The most cult-like thing about MLM is that it manipulates members’ existing beliefs and desires, and tricks them into believing they are exercising free will. MLMs are able to coerce people into willful and compliant self-destruction on a staggering scale: we’re talking quitting or getting fired from a six-figure full-time job due to an MLM, alienating everyone you know due to your constant sales pitches, investing your own or someone else’s life’s savings into an MLM, ruining your credit or losing collateral by borrowing heavily to fund an MLM, and even theft to support an MLM habit. Suicides related to MLM have been reported.
MLMs have been made illegal in some jurisdictions as a mere variation of the traditional pyramid scheme, including in mainland China. In jurisdictions where MLMs have not been made illegal, many illegal pyramid schemes attempt to present themselves as MLM businesses. Given that the overwhelming majority of MLM participants cannot realistically make a net profit, let alone a significant net profit, but instead overwhelmingly operate at net losses, some sources have defined all MLMs as a type of pyramid scheme, even if they have not been made illegal like traditional pyramid schemes through legislative statutes.
And MLMs look so legitimate to the public, so decent. So many nice people are involved. Surely, it can’t be illegal! The people lower down may even defend the very organization that is robbing them, hoping that they might get their chance to make “the big money” later.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without the knowledge I gained from [Michael’s] live events and training CDs. Two MUST-HAVE [programs] in your CD library should be ‘The Total Success Pack‘ and ‘Building a Better Life.’ I’ve listened so many times I’ve lost count. PRICELESS information for your journey to success in business and in life… ‘Easy to do. Easy not to do’ The choice is yours.”
A few MLMs (Mary Kay, Avon) are significantly more sales-driven, with a larger customer base, and offer more added value to customers. They are still definitely not without controversy or criticism, however – no MLM is.
What if I recruit more distributors – then can I stop selling? Assume each new guy manages to expand the business by 10% – again, EXTREMELY generous. With two sellers, total sales are $12,000 so I make $600 doing nothing, and each distributor in my downline makes $600 in direct profit. Even if each distributor increases sales by 10%, I’d still have to recruit at least 10 people and DOUBLE my total sales in order to profit least as much as before while doing nothing. With ten distributors and me at the top, total sales are $20,000. I make my $1,000, and they each make $200 (10% profit).
Kayla lives in a small town in Wisconsin. She’s single, 27, childless, and in grad school. In late 2015 she was working as an administrative assistant at an office earning $32,000 a year when a sorority sister from college invited her to a LuLaRoe in-home party. She was initially resistant to the very idea of leggings as pants, but she walked away with several dresses for $65 each. “I realized if they’re making the money that they say they’re making all over their Facebook pages and how it’s life changing, why can’t it change my life?” she says.
Network marketing seems like a breeze on the surface. Many people jump in, thinking they just have to pull in a few people and then sit back and watch the money roll in. Those people do not last very long. Take some time and learn these tips and tricks for your new business.
You see, there are lots of other people who need to sell the same products as you to make money too. And quite possibly living in the same area, with the same pool of potential customers as you. So if you have the misfortune to sign up to an MLM that’s already popular in your area or social circle, you’ll probably find it hard to recruit customers.
It is a fact that a few large MLMs have survived against the best efforts of law enforcement officials to shut them down, spending millions of dollars to protect, lobby, and insulate themselves. But the same could be said for any organized crime. It is difficult to stop once it becomes so large.
Jump up ^ Michael L. Sheffield (Feb–Mar 1999). “Comp Plan Conversion:Direct Sales to MLM Compensation Plans”. Direct Sales Journal. Archived from the original on May 1, 2011. (citing Neil Offen, president of the Direct Selling Association)
Jump up ↑ O’Donnell, Jayne (February 10, 2011). “Multilevel marketing or ‘pyramid?’ Sales people find it hard to earn much”. USA Today. https://usatoday30.usatoday.com/money/industries/retail/2011-02-07-multilevelmarketing03_CV_N.htm. Retrieved April 6, 2018.
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”
And typically I did. Instead, with other companies, you can get rep pricing without signing up! I’m not averse to MLMs that have special products that you can’t get elsewhere, but I don’t see it being good to get roped in to end up even going into debt to buy more just to stay “active” with a company.
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?
“Retailers can generate a sense of excitement among consumers because the garments they purchase are unique to them,” says a LuLaRoe spokesperson. “Many retailers report that they use the unexpected nature of the shipment to build excitement among existing and new consumers for their new inventory. This also fosters a sense of cooperation among retailers as retailers will often refer consumers to other retailers to help consumers find the patterns that they seek.”
Clearly, there’s a disconnect between what most people think about MLM and what the women who are actually participating in these companies experience. And we may be doing a disservice to these business owners by characterizing all MLM companies as scams.
In an October 15, 2010 article, it was stated that documents of a MLM called Fortune reveal that 30 percent of its representatives make no money and that 54 percent of the remaining 70 percent only make $93 a month. The article also states Fortune is under investigation by the Attorneys General of Texas, Kentucky, North Dakota, and North Carolina with Missouri, South Carolina, Illinois, and Florida following up complaints against the company. In 2013, the FTC’s court-appointed receiver determined that Fortune was nothing but an illegal recruitment MLM and that least 88 % of the members did not even recoup their enrollment fees and that more then 98% had lost more money then they ever made. Refund checks mailed out totaled over $3.7 million.
Network Marketing distributes goods and services through distributors, which may include hundreds, thousands and even hundreds of thousands of distributions networks. Distributors may buy products from the company for pennies on the dollar, and then sell the products, or they may simply sell the goods and/or services for the company and receive a commission on the sales.
“I did pretty well for myself,” says Stern, who split sales with her business partner. The work was part-time, and she pulled in anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 a month in revenue. Every month, the head of her consultant group would post a leaderboard for the top inventory buyers and sellers, some of whom were bringing in up to $60,000 a month. Stern noticed that the amount of inventory bought correlated with higher income, so after attending one of LuLaRoe’s touring conferences, she was inspired to bulk up her inventory. She and her business partner went on a buying spree, posting pictures of all the unopened boxes on her Facebook page, which began to swell with excited customers.
Recruit new members. Just like you were recruited to a network marketing company, you’ll have to recruit members to your team if you want to be successful. Always be on the lookout for new prospects who you think will be valuable additions to your team. Try recruiting services like: MLMRC. Also, you’ll want someone who is personable, a good salesperson, and a team player committed to cooperating with you.
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.
Multilevel marketing (MLM) or network marketing is a type of unfair and deceptive financial woo, purportedly a business, promoted by a non-salaried workforce selling a company’s product/s or service/s independently, who are paid according to a commission structure that heavily incentivizes endless recruitment.
Although each MLM company dictates its own specific “compensation plan” for the payout of any earnings to their respective participants, the common feature which is found across all MLMs is that the compensation plans theoretically pay out to participants only from the two potential revenue streams. The first stream of compensation can be paid out from commissions of sales made by the participants directly to their own retail customers. The second stream of compensation can be paid out from commissions based on the sales made by other distributors below the participant who had recruited those other participants into the MLM; in the organizational hierarchy of MLMs, these participants are referred to as one’s “down line” distributors.
^ Jump up to: a b c d Salinger (Editor), Lawrence M. (2005). Encyclopedia of White-Collar & Corporate Crime. 2. Sage Publishing. p. 880. ISBN 0-7619-3004-3. Archived from the original on February 24, 2017. Retrieved June 13, 2016.
Jump up ↑ Taylor, Jon (2011). /00017-57317.pdf “The Case (For and) Against Multilevel Marketing” (PDF). Consumer Awareness Institute. https://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/documents/public_comments/trade-regulation-rule-disclosure-requirements-and-prohibitions-concerning-business-opportunities-ftc.r511993-00017 /00017-57317.pdf. Retrieved 2018-04-08.
Jump up ↑ Mitchell, LaTonya M (22 September 2014). “Warning letter to dōTERRA International, LLC”. US Food and Drug Administration, Public Health Service. http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/EnforcementActions/WarningLetters/2014/ucm415809.htm. Retrieved 8 November 2014.
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.
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.
These are only a couple of examples of people who went from struggling with their finances to being financially secure, and continuing to make a fortune. There are hundreds of more examples of people who have literally gone from rags to riches through Network Marketing. However, it should be emphasized that these people did not just sit back and collect money, they had to put in the hard work and dedication necessary to grow their network of sales, as well as doing the work required to get the word out and represent their companies.
Founded in 2012 by a Mormon mother, Deanne Stidham, LuLaRoe is named after her three grandchildren, Lucy, Lola, and Munroe. As the company lore goes, she designed clothing for her daughter and had so much success selling copies to the parents of her daughter’s friends that she hired consultants to sell for her. In just four years, her company’s range of leggings, dresses, shirts, and other wares generated $1 billion in sales, making it one of the largest MLMs in the US; between October 2016 and June 2017, it claims it sold nearly 40 million pairs of leggings. Mary Kay, one of the oldest and most successful MLMs, had $4 billion in sales in 2015.
And Donald, who has cut back on hosting Arbonne parties since her mat leave ended, says she still makes about $200 a month thanks to her e-commerce site and regular customers. “It’s not a lot, but that’s just from people going online and buying products themselves. So it’s extra money I’m not doing a lot to make,” she explains.
^ Jump up to: a b “FalseProfitsHomePage”. Falseprofits.com. Archived from the original on March 8, 2010. Retrieved March 5, 2010.; Robert L. FitzPatrick & Joyce K. Reynolds, False Profits: Seeking Financial and Spiritual Deliverance in Multi-Level Marketing and Pyramid Schemes (Herald Pr, 1997).
Revenue and total profit of the MLM company is thus largely generated from the pockets of participants within the MLM pyramid who are simultaneously both salespersons and consumers at once. Only an insignificantly small proportion of revenue and total profit is derived from non-participant retail consumers who are outside of the MLM participant pyramid. Many MLM companies will not disclose what percentage of its consumers are simultaneously their own participants. Other MLMs do not keep said figures because they do not differentiate between participant consumerism versus non-participant retail consumerism.
I don’t mean to be too sarcastic here, but this seems confusing to me. I get that there are fees for printing and sending a check (actually a small business owner commented on this post about needing special ink for check writing, which I didn’t know about), but I don’t see why there should be a fee to “figure out your commission.” Doesn’t software do that?
The age-old technique of “con men” is to create “confidence” in some otherwise dumb idea by diversion of thought, bait, or force of personality. The victim gets confidence in a bogus plan, and, in exchange, the con man gets your money. MLMers are very high on confidence.
Stern jumped in during the heyday phase of a MLM when the people at the top grew rich, and quick. By the start of 2017, nine months after Stern joined, LuLaRoe was pushing 80,000 independent retailers. According to interviews with several consultants, this is also the time when sales suddenly became tougher: The hundreds of thousands of ravenous customers who once clamored to buy leggings from 10,000 consultants flipped in less than a year to eight times that amount selling to just a fraction of the clients. The scales began to tip.
Jump up ↑ Salinger (Editor), Lawrence M. (2005). Encyclopedia of White-Collar & Corporate Crime. 2. Sage Publishing. p. 880. ISBN 0-7619-3004-3. Archived from the original on February 24, 2017. https://books.google.com/books?id=0f7yTNb_V3QC&lpg=PP1&dq=isbn%3A0761930043&pg=PA880#v=onepage&q&f=false. Retrieved 13 June 2016.
Lastly, if the company is publicly traded, and six of The Top 25… are, we have linked their year in business above, in red, over to MarketWatch for a real-time stock quote and other financial information.
“The community I’ve found within Arbonne is unlike any other I’ve encountered,” she says. “I previously worked in science/research/education, where there is a lot of job scarcity, competition and uncertainty. In our community, we all assist each other and lift one another up, as we have a common goal of sharing what we love.”
Both recommend internal use of oils liberally, with doTERRA even having a Slim and Sassy blend that they recommend taking internally numerous time per day, for a long period of time, in order to aid weight loss. There are protocols on the internet recommending internal use of grapefruit oils by YL reps in order to lose weight.
Arbonne and other multi-level marketing (MLM) companies, like Stella & Dot, Isagenix, doTERRA and Scentsy, are big business in Canada. For the uninitiated, these companies operate through a pyramid-shaped commission model. Sellers — self-employed “distributors” or “consultants” as they’re commonly known — are usually required to pay a start-up fee or purchase a start-up kit, which usually rings up at $100 to $200 and contains a complete product catalogue, business manual and training materials, then buy their merchandise at wholesale prices. They earn money either through commissions based on sales they’ve made, or commissions based on salespeople they have recruited (known as “downlines” in MLM parlance) have made.
Consumers of an MLM company’s products/services can, in theory, be merely end-user retail consumers. End-user retail consumers are non-participants of the MLM company, with their relationship to the MLM company being nothing more than in a capacity of consumers. In actual practice, however, the overwhelmingly majority of consumers of MLM products/services are the participants. They are the very “salespeople” within the MLM who had been recruited by a fellow participant positioned above them in the MLM pyramid structure.
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.
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.
The minimum order is 30 pieces at a time, and LuLaRoe requires sellers to buy a minimum of 33 pieces a month ($346 in wholesale leggings, for example) to maintain active status. This means that if a retailer sold 30 pairs of leggings a week, it would take them just under three months to make back their initial $5,000. As they also need to use their revenue to restock an additional 33 pieces a month ($1,038 worth of leggings over 11.5 weeks), it would therefore take another month or so of selling 30 pairs of leggings a week to start turning a small profit. (There is a more detailed mathematical breakdown of different business models here.) “Just like anyone starting a new business, there is risk involved and not everyone is guaranteed success,” LuLaRoe CMO Lyon says.
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!
I’ve been pretty disappointed with the response of some readers to Part 4 of this Best Essential Oils series. There’ve been numerous attacks on my character, both here, on Facebook sites, and elsewhere. (Check out Part 4 to see comments and my responses.)
So concerned, we felt the need to write this article, as we know mothers are a big target group for MLMs (read on to find out why). So if you are considering joining one, please do read this first – and forward to any friends tempted by promises of ‘income opportunities’.
Nu Skin, a cosmetics MLM, has accumulated more than $48 million in civil penalties since 1994 for exaggerating the effectiveness of its products, which include baldness treatments, wrinkle lotions, burn creams and others, and for making bogus claims regarding chromium picolinate and L-carnitine, key ingredients in several of their supplements.
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.
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.
If you’re tempted to join an MLM, we hope this has helped give you a more balanced view than the spiel offered by your rep. (If a friend is considering joining one, please send this article to them before they commit!)
Of these second-wave MLMs masquerading as women’s empowerment, LuLaRoe is queen. More than 80,000 women have paid around $5,000 for several boxes of low-cost clothing and worked as much as 80-hour weeks to outfit hundreds of thousands of suburban women in multicolored polyester. But according to a report that studied the business models of 350 MLMs, published on the Federal Trade Commission’s website, 99% of people who join multilevel-marketing companies lose money. Depending on how you look at it, it’s either a brilliant business model or a predatory practice—or a little bit of both.
Investigate the products or service the company sells. Since you’ll be responsible for pitching and selling this product, make sure it is reputable. Some MLM companies market questionable or dangerous products, and you could face legal action if you take part. You should keep the following in mind when considering a product:
Multi-level marketing, abbreviated as MLM, also called pyramid selling, network marketing and referral marketing, is a controversial marketing strategy for the sale of products and/or services where the revenue of the MLM company is derived from a non-salaried workforce (also called participants, and variously known as “salespeople”, “distributors”, “consultants”, “promoters”, “independent business owners”, etc) selling the company’s products/services, while the earnings of the participants is derived from a pyramid-shaped commission system.