It is true. I am an Arbonne consultant. (Actually, that may be past-tense by the time you read this...)
For those unfamiliar with Arbonne, they are a fast-growing company focused on health care and skin care products. They claim the products are all natural and most of the people who try them truly love them. The downside is that they are ridiculously expensive. Still, you get what you pay for. For the record, I have several friends in Arbonne and they are good people with a high level of integrity. Nothing I have to say should be construed as inpugning them in any way.
I signed up as an Arbonne consultant on the recommendation of a friend. It's basically a multi-level marketing deal where you are supposed to tap your warm market, teach them the business, help them get rich, etc... It's nice when the product isn't Amway, but the marketing plan is essentially the same.
Before I signed up, I did a little research online. I wanted to see if anyone was successfully marketing Arbonne online. Naturally, there is a corporate web site. But I also encountered several sites created by independent consultants. There were only a few, but they were pretty good as far as content and design. Having a good deal of Internet knowledge, I figured I could do likewise.
So, I signed up and purchased a "myarbonne" site, which would essentially give me a place for my customers to buy product online. Since I had no intent of bringing my family or friends into a multi-level marketing organization (It's the absolute fastest way to alienate family and lose friends), I would be doing all my selling and recruiting online. Well, the recruiting was actually going to be done by a person in my upline, but I'll get to that in a moment.
I paid the obligatory signup fees and, of course, you are expected to purchase product, not for inventory purposes but for your own use. While I do know of some men who enjoy the products, I figured I would let Mary try the Nutrimin-C anti-aging formulas. She liked them a lot, so I purchased enough for her to have a lasting supply.
For an annual fee of $120, you get your own MyArbonne.com site. This was the first red flag for me. Instead of rolling the costs of hosting a few pages into the signup fee, I hit my first "gotcha". I know what web hosting costs and I realize that if someone wants to promote a site that is going to make me money, I don't charge them for space. But this is a way for Arbonne to monetize the consultant. I bit the bullet and paid the fee to register my own Arbonne site.
Next, I encountered Arbonne's search engine submission service. Essentially, they charge $39/year to submit your myarbonne.com site to a list of search engines and directories. This service is a MASSIVE rip off and entirely worthless to the consultant. I suspect Arbonne, Inc. gets a kickback from the company that does the directory submissions for them, because there is no benefit to the consultant. How can I say this?
Here is all you need to know about search engines and directories:
End of story. The rest of the directories and search engines on their list are virtually worthless, netting almost zero traffic for the dollars spent.
Out of these listed, most are created by "spidering" your site, looking for original content, and especially content that changes on a regular basis. It is extremely RARE for subdomain sites to be successfully listed in these places as they deliberately block the majority of them. Why? Because they know that there are going to be hundreds or thousands of people all trying to submit the same blasted content. This clogs the search engines and makes them less valuable to the end consumer. Long story short? Submit your sites to the search engines and directories yourself. It will take about 30 minutes at the most and give you the same benefit.
In order to maximize my Arbonne site traffic, I put together a plan to implement several web strategies.
First, I decided to register a domain, www.fantasticskincare.com I knew Arbonne would not allow their brand name in a url, so I thought this would be fine. After all, I found several other sites that were doing the same thing, and the manager in my upline assured me that it would be alright. I put several hours into building a nice site and was quite pleased with the product.
Next, I choose to leverage my shopping site, www.dealofday.com, by creating an Arbonne category in which I would display my Arbonne special offers and sales. The visitors to my site would be able to easily find product and a link to the myarbonne.com site.
In order to facilitate recruiting, I opted to give away a free sample of the Nutrimin-C RE9 formula to those who signed up for it on my site. I think I processed 150 requests and passed those on to my upline to follow up with. I guess people online just want freebies, because we were unable to make even one sale, let alone sign up a new consultant. So much for a product that "sells itself". I think the price point is just too high for the average person. Talk about sticker shock! Anyhow, my manager tried her best. It just didn't work out.
In the meantime, I had been running my independent site and promoting on DealofDay.com for a few weeks, when lo and behold, I received a notice from Arbonne's legal representative. He/she (can't recall, don't care) informed me that I was in violation of Arbonne's terms of service, both by having my own web site AND by promoting Arbonne products on my shopping site. I thought there must be some mistake. After all, others were doing it and my upline assured me it would be fine.
As it turns out, they no longer allow people to develop their own sites OR promote on any site OTHER than the MyArbonne.com site to sell product. I recall having a lengthy, and extremely frustrating, conversation with some gentleman in their office. Yes, it is paraphrased, but it went a little something like this.
Joel: Let me get this straight. I have bought a web site site to sell Arbonne product online, but I can't promote my business online.
Arbonne: You can put your URL for your MyArbonne.com site on your business cards.
Joel: But I can't promote an Internet site on the Internet?
Arbonne: That is correct.
Joel: That is insane. So how do you explain the consultants out there that DO have an Internet presence? I have encountered no less than three sites that have good seach engine rankings and pleasant design, with the purpose of promoting their Arbonne business and selling products.
Arbonne: They built their sites before we instated this policy, so they were grandfathered in.
Joel: Ah, so those who signed up early have an unfair advantage?
Arbonne: We don't see it that way. We are trying to protect our brand.
Joel: I see. So why not have your team review individual web sites and approve them if they meet your standards?
Arbonne: That would take too much work. We don't have the staff to handle it.
Joel: So it is just easier to discourage innovation and creativity, stifling the people who can take your Internet presence to the next level?
Arbonne: We are primarily an offline business, designed for one-on-one face-to-face encounters with the client. The web site is there to tell your clients about so they can easily purchase product from your site online.
Joel: So why are you encouraging people to pay $39 to submit their myarbonne.com sites to directories and search engines if they aren't supposed to be working their business online?
At this point, Mr. Arbonne got a bit flustered and I had had enough. Clearly, these people really don't have it together regarding their Internet model. Ultimately, its no skin off my back. I take risks like this on a regular basis. I flushed a couple hundred dollars down the tube and my wife got some face cream that she really likes. All in all, not a bad deal. I guess its just the backwards thinking that makes me nuts. Companies that crush creativity and innovative thinking have no business being online. It's not that I mind obstacles to success. It just hacks me off a bit when those obstacles are placed there by the company I am atttempting to succeed with.
So, I removed my Arbonne links from DealofDay.com. I took the product off the site I had created. But I left a redirect at FantasticSkinCare.com for people to get to shopping.myarbonne.com.
Today, I get another email from my friends at Arbonne legal telling me that I am in violation by having any links on any site. I encountered similar problems in dealing with Tupperware, but my Arbonne experience was more maddening. It's a good thing their product is good.
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