Tweamster's Blog

Network Marketing and Product Sales | July 12, 2010

Where Does The Money Come From?

I really didn’t think I was going to spend any more time on the basics of picking a network marketing business to work from home with, but an email I received this week changed my mind.

It was an email asking me to check out a company that this individual thought was a “winner” and wanting to know what I thought about it. Since one of the things I do to continue my own education is check out other companies, I did go to the website and look around a bit.

Doing so got me to wondering if people have any clue where the money comes from in a business – traditional or network marketing – either one.

What does a company get paid for? Anyone want to take a guess? Yes, you there in the pink blouse? Sales, you say. Well, close, anyone else? Okay, you there in the cowboy boots. A product or service. That’s right!

The only thing a company gets paid for is delivery; delivery of service (think electrical company providing electricity, lawyer providing legal service, phone company providing phone service) or delivery of product (anyone not know what Wal-Mart, Target or 1-800-FLOWERS sells). Every company is in the business of delivering something, whether it is a service, a product, advice or access to information.

Some people think it is sales because that is where the money usually changes hands, but what is that money paying for? It’s paying for the past, present or future delivery of the service or product.

You may be asking by now, what the heck does this have to do with network marketing? (Or, maybe not, you might be brighter than I was when I first started in business for myself.) But bear with me, I’ll get to the point shortly.

What Does The FTC Say?

In a 2004 United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Staff Advisory letter to the Direct Selling Association states: “… 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.”   – Kohm, James A. (January 14, 2004) (reprint). RE: Staff Advisory Opinion – Pyramid Scheme Analysis. Federal Trade Commission.

In plain English, that means that if you make money from recruiting other people into the program without any product or service changing hands, you might be in a pyramid. On the other hand, if nobody makes any money from recruiting, it’s probably not a pyramid.

If the product or service sale is obviously separate from signing up for the business, it’s probably not a pyramid.

This gets tricky to evaluate sometimes because less ethical companies try to obscure it.

Where Does The Money Go?

In a traditional business, money gets allocated to various parts of the business; so much for basic overhead (rent, lease or mortgage; lights; phones; water; trash service; etc.). Then so much for marketing and advertising, so much for salaries, so much for the sales force, accounting department, the actual production of the product or service, and so on, to cover all the various functions that make a business go.

In a network marketing business, money gets allocated the same way. But it gets divided up differently. In a network marketing company, you still have the basics of putting the company there, just like with a traditional company. There has to a headquarters, production facilities, lights, phones, etc. But all the money that a traditional business puts into marketing, advertising and sales gets put into the compensation structure to reward the independent sales force for their work promoting the company and the product and making sales.

Traditional Business (Brick & Mortar)

Now, I’m probably belaboring the obvious, but here are a couple examples of traditional businesses.

TV Repair Shop – rent, test equipment, advertising, employees’ salaries, electricity, phone service, internet service, heating/air conditioning, water, trash disposal, shelving, computers, TV parts, etc. plus profit. Product  = repaired TVs. People pay for repaired TVs which pays for all the foregoing.

Flower shop – rent, advertising, employees’ salaries, electricity, phone service, internet service, heating/air conditioning, water, trash disposal, shelving, computers, flowers, vases, baskets, balloons, greeting cards, ribbons, stuffed animals, etc. plus profit. Product = beautiful ways of saying thank you or congratulations, Happy Birthday or “I love you.” People pay for those, which pays for all the foregoing.

Network Marketing

The network marketing company itself has to pay for the home office, the home office employees, rent, electricity, phone service, internet service, heating/air conditioning, water, trash disposal, product development, product delivery, etc., but theoretically no marketing or advertising. (Most companies do some marketing and advertising to their sales force, that’s you and me, to keep them motivated, interested and in the know about company plans.)

Then there’s the independent sales force. You/me/they sell the product or service the company provides which brings in revenue for the network marketing company, which in turn pays you for those sales.


Mona Vie – sell a bottle of their nutritional drink and get paid for it.

Pre-Paid Legal – sell a legal plan and get paid for it.

Primerica – sell an insurance plan and get paid for it.

Seems Simple, Doesn’t It?

But, some companies don’t keep it simple like that.

One company I investigated paid a residual commission on cell phone service that your job was to find customers for. That’s legitimate. Where it got murky was that they paid commissions on the purchase of the website you needed to do business on line, they paid commissions on the sale of their promotional magazines, and there was a bonus on signing someone up for the business. Near as I could tell, most of the money was not being made on the sale of the cell phone service.

Point! I said I would get to the point shortly. Here it is, the company this individual wanted me to check out was a grocery company. You pay a one-time fee to sign up, I think it was $200. You recruit others into the company, who pay their $200, after five people cycle through under you, you get $500 of which part of it goes back to start your new “cycle” and part of it is paid to you in the form of a voucher.

The selling point was that this $200 voucher, which you could earn as often as you could sign up five people, would pay for your groceries and so you’d never have to pay for your groceries again.

Now stick with me here, if nobody ever actually buys groceries except with their vouchers, and you can’t get vouchers without recruiting people to work with you, what are you getting paid for? If you answered that you are getting paid for recruiting, go to the head of the class.

They are selling it as a business where you can earn free groceries, but in reality you’re getting paid for recruiting people. Which means when enough people complain to the FTC, they’ll look into it and shut it down. The people who haven’t had time to recruit anyone when the FTC shuts it down are out their $200.

For more on pyramids and scams and how to detect them, you can look at Pyramid, Scam, or For Real.

Free Groceries? Or Free Information?

One of the 7 Insider Secrets is what kind of products to look for, along with what kind of company to look for.

It’s really a great set of criteria to evaluate a company with. Go to and sign up for the “7 Days, 7 Insider Secrets” email newsletter.


I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.  – Lily Tomlin



  1. Hi Alan,

    On the face of it a Network Marketing company selling groceries would be pretty good, every body eats, right?

    Except most, if not all people want their food fresh, on demand.

    I think you’re right, it does sound like a pyramid.

    As far as picking the right Network Marketing Opportunity to work with look for three things,

    1. A consumable product.
    2. A stable Company, and the most important.
    3. A sponsor that can and will help you get started.


    Comment by Michael Cole — July 13, 2010 @ 9:44 am

    • Right on! Those are three very important items to have in your company.

      Thanks for the visit and the comment!


      Comment by tweamster — July 13, 2010 @ 7:57 pm

  2. Thank you Alan for stopping by my blog. But, more importantly, thank you for this post. Hopefully, if read, it will go along way in clarification. Our industry continues to suffer from misrepresentation and misunderstanding. On the other hand, the increase in the numbers of people looking to network marketing is soaring in this economy. Thanks for all you do.

    Comment by Betty Newbold — July 14, 2010 @ 8:10 am

    • Thank you so much for your kind words. Very much appreciated. I hope lots of people read it too! 🙂


      Comment by tweamster — July 14, 2010 @ 9:00 pm

  3. Thanks for commenting on my blog! I was beginning to think I only had one reader, glad to know I’m puting out some content that someone will read.Your grocery mlm doesn’t sound like a good deal.Glad I did’nt get hooked up with that one. is my personal website! Thanks and Have A Wonderful Day!

    Comment by mck5 — July 15, 2010 @ 8:10 am

  4. Valuable passing of your expertise over to your reader so he or she can determine whether a new mlm has staying power or not, and whether it really delivers a product or is a cover-up for a scam.


    Comment by Carrie — July 18, 2010 @ 10:09 pm

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