Pyramid schemes come in all forms. A really simple example are those chain letter things where you’d get a letter with seven names and addresses. You were supposed to send $1 to the names on the list. After you did that you were supposed to add your own name to the bottom of the list and send the letter off to at least 7 people. Supposedly you could make tens of thousands of dollars in just a few weeks doing this.

At the corporate level, MLM professionals develop an easily communicated mission and image, and create resources that facilitate that communication. The key to knowing how to communicate this message to customers is knowing and understanding them. Therefore, effective MLM begins with data, and builds upon that data throughout a campaign. With the sales and customer information generated at each presentation, companies can better discern what products to acquire and/or develop, how to best portray them to their audience, and how to tailor their message to different market segments.


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]
Go Pro Recruiting Mastery – the world’s #1 generic training event for the Network Marketing Profession.  Join us December 4-6 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.  You will hear from top thought leaders including Magic Johnson, John Maxwell, and dozens of Million-Dollar Earners.  It’s an extraordinary event that you and your team can't afford to miss.
Businessman, master networker, and one of the top five speakers in the world, Harvey Mackay is the author of the #1 New York Times bestsellers Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive and Beware the Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt – both of which are among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time according to the New York Times.

These are only a couple of examples of people who went from struggling with their finances to being financially secure, and continuing to make a fortune. There are hundreds of more examples of people who have literally gone from rags to riches through Network Marketing. However, it should be emphasized that these people did not just sit back and collect money, they had to put in the hard work and dedication necessary to grow their network of sales, as well as doing the work required to get the word out and represent their companies.
I see Melaleuca on here. I see that as both good and bad. They are an awesome company with a great compensation plan. However, they are not an MLM. They are not even listed with the federal agency that oversees those companies. They are a Consumer Direct Marketing company. How does that differ? While I am required to purchase a certain amount each month, that’s all I need to purchase. It’s all products I use in my own home for myself. I don’t have a monthly quota to meet. I don’t have to buy product and sell it to people. The idea is that the product goes to the consumer only. In fact, it’s against company policy to buy product and sell it to others. The only comparison I see are the “levels” of customerS in my group. Can you shed any light on why you think they are an MLM? Thanks, so much!
Multi-level marketing is a legitimate business strategy, though it is controversial. One problem is pyramid schemes, which use money from new recruits to pay the people at the top, often take advantage of people by pretending to be engaged in legitimate multi-level marketing. You can spot pyramid schemes by their greater focus on recruitment than on product sales.
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]
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Another growing reality that could benefit MLM and related businesses is the increasing number of baby boomers who are disenchanted with their current careers.  They’re worn-out from years of the corporate grind and don’t feel the connection between their job and the people it impacts outside their office walls or company grounds.  They’re shifting their focus from accumulating a giant nest egg to a desire to be part of something bigger and better… to have a positive effect on others... and working in retirement.  Facets of life that can be fulfilled with specific types of products and service available through some MLM or Direct selling opportunities.
MLMs have been made illegal in some jurisdictions as a mere variation of the traditional pyramid scheme, including in mainland China.[10][11] In jurisdictions where MLMs have not been made illegal, many illegal pyramid schemes attempt to present themselves as MLM businesses.[7] Given that the overwhelming majority of MLM participants cannot realistically make a net profit, let alone a significant net profit, but instead overwhelmingly operate at net losses, some sources have defined all MLMs as a type of pyramid scheme, even if they have not been made illegal like traditional pyramid schemes through legislative statutes.[4][19][20]
“Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes has been a supporter of the direct selling industry for many years,” the organizers of the Direct Selling Edge Conference said in promoting his speech. “As a former business owner himself, Reyes applauds those who desire to manage their own businesses on their own terms,” which is the kind of “be your own boss” come-on MLMs make to prospective members.
* Go Pro Recruiting Mastery – the world’s #1 generic training event for the Network Marketing Profession. Join us December 4-6, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. You will hear from top international thought leaders including Magic Johnson, John Maxwell, and dozens of Million-Dollar Earners. It’s an extraordinary event that you and your team can’t afford to miss. To learn more, go to GoProRecruiting.com. 

The reality is there’s nothing special about the stuff MLM companies sell. You can find whey protein and meal replacement shakes at your local CVS or online. You can buy essential oils at Whole Foods and Amazon. Your wife can buy quality make-up and skincare products at Ulta, Walgreens, or online. You can get pretty much anything an MLM sells and often for much cheaper, even when your MLM distributor discount is factored in (see the next section). There’s nothing significantly different about MLM products besides the marketing and branding.
Looking compliant is easy. Building a CULTURE around compliance is hard. Building a culture requires doing more than paying lip service to compliance. It requires full buy-in at the corporate level to teach and enforce the important policies. It requires field leaders committed to responsible growth, and corporate leaders that avoid saying things like “the lawyers make us do this.” And finally, it requires constant investment.
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.

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. 🙂
Establishing—and regularly updating—the company brand is critical to the success of the campaign. Multi-level marketers will identify the company’s primary goods and services, and then research the target market whose needs they’re meeting. Marketers and creative alike will make certain that the “personality” of the brand resonates with the general personality of the target customer; likewise, messaging will be regularly adjusted to reflect customers’ changing and growing interests.
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.
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For years, I've put out an open challenge to the world - if you feel like you can show a better entrepreneurial opportunity for the average person than Network Marketing, step up and let's have a debate. And for years, no one has answered my call because they can't win. In this podcast, I have the unprecedented opportunity to be interviewed by ...…

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comes down to leadership and the individual. I even changed teams to find the right mentor and coaching when I knew I was struggling. I found a team that trains people to be some network marketing professionals, and really the math is simple and anyone can make residual income if they do it correctly. The problem is people sign everyone up they can and then most drop out. You only want to work with those that are committed to do the work and be able to work closely with them until they are a developed leader. In all actuality ssigning everyone up as an associate is against the rules and a big no no. Having customers benefits everyone and in most business models like the one I’m with I make more commission off customers than associates that aren’t working.
If you hear someone talk about a business model using one of the above terms, there’s a good chance it’s a multi-level marketing business. But understand this: just because a business uses one of the above terms, DOES NOT automatically mean it’s an MLM. As we’ll see later on, a business that uses direct sales to get products or services to the consumer might not be an MLM.
At the corporate level, MLM professionals develop an easily communicated mission and image, and create resources that facilitate that communication. The key to knowing how to communicate this message to customers is knowing and understanding them. Therefore, effective MLM begins with data, and builds upon that data throughout a campaign. With the sales and customer information generated at each presentation, companies can better discern what products to acquire and/or develop, how to best portray them to their audience, and how to tailor their message to different market segments.
This argument suggests that only the people who get in early make money, which isn't true. Many ground-floor members make nothing while many who come in years later make a fortune. The truth is, in good network marketing companies, members can make any amount regardless of where they are in the organization. Income is related to effort, not position. 
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