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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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.
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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:
I appreciate this comment. I’m a doTERRA gal. When I signed up I said I’d never sell. I just wanted to buy and use the oils. Then because of my love for them, people started coming to me for education and asking where they could get oils. So now I sell them. I’m not a sales person. I can’t bug my friends about stuff. But I’m growing this business because I truly believe in the products and use them every single day. I may not ever become rich from this and that’s OK with me. I won’t consider it a failure. Every person I help is a success in my book!
Wow Collette! I’m a new Advocate with doTERRA, as is my wife. She wanted to start using oils to get our family off of medications as much as possible (and now we mostly are!) We chose doTERRA over all the other oils companies because of the process in which they farm and make their oils as well as the great culture they seem to exude. We just felt called to them.
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.
Who wants to get fit, look younger, and lose weight? Jeunesse, meet your global target market: everyone. With their crazy sales numbers, I wouldn’t be surprised if they are selling to just about everyone in the world. Jeunesse routinely make the list for the top 20 MLMs in the world, and they’re doing about $1.4 billion in annual revenue. Not only are you selling a very well-trusted product, but the sign up cost is also one of the lowest out there ($30).
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Networking, as it used to be called, is a pretty thankless task. The conventional approach to networking was to start with the network of friends and colleagues that you already have; friends and family, your existing clients, your contacts at the squash club and so on. Most people feel uncomfortable pitching to friends and family, unless you have an unbeatable idea or concept, but if that was the case, then lead generation would not be a problem

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.

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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!
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.
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Jason – I think you have to be more than careful in evaluating an MLM. I’ve researched around 50 and 60 and each and every one of them have turned out to be bad. Maybe one like Pampered Chef might be good, but I haven’t looked into enough. A more accurate statement would be that MLMs are like prisoners, there are some guilty people and some innocent ones. Also, there are some winning lottery tickets and some losing ones. I think you get the point.
In a similar fashion, when you eliminate money from the network marketing industry, a new perspective emerges.  Personally speaking, I love talking with people who are in this industry because they are always reading, posting, and sharing something inspirational.  They have goals, a dream board, and are generally using the products that they are selling to improve the way they look and feel.
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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.
I have a friend who is proposing I join Arbonne? She would be good to work with although I am not educated on all the MLM companies and don’t want to make the wrong choice. I also have a blog which I want to leverage and it seems like most of the health and wellness MLMs utilize hosted parties. Are there any that are more internet based that have had a long time track record! Thanks and sorry for all the questions!
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However, as aforementioned, you may know people that sell products from Mary Kay, Avon, Advocare, Tupperware and the like (see more companies in our Featured Home Businesses section). You know people who sell these types of products because they believe in the products and the companies that stand behind them. These companies empower those who sell their products to actually establish their own businesses, selling the products. This is very attractive to many entrepreneurial-minded people who do not want to have a boss watching over them but also want some pre-established structure and support. Most MLM organizations provide a very robust infrastructure and great training as well as impeccable rewards (hello free cars and trips!).
Many MLM companies do generate billions of dollars in annual revenue and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual profit. However, the profits of the MLM company are accrued at the detriment to the majority of the company's constituent workforce (the MLM participants). Only some of said profit is then significantly shared with individual participants at the top of the MLM distributorship pyramid. The earnings of those top few participants is emphasized and championed at company seminars and conferences, thus creating an illusion of how one can potentially become financially successful if they become a participants in the MLM. This is then advertised by the MLM company to recruit more distributors to participate in the MLM with a false anticipation of earning margins which are in reality merely theoretical and statistically improbable.[14]
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In just 30 years, Melaleuca has grown from a little startup in rural Idaho to a billion-dollar enterprise doing business in 19 countries around the globe. It has become one of the largest catalog and online wellness retailers in North America. And it is the largest manufacturer of consumer packaged goods in the Northwest. Today, more than a million customers shop with Melaleuca every month.
The Isreali immigrant brothers turned entrepreneurs behind Seacret Direct managed to take a cliche mall kiosk (you know, the ones that bother the crap out of you while you’re trying to shop) and turn it into a multi-million dollar global direct selling ccompany. Skincare products are pretty yawn-worthy nowadays, but Seacret’s dead sea products come with a 5,000 year history and a lot of fanfare.
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.
Thank you for your article. I am also with doterra and I never in my life thought I would do something like this. The reason I started was because of health issues that led me to the oils. I have been an RN for 23 years and I feel more free and excited to share about health than ever. If you are going into something to get rich quick, I think that is the wrong attitude. I think most of my fellow doterra wellness advocates, have come to the same realization as me. I believe most of us started out trying to help ourselves and our families. I left my nursing job of 17 years in Feb, not because I am making enough money to replace my past income, but because I truly love helping others and I love the company and what it stands for. I can’t argue about MLM’s because I truly don’t care about that side of it. Maybe I am wrong to think that way. I hope that this ride doesn’t end anytime soon because the difference that doterra is making in my life, and the lives of those around me, is amazing. Thank you again for your information and your viewpoint.
The interesting thing that most people miss about the major connection between retirement and network marketing is that once you strip out the financial aspects, you get a very different picture.   Since the creation of Social Security back in 1935, people have been brainwashed to think that retirement is all about money.  That a successful transition from work-life to home-life requires the right dollar amount, asset allocation, and spending plan. But that’s just not the case.  There are plenty of people with substantial amounts of money saved for retirement that are completely miserable.
The Federal Trade Commission warns "Not all multilevel marketing plans are legitimate. Some are pyramid schemes. It's best not to get involved in plans where the money you make is based primarily on the number of distributors you recruit and your sales to them, rather than on your sales to people outside the plan who intend to use the products."[21]
This group effect also plays into the vital role that a person’s social network can have on their retirement. Studies show that being around negative, pessimistic or sarcastic people can actually be detrimental to your health.  And many people can get stuck in a rut when it comes to who they hang around and associate with. Which means successful aging includes hanging around upbeat, positive people.
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.
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]
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