The Federal Trade Commission warns "Not all multilevel marketing plans are legitimate. Some are pyramid schemes. It's best not to get involved in plans where the money you make is based primarily on the number of distributors you recruit and your sales to them, rather than on your sales to people outside the plan who intend to use the products."[21]
"Network marketing" and "multi-level marketing" (MLM) have been described by author Dominique Xardel as being synonymous, with it being a type of direct selling.[6] Some sources emphasize that multi-level marketing is merely one form of direct selling, rather than being direct selling.[23][24] Other terms that are sometimes used to describe multi-level marketing include "word-of-mouth marketing", "interactive distribution", and "relationship marketing". Critics have argued that the use of these and other different terms and "buzzwords" is an effort to distinguish multi-level marketing from illegal Ponzi schemes, chain letters, and consumer fraud scams.[25]
To really understand the beauty of MLM, everyone must understand the fact that as a human being, we all have potentials as well as limitations. No matter how much we’ve reached and used our individual potential, our outcome or whatever result we may be able to produce in a period of 24 hours (if we no longer sleep which is impossible) is still limited based on our individual capability being alone. As they said, “two is always better than one.” Is it “two heads are better that one?” I am not really sure but I know you get my point.
And the reason is LEVERAGE… or being able to manipulate other people’s effort and time for your own gain. With MLM, the same principle applies. Everyone has the opportunity to become their own boss and has the opportunity to leverage their time and effort to an infinite extent of people down the line, while giving the opportunity for everyone to make money.
The Federal Trade Commission issued a decision, In re Amway Corp., in 1979 in which it indicated that multi-level marketing was not illegal per se in the United States. However, Amway was found guilty of price fixing (by effectively requiring "independent" distributors to sell at the same fixed price) and making exaggerated income claims.[47][48] The FTC advises that multi-level marketing organizations with greater incentives for recruitment than product sales are to be viewed skeptically. The FTC also warns that the practice of getting commissions from recruiting new members is outlawed in most states as "pyramiding".[49]
MLMs are also criticized for being unable to fulfill their promises for the majority of participants due to basic conflicts with Western cultural norms.[57] There are even claims that the success rate for breaking even or even making money are far worse than other types of businesses:[58] "The vast majority of MLMs are recruiting MLMs, in which participants must recruit aggressively to profit. Based on available data from the companies themselves, the loss rate for recruiting MLMs is approximately 99.9%; i.e., 99.9% of participants lose money after subtracting all expenses, including purchases from the company."[58] In part, this is because encouraging recruits to further "recruit people to compete with [them]"[4] leads to "market saturation."[22] It has also been claimed "(b)y its very nature, MLM is completely devoid of any scientific foundations."[59]

“What causes the average, otherwise shy person to suddenly think they can be a wealth-generating salesman? Because someone showed them “the math.” I’m sure you’ve heard it. All you have to do is find 5 people to join, and those 5 will find five, and those five will get five, and 6 months later you will have 20,000 people working for you, and you’ll be earning $10,000 per month. Really?


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!).
Multi-level marketing (simplified Chinese: 传销; traditional Chinese: 傳銷; pinyin: chuán xiāo) was first introduced to China by American, Taiwanese, and Japanese companies following the Chinese economic reform of 1978. This rise in multi-level marketing's popularity coincided with economic uncertainty and a new shift towards individual consumerism. Multi-level marketing was banned on the mainland by the government in 1998, citing social, economic, and taxation issues.[62] Further regulation "Prohibition of Chuanxiao" (where MLM is a type of Chuanxiao was enacted in 2005, clause 3 of Chapter 2 of the regulation states having downlines is illegal.[11] O'Regan wrote 'With this regulation China makes clear that while Direct Sales is permitted in the mainland, Multi-Level Marketing is not'.[10]
A downline distributor is a recruited distributor from whom the sponsor (the one who recruited them) gains commissions. Every compensation plan involves recruiting other distributors to help sell the company’s product. Some compensation plans provide higher commissions for recruiting successful distributors (quality over quantity). Other plans only focus on simply hiring more distributors (quantity over quality). Overall, downline distributors help sponsors gain extra commissions.
A long time friend that you lost touch with for the last 10 years gives you a call and asks to meet up. After meeting up and breaking the ice, he/she then introduces a new revolutionary product and how you stand to get rich by selling it. Throw in jargons like passive income and downlines, you suddenly realise you’re beginning to be sucked into the dream they are selling.
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.
An example of a high-profile multi-level marketing company defending its practices is Herbalife Ltd., a manufacturer and distributor of weight-loss and nutritional products with more than 500,000 distributors. Although the FTC had been investigating Herbalife, it was activist investor William Ackman who shed a national spotlight on the company by shorting $1 billion of the company’s stock in 2013. Ackman accused the company of operating a pyramid scheme and backed his allegations with a bet the company’s stock price would fall under the weight of the scam.  

Even, the hard core Amish don’t ‘cut off’ friends and family who choose to not fully live their life in the inner circle of the faithful in their community. If the concept is that basic it stands to reason that as a parody—‘resistance isn’t futile’—and cutting off all the circles of influence who don’t join your inner circle of twenty to ‘reach diamond’ is: And just uncouth at that. So, “no one is a prophet in their own country”: Go out and look for like-minded people to expand that circle without dressing up in business clothes at 5 a.m. on a Saturday morning to head to the cult like MLM “Ra! Ra! Session.” Real friends and family are hard to come by. Grow your marketing network without burning the people who care about you most. And get solid like-minded leads without getting up earlier than any sane Adventist would on a Saturday.


In a similar fashion, when you eliminate money from the network marketing industry, a new perspective emerges.  Personally speaking, I love talking with people who are in this industry because they are always reading, posting, and sharing something inspirational.  They have goals, a dream board, and are generally using the products that they are selling to improve the way they look and feel.
Lead generation is important for your business to grow; as a business owner, you however need to know how effective these leads will be for your business. This can be measured in terms of returns on investment and how fast it will be.  The MLM Company should be able to give you an estimate on when they can generate these leads and instigate them for action, and when you should be able to see results.
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
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.

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Most prospective clients are going to be found online because they are searching for related information and will make the purchase right away. These are the prospects that should be the main focus of any campaign that is being set-up by yourself in order to garner interest. The online world is where the most accessible market is and you are able to work 24/7 without even having to sit on the computer physically.
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.

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.


So to make it possible, you structured a kind of “payplan” or ways how you are going to pay your neigbors and relatives based on the number of people they’ve brought in or the group sales they’ve made. And by applying some MLM principle, you were able to plot a system that traces all sales from person to person down the line. Therefore, giving credit and commission also to the first person who initiated the effort.
In just 30 years, Melaleuca has grown from a little startup in rural Idaho to a billion-dollar enterprise doing business in 19 countries around the globe. It has become one of the largest catalog and online wellness retailers in North America. And it is the largest manufacturer of consumer packaged goods in the Northwest. Today, more than a million customers shop with Melaleuca every month.
Other than that, great info, but I’d have to respectfully disagree with the logic behind not being a part of an MLM. It’s one business model. And whether you want to make it your full time job or just dabble, so long as you find a product and company you love, it can be a great way to diversify your income streams. $5000 a year (or $5) is more than most people make on their 401K, savings or any other conventional ways of investing. It’s an investment, and for those that chose to continue through the plateau, it results in residual income. Don’t like sales? Some of the companies are moving away from the door to door type sales models and putting a lot more emphasis on team building and adding value. And many companies are also discouraging distributors from spamming on social media- again- it comes down to the individual and their own business acumen. We can spend our lives blaming they systems or we can just own ourselves and be grateful for whatever we’ve learned from, and created out of each opportunity presented to us. It’s the choice of the individual at the end of the day but one thing I can say with certainty is that someone who blames MLM for their lack of success is lacking responsibility for themselves in other areas of their life too.

No, It is not advisable to buy MLM leads. The company which is selling you leads won’t guarantee any sales from those leads. In fact the conversion rate from those leads won’t be much. Think you have spent few dollars for those leads and ended up with less conversion rate than what you have expected; you lost both money and time. Why did i mention time here? Yes, you lost the time while waiting for the leads, which you are in conviction, that they will be converted into customers. Instead you can learn some skills, Copywriting skills, for enticing the real customers into your MLM Business.
Multi-level marketing, abbreviated as MLM, also called pyramid selling, network marketing and referral marketing, is a controversial marketing strategy for the sale of products and/or services where the revenue of the MLM company is derived from a non-salaried workforce (also called participants, and variously known as “salespeople”, “distributors”, “consultants”, “promoters”, “independent business owners”, etc) selling the company’s products/services, while the earnings of the participants is derived from a pyramid-shaped commission system.
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.
The support factor was key. Once the MLM leads were purchased, was there somehow support in case of need? The support should be somehow resolving issues that arise, including bad mlm leads, wrong numbers or emails, and general problems. The MLM Leads companies we found that were the best, had a support system. And some type of guarantee also should be part of the network marketing lead program.

On the other hand, if you are the owner of the company where those 100 persons have offered their skills, time and talents, and if you can gain $1.00 from each person on the field, you will earn $3000 after 30 days doing nothing. Obviously, the time spent for both the worker and the owner are the same (30 days), but the gain on the side of the owner is tremendously huge.
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Pay Per Click or PPC can be very effective in the right hands. If you do it the wrong way it can be a fast track to financial ruin. Unlike Facebook Ads where you can see how effective your ads are within minutes, Google AdWords are much less responsive and you can use up a lot of cash before you hit the winning combination. Concentrate on being very focused and specific. If you are not, you will get lots of clicks on an ad which sounds right, but results in low conversion rates when people find that it’s not exactly what they are looking for.
Right now, MLMs are preying on lower-income, often undocumented immigrant communities and taking advantage of their lack of knowledge and finances. Their reps lure them in by telling that they are giving them the tools to start their own businesses and that they can create jobs for their friends and family members. In the 2016 documentary, Betting On Zero, director Ted Braun talks to several Latino families who have lost their entire life savings to Herbalife. They were told by MLM reps that it’s easy work and that it’s not dangerous, and so they sold their construction businesses to invest in Herbalife.
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The reason I started Apache Leads way back in 2003 was that I was a Diamond level distributor for a San Diego based MLM company and had quite a large business. None of my associates had any access to leads, so that's how we got started. The demand for leads grew so fast that I had to focus on getting quality, affordable leads in ever increasing numbers.
The overwhelming majority of MLM participants (most sources estimated to be over 99.25% of all MLM distributors) participate at either an insignificant or nil net profit.[12] Indeed, the largest proportion of participants must operate at a net loss (after expenses are deducted) so that the few individuals in the uppermost level of the MLM pyramid can derive their significant earnings. Said earnings are then emphasized by the MLM company to all other participants to encourage their continued participation at a continuing financial loss.[13]
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.
Multi-level marketing companies are not required to release information about the average income of distributors in the United States. However, some MLMs do release this information in what is called an income disclosure statement. If you would like to see the amount of income gained by distributors on average for a specific MLM, search the company’s name in Google + “income disclosure statement.”
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.
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7. Ads in local newspapers. Classified ads can pull many leads if handled properly, and weekly newspapers are usually inexpensive. You can use this method to drive people to your Web site as well. But be careful with your investment here. Getting leads is easy. Converting them into productive parts of your organization is hard work, but it's a strategy that will get results as you improve your cold sponsoring and training skills.


I’ve heard all the arguments. “How can it be a pyramid scheme if it’s legal?” Through some crafty loopholes. The fact that there is an actual product to sell allows them to operate and give the appearance of legitimacy. “You just haven’t found a good MLM yet.” Wrong. A good MLM is an oxymoron. “But how is this any different from any other major corporation where the CEO makes the most money?” Because the people below the CEO at legit companies get paid salaries and have actual benefits. They don’t depend on endless chains of recruiting new members.
Right now, MLMs are preying on lower-income, often undocumented immigrant communities and taking advantage of their lack of knowledge and finances. Their reps lure them in by telling that they are giving them the tools to start their own businesses and that they can create jobs for their friends and family members. In the 2016 documentary, Betting On Zero, director Ted Braun talks to several Latino families who have lost their entire life savings to Herbalife. They were told by MLM reps that it’s easy work and that it’s not dangerous, and so they sold their construction businesses to invest in Herbalife. 

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?
A few people do make big money from MLMs. And these people are often trotted out in promotional videos, celebrated at annual events, and very publicly ‘rewarded’ with prizes like prestigious cars (although these ‘prizes’ aren’t as generous as they first appear – you simply get a discount on the lease which you must take out in your own name, and if your sales fall, the discount ends…). You also need to promote the company on the car they ‘give’ you.
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.
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