I have been an observer, participant and commentator in the network marketing, direct sales industry since 1997. Over the years, I have examined the practices and policies of numerous companies, not only as an attorney for potential investors, but also as a witness to the tangible financial benefits of clients who had achieved success in network marketing.
In my review of the industry and various companies, I discovered a number of intangible benefits that are often overlooked in the business. It is hard to explain unless you’ve been there to experience them firsthand, but these intangibles can be as rewarding and fulfilling as the financial benefits that attach to network marketing.
I have noticed were five intangible benefits that derive from the network marketing experience. These include (1) personal development; (2) self-empowerment; (3) spiritual growth and values; (4) leadership and service, and (5) belonging and community.
Personal Growth and Development
Personal development is one of the most powerful messages resonating throughout the network marketing industry. It is at the core of many business opportunity presentations and a part of every success story. But because personal development is such a subjective and intangible outcome, much of the academic literature on the network marketing industry tends to ignore or substantially minimize this aspect of the business. But one cannot consider the network marketing industry in a comprehensive way without recognizing this unique and consistent element.
Most network marketing organizations emphasize the importance of personal development as an element of business success. The recognized leaders and up-and-comers in every organization tend to speak about how their participation in the “business” helped them to develop stronger and better personal traits and habits and how those traits, in turn, transformed them into individuals with integrity and character. I have observed many marketing representatives evolve from ordinary people into extraordinary individuals of palpable personal character.
For many newcomers, network marketing provides their first exposure to a broad range of self-help authors, motivational speakers and performance experts. By following the recommendations and examples of more senior representatives and leaders, these representatives discover a whole new world of personal development tools, products and resources.
In addition to personal development, many network marketing organizations display very strong spiritual principles. They speak of faith, not in denominational terms, but in terms of its importance as a pillar of business success. Many top executives, including founders and presidents, speak openly and often about their own spiritual beliefs and the connection between those beliefs and their financial and personal accomplishments.
This tone is often carried out among super achievers, company ambassadors and motivational speakers. Many speak of the need to help and “be a blessing” to others, and the connection between spiritual principles and business success gets reinforced consistently. While leaders are very careful not to make spirituality or religion a formal part of the business formula, the prevalence of spiritual principles is a big part of every success story I have heard over the years.
There is both an aspirational and inspirational appeal of the spiritual element for many people who are taking a look at the network marketing industry for the first time. The underlying spiritual benefit discussed in many network marketing organizations gives a company and its representatives a not-of-this-world aura. It allows those who aspire to do something meaningful with their lives to participate in a business that is more than just making money. It presents a very attractive alternative to the mainstream corporate world, where spirituality is the farthest thing from the company’s agenda.
Developing a Leadership and Service Mentality
Another intangible benefit of network marketing is the emphasis on leadership. The most successful network marketing companies and individuals all speak about leadership and service. These principles permeate the marketing and recruitment process. Most sponsors emphasize they are looking for a few good leaders who can see the big picture and are willing to work hard to succeed. There is also a keen emphasis on serving or helping others to achieve their dreams. It is often said in the network marketing business that by helping others to achieve their goals, you will achieve your own.
The leadership traits that are emphasized and developed in the network marketing business spill over into other aspects of life. I have seen dozens of average, everyday people come into the ranks of the organization only to grow and become extraordinary leaders of their own business, communities, churches and other organizations.
By watching and emulating the successful representatives and executives in their own uplines and throughout the organization, network marketers can expedite their own leadership growth and potential in ways that are more difficult in other types of organizations. There is also an emphasis on service and selflessness. In network marketing, teamwork is not just a slogan—it is a way of life. You cannot succeed in the business without help from your team and without helping your team.
Belonging and a Sense of Community
I’m not sure how many people go into a business thinking that their co-workers and business partners will become the people they love hanging around with. But in the network marketing business, it is quite common to find one of the intangible benefits to be a deep sense of belonging and the development of a close-knit community of friends that transcends business. There is something to be said about everyone moving in the same direction toward a common purpose.
Among many top earners and executives, the sense of belonging to a company and a community is palpable. The shared interests and lifestyles of network marketers is one of the things that draw them together, and their shared successes and challenges usually keep them together. This becomes mutually reinforcing, as marketers thrive on the successes and challenges of their colleagues.
Typically, these relationships tend to last over many years and spill over into other aspects of life, including new organizations and business opportunities. The camaraderie and community that attaches to network marketing is a unique intangible benefit that is rarely seen in other independent businesses.
Fairness and a Level Playing Field
One of the most liberating benefits of network marketing is the fundamental fairness of the businesses. It is, by any measure, a true meritocracy. If you want to be successful, it can happen. Your age, gender, race, lifestyle or physical condition is not an impediment to how high you can rise in an organization or how well you get compensated.
In many network marketing organizations, you will notice a greater participation of minorities — African Americans, Hispanics, Asian Americans and women — than in other types of sales organizations. These groups have come to understand that if they work hard, and the rules are fair, they can achieve and succeed.
The proof of fairness in the industry has been the number of success stories of people who had not succeeded in other businesses. People who were down on their luck or just down and out period. We found stories of people who went from being broke to being banked through network marketing.
In conclusion, we all know the tangible benefits of direct sales—money and success. But there are many intangible benefits to a career in direct sales, network marketing that often are overlooked. These benefits – (1) personal development; (2) self-empowerment; (3) spiritual growth and values; (4) leadership and service, and (5) belonging and community are just as valuable to the development of a successful person.
© 2020 Adonis E. Hoffman.
Adonis Hoffman is an attorney, business strategist and CEO of The Advisory Counsel, Inc. A marketing, advertising and regulatory expert, he has been an advisor to investors in direct sales and consumer products companies. Mr. Hoffman is a former member of the National Advertising Review Board (NARB) and is chairman of the Appellate Board of the Direct Selling Self-Regulatory Council (DSSRC).