Many times the MLM business will require their distributors to purchase a certain amount of product themselves.  It can be used as designed or used as freebies to give away to potential recruits — but you’re still spending your hard earned money in order to promote the business.  (And in the meantime, not generating any profit from the business while you “ramp up”.)
Pyramid schemes are not a simply exchange of money… MLMs with products can be illegal pyramid schemes. One example of an MLM – pyramid scheme with products that got shut down by FTC is JewelWay: http://www.ftc.gov/opa/1997/11/jewel-2.shtm. The FTC says nothing about product being reasonably priced. That’s a slippery slope when people will pay thousands for a fashionable handbag.
The major defining difference between other companies and MLM, is that they don’t mass market themselves, spending millions of dollars on television, radio and internet ads, but instead allocate that portion of their budget to pay hard working distributors who pound the pavement, form personal al relationships with clients, advocate their product, and hence donthe “marketing” for them.
I recently spoke with San Diego based, Vicki Martin, about her experience with Rodan + Fields. Here's her take on her home business and why the opportunity was so appealing for her and her family, "The decision to join Rodan + Fields Dermatologists came easily. Since 2008 the construction industry [which I was previously in] has been hit hard by our economic downturn and my income has been greatly affected. We were working harder for less like many of our friends. Being part of Rodan + Fields Dermatologists is allowing me to work with highly educated people who share a passion for business and for teamwork. Building a recurring, residual income that grows month over month is going to give my husband and I the peace of mind and financial freedom that is so vitally important to our future. My skin looks better than ever. And, I get to work my job around the rest of my life instead of the other way around."

Use social media. Posts asking people to join your team won't likely produce results, but if you're clever, you can use social media to generate interest in your business and possible leads. For example, if you sell weight-loss products, you can promote before and after pictures on Pinterest or Instagram. If you sell makeup, you can post tutorials on YouTube that you share across social sites. 
To prove that we give you more in value, than you could ever give us in money, we provide you with MLM Training and Lead Management Systems at no extra cost. In fact, anyone can get a Free Lead Management System, which also includes a Free Phase 2 Customizable Marketing Site, and any package that has email leads gets a Free Autoresponder with Professionally written emails included. (You can even modify the autoresponder emails at any time.)
Get out of your comfort zone. Google ' volunteer opportunities'. Find some options that match up with your personality and hobbies and go volunteer. Give without any expectations of getting something out of it, i.e. business partners, and you will be amazed at how many people you will meet that can help you out without you even realizing it. Volunteering will help you learn how to become 'interested' in people and how to talk to people without expectations. This one simple task will make a huge difference in your life and your business.
The following is a list of organizations that according to their website descriptions provide MLM lead lists. Database Systems Corp. is not affiliated with any of these organizations nor does it promote or endorse the products and services of these companies. These websites provide various types of leads including business marketing leads, business opportunity leads, opt in MLM leads, network marketing leads, home business leads etc.

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Leads should come in the form of people that are likely to work with you. When you get leads for free, they may not be targeted. That’s okay though, you can target these people yourself, and it’s free to do if you’re willing to put some time into learning marketing. Don’t just get a logo slapped together and act like you’re an awesome company with all kinds of things you don’t really have in place. However, you can work with leads that you target by learning to make a splash in places like review websites and other places people read more about companies.

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)
8. Direct-mail lists and fax and e-mail broadcast lists. There are many mailing list companies with databases that target specific interests. Creating a good letter offering a free tape or product sample can generate leads. Always drive them to your Web site. Get to your prospects even faster by broadcast faxing or e-mail blasting. There are professional companies that can help you with this.
What is a network marketing professional? Tell me what that is. A person who can approach well-dressed people in Wal-mart and hand them their MLM business card? Someone who writes a list of their family and friends and then 3-way call them with their “higher-up” sponsor? Really, if someone can tell me what being a network marketing professional entails, I’m listening.
Choosing a company that offer quality training and support may help your business a great deal.  You must be taught the rudimentary of marketing, referrals and how to close sales.  The best company should help you to upgrade your skills to help grow your business. It must share with you secretes of driving your website and how to effectively utilize the leads. It must help you brand your business and reach to as many clients as possible.
Melaleuca, Inc. is listed as a Direct Marketing Company. The company contracts with independent marketing executives who refer customers to Melaleuca that purchase its various lines of nutritional, pharmaceutical, personal care, household cleaning, and pet care products. They also offer travel, phone and credit card services. Customers receive discounts if they order a minimum monthly product supply, but are not required to maintain an inventory of products. The company states that it offers a “Satisfaction or Money Back Guarantee”.
I am not at all saying that someone can't find leads and get sign-ups from some of these systems. However in the end, network marketing is about creating relationships. If you are looking for fast, SHORT-TERM money... Google MLM leads and go to town. If you are looking for a long-term, consistent income... get to know your upline and learn how they became successful. I, personally, have yet to talk to a truly successful network marketing professional that has told me about any 'shortcut' to success.

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.
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.
Multi-level marketing is a strategy some direct-sales companies use to encourage their existing distributors to recruit new distributors by paying the existing distributors a percentage of their recruits' sales. The recruits are the distributor's "downline." All distributors also make money through direct sales of products to customers. Amway is an example of a well-known direct-sales company that uses multi-level marketing.

The cons of mlm are that most people getting into mlm don’t understand mlm. They apply the incorrect philosophy and it becomes a recipe for disaster. I see dozens of people monthly that join a mlm, don’t work and don’t yield any results and as a result, leave with a bad taste. But with correct leadership that problem could be averted. That is precisely why I love my company. It has the best leadership (in my opinion) and they properly train their agents.
People generally tend to prefer either the unilevel or the binary compensation plans. But, the breakaway compensation plan also has benefits of its own. With the breakaway compensation plan, creating breakaway legs offers more of an opportunity to build passive income. Ultimately, which compensation plan is best is up to where you think your strengths will help you excel most.

I think when you made comments about a company you should have kept them neutral or not only commented part of a story. Ambit did have a lawsuit, but it also has several JD Power awards, A+BBB, and many other accolades. I don’t know details of the suit, it may have been 100% justified, but I do know lawsuits are not always justified. Sometimes people are looking to make a buck
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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.
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