Garrett is the kind of guy very few women would swipe left on Tinder. He seems more suited to the bodice-ripping covers of a Jane Feather novel or an Abercrombie and Fitch ad than he is to the backdrop of a Kuala Lumpur Starbucks. But that's where Garrett would usually take his Tinder dates, inevitably giving them the 'presentation'. Imagine most women's delight when a 6'3, sandy blonde haired, muscle bound man with green eyes and a slightly unshaven face shows up to greet them. It doesn't matter what he's selling - they buy it.
And that's exactly the kind of response Garrett and others in the business hope to get. Under a cloak of anonymity Garrett shared with us how he gets recruits and sells products for his MLM (multi-level marketing) business with age old marketing tools: good looks, charm, misleading pictures (for illustration purposes only) using a very new platform, social media apps.
A Little Background
Just a little explanation on what MLM is. Investopedia describes it as:
"A strategy that some direct sales companies use to encourage their existing distributors to recruit new distributors by paying the existing distributors a percentage of their recruits' sales. The recruits are known as a distributor's "downline." All distributors also make money through direct sales of products to customers. Amway is an example of a well-known direct-sales company that uses multi-level marketing."
If all that just flew over the top of your head allow us to simplify. MLM is direct selling by 'independent representatives' (or salespeople) who receive a commission on sales. But there's more. It's called multi-level marketing for the very reason that it ...er... contains many levels. Every representative is 'encouraged' to recruit other representatives under him which will then be called his 'downlines'.
The benefit is that not only will a guy like Garrett make money from his own sales, he's able to make a cut from the sales of his downlines as well. If the MLM company is actually selling products instead of merely recruiting 'members' who pay a fee - they are considered legitimate businesses not illegal pyramid schemes. Whilst the practice is by the strict letter of the law, legal - the methods employed are not always ethical. But we'll get to that later.
In previous years MLM businesses targeted the older set. Retirees who couldn't find gainful employment found the idea of 'anyone being able to do it' an attractive business. But today, charmed and bedazzled by the promises made by leaders - younger people are getting in on the MLM bandwagon. And nothing appeals to millennials quite like social media.
If you're not familiar with Tinder, the opening para may have make you go ... "say what?"
A dating app created for the superficial Tinder allows users to 'search' users within your vicinity for potential friends, relationships or casual hook-ups (if we're completely honest, an app this focused on physical appearance is more likely used for casual hook-ups than anything). On Tinder, users are able to browse pictures of members based on their search criteria (age/gender) and click 'yes' (or swipe right across your screen) or 'no' (swipe left) based on preference for picture or profile.
Of course, you can click the image to read a short paragraph about the person and view mutual friends or interests but let's get real - if the profile picture doesn't interest you, you're unlikely to click to see more. Once you've clicked 'yes' on a person, they need to return the 'yes' click on your profile too before the two of you can chat. This isn't easy because 'yes' clicks are kept anonymous until the other person reciprocates. But of course people have found a way to beat the system - widen the net and catch more fish - click 'yes' on everyone! If a match is created and you don't like the person simply 'unmatch' with no shame!
Because Tinder works in this way people like Garrett found it all too easy to score new possible 'downlines'. Click 'yes' on every girl and wait for whichever ones give him a 'yes' back. The fact that he looks good makes Tinder the perfect platform - very few women would say no to a profile photo like his.
The Lure of the Good Life (Re: Financial Freedom)
But good looks only get you so far. As a good 'independent representative', knows the real clincher is the promotion of the 'good life' that you could potentially live if you were to sign up. Garrett's pictures doesn't just include good looking headshots and washboard abs - he added pictures of himself vacationing in exotic locales, eating in fancy restaurants, and driving posh cars. He then tells women that he is able to afford all of that on his fabulous 'freelance' job. Once he gets them interested, out comes the presentation.
Anyone who's ever been given an MLM pitch will know about the PRESENTATION. It deserves capitalisation because it is THE most important thing taught to representatives. Do the presentation right and you'll recruit. Never forego the presentation because that is the most important bait.
You can rest assured that the presentation will be filled with more photos of the 'good life', how easy it is to make money and how you can too join the jetset just putting down enough cash to buy the products you'll be selling. Oh, and a small 'subscription fee'.
The problem: what most representatives won't tell you is that it isn't as easy to make money as it looks.
Multi-Level Marketing: Separating Fact from Fiction
So here are some FACTS first.
Yes, it is a legal business model and not a scam if you are selling real products BUT there's a lot that falls in grey areas and MLM companies have superb lawyers who know the loopholes. They are legal but no one said anything about ethical.
Yes, you CAN make oodles of money. The real question is - will you really? So, unlike actual scams - there really is a potential (however small) for you to make good money. Based on the multi-level model; the more downlines you have selling products; the more commissions you make sometimes even without selling anything yourself. Now imagine if you had rows and rows of downlines under you.
It's like marketing Inception - you make money from your downline and his downline and his downline's downline... ok, we'll stop because it's confusing us too but you get the idea.
The potential to make money is definitely there but here's what they don't tell you - how difficult it actually is to not only get downlines but to get good downlines who will sell enough product to earn you the money you need to attain 'financial freedom'. Now you may think, "hey that's common sense! Of course, it's hard work." Don't get tricked by the common sense card - you have no idea how persuasive and sometimes blatantly dishonest 'representatives' can be when they themselves are trying to make a sale.
You will need to put down a good sum of money. At least RM2,000 and above is a safe guesstimate. Promises of 'financial freedom' doesn't come without a price. Of course, this will take the form of you buying a representative 'starter pack' which includes the items you will sell; reading materials to help you craft your presentation and whatever miscellaneous admin fee they may have.
You usually can't hold the company responsible if you are 'coerced' even under false misrepresentation by other 'independent representatives'. The defence is simple and right by law: "We can't be held responsible for what our representatives tell you when they are making a sale. We can only train and advise them to be honest, transparent and ethical." Great. But how ethical and honest will a person be if he just sold his only cow in a rural kampung village to pay for his starter kit and needs to make a sale ASAP to feed his family? There's your grey area. And it's more than 50 shades.
So now you know the facts, and we've already divulged some fiction, for let's go the extra mile.
Not everyone can do it. Well, ok, technically everyone can cash out their life savings and buy a starter kit - you don't need a degree or work experience for it. But selling a product and recruiting downlines requires a particular marketing know-how. It requires charisma, a talent for talking and well, as Garrett proved to us - good looks and washboard abs go a long way.
The fiction is in telling people who are unable to sell because they lack the skill to close deals that EVERYONE can do it is misleading. True; you don't need a marketing diploma nor be of any particular age but if you can't sell then you'll fall through the cracks. It's like telling a person who can't paint that he can be a master painter just by purchasing your canvas and paints. He could work hard. He could practice but to truly hit the paydirt - he needed to have the talent.
It isn't easy. Despite the good life you're sold in the presentation - what you're seeing is possibly only a small fraction of the people who join the movement. You're seeing the success stories. The people you're not seeing are the retirees or village folk who begged and borrowed to buy the starter kit but found they had no one to sell to and even when they did - they lacked the 'finesse' to close deals. We're not saying it isn't possible.
If you've got talent in sales and the willingness to work hard you could be a success story. But the odds are much higher than you think. Don't be fooled by the flashy presentations (or good-looking Tinder dates). Know exactly what you're getting yourself into.
They're not 'all scams'. As stated above, you can actually make money and it is a legitimate business. The difference is in spotting the genuine multi-level marketing businesses amidst the scam pyramid schemes. Usually, the non-existence of products is a dead giveaway but before signing up with ANYTHING - always do your homework!
Wait, so what's this got to do with Tinder?
Multi-level marketing representatives have started taking whole new, innovative steps to make money. They're not just hounding relatives and friends of friends - they're using social media. Everything from Tinder, Facebook, to even Google Plus (yea we know right...?) and they're using every charm and charismatic phrase in the industry wordbook. It's not necessarily unethical (businesses use social media to promote all the time) but it does become so when they meet you under the guise of something else and then proceed to misrepresent what they are selling.
Again, it isn't illegal but if you're blindly signing up thinking you can be a 'paid vacationer' or whatever it is they're calling their members - keep the main rule of thumb in mind - if it looks too good to be true, it likely is. The point is: don't sign up for anything no matter how good it looks (or how good the salesman looks!) without first doing your homework and knowing what you're signing up for!
We're not saying no one should ever join an MLM business nor are we out to demonise the industry. We're saying if some sales representatives cannot be transparent about what they're selling then YOU need to know what you're getting into.
The decision is as always yours.
Note: we changed Garrett's name. Guys called Garrett who you meet on Tinder might really be the love of your life. Or not.