Types of Network Marketing

13 Jun, 2024

Network marketing, also known as multi-level marketing (MLM), is a business model that relies on a network of distributors to grow the business. There are several types of network marketing models, each with its unique structure and compensation plan. Here’s an in-depth look at the main types of network marketing:

Single-Tier Network Marketing

In single-tier network marketing, distributors earn commissions solely through direct sales of products or services. There is no recruitment of other distributors or complex hierarchies. This model is straightforward and often used by companies that focus on affiliate marketing.


  • Affiliate Programs: Companies like Amazon Associates pay affiliates a commission for sales generated through their referral links. There is no downline or recruitment involved.

Two-Tier Network Marketing

Two-tier network marketing allows distributors to earn commissions on their sales as well as the sales made by the distributors they directly recruit. This model is slightly more complex than the single-tier system but still maintains simplicity.


  • Direct Sales Companies: Some companies offer bonuses or commissions not only for personal sales but also for sales made by direct recruits. This is common in industries like health and wellness, beauty, and nutrition.

Multi-Level Marketing (MLM)

Multi-level marketing involves a more complex structure where distributors earn commissions from their sales, the sales of their recruits, and potentially several levels of recruits below them. MLM is characterized by a hierarchical structure where each level of the hierarchy can earn from the sales of the levels below.

Compensation Plans:

  • Unilevel Plan: In a unilevel plan, each distributor can recruit as many people as possible on their first level. Commissions are typically earned on a fixed number of levels deep.
  • Binary Plan: This plan requires distributors to recruit two main distributors, forming two legs. Commissions are earned based on the balanced volume of the two legs.
  • Matrix Plan: In a matrix plan, the structure is limited to a fixed number of recruits at each level, creating a grid or matrix. For example, a 3x3 matrix allows three recruits on the first level and nine on the second level.
  • Hybrid Plan: Some companies combine elements of different compensation plans to create a hybrid model, which can offer more flexibility and potentially higher earnings.

Referral Marketing

Referral marketing focuses on encouraging existing customers or distributors to refer new customers. Unlike MLM, referral marketing typically does not involve building a downline or multiple levels of recruitment.


  • Customer Referral Programs: Many businesses offer discounts, rewards, or commissions to customers who refer new clients. This is common in subscription services, financial products, and e-commerce.

Network Crowdfunding

Network crowdfunding leverages the principles of network marketing to fund projects or ventures. Participants contribute financially and recruit others to do the same, earning incentives based on the total contributions raised through their network.


  • Peer-to-Peer Lending Platforms: These platforms allow individuals to lend money to others, earning interest on their contributions. Participants can also refer others to join the platform and earn bonuses.

Social Network Marketing

Social network marketing involves leveraging social media platforms to promote products or services. Distributors use their social networks to reach potential customers and recruits, often earning commissions based on their social media engagement and sales.


  • Influencer Marketing: Influencers promote products to their followers and earn commissions on sales generated through their affiliate links or discount codes. This model often overlaps with affiliate and referral marketing.


Network marketing encompasses a variety of models, each with its unique features and compensation structures. While MLM is the most recognized form, other types such as single-tier, two-tier, and referral marketing offer different opportunities and levels of complexity. Understanding these different types can help individuals choose the best approach for their skills and goals in the network marketing industry.

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