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. 

Network Marketing is a business model that relies on a distribution network to build the business. Network Marketing business structures are Multilevel Marketing in nature, as the payouts occur on many different levels. You might hear the terms Person-To-Person Marketing or One-on-One marketing, which are just other ways of describing Network Marketing. Basically, network marketing involves the direct selling of merchandise or services. Some popular Network Marketing businesses you most likely have heard of include; Avon, Mary Kay Cosmetics, Amway and Herbalife Ltd.
This company unbelievably made it on this list…they should not be here.  In reality, they probably should not even be operating a business following the beating they took by the SEC and the FBI in the year 2007.  Still the comeback they made was huge! The evidence is in the income disclosure statement, where it can be seen that $76k yearly was made for full-time, proven representatives.
Another nutritional MLM selling another magical superfruit with a marked up price tag. So what? Their story might not be interesting, but their bottom line is: they’ve expanded to 44 countries and counting after just over a decade in operation. On top of that, they provide extensive sales training and good commission rates to their reps, which is pretty rare nowadays.
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 overwhelming majority of MLM participants (most sources estimated to be over 99.25% of all MLM participants) participate at either an insignificant or nil net profit.[12] Indeed, the largest proportion of participants must operate at a net loss (after expenses are deducted) so that the few individuals in the uppermost level of the MLM pyramid can derive their significant earnings—earnings which are then emphasized by the MLM company to all other participants to encourage their continued participation at a continuing financial loss.[13]
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. 

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. 🙂
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.

Even if you, or your wife, aren’t bothered by the pyramidal structure of multi-level marketing companies, even if you could make a ton of money by working for one, you still shouldn’t do it for this one reason alone: you shouldn’t ever want to commodify the sacrality of your relationships; you shouldn’t trade the genuine bonds of love for the cold economics of exchange.
This article was really informative and honest! I’m not presently involved in an MLM and I don’t ever plan to be especially after reading this article and the comments below. Why? Well because of EXACTLY the kind of “networking” and “recruiting” that these companies and many of the people commenting on here are advocating. I have been bombarded on my facebook, and other social media from people I haven’t spoken to or seen in years. Its becoming constant, and I am not on social media to make money. Roden and Fields, shakeology, some girl I went to high school with is now trying to get me to buy leggins from her. I have a cousin that I actively avoid now because he is constantly steering every single conversation to Herbellife and why I NEED it to be healthy. Jesus. Its just enough already. I’m all for empowering people, and I love the idea of earning an additional income to take care of your family or yourself. But I could not imagine alienating or even just annoying friends and family in order to make an extra dollar. What I dislike most is that many of those that are recruiting make it seem as if they recruiting you simply because they want to “help” you or provide you with an opportunity. They make it seem as if they are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, when really the actual motivation is line their own pockets with more money, because the more people you recruit for your team, the more money you make. That feels dishonest and slimy to me. Unless I’m asking for “help” or an “opportunity” I wish people would assume that I don’t need and am not interested in one!
Much has been made of the personal, or internal, consumption issue in recent years. In fact, the amount of internal consumption in any multi-level compensation business does not determine whether or not the FTC will consider the plan a pyramid scheme. The critical question for the FTC is whether the revenues that primarily support the commissions paid to all participants are generated from purchases of goods and services that are not simply incidental to the purchase of the right to participate in a money-making venture.[46]
In the MLM industry nutrition companies are like the auto industry, most of the companies are the cheap and low quality choices, a few are in the Mercedes category, and only one company in the Rolls Royce category with 7.5 billion in sales, located in 90 countries, 300 scientist and 30 Ph.D’s on staff, number one selling meal replacement shake and protein shake in the world, 90,000 private clubs and centers, Noble Prize winning scientist, research supported by major universities, proven success track record of more then 36 years, and already owns more then 33% of the meal replacement market, used by some of the worlds top athletes, product of choice for Pre-NFL combine, and the weight loss product that used by the Genesis book or world records for most weight loss in the shortest time – 403 pounds in 18 months. Picking the right company only comes down to whether you want the Rolls Royce or something else. 

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.

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.
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.
First, Elliot, thank you for this article. Your sense of truly wanting to help comes through and it’s refreshing. Like MommyFinance, I too have suffered PTSD from previous runs at MLM but I have been looking for legitimate ways of making extra income and seems I’m being directed toward trying MLM again. Your article gave me hope that there are some good ones out there. What you said about finding the one that fits me and leaving a legacy for family really turned on a light for me and I greatly appreciate that. A wine business is not quite up my alley but I will certainly direct those who might be interested your way.
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.
The Direct Selling Association (DSA), a lobbying group for the MLM industry, reported that in 1990 only 25% of DSA members used the MLM business model. By 1999, this had grown to 77.3%.[26] By 2009, 94.2% of DSA members were using MLM, accounting for 99.6% of sellers, and 97.1% of sales.[27] Companies such as Avon, Electrolux, Tupperware,[28] and Kirby were all originally single-level marketing companies, using that traditional and uncontroversial direct selling business model (distinct from MLM) to sell their goods. However, they later introduced multi-level compensation plans, becoming MLMs.[23] The DSA has approximately 200 members[29] while it is estimated there are over 1,000 firms using multi-level marketing in the United States alone.[30]
On the other hand, many people have gotten into Network Marketing and have made a fortune from it. People such as John Haremza, who signed up as a sales rep for a small water filter company, and is now worth millions. Alternatively, Sebastian Greenwood, who made an investment in Onecoin, and put in the hard work and time necessary. He is now considered an ambassador of the company, having made his fortune there, and spends much of his time helping others grow successful. 

Let’s put it this way, the early version of “Scentsy”’ is not as virtually hot or trendy, but they are however staying significant.  If you like to have parities or play host to others, you’re better equipped to handle this business “opportunity” than others, because that’s what this game is all about.  While you throw these parties, you also have to encourage your guests to whip out their cash and credit cards to buy, buy, buy. Buy what? Candles…Luckily, there are better opportunities to make extra cash these days.
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.
Yeah you can kind of tell what this company is all about just from their name. It is one of those currently trending companies with their anti-aging business opportunity, where the company boasts about “selenium” being the minerals of all minerals to help many immune system and thyroid functions.  The company has steady development (with revenue up to $156 million per year, up at a rate of 16%), though they are unable to take over the market.  They are just in a market with too many big named competitors (i.e. Nerium, Jeunesse).
If 18,000,000 Americans consider MLM their careers, yet only 0.3% actually succeed beyond average corporate America wages, do people realize that means there are barely more than 50,000 Americans “living the MLM dream” and almost 17,950,000 who just help the 50,000? Sad. I was part of team Tupperware decades ago because I wanted to buy Tupperware for my home for less. It took me about 14 months as a stay at home mother (never recruited, never pressured, my distributor didn’t like my attitude) to accomplish that task and then walked away. I live in rural America where so many fall to MLMs attempting to climb out of paycheck to paycheck living (very few good jobs) like the saved into a baptismal pool. “Disciples” is the perfect word. MLMs are just not thriving here. How many Americans can one recruit/sell to for building a business in a rural county with less than 20,000 other Americans of which 75% live below the poverty line? I see MLM victims everywhere.
Please note it is my personal policy to identify readers who respond to questions I ask in my newsletters. I find it encourages thoughtful and civil conversation. I want my newsletters to be a safe place to express your opinion. On sensitive matters or upon request, I’m happy to include just your first name and/or last initial. But I prefer not to post anonymous comments (I do make exceptions when I’m asking questions that might reveal sensitive information or cause conflict.)
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. 🙂

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Well think of your grandma, remember her perfume or hand cream…chances are she probably got it from Avon and that’s kind of their reputation.  But don’t misjudge the number of grandmas that bought from Avon.  This company is the one that approached the yearly revenue of Amway with a cool $5.7 billion dollars.  But what goes up must come down…their sales have been declining over the last 5 years, and this company just sold their North American branch after quite a few years in the business.
Well if you didn’t know before, this company is all about body shapers and nutritional products, with a “greens line” in their product line up as well.  The company got some built up heat in 2015, but have later cooled down a bit.  There was minimum quota of $112 that had to be met every month in order to earn commissions from the company and after a while their distributors had a hard time keeping up with these expectations. Not everyone (including their grandmothers) needs more than one or two body shapers. LOL.
The legal distinction between MLMs and traditional pyramid schemes has been characterized by many authorities as a legal fiction. Jurisdictions that retain a legal distinction between MLM pyramid businesses versus illegal pyramid schemes retain said distinction on two key distinguishing features: 1) that MLMs always encompass the sale of actual products/services, while traditional illegal pyramid schemes ordinarily do not (though sometimes they do), and 2) that climbing an MLM pyramid is overwhelmingly statistically improbable (especially to its highest participant levels) but not theoretically impossible, whereas climbing a traditional illegal pyramid scheme is both statistically and theoretically impossible.[citation needed]
What is your vision for 2018? What would success look like? Pick a total Network Marketing income level that you would consider to be success for 2018. Write that number down…and then double it. Many of you are playing too small. You haven’t given yourself permission to go to the level of your capability. So, double your number. And tell the wo ...…
Diets…fad diets, new diets, old diets…it’s an endless story especially in the 2000’s, and this company is one of those companies.  The FDA had a run-in with these guys and they are not in the greatest standings with the BBB either, which seem to be the norm with weight loss pills of the “magical results” variety.   Well the good news for this business is that they’ve managed to keep trending for 5 years (that’s a pretty good streak), and the company reps are earning a colossal 50% in commissions.
Well I have just come across this and am blown away with the amount of health and wellness companies there are. I am a user and 1000% BELIEVER in THRIVE by Le-Vel. Been promoting now for 18 months and will never go a day without it! I did my due diligence and searched on a majority of the companies and I looked for social media presence of the company along with the CEO’S of the companies. I restore older vehicles for a living and I thank Thrive for coming into my life when it did cause it is hard to explain and can only be experienced. Have a wonderful President’s Day everyone! #BoostMyThrive
Multi-level marketing (MLM) is a distribution-based marketing network that includes direct sales and a downline of distributors. These home businesses tend to get a lot of bad press for their similarity to pyramid schemes. In reality, they have one key difference. Where pyramid schemes require people to invest in a false promise of wealth, MLM organizations sell real products or services that their distributors believe in.

I totally agree, Mary. You can lose soooo much more just by opening up a small storefront business. I was in the Spa Industry and then the economy tanked in late 2008. I did not renew my lease in 2009. Lost my several hundred thousand dollar build-out. Lost so much more than taking an MLM business seriously. Even if I would have front loaded on a ton of product, I still would have been better off. People spend $750 and get some business cards then do nothing and blame MLM.


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.
A marketing program will also teach you how to acquire and interpret meaningful data, including how to obtain and analyze marketing lists. By applying the right analytic and statistical tools, you’ll be able to better target an MLM campaign—as well as better target domestic and overseas vendors who can help to service your company’s needs (and your customers’ demands).
Another nutritional MLM selling another magical superfruit with a marked up price tag. So what? Their story might not be interesting, but their bottom line is: they’ve expanded to 44 countries and counting after just over a decade in operation. On top of that, they provide extensive sales training and good commission rates to their reps, which is pretty rare nowadays.
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