The Greatest Networkers
on the Internet

A Conversation with John Milton Fogg, author of
The Greatest Networker in the World and founder of
GreatestNetworkers.comUnity

By John David Mann


It's probably safe to say, John Milton Fogg needs no introduction. Still, we've been introducing each other for nearly 30 years--why stop now?

John has been one of the most influential, seminal figures in the world of network marketing over the past decade and a half. Sometimes that influence has been obvious, such as when The Greatest Networker in the World sold over a million copies and changed the global conversation about who and what a successful networker is all about; or in the three trade journals he helped create and helmed as Editor in Chief: Upline, Network Marketing Lifestyles and now Networking Times. Sometimes it has been less obvious. Many of the most influential "how-to" books of the past 15 years owe their existence to John--even when his name wasn't on them. The history-making series on network marketing in Success magazine that ran in the mid-'90s was born from John's behind-the-scenes efforts. Indeed, many of the most popular and well-known names in networking got their start, or were first brought into the network marketing world, due to John's indefatigable efforts at championing, partnering and bringing people together to bring out their best.

John's foray into the world of virtual community, the subject of this issue's interview, is only the latest in a long genealogy of innovations and amplifications he has brought to the table at which we all dine. Bon appetit; chew well.

-- JDM

 

It's ironic, in a way, to speak about community in relation to network marketing: we seem to be a profession in which people from the various companies take great pains to avoid each other.

Overall, that's absolutely true: It's a huge missing piece--and therefore, a huge opportunity.

When I was in the advertising business, I used to go once a year to the advertising convention in New York, where I would rub elbows with the giants of the business--me, with my little three-person ad agency, sitting down to lunch with Jack Trout, of Trout and Ries! That's the power of community: the sharing of learning, knowledge, resources and relationships.

People in most every profession do this--except us. And because we never all get together, we're constantly faced with re-inventing the wheel. We don't get to leverage and learn from each other. And on top of it, we see each other as competitors in terms of offering our opportunity, which is not something that any other business, industry, profession or career seems to face.

So yes, we have a structural problem that fights against the idea of community; it takes transcendent individuals and paradigm-shifting companies to step out of purely doing their own thing and embrace all the benefits of community--which are extraordinary.

 

You've been carrying this flag for a decade and a half.

I've always looked for ways to help create that experience in network marketing. When we started the Upline Masters seminars, there'd never been anything like it, to my knowledge: distributors from dozens of different companies all came together to hear a handful of speakers, each from different companies, talk about how to do the business.

There were people who wouldn't support the Masters seminars--who wouldn't support Upline, for that matter--famous people, household names (in network marketing households, anyway!), who said, "I don't want my people to see someone in another company succeeding! I don't want them exposed to any training or knowledge about this business other than what we tell them." And, you know, I can see their point; I just disagree 110 percent.

 

And the Internet is changing that?

The Internet has taken down all kinds of barriers in every dimension of society. You can no longer get away with oppressing a large group of people anywhere on this planet without the rest of us knowing about it. All those years it took for Hitler's rise to power, most of the world just didn't get what was happening. That couldn't occur today--we'd know what was going on after the first speech.

Traditional, physical communities are often brought together--and often kept apart--by geography. With the Internet, geography be-comes irrelevant, which means that the focus--the common values, interest or purpose--is everything. A virtual community forms as people gather around that common interest--and then the members themselves become the content.

That's the power of community on the Internet, and why it's perfect for network marketers. We are global. Once you take that deep breath, hold your nose and jump, there's a rich and growing world of online communities in network marketing. Nothing will ever replace the convention or in-person event. But what do you do for the other 361 days of the year?

 

When and how did you first "hold your nose and jump"?

It started out as a spin-off from Upline. I had this wacky notion, before I knew the name Seth Godin [author of Permission Marketing and Unleashing the Ideavirus], that if I put The Greatest Networker in the World up on the Upline Web site for free, more people would have access to it.

This generated an email list, called "talkabout," of people interested in talking about the book. The group came to have a life almost of its own, with the informal and diverse character of a town square. We started asking, "What pieces does a community have?" Most brick and mortar communities have libraries and meeting halls... so we built a library and meeting halls. Other functions started springing up, based on what was possible.

 

What is the central focus of the community?

The core of the Greatest Networker community is the book. It's well known and has broad appeal (it did sell a million copies, after all); and it's got some solid philosophy at its core that's well defined, in terms of what it stands for, and what it doesn't.

The Greatest Networker was about not subscribing to a whole bunch of stuff I'd seen in network marketing that I didn't like, and that has proven over and over not to work: "Throw 'em up against the wall and see who sticks"; the hype, hustle and manipulation. No matter how pleasantly it may be masked in hip jargon, arm-twisting manipulative sales is still that.

The book struck a chord, because so many other people felt the same way; the community grew spontaneously around the notions of honoring other people's values and universal skills such as speaking and listening, and coaching. What I've called, borrowing the Macintosh slogan, "Network marketing for the rest of us."

 

You said, "The members themselves become the content." Can you say more about that?

Every member has a personal web page, called a "My Face" page. Some of our people try to make business ads out of them, and I think that's a mistake. Their purpose is so our members can meet each other, and so that other people, including people they are prospecting, can come and meet them--personally. We have them list their five top values, and describe their family, home, pets and pleasures. We have them post their personal vision statements.

At TGN, after every post, it lists your name in the lower left-hand corner and says, "Click here to visit My Face," so anybody who doesn't know me can go meet me, see pictures of me, my wife and children, read all about who I am, even read my vision for my life. In a day and age where you cannot make a product or income claim, to the best of my knowledge, the FTC has not said you can't tell us about your dreams!

We have a function called "Spread 'n' Serve": there's a little picture of a peanut butter jar, and a member can have 20 elements from the library--whether it's an article, an entire book, an audio program or a one-hour coaching call--and can share it with the people in their organizations as well as their prospects.

We have weekly teleconferences with the likes of Bob Proctor, Brian Klemmer, Teresa Romain, Tom Schreiter, Richard Brooke, Terri Levine and Sharon Wilson. They're all interactive, and we allow our members to invite their guests--in fact we do it for them--which might include people in their downline, or people they're currently prospecting.

 

You do that for them how?

We send out an e-mail invitation to our entire guest list. When you come to the site, if you go anywhere beyond the first page to look at our resources, you have to register as the guest of whatever person brought you there, your host.

I think the best part of the TGN community is the forums; that's where the relationships really shine. People will post questions from, "What's your experience with putting business cards on windshields on a Wal-Mart parking lot?" to, "How do you handle an unsupportive spouse?" We've had people put their e-mail autoresponder campaigns in the forums and have other members--from other companies from all around the world--critique them and make suggestions. Can you imagine such a thing?!

 

Can you define "community"? How is a community Web site different from your basic corporate Web site?

One word: interactivity. Communities are always--always--about people and relationships. This is where the Net transcends high-tech and becomes high-touch.

In our community, people announce birthdays. They want to know. I have a 15-month-old daughter--and it's been 15 years since my older kids were her age, so I don't have a clue what the good videos and DVDs are these days. I went to my own community, to the guest forum, plunked down the topic, "Mums and Dads," and asked, "What great videos for 15-month-old kids do you know about?" and got my answers. How many phone calls would that have taken me, trying to do that here in Charlottesville? If I could have done it at all? Because the fact is, I trust the people at TGN more than my physical neighbors to share my vision and values.

 

So they've become your neighbors?

It's gone beyond neighbors; there's a real component of family there. The core of all community is relationships. In a virtual community, it becomes personal: You know who that is behind the screen name.

The best resource of all is people--partnership. The days of "do it yourself" are over--yet if you take an honest look at network marketing, 90-plus percent of all the men and women involved, no matter what pin level they're at, are still doing it themselves. For most people, it's still a do-it-yourself deal.

We have people at TGN from different companies, helping each other succeed. It doesn't get any better than that! They care about each other; through the Face pages and the Forums, they've gotten to know each other, to fall in like with each other and even in love with each other. We have people planning to get married who met at TGN.

We have people who will say to other members, "Hey, I just tried to recruit this person who said no to my opportunity, because he doesn't want anything to do with nutritionals, and I think he'd be perfect for you and your company...." Is that just the most wonderful thing you ever heard of?!

That's my ideal world. I want it to be easy for everybody. I want it to be natural for everybody. I want it to be fun.

 

For more information on John Milton Fogg's

Greatest Networkers.comUnity visit

www.networkingtimes.com/tgn/