Fourth Quarter Results Show Sustained Growth at Primerica

Strong sales of investment and savings products contributed to a solid fourth quarter at Primerica Inc. (PRI—NYSE). This week the financial services provider posted quarterly revenue of $345.4 million, up 9 percent versus the prior-year period.

Fourth quarter earnings were 84 cents per share, narrowly missing the Zacks Investment Research consensus estimate of 85 cents. The company reported record annual sales of its investment and savings offerings, which increased 14 percent in the fourth quarter to close out the year at $5.68 billion. The quarter also yielded a 13 percent increase in new representatives, primarily due to improved incentive programs and messaging.

The Duluth, Georgia-based company logged another year of growth in 2014, generating revenue of $1.34 billion, a 9 percent year-over-year increase. Net income totaled $182.8 million. Primerica attributes the strong performance to growth in its Term Life net premiums as well as the aforementioned investment and savings category.

“Our full year 2014 results were marked by solid performance across segments including 11 percent growth in Term Life net premiums, 9 percent growth in ISP sales and an 8 percent increase in ending client asset values, while the size of the life insurance licensed sales force grew 3 percent,” said Rick Williams, Chairman of the Board and Co-CEO. “John Addison and I believe the positive 2014 results make this the perfect time for a leadership transition and are confident that [incoming CEO] Glenn Williams will take the company to the next level.”

Primerica’s board of directors has also announced an increased quarterly dividend of 16 cents per share for the fourth quarter of 2014. The company will pay out the dividend on March 16, 2015 to stockholders of record as of Feb. 20, 2015.

Are We Winning?

by John Fleming

Click here to order the February 2015 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.


It’s hard to keep a scorecard on the direct selling industry! Those who tend to look for a way to criticize can always find something. Those of us who see within the industry and have the opportunity to interact with industry decision makers gain much insight and perspective. And this is a time of year to reflect. The corporate scorecard will be the year-end financial statements that will recap the business of the previous year. Businesses will win or lose depending upon the bottom-line numbers of profit or loss and the top-line number of revenue generated in comparison to the prior measurement period. But the question for those of us affiliated with the direct selling industry might be: What is the industry scorecard? Are we winning or are we losing?

Some scorekeepers like Bill Ackman, the hedge fund manager who has specifically targeted Herbalife with venomous attacks on the company’s method of conducting business (direct sales), completes his scorecard based on a set of very personal criteria that leads to an accusation and attack on, in this case, Herbalife in particular. However, this type of scorecard has implications for the entire industry. Direct selling, as a channel of distribution, is executed in many different ways, from what we often refer to as party plan to network marketing, social entrepreneurship, social selling, and social commerce, or even simply person to person. Today, the actual definition of direct selling is so very broad that direct sellers utilize online methods for delivering messages and transacting business as effectively as any channel of distribution.

In response to a scorekeeper like Bill Ackman and his staff, we remind such scorekeepers of the fact that the industry has a formal code of ethics as well as an informal code of ethics. The industry code and the more stringent company codes of ethics serve to govern the manner in which those who utilize the direct selling channel engage both employees of the company and the independent brand partners representing the company’s products, services and business opportunity. Independent contractors are also consumers as it simply makes sense to be your own best customer.


Today, the actual definition of direct selling is so very broad that direct sellers utilize online methods for delivering messages and transacting business as effectively as any channel of distribution.


The formal Code of Ethics is provided by the U.S. Direct Selling Association, and this code is public information. Members of the U.S. DSA pledge to abide by the U.S. DSA Code of Ethics. Many non-members of the U.S. DSA (direct selling companies) have created their own company codes and often use the DSA Code of Ethics as their benchmark. In either case, the direct selling industry overall has done a good job of policing itself and has grown as a channel of distribution to over $30 billion in U.S. revenue and $150 billion in worldwide revenue, generated by approximately 16 million U.S. independent contractors and 90 million worldwide independent contractors.

Every organization and every business has some type of scorecard for reflection on previous-year results and the planning of the new year. It is part of our nature to desire a scorecard to determine if we are winning or losing. Each winter, the NFL hosts the ultimate scorecard in professional football, the Super Bowl, where thousands will witness the final score that determines the best football team of the year. The same process holds true for all professional sports teams and leagues wherever they are located in the world. Hundreds of millions watch these events on television.

Direct Selling News created a scorecard for the direct selling industry when we first published the Direct Selling News Global 100 listing in 2009. Each year, this enormous research project serves to identify the top 100 direct selling companies in the world who certify their revenue performance by submitting the DSN Revenue Certification Form and complete a profile of their company. This process results in the publishing of perhaps the most important scorecard on the industry issued by anyone.

However, there is more to score on a company-by-company basis, and we offer on this page a potential scorecard profile that we believe tells even more of the story about an industry that shows such diversity in its representation of people from all walks of life. Direct selling as a method of distribution provides people with hope and with training to learn the basic knowledge and skills to be able to build a business. This could be a small part-time effort or a more serious effort that not only develops customers but also provides the opportunity to recruit and train others to do this, resulting in a much larger business opportunity. Because a scorecard is so important, we encourage each direct selling company to submit your Global 100 information and profile, as in so doing you participate in a valid process for scoring an incredible industry.

In going through the scoring process, we remain optimistic that we will have experienced another year of overall growth with respect to the first two categories on the scorecard pictured. Within the growth, there will always be those companies that did not grow, and the reasons for that are many, some of which are mentioned below and are also being researched by Direct Selling News.

Continue to Direct Selling News to see the scorecard and find out if we are winning or not.

 

 

90 Days of Direct Selling – Day 68

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Primerica Inc.

2012 Net Sales: $1.27 billion

Country: USA

Primerica assists clients in meeting their needs for term life insurance, which they underwrite, and mutual funds, annuities and other financial products which they distribute primarily on behalf of third parties. Primerica insured more than 4 million lives and maintained approximately 2 million investment accounts on behalf of clients at Dec. 31, 2013.

 

2012 Rank: 11
2012 Net Sales: $1.2 billion
Sales Method: Person-to-person
Compensation Structure: Multi-level
Products: Financial services
Markets: 2
Salespeople: 95,600
Employees: 1,995
Headquarters: Duluth, Georgia
Executives: John Addison and Rick Williams
Year Founded: 1977
Stock Symbol: PRI—NYSE
Website: www.primerica.com

More Public Companies Report Q3 2014 Results

The following is a round-up of the latest publicly held companies to announce third quarter results:

At Nu Skin (NUS—NYSE), third quarter revenue was $638.8 million, down 30 percent over the prior-year period. The revenue dip partially reflects a limited-time introduction of Nu Skin’s ageLOC® TR90® weight management system in Q3 2013. The personal-care company reported earnings of $1.12 per share, ahead of Nu Skin’s 90 cents to 95 cents guidance for the quarter. The company expects fourth quarter revenue of $590 million to $610 million, with earnings per share of 72 cents to 77 cents.

“Our sales results are heavily impacted by our product launch schedule. Last year’s second-half launch, which generated approximately $550 million in sales, provides a difficult year-over-year comparison,” Nu Skin President and CEO Truman Hunt shared in the company’s report. “However, excluding product launch sales, the core business has stabilized and is trending positively sequentially.”

Primerica Inc. (PRI—NYSE) reported third quarter revenue of $339.2 million, up 9 percent year over year. Net income was down 3.7 percent to $41.6 million, or 75 cents per diluted share, impacted by accelerated equity compensation expenses related to retirement plan modifications and higher claims incurred in the quarter. The financial services provider lagged 8.43 percent behind the Zacks Consensus Estimate, but investors reacted positively to Primerica’s results. The company’s stock price gained 0.38 percent on the news to close Wednesday at $52.16.

Nature’s Sunshine Products Inc. (NATR—NASDAQ) reported increased revenue for the third quarter on Wednesday, with $94.9 million, up 2.6 percent from $92.5 million in the third quarter of 2013. Results showed lower earnings though, with 6 cents per diluted common share or net income of $1 million, compared to 29 cents, or $4.9 million in the third quarter of 2013. It was the fifth consecutive quarter of record sales for the health and wellness company’s Synergy WorldWide business, driven by South Korea, Japan and a return to growth in Europe.

“Sales in NSP North America have begun to improve with NSP United States and NSP Canada posting net sales growth for the first time since the second quarter of 2013 and the first quarter of 2012, respectively,” said Chairman and CEO Gregory L. Probert. “We remain cautiously optimistic about the future of this core market as our new products and sales programs continue to gain traction.”

Medifast Inc. (MED—NYSE) third quarter results came in ahead of expectations on Wednesday with net income of $4.9 million, or 39 cents per share. Excluding non-recurring costs, adjusted earnings came to 47 cents per share, or $5.9 million net income. The weight-loss company posted net revenue of $74 million. This was a decrease of 14 percent from net revenue of $86.5 million in the third quarter of 2013. Revenue in the direct sales channel, Take Shape For Life, decreased 11 percent to $49.9 million in the third quarter of 2014, compared to $56.2 million in the same period last year.

Guidance for Q4 revenue and EPS is below consensus, with net revenue to be in the range of approximately $69 million to $73 million and EPS in the range of 31 cents to 34 cents. For fiscal year 2014, the company now expects revenue to be in the range of $310 million to $314 million and EPS in the range of $1.59 to $1.62. As trading closed on Wednesday, shares hit $30.09, an increase of 23 percent in the last 12 months.

A.M. Best Affirms Primerica’s Strong Credit Ratings

Photo above: Outside Primerica’s global headquarters in Duluth, Georgia. (photo: Primerica)

Primerica Life Insurance Co. has received another round of superior ratings from global credit rating agency A.M. Best. The agency affirmed its A+ financial strength rating and aa- issuer credit rating (ICR) of Primerica Life and its affiliates in New York and Canada.

Declaring a stable outlook for all ratings, A.M. Best also affirmed the strong a- ICR of holding company Primerica Inc. and positive ratings of the company’s debt and preferred stock. Primerica met earnings expectations for 2013 with annual GAAP net income of $163 million.

On the Canadian side of the business, Primerica recently expressed opposition to the government’s proposed overhaul of the country’s life insurance licensing program. Canada represents approximately 10 percent of Primerica’s total life-licensed representatives.

The implementation, which would take place in early 2016, would “create unnecessary barriers” and “negatively affect access to life insurance products by middle income Canadians,” Primerica told the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Read more on the methodology behind Primerica’s latest ratings.

Primerica Sponsors World’s Largest Relay for Life

Financial services firm Primerica recently sponsored the world’s largest Relay for Life event in its home state of Georgia. With the theme of “Sowing Seeds of Hope and Cultivating a Cure,” the company raised more than $80,000 to help fight cancer and support survivors of the disease.

Relay for Life is an American Cancer Society initiative that brings communities together in an overnight fundraiser walk. Because “cancer never sleeps,” team members take turns walking throughout the night. Each year the event raises more than $400 million in support of cancer research and services.

Primerica served as a Presenting Sponsor of the 2014 Relay for Life of Gwinnett County, home of the company’s international headquarters. Employees from Primerica’s corporate office formed 15 teams and coordinated a variety of fundraisers leading up to the event.

SUCCESS Partners Hosts Industry Execs at ‘The Growth Conference’

Above photo: SUCCESS Partners Founder & CEO Stuart Johnson welcomes SPU attendees.

“Growth” was the focus of this year’s SUCCESS Partners University (SPU), an annual ideas conference that brings together top direct selling executives from across the globe. On April 23-24, 400-plus attendees gathered in Dallas for the opportunity to collect cutting-edge insights and solutions from their peers within the industry.

Dubbed “The Growth Conference,” the event highlighted companies that are accomplishing extraordinary things through a culture of focus, authenticity and simplicity. More than 25 speakers took the stage in quick succession to share the strategies that have taken their organizations, as CEO Mark Pentecost and the It Works! team say, “to a whole notha level.” Bestselling author and SUCCESS magazine Publisher Darren Hardy served as master of ceremonies for the event.

The speakers represented companies of all sizes, marketing a range of products and services. CEO Jeff Olson shared how Nerium has achieved record growth—reporting $219 million in total revenue in its second year—by focusing on customer acquisition and promoting purpose and meaning over compensation plan and product. Tarl Robinson, CEO of Plexus Worldwide, endorsed a deliberate focus on fundamentals that has helped his company manage quadrupled growth. Zurvita Founder Mark Jarvis emphasized the importance of having “a simple message everyone can understand.” Zurvita saw exponential growth after streamlining its conglomeration of products and services to a single wellness product line. The line-up also included John Parker, Chief Sales Officer of Amway; Meredith Berkich, President of Viridian Energy; John Addison, Co-CEO of Primerica; Jeff Olson, CEO of Nerium and many more.

Entrepreneur, author and social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk took the stage to talk about leveraging emerging technologies to execute a marketing strategy “for the world we live in today.” The amplification of word-of-mouth through social media presents a unique challenge to direct selling companies, which operate through millions of representatives worldwide. “Today, every single person in the world is a media company,” said Vaynerchuk, calling upon the leaders in the room to think of their brand as a media company first, and as a retailer second.

In conjunction with SPU, attendees had the opportunity to attend the DSN Global 100 Celebration. The event unveiled the results of research conducted to identify the top 100 companies in the industry globally. The DSN Global 100 list, which will appear in the June 2014 issue of Direct Selling News, profiles these companies and their impact on lives around the world.


Photo Gallery


2014 DSN Global 100 List

DSN 100


Since 2004 Direct Selling News has been dedicated to telling stories focused on relating the opportunities direct sellers provide to millions of independent business owners around the globe. So it seemed only fitting for DSN to further recognize the industry by compiling a comprehensive list, starting in 2010, of the top direct selling companies in the world.

The DSN Global 100 list offers a unique perspective on the global impact of the industry on economic and social realms. It provides a range of mutual learning not only for industry members but also for researchers, investors and—most important—those seeking opportunities within the industry. In an effort to support transparency and verify authenticity, DSN implemented a new standard for the 2011 ranking, which we have continued each year since: the Revenue Certification Form (RCF). In addition to an updated profile, each company is asked to submit an RCF signed by the CEO and CFO or designated agent. Some privately-held companies choose not to participate in the Global 100 process, and therefore do not appear on this list. We encourage all companies to submit the required forms. We thank all the companies that willingly participated in our survey as well as our dedicated team of researchers who helped us present to you the remarkable achievements of direct sellers around the globe. The following contains the ranking for the 2014 DSN Global 100 (based on 2013 revenues), our annual list of the top revenue-generating direct selling companies in the world. The list is published in the June issue of Direct Selling News.


Click here to celebrate your company’s achievement with customized recognition prints.

2014 Rank

Company Name

2013 Revenue

1 Amway $11.80B
2 Avon $9.95B
3 Herbalife $4.80B
4 Vorwerk $3.70B
5 Mary Kay $3.60B
6 Natura $3.20B
7 Nu Skin $3.18B
8 Tupperware $2.67B
9 Belcorp $1.96B
10 Oriflame $1.95B
11 Primerica $1.27B
12 Ambit Energy $1.20B
13 Telecom Plus $1.10B
14 Stream Energy $867M
15 Yanbal $848M
16 Miki $783M
17 Thirty-One $763M
18 Blyth (PartyLite and ViSalus) $750M
19 USANA $718M
20 ACN $700M
21 New Era $678M
22 Market America $547M
23 Amore Pacific $520M
24 Forbes Lux $489M
25 Scentsy $485M
26 AdvoCare $460M
27 It Works! Global $456M
28 Noevir Holdings $455M
29 Isagenix $448M
30 COSWAY $440M
31 YoFoto $428M
32 Arbonne $413M
33 Better Way $407M
34 Nature’s Sunshine $378M
35 For Days $376M
36 Apollo $340M
37 Team National $332M
37 KK ASSURAN $332M
39 Team Beachbody $328M
40 LR Health & Beauty Systems $323M
41 4Life $300M
42 Longrich $292M
43 PM-International $284M
44 Neways $280M
45 Viridian Energy $267M
46 Jeunesse $257M
47 North American Power $256M
48 MENARD $255M
49 Southwestern Advantage $253M
50 Elken $233M
50 Origami Owl $233M
52 Take Shape For Life $229M
53 Vemma $221M
54 Nerium $219M
55 LG Household & Health Care $215M
55 Organo Gold $215M
57 Naris Cosmetics $214M
58 Charle $208M
58 LifeVantage $208M
60 Pro-Health $204M
61 CUTCO $200M
61 HEIM & HAUS $200M
63 Naturally Plus $199M
64 Rodan + Fields $196M
65 WorldVentures $195M
66 Family Heritage Life $192M
67 JAPAN LIFE $188M
68 Huis Clos $184M
69 GNLD $178M
70 Mannatech $177M
71 Giffarine $176M
72 Enagic $170M
73 Diana $166M
73 BearCere’Ju $166M
75 Hy Cite $164M
76 Plexus $160M
77 Princess House $154M
78 Gano Excel $150M
79 Zija $144M
80 KOYO-SHA $141M
81 Zhulian Marketing $127M
82 Univera $118M
83 Nikken $115M
84 5LINX $112M
85 Vision International People Group $96M
85 Arsoa Honsha $96M
87 New Image $95M
88 Nefful $94M
89 Youngevity $86M
90 Akasuka $83M
91 Tastefully Simple $79M
92 Kleeneze $76M
93 ENERGETIX $75M
94 Chandeal $72M
95 Momentis $71M
95 Seacret $71M
97 Ion Cosmetics $70M
98 Reliv $68M
99 CVSL $65M
100 Zurvita $63M

Click here to celebrate your company’s achievement with customized recognition prints.

Primerica Ranks among Georgia’s Top Workplaces

Photo above: Primerica’s corporate headquarters in Duluth, Ga.

Primerica Inc., a financial services company founded in Atlanta in 1977, has been recognized among the best workplaces in Georgia by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Based upon employee feedback, Primerica received the highest ranking of any public company, landing the No. 18 spot just ahead of mobile giant Sprint.

To determine the ranking, the Journal-Constitution and its partner Workplace Dynamics surveyed more than 50,000 employees from 211 companies in the Atlanta metro area. Primerica’s ranking falls under the Top 25 “large companies” category (500+ employees in the region).

Primerica Chief Human Resources Officer Karen Fine says the company’s culture is a unique one, where employees have a track record of staying with Primerica for the long haul. “The average tenure of our employees is 14 years, with 62 percent of employees serving 10 or more years with the company,” Fine said in a statement. “I believe that says everything about Primerica and the kind of work environment we have.”

On the representative side of the business, Primerica recently hosted more than 5,000 attendees at its 14th Annual African American Leadership Council (AALC) Meeting in Orlando. Some of the company’s top African American leaders launched the event as a way to empower other African Americans in Primerica. The three-day conference features a wide range of leadership and business training for representatives.

“Today, middle-income families are faced with tough financial challenges and most are way behind saving for retirement,” said John Lennon, Senior National Sales Director and Co-Chairman of the AALC. “We want our representatives to be better prepared to help these families—meeting face-to-face with them in their homes—to educate them about basic financial principles.”

Tech Trends for 2014: Don’t Get Left Behind

by Marilynn Hood and Teresa Day


Navigating the complexity of current tech evolutions can become quite daunting, making the recent past seem so simple. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that the direct selling industry was having an internal debate about High Tech vs. High Touch and the importance of not losing sight of relationships in the business transaction. There was even a time when the argument could be made that there was a choice between fully embracing technological developments or not.


My, my, how times have changed. Consider for a moment these staggering statistics:

  • 91 percent of adults in the U.S. own a cell phone.
  • Since 2009, 40 billion apps have been downloaded, and
  • This number is expected to grow to 70 billion app downloads in 2014 alone.
  • On average, the world spends 20 billion minutes on Facebook per day.

With the start of a new year, various organizations have published their lists of tech trends for 2014 and beyond. Some predicted outcomes seem to materialize straight out of a science fiction novel—intelligent personal assistants that can “learn”; more advisors smarter than Siri; autonomous vehicles; and 3D printing capabilities that can manufacture nearly everything and anything, including car parts, a hand-powered generator, prosthetic limbs and even living tissue, something called “bioprinting.”

And forget about gigabytes and terabytes, those newish terms that describe how much storage space is needed for all the virtual data created and communicated. IT networking company Cisco, in their ongoing initiative called the Visual Networking Index (VNI) which measures the way people utilize the Internet, uses terms like exabyte, zettabyte and even brontobyte!

IT networking company Cisco predicts that in 2017 information equal to every movie ever made will cross the Internet every three minutes!


So many more people will communicate so much more data across the Internet in the next few years that Cisco predicts in 2017 information equal to every movie ever made will cross the Internet every three minutes! Just a few short years from today, this incredible amount of information will be communicated from 19 billion devices connected to the Internet—on average, 2.5 networked devices per person on Earth.

It is quite remarkable to think about every person on Earth owning a cell phone; however, it’s even more remarkable in light of a United Nations report. In 2013, the U.N. found that of these 6 billion people who have mobile phones, only 4.5 billion of them have access to toilets! The Pew Research Center has stated that, by every measure one can think of, the cell phone has been the most quickly adopted consumer technology in the history of the world.

Within the retail goods sector, and more specifically within the direct selling industry, what’s important to focus on in this dizzying explosion of technology? More devices, more software, more choices? And we haven’t even mentioned the cloud or Big Data! How can one ever keep up, let alone stay ahead and make the right choices?

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) recently released a report on “The Rise of the Customer-Led Economy,” based upon its global survey of 1,300 executives representing 90 countries and 19 industries. Their report analyzes the evolving dynamic between large companies and their digitally connected customers. In its summary findings, EIU reported “A large majority of companies are fundamentally rethinking their strategies for engaging individual customers.” The rethinking comes along the lines of shifting focus from traditional push marketing and advertising (website, email) to more emphasis on customer interactions and engagements.

Additional data in the report revealed that most companies (51 percent) are still relying on their website as their main communication tool, followed by email (40 percent). Only 23 percent are using social media, with just 10 percent using mobile apps. That mix will change over the next three years. Companies in the survey say social media will become their No. 1 channel (43 percent) and their use of apps will leap fourfold.

All this data can help pinpoint a starting place for company executives wondering what to do next. There is a stark contrast between the number of consumers engaging in social media and utilizing apps, and the underwhelming number of businesses that are doing likewise. Investment and expansion in the areas of social media engagement and app development seem to have the best potential to support companies, distributors and customers, and ultimately bring more success to all. In order to make that happen, companies may have to invest in technological advancement and even consider thinking differently about the roles of their marketing and tech professionals, which are starting to overlap.

“[Consumers] expect full functionality and are not thrilled to find a company’s ‘lite’ version when using their phone.” —Doug Braun, Chief Marketing Officer, USANA


Social Sharing

Back in September 2011, in our cover story “The Social Media Phenomenon,” we wrote that Facebook boasted more than 750 million active users and the average user had 130 friends. Twitter had 200 million users generating 350 million tweets per day. YouTube received more than 3 billion views per day, and LinkedIn had more than 100 million registered users. Google+ had just debuted and accrued 20 million users very quickly.

Today, at the beginning of 2014, the numbers have grown dramatically. (See chart below)

From the beginning of humanity, people have been social creatures who share things with other people. Facebook just makes it easy! In fact, so easy that companies are missing a huge opportunity if they are still resisting the need to develop a Facebook page and engage their distributors and customers.

Social media guru and author Gary Vaynerchuck believes that every company can benefit in both the long-term and the short-term by engaging its customers on social media platforms. In his book The Thank-You Economy, he writes, “Embarking on one-to-one customer engagement offers significant long-term rewards, but the company will also experience immediate benefits—greater brand awareness, stronger brand loyalty, increased word of mouth, improved understanding of customer needs, and better, faster consumer feedback—and suffer very few drawbacks.”

Vaynerchuck also has a warning for companies who haven’t yet adopted a strong social media presence, writing, “Meanwhile the drawback to resisting social media engagement is clear: The longer you wait, the further the competition can pull ahead.”

Social media has proven to be a wonderful tool in so many ways, particularly in helping distributors build their businesses and keeping every level within a company connected. Most importantly, it fosters that sense of community and furthers the one-on-one engagement for which the direct selling industry is known.

Many companies, including Mary Kay, Stella & Dot and USANA, have very robust Facebook pages where they not only post company information and products, but also have pictures of their salesforce enjoying life and utilizing their products. These pages include company information, links to training, and other pertinent information for the salesforce, but also create a personality for the company that can then be shared with others.



Rod Larsen, President and CEO of Zija International, attributes much of his company’s rapid growth to social media. As he explains, “It only made sense to dive right in and leverage this phenomenon that has completely changed communication as we know it!” Zija’s Facebook page not only includes product information and links to training information, but it also functions as a recognition vehicle for distributors who win contests and prizes. Additionally, the company posts before-and-after pictures and success stories from distributors and their customers, providing a very personal level of engagement.

Connecting with people is foundational to the direct selling industry. By easily crossing international borders and time zones, social media has helped people around the world connect in ways that simply were not possible before. USANA has created Facebook pages specific to its international markets, truly building many smaller “local” communities while maintaining the overarching “parent” identity as well. For example, the USANA Australia/New Zealand Facebook page mirrors the primary corporate page in messaging and in branding, but it posts messages and information specific to that market.

Many companies do a great job of engagement, or what Vaynerchuck calls “heart and soul.” He says, “If your organization’s intentions transcend the mere act of selling a product or service, and it is brave enough to expose its heart and soul, people will respond. They will connect. They will like you. They will talk. They will buy.”


“If your organization’s intentions transcend the mere act of selling a product or service, and it is brave enough to expose its heart and soul, people will respond. They will connect. They will like you. They will talk. They will buy.” —Gary Vaynerchuck, social media guru and author of The Thank-You Economy


Primerica illustrates this principle in the friendly content that it also posts on Facebook, which has nothing to do with its products. An infographic with “10 Holiday Shopping Strategies” and other basic consumer tips make the page feel comfortable and homey. The company doesn’t feel the need to make every post a call to action, which generates more trust for the overall brand among its visitors.

According to an article by Mikal Belicove, published on Entrepreneur.com, creating and maintaining a good Facebook presence can benefit your business in at least the following ways:

  • Drives traffic to your website
  • Allows you to engage with your community easily and more freely
  • Strengthens customer relations
  • Provides a platform for your brand evangelists (perfect for direct sellers!)

Each of the above is reason enough to devote time and energy to social media engagement. And where would social media be without mobile devices?

Mobile Opportunities

Direct selling has always been a mobile industry in the traditional sense, with the top leaders in any organization during any decade going out to the people to sell products, recruit and train others, and build relationships. Over the last several years, numerous companies have pursued mobile device technologies to empower their salesforce, and this has helped leverage the opportunity that already existed, and in a very powerful way.

Progress brings more innovation, and the types and kinds of devices will certainly continue to grow. How independent representatives and even customers access a company’s website—whether by smartphone, tablet or PC—is beyond anyone’s control, now more than ever, and who knows what could be next? Questions of type of device (remember “PC or Mac” commercials?) are a thing of the past.

So what is important? First of all, mobile is here to stay, no matter what device is used. Again citing Cisco’s VNI report, globally in 2017, smartphones will account for over 27 percent of all device connections, and for over 67 percent of total traffic on the Internet. To look at that from the other side, within four years only about 30 percent of all worldwide Internet traffic will come from a desktop or laptop computer!

So if not the device, what should a company focus on? Flexibility, responsiveness, nimbleness and adaptability—these intangibles become increasingly important. And the creation of apps for use by the consultant and the customer can satisfy some, if not all, of these intangibles.

A simple but often overlooked area to begin with is the company website. With such increased usage of the Internet from mobile devices, companies face additional challenges in how they present their websites. Doug Braun, Chief Marketing Officer at USANA, points out that consumers now expect to be able to access the same information, whether it’s from their computer or handheld device. “They expect full functionality and are not thrilled to find a company’s ‘lite’ version when using their phone.”

To ensure optimal viewing and function on all devices, designers are increasingly using responsive web design (RWD) techniques. The idea is to create a basic site for the phone first and then provide enhancements for viewing with a tablet or computer, rather than designing the site for the computer’s larger screen and then trying to degrade the images and resize the text for the phone.

However, what if a company has already developed an app? If that’s the case, it seems that making the main website mobile-friendly wouldn’t be necessary. As Michael Kopp, a technology strategist at Compuware APM Center of Excellence, points out, that would be a mistake. Although consumers tend to prefer using an app, depending on the situation they may also use the website on their mobile device, sometimes switching between the two.

The importance of developing websites for optimal viewing on various devices and creating robust shopping apps has certainly grabbed the attention of several big retailers. According to a recent Associated Press article, the likes of Target, Kohl’s, Wal-Mart, American Eagle and home-shopping network QVC have all opened technology test labs in the San Francisco area in order to stay competitive. By hiring top tech talent, these giant retailers seek to replicate the creativity and nimbleness of startups.


Mobile commerce is now mainstream commerce, and it cannot be ignored by any company.


More Apps, Better Apps!

In 2007, Apple introduced the iPhone to the world and fundamentally changed the cell phone from a talking device with a camera into a multi-function pocket computer. Once Apple equipped its new device with an operating system that supported third-party applications and threw the door wide open to creative minds, the simultaneous explosive growth of the “app” began. Primarily recognized by the square icon that appears on the device screen after download, an app is a small piece of self-contained software that has been designed to function in a very specific manner on a mobile device.

First used for such things as playing games, reading The New York Times, placing a bid on eBay or checking the weather, the app development world soon started churning out mini-software programs of great value. Direct selling companies often led the way.

The point of sale, or POS, innovations have been enthusiastically embraced by distributors from many companies. An app, along with a card-reading device that attaches to a tablet or a smartphone, can transform any party, meeting or one-on-one into a storefront opportunity. A distributor can sell a product and take immediate payment anywhere.

The app integrates payment processing with order management and the distributor’s virtual back office. Distributors can avoid “card not present” fees and eliminate the headaches of bad cards and transposed numbers written hurriedly on sales receipts. Many companies support their salesforce with this sort of technology, allowing their distributors to conduct business wherever they are.

It is critical to note that when something becomes second nature or common practice for consumers, the expectation spreads to all companies and all products and services in their world. In other words, your average consumer will come to expect his or her experience with your company to mirror or at least compete with their expectations of other retailers, even if they are not direct sellers. Mobile commerce is now mainstream commerce, and it cannot be ignored by any company.

With the amazing variety of apps that have been developed, many companies have actually changed the way they conduct their business. Instead of being stuck in an office filling out paperwork, people can complete business transactions with apps on their phone and spend much more time out in the field interacting with potential customers. Primerica has been developing leading-edge apps from the beginning, eliminating mountains of paperwork and taking their sales field mobile.

For so many direct selling companies, apps have become powerful tools, allowing them to do business, in many cases, 24/7. Also, customers are afforded more options in how they access information and make purchases. For distributors, apps enhance the personal service for which the direct selling industry is known and free up more time for them to build their business. Health and wellness companies such as Nu Skin, USANA and Vemma have used apps to bring personal trainers directly to the customer’s home and provide a daily coach that can track calories and exercise and even offer motivational advice.

Many direct selling companies have developed apps that allow their distributors to complete basic business functions on the go, such as new distributor enrollment, access to back office functions, coordinating messages to prospects, and even ordering samples at the touch of a button. Zija International’s new app for distributors includes all of the above, as well as a GPS-based exercise tracker and a built-in social wall for networking with other Zija distributors.

The specialized app that custom clothier J.Hilburn designed allows its stylists to carry an entire store as well as a showroom in their iPad. The style board portion of the app allows them to create a high-end shopping experience for a customer in his own home or office, similar to what he would experience at the more exclusive stores. In the same way that salespeople would have pulled various clothing items and had them ready when the customer arrived for his appointment, the stylist preselects items based on the customer’s taste and exhibits them on her style board. The app, coupled with real fabric swatches and the expertise of the stylist, allows men to avoid going to a store and enduring the protracted selection process, which many may find tedious.

With the rise of mobile apps, the push for social media, and a company’s marketing messaging becoming more and more intertwined with technological expertise, a wholesale change for IT departments seems to be coming.


So how have these tech tools worked for J.Hilburn? Veeral Rathod, Co-Founder and President, reports that their sales volume is about 30 percent higher when stylists use their iPads than when they use traditional methods. Men tend to be more visually oriented, and they usually respond well when tech devices are employed. As an added bonus, the iPad helps their stylists cross-sell and up-sell. They can show the customer how the shirt he just ordered would look in other colors or fabrics, or when paired with a blazer or suit. This visual gives the customer the confidence to go ahead and order more shirts or other garments.

The Tech Investment Imperative

Technological investment has been critical to growing companies for decades, as witnessed by the change in title and importance of the person in charge of the equipment—from Facilities Director to IT Director to the current C-level Chief Technology Officer. The reasons for larger investments and elevated titles have varied, though until recently most have had to do with scalability, supply chain improvement, development of efficient business processes and networking throughout the enterprise.

With the rise of mobile apps, the push for social media, and a company’s marketing messaging becoming more and more intertwined with technological expertise, a wholesale change for IT departments seems to be coming.

Apparently, this crossing over of priorities and marketing’s need to drive IT functions has caused some friction between CIOs and CMOs that didn’t exist before. In a 2014 report, titled “Top Technology Trends for 2014 and Beyond,” Forrester suggests that in this scuffle for driving strategy and taking control of business intelligence, collaboration between traditionally distinct roles will have to occur.

USANA is ready for the challenge. Braun says, “One of the most exciting and important trends that is developing is the blurring of lines between the Chief Information Officer and the Chief Marketing Officer. I see the two of them becoming a team where before they were separate departments in an organization.”

Developing a collaborative and integrated approach between IT and marketing is critical simply because a great digital customer experience is no longer an option for any company, even a direct selling company that focuses on relationship building. When consumers move seamlessly between their digital and physical worlds, they expect customer service and the customer experience to be consistent across all their chosen channels. The digital experience for a customer is now a concrete part of a company or product’s brand statement for that customer. The old adage, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression,” surely applies to a company’s digital experience for their customers.

The C-Suite of executives—CEOs, CIOs, CMOs and CSOs—may have to reinvent themselves and their roles in the enterprise in order to stay on track in the rapidly evolving technological world. Rather than a separate department focused on managing software and hardware, IT services could become the empowering force behind a marketing strategy.

While trends, devices and approaches change and will continue to change—probably with more rapidity than we would even dare to predict—the end-game for all of it remains the same: How can I make it easier for my distributors and customers to learn about my company and buy my products more often?

J.Hilburn’s Rathod plans to keep an eye on future customers and how they use the Internet. He asks, “Our current customers may be in the 30–50 age range, but what about our up-and-coming customers in their 20s? How are they using the Web and digital world? What are their shopping habits, and how will we connect with them?”

Good questions! The next wave of distributors and customers will soon enter the primary market range, so prepare to meet them on their terms.

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