The multi-level marketing company’s ultimate goal is to procure outstanding sales and gain a loyal customer base. Instead of using the traditional method and spending on costly advertising, they promote the business through word-of-mouth referrals. They bypass the middlemen and sell the products directly to consumers. This direct method, in turn, helps customers save more money by eliminating mark-ups on the products.
The way pyramid schemes are structured requires them to constantly recruit new people into the scheme. But this is unsustainable because at a certain point you run out of new recruits either because 1) you can no longer find anyone interested in joining, or 2) everyone on earth has become a member of the pyramid scheme. When you run out of new recruits, the pyramid collapses, leaving those at the bottom with a loss.
Besides earning money off your own sales, you also earn a percentage of the income generated by the distributors that you've brought into the program (these are known as your downline). Often there are bonuses for selling particular amounts of product or signing up a certain number of new members; you can earn cars and trips as well as cash. Sounds good, doesn't it? And being part of a well-run MLM business can be a lot like being a member of a large extended family.
Independent non-salaried participants, referred to as distributors (variously called "associates", "independent business owners", "independent agents", etc.), are authorized to distribute the company's products or services. They are awarded their own immediate retail profit from customers plus commission from the company, not downlines, through a multi-level marketing compensation plan, which is based upon the volume of products sold through their own sales efforts as well as that of their downline organization.
These nonsalaried workers may be stay-at-home parents, college students or part-time workers hoping to make money by selling products such as vitamins and makeup to their friends and family. But experts note that just selling products is typically not enough to make a profit, and workers are encouraged to recruit a "downline," a team of underlings from whose sales they also earn a commission, creating a pyramid-shaped compensation structure.

The end result of the MLM business model is, therefore, one of a company (the MLM company) selling its products/services through a non-salaried workforce ("partners") working for the MLM company on a commission-only basis while the partners simultaneously constitute the overwhelming majority of the very consumers of the MLM company's products/service that they, as participants of the MLM, are selling to each other in the hope of one day themselves being at the top of the pyramid. This creates great profit for the MLM company's actual owners and shareholders.
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MLM and direct selling programs also offer very low barriers into entrepreneurship, often providing training, support, and ample encouragement along the way.  As retirees begin to realize they need activities that keep them busy, relevant, in good health, and connected to others, the time, energy and cost to participate in these kinds of companies make them very appealing to large segments of the population caught up in these dynamics.
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But please do a little research before you blanket insult an entire industry or business model. I am a single mother with a 6 figure income because of MLM, nearly twice that when I’m actively working my business with both of the companies I represent, and while not everyone has the skill set to succeed in this business, the potential is certainly there, for those that do.

Perfect reply That’s exactly what gives network marketing a bad name. Sheesh. If you find something you’re passionate about then go for it. But first ask, how many people can you personally find who have replaced their income at such n such a company? I’m grateful to say I have hundreds of dōTERRA advocates who have, and who go about it with integrity. Thanks for all the research, it was fun to read. I’d recommend looking at retention as well sometime.
Take Rodan+Fields, a skincare line developed by the dermatologists who created Proactive. It’s supposed be top-notch stuff. When they initially launched the product, they went the traditional retail route. Estee Lauder then bought the company for an undisclosed amount and continued to sell it through traditional retail. Sales of Rodan+Fields were surprisingly lackluster, however, so its former owners bought the company back and implemented the MLM model. Sales of the product skyrocketed to over a billion dollars. They’d claim it was thanks to the word-of-mouth marketing MLMs facilitate. I’d venture to guess it had more to do with the fact they have a captive customer base amongst the hundreds of thousands of distributors who are required to make minimum purchase amounts each month and recruit other distributors who will have to make minimum purchase amounts each month too.

MLM has stretched its sticky fingers out into just about every product market out there, so it’s kinda hard to do something new nowadays. But Jamberry Nails did it. Their adhesive, custom nail designs BLEW UP when they hit the direct sales floor. They built up an army of over 100,000 consultants in the time it takes most people to get a mediocre pay raise at their 9-5.
Great article and thanks for taking the time to write this.. however I can see why your business didn’t fly as you had hoped. Mlm is a people’s business and that means that it IS the interaction with each other that strengthens working together. Yes you need to be self motivated but you also need to be a supporter too. Networking also eliminates the need to do constant appraisals. You don’t work you don’t get paid. That’s music to a corporate managers ears. Networking is not for everyone… but where else can you invest for such a small amount and have all the other aspects of business done for you and all you have to do is go get customers and recruit more customer finders and have no ceiling on being paid for that. As for the product you promote.. you choose something you like. My original passion as a woman was make up so I joined that type of business. Got so passionate I qualified as a beautician and onto other certificates then I discovered essential oils.. I needed supplies but minimum trade orders were over £3000 each time. Mlm on the other hand was order as my demands and finances could afford. So my interest in mlm grew. Now I would not go back to traditional office work. When I know when I apply myself I can exceed what ANY employer thinks I’m worth

The real key is this: Network marketing is all about leverage. You can leverage your time and increase the number of hours of work effort on which you can be paid by sponsoring other people and earning a small income on their efforts. J. Paul Getty, who created one of the world's greatest fortunes, said "I would rather make 1 percent on the efforts of 100 people than 100 percent on my own efforts." This very basic concept is the cornerstone of network marketing.
As with any business venture, it’s important to manage your expectations when signing on with an MLM. Marketing materials may sell you the idea of making good money without leaving your house, but business ventures like these take time to deliver a return on investment. Not every sales agent will be making $100,000 per year right away or even five years down the line. Be realistic about how much you’re likely to sell and how much you’re likely to earn.

Great listing and especially the honest look at what being in an MLM means. Direct sales is a hard business, especially if you’re not passionately using the product daily. You see too many people who join thinking it will be a get rich quick scheme and don’t actually care about the product or their customers. Genuine lasts and is successful, companies like Avon and Mary Kay have been around for generations because people love their products.
Thanks for this list. Loved seeing Monat as #1! I am a Market Partner for this company and the money is crazy good because the products are awesome. I was disappointed to see Plexus at #28 and I wasn’t impressed by what you had to say about them. Plexus is NOT a weight loss company. Their products promote a healthy gut and they are clinically proven to decrease inflammation and balance blood sugar. Weight loss is a natural side effect of body balance. The products work and there are a lot of people I know personally making good money with Plexus.
Wellness based MLM’s in particular are well positioned to help people retire with greater ease and success for two reasons. First, they create positive momentum.  When people start to lose weight, have more energy, or receive compliments on the way the look, it builds momentum.  They see, feel, and hear the benefits of their work paying off which encourages them to stick with the changes they are making. Second, there is a group effect. Many people struggle to develop and stick with a new health, diet, and exercise program on their own.  But when they do it in a supportive community with others, it’s much easier to get through the tough days and stay on track.  Furthermore, by taking better care of yourself, you are in a position to leave a better legacy than money could ever provide.
Hi Jeremy great article. Here’s my take for what it is worth,after working 50 years for the bank making not so much money,having to accommodate there time schedule ,negotiated vacations and seeing very few people advance to 6 figure incomes,I’m somewhat intrigued by the idea of using my retirement years looking at mlm as a part time endeavour . Obviously I put a lot of blood sweat and tears into my previous job,so I’m not expecting to make my millions in a couple years in mlm, but I like the (do it in your own time) idea. If I find a product I like and would use anyway why not? I also like the idea that the potential is there biased on your own efforts. Am I wrong What do you think?
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.
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.
Network marketing programs feature a low upfront investment--usually only a few hundred dollars for the purchase of a product sample kit--and the opportunity to sell a product line directly to friend, family and other personal contacts. Most network marketing programs also ask participants to recruit other sales representatives. The recruits constitute a rep's "downline," and their sales generate income for those above them in the program.

The end result of the MLM business model is, therefore, one of a company (the MLM company) selling its products/services through a non-salaried workforce ("partners") working for the MLM company on a commission-only basis while the partners simultaneously constitute the overwhelming majority of the very consumers of the MLM company's products/service that they, as participants of the MLM, are selling to each other in the hope of one day themselves being at the top of the pyramid. This creates great profit for the MLM company's actual owners and shareholders.
Well done Melaleuca, they hit over a billion dollars in yearly sales…there’s a reason they are a part of the select few considered to be at the top. Adding to this is their longevity, because they’ve been in the MLM industry for over 20 years, and now they’ve reached the status of the “largest online wellness shopping club” (which can sound fancier than it is, because are they aren’t selling anything more than a fantasy diet pill).
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:
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

Almost every pension plan is underfunded around the world. Record low interest rates haven’t helped. The hard facts of the times we live in today are that you CANNOT rely on any other organization or government to take care of you in retirement. You will be expected to work longer and delay taking benefits as pension fund managers make desperate attempts to stretch fund assets as far as they can go for as long as they can before finally calling in the administrators when they cannot hide from their insolvent situation any longer. The same for government pension and welfare programs - the sheer number of pensionable age people in the population will be simply too costly to support as they outnumber those working and paying taxes.

It’s important to get a complete picture of how the plan works: not just how much money distributors make, but also how much time and money they spend on the plan, how long it takes before they're earning money, and how big a downline is needed to make money. One sign of a pyramid scheme is if distributors sell more product to other distributors than to the public — or if they make more money from recruiting than they do from selling.


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.
I thought That your article was very good. My wife recently joined this company called World Ventures and me being me I figured it would be like some of the other companies that she has joined. You know a bunch of women companies scentsy, 31, etc but the reason I took notice is when she made 500. I know it’s not much but i know if she can make that faster than she has with some of the others she has joined without my help then maybe this thing is the real deal. What do you know about it? I have met some of the people and they seem genuine unlike some of these others like Amway and I don’t feel like it’s all about freaking selling like most of the others. Just shoot it to me straight.
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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.

Lauded as the #1 leadership expert in the world by Inc. Magazine, John C. Maxwell is a speaker, coach, and New York Times Bestselling Author. He has written more than 80 books - including the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and the 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader - that have sold more than 26 million copies and have been translated into 50 languages. In 2005, he was one of 25 best-selling authors named to Amazon.com's Hall of Fame.
“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.'”
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.

Ask yourself whether you would enjoy selling products to the public. Find out how many hours a week your sponsor and other distributors spent on the business when they joined and how much time they spend now. Remember that no matter how good the product and how solid the plan, you’ll need to invest sweat equity and money for your investment to pay off. Consider the other demands of the business — for example, going to training, recruiting new distributors, managing paperwork, recording inventory, and shipping products.  
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.
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