The legal distinction between MLMs and traditional pyramid schemes has been characterized by many authorities as a legal fiction. Jurisdictions that retain a legal distinction between MLM pyramid businesses versus illegal pyramid schemes retain said distinction on two key distinguishing features: 1) that MLMs always encompass the sale of actual products/services, while traditional illegal pyramid schemes ordinarily do not (though sometimes they do), and 2) that climbing an MLM pyramid is overwhelmingly statistically improbable (especially to its highest participant levels) but not theoretically impossible, whereas climbing a traditional illegal pyramid scheme is both statistically and theoretically impossible.[citation needed]


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.
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.
Many MLM companies recommend starting with a list of 100 people you know, called your warm market. Although it's not a bad place to start when looking for customers and business builders, the technique could also backfire and get to the point where you're annoying friends and family. You're better off spending your time finding people who are interested in what you've got rather than trying to convince your commuting buddy to sign up when he doesn't want to.
Most people who try network marketing fail – not because the products they are marketing are poor, but because they do not realise how much effort network marketing is, and how much time they need to put into it. All too often, would-be marketers give up when they get to the six month point, but they are not quite turning a good profit. What they don’t realise is that if they had waited it out just a few months more, and kept on marketing and expanding their business, then they could have been profitable.

"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]


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]

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.
Not all MLM companies are created equal. Many see an initial burst of success followed by a gradual tapering off of profits, causing them to collapse and go out of business. MLM companies that succeed have sound business models, both for those who run the company and for those who sell product and recruit new sales agents. There are many sites devoted to MLM rankings, creating lists of companies likely to provide a return on investment to sales agents interested in the industry. 

Many MLM companies recommend starting with a list of 100 people you know, called your warm market. Although it's not a bad place to start when looking for customers and business builders, the technique could also backfire and get to the point where you're annoying friends and family. You're better off spending your time finding people who are interested in what you've got rather than trying to convince your commuting buddy to sign up when he doesn't want to.

I see Melaleuca on here. I see that as both good and bad. They are an awesome company with a great compensation plan. However, they are not an MLM. They are not even listed with the federal agency that oversees those companies. They are a Consumer Direct Marketing company. How does that differ? While I am required to purchase a certain amount each month, that’s all I need to purchase. It’s all products I use in my own home for myself. I don’t have a monthly quota to meet. I don’t have to buy product and sell it to people. The idea is that the product goes to the consumer only. In fact, it’s against company policy to buy product and sell it to others. The only comparison I see are the “levels” of customerS in my group. Can you shed any light on why you think they are an MLM? Thanks, so much!

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.

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