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)
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.
It's true that not everyone succeeds in network marketing. The 2-10% of network marketers earning big money are the same 2-10% who work consistently in their businesses. But getting rich shouldn't be how network marketing is judged. If getting rich is the measure of success, then many other homes and small business owners, and the majority of employees in traditional jobs are big failures. Instead, network marketing should be measured by the number of people who reach their goals. Many people in network marketing find success when they earn enough to stay home with the kids or pay off debt.
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This group effect also plays into the vital role that a person’s social network can have on their retirement. Studies show that being around negative, pessimistic or sarcastic people can actually be detrimental to your health. And many people can get stuck in a rut when it comes to who they hang around and associate with. Which means successful aging includes hanging around upbeat, positive people.
During the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s, a large number of new products were being invented that needed to be sold to consumers. These products were often complex and required explanation to potential buyers. Network marketing began to hit its stride following World War II in the 1940s with the California Vitamin Company (renamed Nutrilite in 1939) and the California Perfume Company (now Avon).
When you look at our hypothetical MLM, it’s hard not to notice that it pretty much works like a pyramid scheme: you make money by recruiting people below you. Instead of the people below you giving you and the people above you money in order to be part of the MLM — as in a traditional pyramid scheme — you (and the people above you) get a commission off the product purchases the recruits below you are required to make from the MLM. Distributors make little to no money selling product to people outside the company.
These brothers from Israel changed the minds of the entrepreneurs behind the company, Seacret Direct, when they managed to take the typical start up business from the kiosk (you know those booths in the mall) to the beyond and turned it into a global direct selling company worth millions of dollars. These skincare product companies are pretty boring these days, but the company’s dead sea products originate with a 5,000-year-old history and a huge fan following.
In this industry, it takes more than an idea to be successful. It takes execution, and execution requires deep vertical knowledge. Vertical knowledge refers to a broad understanding of the nuances in this industry, only obtained through years of experience. Experienced leaders know how to avoid distraction, conserve resources, be encouraging yet firm with the field and, if necessary, know when and how to fight.
I’ve written ad nauseum about the idea of offering special, confidential deals with “elite” networkers. Confidential deals occur when a company provides extra incentives to lure experienced networkers from another company. The incentives take many forms, but usually involve up-front money, preferred placement in the genealogy, enhanced earning potential in the pay plan, etc. If you look historically at the companies that have been aggressive with deals, theres always a massive POP followed by a massive DROP. Who gets hurt? The average distributors that signed up under the pretenses of joining the “next hot thing.”
Internet and Social Media changes the landscape a lot, because what originally had to be a door-to-door process is turning into more of a net-based thing. However, Network Marketing is always about direct social interactions, belonging to something, helping others etc. It seems that Network Marketing and Direct Selling was the precursor of internet based customised door-to-door deliver that happens just now everywhere.
“Multi-level marketing is one form of direct selling, and refers to a business model in which a company distributes products through a network of distributors who earn income from their own retail sales of the product and from retail sales made by the distributors’ direct and indirect recruits. Because they earn a commission from the sales their recruits make, each member in the MLM network has an incentive to continue recruiting additional sales representatives into their ‘downlines.'”
Now this company is one of the more infamous networking marketing companies out there, but maybe not for the reasons you’d think. They have been in a never-ending battle with the FTC for a number of years. So, currently they have made an agreement to pay out $200 million dollars to former associates and have sworn to reorganize their organization.