In the future, the only option for companies to become more efficient while remaining profitable seems to be to cut out their marketing and advertising costs and use cost effective and profitable word-of-mouth advertising, while maintaining a win-win relation with the customers. It therefore follows that the Internet, combining e-commerce and social networking, is the future of most businesses.

Here are three major trends I see influencing and shaping the future direction of network marketing worldwide.

1. Technology and Telecommunication
Computer hardware, software, and networking have revolutionized the nature of doing business in network marketing. Essential factors for successful, affordable, and effective networking include:

Changes in technology and communication tools will eliminate the usual barriers of time, national boundaries, and any costs related to team-building.

The only caveat of doing business using technology is that we might lose the personal touch, which can be the most important piece in the puzzle of developing and maintaining strong relationships essential for team growth. Automation is fine for improving effectiveness and efficiency but to make a relationship blossom seamlessly, we cannot get away from holding personal meetings and offering live events in every region.

2. Compensation Plan Changes
Network marketing companies will need to streamline their compensation plans in a way that allows distributors to earn commissions more easily and quickly. This will attract more customers who then become responsible promoters of their products and/or services, increasing sales, network size, and profitability.

3. Mainstream Acceptance of the Business Model 
Many large conglomerates use direct sales and multilevel marketing to remain profitable and pay their stockholders. They have understood and are already incorporating the power of this model. Many more will have no choice but to follow this trend, as the economy continues to squeeze their cash flow.

The fact remains that many people have yet to be exposed to the business, accept the model, and see the value in selling all products and services online. Fundamental changes in business, brought about largely by technological advances and, to a lesser extent, by greed (on the part of stockholders and corporate management), are imposing dramatic changes on how we live and work. Most realistic people have no illusions regarding job security, seniority, or loyalty in the work place. Disillusionment, real cash crunches, and acceptance of the inevitable are the true hallmarks of all these changes that are happening now and will continue to happen in the future.

Consequently, a growing number of well-educated, skilled, and experienced people in the work force who have been laid off are willing to consider network marketing as a viable option, given the increasingly fewer choices in traditional business. Many of these professionals would have been unlikely to contemplate involvement in MLM until now. The rude shock of the downturn has made some of them take an unbiased look, do personal research, and embrace what we know to be the future of business.

Because of changes in technology, as online access continues to grow globally and legislation is introduced to include MLM internationally, e-commerce combined with social networking will gather momentum and two important things will happen:

First, as e-commerce grows, services will be put in place where we will be directly connected to doctors, home learning centers, lawyers, restaurants and other services. Consumers will have fewer reasons to leave the comfort of their own homes.

Supermarkets and other conventional and utility stores will increasingly convert to automated warehouses that pick, pack, and deliver, without the expensive real estate overhead and human resources they now require. This will increase cash flow, making it feasible to run a profitable business once again. 

The “job” as we have traditionally known it will have to change. In the future, the compensation we receive will be based on the size of our networks, not on our education. This already happens today among big businesses who buy the customer base, not the physical assets.

Shopping as we know it will change dramatically. Fewer businesses will be able to afford the luxury of expensive premises and will face competition from home-based or mobile in-home services, which will be run and managed by displaced former employees. 

Secondly, consumers will feel increasingly isolated and will need face-to-face human contact. Especially with the aging of the world population in the west, long-term, loyal customer relationships will become more important. These customers will become potential business partners for the newer generation of people who seek to defy the odds and redefine themselves in network marketing.

The future is bright for those companies who maintain a retail focus in their networks and use the Internet primarily to sell, train, and support their customers. Many new business professionals I know are displaced former middle and senior managers, consultants, and business executives who take network marketing back to its origins as a high-leverage retail sales and distribution system with low risk. There will be a return to the basics as network marketing rediscovers its beginnings and reinvents itself in more powerful ways.

Anyone who understands facts and is not living in delusion will have to accept the reality that the world is moving to this business model. The world has no choice but to embrace network marketing.

MARK FERREIRA is a network marketing leader
from India who heads up an organization
of several hundred thousand distributors
in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
He is also an international tennis champion
and innovative entrepreneur in other business sectors.