I have no axe to grind with multi-level marketing or MLM. It is merely a marketing methodology. It is a distribution system for promoting products, whatever the products might be.
The basic concept of MLM is simple. An individual is recruited to become a distributor for a specific product or product line. This individual is encouraged to recruit other people to become sub-distributors and they, in turn, are likewise encouraged to sign up other people as the “pyramid” [or matrix] continues downward. Along the way, everyone gets a percentage of the action from their own sales as well as the sales made by the folks below them in the chain.
In my opinion, MLM works best when the products in the distribution chain are everyday, disposable items that people use on a consistent basis such as soap, toothpaste, laundry detergent, and so forth. Minimum product knowledge is required as it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to promote the merits of a particular soap or laundry detergent. Perhaps this is why Amway is the oldest and most successful of all MLM companies.
The basic premise behind MLM is equally simple. You can quickly build up an annuity from the efforts of other people. Your investment is modest and all you need do to acquire that new Mercedes is follow the “program.”
During the early 90’s nutrition became popular with the general public following numerous announcements in prestigious publications that many vitamin, mineral, and herbal preparations offered an amazingly effective and low-risk approach to preventing illness and achieving wellness. The nutrition craze had begun!
It is hardly surprising, therefore, that multi-level marketing of nutrition has become extremely popular with individuals such as sales people and hourly workers whose earnings are usually limited to the number of productive hours they work and who come in contact with many people during the course of a day.
What is surprising and rather shocking is the number of health care professionals, especially DC’s, who have embraced MLM nutrition and incorporated it into their practices. I believe they are tarnishing not only their own image and reputation, but the public’s perception of chiropractic in general. I make this statement based upon the following considerations which I believe many Doctors of Chiropractic have overlooked.
First, there should never be a time when your patient sees you as “trying to peddle something,” regardless of what it may be. Rather, the patient should always think of you as someone who is there to help him or her get relief from pain or illness. When you recruit your patients as MLM distributors, you destroy both your credibility and your professionalism. You force your patient to wonder, “Is my chiropractor prescribing this nutritional product because it will benefit me or because it will enhance his monetary position?” Clayton Hopkins, DC, Clinic Director of the American Health Foundation, said it best when he stated, “The patient must understand that the DC’s sole purpose is to optimize his health, not promote products. Anything less is unethical.”
Secondly, the Doctor of Chiropractic has historically been the provider of sound nutritional therapy as both modalities stress that the body has the inherent ability to heal itself with the proper resources and treatment procedures. “Nutritional supplementation should be prescribed and supervised by the Doctor of Chiropractic,” according to the American Chiropractic Association. Is the chiropractic community prepared to relinquish its expertise to amateurs with no training in nutrition or the health sciences? Are you prepared to have your patients (under your distributorship) prescribing nutritional products to their friends based solely upon attending evangelical sales meetings and reading slickly packaged promotional literature?
Third, many MLM nutritional products are over-priced with low potency ingredients and inexpensive nutrient delivery systems. They have no choice! Much of the dollars generated go toward satisfying the cost of flashy advertising, commissions that run six levels deep, slick sales literature, expensively organized distributor meetings and, of course, fees paid to nationally known health professionals to secure glowing product testimonials. (I find it interesting that these experts never seem to have been published in the peer-reviewed literature).
In most MLM advertising, the nutritional products appear to be incidental to building wealth! Look at a typical MLM ad and what do you see? Photographs of happy families standing in front of exotic and expensive automobiles and mansions. Is it an ad promoting nutrition or urging you to subscribe to Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous? Is this the public image that health professionals wish to project concerning the use of nutritional therapy in their practice?
Fourth, the passage of the Dietary Supplement Health & Education Act in 1994 placed the burden of proof on the FDA to show that a dietary substance was harmful. Since that time the FDA has been diligently searching for examples of nutritional misuse and abuse. Unfortunately, the FDA doesn’t have far to look!
In my right hand I hold a bottle of “invigorating tonic” distributed by a large, well known MLM nutrition company. The “tonic” consists of approximately 30% alcohol by volume with five simple sugars dissolved in it. “This invigorating tonic will relieve the symptoms of fatigue and lethargy and pick you up,” the literature touts. I bet! Of course, so will a teaspoon of honey in a shot of Jack Daniels. Let us pray, Doctor, that one of your down-line distributors does not sell this product to a diabetic relative as this tonic carries no label warnings of any kind.
In my left hand I hold a bottle of diet capsules from another MLM nutrition company. “Lose weight fast while feeling good,” the literature states. This marvelous product contains pure powered ephedrine, two herbals noted for having a higher caffeine content than coffee beans and, for good measure, phenylpropanolamine a chemical compound closely related to aphetamine. Your obese patients will definitely lose weight with this product provided their hearts don’t pound out of their chest first!
If holistic health professions fail to take responsibility for prescribing safe and effective nutrition to their patients, the government will ensure that you are forever relieved of this chore! Only MD’s and pharmacists will be entrusted to prescribe nutritional “drugs.”
In point of fact, this trend is already beginning to take shape! A recent issue of Retail Pharmacy News encourages pharmacists to “avoid stocking trendy or unproven products and stick with basic nutritionals supported by science-based information. Don’t promote marginal or worthless ‘fad’ products as so many pseudo health practitioners are currently doing.”
Fifth, a great many reputable nutritional companies who support chiropractic offer high potency, pharmaceutical quality nutritional products that are extremely effective and documented in the scientific literature. The Doctor of Chiropractic who prescribes what is best for his patients has his status, professionalism, and ethics as annuity. The money will follow! Most people never get rich by chasing after wealth, but rather by pursuing that which they truly believe. A wise old sage once said, “The golden age only comes to men when they have forgotten gold.”
Galen O. Ballard’s education includes undergraduate studies in market research at the University of Denver with graduate work at the Universities of Wisconsin and Maryland. Mr. Ballard began his career as a national consultant to the resort and spa industry. Later, as his interest in holistic health grew, he established a marketing and consulting firm specializing in the chiropractic practice. The firm was later acquired by Titan Marketing Group, the parent company of Titan Laboratories, where he has been Senior Vice President since 1988. Mr. Ballard is a former Vietnam era veteran who graduated from the USAF Air University and served in the U.S. Air Defense Command. He is an “activist” who has authored numerous articles and publications on health issues and government failure to protect the health of U.S. citizens. Galen can be reached at Titan Laboratories by calling 1-800-929-0945 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.