Independent non-salaried participants, referred to as distributors (variously called "associates", "independent business owners", "independent agents", etc.), are authorized to distribute the company's products or services. They are awarded their own immediate retail profit from customers plus commission from the company, not downlines, through a multi-level marketing compensation plan, which is based upon the volume of products sold through their own sales efforts as well as that of their downline organization.
I love love love this article! I’m a business growth coach who works with small business owners and often leaders from other MLM’s. From time to time I’ll get someone who has been struggling significantly even getting started and I find that it’s sheer absence of knowledge of the numbers. They are still under the impression that if I get three, and they get three then we’re all going to be millionaires. It’s very sad but the truth is not being told. Being in an MLM is hard. But it is very doable. I have had significant success in the past, while I am not in an MLM now. Nor do I want to be, you must be all In to make it work. Thank you for sharing this. I would love to interview you on one of my webinars
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.
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Plexus Worlwide is ranked by Inc. magazine as #8 (in 2014) and #132 (in 2015) fastest growing privately held company with a three year growth of 2833%; all while offering a 60-day money back guarantee on all its products – which means the products work. And at a consumer friendly price point. 40% of all sales are from customers and not ambassadors.
Independent non-salaried participants, referred to as distributors (variously called "associates", "independent business owners", "independent agents", etc.), are authorized to distribute the company's products or services. They are awarded their own immediate retail profit from customers plus commission from the company, not downlines, through a multi-level marketing compensation plan, which is based upon the volume of products sold through their own sales efforts as well as that of their downline organization.

MLM restructures the traditional business model — manufacturer to retail shop to customer — such that sales agents working for the manufacturer sell directly to customers, bypassing the retail shop altogether. MLM companies can then convert customers into advocates for their products and possibly even sales agents. Because there is no retail store for the products they sell, MLM agents typically work from their homes, interacting with customers in the community or, more often, over the internet.
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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.
But please do a little research before you blanket insult an entire industry or business model. I am a single mother with a 6 figure income because of MLM, nearly twice that when I’m actively working my business with both of the companies I represent, and while not everyone has the skill set to succeed in this business, the potential is certainly there, for those that do.

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]
By theory, the MLM mode of operation is simply more cost efficient and easier to run. However the recruitment of sales agents revolve largely around the idea of hitting the jackpot of financial freedom. Simple math will tell you that most people will obviously not make it big through MLM. A certain individual even goes as far to say that 99% of people don’t ever make a profit during his interview with CNBC.
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.
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!

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.


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For more information, John Oliver did a fantastic segment about the horrors of MLMs. The 2016 documentary, Betting on Zero, investigates the allegations that MLMs are nothing but legal pyramid schemes. This article also does a wonderful job of breaking down the reasons why MLMs are doomed to failure. I encourage anyone who is thinking about signing up for an MLM to watch these. 

A long time friend that you lost touch with for the last 10 years gives you a call and asks to meet up. After meeting up and breaking the ice, he/she then introduces a new revolutionary product and how you stand to get rich by selling it. Throw in jargons like passive income and downlines, you suddenly realise you’re beginning to be sucked into the dream they are selling.

That not only fosters a positive attitude and atmosphere, but also a lot of structure and activity.  Many network marketing companies offer weekly calls, local meetings, and an annual conference.  All of which get members out of the house, building knowledge and developing new skills, while offering them the opportunity to meet new people and deepen existing connections.


I love love love this article! I’m a business growth coach who works with small business owners and often leaders from other MLM’s. From time to time I’ll get someone who has been struggling significantly even getting started and I find that it’s sheer absence of knowledge of the numbers. They are still under the impression that if I get three, and they get three then we’re all going to be millionaires. It’s very sad but the truth is not being told. Being in an MLM is hard. But it is very doable. I have had significant success in the past, while I am not in an MLM now. Nor do I want to be, you must be all In to make it work. Thank you for sharing this. I would love to interview you on one of my webinars
Much has been made of the personal, or internal, consumption issue in recent years. In fact, the amount of internal consumption in any multi-level compensation business does not determine whether or not the FTC will consider the plan a pyramid scheme. The critical question for the FTC is whether the revenues that primarily support the commissions paid to all participants are generated from purchases of goods and services that are not simply incidental to the purchase of the right to participate in a money-making venture.[46]
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
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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.

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.


So the bigger your network, the larger will be the sales thus big commissions every week or month. Best part is passive income/residual income. Once you have a big team you get commission from sale made by people u dont even know because they were referred by some 100th guy but u still make money for that sale although your effort was nothing in it. It may sound easy but creating and training  your network takes a lot of time and efforts. THIS IS NOT A GET RICH QUICK SCHEME !!  But if you work hard you can earn money in short period of time u would never earn in jobs.
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