Network marketing companies, MLMs, and referral marketing companies that have been around longer are more trustworthy. Why is that? Government regulations on MLMS have increased in severity and frequency over the years. Companies that have survived such regulations will also have to have survived the threat of lawsuits, bad publicity, and negative feedback from unsatisfied distributors — not many companies would be able to survive this. A bad MLM company that is still around and has been sued, reviewed, and regulated will have extremely negative reviews and publicity surrounding it.
“Joining an MLM is appealing to women who find hope in their promises of a better life: freedom, economic independence, and an endless supply of cheery trinkets. Despite professing quick-income prospects though, it’s difficult for MLM consultants to earn more than pocket change. When glitzy recruitment videos yield to the reality of suburban cul-de-sacs, people selling for MLMs can be plunged into debt and psychological crisis.” (Quartz)
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.
The first wave of MLMs were the likes of Avon, which was founded in 1886, and used the door-to-door model for selling perfume. From then and up until the middle of the last century, many women did not have the means to sample products and shop at a department store — or, in the case of African American women, they were simply not allowed to enter the store at all. And they certainly didn’t have the means to start their own business and earn a real income.
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]
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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.
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.
A program with no or a low-quality product, or with a focus on getting paid per recruit, could be an illegal pyramid scheme. However, don't let the term pyramid throw you off. It's not the shape of the organization that makes it illegal. In fact, most companies have a pyramid structure with a CEO at the top, VPs next, mid-level managers etc. What makes an illegal pyramid scheme is the lack of a quality product, or that income is earned on recruiting, not commissions from sales. 
On a side note, I started using doTERRA about five years ago and love the oils! I didn’t join them to sell, or make money. I just wanted to raise awareness in what they could do and help with for individuals and families, as they did me and mine. In fact, many of my friends are now distributors (not under me). Lost opportunities? Not at all, in my book. More power to them! Back to R + F, and a little more insight from you would certainly scratch an itch.
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.
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I’m surprised Rodan and Fields didn’t make the list, considering they are the fourth largest premium skin care company with the top three being 50+year old companies, Estée Lauder, Lancôme & Clinique. We are North America’s 4th largest and fastest growing premium skincare company, but we’re not in stores, the top 3 — Clinique, Lancôme and Estée Lauder.
Amway stresses that the main difference between a legitimate MLM business model and a pyramid scheme is that a legitimate MLM is focused on selling products, not recruiting more salespeople. In a legitimate MLM, it should be possible to make money by simply selling products directly to customers. With that main criterion in mind, here are some other ways to identify product-based pyramid schemes:
I have a friend who is proposing I join Arbonne? She would be good to work with although I am not educated on all the MLM companies and don’t want to make the wrong choice. I also have a blog which I want to leverage and it seems like most of the health and wellness MLMs utilize hosted parties. Are there any that are more internet based that have had a long time track record! Thanks and sorry for all the questions!
Truthfully, this is a difficult marker because the BBB routinely marks home business opportunities low simply because they're involved in working at home, not based on any investigation. However, you can see if there are complaints and how the company dealt with them. If a company is responding to and fixing problems (all companies in every industry will have customer service issues), that's a good sign. However, if they fail to respond or offer help, that is a red flag. 
We are always making sure that all of our Biz Opp Leads are as current as they can possibly be so that your List always contains the up-to-date information you expect to receive. This means that we have to pay attention to any and all of the changes that occur in the business world, such as new technological developments, in order to provide you with the latest and greatest Lead information.
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