Is MLM a Bad Word?
Ever been confused about how a “home business” works? Of course you have, many of us have. Most people have heard the term MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) and usually at the end of that the word, “scheme” is added – giving the whole business model a bad name. Well…let’s change your negative perception and tell you how your Great Aunt Joan, actually earned that pink Cadillac from Mary Kay ! It’s brilliant really…
Not only are “home businesses” or “MLM’s” very interesting, they are successful. Many of the longest standing organizations in this country have this business model. MLM is a marketing strategy in which the sales force is compensated not only for sales they personally generate, but also for the sales of others they recruit, creating a downline of distributors and a hierarchy of multiple levels of compensation. Most commonly, the salespeople are expected to sell products directly to consumers by means of relationship referrals and word of mouth marketing. Sounds legit right – so why the bad press?
Mark Webb/The Herald-Dispatch
Mary Kay saleswoman Kathy Jones poses for a photo with her brand new hybrid Cadillac Escalade on Thursday, March 24, 2011, at Moses AutoMall in Huntington.
Well MLM companies have been a frequent subject of criticism as well as the target of lawsuits. Criticism has focused on their similarity to illegal pyramid schemes (hence the “scheme” reference), price-fixing of products, high initial start-up costs, emphasis on recruitment of lower-tiered salespeople over actual sales, encouraging if not requiring salespeople to purchase and use the company’s products, potential exploitation of personal relationships which are used as new sales and recruiting targets, complex and sometimes exaggerated compensation schemes, and cult-like techniques which some groups use to enhance their members’ enthusiasm and devotion. Eesh!
However, as aforementioned, you may know people that sell products from Mary Kay, Avon, Advocare, Tupperware and the like (see more companies in our Featured Home Businesses section). You know people who sell these types of products because they believe in the products and the companies that stand behind them. These companies empower those who sell their products to actually establish their own businesses, selling the products. This is very attractive to many entrepreneurial-minded people who do not want to have a boss watching over them but also want some pre-established structure and support. Most MLM organizations provide a very robust infrastructure and great training as well as impeccable rewards (hello free cars and trips!).
I recently spoke with San Diego based, Vicki Martin, about her experience with Rodan + Fields. Here’s her take on her home business and why the opportunity was so appealing for her and her family, “The decision to join Rodan + Fields Dermatologists came easily. Since 2008 the construction industry [which I was previously in] has been hit hard by our economic downturn and my income has been greatly affected. We were working harder for less like many of our friends. Being part of Rodan + Fields Dermatologists is allowing me to work with highly educated people who share a passion for business and for teamwork. Building a recurring, residual income that grows month over month is going to give my husband and I the peace of mind and financial freedom that is so vitally important to our future. My skin looks better than ever. And, I get to work my job around the rest of my life instead of the other way around.”
So, the next time you meet someone who runs a “home business” or “MLM” give them a high five for taking their career and life into their own hands and becoming an entrepreneur.
Jody Greene is Client Development Director at Jacob Tyler and former CMO of Chic CEO – a free resource for female entrepreneurs.
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