The Direct Selling Association (DSA), a lobbying group for the MLM industry, reported that in 1990 only 25% of DSA members used the MLM business model. By 1999, this had grown to 77.3%. By 2009, 94.2% of DSA members were using MLM, accounting for 99.6% of sellers, and 97.1% of sales. Companies such as Avon, Electrolux, Tupperware, and Kirby were all originally single-level marketing companies, using that traditional and uncontroversial direct selling business model (distinct from MLM) to sell their goods. However, they later introduced multi-level compensation plans, becoming MLMs. The DSA has approximately 200 members while it is estimated there are over 1,000 firms using multi-level marketing in the United States alone.
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.
She soon found that there were major downsides. The company billed itself as something that could be done on a part-time schedule with very little money down, but Cramer was working around-the-clock and racking up costs, including fees to travel to company meetings and buy new inventory. Earning money required bringing on new recruits, and Cramer felt guilty when an unemployed woman fighting bankruptcy was willing to invest her meager savings in getting started, even though Cramer knew the woman didn't have the skills or temperament to succeed. Cramer eventually soured on the experience and quit. "It cost me about $10,000 by the time I got out of it," she says.
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These nonsalaried workers may be stay-at-home parents, college students or part-time workers hoping to make money by selling products such as vitamins and makeup to their friends and family. But experts note that just selling products is typically not enough to make a profit, and workers are encouraged to recruit a "downline," a team of underlings from whose sales they also earn a commission, creating a pyramid-shaped compensation structure.
MLMs are designed to make profit for the owners/shareholders of the company, and a few individual participants at the top levels of the MLM pyramid of participants. According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), some MLM companies already constitute illegal pyramid schemes even by the narrower existing legislation, exploiting members of the organization. There have been calls in various countries to broaden existing anti-pyramid scheme legislation to include MLMs, or to enact specific anti-MLM legislation to make all MLMs illegal in parallel to pyramid schemes, as has already been done in some jurisdictions.
Network marketers may also find a degree in marketing or business administration very useful. A degree program in marketing helps students understand the consumer market and the factors that influence consumer-purchasing decisions. A degree in business administration prepares students to plan and direct the everyday operations of small businesses and large corporations.
I initially spoke to a retired friend who said she joined a health and beauty direct selling company as a means of meeting new people. She had recently remarried and moved to a new location, so she combined the practice of meeting new people with making extra money. After almost a decade in the business, she’s built a small niche business with family and friends despite switching to from one company to another competitor after three years.
This is an incredible easy book to read that is filled with lots of tips and tools that can help you move from a place you may be uncomfortable to a better place. The GoPro tips will help me jump start my business as well as provide the guidance on how to get to that next level. I loved that Eric shared his successes and challenges in a fairly easy to understand and sometimes amusing way. This book is definitely worth reading if you want to become a Network Marketing Professional. My Rodan+Fields business will grow as a direct result of Eric's sage advice.
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 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.
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.
They have the stay-at-home-mother meets women entrepreneur mixture working for them. What does that even mean? Means they have the practicality side of the company that is off the product and they have the sales, entrepreneur people them promoting it, too. Anyone who follows MLM knows its usually too “product practical” (see: Tupperware, Cutco) or too “opportunity-centric” (see: Herbalife).
Good companies find ways to intelligently leverage technology. Thanks to Amazon and Wal-Mart, we’re all spoiled. We want what we want, we want it NOW and we want it delivered for free. Smart network marketing companies are eliminating as many barriers as possible to make it easier for consumers to place and receive orders. They’re finding ways to make it easier for consumers to connect via mobile apps, tell stories via social media tools, provide best-in-class web experiences and leverage as much data as possible to stay ahead of consumer demand. The corporate team also needs to leverage technology to enhance workflows.
Hi Jeremy great article. Here’s my take for what it is worth,after working 50 years for the bank making not so much money,having to accommodate there time schedule ,negotiated vacations and seeing very few people advance to 6 figure incomes,I’m somewhat intrigued by the idea of using my retirement years looking at mlm as a part time endeavour . Obviously I put a lot of blood sweat and tears into my previous job,so I’m not expecting to make my millions in a couple years in mlm, but I like the (do it in your own time) idea. If I find a product I like and would use anyway why not? I also like the idea that the potential is there biased on your own efforts. Am I wrong What do you think?
As far as the retirement saving crisis is concerned, more and more people are coming to terms with the fact that they probably aren’t going to be able to save enough money to just sit around and slowly deplete their nest egg from age 62 to 100. With the average 50 year-old estimated to have less than $50,000 in retirement savings, there is an obvious need to find alternative ways to either save more or generate supplemental income starting now, and continuing throughout retirement. Moving beyond just the dollars and cents, boomers are growing tired of feeling guilty or bad about their past savings habits and are interested in moving towards possible solutions.
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