MLM and direct selling programs also offer very low barriers into entrepreneurship, often providing training, support, and ample encouragement along the way. As retirees begin to realize they need activities that keep them busy, relevant, in good health, and connected to others, the time, energy and cost to participate in these kinds of companies make them very appealing to large segments of the population caught up in these dynamics.
Multi-level marketing (MLM) is a distribution-based marketing network that includes direct sales and a downline of distributors. These home businesses tend to get a lot of bad press for their similarity to pyramid schemes. In reality, they have one key difference. Where pyramid schemes require people to invest in a false promise of wealth, MLM organizations sell real products or services that their distributors believe in.
Take Rodan+Fields, a skincare line developed by the dermatologists who created Proactive. It’s supposed be top-notch stuff. When they initially launched the product, they went the traditional retail route. Estee Lauder then bought the company for an undisclosed amount and continued to sell it through traditional retail. Sales of Rodan+Fields were surprisingly lackluster, however, so its former owners bought the company back and implemented the MLM model. Sales of the product skyrocketed to over a billion dollars. They’d claim it was thanks to the word-of-mouth marketing MLMs facilitate. I’d venture to guess it had more to do with the fact they have a captive customer base amongst the hundreds of thousands of distributors who are required to make minimum purchase amounts each month and recruit other distributors who will have to make minimum purchase amounts each month too.
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.
Determine if the company is handling advertising and publicity on its own to help create demand for the product. Find out what restrictions are there on where and how you can promote it, such as advertising and websites. There's not a right or wrong answer to that question. A wide-open policy is more flexible for you, and for everyone else, too. If you're prepared to be highly competitive, that's fine, but if not, you may prefer to work with a company whose policy is more restrictive.
A long time friend that you lost touch with for the last 10 years gives you a call and asks to meet up. After meeting up and breaking the ice, he/she then introduces a new revolutionary product and how you stand to get rich by selling it. Throw in jargons like passive income and downlines, you suddenly realise you’re beginning to be sucked into the dream they are selling.
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Get the company’s refund policy in writing. Make sure it includes information about returning any unused products, including restrictions and penalties. It may seem like you’re minimizing your risk if you can return products for a reimbursement, but policies vary on whether you’ll get a full refund — and how long it may take. Many plans require you to buy training or marketing materials, or pay for seminars if you want to get product discounts or create your own network of distributors. Find out how much time and money other distributors spent on training, marketing materials, and seminars when they joined the plan, and whether the plan requires you to participate in periodic training. What happens if you opt out of the training?
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Still, many people like Brickey walk away with little or nothing after spending hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars working as network marketing distributors. Some let the overinflated earnings claims cloud their judgment. They invest what little cash they have, hoping to net a huge return—but hardly ever do. Others are simply fooled by illegal scams disguised to look like legitimate business opportunities and end up losing everything.
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