Some people may think this is the definition of a pyramid scheme, or believe that Multilevel Marketing (aka MLM) is synonymous with Pyramid Scheme. However, there is a massive distinction between MLM and Pyramid Schemes. You wouldn’t call Mary Kay Cosmetics, or AVON a pyramid scheme, would you? Both of those companies are prime examples of Network Marketing or MLM companies. The distinction comes in how the company compensates its employees or distributors. When a Network Marketing company’s primary compensation is for recruiting rather than selling, then it could very well be considered a pyramid scheme, which actually, is illegal.
Within that, some companies thought that their products would be better off when people with own experience did the referral and possibly trough existing personal relationships by using their social network. That would be Network Marketing. Whether they sell and make money is irrelevant. You do network marketing when you talk about a good movie to friends, only you do not get rewarded, except the random girl who goes to watch the movie with you again based on your enthusiasm :D.
Before launching Omnilife and becoming a billionaire, Jorge Vergara sold street tacos in Mexico, smuggled Herbalife supplements into Mexico, and sweet talked the Mexican government into changing their regulations in the nutritional products sector. This guy could make a movie about his life and it would probably win an Academy Award (he’s actually a major film producer on the side, casual).
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.[21] 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.[citation needed]
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. 🙂
Network marketing isn't about taking advantage of your friends and relatives. Only a few years ago, network marketing meant retailing to, and sponsoring people from, your "warm list" of prospects. Although sharing the products or services and the opportunity with people you know is still the basic foundation of the business, today we see more people using sophisticated marketing techniques such as the Internet, conference calling and other long-distance sponsoring techniques to extend their network across the country.
So you meet your buddy at a burger joint. You reminisce about old times and play catch-up. You’re having a real good time. But then he mentions this nutrition company he’s been selling for lately. He says he’s just getting started, but there’s a lot of income potential. In fact, he knows a guy who has paid off his mortgage working for this company. He thinks you’d be a perfect distributor for it because you lift weights and you’re driven.
If you decide to buy into the program and promote the products, you must be sure your marketing materials are truthful and that there's solid evidence to back up the claims you make about the products. Before you repeat any claims the company has made, verify that there’s competent and reliable research to back them up. That’s the standard the FTC uses when evaluating advertising claims.
Because of the encouraging of recruits to further recruit their competitors, some people have even gone so far as to say at best modern MLMs are nothing more than legalized pyramid schemes[4][19][20] with one stating "Multi-level marketing companies have become an accepted and legally sanctioned form of pyramid scheme in the United States"[19] while another states "Multi-Level Marketing, a form of Pyramid Scheme, is not necessarily fraudulent."[20] In October 2010 it was reported that multilevel marketing companies were being investigated by a number of state attorneys general amid allegations that salespeople were primarily paid for recruiting and that more recent recruits cannot earn anything near what early entrants do.[60] Industry critic Robert L. FitzPatrick has called multi-level marketing "the Main Street bubble" that will eventually burst.[61]
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:

There is some stigma attached to networking marketing, especially with regard to multi-tier and multilevel structures, which attract pyramid schemes. Still, the appeal of network marketing is that an individual with little skill but a lot of energy can create a profitable business for themselves with little monetary investment. A good rule of thumb, according to the Federal Trade Commission, is that single-tier network marketing operations tend to be more reputable, but multi-tier schemes in which people make money based on the number of distributors they recruit — rather than self-generated sales — can be problematic. Some reputable examples of single-tier network marketing operations are Avon, Mary Kay and Excel Communications.
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(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).
The products produced by the California Vitamin Company were in such high demand that founder Carl Rehnborg began recruiting independent distributors to increase the number of salespeople. These independent distributors were instructed to find new distributors in their circles of friends, acquaintances, and customers. The representatives were paid on the sales of the distributors they personally recruited.
But MLMs can get away with this because of the second big difference between a traditional franchise and an MLM “franchise”: In a traditional franchise, the end customer is the consumer, whereas again, the primary way you make money in an MLM is by recruiting other sales people and making commissions off the product they’re required to purchase from the parent company
Unfortunately, many pyramid schemes attempt to present themselves as legitimate MLM businesses and, often, it can take many years for the FTC to finally step in and close down these fraudulent companies… so BEWARE! Do your due diligence and avoid any opportunity that emphasizes recruiting members and getting paid, rather earning commissions for the sale of products and services.

Mentor your recruits effectively. If recruits are successful, you make more money, so you should be prepared to train them well. This may be a substantial time commitment, even up to several weeks. But you should understand that you're building a team and it is in your best interest to spend enough time making sure your recruits are competent enough to go off on their own.[8][9]

I agree with you that much of the industry is flawed, but what about an MLM that has a service rather than a product such as electricity. It’s not like that could go out of style or that once you buy it you don’t need it again or that your monthly supply is too much and you’re going to stop the monthly subscriptions. I can honestly say that I cannot stand most MLM companies because regardless what you believe or how much you like the product, if you have to try to convince someone else to use it then inevitably the system is flawed and eventually your residuals will dry up. Electricity though, that’s different in my opinion, no one has to convince me to use it, it just comes by default. Find me an MLM that is not selling so much as showing someone an alternative to what they already have to pay and I’d be interested.

When you’re asking people to volunteer their time to sell a product or service, the experience needs to be fun. As adults, we all feel tremendous pressure in multiple areas of our lives. If a network marketing company starts to feel stale, unappreciative and a little corporate-y, consumers will invest their energies somewhere else. As Millennials hit the scene, it’s important to understand that they’re placing less emphasis on financial metrics. Companies need to always maintain a sense of humor and constantly show appreciation for their sales force. When a company starts leading with an iron fist and sends out warnings to fence in a sales force, it almost always backfires. People need to have fun with the brand and fun sharing the brand with others. If it’s painful, forget about it.


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.

But the FTC’s newfound toughness may come to naught in the Trump era. There’s little hope, according to both critics and cheerleaders of the MLM industry, that the Trump administration will assume such a strict posture toward Herbalife’s peers. “The more likely scenario is that they just won’t bring a pyramid scheme case,” said Bonnie Patten, executive director of Truth in Advertising, a consumer advocacy group that helped the FTC in its prosecution of Vemma, a nutritional-product MLM that the FTC alleged was a pyramid scheme in August 2015. The case was settled in December on terms similar to the Herbalife one. (Neither Vemma nor Herbalife admitted guilt in their settlements.)
If you want to learn about the wonderful (and massive) world of internet marketing from the pros, Digital Altitude is where it’s at. Their products might cost up to $10k+, but you’re getting access to a toolbox of pure gold. Then there’s their commission rate…up to 60%. Just take a second to think about what a 60% commission rate on a $10k+ product looks like. Not bad, huh?

Next comes Trump’s special adviser on federal regulations, investor Carl Icahn, who has an estimated net worth of $17 billion. Icahn is something of an accidental beneficiary of MLM wealth, having invested in Herbalife to get back at his nemesis, fellow shareholder activist Bill Ackman, after Ackman launched a public short on Herbalife in 2012 and called it a pyramid scheme. Icahn has ended up virtually running Herbalife, owning 24 percent of its shares and holding five board seats. But despite Icahn’s clout, Ackman’s lobbying effort to bring down Herbalife led to the FTC crackdown, which could pummel Herbalife’s earnings. (The company has other problems, as it recently disclosed that it is subject to an anti-corruption probe by both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice over its burgeoning China business.)


Multilevel marketing (MLM) is an attractive business proposition to many people. It offers the opportunity to become involved in a system for distributing products to consumers. Unlike the person starting a business from scratch, the MLM participant has the support of a direct selling company that supplies the products and sometimes offers training as well.

For full disclosure, I want to point out that I am not affiliated with any multi-level marketing or direct sales companies, and that I don’t receive any compensation from the industry for my opinion on it.  I’m sharing this with you because after I wrote what is considered the most widely read, copied, and quoted MLM article in the history of the industry, I was accused of writing it to promote my own MLM business or the industry in general, which is not the case.
The formula of future business growth is based on the idea that people don't just want to retire in a traditional format. They crave knowledge and want to feel relevant.  They want to improve their own transition and feel compelled to help others avoid the pain and pitfalls they have experienced.  They desire a supportive community where their opinion counts and they can openly ask personal, business or other questions.  They’re interested in hearing and exploring new ideas and need ways to make new connections through face-to-face interactions.
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“We decided to take a cash-out refi to pay off unsecured debt,” wrote Kimberly Rotter from San Diego, a personal finance writer and frequent commenter. “The debt was incurred for emergency maintenance on our property, including several months of lost income for my husband while he did the work. Our home was 100 percent paid off so this was a very hard decision for us. However, our alternative was to do the zero percent shuffle on multiple credit cards to handle $85,000 in debt, which I know from past experience is difficult (although possible) at that level. We got a loan against the house for 5 percent and have a very strong and committed 36-month payoff plan. The pain of this choice will hopefully keep us on track. I am optimistic that we will meet our payoff goal.”
Over 30 years ago, Jeff Roberti was a broke waiter looking for a chance to prove himself. Through hard work and determination, Jeff built his business into a success story that is now legendary - not only within his company, but also in the Network Marketing Profession. Though his accomplishments are impressive, his focus is one of gratitude an ...…
Meet Margie Aliprandi Author, international speaker, trainer, and icon in the Network Marketing Profession, Margie Aliprandi was a music teacher and struggling single mom when she began her Network Marketing career. She achieved a five-figure monthly income within a year, became a million-dollar earner within three years, and is in the top 1% o ...…
When pitching people face-to-face doesn’t work, you go online and start posting about the MLM all the time. You follow the formula recommended by the company: one post about the brand, then one about your family, then one about your lifestyle, then one about the brand again. But you notice that no one comments or likes your posts. Your follower count on Instagram has gone down. Finally, a friend DMs you and lets you know that a lot of people have blocked you on Facebook.
Not everyone can be a salesperson, but anybody can plug into a system and tools that do the selling and sorting for you. This can be as simple as scripts or email campaigns or as full-blown as an entire marketing funnel. The important thing is that you're given a marketing system that is already proven to work and not required to trial-and-error on your own.
If you want the efforts you put in today to pay off far into the future, choose a company that has proven it intends to be around for the long term. Approximately 90 percent of all network marketing companies fail within their first two years. You don't want to invest your precious time and resources—not to mention your future—in something that may not be in business next month.
With network marketing, there are no big capital requirements, no geographical limitations, no minimum quotas required and no special education or skills needed. Network marketing is a low-overhead, homebased business that can actually offer many of the tax advantages associated with owning your own business. Network marketing is a people-to-people business that can significantly expand your circle of friends. It's a business that enables you to travel and have fun as well as enjoy the lifestyle that extra income can provide.
Brendon Burchard is the world’s leading high performance coach, a three-time New York Times bestselling author, and is in the Top 100 Most Followed Public Figures on Facebook – with more than 10 million fans across his pages. His personal development videos have been viewed more than 100 million times and Success Magazine named him “one of the Top 25 Most Influential Leaders in Personal Growth and Achievement.”
Even while the popular culture’s view of MLMs is shifting, FitzPatrick doesn’t think we’re yet at a tipping point where consumers reject them en masse. Trump’s election may help explain why. After the election, FitzPatrick says he sent out a newsletter to the many victims of pyramid schemes who’ve come to him for help, explaining the connections with Trump.

Great listing and especially the honest look at what being in an MLM means. Direct sales is a hard business, especially if you’re not passionately using the product daily. You see too many people who join thinking it will be a get rich quick scheme and don’t actually care about the product or their customers. Genuine lasts and is successful, companies like Avon and Mary Kay have been around for generations because people love their products.
Dating back all the way since the late 1920s and early 1930s, the multi-level marketing business model has been used in a variety of versatile ways and methods as a means to distribute, operate and market. And now, fast forward to the current state of network marketing in 2016 – and most might feel it is slightly tainted, diluted and saturated – or all together a downright global pyramid ponzi scheme no matter what product or service is being offered.
Legendary Los Angeles Lakers player, coach, and current president of basketball operations, Earvin "Magic" Johnson is the proud owner of 10 NBA championship rings, is a two-time inductee into the Basketball Hall of Fame, a member of the 1992 United States Men's Olympic gold medal basketball "Dream Team," and in 1996 was named one of the 50 Grea ...…

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.
Younique is a network marketing company that offers a reseller program for marketers who are willing to help distribute its rich blend of cosmetics products. The cosmetics company is known for its budget-friendly products which appeal to the female folk. One of Younique’s marketers’ strategies is the organisation of house parties where women are then introduced to various products of the company; that strategy really works, by the way.
These brothers from Israel changed the minds of the entrepreneurs behind the company, Seacret Direct, when they managed to take the typical start up business from the kiosk (you know those booths in the mall) to the beyond and turned it into a global direct selling company worth millions of dollars.  These skincare product companies are pretty boring these days, but the company’s dead sea products originate with a 5,000-year-old history and a huge fan following.

It all sounds good on paper, yet there is a seemingly endless debate over whether these companies and programs are legitimate business opportunities or not, so I dug in and got the real scoop.  As a result, I believe that the entire industry is poised for explosive growth and can be one of the most significant solutions to America’s current retirement savings crisis.
I am considering joining a MLM but can’t decide. Almost everyone I know either does Genesis Pure, Xyngular, or Thrive. I want something that is healthy and simple. Not something you have to do 3-5 items to have great health results. Please help! There are so many choices. I have researched and read reviews, about the companies and they each have pros and cons. Suggestions please Elliot and thanks again for your time and assistance.
In 1959, two employees of Nutrilite, Rick de Vos and Jan van Andel, founded their own company: Amway. Amway was created using the MLM organizational structure and paved the way for MLM companies to be established in other countries like Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, Germany, and France. Amway allowed for companies like Panasonic, Palmolive, and MasterCard to include network marketing in their omnichannel marketing strategies. Amway's success has even led them sponsor an NBA arena, the Orlando Magic's Amway Center (and the older Amway Arena), since 1989.
That brings up another difference between traditional franchises and MLMs: When you own a traditional franchise, you’re not pressured to recruit other people to become fellow franchisees. In fact, if you did that, it could ruin your chances at economic success because you’d be competing with multiple business owners for the same customers. Also, that would be an illegal franchise pyramid scheme.
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.
Lauded as the #1 leadership expert in the world by Inc. Magazine, John C. Maxwell is a speaker, coach, and New York Times Bestselling Author. He has written more than 80 books - including the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and the 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader - that have sold more than 26 million copies and have been translated int ...…
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.
Other than that, great info, but I’d have to respectfully disagree with the logic behind not being a part of an MLM. It’s one business model. And whether you want to make it your full time job or just dabble, so long as you find a product and company you love, it can be a great way to diversify your income streams. $5000 a year (or $5) is more than most people make on their 401K, savings or any other conventional ways of investing. It’s an investment, and for those that chose to continue through the plateau, it results in residual income. Don’t like sales? Some of the companies are moving away from the door to door type sales models and putting a lot more emphasis on team building and adding value. And many companies are also discouraging distributors from spamming on social media- again- it comes down to the individual and their own business acumen. We can spend our lives blaming they systems or we can just own ourselves and be grateful for whatever we’ve learned from, and created out of each opportunity presented to us. It’s the choice of the individual at the end of the day but one thing I can say with certainty is that someone who blames MLM for their lack of success is lacking responsibility for themselves in other areas of their life too.
Now we’re getting into the real heavyweights. Tecademics is one of the most extensive digital marketing training programs out there, within and outside of MLM. Founder Chris Record started Tecademics after completely crushing it at Empower Network. Their training comes at a steep price tag, although it’s nothing compared to the price of a university degree.
MLM and direct selling programs also offer very low barriers into entrepreneurship, often providing training, support, and ample encouragement along the way.  As retirees begin to realize they need activities that keep them busy, relevant, in good health, and connected to others, the time, energy and cost to participate in these kinds of companies make them very appealing to large segments of the population caught up in these dynamics.
For more than 40 years, Jim Rohn helped people around the world sculpt life strategies that expanded their imagination of what is possible.  Those who had the privilege of hearing him speak can attest to the elegance and common sense of his material, which is why he is still widely regarded as one of the most influential thinkers of our time and thought of by many as a national treasure.
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.

The Federal Trade Commission warns "Not all multilevel marketing plans are legitimate. Some are pyramid schemes. It's best not to get involved in plans where the money you make is based primarily on the number of distributors you recruit and your sales to them, rather than on your sales to people outside the plan who intend to use the products."[21]
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.
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.
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When you buy a franchise for, say, Jamba Juice, you’re buying the right to be the only franchisee in a certain geographic area. They don’t sell twenty franchises to twenty different business owners in the same city. That would result in Jamba Juices on every street corner owned by twenty different people all competing to sell the same product, which would cannibalize the profits of all the franchisees. No one in their right mind would buy a franchise in a company that ignored basic economic principle of supply and demand.
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.
* 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 dozes 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.

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