Pyramids are illegal and are based on taking advantage of people. For a person to actually make money in a pyramid scheme, someone else has to lose money. But in network marketing, each person can multiply his or her efforts, skills and talents by helping others be successful. Network marketing has proved itself as part of the new economy and a preferred way to do business here and around the world.
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.
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.
In other words, they built their nest egg in a dead or dying tree.  They may not get along with their spouse any longer, don’t have a life or friends outside of work, have broken relationships with their children, or have let their health go in hopes of getting it back later.  They essentially sacrificed some of the things that are most important to them for the benefit of trying to buy them back in retirement.  As a result, when they get there, they can feel lost, out-of-sorts, and struggle with their transition.
If you get an MLMer to admit that they’re having to pay a lot of money to be a part of an MLM company, they’ll all often say something like, “Well, this is just like buying a McDonalds’s franchise. When you buy a McDonald’s franchise you have to pay the company a large franchise fee to start and then buy the product (fries, burger patties, Flurry mix) from McDonald’s.”

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)
Nevertheless, misconceptions and myths persist. Don’t let these false beliefs stop you from considering a network marketing business. You can achieve success in a network marketing venture if avoid common MLM mistakes, gain a solid understanding of the industry, choose a company carefully, find a quality sponsor, and commit time and effort to your business. 
Hi JP, Your assessment of Melaleuca stating… “When you hit over a billy in annual sales, that’s reason enough to be on the shortlist. On top of that, they’ve been in the MLM game for over two decades, and they’re now the “largest online wellness shopping club” (basically just sounds like a fancy way of saying they sell a lot of miracle diet pills).” is VERY misleading and inaccurate. They offer “far more” products and services than weight control supplements. I have been a “customer” only of Melaleuca for over 20 years and can attest to the superb quality of their products. Please get your facts correct before posting inaccurate information. 🙂
If you don’t understand something, ask for more information until it is absolutely clear to you. Your sponsor and other distributors should be willing to answer your questions. Remember that your sponsor (and others above your sponsor's level) will make money if you join the program. So take your time, and resist pressure to join. Be aware of shills — fake references paid by the company or distributor to pretend they were successful earning money through the plan.
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.
Author, international speaker, trainer, and icon in the Network Marketing Profession, Margie Aliprandi was a music teacher and struggling single mom when she began her Network Marketing career. She achieved a five-figure monthly income within a year, became a million-dollar earner within three years, and is in the top 1% of Network Marketing producers worldwide. She has been with one company for her entire 30-year career and her story has been featured in the movies Pass it on Today and Go For No, and in numerous books and publications including Think and Grow Rich for Women.

No matter how you slice it, the only way you will ever build a highly profitable network marketing business is to be willing to MASTER the art and science of sales, marketing and leadership. Because MLM is form of “direct sales” and no one makes a dime until products and services are sold. And it’s that way in every business, not just network marketing.


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.
Network marketing is a business model that depends upon a network of distributors for growth, such as in multilevel marketing. It is a direct selling method that features independent agents that make up a distribution network for goods and services. Some network marketing systems are based on tiers that denote how many levels deep a sales and distribution network goes. In two-tier or multi-tier examples, the people that make up the top tier of a distribution network are also encouraged to build and manage their own networks of salespeople. Each network creator (or "upline") then earns a commission on their sales revenue, as well as on the sales revenue of the network they have created, otherwise known as "downline." There are many examples of reputable network marketing operations, though some have been criticized of being pyramid schemes and have been banned in some countries as a conduit for consumer fraud.

The gist of the matter is that the courts have found that as long as an MLM can show that its primary purpose is to sell product (even to people within the MLM) and not recruitment of distributors, the company is considered a legitimate business and not a pyramid scheme. But this line is really fuzzy, and little to no effort is made by law enforcement agencies to make companies prove that they emphasize retail over recruitment.
One of the main issue with people who are against Network Marketing is that there is a potential for abuse by unscrupulous businesses that take advantage of them, pocketing their money and returning very little in the way of dividends to the investor. One of the key areas of abuse with Network Marketing is what is known as the ‘Pyramid Schemes,’ so it would be right at the outset to explain what Network Marketing is and the difference between legitimate Network Marketing companies and Pyramid Schemes.
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!

Another nutritional MLM selling another magical superfruit with a marked up price tag. So what? Their story might not be interesting, but their bottom line is: they’ve expanded to 44 countries and counting after just over a decade in operation. On top of that, they provide extensive sales training and good commission rates to their reps, which is pretty rare nowadays.
This argument suggests that only the people who get in early make money, which isn't true. Many ground-floor members make nothing while many who come in years later make a fortune. The truth is, in good network marketing companies, members can make any amount regardless of where they are in the organization. Income is related to effort, not position. 
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.[46]
MaryAnne, I would recommend finding a product that you LOVE, a product that you feel can benefit the people around you and who you feel integrity with. You want to find their products useful so that you will feel good about buying them every month and want to share them with other. It is a business, but you also want to be able to have fun with it too
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.
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