Here we’ve got a throwback to network marketing’s roots (Remember Tupperware parties? No? There’s a reason for that). Kitchen products, cooking demos, and mommy bloggers galore. Stay-at-home-moms looking for some flexibility are still a HUGE target demographic for MLM, so it’s no surprise that Pampered Chef has done so well that Warren Buffett decided he needed a piece of the action.
Each company will have a different startup cost, which is a fee that new distributors must pay to begin distributing. Companies with high startup costs are more likely to be recruitment-centric MLMs. MLMs that focus on recruitment are generally called pyramid schemes, or schemes designed only to tie down new recruits instead of selling quality products to interested customers.
A few noteworthy points on this list… The only companies considered for this list are U.S.A. based; and if you click on each and every company linked above, what you will not find should be as interesting to you (and as revealing) as what you will find. There are no travel companies, only two technology companies (ACN and 5LINX), just one service company (Legal Shield), and 22 health and wellness companies. Even Amway, whose core product line still includes soap, really got started by way of the wellness revolution! Read this book by Paul Zane Pilzer and you’ll understand why nutrition, weight management, and skincare products continue to drive the trends in the network marketing industry to this day.
I’d like to point out a few things: statistically something like 96% of businesses fail within the first 5-10 years, which is a much more impactful loss, both financially and time wise, than the few hundred dollars one puts into whatever product they’re using in MLM. So realistically the success rate as a “self employed business owner” with MLM is probably a bit better than it is with launching a traditional business, or at least consistent with it. It takes discipline and tenacity that many people don’t have- that’s why they chose to remain employees in the first place.
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.

I joined in the mid-90’s under a Dr that paid my way. We were somewhere in Paul Orberson’s dowline, below an AR kid making $80K+/month. I didn’t actually sign anyone as a rep, and just enjoyed doing the pitch to the crowd in the hotels, restaurants, and eventually auditoriums. I got paid by the Dr to tell the “long distance” story, and he went all the way to there top tier in under a year.

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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.
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.

“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?
You are right in that most MLM have monthly dues and have high entry fees to be distributors or consultants. You are also right in that most MLM companies focus on recruitment and not product sales. I’ve been working with Arbonne now for quite a while and none of those comments apply to this company, which is why I believe they have survived and are only growing at this point, despite some people’s opinion that they will soon be relics like Mary Kay. To become a consultant is a mere $75 dollars, the kit is involved with all free samples and material. Product loading is prohibited. Each event we host regularly ends with most if not all attendees becoming a preferred client for $20 joining fee for the first year and a $15 renewal every year with no monthly expectation and a guaranteed minimum of 20% off of all stock at all times and 40% off of all packages at all times. Not only that consultants can will their business down 6 generations, and the Mercedes incentive is for a purchase, not a lease. We do look to grow our network, but we emphasize this takes hard work and is not a get rich quick scheme. While you hit the nail on the head with most MLM businesses, there are MLM businesses like Arbonne who are a cut above the rest and who are in the habit of not putting pressure on anyone attending to either purchase or join as a consultant. We only want the best in our network and we have thousands of examples of very successful men and woman to show for it. Great article!!!
The formula of future business growth is based on the idea that people don't just want to retire in a traditional format. They crave knowledge and want to feel relevant.  They want to improve their own transition and feel compelled to help others avoid the pain and pitfalls they have experienced.  They desire a supportive community where their opinion counts and they can openly ask personal, business or other questions.  They’re interested in hearing and exploring new ideas and need ways to make new connections through face-to-face interactions.

Thanks Ray for this info about the lead company. Some time ago I purchased Todd’s script book and purchased a large group of leads from another company. After over 400 calls I realized that the company had sold my ‘exclusive’ leads, muliple times. Did I consider it a waste of time and money? No, it was a very good training opportunity for me. Most people have a job and work and can’t take time off to get a ‘telemarketer’ job. But they can get a script book and get a group of inexpensive leads and use it as a form of training on the phone. After a large no. of calls the phone can become a familiar and usable tool.
Kathleen, you are right about the “direct sales” thing. They use it because MLM has the well-deserved bad connotation with pyramid schemes. I try to explain to people that true direct selling would be something like Ebay… there’s no inherent multi-level commissions implied by the term “direct sales.” It almost reminds of calling an illegal dog fight a “recreational gaming event.” It may be true, but is far from an accurate description.
A company that cares more about recruitment than it does about selling products will not invest much in training resources for its distributors. Pyramid schemes are designated as such by their focus on leveraging your network to buy their products through recruitment, under the guise of “startup costs” and “startup packages.” Extensive training programs that focus on teaching you how to sell products instead of how to recruit more will be an important clue in your research.
I believe the ones that don’t make it in the industry (if they chose a good one) don’t give it enough time (like you said they quit before a year is up) and commitment to doing what it takes to grow. I don’t spam FB and only 2 family members order product but I have at least 100+ home school moms making >$2000/mth. Some team members make more, some less. It’s what they put into it (business wise not monetary)
Many of the beautiful sites offered no type of ongoing training, and that was something that really needs to be be a part of any good MLM leads programs. The sites we recommend all provides training which also includes scripts, handling objections, presentation, following up, closing, and other MLM leads topics. There are some HOT MLM leads sites out there that truly delivered on this qulaity of MLM leads training.
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?
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.”
A constant and steady lead flow in your Network Marketing business is vital to being successful. Not everyone is comfortable talking to friends and family or feel they have burnt them out. I have found that most of the times this is NOT the actual case but when getting started, you need to seek out numerous, reliable sources to create a steady lead flow. Buying MLM leads is one way to create instant lead flow, and also compliment other lead generation sources.

I do have to say you are the best at providing great helpful information to others. I feel like you do really care about our success...and I like that!!!I filtered through a lot of lead selling sites. Like I said, Yours sounded the best... being able to actually view what you have and all the helpful tools you have...before actually having to purchase anything. Like I said I really feel safe here...because you seem very sincere to help us succeed... not just provide leads and take our money. So Thank-You again.

The Direct Selling Association (DSA), a lobbying group for the MLM industry, reported that in 1990 only 25% of DSA members used the MLM business model. By 1999, this had grown to 77.3%.[26] By 2009, 94.2% of DSA members were using MLM, accounting for 99.6% of sellers, and 97.1% of sales.[27] Companies such as Avon, Electrolux, Tupperware,[28] and Kirby were all originally single-level marketing companies, using that traditional and uncontroversial direct selling business model (distinct from MLM) to sell their goods. However, they later introduced multi-level compensation plans, becoming MLMs.[23] The DSA has approximately 200 members[29] while it is estimated there are over 1,000 firms using multi-level marketing in the United States alone.[30]
A few noteworthy points on this list… The only companies considered for this list are U.S.A. based; and if you click on each and every company linked above, what you will not find should be as interesting to you (and as revealing) as what you will find. There are no travel companies, only two technology companies (ACN and 5LINX), just one service company (Legal Shield), and 22 health and wellness companies. Even Amway, whose core product line still includes soap, really got started by way of the wellness revolution! Read this book by Paul Zane Pilzer and you’ll understand why nutrition, weight management, and skincare products continue to drive the trends in the network marketing industry to this day.

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.
Then figure out where your target customers can be found—both physically and virtually. College students who need more income can be found on campus or on online forums or websites about learning to manage your money. Athletes and people who lead healthy lifestyles can be found at gyms and online groups or websites about running, yoga, healthy eating, and more.
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