Network Marketing distributes goods and services through distributors, which may include hundreds, thousands and even hundreds of thousands of distributions networks. Distributors may buy products from the company for pennies on the dollar, and then sell the products, or they may simply sell the goods and/or services for the company and receive a commission on the sales.
Then we get to compensation plans behind DS and NM. That would be SLM or MLM as in Single Level Marketing or Multi Level Marketing. In this sense, the expression Marketing is not ideal, it should be Multi Level Sales…in most cases. Depending on your activity, you can either be a selling person, or a referring person where the company, website, Fedex does the sales, payment and delivery. There are many forms of the compensation plan, about 1 for every company with a few overlaps. Some of them are by law illegal, most of them are just messed up from the beginning. Success ratio is about 1:200 for a network marketing company to become great and lasting.
(May 2017 update: did this go under?) The sign up cost will make you do a triple take (almost four figures), but you get to set your own retail price on every product you sell. If you’ve got the skills to make people cough up the cash for their products (which, btw, are pretty legit), you could definitely make that money back. They’ve also been winning plenty of awards (even a growth award from the Direct Selling Association themselves).
Consultants make up the vast majority of MLM jobs. However, The Direct Selling Association (DSA) reports that the average annual income for consultants is about $2,400; in addition, roughly 90 percent of all consultants earn less than $5,000 annually. Not exactly the stuff through which marketing careers are made—although it could prove to be valuable entry-level experience.
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. 

Although there are no specific educational requirements for direct sellers, individuals interested in network marketing may find it beneficial to take advantage of one of the selling and sales management degree programs available in the United States. Some general course topics include professional selling, marketing, prospecting, sales motivation, consumer behavior, customer relations, and sales management.
I’ve written ad nauseum about the idea of offering special, confidential deals with “elite” networkers. Confidential deals occur when a company provides extra incentives to lure experienced networkers from another company. The incentives take many forms, but usually involve up-front money, preferred placement in the genealogy, enhanced earning potential in the pay plan, etc. If you look historically at the companies that have been aggressive with deals, theres always a massive POP followed by a massive DROP. Who gets hurt? The average distributors that signed up under the pretenses of joining the “next hot thing.”
But, some of the companies here are much better than others in my opinion. There are two different ones that are worth considering. The first is Thirty-One Gifts. This storage company has appealing products that do sell to the right audience. In fact, many customers go back for extra products time and time again. The commission plan isn’t amazing but it’s decent enough and has no serious issues.
* Why 10 years? Because that amount of time really seems to matter. For example, according to research, since 1956 thousands of different MLM, Multi Level, or Network Marketing companies have opened their doors; and to date only +/- 50 MLM companies have found a way to celebrate their 10th anniversary and still remain in business today. Now, to be completely fair, we should also point out that each and every company on our list was at one time a start-up company too.
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.
Consultants involved in multi-level marketing usually sell products directly to consumers through relationships and word of mouth. Nearly 9 out of every 10 consultants are part-time, and work out of the home as distributors of a given line of products. Many multi-level companies also employ a “party plan” strategy, where consultants (and possibly also the consultant’s “upline”) invite friends and other interested customers in the area to a party at the consultant’s home (or other available location). Many products are demonstrated, everyone has a good time, and by the end of the party the consultant has hopefully made several sales—and possibly even recruited a new consultant (who in turn become that salesperson’s downline).
You've probably heard horror stories about people ending up with a garage full of expensive water filters or other items. This happens because only other distributors will purchase the product at that price. Your product or service must fill a real need at a fair price, and there should be a large untapped market for it. In other words, it must provide tremendous value so that the customer is the biggest winner.
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.
Consultants involved in multi-level marketing usually sell products directly to consumers through relationships and word of mouth. Nearly 9 out of every 10 consultants are part-time, and work out of the home as distributors of a given line of products. Many multi-level companies also employ a “party plan” strategy, where consultants (and possibly also the consultant’s “upline”) invite friends and other interested customers in the area to a party at the consultant’s home (or other available location). Many products are demonstrated, everyone has a good time, and by the end of the party the consultant has hopefully made several sales—and possibly even recruited a new consultant (who in turn become that salesperson’s downline).

Amway’s outsize political influence goes back to 1979, when the FTC lost its pyramid case against Amway. After four years of litigation, an administrative law judge found that Amway did not run an “illegal” pyramid scheme because it had safeguards to protect against the reliance on recruitment. These included requiring its distributors to sell 70 percent of their inventory each month and to sell to at least 10 different customers per month.
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.
If they are, the company is strong, and the product or service is a winner, then you will succeed. You will have to put the effort in to learn the systems and processes that make it work, but there's a big difference between a sponsor and a recruiter. A sponsor coaches, motivates, and trains while a recruiter simply signs people up and, in most cases, abandons them once their commission is collected.
If you insist on trying one of these MLM offers, the least you can do is look for proper business registration with BBB, toll free number, and proper address (no Post Office box). Also, you will need lots of family and friends to make it work. As a final step, check the MLM materials for one or more of these "red flags" that are associated with the worst of the offerings:
It seems to me that in your assessment of the top 25 MLM that you had a preference for one essential oil company (Young Living) over the other (doTERRA) which outranked YL. You give a glowing review of YL and state that they “set the standard” & are a “solid pick”. While you seem to question why people could possibly like doTERRA with comments like “Users swear by the oils, and for whatever reason, people (and not just people in Utah) are strangely passionate about telling their friends about them.” For “whatever reason”??? “Strangely passionate”??? You come across as bias. You also incorrectly state that YL set the standard for quality, while they may have been the first legit EO Co. they didn’t set the standard. Infact their lack of wanting to find the purest most potent EO available (which comes from the country the plants are indigenous to) and having strict testing to ensure the purity and potency is why doTERRA was founded, doTERRA set the standard because YL didn’t want to. And that is why doTERRA is the #1 EO company and why Young Living is not. Not to mention how well doTERRA takes care of the suppliers through Co-Impacting and how they’re improving their lives through The Healing Hands Foundation. The foundation builds wells, schools, provides personal care products as well as many other things. doTERRA is changing lives for the better all around the world so that is one of the “reasons” we’re “strangely passionate” about spreading the good news of doTERRA essential oils. Not only are doTERRA EO more potent and purer making the the “solid pick” they are literally saving peoples lives.
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!
If you insist on trying one of these MLM offers, the least you can do is look for proper business registration with BBB, toll free number, and proper address (no Post Office box). Also, you will need lots of family and friends to make it work. As a final step, check the MLM materials for one or more of these "red flags" that are associated with the worst of the offerings:

MLM Company Service

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