For multi-level marketing (MLM) companies, a strong brand can amplify efforts to attract new customers, recruit independent sales representatives, and achieve growth goals. Building a strong MLM brand takes strategic focus and consistent implementation across all customer- and sales representative-facing experiences.
From marketing materials and product portfolios through e-commerce and MLM software, successful MLM companies integrate their brand into everything they do. Here’s an end-to-end look at what defines a strong brand and what it takes to establish and maintain a powerful MLM brand.
The value of a strong MLM brand
A brand is “a person’s perception of a product, service, experience, or organization.” That makes it much more than a company’s logo or product line. Think of your brand as the company’s personality as it exists in the minds of your MLM sales representatives and their customers. Every interaction representatives and customers have with your company, products, website, and MLM software becomes part of their overall brand experience and perception.
As much as a strong MLM brand will provide a foundation for independent sales representatives to build their own businesses, those sales representatives are also a critical element of the brand itself. As a result, just as direct selling companies focus on recruiting and retaining a network of successful sales representatives, they must put equal focus on enabling those representatives to convey and deliver a strong brand experience. Both MLM companies and their field sales representatives should consciously approach their growth and sales strategies from the perspective of building a strong MLM brand, not just building a business.
A recognizable brand can be one of an MLM company’s most valuable assets. Over time, it will represent the accumulated value of a logo, marketing messages, and experiences representatives and customers associate with the company and its products and services.
At the core, a strong MLM brand is based on trust. When sales representatives and customers believe in a brand, they’re more likely to try another product and another. This is called brand loyalty. High brand loyalty generates positive “word of mouth” among representatives and customers who serve as influencers within their network of family and friends. According to Nielsen Research, people are 92 percent more likely to trust and buy from a brand recommended by a friend.
What is MLM brand equity?
When an MLM brand is able to build substantial positive sentiment among its target audiences of potential sales representatives and customers, the company has “brand equity.” For MLMs, brand equity is the quantifiable value of having a recognized and respected brand that goes beyond its products’ features or pricing.
MLM companies with high brand equity consistently deliver positive representative and customer experiences that inspire representatives to sell and recruit and customers to make repeat purchases and recommend the products to their family and friends. The brand’s equity plays an important role in helping representatives and customers choose the MLM brand over competitors who offer similar products and services.
Along with driving repeat purchases and increased sales volume, brand equity enables MLM companies to charge prices for its products and services that align with – and support – its personalized direct selling model. Not only does the MLM sales model create a differentiated customer experience, but it also creates a willingness on the part of customers to pay for the experience. In general, MLM companies should target pricing their products and services at five times the cost of goods in order to cover the costs of marketing and the multi-level compensation plan model.
At the same time, brand equity can help keep costs down. On average, it costs MLM sales representatives five times more – in terms of marketing outreach efforts and time invested – to acquire a brand new customer compared to the costs of retaining a loyal one.
Characteristics of a strong MLM brand
A strong MLM brand is memorable and appealing to its target customers. For these customers, the brand serves to differentiate the MLM and its products and services from the competition. For MLMs, a strong brand goes beyond basic awareness to also create a preference for the MLM company (and its sales representatives) over other shopping options available to customers, including traditional retail.
Powerful MLM brands consistently communicate the messages and feelings the company wants to convey. In contrast, weak or ineffective brands result in miscommunication and confusion among target customers.
To achieve brand consistency, you must deliver the same core messages, tone, and visual elements across the in-person, digital, and product experiences for both your sales representatives and customers. Conventional marketing wisdom holds that it takes at least five to seven brand impressions before someone recognizes and remembers the brand. The combined impact of positive brand experiences adds up to strengthen recognition, preference, and, in the long term, loyalty.
Having a well-defined, consistent MLM brand strategy pays off. Companies that are able to present their brand consistently across sales representative and customer experiences achieve an average 33 percent increase in revenue.
More than anything, the interactions between MLM companies and their independent sales representatives, and the interactions between those sales representatives and customers are the primary drivers behind successful MLM brands.
Sixty-five percent of customers say having a positive experience with a brand is more powerful than marketing or advertising. Six in ten customers will switch brands after several bad experiences – nearly two in ten will do so after just one poor experience.
For MLM companies, the direct selling approach creates strong, personalized relationships between sales representatives and their community of customers. In turn, these personalized relationships – delivered across in-person, digital, and social media interactions – create positive customer experiences that help to build increased brand loyalty. Loyal customers are five times more likely to make repeat purchases, nine times more likely to try out new products, and seven times more likely to forgive a brand for a bad experience.
Consistent brand experiences and long-term relationships with both MLM representatives and customers are critical. By increasing customer retention rates by just 5 percent, a company can increase its profits by 25 to 95 percent.
The power of purpose
Today, the purpose behind a brand is an essential element of how companies connect with customers. For an MLM, purpose is also a key factor in how the company attracts, enrolls, and retains sales representatives.
Simply put, a brand’s purpose is the top reason the business exists beyond “making money.” A brand’s purpose connects with people on an emotional level by adding value to their lives and society overall. Of course, the purpose must be closely related to what your company is selling. It goes beyond charitable giving and social responsibility. A brand’s purpose creates an authentic relationship between your company, your sales representatives, and your customers.
As part of your ongoing brand development, define or refresh your company’s purpose or reason for being. See your purpose as your company’s mission – not just a mission statement. A well-defined mission that’s embedded into every brand interaction does more than strengthen your sales representative and customer relationships. It also helps to boost sales and loyalty, helping your company do well by doing good. When it comes to defining your brand’s purpose, authenticity is crucial. Sixty-four percent of consumers say shared values are one of the primary reasons they choose to buy from a brand. And nine in ten people remain loyal to brands that share their values.
MLM brand building: 10 key elements
Powerful MLM brands that achieve recognition and drive results don’t just happen. They take strategy and focus. Whether you’re in the early stages of MLM brand building or looking to strengthen an existing brand, make sure your process includes these ten elements.
1. Start with why.
Simon Sinek, a marketing expert and author, developed a concept of defining and understanding the “why” behind your business. Here’s how he explains it, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. The goal is not to do business with everybody that needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.”
Taking the time to focus on why your company exists is the heart of brand – and business – building. It’s an exercise that both MLM companies and their sales representatives should spend time on and revisit regularly to ensure that your actions and messages remain aligned to your purpose.
To determine the why behind your MLM company, answer these questions:
- Why does your company exist?
- Why should customers care?
- What problem do you solve?
- How are you different?
2. Understand your target market.
Once you have defined your “why,” turn your attention to determining the “who.” Everyone is not a target market. No company is successful in trying to satisfy the masses, but this is especially true for MLM companies. Attempting to be everything for everyone means your company and your sales team won’t have time to develop the personalized relationships with customers that differentiate the direct selling model.
By focusing your efforts – at the corporate level and the sales representative level – on a specific segment of prospective buyers, you’re able to appeal more directly and personally through the products you offer, the services you provide, and the messages you share.
Combine external research, like focus groups and interviews with sales representatives and customers, with the reporting data available through your MLM software platform. By putting this information together, you can create detailed profiles or personas for your target customers. Dig in to include both demographic and psychographic details for each target segment.
- Demographic attributes – age, gender, ethnicity, marital status, income, and education level – help define who your customers are.
- Psychographic attributes help explain the reasons why someone becomes your company’s customer or representative. Psychographic attributes include things like interests, attitudes, hobbies, values, and spending habits.
3. Define your brand’s identity.
Based on the research you’ve done to understand why your company exists and which segments are the best fits for your products and services, it’s time to answer the question, “who do you think you are?”
Articulate your desired brand identity – or what you want your target customers to believe and feel as they engage with your representatives, products or services, and your website. Your brand identity – combined with elements 4, 5, and 6 in this list – begins to create your brand’s personality.
Essentially, your brand identity is part of the promise that you make to potential MLM representatives and customers. Typically, your identity helps to convey the payoff for sales representatives and customers – what the brand (and your products) helps them achieve. Here are some examples of different brand identities that convey a personality that appeals to different target segments.
- Sincere: A brand personality that’s down-to-earth, honest, and family-oriented
- Innovative: A brand personality that’s daring, cool, and creative
- Sophisticated: A brand personality that’s successful, charming, and confident
4. Draft your brand story.
A brand story is where you bring all of your brand work so far together. Your brand story is a narrative that shares the facts and sparks an emotional connection with your target audiences.
First, think about the tone you want to establish for your brand. The tone is also called your brand’s voice. Using the brand identity you developed, choose a tone that aligns with it, such as “friendly and conversational” or “informative and expert.” The key will be to use the tone across all of your internal and external communications to consistently tell your brand story.
Next, create a message framework that captures your company’s core messages. Typically, you’ll want to create tailored versions of your message framework for your two main audiences: potential sales representatives and potential customers. As you develop messages, talk directly to your target segments. Here’s an example of what to include in your message framework.
- Start by crafting your value proposition, which is a concise, compelling statement of who your MLM company is and what you do. It should include both the functional and emotional benefits – aka the value – your product or services provide for customers or sales representatives.
- Next, outline three to five brand messaging pillars. The pillars are the main benefits or selling points that support and prove your value proposition statement. Focus in on the differentiators that make your company stand out for your target segments.
- Under each brand pillar, create a series of message points about your company, its purpose, products and services, and differentiators. Make sure the messages provide both factual and emotional proof points that will resonate with your current and potential sales representatives and customers.
Related: 10 Steps for Starting an MLM Company
5. Create a look and feel.
Armed with your brand story, tone, and messaging framework, it’s time to align it with your brand’s visual identity. Your MLM company’s visual identity encompasses all visible elements of your brand, such as the logo, colors, and design style you use throughout your materials, website, and marketing campaigns.
How your brand is presented visually is a critical component for building brand recognition, attracting your target audiences’ interest, and closing sales. It all starts with the colors you choose. Not only does color increase brand recognition by up to 80 percent, it’s also essential for making the desired emotional connection with customers. Research by the Institute for Color Research found that people make subconscious judgments about a product in less than 90 seconds – and up to 90 percent of that initial judgment is based on color.
Choose your color palette to fit your brand’s identity. For example, bold, vibrant colors convey a sense of fun, while more muted colors suggest a more serious or sophisticated tone. Consider the following examples of color psychology.
- Blue is associated with tranquility, stability, and expertise.
- Green is a natural color, often used to convey well-being, growth, and safety.
- Red is assertive and intense. It’s used to communicate strength, energy, and action.
- Yellow is a happy color, conveying hope, positivity, and confidence.
- Orange blends the energy of red with the happiness of yellow to evoke feelings of joy, warmth, and encouragement.
- Purple is both noble and soothing and helps to convey luxury, wisdom, and creativity.
6. Design or refresh your logo.
Your logo is one of the most important elements of your MLM brand. In fact, when people think of your brand, the logo is often the first thing that comes to mind. Make it the centerpiece of your company’s visual identity, with it appearing on everything related to your business, from marketing materials and social media posts through product packaging and replicated websites.
Whether you’re starting from scratch or updating your company’s existing logo, invest time and resources to get it right. A professional graphic designer can help you translate your brand story into a compelling visual identifier, navigate color choices, and evaluate different options. Most importantly, you want to ensure the logo design you choose will work for the long-term. The key to achieving MLM brand recognition requires consistency when it comes to visual identifiers like your logo. If you can, once you’ve narrowed your logo options down to three or four, do some formal or informal testing among your target audiences. You might be surprised by what resonates.
7. Focus on product packaging.
Packaging does more than protect the product and provide information to your customers. It’s also an important visual element that can make a powerful first impression, convey your brand identity, and reinforce a customer’s purchase decision. Done well, packaging can serve as an ongoing ambassador for your brand each time a customer uses the product.
When designing product packaging, think of it as a core part of your customers’ shopping and purchase experiences. And even if a customer buys online and only sees the packaging after the purchase, the package and unboxing experience can play a role in driving repeat purchases. From the messaging and imagery through the colors and logo placement, the package is conveying your brand’s values, personality, and story.
Once you’ve solved for the practical packaging requirements, evaluate it based on whether it’s adding to your overall brand image. Every detail matters. Do the images reinforce your target audience’s aspirational reasons for purchasing? Are your messages clear and concise? When customers buy multiple products, is the packaging visually connected and consistent?
8. Build an effective web experience.
Your company’s website and e-commerce platform need to bring all of your brand’s components together – purpose, identity, story, and design. The reality is that your website is often the first introduction to your brand for potential sales representatives and customers. Your MLM software is key to delivering a web experience that builds and strengthens your brand – and enables online sales.
The first step is designing your corporate website. From there, your MLM software should allow you to easily create an unlimited number of “replicated” websites for your field sales representatives. Replicated sites enable each MLM representative to have a unique website address (URL) and to personalize their site within the branding parameters that you set. At the corporate level, integrated replicated websites provide an end-to-end view of the entire business that provides insights, drives growth strategies, and enhances compliance.
Today, with seven in ten Americans shopping online, robust e-commerce capabilities are a must. When evaluating MLM software, look for e-commerce capabilities that will enable you to meet the high expectations of online shoppers and keep up with enhancements over time. In addition, you should also be able to create tailored web experiences for end customers as well as sales representatives. Here are a few essential MLM software capabilities to look for:
- Streamlined payment processing and automated sales tax calculation
- Shopping cart features like shop-by-category functionality; the ability to tag products to call-out best sellers, new items, discounts, and pre-orders; and the option to carry your branding through to the shopping cart experience
- Shipping fulfillment
- Integrated inventory management
- Mobile app
- Customer profile management
- Genealogy management
- Commissions engine
- Reporting (sales, inventory, genealogy)
- Sales rep enrollment and onboarding training
Related: What is the Best MLM Software?
9. Establish branding guidelines.
The secret to brand consistency and successful delivery is documentation. Treat your brand like the valuable business asset it is by creating guidelines that help you make thoughtful decisions about how the brand should evolve. The guidelines should also serve as a road map for your team to follow as they make decisions about when and how to effectively incorporate the brand. Your objective is to make the brand an integrated part of the business and an automatic consideration within large initiatives as well as day-to-day tasks.
Your MLM sales representatives can be powerful brand ambassadors. Make brand training a central part of their onboarding. Help them understand what the brand stands for and teach them how to effectively tell the story as they interact with customers and potential sales representatives. Most importantly, give them tools that help them share the brand, such as marketing materials and campaigns, replicated websites, and social selling capabilities.
Your brand will continuously evolve as your company grows. Having branding guidelines and training in place will help you set the course and make adjustments as needed.
10. Monitor, measure, and refine.
Monitoring the strength of your brand is critical for understanding its impact and making branding changes over time. While it may seem difficult to measure your brand because its impact is tied to intangible factors like emotional connections and people’s perceptions, there are tangible metrics that can tell you how your brand is doing.
- Awareness: Brand awareness tracks how familiar your target customers and sales representatives are with your company, its products or services, and what makes you different. Awareness levels can be gauged through a combination of surveys and focus groups, website traffic, web search volume, and ongoing social media listening.
- Equity: Brand equity is the quantifiable value of having a recognized and respected brand. Leverage the reporting capabilities within your MLM software platform to help you measure sales volume, average transaction values, repeat purchase rates, customer loyalty, and customer lifetime value – all of which are closely tied to brand strength.
- Front-line research: MLM companies have a unique advantage when it comes to brand insights. Tap into your independent sales representatives for brand feedback and a gauge for measuring perceptions and overall impact.
Brand building never stops. Awareness, recognition, and loyalty are the result of deliberate brand decisions, end-to-end brand integration, and consistent execution. When MLM companies make brand strategy a priority and focus on making their sales representatives and their customers brand advocates, they gain an invaluable asset that can help propel the company toward its growth goals and beyond.
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