"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.
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)
(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).
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:
In most cases, you can sign up to become a Network Marketing Distributor online, by making an initial investment and completing an ‘Independent Distributor Agreement.’ When you do sign up with a Network Marketing company, you are not considered an employee, usually, but seen as a representative, a dealer or a consultant (depending on the type of company you are representing). You may even consider yourself as a business owner.
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When someone gets pitched to join an MLM, the recruiting distributor will do what’s called “selling the dream.” They’ll emphasize all the money you can make working as a distributor. They’ll share video testimonials of a distributor talking about how they paid off their loans and bought a nice car and take their families on nice vacations every year. (Watch this soaring, inspirational video, and notice how you’ll have to keep reminding yourself: this is a pitch for an essentials oils MLM.) The pitchman will have charts that show the earning potential once you recruit a certain amount of people. And best of all, they’ll tell you that this beaucoup income is passive. Yeah, you’ll have to work a lot in the beginning, but you’ll eventually reach a point when money just appears in your bank account magically without you having to do anything.
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Odds are, somebody in your life works or has worked for a multi-level marking company, called MLM companies for short. If you’ve ever had a friend on social media invite you to join their sales team or attend an online shopping party, it probably had connections to an MLM company. Some people think of MLM companies as some opportunistic scam, but that actually couldn’t be further from the truth. Learning a little bit about how these companies can help you understand why they provide a wealth of opportunity for income and professional growth. In fact, you’re probably very familiar with many of the best MLM companies in the business without even knowing it.
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.
Shaklee earned $515 million in revenue in 2013 and has a network of 1.25 million representatives around the world. It’s been around since 1956 and sells products in 8 countries around the world. Shaklee heavily advertises its daily regimen packages, including the popular Foundations Regimen, Healthy Solutions Regimen, and Smart Heart Blood Pressure Regimen, all of which include multiple Shaklee products.