) Refer-a-friend pages or scripts for your pages
This list is not exhaustive but will serve as a useful guideline to help you get started on the right foot if you want to build your network marketing business online.
Finally, as access to high speed internet connections continues to grow around the globe, the internet holds tremendous potential for those seeking to build their network marketing business online by providing access to new markets. Access that was once restricted to those with large budgets and the unrestricted ability to travel. The internet, in short, levels the playing field allowing more avenues to the "winners circle" of your chosen company.