Now, this one I like. This company doesn’t use your typical Facebook stalking, 3-way calling, auto-shipping tactics. It has leaped into the future, did its homework and decided to succeed with network marketing, finally. The company is an affiliate business opportunity for those who are interested in some first-class digital marketing training; and the icing on the cake is that they have a free trial option.
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.
Consultants make up the vast majority of MLM jobs. However, The Direct Selling Association (DSA) reports that the average annual income for consultants is about $2,400; in addition, roughly 90 percent of all consultants earn less than $5,000 annually. Not exactly the stuff through which marketing careers are made—although it could prove to be valuable entry-level experience.
But if you understand how traditional direct selling used to work before MLMs, you’ll see that they really aren’t in the direct sales biz. If your grandpa sold encyclopedias door-to-door when he was in college, ask him if he was required to buy the encyclopedia sets himself in order to sell them to others. Ask him if he had to personally purchase a certain number of encyclopedias a month or year to keep his job. And then ask him if he was pressured to recruit more salesmen beneath him. The answer to all of those questions will be no. He didn’t make any money recruiting people to be salesmen — he made his money selling encyclopedias to housewives.
An example of a high-profile multi-level marketing company defending its practices is Herbalife Ltd., a manufacturer and distributor of weight-loss and nutritional products with more than 500,000 distributors. Although the FTC had been investigating Herbalife, it was activist investor William Ackman who shed a national spotlight on the company by shorting $1 billion of the company’s stock in 2013. Ackman accused the company of operating a pyramid scheme and backed his allegations with a bet the company’s stock price would fall under the weight of the scam.
The company is currently facing a class action lawsuit regarding the unfair marketing of their Lash Boost eye serum. The $150 product was apparently sold without proper disclaimers for side effects, which could include “change(s) in iris color, eyelid drooping, itchy eyes, eye/lid discoloration, thinning and loss of eyelashes/loss of eyelash hair, eye sensitivity, eye infections, and vision impairment.”
Think back to when you were recruited and consider if it was primarily as a customer, with just a mention of "income opportunity," or if the primary pitch was for the business opportunity. The ethical way to build a downline is to sign up people as customers first, and then if they like the product, they'll be drawn to becoming a rep. A hard sell on signing up as a rep right at the outset should send up a red flag for you.
The process sounds simple and fun but it can get complicated quickly. As the training for Initial Outfitters highlights, each method of payment comes with quirks. For example, a credit card payment is processed by the company and you basically get the commission as a refund. With cash, you keep your commission and pay Initial Outfitters the difference.
This argument suggests that only the people who get in early make money, which isn't true. Many ground-floor members make nothing while many who come in years later make a fortune. The truth is, in good network marketing companies, members can make any amount regardless of where they are in the organization. Income is related to effort, not position.
That same approach to brand development led him to co-create and executive produce his first television show, Rob & Big on MTV. After the success of this first show, he created Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factory showcasing his Do-Or-Dier mentality towards entrepreneurship. Constantly evolving and taking calculated risks, Dyrdek beat world records with his physical feats while continuing his endeavors, launching several new brands while structuring multi-platform integrated partnerships.
As for Trump, his pleas to “trust me” and “believe me” have continued to pay dividends, only now he’s saying, “I alone can fix” whatever stands in the way of American greatness. But even as Trump pursues his biggest scheme yet, one of his old ones will continue to thrive in 2017: The Trump era could ignite a golden age for politically connected multilevel marketing companies—or what critics (and John Oliver) say are often merely disguised pyramid schemes, illegal enterprises in which people primarily earn money by recruiting others instead of by selling products to the public.
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.
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%. By 2009, 94.2% of DSA members were using MLM, accounting for 99.6% of sellers, and 97.1% of sales. Companies such as Avon, Electrolux, Tupperware, 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. The DSA has approximately 200 members while it is estimated there are over 1,000 firms using multi-level marketing in the United States alone.
One of the main issue with people who are against Network Marketing is that there is a potential for abuse by unscrupulous businesses that take advantage of them, pocketing their money and returning very little in the way of dividends to the investor. One of the key areas of abuse with Network Marketing is what is known as the ‘Pyramid Schemes,’ so it would be right at the outset to explain what Network Marketing is and the difference between legitimate Network Marketing companies and Pyramid Schemes.
MLM restructures the traditional business model — manufacturer to retail shop to customer — such that sales agents working for the manufacturer sell directly to customers, bypassing the retail shop altogether. MLM companies can then convert customers into advocates for their products and possibly even sales agents. Because there is no retail store for the products they sell, MLM agents typically work from their homes, interacting with customers in the community or, more often, over the internet.
I know there are a few companies, like Mary Kay and Lia Sophia, who have a generally positive image, but there are many more, often built around some investment scheme, which continue to give this sector a bad image. If you scan the Internet, you will find dozens of negative articles, like "What's Wrong With Multi-Level Marketing?", but very few singing their praises.
I initially spoke to a retired friend who said she joined a health and beauty direct selling company as a means of meeting new people. She had recently remarried and moved to a new location, so she combined the practice of meeting new people with making extra money. After almost a decade in the business, she’s built a small niche business with family and friends despite switching to from one company to another competitor after three years.