Q&A: CEO Jeff Bell on LegalShield’s Latest Offerings

In the first quarter of 2016, LegalShield recorded its strongest quarterly performance since Jeff Bell stepped into the role of CEO two years ago.

That was one of many achievements celebrated at LegalShield’s annual convention this week in Oklahoma City, where it hosted 10,000 independent Associates from across North America. During the event, the legal services provider also recognized 13 new lifetime million-dollar income earners, introduced a new ring recognition program and awarded nearly $1.5 million in bonuses. DSN recently spoke to Bell, a sales and marketing veteran whose career has included stints at Microsoft and Chrysler, about LegalShield’s recent growth and the slate of new tools and services coming in 2016.

DSN: LegalShield is rolling out several new technology-based products and plans this year. Entering 2017, will this look like a different kind of company?

JB: I think the answer is yes, and I want to take a step back because in one way we’re unique in the direct selling and network marketing arena. I learned just this year that for the longest time the model was summarized by the slogan, “Wear the button, share the sample, show the plan.” I think one of the reasons we struggled to fit in is because we didn’t have a sample. … If you think about, for instance, skincare or food supplements like nutrition bars or powders, those things can be handed out. … What we’ve created is almost an ethereal concept. We tell people, “Hey, don’t pay a lawyer by the hour. Join our community, and with a monthly membership you can talk to a lawyer on any issue, and the meter’s not running. You’re not paying by the hour.” People find it interesting, but still kind of theoretical.

Now, we have the LegalShield App. Our Associates can pull out their phone, tap the app, and there it is—a press of the button will call your law firm. It knows who you are. This last week we added the Snap by LegalShield feature, which handles parking tickets by automatically sending a photo on to the law firm for processing. So now we suddenly have our sample. That’s a huge breakthrough. … That’s probably been the biggest change for us, but in many ways it’s back to the future—we’re becoming more like the direct selling and network marketing industry.

DSN: This evolution dates back at least to LegalShield’s acquisition of tech startup Shake Inc. in April 2015. What was the strategy there, and how has it enhanced the business thus far?

JB: Our first LegalShield App came out in fall 2014, and it was very simple. It made a phone call. It knew who you were as a member and it knew your law firm. Start simple, start small. With the acquisition of Shake Law, we added a really powerful functionality, which is the ability to create forms on your mobile phone or on the web, for free. We have added one significant benefit to what they originally envisioned, in that all the forms are prepared by the law firms in each of our U.S. states or Canadian provinces. Shake by LegalShield first asks you what state or province you’re in, and then the forms presented are specific to those jurisdictions. Additionally, we understand a do-it-yourself approach is taken by many because they think they can’t afford to pay a lawyer by the hour. We let them know the benefit of consulting a lawyer in preparing that form and some of the downside risks of going it alone, and then introduce the concept that they can join our community for as little as $17.95. …

The other thing the Shake team—located in Manhattan’s Little Italy—has done for us is launch an all-new app called Ask by LegalShield, which provides answers to more than 1,500 common legal questions. That app has already generated a lot of memberships for us. … Both Shake and Ask are prospecting tools for our Associates. Whenever they send an invitation to download those apps, they are deep linked. If someone decides to become a member after trying the app, that commission is attributed back to the referring Associate. We feel really good about the potential for these tools to raise awareness and close membership sales. We’ve had more than 200,000 downloads of the app, which in the app business is an awful lot.

Read more from our conversation with Bell in the August issue of DSN.

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Herbalife Quarterly Results Come in ahead of Expectations

Quarterly results were better than projected at Herbalife Ltd. (HLF—NYSE), the nutrition company reported after the close on Thursday.

The shake and supplement seller, which has spent three years fending off attacks on its business model by hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, posted $1.1 billion in revenue for fourth quarter 2015 and adjusted earnings of $1.19 a share, beating consensus estimates of $1.06 billion and 94 cents a share. Reported earnings fell to $84.5 million, or 98 cents a share, from $103.3 million, or $1.21 a share, a year ago.

Herbalife China continued to drive growth, as quarterly revenue increased 24 percent to $220.4 million. Sales in North America remained flat, while the remainder of Asia Pacific and EMEA dipped 6 percent and 4 percent, respectively. The company reported a 21 percent decline in South and Central America and a 14 percent decline in Mexico.

For the full year, revenue totaled $4.5 billion, down 9.9 percent from 2014. Excluding the impact of currency fluctuations, revenue rose 4.7 percent. Earnings were $3.97 a share on income of $339 million, compared to $309 million, or $3.40 a share, in 2014.

Chairman and CEO Michael O. Johnson said Herbalife in 2015 completed an overhaul of its marketing plan to strengthen the business in the long term. “We successfully navigated the associated short-term challenges, believing that we were making the right changes at the right time, and despite ongoing currency and macroeconomic challenges, we finished the year returning to growth.”

Facing sustained currency headwinds, Herbalife lowered its first-quarter guidance to adjusted EPS of 97 cents to $1.07, undercutting the average estimate of $1.09 by analysts. For the full year, management expects adjusted earnings in the range of $4.05 to $4.50 a share.

ViSalus Co-Founder Blake Mallen Promoted to President

The longtime head of sales and marketing at ViSalus, Blake Mallen, is stepping into an expanded role as President of the healthy lifestyle company.

Mallen founded the weight-loss shake and supplement seller in 2005 alongside company Chairman and CEO, Ryan Blair, and Global Ambassador, Nick Sarnicola. In 2008 the young executives struck a deal with Connecticut-based Blyth Inc., which acquired a 43.6 percent stake in ViSalus and brought crucial infrastructure and operational expertise to the business. The partnership lasted until late 2014, when the trio and a handful of other preferred stockholders bought back all the shares that Blyth owned, minus 10 percent.

In 11 years at the company, Mallen has spent time working in the field as a ViSalus Promoter, as well as building the business from the corporate side. As Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, he crafted a marketing strategy, centered on the Body by Vi 90 Day Challenge, that powered more than 600 percent sales growth in a single year. Mallen also has been instrumental in building a global infrastructure that has enabled ViSalus to expand recently into 12 European countries, building on its operations in the U.S., Canada and Jamaica.

“Blake has been a vital asset to the creation and evolution of ViSalus, and I’m honored to be handing off the presidential reins to my fellow co-founder and longtime right hand,” said Blair. “He possesses a rare blend of creative and innovative passion, with the ability to execute with precision. I look forward to partnering with him to bring even more Vi innovations to life so that we continue to provide our Promoters with the ultimate entrepreneurial vehicle for success.”

In the past 14 months, ViSalus has expanded its product portfolio with the launch of NEON Energy Drink, Nutra-Bar and Vi Bites healthy snack offerings, and the newly introduced Vi Shape Superfood Shake. The company reports that sales of NEON, launched in the U.S. in April 2015, have surpassed $5 million. According to a Wednesday announcement from ViSalus, the company commenced international distribution of the energy drink at its EU Leadership Launch, held last week in London.