Company Name: Mannatech
What Is It
Yet another health and wellness MLM. This time, the company has a focus on glyconutrients and seems to think everyone should be including these in their diet.
There is a lot of hype with Mannatech and the company has faced some challenges in promoting their products without making illegal claims. The site certainly implies that their products offer substantial health benefits, even though the science is limited at best. The company’s history doesn’t exactly inspire me with confidence, and at the same time, they have a complicated compensation plan and the prices of the products would make them hard to sell.
Unless you are passionate about the products the company has to offer, this is an MLM
Mannatech is yet another MLM that falls squarely in the health and wellness category. Their products include those focused on weight loss, fitness and health in general, as well as skin care products.
With this company, the big emphasis is on glyconutrients. What are glyconutrients? It's a made up word meant to make you feel like it's healthy. It's just “the company's name for blends of plant-sourced saccharides” [Source: Wikipedia] The company claims that they offers multiple benefits, including the following:
The company even goes as far as to say that the benefits that it offers cannot be replicated in other products. That’s a pretty tall claim, but how does it stand up to reality? Well, to start off with, there is the disclaimer that goes along with the claims:
Additionally, the company also notes that any studies on their products were funded by the company and that the company often provided the product used. That’s not encouraging. Any study that is funded people who have a vested interest in the outcome can easily be biased and bias often does occur.
Even though the company claims that its products have scientific support, they make it pretty hard to find out precisely what studies were conducted.
The only study that I could find specifically on the product on the site was this one here:
Now, the study does find that the product improved multiple outcomes, including mood and cognition. However, the study was also limited. In particular, it only looked at the product from the company and a placebo. So, it doesn’t show whether there are other products out there that offer similar benefits.
This also means that it isn’t really clear what part of the product caused the observed benefits. It also doesn’t show whether the product caused any long-term changes or just short-term ones.
Additionally, a single study means very little in the scientific community. Finding out whether something is good for health takes a lot of different studies and that clearly hasn’t been done here. In fact, the only real evidence that these products do anything seems to be in the claims of the company and in testimonials – both of which can be very biased.
There have been other studies that the company has supported. However, it looks like most of these focus on general aspects about how the product is supposed to work, rather than evidence that it actually works. This is problematic, because that type of research has very limited implications for the products themselves.
Finding legitimate reviews of any MLM product is difficult, because there are so many biased reviewers out there. This gets even more challenging when you start to look at health and wellness products. With this type of product, you often get people who convince themselves that the product works.
For example, if you took a product to reduce pain, you would attribute any reduction in pain at all (regardless of the cause) to the product (this is called confirmation bias). In fact, you might even make yourself think that your pain is lower, even though it isn’t. This latter effect is the placebo effect and it can be pretty powerful.
With this in mind, it isn’t particularly surprising that the reviews for one of the company’s products (their Advanced Ambrotose Powder) on Amazon look like this:
So, most people are happy with their purchase. Sounds convincing, right?
My first problem is the numbers. There were 63 reviewers on this product, and most other products from the company on Amazon had fewer reviews. Now, I know that many people will buy the product through distributors, but even then, a lot of people buy off Amazon too. Amazon has the advantage of being much easier for many people, which always makes the site popular.
The number of reviews suggests that while most purchasers are happy, there aren’t that many people actually buying the product.
Additionally, many of the positive reviews are a bit strange:
Like these reviews, a lot of the product reviews don’t even talk about any benefits that the product offered them. Personally, if I’m going to pay more than $100 for a product (in this case $134 plus shipping on Amazon), I would want some indication of whether the thing actually works.
MLM products are rarely cheap, and Mannatech certainly isn’t an exception to the rule. For example, their BounceBack supplements retail at a little over $50, for a one month supply.
Likewise, a pouch of 60 nutritional chews retails at close to $40.
Regardless of what you think of the products, these prices are a problem. Making money with a MLM involves selling the products and getting other people to do the same. Most people aren’t going to be willing to spend $40 or more for a single supplement, especially when they have no way of knowing whether it is actually going to work.
This serves to make the process of making money a lot more difficult.
The compensation plan for the company boasts 18 different ways to earn money. This type of claim is common, but it isn’t strictly accurate. Really, you earn money by selling products and by recruiting other people (who then sell and recruit). The different ways of earning that the company talks about are just different bonuses.
The company suggests that six of these ‘ways to earn’ come from personal production while the rest come from organizational rewards. The implication is that the first six come from actually selling the products, the rest from recruiting people and building a team/organization from there. That’s not entirely accurate though, because even some of those personal production bonuses also involve some degree of recruiting.
While you can earn some money from just selling products, the bulk of a distributor’s potential income comes from recruitment and building up their organization.
An interesting thing about MLMs is that the specifics differ from one company to the next, but the basic idea remains the same throughout. This revolves around progressing through different ranks within the company. Each rank offers more bonuses and will often offer the potential to earn money from deeper down in your organization.
For example, at the first rank, you might only be able to earn money from the people you recruit. At the next rank, you can also earn money from the people they recruit, and so forth. This means that both your rank and the sales in your organization affect how much money you can earn.
Because of this, Mannatech places a large emphasis on progressing through the ranks as quickly as possible.
So, each rank offers more bonuses and comes with more challenges. These challenges include getting a certain number of sales across the people under you. You also have to focus on ‘legs’ of the people you recruit. Essentially, a leg is a person that you recruit and then everyone under them. To progress through the company, you have to have multiple successful legs.
That means you have to recruit, guide and help multiple people to be successful in the company in their own right.
There are other bonuses with the compensation plan too. As is usually the case, these get more complicated and have more criteria as you go through the organization. The complexity of it all is supposed to create a balanced model that allows people to be successful. In reality though, it makes the process of making money much more difficult than it should be.
The Ugly Side Of The Company
Most MLMs have the habit of hyping up their products. After all, there are a lot of health and wellness products in the market and the companies have to do something to stand out. Mannatech certainly engages in this approach, and it has got the company in trouble in the past.
One concerning example of this is that in 2004 the company was sued for the use of the photograph of a child in their promotional material. That particular photograph was from a child with Tay-Sachs disease, who actually died shortly after using products from the company. Even though the mother of the child requested the image not be used, the company continued to use it.
The company has also faced other lawsuits for their practices, suggesting that the company’s claims might not match up with reality.
There was also a 20/20 investigation into the company, focusing on many of the health claims and testimonials that the company gives. For example, one such testimonial discussed was the following one, concerning the use of glyconutrients in the company’s products:
Testimonials like that certainly imply that the products from the company work miracles. However, the CEO of the company made the following statement about the testimonials and claims of the company:
That’s a pretty big turnaround, and not what the marketing implies at all. In fact, the claims I talked about earlier make it pretty clear that the company really does think the products promote health in multiple ways.
Here’s another thing, if the supplements really don’t treat, cure or mitigate health problems, what precisely is the point in taking them? That’s something that the CEO doesn’t make clear.
With a complicated commission plan and over-priced products that may or may not work, Mannatech feels exactly like every other MLM out there. Unfortunately, there is nothing that makes this company stand out and convincing people to buy the products or join the company is likely to be a challenge.
MLM VS Affiliate Marketing
Mannatech really focuses on the idea that direct selling is a good way to convince people to get into being a ‘wellness consumer’. Basically, it’s focusing on the idea that distributors can convince people to purchase health and wellness products.
This is true to a degree. Direct person-to-person interaction can be an effective way of changing people’s minds, but that often only happens in the short-term. Additionally, you often end up overhyping the product and misleading people to try and convince them.
This idea overlooks something fundamental for making money in health and wellness.
Why try to convince people to buy health and wellness products at all?
There are so many people already interested in buying products to improve their health. Many of these people are actively looking for products that will work the best for them. Why not tap into this market? There is certainly much more money to be had.
Selling to this market is actually easier than direct marketing. Many these consumers go online to find out more about the best products. Using affiliate marketing, you can create a website that offers the information customers are looking for. At the same time, you can actually promote decent products, rather than over-hyped and over-priced options.
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