Daria M. Brezinski Ph.D, a practicing psychologist and former marketing director for a multi-level marketing magazine, echoes these sentiments. “Many people don’t realize that multi-level marketing companies are successful because they help people satisfy a number of important human needs, including feeling significant, having connections, learning something new, and making a difference. I have heard people in network marketing say again and again, ‘I’m doing this because I’m meeting amazing people … making so many connections … and I feel so good about myself.’”
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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.)
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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)
I’d like to point out a few things: statistically something like 96% of businesses fail within the first 5-10 years, which is a much more impactful loss, both financially and time wise, than the few hundred dollars one puts into whatever product they’re using in MLM. So realistically the success rate as a “self employed business owner” with MLM is probably a bit better than it is with launching a traditional business, or at least consistent with it. It takes discipline and tenacity that many people don’t have- that’s why they chose to remain employees in the first place.
Carl Rehnborg is credited as having started the multi-level marketing industry back in the 1930s. After learning about the benefits of dietary supplements in China, Rehnborg came back to the United States and started a company called The California Vitamin Company, which was later rebranded to Nutrilite. Six years after that rebranding, Rehnborg reorganized the company’s structure and the way it sold products into what we know as MLM today.
FLP may not be the wealthiest MLM on this list, but they deserve a spot because of their long-term dedication to the aloe vera plant and products made from it. Few MLMs display such product dedication and integrity as FLP. And few MLM’s have such a concentrated niche. That screams longevity over the other hundreds of other “full service wellness” companies.
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, also known as Multi-Level Marketing (MLM), is a business model where independent contractors buy into a company and earn a commission on the products they sell. The profession appeals to many people because they can be their own boss, set their own hours, and work towards their own success. It is a big commitment, but network marketing can be a very lucrative career.
Because of the structure of a network marketing business, many people mistakenly believe that all MLM companies are illegal pyramid schemes. In actuality legitimate network marketing companies are not pyramids. The belief that MLM companies are illegal pyramid schemes may have popularly taken root in 1975, when the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) accused Amway Corporation of being an illegal pyramid. However in 1979 a US Federal Judge determined that the networking marketing plan used by Amway was indeed a legitimate business model. This decision in turn helped to legitimize other MLM companies.
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.
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.
The big difference between MLM and a pyramid scheme is in the way the business operates. The entire purpose of a pyramid scheme is to get your money and then use you to recruit other suckers (ahem - distributors). The entire purpose of MLM is to move product. The theory behind MLM is that the larger the network of distributors, the more product the business will be able to sell.
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.
By the 1980s, the landscape of U.S. economics was transformed. A financial boom coincided with women entering commercial life. These women were a huge target for network marketing companies, as they sought jobs that allowed them to earn money without neglecting their children and families. Women were able to acquire high positions within these companies, creating opportunities for women to achieve financial independence without giving up their families.
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.
Each distributor is essentially an independent business owner, or more accurately put, an independent sales representative. Each representative gets paid for sales he or she makes, as well as sales made by each person he or she has recruited. Network marketers often earn bonuses for acquiring new distributors and customers and residual income on repeat business.
This is awesome! I didn’t know there was an MLM company that sells wine. I may look into this. I’m still on the search for a solid company. I pretty much have PTSD with MLM companies because of past teams I signed up under. They were all about hype and money but never did explain HOW to build the business. It was so bad that I am now more cautious and aware of these type of people.
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.
Even while the popular culture’s view of MLMs is shifting, FitzPatrick doesn’t think we’re yet at a tipping point where consumers reject them en masse. Trump’s election may help explain why. After the election, FitzPatrick says he sent out a newsletter to the many victims of pyramid schemes who’ve come to him for help, explaining the connections with Trump.
Considering their products are botanically based with an ingredient policy that prohibits many of the chemicals and fillers Mary Kay and Avon still use in their own products, I’d say they’ve established a business for men and woman who are truly serious about the health of their skin, not just the evenness of their complexion. A little research goes a long way.
She reiterated a common theme I heard throughout the interviews. “If you treat it like a hobby it won’t pay you like a business.” She also acknowledged that, in spite of her success, she doesn’t sit around eating bonbons every day waiting for residual checks to hit the mailbox. “That’s a common misconception,” she said. “I work hard at my business every day, although it doesn't always feel like work. Similar to other entrepreneurs who profit from their passion, she says “It’s rewarding because I found a product that has made in difference in how I look and feel… and I love selling it and helping other people start a business.”
It’s also important to note that while I expect there to be significant growth in the ranks of many MLM companies, there will also be substantial growth in businesses that adopt this model and its many benefits. In fact, it’s one reason I developed the Certified Professional Retirement Coach certification in conjunction with the Retirement Coaches Association.
Their products may not be as popular as you initially expect either. It's easy to get excited about a company when you have the opportunity to sell their stuff and make money. But if you leverage your friends and family to sell this stuff to them, you'll find yourself muted on Facebook or Snapchat, and getting more calls ignored. It's pretty annoying to have that one friend who always tries to recruit you into an MLM. My suggestion? Start a website and market your products or bizop to the world of the internet instead of just sticking to people you know.
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.
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.
"From a consumer standpoint, this is a gigantic siphoning machine just sucking dollars out of people," says Robert FitzPatrick, co-author of the book "False Profits" and president of Pyramid Scheme Alert, a nonprofit consumer education resource. "The bottom line is: It's a scam. It's a pyramid scam, it's a recruiting scam, and you'll lose your money," he adds.
Along with the market itself, the number of potential prospects are also expanding with the movement of people getting out of the rat race and achieving leveraged income. Many of the highest paid professionals from major companies are migrating toward network marketing opportunities for this reason. Professionals in these position typically make a lot of money, but their time is extremely limited. Therefore, the value of leveraged income is paramount to their continued success, and they recognize the benefits of partnering with a network marketing company to bridge the gap.
FitzPatrick will get no quarrel from the industry’s biggest fans. “We think that with the new administration you can forget any aggressive action vs. MLMs,” industry analyst and Herbalife shareholder Tim Ramey wrote in a note to clients in January. “When Betsy DeVos was named to the Trump Cabinet we took that as a very strong signal that the Trump administration had no real issue with the MLM world. … You don’t put Betsy DeVos in your cabinet and then go out and try to put [Herbalife] out of business. We are in a post-regulatory world.”
Many people may have done quite well for themselves in their network marketing / mlm’s / direct sales companies. But just think, how much better financially they could / would have done if they had started with their company in its infant stage, the beginning!! Well, if that’s something you have dreamed of, wished for, or ever thought about, then the time is NOW!!.
The short answer to the above question is “ABSOLUTELY!” However, many people have attempted to get into Network Marketing and haven’t been willing to do the work necessary to see dividends on their investment. They go into it thinking it will be easy, that they can just sit back and start raking in the cash. When they discover it takes work and diligence to make it work, they often are taken aback and simply give up.
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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.