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.
Well MLM companies have been a frequent subject of criticism as well as the target of lawsuits. Criticism has focused on their similarity to illegal pyramid schemes (hence the “scheme” reference), price-fixing of products, high initial start-up costs, emphasis on recruitment of lower-tiered salespeople over actual sales, encouraging if not requiring salespeople to purchase and use the company's products, potential exploitation of personal relationships which are used as new sales and recruiting targets, complex and sometimes exaggerated compensation schemes, and cult-like techniques which some groups use to enhance their members' enthusiasm and devotion. Eesh!
Thanks for this post. Very helpful. I do like direct sales; one reason for this is that it helps keep alive that age-old tradition of people interacting face-to-face (rather than mainly through texting and social media). For that reason, I think MLMs should target the lonely Millennials. Anyway, I was a member/distributor of Advocare for over 10 years and still miss the products and the activities in the company, now that I am temporarily out. I still plan to sign up again when I can afford it (long story–I’ll spare you). I am now involved in Melaleuca, and I must say in their defense that Melaleuca’s products are actually not overpriced. Because Preferred Customers are not only not expected, but also NOT ALLOWED to turn around and sell the products at the retail price, everyone pays the same low prices. (Granted, one can indeed go to the website and buy directly from the company if they do not want to become a Preferred Customer. Why would someone do that when the annual membership is only $19? Only if they do not want to commit to the minimum monthly requirement for Preferred Customers.) Public, keep this in mind! Don’t be fooled by the rebels who are selling old Melaleuca products on Amazon for way above the retail price!! You’re much better off buying fresh products directly from the factory, even if you pay retail price. Just sayin. My big question: What about Tupperware? I have been a Tupperware consultant for about 6 months, and I have found it to be extremely difficult to keep business going. The directors training me have said that Tupperware is the second most widely recognized brand name in the world, second only to Coca-Cola. If that is the case, why is it so hard to find people willing to host Tupperware parties? Why does it seem so hard to sell? Also, is it just me…Or, does Tupperware’s compensation plan stink? 

While some of these 10 items are flags of a scam, some, such as unsettled feeling, aren't necessarily a scam, but are definitely an indication that the home business opportunity isn't for you. You can avoid a lot of mistakes and build a successful MLM business by investigating the company, choosing a product or service you can get behind, and having a belief, not only in the product, but in the company and system as well. 
Ever been confused about how a “home business” works? Of course you have, many of us have. Most people have heard the term MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) and usually at the end of that the word, “scheme” is added – giving the whole business model a bad name. Well…let’s change your negative perception and tell you how your Great Aunt Joan, actually earned that pink Cadillac from Mary Kay ! It’s brilliant really…
I enjoyed this post and spent too many hours reading all your other posts and watching your videos. You have some excellent real life experiences to share and glad I found this blog. My wife and I are with It Works Global (She started it and I came on board later). I was curious why they didn’t make your list? Do you think blogging would work with this type MLM? I have only had success using Instagram and Facebook. The MLM model is not something I like but it is what is I guess. My wife joined to get a discount on wraps and now this insane looking chart pays the bills. I want to take it further just keep searching for a good way to do so. Maybe blogging is the answer? Thank you. for your time. Mike
Hi Jeremy great article. Here’s my take for what it is worth,after working 50 years for the bank making not so much money,having to accommodate there time schedule ,negotiated vacations and seeing very few people advance to 6 figure incomes,I’m somewhat intrigued by the idea of using my retirement years looking at mlm as a part time endeavour . Obviously I put a lot of blood sweat and tears into my previous job,so I’m not expecting to make my millions in a couple years in mlm, but I like the (do it in your own time) idea. If I find a product I like and would use anyway why not? I also like the idea that the potential is there biased on your own efforts. Am I wrong What do you think?
Second, many reps and companies know people are leery of and have many misconceived notions about MLM, so they use deception to get prospects to hear their spiel. The important thing for you to remember is to follow your gut feeling. Good reps from legitimate companies that are prevented from using a company name in promotions are usually able to provide some idea about the business (including the name) when talking to you in person (or phone), and are clear that it is a business. Anything else should be suspect.
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I agree with you that much of the industry is flawed, but what about an MLM that has a service rather than a product such as electricity. It’s not like that could go out of style or that once you buy it you don’t need it again or that your monthly supply is too much and you’re going to stop the monthly subscriptions. I can honestly say that I cannot stand most MLM companies because regardless what you believe or how much you like the product, if you have to try to convince someone else to use it then inevitably the system is flawed and eventually your residuals will dry up. Electricity though, that’s different in my opinion, no one has to convince me to use it, it just comes by default. Find me an MLM that is not selling so much as showing someone an alternative to what they already have to pay and I’d be interested.
Wild claims is seen most in health and wellness companies in which reps boast that their products cure ailments or work miracles. Outlandish hype is a red flag in any industry, including direct sales. A successful business is founded on quality products. If the company you're considering joining has bizarre products or products that seem too good to be true, use caution. The last thing you want your name tied to is a faulty product or a product which is the focus of litigation.
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Below is a screen shot of a program called Zennoa which l reviewed and was in the pre-launch stage. Google did not even know that program exists and ANY website could have ranked for that search term. There is really no point in wasting valuable time flogging dead horses. There is no need for another review of Empower Network, Vemma or those MLM ancestors … LOL.
The cons of mlm are that most people getting into mlm don’t understand mlm. They apply the incorrect philosophy and it becomes a recipe for disaster. I see dozens of people monthly that join a mlm, don’t work and don’t yield any results and as a result, leave with a bad taste. But with correct leadership that problem could be averted. That is precisely why I love my company. It has the best leadership (in my opinion) and they properly train their agents.
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With the advent of internet marketing has come a whole new science of selling online making the acquisition of those elusive network marketing leads just a little bit easier. Easy access to the internet for both the marketer and, much more importantly, their potential customers, has forced a whole new set of ideas to the forefront. Here are just a few of the options that are now available.
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]

OK here is the difference Steve. If you quit any of these MLM companies for a whole year, Continue buying product but help no one set up a shopping account, even 2 years, will you continue to get paid by the company? So Steve, as a Director with Melaleuca you helped 8 people total set up a shopping account. There is no Direct or multilevel sales in that, and if they shop you earn commission on their shopping. You will not know what they shop for and thats ok cause its private. Melaleuca is a Consumer direct Manufacturer that sells to the public the products that THEY THEMSELVES make. So by your standards then …Proctor and Gamble is an MLM also. Oh and yes, I took over a year off of inviting people to see what Melaleuca was, and still received my residual check every single month. It is against company policy to sell Melaleuca products.
I don’t care where doTERRA in ranked. The oils are good, but the company SUCKS. It is all built on big bloggers. Don’t have a big blog – you’re going to make pennies while others demand you make a minimum $100 a month order. The company itself has great customer service, but try to reach compliance or tell them that your uplines are making fake accounts or ordering off multiple people in the downline just to ensure they make bonuses and NO ONE listens. It’s supposedly geared to help the underdog succeed – this is a gimmick.

As with all MLMs, the real money to be made isn’t in selling their products but in recruiting more people to join your team (basically, doing the work for you). So the real winners are the person who started the business and the very first people she recruited. This top of the pyramid is also where all of the success stories tend to come from. Among the most vulnerable to these pyramid schemes are people in smaller towns and rural areas. Market saturation prevents growth in a small town, because once everyone you know starts selling it, no one can make any money and you’ve essentially created your own competition. 

Carl Rehnborg is credited as having started the multi-level marketing industry back in the 1930s. After learning about the benefits of dietary supplements in China, Rehnborg came back to the United States and started a company called The California Vitamin Company, which was later rebranded to Nutrilite. Six years after that rebranding, Rehnborg reorganized the company’s structure and the way it sold products into what we know as MLM today.
I have been looking over your sites and viewing the many videos. It sounds appealing however there are many many . . . many lead generators out there, some that are well established (and very good at what they do) and so my question is why would I pay you to train me for 5 weeks and think I could compete (let alone generate income) in the short period you mention?
However, as aforementioned, you may know people that sell products from Mary Kay, Avon, Advocare, Tupperware and the like (see more companies in our Featured Home Businesses section). You know people who sell these types of products because they believe in the products and the companies that stand behind them. These companies empower those who sell their products to actually establish their own businesses, selling the products. This is very attractive to many entrepreneurial-minded people who do not want to have a boss watching over them but also want some pre-established structure and support. Most MLM organizations provide a very robust infrastructure and great training as well as impeccable rewards (hello free cars and trips!).
I just started selling for one of the top 15 and I went in knowing that this was just supplemental cash and nothing that would support my family. I spend 15 minutes (mostly from my phone) a day on my business and am happy with what I’ve done thus far. If it covers groceries and some extras like clothes or shoes, I’m good. If I start to become even more successful, great. It’s my competitive nature to want to out rank others, so I find it to be more of a personal challenge than thinking I’m going to get rich and stay rich. I appreciate the article and the no BS attitude.
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6. MLM trade journal advertising. A well-written and properly placed ad can generate some good contacts. But don't expect thousands or even hundreds of inquires. These publications are read by experienced distributors who see lots of offerings. Yours must stand out in order to compete. Many publications will offer you a press release to accompany your ad that will greatly enhance your inquiries.
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Knowing your system isn’t just a type of technology, rather a sales system that you put your prospect through to get to a sale. You should have clear goals for each prospecting call, from the time you say “hello” to the “next step”. The next step could range from setting an appointment, a three way call, sending an email, or conducting a presentation. When you get a voicemail message, are you leaving a voicemail that gives detailed information about how to

Perfect reply That’s exactly what gives network marketing a bad name. Sheesh. If you find something you’re passionate about then go for it. But first ask, how many people can you personally find who have replaced their income at such n such a company? I’m grateful to say I have hundreds of dōTERRA advocates who have, and who go about it with integrity. Thanks for all the research, it was fun to read. I’d recommend looking at retention as well sometime.

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What is a network marketing professional? Tell me what that is. A person who can approach well-dressed people in Wal-mart and hand them their MLM business card? Someone who writes a list of their family and friends and then 3-way call them with their “higher-up” sponsor? Really, if someone can tell me what being a network marketing professional entails, I’m listening.
Before you can talk to a prospect and start generating interest, you need to know and understand your company, product line and compensation plan. Being educated will give you more confidence when you are talking to your leads because you will be able to answer questions, overcome objections and determine the potential fit with your prospect. Now, this does NOT mean you have to explain everything about your business. you simply need to know where to point them. Having a link to a video about your compensation plan will save you time and frustration of trying to explain it over the phone. You also want to use whatever resources and tools your company has to lessen the amount of talking you have to do on the phone.
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I love love love this article! I’m a business growth coach who works with small business owners and often leaders from other MLM’s. From time to time I’ll get someone who has been struggling significantly even getting started and I find that it’s sheer absence of knowledge of the numbers. They are still under the impression that if I get three, and they get three then we’re all going to be millionaires. It’s very sad but the truth is not being told. Being in an MLM is hard. But it is very doable. I have had significant success in the past, while I am not in an MLM now. Nor do I want to be, you must be all In to make it work. Thank you for sharing this. I would love to interview you on one of my webinars

MLMs are designed to make profit for the owners/shareholders of the company, and a few individual participants at the top levels of the MLM pyramid of participants. According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), some MLM companies already constitute illegal pyramid schemes even by the narrower existing legislation, exploiting members of the organization.[21] There have been calls in various countries to broaden existing anti-pyramid scheme legislation to include MLMs, or to enact specific anti-MLM legislation to make all MLMs illegal in parallel to pyramid schemes, as has already been done in some jurisdictions.[citation needed]

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