I found your article interesting. My wife and I have been involved with AdvoCare since November 2011. Even if I never make another dime in AdvoCare, I will continue to use the products because they have worked and continue to work for us. What I find interesting is the statistic that the majority – 99.7% in MLM actually “lose” money. What is the context of that statistic? That would mean A: the majority of MLM companies don’t have a buyback or return policy B: people that get started with MLM’s have to take on much more inventory that they are able to sell or C: this statistic is not accurate. I believe that C is the right answer. I do agree there are flaws in the MLM industry just as there are flaws in every industry. However, I believe that the MLM industry has made huge improvements in recent years and we do have a better way. People are the variable. When you have a great product, a passion and purpose that drives you everyday, are teachable and coachable, and love others as much as you love yourself, you can be successful in this business. Through the process of investing in your own personal development and learning to serve others, you are able to lead others to do the same. Thanks again. I look forward to reading more from you in the near future.
You see, there are lots of other people who need to sell the same products as you to make money too. And quite possibly living in the same area, with the same pool of potential customers as you. So if you have the misfortune to sign up to an MLM that’s already popular in your area or social circle, you’ll probably find it hard to recruit customers.
“Joining an MLM is appealing to women who find hope in their promises of a better life: freedom, economic independence, and an endless supply of cheery trinkets. Despite professing quick-income prospects though, it’s difficult for MLM consultants to earn more than pocket change. When glitzy recruitment videos yield to the reality of suburban cul-de-sacs, people selling for MLMs can be plunged into debt and psychological crisis.” (Quartz)
Before launching Omnilife and becoming a billionaire, Jorge Vergara sold street tacos in Mexico, smuggled Herbalife supplements into Mexico, and sweet talked the Mexican government into changing their regulations in the nutritional products sector. This guy could make a movie about his life and it would probably win an Academy Award (he’s actually a major film producer on the side, casual). 

The Federal Trade Commission issued a decision, In re Amway Corp., in 1979 in which it indicated that multi-level marketing was not illegal per se in the United States. However, Amway was found guilty of price fixing (by effectively requiring "independent" distributors to sell at the same fixed price) and making exaggerated income claims.[47][48] The FTC advises that multi-level marketing organizations with greater incentives for recruitment than product sales are to be viewed skeptically. The FTC also warns that the practice of getting commissions from recruiting new members is outlawed in most states as "pyramiding".[49] 

No, It is not advisable to buy MLM leads. The company which is selling you leads won’t guarantee any sales from those leads. In fact the conversion rate from those leads won’t be much. Think you have spent few dollars for those leads and ended up with less conversion rate than what you have expected; you lost both money and time. Why did i mention time here? Yes, you lost the time while waiting for the leads, which you are in conviction, that they will be converted into customers. Instead you can learn some skills, Copywriting skills, for enticing the real customers into your MLM Business.
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Great article and thanks for taking the time to write this.. however I can see why your business didn’t fly as you had hoped. Mlm is a people’s business and that means that it IS the interaction with each other that strengthens working together. Yes you need to be self motivated but you also need to be a supporter too. Networking also eliminates the need to do constant appraisals. You don’t work you don’t get paid. That’s music to a corporate managers ears. Networking is not for everyone… but where else can you invest for such a small amount and have all the other aspects of business done for you and all you have to do is go get customers and recruit more customer finders and have no ceiling on being paid for that. As for the product you promote.. you choose something you like. My original passion as a woman was make up so I joined that type of business. Got so passionate I qualified as a beautician and onto other certificates then I discovered essential oils.. I needed supplies but minimum trade orders were over £3000 each time. Mlm on the other hand was order as my demands and finances could afford. So my interest in mlm grew. Now I would not go back to traditional office work. When I know when I apply myself I can exceed what ANY employer thinks I’m worth
One of the best skincare products in and outside of MLM, no doubt. They were founded by a couple dermatologists, and they used to be an upscale department store brand before entering the world of network marketing. Rodan and Fields created Proactiv, which ended up being one of the most famous skincare products of all time (and a hero-in-a-bottle for every middle schooler who’s ever been called pizza-face). Just this one product line is nearing $1 billion in annual sales.
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).
Hi JP, Your assessment of Melaleuca stating… “When you hit over a billy in annual sales, that’s reason enough to be on the shortlist. On top of that, they’ve been in the MLM game for over two decades, and they’re now the “largest online wellness shopping club” (basically just sounds like a fancy way of saying they sell a lot of miracle diet pills).” is VERY misleading and inaccurate. They offer “far more” products and services than weight control supplements. I have been a “customer” only of Melaleuca for over 20 years and can attest to the superb quality of their products. Please get your facts correct before posting inaccurate information. 🙂 

(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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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.

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!!!
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.
Pay Per Click or PPC can be very effective in the right hands. If you do it the wrong way it can be a fast track to financial ruin. Unlike Facebook Ads where you can see how effective your ads are within minutes, Google AdWords are much less responsive and you can use up a lot of cash before you hit the winning combination. Concentrate on being very focused and specific. If you are not, you will get lots of clicks on an ad which sounds right, but results in low conversion rates when people find that it’s not exactly what they are looking for.
It’s also important to note that while I expect there to be significant growth in the ranks of many MLM companies, there will also be substantial growth in businesses that adopt this model and its many benefits.  In fact, it’s one reason I developed the Certified Professional Retirement Coach certification in conjunction with the Retirement Coaches Association.
Perfect reply That’s exactly what gives network marketing a bad name. Sheesh. If you find something you’re passionate about then go for it. But first ask, how many people can you personally find who have replaced their income at such n such a company? I’m grateful to say I have hundreds of dōTERRA advocates who have, and who go about it with integrity. Thanks for all the research, it was fun to read. I’d recommend looking at retention as well sometime.

Mindy reports that, "From day one, I failed to acknowledge the biggest sign that something wasn't right – my gut. I felt unsettled from the moment I walked into my so-called interview to the moment I no longer had ties with the company. In further hindsight, the other representatives also displayed unease." The lesson here is to not dismiss your intuition. If it doesn't feel right, scam or not, it's not for you. If you feel coerced or conned, then it's definitely not for you. 


There is nothing new about people failing; yes, they fail – at lots of things. We could spend months trying to discover why people fail in their marriages, school, jobs, etc. Do I have compassion and feel for them when they can’t make it work. Yes, of course! But I can’t jump into their bodies and make choices and live their life for them. It’s their choice – quit or find a way to keep going. MLM is a business and not everyone will succeed. Will I make money from my HARD EARNED customer base? Yes! Do I feel bad because I make a commission. No! EVERY business owner makes money off their employees – other wise they would not be in business. Do Brick and Morter Business Owners feel bad that they are making millions and they are paying their employees minimum wage??? Of Course Not. That is just the nature of business. So why are you feeling “bad” that you made money? Did you tell your recruits that they could do what you did to make money ? You see, there is a difference in selling a product to a customer and telling a person they can “get rich quick” and do nothing to get there. Those people will fail every time when they listen to such lies. hoilictictouch.com Get Oiled!
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!
MaryAnne, I would recommend finding a product that you LOVE, a product that you feel can benefit the people around you and who you feel integrity with. You want to find their products useful so that you will feel good about buying them every month and want to share them with other. It is a business, but you also want to be able to have fun with it too
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This article was really informative and honest! I’m not presently involved in an MLM and I don’t ever plan to be especially after reading this article and the comments below. Why? Well because of EXACTLY the kind of “networking” and “recruiting” that these companies and many of the people commenting on here are advocating. I have been bombarded on my facebook, and other social media from people I haven’t spoken to or seen in years. Its becoming constant, and I am not on social media to make money. Roden and Fields, shakeology, some girl I went to high school with is now trying to get me to buy leggins from her. I have a cousin that I actively avoid now because he is constantly steering every single conversation to Herbellife and why I NEED it to be healthy. Jesus. Its just enough already. I’m all for empowering people, and I love the idea of earning an additional income to take care of your family or yourself. But I could not imagine alienating or even just annoying friends and family in order to make an extra dollar. What I dislike most is that many of those that are recruiting make it seem as if they recruiting you simply because they want to “help” you or provide you with an opportunity. They make it seem as if they are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, when really the actual motivation is line their own pockets with more money, because the more people you recruit for your team, the more money you make. That feels dishonest and slimy to me. Unless I’m asking for “help” or an “opportunity” I wish people would assume that I don’t need and am not interested in one! 
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