Technically speaking, pyramiding is an illegal practice of a company that solicits their members to recruit more members, more than selling the product. In turn, the primary source of income for its members is the number of members they have recruited instead of the products they have sold over time. Clearly, not all MLMs are pyramid schemes, but it all seems like a matter of degree.
If the company is solvent, meaning it has the capital required to grow, maintain a solid infrastructure, attract talented management, keep pace with technology, and pay your commissions, then you may proceed. Publicly traded companies are required to disclose their financial condition in great detail every 90 days to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and other governmental agencies. Unfortunately, private company financials are not available to the public, so you may have to take a risk in working for one.

No work-at-home scheme is more misunderstood and demonized than network marketing. At it’s best, network marketing is seen as unimportant mommy-businesses or something strange uncle Bob does to find his fortune. At it’s worst, network marketing is perceived as being full of greedy snake oil salespeople and shysters. But once you get past the old attitudes and misconceptions, network marketing is a viable way to start a part-time home-based business. The first step to success is to decipher the myths from the truth.

To understand how network marketing works, it may be helpful to think of a business model that most consumers are familiar with, franchising. In a franchise, an owner pays a company for the right to do business using that company’s products, services, and name. The parent company agrees to provide the owner with training, development, advertising and marketing support. While the name on the outside of the building is that of the parent company, the actual location is privately owned by an independent business owner.
Within that, some companies thought that their products would be better off when people with own experience did the referral and possibly trough existing personal relationships by using their social network. That would be Network Marketing. Whether they sell and make money is irrelevant. You do network marketing when you talk about a good movie to friends, only you do not get rewarded, except the random girl who goes to watch the movie with you again based on your enthusiasm :D.
Herbalife is a network marketing company that specialises in meal replacement and other fitness supplements. One of their big name brand ambassadors is Cristiano Ronaldo, who is a world famous footballer. Herbalife did undergo some trying time in 2011 with a few legal issues here and there; the company is however, back and better, with more of its products making its way to the grocery shelves. Herbalife offers network marketers the opportunity to resell its products for profit, although marketers will earn no compensation for recruiting new marketers.
Then there’s Congress, where critics also fear the passage of legislative efforts they say would virtually legitimize many pyramid schemes. One such bill, introduced last summer by a bipartisan caucus organized by the industry lobbying group, the Direct Selling Association, was opposed by Ramirez because it contradicts the terms of the Herbalife settlement. Days after she announced her resignation, Ramirez wrote a letter to the DSA chastising it for its opposition to the FTC view, which the DSA had laid out in a press release shortly before Trump’s inauguration. The question is whether there is retail demand for the products of MLMs or whether the purchases are just a camouflage for recruitment. The DSA, and the bill, argues that purchases by participants in the scheme, called “internal consumption,” can represent true demand, which means they would count when determining commissions paid to salespeople. Ramirez and the FTC disagree. Even if MLM participants do want to buy products for their own use, they shouldn’t be compensated for doing so, Ramirez said. To ensure compensation is driven by retail sales, she noted, companies should keep track of all customer sales outside the network (as Herbalife is being forced to do).
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.)

Then we get to compensation plans behind DS and NM. That would be SLM or MLM as in Single Level Marketing or Multi Level Marketing. In this sense, the expression Marketing is not ideal, it should be Multi Level Sales…in most cases. Depending on your activity, you can either be a selling person, or a referring person where the company, website, Fedex does the sales, payment and delivery. There are many forms of the compensation plan, about 1 for every company with a few overlaps. Some of them are by law illegal, most of them are just messed up from the beginning. Success ratio is about 1:200 for a network marketing company to become great and lasting.
Question your recruiter. When you've found a company you're interested in, you'll likely meet with a recruiter or another representative. Be skeptical during the recruitment process. Remember that your sponsor makes more money if you sign on, so he may not be as open with you as he could be. Don't get distracted by promises of how much money you'll make and really think about what you're about to do.[4]
Although MLM is most commonly associated with direct-selling distributorships and/or party planning companies, some major financial/insurance companies also employ this strategy, including Primerica and World Financial Group (WFG). Although party plan consultants will certainly gain valuable grass-roots marketing experience, the college-educated marketer will seek positions within these larger financial companies, or at the corporate level of an MLM 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.
One of the most common complaints about MLM companies is that new consultants have to fork over a lot of money to pay for initial inventory. One of the worst of these is the direct sales company LuLaRoe, which forces new recruits to buy $6,000 worth of inventory just to get started. The apparel retailer is known for their wacky prints and patterns, but consultants can’t choose what they like — they get whatever version the company feels like sending and are then expected to sell it.

If you remember those ads for P90X and Insanity, you are not alone because they were something to rave about at one point in time.  They have dropped off a tad, but nonetheless Beachbody is still a well-known name.  The company is so focused on their products, very few people know that they are a network marketing company.  Which can be seen as an advantage for the company’s survival, but they are questionable as a “hot offer” to advertise.

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.


Consultants involved in multi-level marketing usually sell products directly to consumers through relationships and word of mouth. Nearly 9 out of every 10 consultants are part-time, and work out of the home as distributors of a given line of products. Many multi-level companies also employ a “party plan” strategy, where consultants (and possibly also the consultant’s “upline”) invite friends and other interested customers in the area to a party at the consultant’s home (or other available location). Many products are demonstrated, everyone has a good time, and by the end of the party the consultant has hopefully made several sales—and possibly even recruited a new consultant (who in turn become that salesperson’s downline).
What is a network marketing professional? Tell me what that is. A person who can approach well-dressed people in Wal-mart and hand them their MLM business card? Someone who writes a list of their family and friends and then 3-way call them with their “higher-up” sponsor? Really, if someone can tell me what being a network marketing professional entails, I’m listening.
Breaking into the world of travel bloggers, hotel hoppers, and digital nomads with #wanderlust was one of the best ideas MLM ever had. Everyone out there wants to work remotely nowadays, and a huge portion of those people want to do it so that they can travel. So, a remote income opportunity with a travel MLM just makes sense. WorldVentures is hitting this niche hard, having been named one of the Inc. 5000’s fastest growing companies twice in a row.
I spent about 3 years selling Amway back in the 70’s. There was a lot of hype but I made enough money to achieve several of my more modest financial goals. I went on to use some of what I learned to make extra money in various ventures and eventually started a small business out of my home. The business grew until mainstream retailers began offering the same product I was selling at comparable prices. The MLM as a learning tool has some value as long as the product is decent. This MLM ranking is a good way to attract attention and I am curious about Your service. I am selective about what I spend my time and effort on.
An issue in determining the legitimacy of a multi-level marketing company is whether it sells its products primarily to consumers or to its members who must recruit new members to buy their products. If it is the former, the company is a legitimate multi-level marketer. If it is the latter, it could be an illegal pyramid scheme. The Federal Trade Commission has been investigating multi-level marketing companies for several decades and has found many that blur the lines between the two. According to industry data, there are 90 million members worldwide, but relatively few earn meaningful income from their efforts. To some observers, that reflects the characteristics of a pyramid scheme.
But then Jim sees something in the starter brochure: Instead of just buying the amount of shakes that he needs to fulfill the demand for them among his friends and family, Company A requires Jim to buy $100 worth of shakes each month to maintain his status as a distributor. The company says you need to do this so you have enough inventory to sell to people and so you yourself can use the product.

The structure of MLMs is very similar to a pyramid scheme. This doesn’t mean that all MLMs are pyramid schemes, but some certainly are. Those interested in pursuing a career in multi-level marketing should do research before joining a particular MLM. Generally speaking, if the bulk of the money you stand to earn comes from recruitment rather than direct sales, it’s wise to be very cautious.
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.
Wow! A lot of information! I am very surprised not to see any mail on Isagenix. The company has been around since 2002! The absolute best products and ingredients! Not to mention the binary competition plan is life-changing!! Theyou have over 100 products that fit EVERY lifestyle. Kids to healthy aging, even skincare!! Last year alone making close to 1 billion in sales!
Do you know why there is such a big drop off rate in Network Marketing? It is because they were told that the profession was a piece of cake. They were told that they would hardly have to work, don’t have to sell anything, or the product sells itself. Then when they get started, they realize that there is a lot of work that goes into building a ...…
Pyramid schemes come in all forms. A really simple example are those chain letter things where you’d get a letter with seven names and addresses. You were supposed to send $1 to the names on the list. After you did that you were supposed to add your own name to the bottom of the list and send the letter off to at least 7 people. Supposedly you could make tens of thousands of dollars in just a few weeks doing this.
Unfortunately, many pyramid schemes attempt to present themselves as legitimate MLM businesses and, often, it can take many years for the FTC to finally step in and close down these fraudulent companies… so BEWARE! Do your due diligence and avoid any opportunity that emphasizes recruiting members and getting paid, rather earning commissions for the sale of products and services.

Jim’s friend who recruited him into the company starts telling Jim that the way you really start making money with Company A is recruiting other people beneath you to sell shakes. “When you sign someone up,” explains Jim’s friend, “you will start getting a 10% commission on the product your recruit is required to buy from Company A in order to qualify as a distributor. If you can get 3 people to sign up, it means you would be earning 10% commission on all the product those 3 recruits are required to buy, plus whatever they purchase beyond that minimum.”
I’m very surprised at the rankings. In full disclosure I am partnered with Isagenix International and we happen to be ranked #22 globally by DSN in only our 15th year. We do $1B/year in sales and are breaking records every day with an annual growth rate of 30%+ annually. Some of the “top 10” are nowhere near these stats. We have also won 45 Stevie Awards, 10 years straight on the Inc. 5000 list, and more. I think all of these companies are great and doing great things but I question the criteria for what makes them tops!

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.
Thanks for this post. Very helpful. I do like direct sales; one reason for this is that it helps keep alive that age-old tradition of people interacting face-to-face (rather than mainly through texting and social media). For that reason, I think MLMs should target the lonely Millennials. Anyway, I was a member/distributor of Advocare for over 10 years and still miss the products and the activities in the company, now that I am temporarily out. I still plan to sign up again when I can afford it (long story–I’ll spare you). I am now involved in Melaleuca, and I must say in their defense that Melaleuca’s products are actually not overpriced. Because Preferred Customers are not only not expected, but also NOT ALLOWED to turn around and sell the products at the retail price, everyone pays the same low prices. (Granted, one can indeed go to the website and buy directly from the company if they do not want to become a Preferred Customer. Why would someone do that when the annual membership is only $19? Only if they do not want to commit to the minimum monthly requirement for Preferred Customers.) Public, keep this in mind! Don’t be fooled by the rebels who are selling old Melaleuca products on Amazon for way above the retail price!! You’re much better off buying fresh products directly from the factory, even if you pay retail price. Just sayin. My big question: What about Tupperware? I have been a Tupperware consultant for about 6 months, and I have found it to be extremely difficult to keep business going. The directors training me have said that Tupperware is the second most widely recognized brand name in the world, second only to Coca-Cola. If that is the case, why is it so hard to find people willing to host Tupperware parties? Why does it seem so hard to sell? Also, is it just me…Or, does Tupperware’s compensation plan stink?
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]
Consultants involved in multi-level marketing usually sell products directly to consumers through relationships and word of mouth. Nearly 9 out of every 10 consultants are part-time, and work out of the home as distributors of a given line of products. Many multi-level companies also employ a “party plan” strategy, where consultants (and possibly also the consultant’s “upline”) invite friends and other interested customers in the area to a party at the consultant’s home (or other available location). Many products are demonstrated, everyone has a good time, and by the end of the party the consultant has hopefully made several sales—and possibly even recruited a new consultant (who in turn become that salesperson’s downline).
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.
I learned seo and blogging, failed at that. I learned Facebook ads and email marketing, learned how to target the right demographics for Doterra, now people contact me wanting to know about the oils, then I got present and sign up, this my friend’s is the best of both worlds and what everyone should learn, find your form of marketing, go teach and sign up and leave for friends and family alone, unless you know they’ll want it.
Some multilevel marketing companies sell protein powders to high performance athletes. Others sell multivitamin supplements to pregnant mothers. And some sell memory-boosting supplements to elderly people. The world of health and nutrition companies is vast, and there are all sorts of new niches to explore. New MLMs are springing up every year trying to best the next USANA.
The reality is there’s nothing special about the stuff MLM companies sell. You can find whey protein and meal replacement shakes at your local CVS or online. You can buy essential oils at Whole Foods and Amazon. Your wife can buy quality make-up and skincare products at Ulta, Walgreens, or online. You can get pretty much anything an MLM sells and often for much cheaper, even when your MLM distributor discount is factored in (see the next section). There’s nothing significantly different about MLM products besides the marketing and branding.

Many self-proclaimed entrepreneurs send me invitations and accolades to join their favorite Multi-Level Marketing (MLM) or Network Marketing company, but these all sound like "get rich quick" schemes to me. For me, the essence of an entrepreneur is creating something new and innovative, whereas an MLM is a traditional formula on an existing product with a high premium on pyramiding.
Using this expertise gained developing the intersection between business and media, he went on to not only invest in new businesses, but also help successfully amplify their brand. With his extensive knowledge, experience and insight gained over two decades of building his own intellectual properties and working with top brands around the world, he started developing the groundwork for his full-service venture studio, Dyrdek Machine.
Some multilevel marketing companies sell protein powders to high performance athletes. Others sell multivitamin supplements to pregnant mothers. And some sell memory-boosting supplements to elderly people. The world of health and nutrition companies is vast, and there are all sorts of new niches to explore. New MLMs are springing up every year trying to best the next USANA.
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.
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