What makes this business model a highly popular choice by many is that it offers a virtually limitless potential that cannot be seen in any other traditional business. Independent distributors enjoy numerous benefits by operating their own “franchise.” Not only do they get to retail the products and services to consumers, they also get to expand their businesses by encouraging others to do the same.
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?
This might not look great on a resume. If you think working for an MLM company is a way to build your resume or patch a hole in your work experience, think twice about that idea, experts say. Does direct selling look good on a resume? "Probably not," Mariano says. "And the reason I say that is the reputation of direct selling in the marketplace is not typically that great."
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.
During the Obama administration, the Federal Trade Commission made its biggest-ever effort to curb this industry when last summer it slapped nutritional supplement–seller Herbalife with a $200 million fine and, as part of a settlement with Herbalife, demanded it restructure its business so that it would “start operating legitimately,” as FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez put it. The FTC alleged Herbalife had engaged in “unfair and deceptive practices,” and put it under a federal monitor for seven years, demanding onerous changes to its compensation plan and requiring extensive documentation of customer sales. Ramirez then set down an ambitious posture for the FTC: In the future, she said at an MLM industry conference in October, these companies should adopt the new Herbalife rules when structuring their businesses, as the FTC would be watching.
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.
Pyramids are illegal and are based on taking advantage of people. For a person to actually make money in a pyramid scheme, someone else has to lose money. But in network marketing, each person can multiply his or her efforts, skills and talents by helping others be successful. Network marketing has proved itself as part of the new economy and a preferred way to do business here and around the world.
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.
In recent years, the heavily publicized Herbalife battle has shined much-needed light on MLMs. Last year’s scathing John Oliver segment on them has received almost 10 million views, 2 million of them in Spanish. (Immigrant, often undocumented, Latinos trying to make it in the U.S. have become a major target group.) A documentary on Ackman’s Herbalife battle, Betting on Zero, hits theaters March 10 and will be available on demand April 7.
This “outlier” experience helped him to develop and grow both his own brands and increase the value of his brand partners as he was quickly becoming an influential professional skateboarder. By leveraging his influence and designing new concepts and ideas, he helped turn a rising footwear and apparel brand into a $500 million international company. He used that same expertise to build skate brands later in his career launching the world's first true professional skateboarding league Street League Skateboarding and a first of its kind skateboarding channel, ETN.
Some multilevel marketing companies sell protein powders to high performance athletes. Others sell multivitamin supplements to pregnant mothers. And some sell memory-boosting supplements to elderly people. The world of health and nutrition companies is vast, and there are all sorts of new niches to explore. New MLMs are springing up every year trying to best the next USANA.
Multi-level marketing (MLM) is known by a variety of names: network marketing, referral marketing—and more pejoratively (and/or when done unethically), pyramid marketing. In this structure, marketing and sales reps not only receive compensation for their own sales, but also receive a percentage of the sales generated by other salespeople they recruit (commonly known as one’s “downline”). (See also Referral Marketing)
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