An issue in determining the legitimacy of a multi-level marketing company is whether it sells its products primarily to consumers or to its members who must recruit new members to buy their products. If it is the former, the company is a legitimate multi-level marketer. If it is the latter, it could be an illegal pyramid scheme. The Federal Trade Commission has been investigating multi-level marketing companies for several decades and has found many that blur the lines between the two. According to industry data, there are 90 million members worldwide, but relatively few earn meaningful income from their efforts. To some observers, that reflects the characteristics of a pyramid scheme.
Instead of focusing on just the product, the MLM distributor wants you to buy the product and become a distributor. You will usually be invited to come to a conference at a local hotel where the higher level distributors (sometimes called diamonds) come in to pitch the product and get everyone emotionally excited about where this magnificent new business can take them.
Recruitment is an integral part of any MLM, but it doesn’t need to be the focus. Whenever MLMs charge high startup fees, require high recruitment for a commission, do not provide sales training, or otherwise value recruitment over product, that’s a clue that it is not a good MLM to join. Network marketing companies should rely on networks to sell products, instead of only recruiting your network.
Multi-level marketing is a legitimate business strategy, though it is controversial. One problem is pyramid schemes, which use money from new recruits to pay the people at the top, often take advantage of people by pretending to be engaged in legitimate multi-level marketing. You can spot pyramid schemes by their greater focus on recruitment than on product sales.
To put these statistics into context, John compared them with the failure rates for traditional small businesses using the Small Business Administration’s statistics for 2008. And he discovered that 44% of small businesses survive at least four years, 31% at least seven years, and 39% are profitable over the life of their business. In 10 years only 64% of small businesses fail.
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