Multi Level Marketing (MLM) is a business model or marketing strategy in which the distributors' income includes their own sales, and a percentage of the sales group they recruit, which is commonly known as their ‘downline’. Customers can also sign up as a distributor to sell the company’s product. Usually, the sign up fee will be the price paid to purchase the product.

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 agree with you that much of the industry is flawed, but what about an MLM that has a service rather than a product such as electricity. It’s not like that could go out of style or that once you buy it you don’t need it again or that your monthly supply is too much and you’re going to stop the monthly subscriptions. I can honestly say that I cannot stand most MLM companies because regardless what you believe or how much you like the product, if you have to try to convince someone else to use it then inevitably the system is flawed and eventually your residuals will dry up. Electricity though, that’s different in my opinion, no one has to convince me to use it, it just comes by default. Find me an MLM that is not selling so much as showing someone an alternative to what they already have to pay and I’d be interested.
(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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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

The main sales pitch of MLM companies to their participants and prospective participants is not the MLM company's products or services. The products/services are largely peripheral to the MLM model. Rather, the true sales pitch and emphasis is on a confidence given to participants of potential financial independence through participation in the MLM, luring with phrases like "the lifestyle you deserve" or "independent distributor."[16] Erik German's memoir My Father's Dream documents the real life failures of German's father as he is lured into "get-rich-quick" schemes such as Amway.[17] The memoir illustrates the multi-level marketing sales principle known as "selling the dream".[18]

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Although you can generate business leads yourself by advertising or organizing promotional events, buying your leads is actually going to be the most cost-effective method. In fact, we put a lot of effort into keeping our costs as low as possible so we can pass these savings on to you. Essentially, we go above and beyond what we need to do so you, our customer, is happy. If you have any questions about our high-quality leads, be sure to contact us now so we can help you. The sooner you get started, the sooner you can start making more money for your business! And isn’t that what it’s all about?
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.
MLM has stretched its sticky fingers out into just about every product market out there, so it’s kinda hard to do something new nowadays. But Jamberry Nails did it. Their adhesive, custom nail designs BLEW UP when they hit the direct sales floor. They built up an army of over 100,000 consultants in the time it takes most people to get a mediocre pay raise at their 9-5.
The real selling point for MLMs is that distributors can make money in two different ways. The first is money made from commissions from direct selling to consumers. And the second way to make money with an MLM is from the commissions made from sales of distributors below you in the pyramid (these are sometimes referred to as recruits or downline distributors).
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Kathleen, you are right about the “direct sales” thing. They use it because MLM has the well-deserved bad connotation with pyramid schemes. I try to explain to people that true direct selling would be something like Ebay… there’s no inherent multi-level commissions implied by the term “direct sales.” It almost reminds of calling an illegal dog fight a “recreational gaming event.” It may be true, but is far from an accurate description.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) states: "Steer clear of multilevel marketing plans that pay commissions for recruiting new distributors. They're actually illegal pyramid schemes. Why is pyramiding dangerous? Because plans that pay commissions for recruiting new distributors inevitably collapse when no new distributors can be recruited. And when a plan collapses, most people—except perhaps those at the very top of the pyramid—end up empty-handed."[45]
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.

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.
Most prospective clients are going to be found online because they are searching for related information and will make the purchase right away. These are the prospects that should be the main focus of any campaign that is being set-up by yourself in order to garner interest. The online world is where the most accessible market is and you are able to work 24/7 without even having to sit on the computer physically.
You are right in that most MLM have monthly dues and have high entry fees to be distributors or consultants. You are also right in that most MLM companies focus on recruitment and not product sales. I’ve been working with Arbonne now for quite a while and none of those comments apply to this company, which is why I believe they have survived and are only growing at this point, despite some people’s opinion that they will soon be relics like Mary Kay. To become a consultant is a mere $75 dollars, the kit is involved with all free samples and material. Product loading is prohibited. Each event we host regularly ends with most if not all attendees becoming a preferred client for $20 joining fee for the first year and a $15 renewal every year with no monthly expectation and a guaranteed minimum of 20% off of all stock at all times and 40% off of all packages at all times. Not only that consultants can will their business down 6 generations, and the Mercedes incentive is for a purchase, not a lease. We do look to grow our network, but we emphasize this takes hard work and is not a get rich quick scheme. While you hit the nail on the head with most MLM businesses, there are MLM businesses like Arbonne who are a cut above the rest and who are in the habit of not putting pressure on anyone attending to either purchase or join as a consultant. We only want the best in our network and we have thousands of examples of very successful men and woman to show for it. Great article!!!
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Because of the encouraging of recruits to further recruit their competitors, some people have even gone so far as to say at best modern MLMs are nothing more than legalized pyramid schemes[4][19][20] with one stating "Multi-level marketing companies have become an accepted and legally sanctioned form of pyramid scheme in the United States"[19] while another states "Multi-Level Marketing, a form of Pyramid Scheme, is not necessarily fraudulent."[20] In October 2010 it was reported that multilevel marketing companies were being investigated by a number of state attorneys general amid allegations that salespeople were primarily paid for recruiting and that more recent recruits cannot earn anything near what early entrants do.[60] Industry critic Robert L. FitzPatrick has called multi-level marketing "the Main Street bubble" that will eventually burst.[61]
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As a last resort, you could try cold calling by phone. This is probably the most depressing and soul destroying activity on the planet. Even if you get past the usual questions such as ‘If you’re selling something – I’m not interested’ and ‘How did you get my number?’ you need a really slick and professional script and the ability to recognize and avoid lonely old ladies who just want to interact with someone, anyone, in fact.
MLM businesses get a bad rap because they have such a high "failure" rate. However, there is much misinformation regarding these stats. First, the failure rate in business in general is fairly high. Second, it's easier to walk away from a business in which you invested $50 versus one in which you invested $5,000. Finally, because of the way MLMs are presented, many people sign up for the quick buck, instead of paying attention to whether or not they like the product or are willing to follow the marketing plan.
Your comment and it’s militant nature are the EXACT OPPOSITE of what I believe the doTERRA culture is founded upon. I hope anyone reading this thread choose to look past your article and it’s attack on YoungLiving when basing their decision as to which company they choose to go with. I want them to know that the manner in which you needlessly attacked them is in no way a representation of all the other reps nor the company itself.

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.

look if you go and search top MLM businesses, no matter what link you click on, the number one company is amway. Why everyone goes with different companies i don’t get it, check it out compare to mary kay. Here’s the thing though, I contract with amway, but my organization is worldwide. Mentorship organization. I feel which ever MLM business you choose, join a mentorship organization that is in that business. The reason why amway is number one is because of worldwide. it’s only 10% of everyone that is in amway, yet 90% of the 6 and 7 figure earners are part of worldwide…why? because they broken down the company and know exactly how to succeed and retire quicker than someone who tries amway on their own or joins another mentorship company. what’s the success rate? to those who do what others have done 100%. So at the end of the day, consider all of this. With amway and worldwide, it doesn’t matter how old you are, where you come from, ANYONE can do it. Mary Kay is a female company, good luck getting a bunch of single dudes to make it with that.


MLMs are also criticized for being unable to fulfill their promises for the majority of participants due to basic conflicts with Western cultural norms.[57] There are even claims that the success rate for breaking even or even making money are far worse than other types of businesses:[58] "The vast majority of MLMs are recruiting MLMs, in which participants must recruit aggressively to profit. Based on available data from the companies themselves, the loss rate for recruiting MLMs is approximately 99.9%; i.e., 99.9% of participants lose money after subtracting all expenses, including purchases from the company."[58] In part, this is because encouraging recruits to further "recruit people to compete with [them]"[4] leads to "market saturation."[22] It has also been claimed "(b)y its very nature, MLM is completely devoid of any scientific foundations."[59]
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A program with no or a low-quality product, or with a focus on getting paid per recruit, could be an illegal pyramid scheme. However, don't let the term pyramid throw you off. It's not the shape of the organization that makes it illegal. In fact, most companies have a pyramid structure with a CEO at the top, VPs next, mid-level managers etc. What makes an illegal pyramid scheme is the lack of a quality product, or that income is earned on recruiting, not commissions from sales. 
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.
Fast forward to 2017. LuLaRoe is the biggest MLM for women. “More than 80,000 women have paid around $5,000 for several boxes of low-cost clothing and worked as much as 80-hour weeks to outfit hundreds of thousands of suburban women in multicolored polyester. But according to a report that studied the business models of 350 MLMs, published on the Federal Trade Commission’s website, 99% of people who join multilevel-marketing companies lose money. Depending on how you look at it, it’s either a brilliant business model or a predatory practice — or a little bit of both.” (FTC)
Working with your various leads should get you somewhere, or else you need to rethink your plans. If you find that engagement is still low after you try yourself to get leads that turn into paying ones, you should just buckle down and study on what you’re doing more. Anyone that wants to be successful has to alter what they are doing so that they can get more from the people they are working with. You really need to get this underway or else it’s going to end in you wasting time with leads that won’t pay off.
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.
I do have to say you are the best at providing great helpful information to others. I feel like you do really care about our success...and I like that!!!I filtered through a lot of lead selling sites. Like I said, Yours sounded the best... being able to actually view what you have and all the helpful tools you have...before actually having to purchase anything. Like I said I really feel safe here...because you seem very sincere to help us succeed... not just provide leads and take our money. So Thank-You again.
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