Mister Beacon Episode #60

Beacons & Multi-Level Marketing

December 20, 2017

A wave of multi-level marketing (MLM) firms are creating beacon offerings, putting Bluetooth beacons in the hands of business people completely unfamiliar with the technology. We find out what's happening, who is using the technology, the problems and the opportunities by talking to Victoria Gonzalez, a solopreneur who has been figuring out how to make beacons work for her small businesses.


  • Victoria Gonzalez 00:17


    Steve Statler 00:18

    Hey there, Victoria. It's Steve Statler here. How are you?

    Victoria Gonzalez 00:21

    Good, Steve, how are you?

    Steve Statler 00:23

    Pretty good. So, so Victoria, thanks for calling in and speaking to Don and I, we've pulled Don out from behind the cameras. Thank you for keeping me company done.

    Don Scheibenreif 00:33

    Absolutely. It's a pleasure. I'm particularly interested in this topic.

    Steve Statler 00:36

    Yeah, it is super interesting. And Victoria, you're, I think, some of the kind of person we've actually never had on the show, which is a user of beacon technology. So and I was, I was really interested to get a message from you through the Mr. Beacon website, because you basically described kind of a mixed experience. And so we'd love to hear the, the good, the bad, the ugly. And maybe we should just start off with a quick intro on on who you are, and then maybe how you briefly how you came across beacons in the first place.

    Victoria Gonzalez 01:16

    Sure, no problem. My name is Victoria Gonzalez, and I am a small business owner, you could say a solopreneur. I started selling personalized children's books way back in 1999. After I decided to stay home and take care of my kids, prior to that I was working in product development for Nabisco. But recently, I came across wanting to learn different marketing techniques for my business, and someone had come to me and introduced me to a beacon Type Product. And that really got me interested and excited about what a beacon was, and they weren't calling it that, and what it could do for my business.

    Steve Statler 01:59

    The person that introduced you this was a friend or?

    Victoria Gonzalez 02:04

    This was a friend of mine, I am in the New Jersey area. And she was out in the Ohio area. We had been doing different business things. She has a bunch of businesses that she runs. And she had gone to I want to say a seminar somewhere and have someone approach her and talk to her about this, this royalty product.

    Steve Statler 02:23

    Well, that's amazing. And so what does the so you didn't know it was a beacon product. What was what was the pitch?

    Victoria Gonzalez 02:29

    Okay, well, the pitch was with this tiny little device that you keep on your keychain, that you could broadcast your marketing message out to 100 yards and hit every Android phone in that vicinity. Which I was like, wow, that's an amazing thing. Yes, as a small business owner, we always want something that's going to be cost effective, and have a huge reach. You know, it was touted that no matter where you are, if you're sitting at a coffee shop, and you have this thing on you, you're working in broadcasting your business. Hey, that's a wonderful idea. Anybody would want something like that. So I asked for more information. And, and I received more information than I signed up.

    Steve Statler 03:11

    What was the product called?

    Victoria Gonzalez 03:13

    The product was called a royalty gem.

    Steve Statler 03:16

    Okay. And so we now know, royalty jam is a Bluetooth beacon, right?

    Victoria Gonzalez 03:22

    Yes, it is. Yep. It did not realize that it was a beacon at all, I don't think anybody did. And the concept is amazing.

    Steve Statler 03:30

    Can you describe kind of what you get? And how much does this cost, by the way?

    Victoria Gonzalez 03:34

    Well, when I joined up with royalty, I paid a $79 fee, I believe a front or something like that. And I got three radius dots. They were calling their gems. And they have their own platform, and they would be changing the notifications for you, you would put it in, and then they would change it for you. So at that point, this was in May of 2017. It will take about 24 hours or so for them to be able to change the notifications. And me knowing nothing other than that. I was like, alright, that's wonderful. That's fine. We were told that we needed to have a secure site, that would be the landing point for it, which is fine. I felt bad for some people who didn't have that, because they were desperately trying to figure out how to turn their site into secure sites to be able to use this product.

    Steve Statler 04:28

    What was the mechanism for entering this? The message that was being pushed by the beacons?

    Victoria Gonzalez 04:36

    Well, we would go and login and on the back end, we would put in a 40 character message. And they were they are using the nearby system, although I didn't really know that at the time. But we would go into our back end the dashboard and enter the information and then they would update it for us. And like I said before, it would take about 24 hours or so for those messages to show up.

    Steve Statler 04:58

    So you did that on the web. So what were the results of this?

    Victoria Gonzalez 05:02

    Youknow what, one of the things that they were telling us, wow, you're gonna see all these hits as it comes down to you when it's shipped to you what you did see, and it was really, really exciting. I mean, people were going crazy for this. This is like, the unicorn, you know, we just fell in love with the concept. So after I got mine, I use them, I set them up. And I went out and I tried to show people and said, hey, check your notifications of I ran into a couple of snags. And there was nothing at that time to be able to check analytics. A lot of people were using Bitly to do that. Okay. And it turns out a lot of people were seeing in their data, because there are some boards on Facebook where people on you know, go and talk about the product and different things. I guess these a lot of these people are MLM errs, and they build teams, I wasn't really familiar with the MLM part, I have my own business. So I never really got involved in that. But on a lot of the boards, people were saying that the pits were just bots out of California.

    Steve Statler 06:10

    And so let's rewind on on some of the jargon maybe. So what's what is MLM?

    Victoria Gonzalez 06:19

    Multi Level Marketing companies something similar to a Pampered Chef, or, you know, where you would have people purchase below you. And you would make money on bringing people in and having people be like a sales force like Amway, like direct. Or I guess some of the oil companies that are out there anything like that? Yes. And synapse. I'm sorry. That's how people were making money with the product. So you have an army of these people going out and selling them to small businesses. And then they can just use it for their business, or they can choose to sell it as well and build up teams below them.

    Steve Statler 07:02

    Was the person that introduced you to the ID idea? Were they part of this kind of MLM hierarchy?

    Victoria Gonzalez 07:10

    No they weren't? No. So a friend of hers was but she was not no.

    Steve Statler 07:16

    Oh, interesting. Okay. So, I mean, I think this is fascinating the idea of because because one of the things that the whole beacon thing is lapped, I think in many ways is good marketing. And this is maybe one of the most potent forms of marketing, where you're using people's relationships and networks to spread the word. You know, how effective do you think this was?

    Victoria Gonzalez 07:40

    As far as a marketing tool for them, and to get the word out about their product? Amazing. Wonderful. But as far as for small businesses, I I don't know if I've seen anything yet.

    Don Scheibenreif 07:53

    Would you say that the hits that you were getting that were showing up in the analytics that were registering as bots, did it make you feel like they weren't legitimate hits? Like, what was your reaction to that?

    Victoria Gonzalez 08:03

    Yes, yes, a lot of people were feeling that they weren't legitimate ads. And even to this day, I have not heard anybody, or seen anything on YouTube or anything on the internet of business owners actually touting the results that they got from using beacons in this manner. So that was alarming. You know, it was alarming when I first you know, found out that, hey, I could do this myself, which is another thing that I found out. And that's what I did. I went out and I purchased developer sets from radius and contact and Estimote and blue cats. Because I started doing research, I wanted to make sure that I knew exactly how this product worked, before I went out and tried to sell it to people, not only for my own business, but for other people who I wanted to use it and benefit from it as well. So when I received my beacons, and I started doing a lot of research on the topic, I found Steve, and I wanted to know more. And there's a lot of people out there that are telling themselves as experts and they didn't seem to be to me, it seemed like a lot of people were jumping on that bandwagon to make a lot of money with different platforms and using a technology that they themselves didn't really know how to use.

    Steve Statler 09:26

    Thanks for looking to us for kind of getting up to speed on this. And sounds like you've been very thorough. You've gone out to four great platforms to experiment with this. And you know, what was some of the things that you learned through this process that you didn't know when you started?

    Victoria Gonzalez 09:44

    A couple of things that I didn't know and we were originally told that oh, we needed Well, actually, we were told we all we needed was Bluetooth turned on. So when I went to show this to business owners, all they had on it was Bluetooth, and I'm trying to figure out why they're not receiving notifications, because there's more things that have to be turned on, you need your location services on you need the Bluetooth on, you need some sort of internet connection, whether it be through your cellular service, or Wi Fi. And then you also have to have the nearby turned on. So a lot of pieces of the puzzle to really get the notifications were missing. And that's what I started to learn. I also started to learn that there's settings on the beacons that we can do on our own when you learn to program them yourselves. As far as the intervals of advertising rate and the power levels, yes. Which really comes into play when you're in, let's say, a stadium or a convention center. You know, these were things that we weren't aware of, at least I wasn't.

    Don Scheibenreif 10:48

    So the power level, does that affect the range of the broadcast? Is that what you're saying?

    Victoria Gonzalez 10:53

    Yes, I think the power level, yeah, I think both of them have to be at a higher level to be able to get more people to see the notifications. And then also, it seems to be very, very quirky, it depends on your location where you are in a building, it depends on if you're in an open field, great, you're gonna get a huge line of sight. But when you're in a convention center, and you have all these people, you know, that's getting absorbed by the water, I discovered, you know, the human body is a lot of water that that absorbs these signals. So, so many, there's a plethora of things that I didn't know about how beacons worked.

    Steve Statler 11:34

    Well, I applaud you for getting to grips with this as much as you have. What what do you make of the other people that are using the the royalty gem platform? What What kind of people did you come across? And what were they what were they promoting?

    Victoria Gonzalez 11:51

    I came across a lot of really, really wonderful people. And that's what's really interesting about this, everybody out there fell in love with this technology. So there's a ton of business owners and multilevel marketing people that are looking for a solution to advertise their businesses in a reasonable way, you know, and the most likely of places to advertise, of course, is going to be on our phones. We have our noses in our phones all the time. So that totally made sense. And it's from advertising, eateries, and coffee shops, to promoting their own businesses, whatever they be myself, the books, other people who are selling leggings, you know, anything that's out there, you know, everybody wants to use this technology, because it's so amazing.

    Steve Statler 12:42

    So does your sense that this MLM approach is working? Is it? Is it driving adoption?

    Victoria Gonzalez 12:50

    I think he's driving adoption for those selling it as an MLM tool. But as far as the business owners, I'm not quite sure it's really working for them in the way that they want.

    Steve Statler 13:01

    You think that's just because they're not, they don't have the knowledge of all the things they really need to know to make this work?

    Victoria Gonzalez 13:09

    I don't know if that I think that the majority of the general public are not aware of nearby notifications, or the Physical Web or the Internet of Things, actually.

    Don Scheibenreif 13:22

    So you think they're not getting the notifications or just not knowing what to do with them when they come in?

    Victoria Gonzalez 13:27

    Sometimes they're getting the notifications and sometimes not. And I don't know what Google is doing on the back end? Because a lot of people I mentioned, Hey, isn't this going to be really spammy? And Will Google not shut this down? So I'm thinking that could be happening as well, it's, um, a lot of people were concerned about that, that they would start their own business selling these beacons in an MLM fashion. And then all of a sudden, they had it turned off, because Google said, hey, well, enough is enough on this.

    Steve Statler 13:57

    Well, having spoken to some of the people at Google, I think you're right to be concerned about their response to spam and and I guess, as stakeholders in the ecosystem, we kind of, we want them to do what they do on the web, don't we? I mean, the web is useful because they have a way of, of ranking and prioritizing what people see. So I think what we're seeing is Google are doing what they do on the web, on the Physical Web, and think about what they do. They, they rank, they order they filter. And so when you genuinely when you ask a question on the web, you get pretty good answers. And they've done an amazing job given how much spam there is of relegating that. And from, you know, what I've picked up in my conversations with people that work at Google, they see Google's role on the Physical Web has been very much the same. And so I think they'll be doing that sorting and filtering and so if people are pushing content using nearby If using the Physical Web, then that's good, but it but it really needs to be useful and actionable. And they're going to be looking at the pages that people point to and people's behavior and using a lot of the same algorithms that they do with, with the World Wide Web, on the Physical Web. And so I share some of your concerns Victoria, that if this gets abused, and people are simply just pushing spammy content that people find annoying, that this could really I think the Google may end up throttling it back. And we've already seen them pull the Physical Web out of the Chrome browser, and now it's in Android. So it's still there. But it means that we only get it on Android. We don't get it on iOS. So Victoria. You know, any closing thoughts on on what we've been talking about?

    Victoria Gonzalez 16:00

    Sure. I have a couple of them. I think that this is an amazing technology. And I really would like to see small businesses take advantage of this. I also think that beacons can't be a standalone platform, or they're not the silver bullet that people think that they are. I think they need to be paired with things, maybe NFC, some QR codes, and certainly apps.

    Don Scheibenreif 16:29

    Have you thought about? Have you either thought about or already published some thought leadership points on this whole topic? Do you do you have a place where you can either blog or post to LinkedIn or anything like that, where you've shared all this, this knowledge?

    Victoria Gonzalez 16:45

    You know what I thought about that. And it seems like this is morphing me into many different directions, the more I learn about this, it takes me to different areas, I think I'm gonna have to do that I'm coming from a place of small business, the light, of course, that's where I want to see people gain this technology and make it useful for themselves. It's reasonably priced. And if they can do it the right way. I think it would just be a phenomenal thing for them this way, they don't feel like they can't compete with the big box stores for specific technologies.

    Don Scheibenreif 17:19

    Well, certainly you're not the average user, that's for sure. And it sounds like you've built up a nice network of people in various different parts of the market. So a lot of people would want to know what you have to say for sure.

    Steve Statler 17:34

    Thank you. Yeah, we're gonna do our bit to spread the word. I think it's great getting your experiences. And since you hooked me on to this MLM thing, I've noticed other services starting to pop up, I saw a real estate based service that was essentially offering the same kind of package built around there. And I think, you know, to your point, it's more than just about the bass technology. It's about the analytics. There's, there's companies like B Khan spelt BK on who have their own platform, which is very general purpose. And they have a good relationship with Google, they, they actually invest in their analytics and provide a good dashboard and look to filter out bots. And I'm sure, royalty jam are out there competing. And so they'll hopefully respond and invest more in their platform and be fed up. So I did invite them to actually talk to us on this show. I didn't get a response. But maybe we'll get them on board and have them tell us what they're doing to raise their game so that they can go beyond kind of a simple value proposition that gets the word out to a service that is providing all the knobs dials, bells and whistles that that people need.

    Victoria Gonzalez 18:56

    Very interesting.

    Steve Statler 18:58

    All right, Victoria, thanks a lot for thinking of us. It was great to get your message and I appreciate you're using the book and and using this resource in your in your business. And hopefully, you'll get some visibility from this as well.

    Victoria Gonzalez 19:13

    Perfect. Thank you so much, gentlemen, I appreciate it.

    Steve Statler 19:16

    Well, I was great, we don't often get a chance to talk to people that are reading the book watching the podcast. And I think Victoria just went beyond the expected as far as really understanding what was going on to get the most out of the technology.

    Don Scheibenreif 19:30

    I think it's important to somehow package this information and share it with other people like her in small business, who could use the knowledge that she's put together with all this backend legwork that she's done. So she's fantastic.

    Steve Statler 19:48

    So you know the way we normally start off with our guests our warm up question which we record and then put at the end is what three songs with You take on a trip to Mars, have you had a chance to think about that very perplexing question.

    Victoria Gonzalez 20:06

    I have.

    Steve Statler 20:07

    All right. What is it?

    Victoria Gonzalez 20:09

    Well, I will take Venus and Mars by Paul McCartney and Wings.

    Steve Statler 20:15

    It's a great track.

    Victoria Gonzalez 20:16

    Yes, it's a wonderful album. And I was I had the pleasure actually of seeing him in Madison Square Garden in September. So what better slopes could take to Mars and Venus and Mars?

    Steve Statler 20:27

    So you saw him this year?

    Victoria Gonzalez 20:29

    I did.

    Steve Statler 20:29

    Did he play this?

    Victoria Gonzalez 20:32

    Yes, he did. You did? That album? It was a wonderful concert. Really good.

    Steve Statler 20:38

    Yeah, I grew up listening to wings over America. And it was that was that was really good. Okay, so that's number one. What's number two?

    Victoria Gonzalez 20:45

    Okay, number two would be Meatloaf, Bad Out of Hell, from 1977.

    Steve Statler 20:56

    Excellent. Any the reason for that?

    Victoria Gonzalez 21:00

    That was one of the best plumbers like us. So yes, that's the reason for that. It was a great, great year, and a lot of fun things that year.

    Steve Statler 21:07

    Okay, well, we won't delve too deeply into what you did in 1977. But I can imagine a lot of fun, and it's funny Meatloaf has actually been quoted by a number of United States Senators recently in the debate around this tax bill, which is kind of funny. Anyway, so he obviously meant a lot to our legislators as well. Maybe they had a good 70-70 Okay, that's number two and number three?

    Victoria Gonzalez 21:37

    Number three would be Beautiful by Christina Aguilera,

    Steve Statler 21:41

    Great voice.

    Victoria Gonzalez 21:43

    The reason for that would be you know, drawing on one's inner strength. You know, you always have yourself to drive yourself forward, and you're your own best friend and a lot of times.

    Steve Statler 21:56

    Very good. Good words to live by. Good choice. Thank you very much for humoring us with that.