A downline distributor is a recruited distributor from whom the sponsor (the one who recruited them) gains commissions. Every compensation plan involves recruiting other distributors to help sell the company’s product. Some compensation plans provide higher commissions for recruiting successful distributors (quality over quantity). Other plans only focus on simply hiring more distributors (quantity over quality). Overall, downline distributors help sponsors gain extra commissions.
The FTC’s case against BurnLounge provides an example. BurnLounge argued that its participants bought product packages consisting of sales websites and music-related merchandise because they wanted to use the merchandise. When BurnLounge’s product packages were untied from the business opportunity, however, monthly sales of these packages plummeted by almost 98 percent. At most, actual demand was responsible for only a small minority of package sales, and BurnLounge was found to have an unfair or deceptive compensation structure.
An example of a high-profile multi-level marketing company defending its practices is Herbalife Ltd., a manufacturer and distributor of weight-loss and nutritional products with more than 500,000 distributors. Although the FTC had been investigating Herbalife, it was activist investor William Ackman who shed a national spotlight on the company by shorting $1 billion of the company’s stock in 2013. Ackman accused the company of operating a pyramid scheme and backed his allegations with a bet the company’s stock price would fall under the weight of the scam.
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Product that is purchased and consumed by participants to satisfy their own genuine product demand – as distinct from all product purchased by participants that is not resold – is not in itself indicative of a problematic MLM compensation structure. For example, the final order entered in FTC v. Herbalife permits the payment of compensation based on personal consumption, subject to specific limitations and verification requirements. However, the FTC’s law enforcement experience has shown that MLM participants may buy product – and recruit or pressure other participants to buy product – for reasons other than their own or other consumers’ actual demand, such as to advance in the marketing program.
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Multi-level marketing (MLM), also called pyramid selling, network marketing, and referral marketing, is a marketing strategy for the sale of products or services where the revenue of the MLM company is derived from a non-salaried workforce selling the company's products/services, while the earnings of the participants are derived from a pyramid-shaped or binary compensation commission system.
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Often the only way to make these sales is to recruit people under you (making commission off their starter kits) or to buy products yourself. Otherwise you’re left trying to sell your products to friends, family, mums at the school gates, and anyone you come into contact with (one of the reasons why some of the more pushy/desperate MLM reps get a bad reputation).
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.
Writing MLM-specific articles is another great way of establishing authority inside of MLM. When people type in a search term or phrase on a specific MLM topic, and an article appears with the networkers name as the author, if the article answers a specific question, and is not just a spam piece, then the reader will visit the site to learn more about the author.