Do a Little Detective Work
FINDING THE RIGHT COMPANY
By Jeffrey A. Babener
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In the process of selecting the right network marketing company, you're going to have to do a little detective work on your own if you're going to do it right.
Keep in mind, however, that even if you make a mistake, you will not have lost much. One of the nice things about joining a network marketing company is the fact that it usually takes no more than $25 to $100 to join one and get started. That's a very small risk - especially in the world of business start-ups. You've probably "risked" that much on dinner at a new restaurant or a play!
Still, why lose even a dollar - not to mention the time you might spend in the wrong company when you could be building your business in the right company? That's why it's important to do some investigative work on your own. Here's how:
1. Find out if the company is a member of industry associations.
Call the DSA (202-293-5760) and the MLMIA (714-854-0484). These organizations have information on network marketing and have adopted ethics standards for their members.
2. Check it out through state agencies.
Most states regulate network marketing through their consumer protection division or attorney general's office. Call these offices in your state, or the state where the company is based, and ask if there have been any problems.
3. Call the Better Business Bureau.
Ask the company if it belongs to its local Better Business Bureau and call that office.
4. Investigate financials.
If you subscribe to a credit reporting services, such as Dun & Bradstreet, you may be able to get financial information about the company. If it is publicly traded, you can often get information and corporate reports from online services such as Prodigy, CompuServe, or America Online.
5. Ask your prospective sponsor for the names and phone numbers of other distributors or former distributors in your area.
In order to get a balanced portrait of the company, you need to talk to successful distributors, and if possible, distributors who have dropped out or become inactive. Ask them why they dropped out, and get their opinions on the quality and price of the product, as well as the fairness of the compensation plan. Keep in mind that the attrition rate in most network marketing companies is very high because it is generally a part-time sideline, competing with many other activities in people's lives. If you can, also get references to distributors' retail customers, and ask them how they like the products.
6. Attend a business opportunity meeting and company training session.
It should be easy to attend a business opportunity meeting. A thriving company's network should have these regularly in your area. Also, try to attend a training session of the company. These events will give you an excellent perspective of the company and its top distributors, as well as an idea of the level of support and marketing you can look forward to.
7. Read all about it.
Business magazines and industry publications are good sources of information about network marketing companies. Be sure to check them out. Local libraries often carry current and back issues of many of these magazines, such as Entrepreneur, Wealth Building, Success and Business Start-Ups . They may also have trade publications, such as Money Maker's Monthly . Industry newsletters such as Upline , Legaline and Start are good sources, as are many books, pamphlets and brochures on the subject. For a bulletpoint summary take a look at the brochures, Window of Opportunity, Network Marketing-What You Should Know, and Tax Time-Networkers and the IRS (Legaline Publications). For an excellent college level textbook, read Direct Sales An Overview, by Keith Laggos Ph.D. (1998).
8. Check it out with the regulators.
Many companies' products are regulated by government agencies or trade associations. For example, you might want to check out a company that sells food supplements and vitamins with your local Food and Drug Administration (FDA) office; or a water filter company with a water quality association.
9. Get as much material as you can from the company.
A good company offers plenty of its own marketing materials. Get these and read them. Find out how long the company has been in business, the number of states and countries it operates in, the number of distributors it has, its gross sales, and so on.
You might have to do some digging to get this information, but the results will be well worth your effort. It's always good to know what you're getting into.
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