Multi-level marketing (MLM), also called pyramid selling,[1][2] network marketing,[2][3] and referral marketing,[4] is a marketing strategy for the sale of products or services where the revenue of the MLM company is derived from a non-salaried workforce selling the company's products/services, while the earnings of the participants are derived from a pyramid-shaped or binary compensation commission system.

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.
Remember, however, that a percentage of something is better than one hundred percent of zero sales – so it is a good idea to network with more experienced marketers. Take advantage of the expertise and training that they offer, and use their resources to build your business. One you are ready, you can always bring in new people, and even share leads with them – building your downline so that they will supply you with a good residual income.
To understand better, let’s employ the word “Network Marketing,” which is the most common used term that points out to the same marketing strategy. As you have heard many times, there are thousands of Network Marketing companies that exist today and all of them are applying the MLM principle which is very effective and powerful in spreading the word out to the marketplace than any paid media advertising.
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]
Yet there must be something to the business model, since I see some big business icons like Donald Trump are joining in the MLM parade. I've written about these before, and I'm still looking for one that feels entrepreneurial. Who has a convincing story that will make me feel good and pure as I recommend their MLM to my best startup clients? Do you love them or hate them?
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
I’m torn. I use Rodan+Fields but never considered being a distributor. Then a friend of mine introduced me to Jeunesse and got me fired up to be part of his team. I said “yes”. But now I’m wondering if the company is right for me because a) I read some negative stuff online about the company, the products, lawsuits, however the team is amazing! b) I actually really like what R+F has done for my skin therefore I feel I connect with the company more.

I know there are a few companies, like Mary Kay and Lia Sophia, who have a generally positive image, but there are many more, often built around some investment scheme, which continue to give this sector a bad image. If you scan the Internet, you will find dozens of negative articles, like "What's Wrong With Multi-Level Marketing?", but very few singing their praises.


A downline distributor is a recruited distributor from whom the sponsor (the one who recruited them) gains commissions. Every compensation plan involves recruiting other distributors to help sell the company’s product. Some compensation plans provide higher commissions for recruiting successful distributors (quality over quantity). Other plans only focus on simply hiring more distributors (quantity over quality). Overall, downline distributors help sponsors gain extra commissions.
Product that is purchased and consumed by participants to satisfy their own genuine product demand – as distinct from all product purchased by participants that is not resold – is not in itself indicative of a problematic MLM compensation structure. For example, the final order entered in FTC v. Herbalife permits the payment of compensation based on personal consumption, subject to specific limitations and verification requirements. However, the FTC’s law enforcement experience has shown that MLM participants may buy product – and recruit or pressure other participants to buy product – for reasons other than their own or other consumers’ actual demand, such as to advance in the marketing program.
Some business opportunities may present themselves as a way for participants to get rich or lead a wealthy lifestyle. They may make such representations through words or through images such as expensive houses, luxury automobiles, and exotic vacations. If participants generally do not achieve such results, these representations likely would be false or misleading to current or prospective participants.
There is no single method for creating and retaining such documentation. Different MLMs employ a variety of approaches to demonstrate that their product is sold to retail customers, including collecting retail sales receipts created by participants; having retail customers buy product directly from the company, rather than from a participant’s inventory; and having product users sign up with the company as customers who are not participating in a business opportunity. Other MLMs use other approaches or a combination of approaches.
As with all MLMs, the real money to be made isn’t in selling their products but in recruiting more people to join your team (basically, doing the work for you). So the real winners are the person who started the business and the very first people she recruited. This top of the pyramid is also where all of the success stories tend to come from. Among the most vulnerable to these pyramid schemes are people in smaller towns and rural areas. Market saturation prevents growth in a small town, because once everyone you know starts selling it, no one can make any money and you’ve essentially created your own competition.
How MLM companies are NOT considered Pyramid organizations is beyond me! They are all scams by the very nature of their organization structure. Those who start or get in early benefit directly from the efforts of those beneath them, forever. Not to mention the fact that most product sold through any of these MLM organization’s is to the dealer network itself. The top dogs are making money regardless as long as there is new blood coming in. And the best way to keep new blood coming in is to incentivize those at the lower middle and below to continue recruiting to build “a network of their own”. And those on the verge of “breaking through” who have already invested a small fortune in products along the way that are sitting on their pantry shelves NEED to keep recruiting. The very thing that differentiates a Pyramid scheme from an MLM is that an MLM sells an actual product. That is it. It doesn’t determine who that product is sold to as it should since we know that most product is sold to the worker bees and not to the general public for long.
Growing a MLM, is recruiting others who you hope to help find success growing their own business within your organization. However, the reason many do not grow their organization is because they are not comfortable following suit of their up-line. I would never ever pay for mlm leads for a few reasons. One, I am not comfortable cold calling, selling, pitching, begging, prospecting, therefore, I would be insane to think those in my downline would be. I would never do what I would not think that my downline could do, and asking them to put themselves into so much fear and discomfort, would make me untrustworthy. I totally agree with Sukhi’s post, MLM’s are based on trust. If you want to talk to people, talk to them, build a relationship, network with others.
Thanks for this post. Very helpful. I do like direct sales; one reason for this is that it helps keep alive that age-old tradition of people interacting face-to-face (rather than mainly through texting and social media). For that reason, I think MLMs should target the lonely Millennials. Anyway, I was a member/distributor of Advocare for over 10 years and still miss the products and the activities in the company, now that I am temporarily out. I still plan to sign up again when I can afford it (long story–I’ll spare you). I am now involved in Melaleuca, and I must say in their defense that Melaleuca’s products are actually not overpriced. Because Preferred Customers are not only not expected, but also NOT ALLOWED to turn around and sell the products at the retail price, everyone pays the same low prices. (Granted, one can indeed go to the website and buy directly from the company if they do not want to become a Preferred Customer. Why would someone do that when the annual membership is only $19? Only if they do not want to commit to the minimum monthly requirement for Preferred Customers.) Public, keep this in mind! Don’t be fooled by the rebels who are selling old Melaleuca products on Amazon for way above the retail price!! You’re much better off buying fresh products directly from the factory, even if you pay retail price. Just sayin. My big question: What about Tupperware? I have been a Tupperware consultant for about 6 months, and I have found it to be extremely difficult to keep business going. The directors training me have said that Tupperware is the second most widely recognized brand name in the world, second only to Coca-Cola. If that is the case, why is it so hard to find people willing to host Tupperware parties? Why does it seem so hard to sell? Also, is it just me…Or, does Tupperware’s compensation plan stink?
Specifically, they struggle to jump start their health goals, to connect with new people, to learn new things, and yearn to be a part of a community.  What I am telling you is that the average retiree is at least 25 pounds overweight, feels tired for some part of the day, may be moderately depressed about something, has low self-esteem in one or two areas of life, acknowledges they only kind of have a best friend, and overall lead pretty plain lives.
MLM companies have been trying to find ways around China's prohibitions, or have been developing other methods, such as direct sales, to take their products to China through retail operations. The Direct Sales Regulations limit direct selling to cosmetics, health food, sanitary products, bodybuilding equipment and kitchen utensils. And the Regulations require Chinese or foreign companies ("FIEs") who intend to engage into direct sale business in mainland China to apply for and obtain direct selling license from the Ministry of Commerce ("MOFCOM").[63] In 2016, there are 73 companies, including domestic and foreign companies, that have obtained the direct selling license.[64] Some multi-level marketing sellers have circumvented this ban by establishing addresses and bank accounts in Hong Kong, where the practice is legal, while selling and recruiting on the mainland.[10][65]
Now this is the kind of business opportunity seeker you like to work with – these are the bizopps buyers!!  These folks went all the way through the sales funnel, and many of them paid for a Business Opportunity e-book to learn how to start a home-based or internet business.  They aren’t tire kickers. Bizopp buyers pull out the plastic when it comes to funding their money making goals and dreams.
I enjoyed this post and spent too many hours reading all your other posts and watching your videos. You have some excellent real life experiences to share and glad I found this blog. My wife and I are with It Works Global (She started it and I came on board later). I was curious why they didn’t make your list? Do you think blogging would work with this type MLM? I have only had success using Instagram and Facebook. The MLM model is not something I like but it is what is I guess. My wife joined to get a discount on wraps and now this insane looking chart pays the bills. I want to take it further just keep searching for a good way to do so. Maybe blogging is the answer? Thank you. for your time. Mike

As the owner, you are the face and voice of the product whether you like it or not. Expect to spend an inordinate of your time managing people, their emotions and expectations. The heavy reliance on residual income means that your income stream may dry up suddenly if a salesperson fails to meet his quota. This could easily happen, because in many cases that salesperson must not only be accountable for his sales, but of the sale people he recruits under him. These are people he may not know. Therefore, your earnings potential is limited by the selling ability of others not directly under your control. A MLM business may strain your personal relationships. Lower-tiered salespeople, particularly those within your circle of family and friends, may harbor ill feelings if they fail to advance within the organization.
MLM salespeople are not employees of the MLM company. Participants do not derive a salary/wage, nor do participants receive remuneration from the MLM company for their invested labor and expenses in their MLM "independent business". The income of participants, if any income is made at all, is derived only from commissions on their personal sales or their share of the commissions on the personal sales of their downlines (the MLM compensation structure).

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
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.
Writing and commenting in MLM niche forums is yet again another great way to generate free MLM leads. Network marketers hang out on forums reading, writing and asking questions. When a new expert shows up on the forum answering specific questions, the regular readers will go investigating to find out who they are, and a new relationship will start to form.
http://www.idahofallsmagazine.com/2014/12/demystifying-Melaleuca does NOT fit any of the descriptions about multi-level marketing. Best double check. 😀 We had to. We thought it was until we looked closer. Opening Online Shopping Accounts! Not a “home parties” company, no inventory, and no delivering of products. Just a website! Best HOME BASED Business we have ever found. And we have been LOOKING! Thanks.
FLP may not be the wealthiest MLM on this list, but they deserve a spot because of their long-term dedication to the aloe vera plant and products made from it. Few MLMs display such product dedication and integrity as FLP. And few MLM’s have such a concentrated niche. That screams longevity over the other hundreds of other “full service wellness” companies.
Actually, it really doesnt matter when you join a company. It all depends on the person deciding to jump in and work it as a real business. That means sharing your love of the products and showing up daily. You are compensated for your efforts if you should decide to build a team. You inspire, motivate, and lead others while working on your own business. In my experience, it’s extremely rewarding to know you have a opportunity or as i see it as a gift that is going to help someone.
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]
Write about your knowhow on your website, e-newsletters, and your business blog. Also known as “inbound marketing”, this strategy brings the customers to you through offering them valuable content to support their own activities. If you are a doctor specialist, have short articles written about how you normally would deal with certain problems in your specialty. If you are a lawyer, explain the main laws that affect your clients’ types of cases. Whatever you are, remember that you have valuable information to share and that by sharing it on a regular basis, you are attracting more and more prospects to you while becoming a thought leader in the industry!
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?
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.
Appreciate the hard work studying this… Im apart of the #1 company on there Advocare… have been for 7 years and one of the higher paid single guys in the nation… I just have to disagree with “over priced Products” comment. There is a mark up on every product in the world… Our products actually work which is why those endorsers you mentioned turn down high level incomes with other companies to endorse us for a stipend of products per month. Advocare has numerous people making a great profit and even more just enjoying a product they would pay double what they do for to feel the way they do. Success rate isnt low my friend… Its just the quit rate is through the roof. Highly recommend everyone seeing this and you sir to watch “Rise of the Entrepreneur” by Eric Worre on Itunes to get some serious facts about the MLM industry. Thanks for all the research and blessings!
I agree with Jeannie. You can build a solid foundation from your warm market & then it snowballs. It is hard work & not a get rich industry. I to am with dōTERRA which is such a product driven company that 80% of wholesale customers are just customers because the products work. I love how everyone I have interacted with in my Upline are so driven by a purpose much bigger than amassing wealth! After almost 20 years of business experience (corporate sales & real estate), I can proudly say that I’ve never worked in such an edifying & encouraging environment. I can’t remember even 1 of my former bosses sitting down with me to chart a plan to bring me up to their level or even to take their current spot on the corp ladder – too much insecurity in that world & after all only 1 person makes it to the top of that pyramid. I love that in Network marketing you can easily surpass the rank & income of the person above you if you work with great purpose. The mentoring available & the personal development which happens in this environment is incredible!
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.
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