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Over 10 million people run or participate in MLM campaigns in the US alone, with worldwide numbers reaching over 20 million. The popularity of these companies, which rely on distributors to increase profits by selling to their friends and family, has necessitated a software niche that caters to the specific needs of the network. Multi-level marketing software helps those who run direct marketing businesses track shipments, inventory, and accounting, while simultaneously running social, website, and email marketing campaigns.
MLM — also known as network and direct marketing — employs a complicated accounting system of commissions added to the base price of the product. The best MLM software helps network entrepreneurs handle the complicated tasks related to running a business where sales and marketing combine with supply chain management.
This guide discusses some of the major MLM software vendors and the most popular MLM software features you should look for during your research. It will also cover the major benefits of using dedicated MLM software over conventional marketing and accounting tools.
MLM software caters specifically to network and direct marketers in multi-level organizations. In the MLM model, individuals technically run their own businesses and distribute products directly to consumers. As a side benefit, many of these businesses thrive through recruitment of friends and family into new distributor roles, where they increase the profits of the product company by increasing overall product sales. Salespeople who are recruited by a single distributor are considered on that distributor’s downline, and the product sales from each of a distributor’s salespeople can factor into that distributor’s total sales number.
MLM organizations have historically come under close scrutiny from government business and health agencies. Due to these legal troubles, network marketing organizations walk a fine line when making health-related marketing claims or commission calculations. These government regulations opened the market for multi-level marketing software, where distributors can organize, track, and calculate shipping, sales, and commission in line with legal requirements. This software is designed for those who work as distributors, salespeople, and executives of MLM companies.
The FTC requires network marketing businesses to gain the majority of profits through the sale of products directly to consumers. These regulations require direct marketers to keep careful records of products bought and sold and inventory on hand. MLM software products provide ordering, invoicing, and payment records. Some software programs also include detailed product records for customer and distributor reference.
Sales and order management includes everything from invoicing and billing through tracking and inventory management. You can find these tools in many accounting, shipping, or logistics solutions, but an MLM platform will bring many of these capabilities together, because they are integral to product distribution for a direct sales company. Specialized multilevel marketing software should give you full branding capabilities for your sales documents, like custom icons and letterhead. You’ll save time with templates that can be used over and over, instead of building invoices from scratch each time.
Due to a network marketing company’s complicated financial situation, calculating commission and sales returns for monthly reports can quickly overwhelm time that owners and distributors would otherwise spend moving product. Common accounting features include network and sales commission settings to carry calculation rules from period to period, and the ability to track sales from e-commerce sites, in addition to direct sales.
The sales landscape has changed dramatically over the last decade, and MLM companies have felt the pinch in their door-to-door and neighbor-to-neighbor sales. As many buyers move to the internet, direct marketing has followed. The best MLM software will provide access to social media and e-commerce sites with full branding and email marketing capabilities built in.
Like any business, direct sales depends on marketing to attract new customers, but also to build a distributor network. Building the brand image that inspires new product evangelists to join takes a dedicated marketing plan. Some of the features you should look for in your multilevel marketing tools include:
Customer relationship management (CRM) software can cost a lot on its own, but when included in a larger MLM suite, the return value can vastly outweigh the investment. A CRM tracks all of the contacts for a business and will organize and file pertinent customer and salesperson information gained at each point of contact. MLM software with built-in CRM will also track complicated salesperson and distributor downline networks, sharing much of that data with the accounting portions of the platform.
MLM software with built-in customer relationship management (CRM) tools will help you keep track of sales contacts, distributors, customers, and vendors. A CRM will store your contact lists in one place and let you share those contacts with your network. Good CRMs act as more than an address book, however, as they often include task and notification features, so you can follow-up with your contacts in a timely manner.
Another advantage of integrated CRM and marketing/sales tools is that you can send follow-up reminders automatically for time-based events like reordering. What if you didn’t have to email or call each of your distributors individually, but instead could send out a monthly or quarterly reorder reminder? The time you save there could be put directly back into building your business.
MLM software buyers should look for the features listed above in an MLM product suite, but there’s more to a software product than its core features. You should also make sure the product you choose matches your existing workflows, offers integration with other systems you use, and provides a pleasant user experience with regular updates.
Here are a few more specific factors to look for during your research and comparison process:
Social media integration: Many distributors and sales professionals find social media increases market penetration as well as generate demand for the product and the brand.
Online catalogs and e-commerce: Depending on the size of your network and the complexity of your product catalog, you’ll want to look into online catalogs and e-commerce features that help potential customers and salespeople research your products without a large time investment on your part.
Granulated user controls: These allow your downline distributors to access important areas within the software, while you keep sensitive information under wraps.
Legal consultation: If you’re building your own MLM company, you may want to look into legal consultation to ensure that your product and services comply with local and federal regulations. Some MLM software builds regulatory safeguards right into the accounting modules.
MLM software isn’t as saturated of a market as some other technology verticals, but choosing the best MLM software can still be difficult. Make sure your decision process includes your company’s pricing structure, so you can fully support your downline distributors. You should also take advantage of any free trials to test the ease-of-use and integrations related to your marketing, lead capture, and website design.
Still need help deciding which MLM software will help grow your network marketing business? Use our MLM product selection tool to compare solutions based on your needs, or call one of our Technology Advisors for a free consultation.