Compliant MLM Web Marketing: Fact or Fiction?

One might argue that being able to achieve complaint MLM web marketing efforts for distributors at all levels is impossible. It’s not that it’s impossible, it’s just a very difficult nut to crack. With a myriad of different factors to take into consideration when crafting an Internet Policy at the emerging or established MLM Company level, it has long been difficult to achieve harmony between marketing essentials and compliance concerns.

Fact or fiction, impossible or achievable, however you want to look at the state of Compliant MLM web marketing – the future is now.

MLM Web Marketing Shifts Compliance

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The title of my article may be a misnomer of sorts – since if there were truly overt non-compliant MLM web marketing practices taking place, there would be a lot more FTC cases being brought upon the industry, right? Not necessarily. The FTC has bigger fish to fry than meticulously crawling hundreds of thousands of distributor websites looking for misleading or questionable content, but that does not guarantee impunity forever.

Succeeding in an MLM is more difficult now that it was ten years ago. With the explosion of Social Media and blogging, distributors now compete for a Share of Voice not only within their own company but the market at large. Taking a step back, before this advent back-office vendors saw the MLM Company’s need to have websites for each of its distributors and they rolled out the concept of the “replicated website”. A band-aid solution, these replicated websites didn’t anticipate or adapt to the explosion of social technologies.

In order to stay competitive, distributors saw the potential to leverage these tools to extend the personal relationship behind direct selling online – and MLM compliance departments reacted accordingly. Swiftly realizing that blogging and Social Media active distributors created a huge liability for the Company, compliance departments restricted distributors from using a vast amount of the components critical to being successful online via their Internet Policies. Did it work?

The Era of Reactive Compliance

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Web Marketing within many MLM companies became very limited as a result of these vague, yet detailed, Internet Policies. Distributors were restricted from using the brand name, logo, copy, trademarks, etc (actually restrictions vary company to company, but predominantly the case), and an MLM’s compliance department was now responsible for monitoring a vast, fluctuating network of approved and rogue distributor websites. Beyond distributor websites, Social Media profiles also required continuous, manual monitoring.

The process for removing or editing questionable content? While some MLM companies require distributors to provide usernames/passwords for any web marketing tool they use, most rely on directly contacting distributors to remove inappropriate content. Since most correction windows fall between 5-10 business days, questionable content can remain public for weeks after being first discovered, with compliance departments having to revisit the site periodically to ensure the content is set straight.

This tedious practice persists today, and it’s far from perfect. Refraining from putting individual distributors on the chopping block with specific examples, it is relatively easy to find distributors using questionable or restricted content that compliance departments completely miss. So how does a company appropriately approach effective, yet still compliant MLM web marketing?

MLM Web Marketing Requires Preemptive Compliance

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Let’s be honest – having to manually dig through thousands of websites on a consistent basis is a compliance nightmare, and having to rely on distributors to take corrective action is not only inconvenient, but imperfect.

Compliant web marketing efforts are definitely not fiction, but it takes an innovative and forward thinking MLM company to proactively address this issue. Preemptive compliance may not be an industry standard yet, mainly due to the fact that a comprehensive solution to the problem never existed, but it’s coming. MLM software that allowed companies to create websites for distributors has been available for years, but nothing that addressed the needs of distributors & companies, while still remaining rooted in compliance.

Transitioning to preemptive compliance eases to headaches of MLM companies who have to manually monitor thousands of websites, and react to misleading or questionable content by contacting distributors to amend the content. It’s not a hard process with the right tools; tools that weren’t available even a year ago. Preemptive compliance is new, and permits a MLM company to not only offer appropriate tools to distributors, but have direct oversight and administrative access to these sites.

The future is now – the concept of these tools has traversed from the realms of science-fiction to a matter of fact, are you on board?

Image Credits: MikeBaird (Shifting Dunes), Tony Crider (Goalie), (Wrong Tool for MLM Web Marketing).

January 19, 2011

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