Representatives for direct selling companies affirm that most participants in their companies aren't making much. "Earnings are typically quite small," says Joe Mariano, president and CEO of the Direct Selling Association. He notes that nearly three-quarters of people involved in direct selling are "discount customers," meaning they're buying the products for themselves – not selling them. For that majority, earnings aren't just small: They're nonexistent.
Next comes Trump’s special adviser on federal regulations, investor Carl Icahn, who has an estimated net worth of $17 billion. Icahn is something of an accidental beneficiary of MLM wealth, having invested in Herbalife to get back at his nemesis, fellow shareholder activist Bill Ackman, after Ackman launched a public short on Herbalife in 2012 and called it a pyramid scheme. Icahn has ended up virtually running Herbalife, owning 24 percent of its shares and holding five board seats. But despite Icahn’s clout, Ackman’s lobbying effort to bring down Herbalife led to the FTC crackdown, which could pummel Herbalife’s earnings. (The company has other problems, as it recently disclosed that it is subject to an anti-corruption probe by both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice over its burgeoning China business.)
The friend continues, “It gets better! If those 3 recruits each recruit 3 people themselves, you’ll earn 5% commission on the product they buy from the company as well. You’ll be a ‘Gold Star’ level distributor at this point and you’ll be able to buy product from the company at a 30% discount. To maintain this status, your group of 12 recruits beneath you need to collectively buy $1,200 worth of product each month from the company.”
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.”
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]

At the corporate level, MLM professionals develop an easily communicated mission and image, and create resources that facilitate that communication. The key to knowing how to communicate this message to customers is knowing and understanding them. Therefore, effective MLM begins with data, and builds upon that data throughout a campaign. With the sales and customer information generated at each presentation, companies can better discern what products to acquire and/or develop, how to best portray them to their audience, and how to tailor their message to different market segments.


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 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]


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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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