Network marketing may be the only business on the face of the earth where its own practitioners feel they have to justify going after customers.

In every other business, customers are sacred. Companies do everything they can to woo and keep them (and we consider them completely justified, even noble, for doing so). Nordstrom, for example, has built their entire business by offering outrageously good customer service. Dell built an empire based on the idea of giving customers what they want.

So what do network marketers say about customers? “Customers? No, don’t bother—it’s a waste of time to go after customers. The real money is in recruiting business builders.” I know you don’t see it in print, but that’s what a lot of networkers say, even major leaders at the top of the heap.

What’s the story here? Why are customers at the low end of the totem pole for so many in the network marketing business?


Top Bananas and Small Potatoes

For some, it’s because income from customers looks like small potatoes compared to the big money a business builder might bring. And it’s those few who get major business-builders in their organizations who are the ones showcased in front of the room.

These big earners are the ones who have been fortunate enough to stumble upon a business builder or two who bring in a whole organization of aspiring builders. (Note: Of the 70-plus top bananas, i.e., people earning $30,000 per month or more, whom I have interviewed over the years, none have more than four people who give them 85 to 95 percent of their income. Most have one person whose organization contributes at least half of their income, and often as not, that key player was not sponsored directly by the top banana.)

Soon there are thousands of people selling the dream to others, and everybody is buying product regularly so that they can be a “product of the product.” And this rare top banana at the top of the heap gets a percent of most all of it. That’s why the income gets so big.

Nice work, if you can get it.

However, everyone who’s been in the business for a year or more knows the downside: the odds of getting an entrepreneur who really does something big and stays with it until he does are almost as small as winning the lottery.

How many of the people you know in the business have succeeded in finding those entrepreneurs? And in keeping them?


How I Learned to Love Potatoes

For years, when I was building my various network marketing businesses, I too focused on finding aspiring marketers. I used to call them “turbos,” because they started with the larger volumes of product ($2000 to $25,000), so that they could instantly achieve a higher commission level. These initial purchases gave my income a turbo boost.

I went after them with a vengeance, enjoying the “big money” for a good while. But I had to work 10- to 12- hour days to sustain the income, because most of the turbos lasted less than three months. They’d sign up, buy the quota and be gone in a couple of months. Some would disappear in a week.

Most really weren’t business builders. They were mesmerized by the financial promise of my success and the circles on the wall. They forgot that I had been working at it relentlessly for five years—and that I had finally “won the lottery”: I had stumbled across an extraordinary business builder within the first three months of starting my fifth network marketing business.

The starry-eyed “turbos” I signed up would use a little product themselves and sit on the rest. They discovered that they really didn’t enjoy selling, and their initial enthusiasm disappeared in the face of the unresponsive or unexpectedly pukey treatment they got from their friends, family, and the general marketplace.

Because of this, I often ended up moving the product for them, so they wouldn’t be “garage qualified” or have to send it back. To speed up moving product, we started an “automatic reorder” program in our organization, so that customers could commit to using the product every month, at a preferred price.

The company I represented liked this idea and ended up adopting that automatic reorder program company-wide. They called it the Preferred Customer Program, and today, they have tens of thousands of regular monthly customers. Many other companies have similar programs, often called “autoship.”

In hindsight, 97 percent of the people I signed up ended up being just customers. And I was getting them the hard way—by leading with the business!

There are far fewer people who sell a product than who use it. Data from several large network companies shows that for every 100 people who regularly order a product or service for their own use, only two or three also sell the product. Around 97 are just customers, not distributors, even though many were signed up as distributors.

Why not woo customers to begin with? It’s a less stressful and more predictable way to build significant income.

This article is adapted from the foreword of Kim’s new book, If My Product’s So Great, How Come I Can’t Sell It? (Available at


KIM KLAVER is a network
marketing leader and one of the
profession’s most popular trainers.