MLM vs Affiliate Marketing. And The Winner Is …

“I Have A Lifestyle Opportunity For You – You’d Be Awesome At It!!”

So, you’re considering joining an MLM (multi-level marketing company). Someone that you know, maybe someone from your family, one of your friends, a co-worker, a neighbour, a parent at school, a connection you have on social media, or even a stranger you have happened to meet told you with enthusiasm that you would do really well with their “business opportunity” or their “lifestyle opportunity”. You might have even seen the products, or a thoroughly impressive presentation. You may have been to a party at someone’s house where you were shown some amazing products and told that you can change your lifestyle and earn some money by doing the same thing. Maybe you’ve become tempted to be a part of it.

Well, you’re not the first, and you certainly won’t be the last. An MLM opportunity can seem like the answer to all of your prayers. MLMs will typically market themselves as offering:

  • an incredible lifestyle opportunity
  • the ability to earn big money selling products that people will love
  • flexibility to work when it suits you
  • the ability to earn more with the more work that you put in
  • the support of a team, a coach/mentor or a customer support team
  • a replicated website so that you can manage your business (not always)
  • the ability to recruit a downline who will earn you money over and over again for you, while you sleep

If I join this MLM I will be awesome!?

The presentation will often include someone talking along the lines of:

“One day, I was just like you. I wanted to change my life. I wanted to make more money. I was sick of working so hard for someone else and never seeing my kids. I thought things could never be different. And then I met ‘Susan’. I took a chance, and now look at me today. I am a triple diamond executive black belt managerial emerald presidential consultant and I’ve never looked back. I started out just like you did at one of these presentations. I worked my way up and now I make five figures every single month. What you put into this is what you get out. You only need to move 5,000PV per month to remain active, and you can do that blindfolded. If you work hard you can be just like me. If I did it, you can too.”

And for a while, you believe that. So you sign up to buy the business starter kit. You might also pay an annual fee so that you can get a generic website with some back end administration so you can manage orders and share your link around. You are so confident that you can do it. Your starter kit arrives in the mail, and you’are all set and ready to go. There are some delightful products in there, but not very many. Hmm. If you’re really going to make a go of this and be serious like Susan, you’d better buy a few more products so that you’ve got more to show when you’ll be hosting all those amazing parties. So you order some more products. They arrive, and you’re really happy with them. You don’t worry too much that you’ve spent about $500 so far, because you’re going to rock this.

Then, you sit down to make a start. You make a list of your friends and family, including some of your most trusted work colleagues. You tell them about your awesome business opportunity and ask if they want to come to your first party. Some of your closest friends will come, because they want to support you. Some members of your family may obligingly attend. Your work mates will wonder what you’re doing because you already have a job, but a couple may come out of intrigue as well as support.

You do your presentation and show everyone the products. They seem OK with what you’ve said. Some of them may even buy a product or two. Depending on the MLM and the products on offer, they may be genuinely good products and you might make sales because people genuinely want what you’re selling. I know that whenever I go to an Intimo party (Intimo lingerie in Australia, not the US Intimo pajama products), I can spend up pretty big. One party I went to I spent about $600 on some absolutely delightful clothing and lingerie, and that was holding back. If I wasn’t concerned about money I could have spent $2,000 easily because the clothing is that good. But that only happens when the products are amazing. If the products are mediocre then it’s quite possible that people are just buying them to be nice, and typically won’t repeat purchase. And these are the ones who care about you. You may even get a couple of people who agree to host a party for you, more because of the social aspect than the awesomeness of the products or ‘opportunity’.

Then there’s the next list you need to make. The people you are not as close with who somehow need to be convinced to either come to your party, or to host their own party, usually for some kind of reward or discount. This is a much harder sell because they don’t have the same level of care for you as your closest friends and family. Before you realise it, you’ve approached everyone you know, and sometimes people you only remotely know. Then you need to start spamming your social media feeds, and people begin to roll their eyes when they see your posts, because they just don’t want any more fragrance diffusers. Why are they not turning up?But my MLM is awesome - where is everyone?You’ve exhausted all of your warm leads. Now what? Oh well, you think. At least I’ve still got my $500 worth of fragrance diffusers. My house will smell amazing for the next fifteen years.

But nothing has changed in your life except for the unused products I’ve accumulated.

Can You Make Money With MLM?

The answer is yes, you can, BUT. The odds are stacked against you, and there are a variety of reasons why that is the case, based on the nature of the business model.

There is a reason why 99% of all people who join an MLM will fail.

The common characteristics of MLMs

There are several characteristics that are common of MLMs:

  • You usually need to purchase a ‘starter kit’, and sometimes these can be quite expensive.
  • They rely on you selling products. This usually involves approaching your family and friends.
  • You receive a commission for the products you sell, if you are qualified to earn commissions.
  • You are strongly encouraged to recruit others into the business – that is a key way for you to make money.
  • Your earnings are constrained by how good your down lines are.
  • Depending on the MLM, there may be recurring fees such as an annual fee, and a fee for a generic website.
  • You may need to make minimum monthly purchases on auto ship to become and remain qualified to earn commissions (in some cases this may actually equate to more than you even make).
  • Your success will depend on your ability to recruit others by selling it as a lifestyle opportunity.
  • You have to promote the particular product lines of the company, within their strict branding guidelines.
  • You may need to host parties in order to raise awareness and sell products. This may come at a financial cost to you.
  • There are complicated compensation plans that usually contain several levels and have minimum requirements for progression.
  • The earnings summaries and compensation plans are not usually immediately available on the website, and require some digging around to find (depending on the MLM).
  • Despite what you might think, you are not a business owner, you are simply selling someone else’s product for them. If they close down (including being forced to close down), your business is over. It was never yours to begin with.
  • More than 99% of people lose money with MLMs.
  • If you are one of the rare minority who are successful within an MLM, the odds mean that the people you recruit in will be losing money. (Some ‘lifestyle opportunity’ you are offering them.)
  • You will need to work extremely hard, and if you are not successful you will be told it’s because you didn’t work hard enough.

How To Be Successful With MLM

Honestly, I feel that unless you have some inherent personal characteristics that are aligned with the requirements of MLM, you won’t succeed. I have watched people succeed with MLM (in fact reach the very top). They represent a very small minority of people. The traits I believe you need to possess include:

  • Resilience and tenacity – you will hear ‘no thanks’ more than you would like. You need to pick yourself up and keep going even if you don’t want to.
  • Not caring too much about what people think, and their judgments of you.
  • Ability to work around the clock, including after hours and on weekends to host parties and speak with people outside of their employment hours.
  • Being OK to talk about your opportunity to anyone and everyone.
  • Ability to be extroverted with your business.
  • Desire and ability to generate new leads and continually build your list from a variety of sources, all the time.
  • Ability to promote face to face, including in group settings, as well on social media platforms. The people who I’ve seen who are successful are awesome at presenting to groups and know how to work the room.
  • Ability to inspire others and be positive and upbeat. In many ways you are also selling yourself and your own success to others.
  • Desire and ability to coach and build the skills of others, remembering that the more successful they are, the more successful you are.

MLM vs Affiliate MarketingEven if you have all of these qualities, it’s a long and tough road to become a top earner in any MLM. It’s possible of course, but know that it’s hard, and the odds are stacked against you.

My Top 17 Reasons Affiliate Marketing Beats Joining An MLM

There are so many reasons why affiliate marketing is a better choice than an MLM. In no particular order:

  1. Affiliate programs are free to join, and there are literally millions of them all around the world!
  2. Affiliate marketing has become a key marketing strategy of companies who know they need to have a strong online presence, and the good ones reward their marketers well. It is a legitimate way to promote products and be paid to do so.
  3. You can promote whatever you want to promote, in any niche you can think of. The opportunities are endless, and you can promote multiple different things you are interested without representing just one company.
  4. The websites you build are 100% yours and no-one else’s. You are in control of your sites, how you populate them, and what you promote.
  5. If an affiliate program disappears, you can just find another (however if you take the time to pick great affiliate programs, the likelihood of this happening is low). If your MLM shuts down, you’re in trouble!
  6. It is free to get started in affiliate marketing, and there are many free tools available to help you. Note: I always recommend investing in quality training and a great theme – these are very inexpensive and will take you a long way.
  7. You never need to purchase any products, or worry about inventory – you never need to touch a product unless you choose to.
  8. You don’t need to approach your friends and family (or anyone for that matter!). If you want to tell people about what you’re doing that’s awesome, but you don’t need to.
  9. You don’t have to recruit a soul.
  10. You don’t have to train, coach or mentor anyone.
  11. You are not reliant on a downline for income – you are only reliant on yourself.
  12. There are no monthly sales quotas.
  13. Using tried and true affiliate marketing techniques, the customers come to you. Your websites do all the work.
  14. You choose when and where you work. You really do have the flexibility to choose the time and the place you work. (Right now, it’s the weekend and my kids are doing three hours of sport – I’ve got my laptop and a hot spot so i’m good to go!)
  15. You can promote products from anywhere in the world – the products and affiliate programs you promote can usually be from anywhere. I’m in Australia and most of the programs, services and products I am affiliated with are based in the US, Canada, Europe and Asia.
  16. Once you’ve built and monetized one website, you can repeat as many times as you like!
  17. The content you create will pay you again and again.

Can You Make Money With Affiliate Marketing?

Yes, you can absolutely make money with affiliate marketing. There are many reasons for this:

  • Online shopping is absolutely HUGE. People search for products online, and like to see what people think about those products before making a purchase. You are providing information to people who are actively searching for it, and you are helping them to make a purchasing decision.
  • Affiliate marketing has become a standard marketing strategy of major companies globally – they recognise that it is in their best interests for people like you and me to promote what they are selling. It is the cheapest form of advertising for them, and they reward you for that.
  • In 2021, over 2.14 billion people worldwide are expected to buy goods and services online, up from 1.66 billion global digital buyers in 2016. (Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/251666/number-of-digital-buyers-worldwide/).They are your audience, and they are searching for things all the time.

Check out my post here about some affiliate marketing success stories, and these are just a selection of the ones I know from the online platform we use. Mind you, most people don’t like to share their income stories, so there are many more.

Affiliate Marketing Wins Hands Down!

MLM vs Affiliate Marketing

MLM Reviews

I’ve been reviewing various MLMs, and I add to the list regularly. Here are my reviews so far: 

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