How Ethical Are You In Your Business Relationships?

| October 22, 2009 | 8 Comments

Tribes, Seth GodinI’m reading Seth Godin’s Tribes. It’s about how communities need leaders. He challenges his readers to find their voice and make it known. To that end, I’m going to voice my opinion about the ethical behavior I see in Multi-Level Marketing, or Network Marketing.

PrePaid Legal (PPL) has created a shopping site that they hope will be the funnel, through social media, that they can secure more PrePaid Legal Associates. The new service is called BlastOff.

You can sign up for free and start saving a few dollars here and there. The real goal of BlastOff is for you to sign up as an associate. I did that several months ago, feeling it would be a nice service to offer my readers. However, I wasn’t able to promote it my way, which if I had realized that I probably wouldn’t have signed up to be an Associate,  and that wasn’t PrePaid Legals goal. They wanted me to work PPL, which would have taken away from my own business.

So, why do I share this story with you. I arrived at a networking event to hear that BlastOff was going to be bigger than Facebook.  Really???  Please!!! The tendency to over exaggerate MLM opportunities are abundant and just too ridiculous to even acknowledge. I’ve heard another MLM tell my fellow business owners that the product she represents (which IMHO BlastOff is trying to compete with) didn’t require me to do anything but purchase what I’m currently purchasing. She “forgets” to tell people that this opportunity to save money comes with a price tag of a couple hundred dollars.  Give me a break. Be honest when you give that 3o sec. elevator pitch.

The PPL sales reps that I’ve met over time have come to me asking me my opinion of BlastOff.  I’ve been honest with them. When I first tested BlastOff, remember I’m a web programmer, I realized that the product was no where near ready to launch. It had dead links and nothing else that could compare to the likes of Facebook. I wasn’t surprised that they had to push back the launch. I shared that I didn’t think it was ready for prime time and that it won’t be as big as Facebook. That doesn’t stop them, though. The next request was to ask me to send her link to my email database. Wow, hutzpah.

Which brings me to the point of my post…I recently had a running Facebook email conversation with, yet another, PPL and told him the same thing. I’m a PPL associate.  Even with that info, he decided it would be cool to post his BlastOff link on my wall.

So, what does that mean, to post a link on my wall. Posting a link on my wall, just like tagging a note or picture, puts the “poster’s” information on my wall and viewable by all my friends. What he did, after knowing I’m a PPL Associate, was to directly market to my friends, using my wall. It’s somewhat similar to spamming.  TOTAL BREACH OF ETHICS!! In fact, going over to Facebook I noticed I was tagged in a note from another friend…guess what….a note about another fabulous MLM opportunity. Geez, it never ends. Where’s the respect for my business and my friends?

Now, I know there are probably a lot of MLM businesses that are ethical, and do try to behave like business owners. It’s the rest of the MLMers that just don’t get it. This is why you are seeing more Business to Business (B2B) networking organizations cropping up. There are business owners who want to work with other business owners and not Network Marketing businesses.

So, what did I do, I unfriended the offender and am now having to justify my opinons with the PPLs who are commenting on my Facebook page. I’d like to hear the opinons of other business owners about their interactions with MLM or Networking Marketing businesses.  Have you been solicited lately? Asked to “work” their biz, rather than your own? I’m sure I’ll be flamed by the MLM/Networking Marketing community, but it’s time someone said something!

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Category: Ethics

About the Author ()

Debra Simpson began her career in publishing in 1990 as the publisher of The Business Resource (formerly known as Networks), a small business newspaper in San Diego County. In 1995, McGraw-Hill lured her away to the world of multimedia and Web publishing, and recognized Debra as the Author of the Year in Multimedia Development in 1996. Thus began Debra’s adventure in digital media development. She subsequently spent four years programming McGraw Hill’s vast collection of Websites. When McGraw Hill closed their Carlsbad office, Debra re-entered the entrepreneurial realm, developing and implementing Web 2.0 Internet marketing strategies for the small business community. Debra's been podcasting North San Diego Business since November 2008, interviewing small business owners in North San Diego County. She also consults, sets up and produces podcasts for other small businesses.

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  1. My worst experience with MLM was in direct sales about 10 years ago. I interviewed for a job listed as “displaying products” for a set rate per hour. This was bait and switched to commission only selling a home cleaning product. I looked the interviewer straight in the eye and said “I don’t sell to friends and family”. He assured me that I would be getting pre-qualified leads and wouldn’t have to market to my social circle. First step in the training process the next day? Make a list of all the people you know!

    The current MLM and “network marketing” trends just take this obnoxious behavior to a new level since you can now “know” thousands of people. Business owners are right to be leary. These relationships are often all take and no give. It’s a pity since professional networking has enormous potential when you do it right. That happens when you match people to services and information they need – not when you trick business partners into a relationship that takes the focus away from their core functions.

    Daisy McCarty

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