What is Multi Level Marketing/ Network marketing?

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What is Multi Level Marketing/ Network marketing?

Post  Admin on Sun Aug 16, 2009 1:25 pm

From Wikipedia

Multi-level marketing (MLM), (also called network marketing) is a term that describes a marketing structure used by some companies as part of their overall marketing strategy.

The structure is designed to create a marketing and sales force by compensating promoters of company products not only for sales they personally generate, but also for the sales of other promoters they introduced to the company, creating a downline of distributors and a hierarchy of multiple levels of compensation.

The products and company are usually marketed directly to consumers and potential business partners by means of relationship referrals and word of mouth marketing.



Setup

Independent, unsalaried salespeople of multi-level marketing, referred to as distributors (or associates, independent business owners, dealers, franchise owners, sales consultants, consultants, independent agents, etc.), represent the company that produces the products or provides the services they sell. They are awarded a commission based upon the volume of product sold through their own sales efforts as well as that of their downline organization.

Independent distributors develop their organizations by either building an active customer base, who buy direct from the company, or by recruiting a downline of independent distributors who also build a customer base, thereby expanding the overall organization. Additionally, distributors can also earn a profit by retailing products they purchased from the company at wholesale price.

This arrangement of distributors earning a commission based on the sales of their independent efforts as well as the leveraged sales efforts of their downline is similar to franchise arrangements where royalties are paid from the sales of individual franchise operations to the franchiser as well as to an area or regional manager. Commissions are paid to multi-level marketing distributors according to the company’s compensation plan. There can be individuals at multiple levels of the structure receiving royalties from a single person's sales.

Legitimacy

MLM businesses operate in the United States in all 50 states and in more than 100 other countries, and new businesses may use terms like "affiliate marketing" or "home-based business franchising". However, many pyramid schemes try to present themselves as legitimate MLM businesses.

Because pyramiding (getting commissions from recruiting new members including "sign-up fees") is illegal in most states, to remain legitimate in the U.S. a company that uses multi-level marketing has to make sure commissions are earned only on sales of the company's products or services if they cross state boundaries. If participants are paid primarily from money received from new recruits, or if they are required to buy more product than they are likely to sell, then the company may be a pyramid scheme, which is illegal in most countries.

New salespeople may be asked to pay for their own training and marketing materials, or to buy a significant amount of inventory. A commonly adopted test of legality is that MLMs follow the so-called 70% rule which prevents members "inventory loading" in order to qualify for additional bonuses. The 70% rule requires participants to sell 70% of previously purchased inventory before placing new orders with the company. There are however variations in interpretations of this rule. Some attorneys insist that 70% of purchased inventory should be sold to people who are not participants in the business, while many MLM companies allow for self-consumption to be a significant part of the sales of a participant.

The European Union's Unfair Commercial Practices Directive explicitly includes self-consumption as legitimate.

In a 2004 United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Staff Advisory letter to the Direct Selling Association states:

Much has been made of the personal, or internal, consumption issue in recent years. In fact, the amount of internal consumption in any multi-level compensation business does not determine whether or not the FTC will consider the plan a pyramid scheme. The critical question for the FTC is whether the revenues that primarily support the commissions paid to all participants are generated from purchases of goods and services that are not simply incidental to the purchase of the right to participate in a money-making venture.

In a 2007 Wall Street Journal interview, FTC economist Peter Vander Nat stated, "If people are buying because they want to use a company’s products, those sales can count as retail."

The FTC offers advice for potential MLM members to help them identify those which are likely to be pyramid schemes.


Compensation plans


Companies have devised a variety of MLM compensation plans over the decades.

* Stairstep Breakaway plans This type of plan is characterized as having representatives who are responsible for both personal and group sales volumes. Volume is created by recruiting and by retailing product. Various discounts or rebates may be paid to group leaders and a group leader can be any representative with one or more downline recruits. Once predefined personal and/or group volumes are achieved, a representative moves up a commission level. This continues until the representative's sales volume reaches the top commission level and "breaks away" from their upline. From that point on, the new group is no longer considered part of his upline's group and the multi-level compensation aspect ceases. The original upline usually continues to be compensated through override commissions and other incentives.

* Unilevel plans This type of plan is often considered the simplest of compensation plans. Uni-Level plans pay commissions primarily based on the number of levels a recipient is from the original representative who is purchasing the product. Commissions are not based on title or rank achieved. By qualifying with a minimum sales requirement, representatives earn unlimited commissions on a limited number of levels of downline recruited representatives.

* Matrix plans This type of plan is similar to a Uni-Level plan, except there is also a limited number of representatives who can be placed on the first level. Recruits beyond the maximum number of first level positions allowed are automatically placed in other downline (lower level) positions. Matrix plans often have a maximum width and depth. When all positions in a representative's downline matrix are filled (maximum width and depth is reached for all participants in a matrix), a new matrix may be started. Like Uni-Level plans, representatives in a matrix earn unlimited commissions on limited levels of volume with minimal sales quotas.

* Binary plans: A binary plan is a multilevel marketing compensation plan which allows distributors to have only two front-line distributors. If a distributor sponsors more than two distributors, the excess are placed at levels below the sponsoring distributor's front-line. This "spillover" is one of the most attractive features to new distributors since they need only sponsor two distributors to participate in the compensation plan. The primary limitation is that distributors must "balance" their two downline legs to receive commissions. Balancing legs typically requires that the number of sales from one downline leg constitute no more than a specified percentage of the distributor's total sales.

* Hybrid plans are compensation plans that are constructed using elements of more than one type of compensation plan.

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