Network marketing is a business model that depends upon a network of distributors for growth, such as in multilevel marketing. It is a direct selling method that features independent agents that make up a distribution network for goods and services. Some network marketing systems are based on tiers that denote how many levels deep a sales and distribution network goes. In two-tier or multi-tier examples, the people that make up the top tier of a distribution network are also encouraged to build and manage their own networks of salespeople. Each network creator (or "upline") then earns a commission on their sales revenue, as well as on the sales revenue of the network they have created, otherwise known as "downline." There are many examples of reputable network marketing operations, though some have been criticized of being pyramid schemes and have been banned in some countries as a conduit for consumer fraud.
An issue in determining the legitimacy of a multi-level marketing company is whether it sells its products primarily to consumers or to its members who must recruit new members to buy their products. If it is the former, the company is a legitimate multi-level marketer. If it is the latter, it could be an illegal pyramid scheme. The Federal Trade Commission has been investigating multi-level marketing companies for several decades and has found many that blur the lines between the two. According to industry data, there are 90 million members worldwide, but relatively few earn meaningful income from their efforts. To some observers, that reflects the characteristics of a pyramid scheme.
The end result of the MLM business model is, therefore, one of a company (the MLM company) selling its products/services through a non-salaried workforce ("partners") working for the MLM company on a commission-only basis while the partners simultaneously constitute the overwhelming majority of the very consumers of the MLM company's products/service that they, as participants of the MLM, are selling to each other in the hope of one day themselves being at the top of the pyramid. This creates great profit for the MLM company's actual owners and shareholders.
(Update: In April of 2017 there was an article posted about this company, so as of May 2017 it is unsure if this company has gone under.) First off, to sign up and become an affiliate of the company you might do a double or triple or quadruple take at the startup cost (which is almost 4 figures). However, you do get to truly set up your own business, because you can set the price on all the products you sell. If you have that business talent to make consumers buy the products (which are legit btw) you can certainly make that start-up cost back in no time. This company has also been achieving some high praise by being the recipient of many awards (including a growth award from the Direct Selling Association).
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!