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"From a consumer standpoint, this is a gigantic siphoning machine just sucking dollars out of people," says Robert FitzPatrick, co-author of the book "False Profits" and president of Pyramid Scheme Alert, a nonprofit consumer education resource. "The bottom line is: It's a scam. It's a pyramid scam, it's a recruiting scam, and you'll lose your money," he adds.

Representatives for direct selling companies affirm that most participants in their companies aren't making much. "Earnings are typically quite small," says Joe Mariano, president and CEO of the Direct Selling Association. He notes that nearly three-quarters of people involved in direct selling are "discount customers," meaning they're buying the products for themselves – not selling them. For that majority, earnings aren't just small: They're nonexistent.
The key factor that has made network marketing so attractive is that independent business owners not only have the ability to sell products and services to retail customers they are also able to expand their business by setting up others in their own businesses as well. This is commonly known as “sponsoring” in the MLM industry. Sponsoring others allow a business owner to not only profit from what he directly sells, but also allows him to profit from the sales production of those he has sponsored.

But here’s the thing. By recruiting close family members or friends into your downline, you contaminate those relationships with commercialization. You take all that good will you’ve developed with someone over months and years and cash it all in on getting them to be a commission for you. From that moment on, the person won’t be able to tell if your gestures towards intimacy are genuine, or an attempt to get you to buy or distribute product. Perhaps even more sadly, you may lose the ability to tell the difference yourself.
The intelligent companies obsess over ways to get their salespeople profitable FAST. When distributors are profitable, they’re less inclined to quit and less inclined to complain to regulators. Profitability is defined by earning more than you spend. Profitability can be enhanced through customer acquisition models like 3 and free programs, sample products, trainings on how to move inventory, etc. It can also be enhanced by avoiding taxing the distributors with overly expensive (and oftentimes ineffective) training materials.

Network marketing, also known as Multi-Level Marketing, is a legitimate business model whose method of selling is by distributing a company’s products and services through a network of independent distributors. These independent distributors use direct selling and network building to market the products and services to potential customers. They act as a franchise to the company and earn commissions based on the volume of merchandise sold, or equivalent to its point value, as a result of their group dynamics.
People who wonder why network marketing doesn’t work have likely also never joined the best MLM for them at the time or had great upline support and a team around them to get through the often frustrating first few months. Opportunities abound – even publicly traded multi-level marketing companies, who you would think are these huge businesses that give you no attention, have small teams and wonderful leaders to join. It’s just a matter of finding the top teams in the company you’re looking at.
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?
That same approach to brand development led him to co-create and executive produce his first television show, Rob & Big on MTV. After the success of this first show, he created Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory showcasing his Do-Or-Dier mentality towards entrepreneurship. Constantly evolving and taking calculated risks, Dyrdek beat world records with his physical feats while continuing his endeavors, launching several new brands while structuring multi-platform integrated partnerships.
To understand how network marketing works, it may be helpful to think of a business model that most consumers are familiar with, franchising. In a franchise, an owner pays a company for the right to do business using that company’s products, services, and name. The parent company agrees to provide the owner with training, development, advertising and marketing support. While the name on the outside of the building is that of the parent company, the actual location is privately owned by an independent business owner.
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?
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…for our rankings of the best women diet pills are here).
But, there are also companies that are somewhat unusual, which is what this list focuses on. These are companies that sell a different type of product and ones that have their own unique style or angle. Their unusual nature can a major advantage. It means that the products can stand out and you’re not just promoting the same old thing as everyone else. You won't just be “the tupperware lady”. You could be offering real value.
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