Networking University’s mission is to be the leading educational change agent guiding network marketers through the tsunami of change the industry and profession are facing. Our mission is in line with this issue’s focus on the global rise of entrepreneurship and the future of network marketing.

Decade 2010–2020: A Macro View
While network marketing in the U. S. still maintains its global leadership position, posting the highest sales and distributor numbers, its overall growth rate has flattened and is lagging behind the emerging international markets.

We are seeing the entry of many new product categories and a rash of new companies, and also failures and slow growth.

The network marketing economy is evolving through a decade of mergers and consolidations that are changing the concept of “business as usual.” Smaller, weaker organizations with limited capital and/or weaker management talent are being cannibalized by healthier, more astute operations.
The consumer market is becoming increasingly segmented into submarkets based on:

For decades, marketing researchers have carefully profiled the shopping habits of different customer segments to develop products and communication messages targeted at specific consumer groups. Networking marketing practitioners, however, have historically followed the dictum “one pitch fits all.” Duplication was the divine decree.

In recent years, though, some network marketing innovators have begun tailoring specific presentations and marketing programs for target markets.

For instance, a travel company developed a moderately-priced travel program targeted at college students. The company recruited a network marketing team of rat-pack students to market to the college community featuring a mantra of “sun, fun, and fulfillment.” A cosmetics house featuring anti-aging potions trained a team of entrepreneurial female Millennials to sell cosmetics via a party-plan approach to college dorm groups, social clubs, and sorority organizations.

International expansion into developing economies is further complicating the network marketing space. Companies must suddenly confront challenging trade laws, licensing requirements, and foreign currency issues. Companies must introduce new business practices to cope with increasing cultural diversity and redesign logistical operations to service both the metropolitan requirements of developed markets and the more basic demands of rural, developing markets.

Decade 2010–2020 has introduced new challenges for distributors as well. While prospects are much more informed and receptive to alternative income opportunities, they are also more skeptical and cynical because of the myriad financial scams of recent years. To build a network marketing team, one must learn and embrace a wide range of new prospecting and recruiting practices, team-building techniques, e-commerce tools, and even micro-financing techniques in developing markets.

How do network marketing distributors survive and cope with this potentially destructive deluge of change? How do they learn which team-building and business operation practices to adopt and follow?

Responding to the Challenge
Networking University’s focus for decade 2010–2020 is to develop and deploy a comprehensive, leading-edge educational platform to teach students how to launch, operate, and manage a global network marketing distributor organization.

One key step is to define a lexicon of key concepts that will be used as an educational framework. Is network marketing an industry or a profession? I define network marketing as both:

Over the coming months, Networking University will review our existing training modules and faculty members to identify topic coverage and possible gaps so we target new content and faculty expansion.

Next, we will organize a comprehensive and integrated educational core curriculum as well as elective courses leading to a certification through Networking University. We will target specialized educational curricula at distributor communities in emerging markets, such as the Middle East, India, Southeast Asia, China, and Latin America, to support the growth of the entrepreneurial middle class in these cultures.

These initiatives are only the beginning of the next phase of the Networking University. We welcome any suggestions about programs we can develop to support your professional success.

DR. CHARLES W. KING is professor of marketing
at the University of Illinois at Chicago

and president of Networking University.