Company Name: Arbonne
Costs: $79 registration/$30 renewal
What Is It
A MLM company specializing in organic products in the nutrition and cosmetic areas. The company offers a range of products, but the emphasis is still on recruiting others to the company.
Arbonne’s opportunity is similar to most other MLMs, and most members simply aren’t successful at making money through the company. The only real advantage that the company has is the emphasis on natural products, but even then, its products tend to be expensive, making it hard to make sales.
Arbonne offers a decent selection of products ranging across skincare, bath & body, cosmetics, nutrition and a few other categories. Many of their products are on the expensive side, like the eye makeup below.
Even the most basic products from the company tend to be on the expensive side, such as $17 for what looks like pretty standard deodorant. This means that buying anything through the company would get expensive quickly. BTW even organic, brand name deodorant costs less than $10.
However, there are some good things about the products too. One is that they tend not to be too highly hyped. It’s pretty common to see MLMs make amazing promises about a product and then fail to back any of them up.
In the case of Arbonne most of the product claims are reasonable and about what you would expect. For example, this is the product information for vanilla protein shake mix from the company:
The claim doesn’t even mention to the potential to lose weight, while similar products from other companies tend to latch onto that claim.
The products also tend to get pretty good reviews on Amazon, such as this for the same vanilla shake mix:
I have no doubt that many of the positive reviews for the product are from distributors, but the ratings suggest that some of them are legitimate too. If they weren’t, you would see a lot of five star reviews and a lot of one star ones – a very common pattern in MLM.
Additionally, many of the positive reviews for the product are well written, without hype and with personal stories. Distributors for MLM products rarely take that approach to reviews, instead just going on about how ‘wonderful’ the product is.
One surprising thing about the company’s products is that the majority of them are on Amazon. This is unusual and most MLM companies try to force users to buy through the company’s website or through distributors.
In fact, Amazon seems to be a little bit less expensive than Arbonne’s website. There are a large number of people on Amazon selling the products, so it looks like some distributors have taken to Amazon as way of getting better sales, with lower profit.
Product Quality and Uniqueness
Products are one of the most important aspects of any MLM. Most of the time MLMs tend to have overpriced products with hyped up claims that simply don’t stand out in the marketplace. This becomes a problem when you are trying to promote the company, as the products don’t appeal to most consumers.
One thing I like about Arbonne’s products is that they do actually have a selling point. Most of their products tend to be natural or organic and have few (if any) artificial ingredients. This is especially true for the nutritional products.
In fact, many of Arbonne’s products are around the market average when you take this into account.
They are still expensive products and would be challenging to sell, but at least they seem to be high quality products that are generally well-liked. To be honest, some people enjoy having a unique brand that they stick to, and there certainly is a market for premium cosmetics.
Arbonne’s website does have a pretty strong focus on its topics, but despite this, it is a MLM and the company’s opportunity is a key part of its business model.
Personally, I hate the concept of a business ‘opportunity’, especially one like Arbonne offers. On paper, the concept sounds great, but in reality you are just buying into their company as an employee. Not only do you do the sales for them, but you also pay the company for the pleasure and take all the risks along the way.
That makes for a very one-sided relationship and it’s a risk, not an opportunity. What if you had to pay to become an employee of any other place out there? It would be a pretty raw deal. But because there is the “recruiting” aspect included, suddenly the game changes.
In the case of Arbonne, users of the site have three options. The first two are for shopping only, letting members buy at standard rates or at discounted rates if they buy enough and pay membership. The last option is where the opportunity aspect of the site comes from.
So it costs $79 to start up with the company and after that it costs $30 per year. That is actually pretty reasonable considering that most MLMs require you to buy products along the way. In fact, most MLMs force you to buy a certain amount of product a month to remain ‘active’, which can get expensive if you aren’t selling as much as you are buying. Unfortunately Arbonne doesn't make it clear whether you have a minimum purchase requirement to remain active.
As an independent consultant, members can theoretically earn money in four ways. The first of these ways is related to what you earn directly by selling to others. The other approaches are all focused on recruitment.
This approach is why the MLM label is given to Arbonne. The term stands for Multi Level Marketing, and that’s exactly what consultants are encouraged to do.
Essentially, you try to recruit other people into the company and they become part of your team (specifically, they are your downline). Ideally, those people then recruit others, and so forth. You then earn money from the sales that your team makes, going down multiple levels.
The approach is challenging and it involves a lot of management. After all, it is only really successful if the people you recruit actually make money.
One concerning thing about Arbonne is that it doesn’t offer all that much information about the plan up front.
It seems to me that if they really wanted you to sign up and stay, they would give you more information up front. Instead, they rely on distributors to recruit and relay this information to you. This often ends up with you in a high pressure meeting, or one of those “parties” where your friend lures you to their home with promises of free food and drinks, then proceeds to give you a sales pitch.
Being a distributor or consulter for a company like Arbonne is always challenging. You have to find people who are willing to buy the products from the company or sign up as a distributor. Unless you have a wide circle of friends and contacts this can be quite difficult. Without training on how to get your business online and reach out to interested parties through search engine marketing or paid advertising, you're stuck being that “MLM friend”, who is always two sentences away from a speech about financial freedom and how these products changed your life for the better.
Arbonne does have an advantage over most MLMs in that you are promoting a product that is somewhat appealing and there are some key selling points to it. Even then, you still have to compete with all of the similar products out there, as well as other distributors and all the versions of the products that are sold online.
Potential for Profit
Under the MLM model, you do have the potential to earn money, but most people who join won’t. For example, this is a table of success during 2011 by Arbonne members.
According to this table, around 10% of consultants actually make money. However, this isn’t quite true. The table is actually only giving numbers based on ‘active’ consultants. These are ones that fulfill a number of conditions, including making a certain amount of sales each month.
As such, there are more people failing to make money than this table implies.
Additionally, 5.5% of active consultants are earning an average of $631 per year. That’s not a lot of money, especially when the work involved is quite high. The earnings also don’t take into account how much money the consultants are actually spending on products or events to attract customers., so their profits would be much lower than that.
This should offer a pretty good indication of just how few people make money with Airbonne.
Arbonne is better than most MLMs in that its products are actually decent and appealing. However, a lack of comprehensive information on their website, no indication of online marketing training, and the dismal stats of distributor's earnings are a red flag to watch out for.
The only real reason to consider this company as a source of income is if you are passionate about their products.
MLM VS Affiliate Marketing
MLMs are great at making their approach look like a fantastic opportunity, but they simply aren’t. With Airbonne and many others you are paying to be an employee of the company and risking money every step of the way.
Why be restricted to a narrow range of products and a complicated commissions scheme? You can still promote high end cosmetics and protein shakes of any brand you want by starting an affiliate marketing website. Reach people that WANT to buy what you're selling, instead of trying to pitch your product to every person you meet.
In fact, you don't even need to get into the makeup biz! Promote products that interest you, at price points you can justify, and educate your audience as to what will give them the most value for their needs.
Whatever type of product you decide to promote, it's important to own your own website to grow your business.
Parties only work if you have a network of friends with money in their pockets. Network marketing only works if your friends are interested in joining business opportunities.
With a website you can reach the entire world, and only promote great products to people interested in what you have to say. Plus, you open up doors to multiple streams of revenue like affiliate sales, ad click revenue, paid advertising, and even selling your own digital products.