How deceptive “spin” harms EVERYONE in Network Marketing

by John Counsel on January 10, 2010

I received a media release via the SBWire service just now from a UK-based outfit promoting the .ws domain space.

As is all-too-common for people and groups promoting Global Domains International (GDI), the content was full of misleading and potentially deceptive “spin” and misdirection.

The media release can be boiled down to the following claims or arguments:

  • The .com boom is over.
  • .ws is the next big thing.
  • .ws stands for “web site”.
  • It will eventually become saturated, so get in now.
  • The UK company’s affiliate program is live and ready to accept massive growth for its affiliates.
  • Major companies like Yahoo, eBay, BMW, Bose and Kodak have .ws domains.

Here’s the thing, though: while none of the above claims is demonstrably untrue, they don’t create a factually sound insight. And it’s this kind of “spinning” of the truth that can result in damage to the public perception of network marketing when people eventually learn the facts.

So what are the FACTS in this case?

1. The “DotCom Boom” is over

The “DotCom Boom” is FAR from over. Yes, it’s becoming saturated, but I still register .com names every month with little difficulty, and so do hundreds of thousands of others. It’s absolutely the Number One choice STILL in Top Level Domains (TLDs). (The major registrars all promote the need to register any domain name in all TLDs to ensure that competitors and cyber squatters don’t grab them.)

What IS over, well and truly, is the so-called “DotCom Bubble“, which had nothing to do with domain registration and everything to do with mindless, greedy investment in any kind of start-up outfit related to the Internet by desperate investors who listened to the hype of less-than-scrupulous stock brokers boosting the prospects of any Internet stocks they could find to “pump and dump”.

For GDI’s target audience — “We’re actually ‘targeting’ the other 99+% of the Internet community — families, single people, children, seniors, and small businesses — the vast majority of whom are new to domain names and just need something simple and affordable to get them excited” (company web site) — it’s not difficult to confuse the two unrelated issues, simply because of the use of the terms “DotCom Bubble” and “DotCom Boom”.

2. .ws is the next big thing

.ws may well be the next big thing, but it will only be because of aggressive marketing, nothing else, and it will only be within the target audience identified by the company, which relies on people who are uninformed and inexperienced, and willing to swallow the marketing propaganda used by so many GDI reps. (See item 6 for the reality of commercial markets.)

3. .ws stands for “web site”

.ws is the country code for Samoa (actually Western Samoa). The claim that it stands for “web site” is pure marketing propaganda. Yes, it’s the subject of a legal agreement with Samoanic, which manages the .ws domain space. But no sovereign government will simply hand over its exclusive intellectual property rights to a foreign-owned entity (just as it chose not to award GDI — or any other foreign-owned company — control of its .ws extension. GDI had to settle for making a deal with Samoanic, the local company awarded that control).

Like some other countries, including Austria (.at) and Tonga (.to), the government of Samoa chose not to use TLDs like .com, .net, .org, .info, .biz, etc within its domain space. This is a key factor in the perceived commercial value of those domain spaces to international business who want to be able to use URLs like www.go.to/ or www.findit.at/.

This decision was equally commercially strategic in the decision not to use TLDs with the .ws extension. Can you imagine how far that perceived commercial value would slide if it were diluted by the use of TLDs like .com.ws, .net.ws, .org.ws, etc? The .ws extension would become virtually meaningless and worthless outside of Samoa.

4. It will eventually become saturated, so get in now

The .ws domain space will eventually become saturated. No question of that — especially with GDI reps worldwide promoting it heavily. And especially with no TLDs being used (like .com.ws).

But will that always be the case? Do you honestly believe that any government, especially the government of a tiny island nation threatened with loss of its already miniscule land mass through global warming and rising ocean levels, will simply shrug its collective shoulders and walk away from the chance to extend the life of its “golden domain name goose” by introducing TLDs to the domain space?

It will continue to receive royalties on renewals of domain names in its saturated .ws domains space. But, historically, politicians tend to think short term in commercial matters (rarely beyond the next election), and the perceived opportunity to multiply the national income — especially as other revenue streams turn literally to water, like its coconut crops as they’re flooded by rising seawater — could prove irresistible. There’s no guarantee that it won’t introduce TLDs to the .ws domain space in the future. Can you imagine what impact this would have on all those millions of .ws domain names already out there?

It will kill the goose that laid the golden egg for Samoa if they go that route, but that’s what happens with politicians and commercial decisions. As we say in Australia, “never get caught between a politician and a bucket of money!”

5. The UK company’s affiliate program is live and ready to accept massive growth for its affiliates

Pure spin. It’s GDI and its MLM program, nothing more, nothing less. (And there’s nothing illegal or unethical about the GDI program.) So why try to position it as your own affiliate program? This smacks of the notorious ploys used by some Amway distributor organizations to try to prevent prospects realizing that it’s Amway they’re promoting by calling it anything but Amway. Their rationale was typically that “people know enough about the company to have a negative perception, but not enough to know the truth”. That’s a reasonable premise — but why make that negative perception worse by using underhanded, unethical, deceptive and manipulative methods to try to get around it? It’s just terminal stupidity, hiding behind names like “the Curiosity Approach”.

(Incidentally, my own downline used its own version of the “Curiosity Approach”. I taught them to ask prospects “what do you know about ________?” Apart from totally disarming them with surprise, it told us exactly what their perception of the business was, so we knew exactly how to deal with that. An 80% or higher average success rate in sponsoring suggests it was a much smarter way to go.)

If your opportunity is as good as YOU believe it is (otherwise why are you promoting it?), why not be totally transparent and honest in the way you promote it? Deception and evasion will only worsen any existing perception that your opportunity is somehow dodgy, not fix it.

6. Major companies like Yahoo, eBay, BMW, Bose and Kodak have .ws domains

That may be true (although the www.yahoo.ws domain lands you on the GDI website, not Yahoo!, ebay.ws doesn’t resolve and kodak.ws can’t be found at time of writing, while BMW.ws redirects to BMW.com and bose.ws is a country selection page that connects to local sites on worldwide.bose.com), but it’s more likely to be another case of “get it before someone else does” on the part of GDI and its reps. So it becomes one more domain name added to all the TLDs registered by most multi-national companies. A valid strategy, but hardly validation of .ws as “the next big thing”.

(Hint: if you’re going to use this kind of claim, at least check the web sites of those companies you plan to promote as examples.)

The problem with this kind of deceptive (sorry, that’s what it is, however you try to spin it) promotion of any network marketing opportunity is that it reinforces already negative, hostile perceptions and adds to the number of people who are sceptical and cynical about network marketing in general.

We all suffer because of this kind of approach.

GDI is a very skilled marketing company. Unfortunately, it appears to turn a blind eye to the deceptive promotion methods of many of its reps, in much the same way as Amway did to many of its distributor organizations. No company wants to discourage profitable promotions by its sales teams, naturally.

But consequences are only ever delayed. And the longer those chickens take to come home to roost, the bigger and meaner they are when they do finally arrive. Amway has been fighting for its survival for the past couple of years precisely because it ignored the warning signs over decades.

The danger of delayed consequences is that you begin to believe that there are no consequences at all.

Wrong. They’re inevitable. Only a fool believes otherwise.

Stick to being honest, transparent and totally ethical, no matter how frustrated you feel, or how successful others appear to be who use questionable tactics. Don’t compromise your integrity. Your self-esteem and confidence will suffer, and every person you sponsor using unethical methods will become a silent reproach to you eventually.

Integrity is not a new way to play the MLM game.

It IS the game!

©2010 by John Counsel. All rights reserved.

Author Profile: JOHN COUNSEL is a network marketing professional with more than 25 years of experience. Consults to managements of direct selling companies. Writes regular columns and feature articles for various business media, online and offline. Author of several best-selling business books. Presents seminars and workshops, webinars and other training programs. Creator of Fourth Generation Thinking, Selling, Business Systems. Read more from this author
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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael June 24, 2012 at 10:23 pm Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

Just a word of advise to any new network marketing affiliate. The introductory pages for GDI do not comply with the Google Adword policies. If you decide to advertise GDI business with Google your account can be PERMANENTLY SUSPENDED.

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louabbott June 25, 2012 at 9:03 am Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

Michael – so you know, Google has suspended the Adwords accounts for most network marketers from most companies. They just don’t like MLM advertisers in general.

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David W Johnson January 18, 2010 at 10:53 am Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

Probably what holds network marketing back from being accepted by the masses is distributors acting like used car salesmen.

I think most distributors know it’s not going to be overnight success, so we might as well adopt a more professional attitude and promote as such.

If we keep promoting MLM like it’s a lottery ticket, then we’ll never generate the mass interest where people can believe network marketing is a real success possibility.

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John Counsel January 11, 2010 at 2:47 pm Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

Network marketing, when it’s done PROPERLY, is the most ethical, enlightened, efficacious, equitable and egalitarian way to do business of all – but ONLY when it’s done properly by people who are equally ethical, enlightened, efficacious and egalitarian!

That’s the problem, of course. Network marketing is mostly done by people and companies who don’t understand the principles – the ‘why-to’ – on which it must operate in order to succeed. Instead, they focus on the procedures, practices and structures – the ‘how-to’. They’re not the same thing.

Principles never change. Procedures, practices and structures change constantly to meet changing circumstances.

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Craig Mattice January 18, 2010 at 11:07 am Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

Impressive dissection of GDI and their marketing practices. Your insight is greatly appreciated. May I say, based upon your first paragraph in the above comment, Network Marketing and MLM are much more of an “e” business than just involving the internet? I say yes, especially supported by your “p” principle of professional application.

I find your observations and thorough support of your points to be solid and presenting a point of view I had not considered. Thank you for expanding my frame of reference.

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John Counsel January 19, 2010 at 9:24 pm Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

Hi Craig — long time no speak 😀

The internet is just another communications channel. The fact that it’s so cheap and accessible, and so easy to find people and resources, makes it the logical choice for most activities. But that’s all it is. There’s still a special magic in face-to-face contact with others, be they prospects, customers or downline team members.

I find the current “old school MLM/new school MLM” pointless because it’s yet another hijacking of terminology by people wanting to deflect attention from the REAL meanings. In this case, the terms were coined years ago by Kim Klaver to describe deceptive, manipulative, abusive “old school MLM” and the enlightened, ethical, transparent, decent “new school MLM” methods. But the urgers and oicks couldn’t stand still for that kind of comparison, so they promptly hijacked it and turned it into what is basically “offline versus online” prospecting and building.

100% predictable behaviour by the bottom-feeders.

John

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Terry January 11, 2010 at 11:23 am Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

Interesting!

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Louisa Drummond January 11, 2010 at 10:33 am Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

I absolutely agree with everything you are saying about Network Marketing. My partner and I have struggled on the network marketing learning curve. It seems so obviously a fairer and more democratic way to do business and yet negative perceptions caused by the methods you outline have damaged the model for everyone. Enough is enough.

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