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MLM restructures the traditional business model — manufacturer to retail shop to customer — such that sales agents working for the manufacturer sell directly to customers, bypassing the retail shop altogether. MLM companies can then convert customers into advocates for their products and possibly even sales agents. Because there is no retail store for the products they sell, MLM agents typically work from their homes, interacting with customers in the community or, more often, over the internet.

Multi-level marketing is a legitimate business strategy, though it is controversial. One problem is pyramid schemes, which use money from new recruits to pay the people at the top, often take advantage of people by pretending to be engaged in legitimate multi-level marketing. You can spot pyramid schemes by their greater focus on recruitment than on product sales.
Write articles or blogs. Writing is an effective way to get in front of your market through other people's websites, and your only cost is that of your time in writing. The key to writing an article or blog that another site will run is to make it useful and informative, but not advertorial. As a network marketer, you have two types of articles and markets: The first is related to your product or service. If you sell candles, for example, then write a Valentine's Day post on creating romance with candles or something about how candles can improve mood. The second option is related to direct sales and the MLM business. For example, you can write articles about how your MLM career changed your life or how to be successful in direct sales for lifestyle and business websites. Just know that most places won't want you to directly promote your business within the article, but they may allow you to include a link to your website in your bio.
Great listing and especially the honest look at what being in an MLM means. Direct sales is a hard business, especially if you’re not passionately using the product daily. You see too many people who join thinking it will be a get rich quick scheme and don’t actually care about the product or their customers. Genuine lasts and is successful, companies like Avon and Mary Kay have been around for generations because people love their products.

The end result of the MLM business model is, therefore, one of a company (the MLM company) selling its products and services through a non-salaried workforce ("partners") working for the MLM company on a commission-only basis while the partners simultaneously constitute the overwhelming majority of the very consumers of the MLM company's products and services that they, as participants of the MLM, are selling to each other in the hope of one day themselves being at the top of the pyramid. This creates great profit for the MLM company's actual owners and shareholders.
I totally agree, Mary. You can lose soooo much more just by opening up a small storefront business. I was in the Spa Industry and then the economy tanked in late 2008. I did not renew my lease in 2009. Lost my several hundred thousand dollar build-out. Lost so much more than taking an MLM business seriously. Even if I would have front loaded on a ton of product, I still would have been better off. People spend $750 and get some business cards then do nothing and blame MLM.

Because of the encouraging of recruits to further recruit their competitors, some people have even gone so far as to say at best modern MLMs are nothing more than legalized pyramid schemes[4][19][20] with one stating "Multi-level marketing companies have become an accepted and legally sanctioned form of pyramid scheme in the United States"[19] while another states "Multi-Level Marketing, a form of Pyramid Scheme, is not necessarily fraudulent."[20] In October 2010 it was reported that multilevel marketing companies were being investigated by a number of state attorneys general amid allegations that salespeople were primarily paid for recruiting and that more recent recruits cannot earn anything near what early entrants do.[60] Industry critic Robert L. FitzPatrick has called multi-level marketing "the Main Street bubble" that will eventually burst.[61]
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Thoroughly enjoyed reading your mlm breakdowns and the comments, thank you Jeremy. Had a successful mlm business but had to make a decision to give it up or have a breakdown due to ongoing upline bullying so at a big crossroads at the minute. being an ‘older’ lady here in the north of England doesn’t bode well for conventional job hunting in the current economic climate so some serious thinking needed on my part and QUICKLY lol. Thanks again Jeremy x

Walter J. Carl stated in a 2004 Western Journal of Communication article that "MLM organizations have been described by some as cults (Butterfield, 1985),[51] pyramid schemes (Fitzpatrick & Reynolds, 1997),[52] or organizations rife with misleading, deceptive, and unethical behavior (Carter, 1999),[53] such as the questionable use of evangelical discourse to promote the business (Höpfl & Maddrell, 1996),[54] and the exploitation of personal relationships for financial gain (Fitzpatrick & Reynolds, 1997)".[52][55] In China, volunteers working to rescue people from the schemes have been physically attacked.[56]

Breaking into the world of travel bloggers, hotel hoppers, and digital nomads with #wanderlust was one of the best ideas MLM ever had. Everyone out there wants to work remotely nowadays, and a huge portion of those people want to do it so that they can travel. So, a remote income opportunity with a travel MLM just makes sense. WorldVentures is hitting this niche hard, having been named one of the Inc. 5000’s fastest growing companies twice in a row.
It seems to me that in your assessment of the top 25 MLM that you had a preference for one essential oil company (Young Living) over the other (doTERRA) which outranked YL. You give a glowing review of YL and state that they “set the standard” & are a “solid pick”. While you seem to question why people could possibly like doTERRA with comments like “Users swear by the oils, and for whatever reason, people (and not just people in Utah) are strangely passionate about telling their friends about them.” For “whatever reason”??? “Strangely passionate”??? You come across as bias. You also incorrectly state that YL set the standard for quality, while they may have been the first legit EO Co. they didn’t set the standard. Infact their lack of wanting to find the purest most potent EO available (which comes from the country the plants are indigenous to) and having strict testing to ensure the purity and potency is why doTERRA was founded, doTERRA set the standard because YL didn’t want to. And that is why doTERRA is the #1 EO company and why Young Living is not. Not to mention how well doTERRA takes care of the suppliers through Co-Impacting and how they’re improving their lives through The Healing Hands Foundation. The foundation builds wells, schools, provides personal care products as well as many other things. doTERRA is changing lives for the better all around the world so that is one of the “reasons” we’re “strangely passionate” about spreading the good news of doTERRA essential oils. Not only are doTERRA EO more potent and purer making the the “solid pick” they are literally saving peoples lives.

Much has been made of the personal, or internal, consumption issue in recent years. In fact, the amount of internal consumption in any multi-level compensation business does not determine whether or not the FTC will consider the plan a pyramid scheme. The critical question for the FTC is whether the revenues that primarily support the commissions paid to all participants are generated from purchases of goods and services that are not simply incidental to the purchase of the right to participate in a money-making venture.[46]
I think you showed how poor your research is when you tried to claim that MLM’s proper name is referral marketing. I guess Money Magazine got it wrong in 1987? http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/moneymag_archive/1987/06/01/83883/index.htm or maybe USA Today did last year: http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/retail/2011-02-07-multilevelmarketing03_CV_N.htm ?
Often the only way to make these sales is to recruit people under you (making commission off their starter kits) or to buy products yourself. Otherwise you’re left trying to sell your products to friends, family, mums at the school gates, and anyone you come into contact with (one of the reasons why some of the more pushy/desperate MLM reps get a bad reputation).
If 18,000,000 Americans consider MLM their careers, yet only 0.3% actually succeed beyond average corporate America wages, do people realize that means there are barely more than 50,000 Americans “living the MLM dream” and almost 17,950,000 who just help the 50,000? Sad. I was part of team Tupperware decades ago because I wanted to buy Tupperware for my home for less. It took me about 14 months as a stay at home mother (never recruited, never pressured, my distributor didn’t like my attitude) to accomplish that task and then walked away. I live in rural America where so many fall to MLMs attempting to climb out of paycheck to paycheck living (very few good jobs) like the saved into a baptismal pool. “Disciples” is the perfect word. MLMs are just not thriving here. How many Americans can one recruit/sell to for building a business in a rural county with less than 20,000 other Americans of which 75% live below the poverty line? I see MLM victims everywhere.
Yes, you might want to learn the overview of it so you’re knowledgable and understand how your checks are getting formulated, but I’ve met too many successful networkers who can’t explain comp plans to spend any real time on them. When people ask questions, I refer them to the documentation that’s available and ask them if they’re ready to start a business they can work from home – even online in most cases.
Writing MLM-specific articles is another great way of establishing authority inside of MLM. When people type in a search term or phrase on a specific MLM topic, and an article appears with the networkers name as the author, if the article answers a specific question, and is not just a spam piece, then the reader will visit the site to learn more about the author.
4) Treat your MLM business like a business. Despite what you might hear, MLM isn't a get rich scheme. Like any business it requires you to define your target market, reach out to your market, and make sales.You have a sponsor to help you, but she isn't going to do the work for you.Your success in MLM or any business is based on the quality of work you do.
An issue in determining the legitimacy of a multi-level marketing company is whether it sells its products primarily to consumers or to its members who must recruit new members to buy their products. If it is the former, the company is a legitimate multi-level marketer. If it is the latter, it could be an illegal pyramid scheme. The Federal Trade Commission has been investigating multi-level marketing companies for several decades and has found many that blur the lines between the two. According to industry data, there are 90 million members worldwide, but relatively few earn meaningful income from their efforts. To some observers, that reflects the characteristics of a pyramid scheme.

Hi JP, Your assessment of Melaleuca stating… “When you hit over a billy in annual sales, that’s reason enough to be on the shortlist. On top of that, they’ve been in the MLM game for over two decades, and they’re now the “largest online wellness shopping club” (basically just sounds like a fancy way of saying they sell a lot of miracle diet pills).” is VERY misleading and inaccurate. They offer “far more” products and services than weight control supplements. I have been a “customer” only of Melaleuca for over 20 years and can attest to the superb quality of their products. Please get your facts correct before posting inaccurate information. 🙂
Many MLM companies do generate billions of dollars in annual revenue and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual profit. However, the profits of the MLM company are accrued at the detriment to the majority of the company's constituent workforce (the MLM participants). Only some of said profit is then significantly shared with individual participants at the top of the MLM distributorship pyramid. The earnings of those top few participants is emphasized and championed at company seminars and conferences, thus creating an illusion of how one can potentially become financially successful if they become a participants in the MLM. This is then advertised by the MLM company to recruit more distributors to participate in the MLM with a false anticipation of earning margins which are in reality merely theoretical and statistically improbable.[14]
This article was really informative and honest! I’m not presently involved in an MLM and I don’t ever plan to be especially after reading this article and the comments below. Why? Well because of EXACTLY the kind of “networking” and “recruiting” that these companies and many of the people commenting on here are advocating. I have been bombarded on my facebook, and other social media from people I haven’t spoken to or seen in years. Its becoming constant, and I am not on social media to make money. Roden and Fields, shakeology, some girl I went to high school with is now trying to get me to buy leggins from her. I have a cousin that I actively avoid now because he is constantly steering every single conversation to Herbellife and why I NEED it to be healthy. Jesus. Its just enough already. I’m all for empowering people, and I love the idea of earning an additional income to take care of your family or yourself. But I could not imagine alienating or even just annoying friends and family in order to make an extra dollar. What I dislike most is that many of those that are recruiting make it seem as if they recruiting you simply because they want to “help” you or provide you with an opportunity. They make it seem as if they are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, when really the actual motivation is line their own pockets with more money, because the more people you recruit for your team, the more money you make. That feels dishonest and slimy to me. Unless I’m asking for “help” or an “opportunity” I wish people would assume that I don’t need and am not interested in one!
Wellness based MLM’s in particular are well positioned to help people retire with greater ease and success for two reasons. First, they create positive momentum.  When people start to lose weight, have more energy, or receive compliments on the way the look, it builds momentum.  They see, feel, and hear the benefits of their work paying off which encourages them to stick with the changes they are making. Second, there is a group effect. Many people struggle to develop and stick with a new health, diet, and exercise program on their own.  But when they do it in a supportive community with others, it’s much easier to get through the tough days and stay on track.  Furthermore, by taking better care of yourself, you are in a position to leave a better legacy than money could ever provide.
The most common high-pressure tactic is the lure of getting in on the ground floor. But in direct sales, a good opportunity is a good opportunity no matter when you get in. In fact, you're safer to go with a company that has been around for more than five years (the longer the better) than a start up. Any effort a representative makes to prevent you from studying the company, talking to others, and "sleeping on it" isn't someone you want to work with. 
Our goal is to provide you with the best possible tools to build your network marketing business. There are some critical areas in building your business that are very important and can never be overlooked. Having new prospects look at your business is by far the most important task you can ever accomplish in network marketing. The next key, is having the skill set and knowing what to say to prospects. We provide ongoing real-time prospects that are looking for ways to make an additional income by working from home and we also provide you with scripts and training calls where you can listen to us do live calls and speak to prospects.
The main attraction of the binary plan is that distributors are only required two downline recruits. Why is this a good thing? Because once you recruit more than two distributors and these excess distributors are placed below your downline, you can start earning commissions; this is a much lower recruitment requirement than other compensation plans.
MLM salespeople are, therefore, expected to sell products directly to end-user retail consumers by means of relationship referrals and word of mouth marketing, but most importantly they are incentivized to recruit others to join the company's distribution chain as fellow salespeople so that these can become down line distributors.[3][6][7] According to a report that studied the business models of 350 MLMs, published on the Federal Trade Commission's website, at least 99% of people who join MLM companies lose money.[8][9] Nonetheless, MLMs function because downline participants are encouraged to hold onto the belief that they can achieve large returns, while the statistical improbability of this is de-emphasised. MLMs have been made illegal or otherwise strictly regulated in some jurisdictions as a mere variation of the traditional pyramid scheme, including in mainland China.[10][11]
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Also called pyramid selling or network marketing, multi-level marketing companies grow revenue by hiring and recruiting non-salaried employees referred to as distributors, influencers, consultants, salespeople, or promoters (among other names). In other words, employees generally receive compensation from performance through a pyramid-shaped compensation system.
Great job on the top 25 MLMs. Really like what you’re doing for the industry as a whole. Your analysis is spot on. However, a closer look at retention rates for each company might give you another perspective on the value proposition of any given company. As a Doterra Wellness Advocate we are told by our corporate execs that we have a 65% retention rate with customers repurchasing the product within 3 months. And that if we based it on the industry standard of 12 months our retention would go up to 85%. I’m told that this is unprecedented in network marketing. So I’m believing that Doterra is succeeding because its selling a product that works and that users and word-of-mouth drive the business in the long run.
It’s also important to note that while I expect there to be significant growth in the ranks of many MLM companies, there will also be substantial growth in businesses that adopt this model and its many benefits.  In fact, it’s one reason I developed the Certified Professional Retirement Coach certification in conjunction with the Retirement Coaches Association.
Recruitment is an integral part of any MLM, but it doesn’t need to be the focus. Whenever MLMs charge high startup fees, require high recruitment for a commission, do not provide sales training, or otherwise value recruitment over product, that’s a clue that it is not a good MLM to join. Network marketing companies should rely on networks to sell products, instead of only recruiting your network.
Thank you for sharing your perspective on the Direct Sales/MLM companies. As a business owner and entrepreneur, there is often a lot of noise from many sources about what is the best way to grow and be of importance. One of the things I have learned and continue to learn is that we must really love what we do, believe in our offering, whether is it a product or service, and listen closely to our gut instincts. A business coach of mine once said being a prism is beautiful, but it is scattered light, focus on what you love. Another important thing to know for yourself , is that there are different learning styles. If you choose to join any company, MLM or otherwise, be clear with yourself how you best learn and thrive. Getting swept up in the cheering may feel good, and it may keep you motivated on some level, however, be clear on how do you retain knowledge and use it. If a company has a one size fits all approach, be very careful that you do not get swept away. Thank you again for sharing this information. It has helped me have another look at my goals and how to continue focusing on what I love to do.
Networking, as it used to be called, is a pretty thankless task. The conventional approach to networking was to start with the network of friends and colleagues that you already have; friends and family, your existing clients, your contacts at the squash club and so on. Most people feel uncomfortable pitching to friends and family, unless you have an unbeatable idea or concept, but if that was the case, then lead generation would not be a problem
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