Check with the watchdogs. Call your local Better Business Bureau, consumer protection office, or other notable consumer agency to see if the company is in good standing or if any complaints have been filed against it. To see if any formal actions have been taken against a company, call your state attorney general’s office. Also, contact the National Fraud Information Center.
Identify the product. The whole idea of network marketing is to use direct salespeople to sell products or services to the end consumer. So if no product or service exists, and only money is changing hands, head for the door. Illegal pyramid schemes often disguise themselves as reputable MLMs by taking on a line of products and claiming to sell them to consumers. However, little time and effort is spent actually marketing the products because profits come from recruitment. Ask what sort of marketing is allowed. If the company resists using viable ways to notify the public about its products or services, look out.
Mind the costs. No matter which network marketing company you choose, it should cost you very little to join. Most startup fees of legitimate firms are less than $500. This cost typically includes a sales kit complete with company information and a few product samples. Some incoming distributors opt to pay more than the required fee so that they can have more products on hand. When considering the costs, watch out for companies that pressure you to pay large amounts for the privilege of joining or that try to load expensive inventory or training aids on you.
Get literate. Secure copies of all available company literature, including the company’s most recent financial statement, to check gross sales. Bear in mind that in most cases this document will be next to impossible to get unless the company is publicly owned. But ask anyway. Look at the number of years the company has been in business, the areas where it operates, and how many distributors it has. Talk to company officers about the average earnings of its distributors, its product return policies, and distributor dropout rates.
Alfred Edmond Jr. is the editor-in-chief of BlackEnterprise.com and the host of the Urban Business Roundtable, a weekly radio show, sponsored by Ariel Investments, airing CST Wednesdays at 8:30 a.m., Thursdays at 6:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. on WVON-AM 1690, the Talk of Chicago. You can also listen live online at WVON.com. Check back each Wednesday for The UBR Morning Post, which features additional resources, advice and information from and about the topics, entrepreneurs and experts featured on the show.