I can remember where I was sitting when I saw David Copperfield’s infamous Statue of Liberty trick. I was right in my living room, sitting three feet from our “big screen” 25 inch television. I was speechless! I had my imagination running wild….where in the world did it go!? Is magic real!? As it turns out, years later, people revealed the logistics behind the magic: it was a revolving stage. The statute was shown between two pillars, the curtain was lifted to conceal the statute, and as David Copperfield was doing his thing, the stage rotated without audience detection. When the curtain was dropped, the audience (and those of us watching on television) were staring out into the ocean without even realizing it.
Changing the optic! Pure genius!
With BK’s latest announcement, he’s attempting a similar effort. In summary, he’s changing the perspective (words) about MLM without changing the model itself. He’s just rotating the stage while keeping the statute (the model) in tact.
In BK’s video below, he SPRINTS from the MLM category, claiming that Vemma is “more like Amazon and less like Amway.” I’ll start this breakdown with the obvious points first:
(1) Amazon is not a member of the Direct Selling Association;
(2) Amazon does not terminate its affiliates for promoting other MLMs;
(3) Amazon does not bind its affiliates to non-solicitation clauses (commonly done by clients of mine and every other company in the MLM industry);
(4) Amazon does not have monthly volume requirements. BK makes it clear: “We no longer require our affiliates to buy products.” Well that’s good to know, because you technically were never supposed to have such requirements anyways. I know, I know….it’s debatable whether a company can impose a purchase requirement. ViSalus does it (I think). But in my opinion, I advise all clients to stay away from required monthly purchases. Instead, Vemma is doing what 95% of all other MLMs do: they’re now requiring VOLUME. Can this volume be achieved via the now optional Autoship? Yep. Will the majority of reps qualify in this manner? Probably. Does this “change” make Vemma more like Amazon and less like Amway? No. Ironically enough, Amway has ZERO volume requirements for reps to join.
(5) Amazon does not have a genealogy for calculating commissions i.e. there’s no opportunity for recruitment;
(6) Amazon discloses its revenue from customer sales. While BK implies of significant customer activity, we have no way of knowing the numbers.
Affiliate vs. MLM
In his video, BK distinguishes affiliate models from MLMs as follows: affiliate programs are more customer focused and there are no requirements to buy product. Please remember, the entire point of an MLM sales strategy is to SERVE CUSTOMERS. If Vemma was not on this track before, what in the world were they doing? And I’ve already opined on the issue of required product purchases. They never should’ve had those requirements in the first place. Going with a volume requirements puts them in line with most other MLMs out there (keyword being “IN-LINE”…..not ahead).
These are the changes that seem legitimate:
(1) Affiliates are all Customers first. When a “Customer” enrolls another customer, they become an Affiliate and qualified to earn commissions (after they generated the volume via personal purchases and/or sales). This is interesting to me. Do these Customers go on the Affiliate’s front-line i.e. like a personally enrolled affiliate would? If so, Vemma made it more difficult for affiliates to sling participants down in depth. This would legitimately slow recruitment; thus, look more like an Affiliate arrangement. If, on the other hand, these “Customers” are given a position in the genealogy and can benefit from their upline’s actions on a later date, we’re back to David Copperfield’s rotating stage. If the latter is the case, regulators will not consider those people as Customers in the event of an inquiry (my opinion).
(2) There’s a “Custiliate” program. Friend and MLM consultant, Mel Atwood, coined the phrase “Custiliate,” so I’ve got to give credit where credit is due. A Custiliate is a hybrid between a customer and an affiliate. The Customer cannot earn the big bucks but there are some financial incentives available. There’s nothing earth-shattering here. There are numerous companies out there that offer incentives for customers to share the products with other customers. With Vemma, they’re giving customers “credits” that can be redeemed for product sales. This is a good thing and most companies need to implement similar incentives. The key question: will the incentives lead to an increase in customer revenues? If an MLM is selling $1,000 lemonade, the policy would be lipstick on a pig because there would never be legitimate demand for such a product. If Vemma’s product is priced outside of the market, the Custiliate program is window-dressing. If it’s in-line, it’ll help drive the numbers up. This is not proven by making comparisons with Red Bull. It’s proven by customer revenue. It’s that simple.
(3) Vemma now pays full CV on customer activity. This caught me off guard. Why in the world were they allocating 50% on customer volume? This would be a dis-incentive for distributors (affiliates) to accrue customers. Why pursue customer sales that yield 50% CV when they can recruit and get 1 to 1 on the volume for their commissions? This is so bad, I’m not convinced I’m right. If they fixed the 50%, good for Vemma. They’re now in-line with other MLMs (again, in-line…..not ahead).
At a time when the industry needs to be more united, BK’s announcement of “big changes” is counter-productive. Will these changes lead to meaningful changes in Vemma’s sales culture, leading to a more customer-oriented company? Or is he just rotating the stage, using the right words and gestures while only changing the perspective?
What do you think?
If you’re reading this via email, click here to view BK’s announcement video.