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.
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"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]

Instead of focusing on just the product, the MLM distributor wants you to buy the product and become a distributor.  You will usually be invited to come to a conference at a local hotel where the higher level distributors (sometimes called diamonds) come in to pitch the product and get everyone emotionally excited about where this magnificent new business can take them. 

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.
First, Elliot, thank you for this article. Your sense of truly wanting to help comes through and it’s refreshing. Like MommyFinance, I too have suffered PTSD from previous runs at MLM but I have been looking for legitimate ways of making extra income and seems I’m being directed toward trying MLM again. Your article gave me hope that there are some good ones out there. What you said about finding the one that fits me and leaving a legacy for family really turned on a light for me and I greatly appreciate that. A wine business is not quite up my alley but I will certainly direct those who might be interested your way.
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.
Don’t give up, and don’t throw money into areas where you don’t have to. There’s no such thing as completely free marketing leads – you are always risking something, whether it is your brand, or your future earning potential. However, with good networking, passion, and the right people, you can achieve success. Talk to some mentors and more experienced marketers today, and see what they have to say for you. You may be surprised at how much you can bring in, with the right choices when you are getting started.
OK here is the difference Steve. If you quit any of these MLM companies for a whole year, Continue buying product but help no one set up a shopping account, even 2 years, will you continue to get paid by the company? So Steve, as a Director with Melaleuca you helped 8 people total set up a shopping account. There is no Direct or multilevel sales in that, and if they shop you earn commission on their shopping. You will not know what they shop for and thats ok cause its private. Melaleuca is a Consumer direct Manufacturer that sells to the public the products that THEY THEMSELVES make. So by your standards then …Proctor and Gamble is an MLM also. Oh and yes, I took over a year off of inviting people to see what Melaleuca was, and still received my residual check every single month. It is against company policy to sell Melaleuca products.
(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).
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.
Using link referral sites is another great way to generate free MLM leads. Link referral sites are basically a database of websites and blogs grouped in categories. After creating an account the network marketer will be asked to review up to 15 other websites and write a review of each on a daily basis. This is a great way to make new friends and expand the network of referrals.
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