Much has been made of the personal, or internal, consumption issue in recent years. In fact, the amount of internal consumption in any multi-level compensation business does not determine whether or not the FTC will consider the plan a pyramid scheme. The critical question for the FTC is whether the revenues that primarily support the commissions paid to all participants are generated from purchases of goods and services that are not simply incidental to the purchase of the right to participate in a money-making venture.
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.
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!
People who wonder why network marketing doesn’t work have likely also never joined the best MLM for them at the time or had great upline support and a team around them to get through the often frustrating first few months. Opportunities abound – even publicly traded multi-level marketing companies, who you would think are these huge businesses that give you no attention, have small teams and wonderful leaders to join. It’s just a matter of finding the top teams in the company you’re looking at.
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.
This is not a ringing endorsement for the entire industry. Like any investment of time, money, and energy, people need to be aware of what they are getting into and do their homework. That’s the primary reasons I began researching the topic by reaching out to regular everyday people involved in these types of businesses and who were willing to skip the hype and offer a transparent view of the programs and give their opinions as to whether this can be a realistic source of retirement income.
But many people can’t recruit enough folks and they end up spending a lot of their own money. As Laryea points out, “Recruits are often expected to purchase ‘starter kits’ or inventory to start selling products, which also earn the recruiters (and the recruiters’ recruiter) commission. Thus, multilevel marketing as a business strategy incentivizes participants to grow a sales network underneath them, also called a downline.”
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.
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.
Usually MLMs in the financial services niche don’t make it in business for very long (most people are not in the habit of spending money to try and save money). But these guys figured it out. They have been in business for over 30 years and in 2013 they had profits of $1.27 billion, so they I think they know a thing or two about what they’re doing to rake in the profits for their company.
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 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.
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.
When you’re asking people to volunteer their time to sell a product or service, the experience needs to be fun. As adults, we all feel tremendous pressure in multiple areas of our lives. If a network marketing company starts to feel stale, unappreciative and a little corporate-y, consumers will invest their energies somewhere else. As Millennials hit the scene, it’s important to understand that they’re placing less emphasis on financial metrics. Companies need to always maintain a sense of humor and constantly show appreciation for their sales force. When a company starts leading with an iron fist and sends out warnings to fence in a sales force, it almost always backfires. People need to have fun with the brand and fun sharing the brand with others. If it’s painful, forget about it.
Although an MLM company holds out those few top individual participants as evidence of how participation in the MLM could lead to success, the reality is that the MLM business model depends on the failure of the overwhelming majority of all other participants, through the injecting of money from their own pockets, so that it can become the revenue and profit of the MLM company, of which the MLM company shares only a small proportion of it to a few individuals at the very top of the MLM participant pyramid. Participants, other than the few individuals at the top, provide nothing more than their own financial loss for the company's own profit and the profit of the top few individual participants.
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.
The major defining difference between other companies and MLM, is that they don’t mass market themselves, spending millions of dollars on television, radio and internet ads, but instead allocate that portion of their budget to pay hard working distributors who pound the pavement, form personal al relationships with clients, advocate their product, and hence donthe “marketing” for them.
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.
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During the Obama administration, the Federal Trade Commission made its biggest-ever effort to curb this industry when last summer it slapped nutritional supplement–seller Herbalife with a $200 million fine and, as part of a settlement with Herbalife, demanded it restructure its business so that it would “start operating legitimately,” as FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez put it. The FTC alleged Herbalife had engaged in “unfair and deceptive practices,” and put it under a federal monitor for seven years, demanding onerous changes to its compensation plan and requiring extensive documentation of customer sales. Ramirez then set down an ambitious posture for the FTC: In the future, she said at an MLM industry conference in October, these companies should adopt the new Herbalife rules when structuring their businesses, as the FTC would be watching.