First, we will analyze the “driving mechanism” of MLMs. We will detail how they are intrinsically unstable, guaranteed by design to oversaturate the market with no one noticing. We will look at why MLMs can never equalize into profitability the way companies in the real world can, so that the result will be that the organization as a whole cannot, even in theory, be profitable. When this inevitable destiny occurs, the only money to be made is not from the product or service but from the losses of people lower down in the organization.
“Retailers should absolutely never put their personal financial situation at unreasonable risk to establish or operate their retailer business. Period,” Lyon says. “If any retailer is encouraged to do that, we do not support it.”
I recommend you consult with a professional before ingesting any essential oils. Consult a Medical Doctor, Naturopath, or clinically trained Aromatherapist who knows you and is aware of your medical history, as well as any medications you are on. With this information, the professional can tailor a regimen that works for your body.
Of course, it could be pointed out that this might have happened anyway. Perhaps the die-hard MLMers would have ruined their friendships anyway in some other non-MLM business failure. Is the MLM really the cause, or just the vehicle?
Though emphasis is always made on the potential of success and the positive life change that “might” or “could” (not “will” or “can”) result, it is only in otherwise difficult to find disclosure statements (or at the very least, difficult to read and interpret disclosure statements), that MLM participants are given fine print disclaimers that they as participants should not rely on the earning results of other participants in the highest levels of the MLM participant pyramid as an indication of what they should expect to earn. MLMs very rarely emphasize the extreme likelihood of failure, or the extreme likelihood of financial loss, from participation in MLM. MLMs are also seldom forthcoming about the fact that any significant success of the few individuals at the top of the MLM participant pyramid is in fact dependant on the continued financial loss and failure of all other participants below them in the MLM pyramid.
As noted, many MLM companies do generate billions of dollars in annual revenue and hundreds of millions of dollars in annual profit. However, the profits of the MLM company are derived to the detriment of the overwhelming majority of the company’s non-salaried workforce (the MLM participants). Only some of the profit is then significantly shared with none but a few individual participants at the top of the MLM participant pyramid. The earnings of those top few participants then allows the creation of an illusion of how one can potentially become financially successful if one becomes a participant in the MLM. This is then emphasized and advertised by the MLM company to recruit more participants to participate in the MLM with a false anticipation of earning margins which are in reality merely theoretical and statistically improbable.
“There was a point in time where I had $8,000 worth of inventory sitting in my home while I was running up to food banks to feed my family.” Sales started to decline in the third month. Her consultant group told her it was because she didn’t have enough inventory, so Ashley followed their advice and bought even more. As sales continued to decline, she used her income-tax rebate to buy more, but it didn’t keep her sales from bottoming out at $500 a month. “There was a point in time where I had $8,000 worth of inventory sitting in my home while I was running up to food banks to feed my family,” she says. “I really feel like I failed my family.”
Thus, the only “control system” will be the inevitable losses and subsequent bad image the MLM company will gain after it does what it was designed to do: fail. And sooner or later we have got to stop blaming this particular MLM company or that, and admit that the MLM technique itself is fundamentally flawed.
There are more than a few MLM “executives” like this who will pop up tomorrow in the MLM du jour. MLM exploitation can be very profitable and the jail sentences light. Let the MLM “dream” buyer beware.
Try more than once to turn a lead into a customer. Just because someone wasn’t interested once doesn’t mean they will never be interested. Be careful not to overdo it, though- you could easily get a reputation as a spammer, which can hurt your business.
MLM culture feels unmistakeably totalitarian. The organization is tightly controlled by the top 0.1% of the pyramid, and absolute loyalty to one’s upline is strictly enforced. Open criticism of the company or its leadership is discouraged. Members denigrate non-MLM employment and belittle non-MLM jobs. MLM gatherings, often referred to as “seminars” or “conventions” or “business retreats,” look nothing like any of these things – instead they feature chanting, ecstatic speeches, testimonials, and highly produced audiovisuals, often for hours on end.
Imagine a neat new product called a Widget that will sell for $100 (a fixed price, to keep it simple). Now, while everyone could use a Widget, not everyone will. Some will be afraid of anything new. Some will be loyal to existing brands. Some will want to buy an inferior product for less money. Some will want a more expensive product for prestige, regardless of quality. The reasons go on and on, and the fact is that only “X” Widgets will sell at $100.
Jump up ↑ Sepkowitz, Kent (December 5, 2014). “Honey Boo Boo, Snake Oil, and Ebola: The Weird World of Young Living Essential Oils”. Daily Beast. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/12/05/honey-boo-boo-snake-oil-and-ebola-the-weird-world-of-young-living-essential-oils.html. Retrieved January 16, 2015.
Thus, a parallel or “shadow” pyramid of motivational tapes, seminars, and videos emerges. These are a “must for success,” and recruits are strong-armed into attending, buying, buying, and buying all the more. This motivational “shadow pyramid” further exploits the flagging recruits as they spiral inexorably into oversaturation and failure. The more they fail, the more “help” they need from those who are “successful” above them.
Then, in 2016, she had her daughter, Mia, and went on mat leave. Bored — and making only part of her usual salary — she asked her former patient to meet up. She became a consultant before they’d finished their coffee.
MLMs work by geometric expansion, where you get ten to sponsor ten to sponsor ten, and so on. This is usually shown as an expanding matrix (just don’t say “pyramid”!) with corresponding kick-backs at various levels.
No one can perfectly predict “X,” and the situation is not nearly as simple as considered here, but the objective for marketeers is to forecast “X” as closely as possible in order to provide lasting value to all parties involved: to avoid missed opportunities as well as waste, loss, or failure.
MLMs often teach their participants to recruit their best customers. What kind of normal business turns one of its best assets into a liability? Imagine if the local Starbucks started encouraging all its best customers to open up their own Starbucks, where all the customers would, in turn, be encouraged to open up their own Starbucks. How long before there are too many Starbucks and no paying customers left? Which brings us to point #2…
Even ex-accountants are willing to practice the crudest of high-pressure selling tactics, at least when it comes to “signing people up.” The end justifies the means, when it comes to getting people to come to the “meetings,” where the objective is to get a materialism frenzy going at high pitch through a slick speaker or video. The reasons for this “confidence building” should be obvious by now, but here we are considering the relationship cost associated with the “success” of the MLM.
Since MLM organizations are notoriously flash-in-the-pan, one has to wonder why any new company would choose this flawed marketing technique. Perhaps one of the things to consider is that the MLM organization can effectively skirt the Federal Trade Commission by using word-of-mouth testimonials, supposed “studies” done by scientists, fabricated endorsements, rumors and other misrepresentations that would never be allowed to see the light of day in the real world of product promotion, shady as it is.
MLMs sell themselves using self-empowerment language and sparkly beauty products. MLMs only sell through a network of consultants, not in online stores or in brick-and-mortar shops. Sellers buy inventory from a parent company and sell it to their friends and family, keeping the profit for themselves like a franchise would. But the real potential to earn money generally isn’t in peddling wares: It’s in building up a team of sellers below you and getting a cut of their commissions. Once a seller has recruited new consultants, she has to push them to buy more inventory each month or to hit consumer-sales targets in order to earn her bonus check and keep the money flowing upstream. This means the further down the recruitment ladder you are, the less opportunity there is to make real money.
Business failure of any type is traumatic on the relationships involved, but in most small businesses there is at least the chance of success. And this is never the case in an MLM, unless “success” can be defined as profiting off of the failures of others.
Apparently, it is difficult for gung-ho MLMers to see how they look from the outside. They can watch lifelong friendships unravel, churches and civic groups poisoned, the avoidance of friends and family, etc., and never see that MLM was the cause.
The overwhelming majority of MLM participants (most sources estimated to be over 99.25% of all MLM participants) participate at either an insignificant or nil net profit. Indeed, the largest proportion of participants must operate at a net loss (after expenses are deducted) so that the few individuals in the uppermost level of the MLM pyramid can derive their significant earnings—earnings which are then emphasized by the MLM company to all other participants to encourage their continued participation at a continuing financial loss.
Jump up ↑ Danny Robbins (September 10, 2006). “Nobel Prize winners say sites falsely cite research”. Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Archived from the original on 2006-12-06. https://web.archive.org/web/20061206191858/http://www.dfw.com/mld/dfw/news/nation/15486298.htm.
Not so with the MLM crowd. Pick up any brochure or videotape for an MLM and you are more than likely to see a cheesy, obvious, and blatant appeal to greed and materialism. This is offensive to everyone, even die-hard materialists. Typical is an appeal to “the American dream.” Usually there will be a mood shot of a large new home, a luxury car, a boat, perhaps a beautiful couple boarding a Lear jet, and so on.
In a normal business, the purpose of commissions is to encourage sales; in an MLM, the purpose of sales is to encourage commissions. Everyone wants to be at the top (earning commissions), and nobody wants to be on the bottom (selling). The fatal flaw of pyramid schemes (and MLM, by extension) is that there has to be a bottom somewhere. If everyone recruits, and nobody sells, that’s a pyramid scheme – in all but name.
“Let me tell you about an incredible ground-level business opportunity,” and you are invited to a house or to lunch for “a discussion.” Funny enough, you feel sick in your gut that there is some hidden agenda or deception. “Probably a multi-level marketing (MLM) organization,” you think. Suppose it is? Should you trust your instincts? Is there anything wrong with MLM?
This article will analyze four problem areas with MLM. Specifically, it will focus on problems of I) Market Saturation, II) Pyramid Structure, III) Morality and Ethics, and IV) Relationship Issues associated with MLMs. Thus, you can properly assess your “instincts.”
Business Students Focus on Ethics: “In the USA, the average annual income from MLM for 90% MLM members is no more than US $5,000, which is far from being a sufficient means of making a living (San Lian Life Weekly 1998)”
Of course, there’s an even better indicator that these companies might have been unfairly maligned: the women who have actually joined them. Despite the dismal stats, many women say they’re making money and actively contributing to their household’s bottom line — and they don’t feel exploited. Like, at all.
Many LuLaRoe Facebook groups have the word “addiction” or “addicts” in their titles: Christine’s LuLaRoe Addicts Anonymous, LuLaRoe Addicts, LuLaRoe Addiction VIP Boutique. It’s supposed to be a joke, but it’s truer than many women realize.
Some variation on this structure is common at most MLMs. Financial analysis on Pink Truth, a website that analyzes Mary Kay and other MLMs’ business practices, estimates that as a LuLaRoe seller advanced up the ranks, had 10 people below her, and garnered 3% of her recruits’ inventory-buy value, she could make a bonus of $1,500 a month—but only if her downline spent about a combined $35,000 on merchandise. That’s why struggling sellers used to be told to buy more inventory: Not only did their higher-ups get a cut of each bulk buy, but if their downline didn’t hit the minimum purchase mark, no one got a bonus. “The entire year that I did LuLaRoe, I was pushed to continue buying and buying more and more and more, no matter how the sales declined, and that buying more and more was the only solution to get more sales,” Sophie says.
“Network marketing” and “multi-level marketing” (MLM) have been described by author Dominique Xardel as being synonymous, with it being a type of direct selling. Some sources emphasize that multi-level marketing is merely one form of direct selling, rather than being direct selling. Other terms that are sometimes used to describe multi-level marketing include “word-of-mouth marketing”, “interactive distribution”, and “relationship marketing”. Critics have argued that the use of these and other different terms and “buzzwords” is an effort to distinguish multi-level marketing from illegal Ponzi schemes, chain letters, and consumer fraud scams.
Interestingly, the issue of supply and demand is what brought the USSR to its knees. By design, the Soviet government tried to macro-manage supply, where bureaucrats would decide how many potatoes were needed, how much toilet paper, etc. Assuming these bureaucrats did the best they could, unfortunately their efforts to deliberately manipulate the control “knob” of supply and demand was not good enough. Notwithstanding their good intentions, they were usually wrong, which created huge shortages and surpluses, and led to a massive economic collapse.
Honest confession: until we recently we thought MLMs were fairly harmless. In fact, we’ve even unknowingly profiled them on our site (we weren’t aware some businesses were MLMs). While they didn’t particularly appeal to us, we didn’t see the harm in them.
Where is the “switch” that can be flipped in an MLM when enough sales people are hired? In a normal company a manager says, “We have enough, let’s stop hiring people at this point.” But in an MLM, there is no way to do this. An MLM is a human “churning” machine with no “off button.” Out of control by design, its gears will grind up the money, time, credibility, and entrepreneurial energy of well-meaning people who joined merely to supplement their income. Better to just steer clear of this monster to begin with.
With all this, not to mention numerous high-profile failures and legal troubles, it’s no wonder MLMs have a poor reputation with consumers. Nevertheless, in the USA alone, MLMs had a combined total of more than 20 million suckers members and swindled generated more than $36 billion in revenue in 2015. The situation is worse in emerging economies in regions like Latin America, Africa and Asia.
But even if LuLaRoe were to go out of business tomorrow, another MLM pushing scented candles, jewelry, or kitchen products would rise up to take its place. “The regulators cannot keep up with these companies,” Brooks says. “There are so many of them. When one company blows up, the founders and high-level distributors move on to another company, and it goes on and on.” At best, LuLaRoe is a company that grew too fast; at worst, it consciously preyed on business-naïve communities eager for a sense of self-sufficiency.