Published on December 12, 2019 by the FairShake Team
A notification for Facebook messenger: “Hey hun!” with a waving emoji.
You know where this is going. This kind of social media message from an acquaintance or a long lost friend is unlikely to be just a friendly check-in. More than likely, there’s a sales pitch coming; not just any sales pitch. A social media solicitation like this one is likely to come from a multi-level marketer (MLM), someone who sells products and recruits new sellers for a company like Scentsy, doTerra, LulaRoe, or Younique.
Women everywhere have experienced these sales pitches, and when we say everywhere, we really mean everywhere. Data from a FairShake survey showed that as many as 10 million American women were approached by a friend, family member, acquaintance, or even a total stranger about buying products from a multi-level marketing company, or joining the company to start selling the products themselves.
Gone are the days of multi-level marketing confined to your neighborhood Avon or Tupperware salesperson hosting parties and dropping off catalogs. With the rise of social media, these companies and their consultants have adopted aggressive new strategies to sell their products and recruit new members. Our survey results show just how pervasive the companies and the social media solicitations have become.
Our survey results showed that more than 15 percent of all respondents had a friend or family member share information with them about a multi-level marketing business.
Of these women, 64.5 percent were asked to buy products from the friend or family member who was selling the products.
By applying those percentages to U.S. Census Bureau data for how many total women between the ages of 18 and 54 live in the United States, we can estimate that this means around 9.87 percent of all women in this age group received a pitch about a friend or family member’s MLM business in the last year, which comes out to just over 10 million women nationwide. Accounting for a five percent margin of error on the low end, that’s still five million women. The actual number could be as high as 15 million women.
What this means is the number of MLM pitches are growing, and if someone you know gets involved with an MLM, you’re likely to receive a sales pitch.
Although many of us may tend to roll our eyes at the emoji-filled posts from the MLM sellers in our lives, 59 percent of women in our survey who said they had been contacted about buying from an MLM actually ended up making at least one purchase.
We saw significantly less success in pitches to actually join the MLM company and become a seller. Of the survey respondents that were contacted in the last year by a friend or family member in an MLM, 14 percent of them signed up to become sellers. That may mean pitches to recruit new members to the ranks of these companies are less successful than sales pitches, or it may mean there are some MLM participants answering our survey that had more of a focus on selling products than on recruiting new MLMs.
Almost half of all the sellers that responded to our survey said they have never been able to recruit more sellers for their MLM.
Twenty-eight percent of sellers said they recruited 1-2 new sellers, six percent said they recruited 3-5 new people to sell, and 22 percent reported they recruited more than 5 new people to sell for their MLM.
Our survey respondents reported being contacted by representatives from 29 different MLM companies, which is actually just under half of the 61 active multi-level marketing and direct sales companies in existence today.
Despite having so many companies represented in the responses from our survey, it was very clear that some MLM companies are more persistant than others.
Nearly a third of our respondents (29.6 percent) said that in the last year, they had been approached by someone selling for Scentsy, which is a company that sells scented waxes and oils.
The next most popular MLM was doTerra, which is an essential oil MLM. Nearly 20 percent percent of our survey respondents said they’d been approached with a doTerra sales pitch in the last year.
19.1 percent of respondents said they’d been pitched by sellers from Younique, which is a makeup MLM. 6.8 percent said they’d been pitched by sellers from Herbalife, an MLM company that sells dietary supplements. Advocare and Lularoe also appeared to be popular, as they’d been pitched to 5.6 percent and 3.7 percent of our survey respondents, respectively.
One surprising result of our survey was finding out that more than a third of people (37 percent) that reported that sell products for an MLM said they’d been doing it for more than two years.
18 percent said they’d been selling for 1-2 years, 18 percent said they’d been selling for 6 months to a year, and 25 percent of sellers reported that they’d been doing so for less than six months at the time they took the survey.
Whether they’re just buying MLM products, or they’re a seller purchasing stock to resell to people in their networks, our survey showed that most people involved with MLM companies don’t spend much money on the company’s products.
66 percent of buyers and sellers who had purchased MLM products said they’d spent less than $500 over the course of the last year.
12 percent said they’d spent between $500 and $1,000, 6 percent said they’d spent $1,000 to $2,000, and 4 percent reported spending between $2,000 and $5,000 on MLM products. 11 percent said they’d spent more than $5,000. That includes sellers who are sometimes required to purchase expensive “starter kits,” have certain amounts of product on hand, or meet monthly sales minimums.
No matter how many horror stories you’ve seen in the news about class-action lawsuits against MLM companies from spurned former sellers, it looks like most people who are active sellers for MLMs are happy with how it’s going.
62.5 percent of sellers who participated in our survey said they were satisfied with their experience overall. It’s important to note, though, that that’s 62.5 percent of current sellers, not former sellers, who might feel differently.
To learn more about how many people have been contacted about buying from or selling for MLMs, we collected data via Google surveys, where we received 2,626 total responses. Of those, 402 responses passed our screening questions and filled out a complete survey.
We specifically limited responses used in this study to those that came from women between the ages of 18 and 54 who live in the United States. It took some discussion to arrive at the decision to only include responses from women. Research shows that 75 percent of all MLM sellers are women, so we ultimately made the decision to limit our study to women.
Using Census Bureau data, we applied our survey results to the 102,379,851 American women between 18 and 54 years old to arrive, with 95 percent confidence, at our conclusion that just over 10 million women in this age group in the United States were likely approached about multi-level marketing (either buying or selling) in the last year.
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