How MLM companies are NOT considered Pyramid organizations is beyond me! They are all scams by the very nature of their organization structure. Those who start or get in early benefit directly from the efforts of those beneath them, forever. Not to mention the fact that most product sold through any of these MLM organization’s is to the dealer network itself. The top dogs are making money regardless as long as there is new blood coming in. And the best way to keep new blood coming in is to incentivize those at the lower middle and below to continue recruiting to build “a network of their own”. And those on the verge of “breaking through” who have already invested a small fortune in products along the way that are sitting on their pantry shelves NEED to keep recruiting. The very thing that differentiates a Pyramid scheme from an MLM is that an MLM sells an actual product. That is it. It doesn’t determine who that product is sold to as it should since we know that most product is sold to the worker bees and not to the general public for long.
For full disclosure, I want to point out that I am not affiliated with any multi-level marketing or direct sales companies, and that I don’t receive any compensation from the industry for my opinion on it.  I’m sharing this with you because after I wrote what is considered the most widely read, copied, and quoted MLM article in the history of the industry, I was accused of writing it to promote my own MLM business or the industry in general, which is not the case.
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Sales agents in MLM companies frequently work for commissions on sales. In addition, MLM agents typically get commissions on the sales of their “downstream.” Sales agents are able to recruit new sales agents into their “downstream,” and those sales agents can recruit new agents as well. An MLM sales agent usually makes money from each sale in their “downstream,” creating a form of passive income.
How MLM companies are NOT considered Pyramid organizations is beyond me! They are all scams by the very nature of their organization structure. Those who start or get in early benefit directly from the efforts of those beneath them, forever. Not to mention the fact that most product sold through any of these MLM organization’s is to the dealer network itself. The top dogs are making money regardless as long as there is new blood coming in. And the best way to keep new blood coming in is to incentivize those at the lower middle and below to continue recruiting to build “a network of their own”. And those on the verge of “breaking through” who have already invested a small fortune in products along the way that are sitting on their pantry shelves NEED to keep recruiting. The very thing that differentiates a Pyramid scheme from an MLM is that an MLM sells an actual product. That is it. It doesn’t determine who that product is sold to as it should since we know that most product is sold to the worker bees and not to the general public for long.
Build an email list. There is a system for working with leads. The first step is getting them to be aware of and take an interest in what you have—by visiting your website, for example. The next best step is to ask your leads to sign up for your email list. You can get them to sign up by offering something for free, such as a report or something useful, from your website. For instance, if you're selling wellness products, then you might offer a guide to good-for-you ingredients or recipes. This will allow you to communicate with your prospects and provide valuable information related to your business and the general field that it's in, such as special sales, events, news, and research—and stay top-of-mind to your past, current, and possible future customers. Just be sure that you're following the laws and regulations regarding email marketing.
(May 2017 update: did this go under?) The sign up cost will make you do a triple take (almost four figures), but you get to set your own retail price on every product you sell. If you’ve got the skills to make people cough up the cash for their products (which, btw, are pretty legit), you could definitely make that money back. They’ve also been winning plenty of awards (even a growth award from the Direct Selling Association themselves).

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I totally agree, Mary. You can lose soooo much more just by opening up a small storefront business. I was in the Spa Industry and then the economy tanked in late 2008. I did not renew my lease in 2009. Lost my several hundred thousand dollar build-out. Lost so much more than taking an MLM business seriously. Even if I would have front loaded on a ton of product, I still would have been better off. People spend $750 and get some business cards then do nothing and blame MLM.
In April 2006, the FTC proposed a Business Opportunity Rule intended to require all sellers of business opportunities—including MLMs—to provide enough information to enable prospective buyers/participants to make an informed decision about acquiring/joining a business venture with information disclosed about the average likelihood of monetary profitability (and the extent of monetary profitability, if any) of acquiring/joining the business venture. In March 2008, however, the FTC removed "Network Marketing" (i.e. MLM) companies from the proposed Business Opportunity Rule, thus leaving MLM participants without the ability to make an informed choice of entering or not entering MLMs based on the disclosed likelihood of success and profitability:
The kinds of leads that you are likely to get for free are ones that have been gathered in a scatterspray way – they could be poorly targeted, or in some cases even people who have not opted in at all. If you contact leads like this, then you will be putting your brand at risk, because you could end up in trouble with your web hosting provider, or the law, for unsolicited marketing. Alternatively, you could end up contacting  people who might otherwise have converted, but who come to view your brand as a spammer because of the way the initial contact was made.

Agree with most of your comments. Born and raised in the corporate community, we never even considered a MLM until came across one after retirement. Looking back we would have looked seriously at the industry much earlier. In any event, we had one good run until management made a few very bad decisions…killing 40 % of our business. But now we’ve found a new home with WGN. Among the many differences is they’re a technolgy company operating as a MLM…go figure.
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.

If you recruit a distributor who advances to the final step and breaks away from your group, what happens to your commissions? Yes, your total group volume will take a hit, because you’ve lost one of your best recruits. However, most companies will provide you with a bonus commission, referred to as an override commission, for creating breakaway legs (or recruits that end up breaking away, forming their own group).

Is Home Depot going to run a class on how to make submarine sandwiches? No. Makes no sense, right? Would people be attracted to that? Like that one I might attend. I like submarine sandwiches, they’re pretty good. That I might attend but I’m going to go there and be like why am I in a building supply company? I’m not going to buy anything. It doesn’t make sense.
First of all, Avon “has” been. Second, Avon really needs to work on their appeal to a younger generation. Third, Avon makes it difficult for representatives to make any money unless you are purchasing a ton of catalogs and knocking on doors. The company really needs to allow representatives to advertise online, and I don’t mean spamming friends on a Facebook or Twitter feed.
(May 2017 update: did this go under?) The sign up cost will make you do a triple take (almost four figures), but you get to set your own retail price on every product you sell. If you’ve got the skills to make people cough up the cash for their products (which, btw, are pretty legit), you could definitely make that money back. They’ve also been winning plenty of awards (even a growth award from the Direct Selling Association themselves).
At the other end of the spectrum is buying leads. This is also not the best option since it can be very expensive and may result in leads that may not actually be interested in your products or business. These are not great leads, either. The best leads will always be the ones you generate yourself—people who have shown some sort of interest in what you have to offer.
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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