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)
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]
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.
If you hear someone talk about a business model using one of the above terms, there’s a good chance it’s a multi-level marketing business. But understand this: just because a business uses one of the above terms, DOES NOT automatically mean it’s an MLM. As we’ll see later on, a business that uses direct sales to get products or services to the consumer might not be an MLM.

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A 2018 poll of 1,049 MLM sellers across various companies found that most sellers make less than the equivalent of 70 cents an hour. Nearly 20 percent of those polled never made a sale, and nearly 60 percent earned less than $500 in sales over the past five years.[42][43] Nearly 32 percent of those polled acquired credit card debt to finance their MLM involvement.[44]
You are right in that most MLM have monthly dues and have high entry fees to be distributors or consultants. You are also right in that most MLM companies focus on recruitment and not product sales. I’ve been working with Arbonne now for quite a while and none of those comments apply to this company, which is why I believe they have survived and are only growing at this point, despite some people’s opinion that they will soon be relics like Mary Kay. To become a consultant is a mere $75 dollars, the kit is involved with all free samples and material. Product loading is prohibited. Each event we host regularly ends with most if not all attendees becoming a preferred client for $20 joining fee for the first year and a $15 renewal every year with no monthly expectation and a guaranteed minimum of 20% off of all stock at all times and 40% off of all packages at all times. Not only that consultants can will their business down 6 generations, and the Mercedes incentive is for a purchase, not a lease. We do look to grow our network, but we emphasize this takes hard work and is not a get rich quick scheme. While you hit the nail on the head with most MLM businesses, there are MLM businesses like Arbonne who are a cut above the rest and who are in the habit of not putting pressure on anyone attending to either purchase or join as a consultant. We only want the best in our network and we have thousands of examples of very successful men and woman to show for it. Great article!!!
Network marketing is considered by many to be a form of direct selling (the person-to-person sale of goods or services). It utilizes a few different strategies to generate commission payments, such as recruiting, lead generation and management. Network marketing may be referred to by a variety of names, including "multilevel marketing," "cellular marketing," "affiliate marketing," "consumer direct marketing (CDM)," "referral marketing," "pyramid selling," or  "home-based business franchising."

Thanks for this list. Loved seeing Monat as #1! I am a Market Partner for this company and the money is crazy good because the products are awesome. I was disappointed to see Plexus at #28 and I wasn’t impressed by what you had to say about them. Plexus is NOT a weight loss company. Their products promote a healthy gut and they are clinically proven to decrease inflammation and balance blood sugar. Weight loss is a natural side effect of body balance. The products work and there are a lot of people I know personally making good money with Plexus.


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Earning more than $2 million in Network Marketing commissions a year, and more than $15 million in total over the past 13 ye­­­ars, Calvin Becerra started his Network Marketing career at the age of 24. Previously in the mortgage banking industry, Calvin embraced Network Marketing and, in his first 8 months, became the youngest millionaire in his company. Since then, he has built a massive organization of hundreds of thousands of people that is represented in more than 90 countries worldwide and includes 10 people earning more than $1 million in commissions a year.

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.
Almost any product or service could be sold through multilevel marketing, including health, beauty, and fitness products that aren't available on store shelves. Apply a healthy dose of skepticism before buying or selling products advertised as having "miracle" ingredients or guaranteed results. Many of these "quick cures" are unproven, fraudulently marketed, and useless. In fact, they could be dangerous. You may want to check with a health professional before using them — or selling them.

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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.
Legal network marketing programs offer quality products or services that are sold to consumers. Recruiting new members allows for increased income based on the volume of sales, with team sales volume, not the number of recruits, being the important factor in calculating income. Other laws legitimate network marketing companies adhere to include publishing average income statistics, no inventory requirements, and refund options.
I just started selling for one of the top 15 and I went in knowing that this was just supplemental cash and nothing that would support my family. I spend 15 minutes (mostly from my phone) a day on my business and am happy with what I’ve done thus far. If it covers groceries and some extras like clothes or shoes, I’m good. If I start to become even more successful, great. It’s my competitive nature to want to out rank others, so I find it to be more of a personal challenge than thinking I’m going to get rich and stay rich. I appreciate the article and the no BS attitude.
The Isreali immigrant brothers turned entrepreneurs behind Seacret Direct managed to take a cliche mall kiosk (you know, the ones that bother the crap out of you while you’re trying to shop) and turn it into a multi-million dollar global direct selling ccompany. Skincare products are pretty yawn-worthy nowadays, but Seacret’s dead sea products come with a 5,000 year history and a lot of fanfare.

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Woman Selling Direct

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