You’re about to start your MLM business. You designed an exciting product. You have a competitive commission plan. You have recruited new distributors. You have your warehouse and manufacturing established. Now you need software to keep track of distributors and their downlines. The right software will enable you to take orders, process auto-shipments, calculate commissions, provide reports, and track customer interactions with your support team.
Some business software is not configurable; it comes preset with options which force you to use the terminology and processes designed by the software maker. Configurable software allows you to create unique processes; it allows the end user to set parameters that change the software logic or process to meet the company needs. Rather than putting in work orders for the software company to make changes for you, you set the parameters.
You’re starting a new MLM company, so you’ve probably realized that you won’t know everything about your business on day one. Configurable software allows the software to change to meet the changing needs of your business. It also allows the software to grow and scale with your company’s growth.
When you consider your software configuration needs, it helps to think through the needs of each type of individual you’ll be in business with: distributors, customer support, commission support, and your operations team. Let’s take a look at each of these individuals’ needs, and the ways in which configurable software can help you meet those needs.
Distributors and customers
The primary needs of your distributors and customers are order entry and enrollment systems. Your company must provide that to them, and it’s a good idea for you to have control over the processes behind those systems.
You want to ensure that you can control what items are available in what markets and to which types of users. You may only be in a few markets (maybe just one) at the time that you initially configure your software, but it’s a good idea to be prepared to handle expansion. It’s also a good idea to have control over the organization of your ecommerce sites. This includes the ability to configure categories and navigation. Over time your marketing team will want to be able to upload new product images and descriptions as well as information regarding product specials or promotions. You’ll also want to be able to update enrollment packs and other items purchased during sign up.
As part of your order entry system, you will want to run promotions from time to time to keep sales flowing. For example, you may want to run a buy one get one free promotion. This is another area in which configurable software shines. With it, you don’t need to ask the software provider to program your promotions, you can define all the parameters of the promotion you want to have, and then execute that promotion without any programming. Configurable promotions can be especially valuable to party plan companies who need to update host exclusive items or pricing periodically.
You’ll also want to control your customer types or statuses. For example, what are the distributor types and statuses? Do you have distributor, customer, and preferred customer? What are the rights and privileges of each of these types or statuses? Can you introduce new types or statuses?
Customer Support Representatives
Your customer and distributor support staff need systems for tracking the calls they receive and the work that they do. Your software will be key in managing the relationship between the corporate side of your company and your distributors and customers.
Your company will have unique processes for taking care of customers and distributors, and unique reasons for why a process or action was taken. You need the ability to set up those reasons for each type of action or processes. Why was a product returned? Why was this distributor given extra volume? Why did we refund shipping for this distributor’s order? Why was this item returned? MLM software should adhere to standard operating procedures to ensure that your business runs efficiently and that it’s able to scale over time, but being able to tailor aspects the customer service processes to better meet your company’s needs will be very helpful.
Your commission plan is the heart and soul of your business and although we see similar commission plan components across the industry, no two commission plans are the same. Again, this is an area in which configurable software makes a huge difference. You need the ability to define your commission periods. You’ll also want to set up things like minimum check amounts and withholding amounts. You may want to waive certain qualifications for specific individuals. Your software should allow you to do that, rather than programming that exception. Some software may even let you alter your commission percentages yourself.
Business processes can be automated. You may want to set up batch autoship processing, fulfillment export, and data backup to run automatically on a specific day or time of day. These business processes may need to coincide with other business activities or deadlines your company has. Being able to set these up to meet your business schedule will be extremely helpful.
As it runs, your software will collect data about your business. Getting that data into consumable formats for your different business units is a must for your company. Predefined reports will often have filter criteria that will provide a lot of benefit to your business. However, because direct sales companies are so unique, predefined reports simply won’t be enough. Whether the software provider allows you access to the data tables directly to query, or whether they have a report writing UI to build the reports you need, having some way of getting the data you need the way you need it will be far better than programming custom predefined reports with your software provider.
When your business expands into new countries, you need to define how you will operate in that country. Configurable software will let you do most of the set up without any programming. In configuring these new countries consider setting up the country and its currency, product pricing, exchange rates, warehouses, shipping methods, unique commissions rules, languages, marketing material, and unique aspects of the shopping and enrollment flows.
Using configurable software will help you as you start, and will continue to serve you well as you grow. Configurable software will save you time and money.