LifeVantage: Adding Sizzle to the Steak
December 8, 2014 Leave a comment
by Barbara Seale
Photo above: LifeVantage President and CEO Doug Robinson addresses the crowd at a recent company event.
Headquarters: Salt Lake City, Utah
Executives: President and CEO Doug Robinson
Products: Wellness, anti-aging and energy products that use Nrf2 science to reduce oxidative stress at the cellular level
Many executives have had the experience. They launch or join a young company that is growing quickly, but over time the momentum slows. That was the story at LifeVantage Corp., and its experience has made it a believer in the necessity to embrace change. Its first major change was relaunching as a direct selling company. And within the last year the company has taken numerous steps to re-energize its brand, product line and distributors.
LifeVantage launched in retail stores in 2003 with a single, innovative nutritional supplement, Protandim. The science behind the product is still compelling today. Its natural, indirect antioxidants actually signal the body’s genes to increase production of antioxidant enzymes that work together as the body’s first line of defense against free radicals. In 2005, ABC’s television news magazine Primetime featured an overwhelmingly positive segment on a human clinical study of Protandim. They reported the results of the study, which showed that the product decreases oxidative stress by more than 40 percent.
What happened next was every company’s dream. Sales skyrocketed. So did the price of the company’s OTC stock. But there was a hitch. The young company was still small and wasn’t set up for the surge. They didn’t have the infrastructure to keep up with orders, and quickly its sudden multimillion-dollar monthly sales volume trickled down to about $250,000. Its income statement was never in the black, and the dream quickly became more of a nightmare. But it was also a turning point. Executives who were already sold on the product’s potential for health had seen its massive commercial possibilities. But what could they do about it?
The answer: direct selling. In 2009, its first year as a direct seller—and with a single product—LifeVantage saw revenue almost triple and then continue to grow. In 2011 it hired new President and CEO Doug Robinson, who had joined the LifeVantage board of directors about six months after it became a direct seller, bringing his 25 years of health care business management expertise. He injected the company with the operational discipline he had learned over the years.
“The next year we were at $39 million in topline revenues,” he recalls, “but more important to me, we turned the operations of the company around and were finally $4 million in the black.”
A growth chart like that one is hard to sustain, but Robinson was determined to nurture it and ensure that LifeVantage had a vibrant future. He believed that an injection of new ideas, expertise and energy was needed in the management team. Robinson started bringing in solid leadership in key roles and moved the stock to the NASDAQ (symbol LFVN) in 2012.
Two of those new executives, Chief Sales Officer Dave Phelps and Chief Science Officer Shawn Talbott, Ph.D., joined the company within the last year. They have introduced additional products and sales initiatives that are infusing new enthusiasm into distributors and opening new markets that weren’t available in the past.
Talbott’s first step was to crystallize the company’s product strategy. He was familiar—and impressed—with the science behind Protandim even before he joined LifeVantage. He believed that Protandim alone could be the foundation for a billion-dollar company. But he foresaw that the science behind it could do even more. Infused into other products that help people feel, look or perform better—the company’s product strategy—Protandim could drive the creation of other effective products that worked synergistically and also opened new demographic doors.
Talbott explains, “If you want to help people feel better, perhaps by increasing their energy, you could give them caffeine or sugar. But the problem is that if you haven’t gone upstream biochemically and their oxidative stress is out of balance, they’ll always be out of balance.”
So how does that knowledge suggest new products? Talbott notes that there’s no demand in the market for a product that addresses oxidative stress, at least not in those words. But people do want other things: youthful-looking skin, more energy, better mood, a thinner body and improved sports nutrition. Products can deliver those by reducing oxidative stress, using the same Nrf2 science contained in Protandim. Within the last few months LifeVantage introduced products that address some of the conditions that arise from oxidative stress, but which people identify by other names.
First, it introduced TrueScience™, a beauty system proven in a clinical study to visibly address the signs of aging by combating oxidative stress in the skin. Then it went a step further with the introduction of AXIO, the company’s brand of two energy drink powders that deliver better mood and improved mental focus. By entering the energy drink market, LifeVantage expanded the marketplace for its products to millennials, but the drink’s promise for improved mood and mental focus as well as quick and sustained energy gave it baby boomer appeal.
Talbott notes that AXIO fits into LifeVantage’s product portfolio strategy by helping users both feel and perform better. He adds that the company’s original focus in developing the product was to attract millennials, but his experience since then has shown him that AXIO’s promise of multidimensional energy resonates with every age.
Recognizing that AXIO would attract a younger demographic than Protandim or even anti-aging skincare line TrueScience, LifeVantage prepared by developing and offering a three-day seminar it calls “Rules of Engagement.” The new seminar is designed to teach, train and mentor young distributors, a group it calls Young Entrepreneurs for Success, or YES. It was offered first in September with presentations done by eight of the company’s top distributors in the millennial age group. Chief Sales Officer Dave Phelps describes it as “monumentally successful. We’re already getting requests to do it every three months.”
The seminar is just one element of a four-point reinvention strategy designed to reinterpret the company’s solid science by injecting sizzle and energy.
“Any company that isn’t able to reinvent itself doesn’t have as much success as when it is able to adapt and to love change,” Phelps says. His strategic reinvention of LifeVantage includes simplified messaging, a greater emphasis on recruiting distributors, an infusion of leadership development, and finally, a big dose of excitement. In many areas, such as training for millennials, the areas overlap. As young leaders learn, they can also invite prospects, helping them to develop a knowledgeable and excited team.
Phelps describes the company under reconstruction as LifeVantage 2.0. He says that for too long the company’s messaging was too complex, relying on scientific information and results from clinical studies—topics that, unless they are simplified for the average listener, can be hard to understand and then relay to others. Both sales presentations and science education are being simplified and presented in a language anyone can understand.
The Duplication Dynamic
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