The September 2016 issue of Direct Selling News is available!

Cover Story

Keys to Success part 1: Customer Acquisition

by Andrea Tortora

Of all the misinformation about direct selling, perhaps the most often repeated—even by those who work most closely in the field—is the description of direct selling as an industry. Read more…

Celebrating success is a hallmark of direct selling, and we have two opportunities for you to recognize the great work being done by your corporate teams. Read more…

Like the pink Cadillacs it awards to top sellers, today’s Mary Kay retains a classic feel while embracing innovative thinking and design. Read more…

When husband and wife team Mark and Tracy Jarvis set out to launch their own company, they had listened to numerous suggestions for the name until “zurvita” was proposed and immediately touched and won them over. Read more…

In the year 1855, Reverend J.R. Graves started a mail order company selling books, religious tracts and Bibles. Read more…

It’s another year and you’re gearing up for your convention. Read more…

Over the past decade, rapid developments in technology have fundamentally changed how direct selling organizations operate. Read more…

The speculation started immediately. As soon as the news—Herbalife Settles with FTC—began popping up on mobile alerts and news outlets early Friday morning, July 15, observers inside and outside the direct selling channel began scrambling to understand the bigger picture. Read more…

The U.S. Direct Selling Association held its Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, June 5 to 7, bringing together direct selling company executives, academics, suppliers and global direct selling leaders for collaboration and conversation about the trends shaping the channel. Read more…

The direct selling industry is at a critical juncture in its long history. Read more…

The role of the U.S. Direct Selling Association (DSA) has never been more clear: to serve as a “listening post,” a place to collect, analyze and address the aspirations and concerns of the direct selling channel. Read more…

For more great stories, please click on our subscription button and subscribe to DSN


Politics, Like Direct Selling, Is All about Relationships

by Emily Reagan

Click here to order the November 2014 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.

“Just because you do not take an interest in politics does not mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” Pericles made that statement in 430 B.C., but the Direct Selling Association is sending the same message today. At the DSA Annual Meeting in June, Chairman Truman Hunt set an objective to build the association as a force for good. Securing vital political influence is one step toward that goal, and the DSA’s Government Relations team has held two training sessions this year—one at Nu Skin’s headquarters in Provo, Utah, and one at Mary Kay’s Addison, Texas, headquarters—to provide a practical approach to legislative relationship building.

The Government Relations Training Session is now available in a series of videos at The DSA is continually reaching out to officials and advancing the conversation around direct selling; however, unified action by member companies and their employees could exponentially multiply those efforts. In the videos, five speakers outline the “why” and “how” of building relationships with members of Congress.

“Unrelenting effort on behalf of each and every company, no matter its size or political acumen, is going to be required if the industry is going to be successful,” says Michael Lunceford, Chair of the DSA’s Government Relations Committee and Senior VP of Public Affairs at Mary Kay.

Mary Kay’s VP of Government Relations, Anne Crews, outlines areas of major concern to direct selling companies, such as the independent contractor status, restrictions on door-to-door selling, labeling requirements, and onerous consumer protection laws on products and services. With a firm grasp of the issues, companies can maximize their efforts through coalition building or grassroots lobbying. Whatever the strategy might be, says Crews, effective action will require support from top-level executives.

“For a government relations strategy, you’ve got to have buy-in from the top,” she states. “Your CEO, your president, your executive leadership team have to understand the importance and the priority of lobbying.”

The session also covers the finer points of meeting and interacting with representatives. Rod Givens, District Director for Democratic Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas, explains what to do—and not to do—when visiting a member’s office. According to Givens, getting involved in the political process is all about building relationships, regardless of whether a company anticipates resistance or support on a specific issue.

“Even if you believe this might not be an issue that one party will agree with, go see them,” says Givens. “One more point: When you go see them, make sure you bring a constituent. Make sure you bring someone who lives in that district.”

Take Action

  • Bring policymakers to your facilities to better understand direct selling.
  • Promote the Direct Selling Proclamation and encourage your field members to sign it.
  • Send your salespeople to DSA’s Direct Selling Day on Capitol Hill.
  • Encourage your salespeople to share their political connections with you—and with the DSA.
  • Engage in and support the DSA’s new political action effort, Direct Selling Empowers Americans.

DSA Attorney Jeff Hanscom drives home the importance of bringing constituents into the conversation. “There is no limit to the number of touches—the number of communications—that you can have with legislators, but the biggest thing they want is to hear from their constituents,” says Hanscom, who specializes in issue advocacy at the state level. “How is this going to impact them? If you have facilities in their district, if you have independent contractors in their district, they want to know that.”

For companies looking to take the first, or simply the next, step in their political strategy, the DSA offers a variety of tools. The Government Relations team sends out regular issue alerts with specific calls to action. This summer, the DSA launched an online “Who Do You Know?” tool that enables companies to survey their salespeople and discover existing contacts. The Association also raises funding through its PAC and Super PAC to support candidates across the country.

“Reach out to us,” Hanscom urges members. “We are working for you, and we want to make sure that we provide you with the information and give you the tools to get involved.”

Direct Selling Entrepreneurship Goes to Community College

Donna Duffey

Donna Duffey is Professor and Department Chair of the Entrepreneurship Associate of Applied Science degree program and its related certificate programs at Johnson County Community College, Kansas City, Kansas. She was the winner of the 2009 National Association of Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) Faculty of the Year Award.

An Academic’s Journey Into The Direct Selling Industry

Student entrepreneurs at the community college level come with a variety of pathways in mind to reach their entrepreneurial dreams. Some are focused on innovation and plan to create a new product or service. Some plan to purchase an existing business and apply their entrepreneurial skills to make that business grow. Some are members of an existing family business and want that business to continue to be sustainable across generations. Others are planning to reach their entrepreneurial dream by owning and operating a franchise. Some choose to be intrapreneurs in existing businesses. We believe a missing link has been a curriculum for students seeking their niche as independent contractors in the direct selling industry.

As the academic chair for Johnson County Community College’s (JCCC) Entrepreneurship program, this realization—or the discovery of a “gap” in our program offerings—led me to start a conversation with the National Association of Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE) and the Direct Selling Education Foundation (DSEF) during the summer of 2011 in Washington, D.C. The brainstorming session brought together both community college leaders of entrepreneurship initiatives and direct selling company executives from across the country.

The “working” objective of this brainstorming meeting between these two previously disconnected groups was to determine if educational material addressing this dynamic industry sector could be developed and delivered effectively through America’s community colleges. Our collective answer after two days of discussion yielded a unanimous “Yes, we can!”

So why should these two seemingly unconnected groups both care about the gap in entrepreneurship education in community colleges? Click here to read the full story.

Direct Selling Tops Record

by Lauren Lawley Head

Click here to order the August 2014 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.

When you’re busy running your business, it can be tough to keep abreast of developments around the rest of the direct selling community. I hope you enjoy this snapshot and take a moment to appreciate the power of what we achieve together.


“If the CMO of a company has only one responsibility, it is to keep it relevant. I don’t mean trendy, but relevant.”

— Doug Braun, CMO, USANA

U.S. consumers bought more product through the direct selling channel in 2013 than ever before—an estimated $32.67 billion in retail sales—new data shows.

The figures, published by the Direct Selling Association, quantify the size, scope and continued strength of direct selling. Retail sales were up 3.3 percent from 2012 and 15.3 percent from 2009.

“Direct Selling has much to celebrate, and this most recent data from 2013 gives us even more reason,” said DSA President Joe Mariano. “We continue to be a robust, growing and important part of our communities. The increase in sales and salespeople is further evidence of what we already innately understand, we are a force for good creating better lives for all Americans.”

In coming weeks, the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations is expected to follow suit with updated global statistics. Watch for more coverage in an upcoming issue.

Source: Direct Selling Association
Note: Estimates were based on survey data and extrapolated from secondary sources.


European Direct Selling Conference
Who: Seldia, the European Direct Selling Association
When: Oct. 4
Where: Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Brussels, Belgium

Global Regulatory Summit
Who: Direct Selling Association
When: Oct. 15 to 16
Where: The Fairfax at Embassy Row, Washington, D.C.

World Congress XIV
Who: World Federation of Direct Selling Associations
When: Nov. 10 to 12
Where: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Author Name
Lauren Lawley Head
General Manager

The Critical Importance of Industry Research

by The USDSA and WFDSA Research Committee Leaders

Click here to order the August 2013 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.

Editor’s Note:  We recently asked the committee leaders of both the USDSA and the WFDSA Research Teams to share with us what they were doing in the area of industry research and what they hoped to accomplish with their work. Here is what they had to say.

Why Is Research So Important?

Industry Research is a topic most people don’t think much about, but in reality it is critically important to our everyday business. In fact, research provides a great many benefits, including:

    • Serving as a guidepost for strategic decisions.
    • Internally at companies, it gets everyone on the same page, both veterans and newcomers alike, by providing a common data set from which everyone can draw.
    • Providing industry benchmarks against which a company’s key performance indicators can be compared.
    • Dispelling myths and providing ammunition for fighting back against misstatements by industry critics.
  • Bringing a mission-critical understanding of the general public’s feelings and opinions on matters ranging from the personal service they get in the traditional retail environment to their trust of the direct selling industry as a whole.

Whether association and government affairs professionals are discussing the merits of direct selling with legislators, regulators and consumer protection groups, or whether communications professionals are presenting the industry to journalists, investment analysts and the general public, research is what provides the necessary data.

The diagram on this page illustrates this process. Strategy drives the research. The research informs those involved in government affairs and those involved in media and communications efforts. These and other professionals, in turn, use research and their professional knowledge to develop new strategies. And the cycle begins again.

The Challenge

DiagramIn the direct selling industry today, there are no credible syndicated sources for research, meaning market research studies conducted by a company then “packaged” and sold to multiple clients. For example, in the natural products sector, a research company called SPINS provides recurring reports on measureable key industry issues and opportunities. In the consumer packaged goods, retail and healthcare markets, a company called IRI provides a continual stream of research and analytics. This syndicated research is a critical element for driving common insights to executives in these industries.

In fact, managers in these industries receive reams of data—on a frequent basis—from which their teams can make strategic decisions informed by research. It is not uncommon for executives who come into the direct selling industry—particularly in the areas of strategic planning, marketing, product ideation and sales force development—to express amazement with this lack of syndicated research. As research team committee leaders, this is something we intend to remedy.

Recent Research Progress

In this absence of credible syndicated research within direct selling, we have to be the experts on our own industry. This is what the research teams are working towards; but it takes time—and most certainly it takes a village.

The Global Research Committee of the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations is a professional team of 16 including company research/analytics executives, industry association representatives, and an external third-party vendor who receives and aggregates data to maintain confidentiality.

This team works to gather, vet, analyze and report annual statistical data to “size the market.” Stats are collected on sales, sales breakdown by product category and by sales method, the number of those involved with direct selling, and who they are.

Since 2009, this team has worked to establish a standardized process for data collection with standardized definitions. As examples:

    • All countries now report at estimated retail level (rather than net sales/revenue).
  • The size of the entire direct selling industry in each market is assessed, rather than just the size of DSA member companies.

Confidentiality is key. All company data is received on a confidential basis and is only reported in the aggregate.

Collaboration is essential to this annual effort.

    • 60 member direct selling associations are involved, collecting data from hundreds and hundreds of member companies.
    • Beyond these 60 countries, the Research Committee researches the size and nature of direct selling.

Additionally, the Industry Research Committee of the United States Direct Selling Association has effectively raised the bar for credible research in recent years. The team has made progress toward creating an understanding of the state of the U.S. direct selling industry, a synthesized 360-degree picture that presents statistics and attitudes of direct selling consumers, member companies, and of direct selling entrepreneurs, both part- and full-time.

A new Research Manager has joined the team. Additionally, two external third-party research partners have helped:

    • Nathan Associates, a long-time DSA research partner, offers the expert view of an economist, coupled with formal research discipline.
  • Artemis Strategy Group brings knowledge of the strategic priorities behind our efforts and expertise in both primary and secondary research.

Current Research Projects

Moving Forward

Currently Serving on the Global Research Committee with WFDSA:

*Also serving on the Segmentation Task Force

  • Amy Robinson—USDSA
  • Andre Campos—Natura
  • Arlene Sarmiento—Avon*
  • Ben Gamse—USDSA
  • Bruce Peters—Herbalife*
  • Caroline Tointon—South Africa DSA
  • Chris Stubbs—Nu Skin
  • Dora Hoan—Best World International
  • JJ LeBlanc—Mary Kay*
  • Judy Jones—Amway*; Chair of the Committee
  • Marie Lacroix—SELDIA
  • Maureen Paniagua—WFDSA
  • Paul Bourquin—Nathan Associates
  • Sean Flynn—Nu Skin*
  • Tamuna Gabilaia—WFDSA
  • Truman Hunt—Nu Skin*

Currently Serving on the USDSA Industry Research Committee:

  • Amy Robinson—USDSA
  • Anne Aldrich—Artemis Strategy Group
  • Ben Gamse—USDSA
  • Daniela Farmache—Amway
  • JJ LeBlanc—Mary Kay; Chair of the Committee
  • Judy Jones—Amway
  • Randi Neiner—Shaklee
  • Steve Raack—BeautyCounter

While we believe we have made great strides on the research front, there is much more that remains to be done. As members of the direct selling community, we need to step up our game and be more competitive than other distribution channels such as franchising, e-commerce, direct mail and others.

As an industry, we are being called on to communicate more fully, more consistently, and more transparently. In our meetings, and when we report our annual statistics, we focus on how we benefit individuals, families, communities and societies. But some would argue that the connection to that benefit can’t—and shouldn’t—be measured on market size and sales data alone. To the general public, key opinion leaders, and yes even our critics, a strong Research/Communications collaboration will apply the evidence to tell the story of the trickle-down impact of every direct selling dollar earned.

More collaborative relationships can only strengthen what we do. For instance, we envision collaboration with the Direct Selling Education Foundation (DSEF) to bring added dimension to Research efforts.


    • DSEF champions consumer protection and consumer education and works with academic researchers who seek to understand the benefits of entrepreneurship to society.
    • Academia has made amazing contributions to our success as an industry: helping us understand how consumers shop; how micro-and macro-economic trends drive our business, and the economic impact of direct selling on societies, just to name a few.
  • The deeper we can go to partner with DSEF on research objectives, the better! By understanding their existing research landscape and generating new, original research, we can more accurately portray the intense concern our industry has for the people we work with and the communities where we do business.

Taking a global view is increasingly important. It’s “one world” out there in these days of cyberspace. Our DSA collaborations will become even more important than they are now. Gone are the days of focusing on “our own market.” Moving forward, we have to coordinate all the more on a cross-country, pan-world basis.

Only by everyone working together as one—one team, one industry, one world—do we make this vision a reality over time, and one step at a time. Because research is everybody’s responsibility.

To participate in the research process, please contact Ben Gamse for the USDSA and Maureen Paniagua for the WFDSA.

Celebrating the Resilience of Direct Sellers

by Joseph N. Mariano

Click here to order the July 2013 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.


As DSA’s recent Annual Meeting showed us, we have many reasons to celebrate. Entrepreneurship, empowerment, leadership and innovation are all hallmarks that describe what’s right about direct selling.

But following the U.S. economic crisis of 2008 and the recession from which we are still emerging, there is yet another trait we can celebrate—resilience.

This incredible spirit of fortitude that has defined direct selling was not simply made evident through encouraging sales and growth figures as the U.S. economy experienced its darkest days in decades; rather, resilience has also stood as a defining characteristic personified by the countless men and women touched by direct selling’s global reach. As U.S. job offerings became fewer and farther between in the early 2000’s, increasing numbers of men and women found economic opportunities and empowerment through direct selling. In fact, in the year immediately following the economic downturn, the number of people involved in direct selling in the U.S. increased by 1 million individuals!

For those who have always understood the industry’s unparalleled potential to touch and transform people’s lives, this spirit of resilience comes as no surprise. How, then, do we increasingly make known our ability to create better lives? What incontestable proof can we offer skeptics who, without evidence to the contrary, still question the validity and sustainability of the direct selling model?

During the DSA’s Annual Meeting last month, direct selling executives and members of the financial community alike spoke often of two of the greatest defenses against misperceptions and inaccuracies concerning the direct selling industry—sound research and personal success stories.

The good news is—we have both.DSN 100 Special Report Now Available!

Less than a month ago, the DSA Growth & Outlook Survey Report figures were announced, and the findings are not simply reassuring—they’re inspiring. Year-over-year, U.S. direct sales increased 5.9 percent in 2012 from $29.87 billion to $31.63 billion, outpacing the overall U.S. economy as measured by Gross Domestic Product. Perhaps more telling, in 2012, there were 15.9 million people involved in direct selling in the U.S., an increase from 15.6 million the prior year. Seventy-six percent of direct selling companies with annual retail sales totaling less than $3 million saw growth in 2012, with an average sales increase of about 22 percent. While wellness products continue to represent a major segment in the direct selling industry, there has also been a rise in the sale of services, largely aided by energy deregulation and the sale of energy through the direct selling model.

With this rise in service-oriented sales, the direct selling industry has made yet another testament against the long-outdated—and often misguided—stereotypes aimed at taking away from what it truly means to be a direct seller in a rapidly changing marketplace. Today’s direct sellers, both male and female, are offering a host of competitive products and services in every category imaginable. They’re using the latest and greatest technologies to tap into new markets, develop both leadership and business skills, and grow their sales organizations. Even more, they’re experiencing both sales and recruitment growth unhindered by rising education costs and fluctuating job markets.

The strong performance of direct selling in the United States and around the world continues to underscore the economic and social relevance of this business model.

As for what matters most—direct selling’s ability to create better lives—the success stories are plentiful. The vast majority of today’s direct selling representatives say their businesses have met their expectations, and another 40 percent say they have far exceeded them.

In recent months, DSA launched a platform on titled, “The Faces of Direct Selling.” Through this web page, the association has collected and published an assortment of success stories from men and women across the country who first turned to direct selling for a wide variety of reasons. These men and women offer their narratives without company affiliation or reimbursement. Rather, they come forward to share with others how this industry has made a difference in their lives. From wholesale buyers and full-time sellers to military spouses and those drawn to the social opportunity, these individual profiles represent just a handful of the countless motivations and achievements direct sellers celebrate today.

It is often said that the best defense is a good offense. As leaders of the direct selling industry, we have both facts and individual success stories on our side. The key now is to take the initiative in spreading the word.

Joseph MarianoJoseph N. Mariano is President of the U.S. Direct Selling Association.

Changing the Game: Community Colleges Embrace DSEF’s Direct Selling Entrepreneur Program

Changing the Game: Community Colleges Embrace DSEF’s Direct Selling Entrepreneur Program

by Charlie Orr, Executive Director, Direct Selling Education Foundation


Imagine members of your field organization sitting in a college classroom learning the entrepreneurial skills that are both universal to small-business owners and specific to direct selling—skills that complement and strengthen the excellent training programs your companies have in place to teach your field about your unique cultures, products and business opportunities.

Sound too good to be true?

This fall, the scenario above will play out in community college classrooms across the country as the Direct Selling Education Foundation launches its Direct Selling Entrepreneur Program, a 30-hour, 10-module, non-credit course that introduces direct sellers to the fundamental components of small business management and entrepreneurship, including marketing, finance, legal issues, planning, ethical business practices—all skills crucial to the success of any direct selling small business.

The country’s 16 million direct sellers come to the industry with a wide range of experiences and goals. The creation of a dedicated curriculum aimed at this broad range of independent business owners—from those who are new to the industry to those with years of direct sales experience—will give them the confidence in their ability to succeed as direct selling professionals while they put what they learned into action.

While course participants may enter thinking of themselves as direct sellers, they complete the course as small-business owners capable of incorporating solid entrepreneurial skills to maximize the full range of opportunities offered by the world of direct selling.

It’s a game changer.

The Direct Selling Entrepreneur Program curriculum is the result of more than two years of hard work and the dedication of a talented group of individuals. DSEF Program Director Robin Diamond assembled an incredible team of staff, industry executives, curriculum experts and other volunteers to take this program from a kernel of an idea to a successful pilot phase, and now a national rollout.

At DSEF, one of the ways we stand up for consumers and champion ethical entrepreneurship on behalf of the industry is by nurturing relationships with consumer advocates, educators and students, public policy officials, and members of the small business and entrepreneurship communities.

The Direct Selling Entrepreneur Program is a testament to that work and demonstrates how a conversation we have today might result in a groundbreaking partnership and program tomorrow. This project would never have gotten off the ground without DSEF’s years of relationship-building and trusted programming. These cumulative efforts resulted in a partnership with the National Association of Community Colleges for Entrepreneurship (NACCE), an organization that helps community colleges nationwide link their traditional role of workforce development with entrepreneurship.

The Direct Selling Entrepreneur Program is also a testament to you: the industry executives and companies that fund the foundation’s critical efforts through voluntary financial contributions. Without your support, none of our work would be possible.

All of us at the foundation extend a special thank-you to Jerry and Bonnie Kelly of Silpada Designs. Their belief in the potential of the Direct Selling Entrepreneur Program and their generous financial support gave us the resources to accelerate the curriculum development and ensure the end result is world-class.

When I think about DSEF’s mission to engage and educate the public on the ways direct selling empowers individuals, supports communities and strengthens economies worldwide, I can’t help but be struck by how the Direct Selling Entrepreneur Program so beautifully aligns with every word. Through this program, DSEF is not only educating direct sellers, but raising awareness about the entire industry and its role in shaping people, communities and economies.

The Direct Selling Entrepreneur Program will roll out in a dozen community colleges beginning in September and will reach even more communities in 2013.

For more information, contact Director of Marketing & Communication Nancy Laichas at To help fund the Direct Selling Entrepreneur Program and other DSEF initiatives, visit to make a contribution.

Charlie OrrCharlie Orr is Executive Director of the Direct Selling Education Foundation.