Regardless of LuLaRoe’s official policy, the selling community is rife with consultants strong-arming risky decisions with smiling faces. Emails outlining new policies are sent out to independent retailers directly, who then discuss the company’s communications between themselves. Directives for how to interpret rules are often filtered through Facebook groups by team leaders eager for bonus checks, leaving the door to miscommunication—and manipulation—wide open.
And bigger companies are feeling the heat, too. Last year, Herbalife narrowly avoided being branded a pyramid scheme (the U.S. Federal Trade Commission instead opted to cite the company with a less-serious “unfairness” charge). But, it did have to pay a $200 million fine to the FTC and was required to restructure its operations so that it “tracked and rewarded sales that ended in purchases by consumers” — as opposed to rewarding employees for bringing in new recruits. And of course, there’s an oft-cited report by consumer advocate Jon Taylor, which claims that 99 percent of people who participate in MLM actually lose money on their businesses.
Founded in October 2016, the LuLaRoe Defective/Ripped/Torn Leggings and Clothes Facebook group was initially intended for posting pictures of holey leggings. Now it has more than 30,000 members and has become a place for women to share pictures of ugly merchandise, screenshots of vicious consultant behavior, and to upload documents from the numerous lawsuits against LuLaRoe. (At last count, there are nine ongoing legal battles.)
On July 1, LuLaRoe instituted a much fairer Leadership Bonus Plan (pdf) that awards compensation based on sales to consumers rather than wholesale purchases. But there are still thickets of obscure rules: Leggings only count as half a piece; your bonus is based on your downline’s wholesale value of sales, not their retail value; and your team’s per-piece average needs to be at least $30, meaning that if you want to get your bonus, you can never sell your wares for discounted prices.
MLMs sell themselves using self-empowerment language and sparkly beauty products. They’re #girlboss mythology repacked for Christians and Mormons; entrepreneurialism for women brought up believing men should be the breadwinners; and a peppy dream for millennials who were told they could do anything.
Especially nasty is the church situation. Will the pastor join? If not, he will take a dim view of MLM proselytizing at church functions; animosity will rise, factions will form. You are either “in” or out. If the pastor joins, then those who are not “in” will feel a little uncomfortable in this church.
Here’s the reality. Using the 80/20 formula, in order to sign up 5 people you will need to start with a list of 125 prospects. Why? Because of the 125 prospects only 20% (25) will agree to hear your sales presentation. And of those 25 only 5 (20%) will join.
Independent distributors develop their organizations by either building an active consumer network, who buy direct from the company, or by recruiting a downline of independent distributors who also build a consumer network base, thereby expanding the overall organization.
Seeing the disastrous end of market naiveté in Russia should help clarify the fundamental problem with the MLM approach. In the real world, the profit of a company is directly related to the skill and prescience of the “hand” on the “supply knob,” so to speak. In the USSR, that “hand” could not react fast or accurately enough to market realities through the best efforts of the bureaucrats.
Jump up ↑ News, A. B. C. (December 16, 2017). “Former NXIVM member says she was invited into a secret sorority, then branded”. http://abcnews.go.com/US/nxivm-member-invited-secret-sorority-branded/story?id=51617201. Retrieved February 10, 2018.
So, as the saying goes, “Get in early!” This is a rationalization on the level of “getting in early” on the L.A. looting riots. If profit from the sale of products is fundamentally set up to fail, then the only money to be had is to “loot” others by conning them while you have the chance. Don’t miss the “opportunity,” indeed!
Jump up ^ “Hong Kong multi-level marketing plan needs closer look (editorial)”. South China Morning Post. October 31, 2013. Archived from the original on December 8, 2015. Retrieved November 26, 2015.
Jump up ↑ “13 successful multi-level marketing companies based in Utah County”. Provo Daily Herald. May 11, 2017. https://www.heraldextra.com/business/local/successful-multi-level-marketing-companies-based-in-utah-county/collection_8720a5f3-7203-5b55-864a-f0f3323a2551.html. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
The choice is pretty clear: why would I work my butt off every month selling widgets to make $1,000, when I can make the same money by recruiting ten other people to sell, and then do nothing? And when the distributors under me see me kicking back and relaxing, what motivation is there for them to do all the work and make a fifth of what I make?
MLM can no longer claim to be new and, thus, exempt from the normal rules of the market and the way goods and services are sold. They have been tried and, for the most part, have failed. Some have been miserable failures in spite of offering excellent products.
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.
One of the arguments MLM reps make in defending their ‘business’ is that it’s just the same as any other small business. You need to invest to get started, you need to sell, and some people just aren’t cut out to make it in business, so will fail.
The final figures are out… and the news is better than even expected! The Network Marketing and Direct Sales profession hit a new record in 2013 with $178 BILLION in global sales. That’s up from $167 Billion in 2012. Network Marketing is BIG business!
“What causes the average, otherwise shy person to suddenly think they can be a wealth-generating salesman? Because someone showed them “the math.” I’m sure you’ve heard it. All you have to do is find 5 people to join, and those 5 will find five, and those five will get five, and 6 months later you will have 20,000 people working for you, and you’ll be earning $10,000 per month. Really?
Jump up ↑ David Ingram (September 7, 2012). “Medifast unit settles false ad claims for $3.7 million”. Reuters. https://www.reuters.com/article/2012/09/07/us-usa-medifast-settlement-idUSBRE8860X720120907. Retrieved 2012-09-09.
Provide relevant information to the people who will be viewing your site, and keep to your own niche. Find out what the people you want to attract are searching for online, and then provide that content. You can check social media sites and forums as they’re a great repository of information.
The basic question that needs to be asked is this: If this product or service is so great, then why isn’t it being sold through the customary marketing system that has served human society for thousands of years? Why does it need to resort to a “special marketing” scheme like an MLM? Why does everyone need to be so inexperienced at marketing this! Is the product just a thin cover for what is really a pyramid scheme of exploiting others? But more on that later.
On the flip-side of the issue of being stuck with the recruitment “pitch” is the fact that the MLM organization is otherwise loose, to say the least. This is part of the appeal to many, to “be your own boss.”
Targeting vulnerable or disadvantaged groups (ethnic minorities, recent immigrants, non-English speakers, ex-cons, recovering addicts, poor communities, high school/college students, women), often accompanied by love bombing
They will claim to have made “new friends,” most of which are MLMers or new acquaintances who could be considered “future prospects.” The shallowness of these “new friends,” the stilted conversations among the “old friends,” and the embarrassment, in general, for what seems clear to everyone but the MLMer go unnoticed. Callousness sets in; standards are lowered.
Some people may think this is the definition of a pyramid scheme, or believe that Multilevel Marketing (aka MLM) is synonymous with Pyramid Scheme. However, there is a massive distinction between MLM and Pyramid Schemes. You wouldn’t call Mary Kay Cosmetics, or AVON a pyramid scheme, would you? Both of those companies are prime examples of Network Marketing or MLM companies. The distinction comes in how the company compensates its employees or distributors. When a Network Marketing company’s primary compensation is for recruiting rather than selling, then it could very well be considered a pyramid scheme, which actually, is illegal.
Promoting products or pseudo-products of dubious or very low intrinsic worth (supplements, cosmetics, financial products, Bitcoin, videos/seminars, software, subscriptions, coupons/discounts) at very large markups, with low profit margins (often less than 1%) for the “distributor”
At this point, even if she had quit the next day without selling a thing, LuLaRoe would have made its profit. Kayla acquiesced on Jan. 1st, 2016—and was then immediately encouraged by her upline to buy an additional $1,000 in Valentine’s Day-themed clothing. (Brooks says this tactic is called “channel stuffing” or “inventory loading.”)
All products and services have partial market penetration. For example, only so many people wish to use a discount broker, as evidenced by the very successful but only partial market penetration of Charles Schwab. Not everyone wishes to join a particular discount club, or buy gold, or drink filtered water, or wear a particular style of shoe, or use any product or service. No one in the real world of business would seriously consider the thin arguments of the MLMers when they flippantly mention the infinite market need for their product or services.
“It’s micro-entrepreneurship,” he says. “[Multi-level] marketing is just a form of direct selling. And it’s really about compensation. There’s single-level or multi-level, and that doesn’t mean anything other than how I get [paid]. People get all hung up on, ‘Well, it looks like a pyramid, so it must be a pyramid.’ But every company in the world looks like a pyramid!”
Perhaps a better paradigm than the runaway train analogy offered earlier of how MLMs perform over time is this: a helium balloon let loose in an empty room with a spiked ceiling, where product quality is analogous to the amount of helium. The better the product, the faster the balloon will rise, accelerating unhindered, towards disaster. The other option would be the case of a lousy product, in which case the balloon will sink of its own accord, never getting off the ground. To be sure, equilibrium is not in the cards, except perhaps as an accident, and then only temporarily. MLMs are intrinsically unstable. For any company that chooses an MLM approach, it’s pop or drop.
The Times: “The Government investigation claims to have revealed that just 10% of Amway’s agents in Britain make any profit, with less than one in ten selling a single item of the group’s products.”
The unfortunate “distributor” at the bottom is the loser, and once this becomes apparent beyond all the slick videotapes and motivational pep-talks, good people start to get a bad taste in their mouths about the whole situation.
I started checking out various oils companies because I didn’t want to recommend any company without fairly checking out the competitors. I felt it would be a disservice to my family and to my readers.