The Social Age

by Andrea Tortora

Click here to order the January 2016 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device.


The Social Age is here. If you’re not taking full advantage of the tools and technologies that social platforms have to offer, you and your company are likely to be left behind as the competition leaps ahead. Now well into its infancy, the Social Age is and will be making a tremendous impact on the sales industry, especially within the world of direct selling. The changes already cannot be ignored.

Technology drives everything—recruitment, retention and revenue—for most companies. Those businesses that realize what they can achieve when all of their internal, back office, social media, field tools and software systems work together are equipped to innovate and leverage essential data that will let them thrive in the future.

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram are potent tools that companies and consultants are learning to use as they build connections with customers and grow sales. Other apps such as Periscope and Google Hangout are gaining traction, too. Yet many executives and companies are slow to embrace these advances. A study from CEO.com and Domo finds that 68 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs have no social media presence. Among the 30 percent who do, they only use one social channel. Here LinkedIn was the chosen platform.

In contrast to that study, it does appear that C-level executives within direct selling are more plugged in to the benefits of these engagement tools. A recent study conducted among members by the U.S. Direct Selling Association (DSA), titled The 2015 Managing Your Company’s Web Presence and Technology Systems Survey, indicates that nearly six in 10 companies surveyed report that one or more of their chief-level executives have company-associated social media accounts that they actively engage in
(57 percent).

Additionally, over half of those also indicate that the chief executives create the content for those accounts. At Scentsy, the Idaho-based wickless candle company, it’s common for an executive to personally respond to field achievements or post in conversations on Facebook, the social media platform most used by Scentsy Consultants.

Rick Stambaugh, Chief Information Officer at Utah-based company USANA, refers to the focus of today as “Digital Humanism.” He says, “The consumer-driven Internet of things has many components, but the most prominent one is social.”

As direct sellers work toward more fully embracing the Social Age and everything that comes with it, a few things are clear…

Click here to read the full article in Direct Selling News.

Legacy Republic Launches New Platform for Sharing Family Memories

Legacy Republic wants to rescue family memories from VHS tapes and photo albums stuffed in closets across the country. The tech startup on Wednesday launched a new platform that enables users to easily upload, edit and share outdated media content on social media, with the help of the brand’s trained salespeople.

A year after launching through parent company YesVideo, Legacy Republic is rolling out its own Family Legacy platform. The brand’s independent contractors, called Legacy Makers, help clients through the process of uploading and editing moments captured pre-smartphone era. Each client can then access a personal Family Legacy site to create custom DVDs and share photos or videos online. The system also runs an algorithm to identify the best clips in a video and pair them with music to create a personalized trailer.

“We’re at a critical point in time where scrapbooks and photo albums, VHS tapes and film reels are at risk of being lost, damaged or degraded,” Brian Knapp, head of Legacy Republic, told DSN. “With Family Legacy, we’re offering generations of families a chance to relive their priceless memories in a modern and social way.”

YesVideo, a service that digitizes videos and makes the content available online or on DVD, launched Legacy Republic in October 2014. The company has signed on Legacy Makers to market the service through home shows, where they assist clients in converting both photos and videos to digital format. In August, the brand began expanding its footprint with the acquisition of competitor Yarly, a photo management service founded in 2012.

Q&A: Younique Opens for Business in Germany

Younique, the fast-growing beauty brand known for its virtual parties, is opening this month in Germany, its second European market. Outside the U.S., the company also operates in the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Founded in September 2012, Younique identifies as a mission-first beauty company dedicated to uplifting, empowering and validating women through its products and business opportunity. The Utah-based brand currently has more than 265,000 Presenters marketing its wares via social media. Younique’s Director of International Market Development, Jordan Meyer, spoke to DSN about bringing the virtual business to a new market.

DSN: What does launching a new market on social media look like? How do you get the momentum going?

JM: We have an army of women who are on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter. When we launch a new market, they’ve all got their various strategies, and they don’t let the barrier of a new country stop them from their business activities. Social media platforms are really conducive to cross-border growth.

DSN: What makes Germany a good fit for Younique?

JM: When we select markets, we choose places where our Presenters can be successful, where consumers in those markets use the same social media platforms our current Presenters use. We look at a variety of metrics, such as social media footprint, makeup market size, direct selling makeup market size, and especially how much e-commerce happens in the country. We also look for markets where our current presenters have relationships and business ties.

DSN: When it comes to international expansions, what is the most significant challenge you’ve encountered so far?

JM: International expansion is just hard. It’s hard when you’re talking about new languages, and as a company this year we’re entering Mexico and Germany. The whole organization has to adapt when we’re using a new language, and because we don’t know the language we feel like we lose some control. To sum it up in one word, localization is a big challenge.

DSN: Younique is in a pre-launch phase in Mexico, where you’ll officially open in October. Are there any other expansions on the horizon?

JM: Yes! At our recent convention, we announced that we will be opening in France next year. We’re looking at the first half of 2016.

Party Plans on Fire

by Andrea Tortora

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


Ignited by emotional connections forged with customers, access to products once only available at expensive salons and an embrace of social media, a handful of party plan companies are seeing their business boom—with no signs of a slowdown.

Nail wrap creator Jamberry, beauty products firm Younique, personalized jewelry maker Origami Owl and two newcomers—jewelry boutique Chelsea Row and nontoxic cosmetics maker Beautycounter—are experiencing significant advances in profits and popularity at a time when overall growth for the party plan model is stuck in a plateau.

Data from the U.S. Direct Selling Association’s 2014 growth and outlook report reveals that between 2008 and 2013, party plans dropped from 26 percent to 23 percent of market share as a direct selling platform.

“Home parties in terms of their success are fairly cyclical,” says DSA President Joe Mariano. “When we think it is hitting a low point that is when we see a rebirth.”


While 40 million business-related fan pages exist on Facebook, only 17 percent are equipped to sell directly through the social media channel. This is where direct selling has an edge.


Top-Ranked Companies

These five standout companies are evidence of that resurgence. Two of them—Jamberry and Younique—are in the Top 10 six-month trend rankings at HomePartyRankings.com and MLMRankings.com, which track public interest and Internet popularity of most party plan direct sellers.

Jamberry reports revenue is more than $10 million a year. Younique’s distributors have said the company sold more than $25 million in September, up from $1 million in December 2013.

Origami Owl is consistently listed in the Top 5 for overall rankings at both sites. It posted 2013 revenue of $233 million and grew by 870 percent for the year. As a reflection of this growth it was ranked at No. 50 on the 2014 DSN Global 100 and received the DSN Bravo Growth Award Based on Percentage this year.

Chelsea Row, launched in September 2014, is too new to have its own rankings. A spinoff of e-commerce selling platform company Kitsy Lane, Chelsea Row is turning the traditional home party on its head with vParty—a truly immersive, real-time virtual party that lets guests shop together online while being connected on audio and video.

Beautycounter launched in March 2013 and offers a safe and nontoxic line of skincare products that work. The company now counts 4,000 consultants in more than 44 states, with 23 percent average monthly revenue growth. Between January and October 2014, Beautycounter posted 424 percent sales growth.


Beautycounter’s “Never List” is “a robust roundup of ingredients that you will never find in Beautycounter products,” as many are known or believed to cause irritation, allergic reactions or cancer.


Embracing Social Media

The founding philosophies of these companies are rooted in a desire to better the lives of women by empowering them with products that aid self-expression and by providing the flexibility, resources and training needed to build a career. Each utilizes social media such as Facebook to drive sales, although the strategy is different for each business.

To maintain growth, diving deep into social media selling is likely to yield even larger dividends. Here’s why: An analysis by marketing firm Vocus projects that by 2015, half of all web transactions will occur through social media, accounting for an estimated $30 billion in sales. While 40 million business-related fan pages exist on Facebook, only 17 percent are equipped to sell directly through the social media channel. This is where direct selling has an edge.

The Power of Virtual Parties

Jamberry, Younique and Origami Owl use the Facebook event model to host virtual parties.

Younique sells almost exclusively on social media. Jamberry and Origami Owl independent consultants use Facebook events to supplement the home party experience. Origami Owl Chief Sales Officer Sandy Spielmaker says the technology “extends the reach of the home party.”

Best known for its 3D fiber lashes, Younique built its selling model on virtual parties for two reasons, Co-Founder Melanie Huscroft says. “The overall feeling among women was they are so over the traditional home party and having to clean the house, make the food and send their husband and kids away,” she says. “The virtual platform allows the invite list to be limitless, and location doesn’t matter.”

Virtual parties typically run for seven to 10 days, with independent consultants making frequent posts to encourage interest and spotlight products. Consultants do not carry inventory. They sell through their own branded e-commerce websites.

Many consultants also create videos or use those provided by Younique, Jamberry or Origami Owl to explain how to use the products and suggest ways to mix them up to create new styles. Guests link to these videos through the Facebook event page for their specific party.

The model is working for Younique. In the near future, its virtual party model will also work on other social media platforms, such as Twitter and Pinterest. At 2 years old, Younique now counts 121,285 presenters in five markets. When it entered the U.K. on Oct. 1, 999 presenters signed up within 26 minutes.

Huscroft says people want to sell Younique because of its “simple and generous” compensation plan. Younique pays presenters within three hours of making a sale. Each presenter receives a bank account and a Younique debit card.

“It doesn’t matter what the compensation plan is from a corporate perspective. Everyone pays out … Click here to read the full article

 

 

 

3 Keys to a Powerful Event Experience

by John Killacky

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


Another year, another convention. How will this year’s event be different? What can you do to bring fresh excitement and new energy? It’s not as daunting as it may seem. Take a deep breath. You got this.

When you focus on three important elements of your event, you can provide your guests (and even those who can’t come) an impactful, meaningful—and fun—event experience. Let’s start by identifying your event’s stakeholders and what’s important to each of them.

The Players

Your guests: Each consultant who registers for, travels to, and attends your event comes in search of something. Information, celebration, fun—whatever it is, they’ll take it back home with them, and it will affect their business. So it’d better be good.

Your organization: You have important messaging to deliver. That means what’s said, how it’s said, how it looks and how it feels to the audience.

Your boss: C-suite execs want to see that the number of attendees is robust, their enjoyment is obvious, the event is polished and effective, and the budget remains intact. No pressure.

Can all those objectives be met? Absolutely, when you focus on three simple elements: pre-event prep, fabulous recognition and social media.

Plan Ahead

The importance of thorough pre-event preparation can’t be overstated. Once you’ve determined the “skeleton” of your event—who, what, when, where—you can begin talking with production companies. You know what’s most important to your company and this specific event; ask the questions that matter most, and listen carefully when they talk about their experience. Have they worked with companies in your industry? What do they bring to the table that others don’t? What kind of people are they; what’s their corporate culture? How do they handle changes in direction, and onsite challenges?

Ask for samples of their work and references from other clients—and then take a few minutes to call those clients. And, do a gut-check: Would you enjoy working with them? This is a big decision; you’re entrusting the success of your event in large part to this company. Again, no pressure.


The importance of thorough pre-event preparation can’t be overstated.


Let’s assume now that you’ve chosen an event partner that fits. Congratulations! Now, make full use of the partnership—that’s why you have them. Give them full access to your team and execs; being fully invested in the partnership will make your event even stronger. Ensure that they know your company, your mission and your execs (and what’s important to each of them). Collaborate with your production partner to create meaningful content. In your event “skeleton,” you’ve determined the direction, the tone and the look you want. Work with your event team to bring those concepts to life in onstage content, video and graphic support. Push them to make it everything you’ve envisioned. That’s their job.

Rock-Star Treatment

One of the most important parts of an annual convention or an incentive trip is recognition—the sweet sound of applause (and their own name) as honorees take their walk of fame. What could be better?

Doing recognition right is so important! It’s exciting for the individuals being recognized, it’s aspirational for the guests watching the awards ceremony, and it’s a chance for your company to truly thank and honor those individuals who make you shine. Your top achievers are the face of your company to their customers; you want those faces to be smiling and happy.

Your production company should know how important recognition is to your audience and honorees, and make it a priority in pre-event planning. Creating a memorable experience start-to-finish for each honoree is important. It can—and should—be awesome from backstage to onstage. There are very real and very important reasons that they’re onstage. They’ve racked up incredible sales or sponsoring numbers. They’ve met goals, they’ve made new commitments or they’ve partnered with your organization’s charitable efforts to change the world. Whatever it is, they’ve excelled. And their moment in the spotlight should be all excitement, and zero stress.

Make sure your event partner takes care with each honoree so that they’re comfortable and know what’s going to happen. Where they’ll wait backstage, how they’ll know it’s time to walk out, who will escort them, where they should stand. The more they know, the more they can relax and enjoy the experience. And the harder they’ll work to get back onstage next year!

Also there’s this: Check, double-check, and triple-check that names are spelled and pronounced correctly. Amazingly, this doesn’t always get checked, and it’s a real downer for the honoree when that happens. Do whatever it takes to make them feel like the rock stars they are!

Pin, Post, Tweet, Share

Social media: It’s not just for breakfast anymore. You’ve used Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and your company’s website to drive attendance to your event. Now you’re done, right? Actually, you’re just getting started.

Social media can be a living, evolving, exciting part of your event, throughout the entire event experience. It seems appropriate to use a statistic now, so here it is: Nearly 75 percent of all Americans are actively engaged in social media, including your guests. Don’t tell them to turn off their phones—engage them!

There are many different social media platforms, and you should know those that your consultants use the most. Just think: Each platform is a new way to directly reach consumers, consultants and event attendees. You’re nodding your head. Yes, that makes sense. But few organizations use social media to its maximum advantage at their events.

Just about everything you do for event guests can also be accessed and enjoyed by those who couldn’t come. They’ll stay connected to the event and to your organization, and—fingers crossed—they’ll make sure they attend the event next year.

Post (and tag!) photos of new products, displays, field presenters and crowd excitement on Facebook. Keep your YouTube channel up-to-the-minute current with videos of the CEO’s speech, an amazing recognition segment, new product reveals and all of the excitement in the convention center hallways. You may want to consider creating an app specific to your event—for instance, the event agenda. It’s hip, happenin’ and green. All the cool kids are doing it.

Create a fun, interactive digital scavenger hunt in which attendees earn points throughout the event by “checking in” at different displays or sessions, or taking a selfie with a sales field leader, or scanning a product display. Draw for prizes on Twitter rather than on the stage. Have the CEO or other execs answer questions via live tweets throughout the event. Create an event-specific hashtag.

Sometimes social media is considered “anti-social” because we’re all looking down at our phones, clicking and scrolling. Done the right way, it can actually create a more communal experience at your event—and well beyond.


Nearly 75 percent of all Americans are actively engaged in social media, including your guests. Don’t tell them to turn off their phones—engage them!


It’s a Wrap

So there you go. The three ways you can ensure a great event experience for your guests and a solid return on the investment you’ve made.

  • Solid pre-event prep
  • Rock-star recognition
  • Effective use of social media

Do your homework, trust your event partner and enjoy building an event that’ll leave them more excited—and more productive—than ever.


Jeff Turney

John Killacky is Managing Director, National Sales & Marketing at Bartha. Bartha is a leading provider of high-quality events, production and staging for the direct selling industry.

Today’s Shifting Direct Selling Landscape

by Michelle Larter

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

Increasingly, brands are using mobile and social as channels to interact and engage with customers and prospects. In the direct selling industry, consultants and brands continue to embrace the opportunities each provides to better run their businesses and drive leads. But just how much have these two impacted the way direct selling organizations do business—and what further changes can we expect to see this year?

Three shifts we are already seeing can be found in the use of social media, mobile devices and analytics.

Social Media Shift: From Facebook to More Private Channels

Social media today has become one of the primary ways that messages are getting out now. Any brand lacking a social media strategy today is at risk of becoming obsolete, as consumers increasingly discover and interact with brands through these channels. However, the social media landscape is changing, and what has worked in the past couple of years is no longer a guaranteed approach.

Consider Facebook. The popular social media site’s saturation has caused 20- to 30-somethings to increasingly utilize more “private” channels, including Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest, to connect with peers. In fact, according to Nate Elliott, an analyst with Forrester Research Inc., consumers interact with brand posts on Instagram at a rate that far surpasses the interaction rates produced on Facebook and Twitter. This could mean that while Facebook has helped direct selling organizations and their consultants drive customer acquisition and sales with 20- to 30-somethings in recent years, it may not continue to generate the same level of results—and establishing or growing a presence on other social media platforms will be more effective.

The key for maintaining a successful social media presence is to understand where your customers are most active and provide them with valuable and relevant messages tailored to each social media outlet in order to cultivate those relationships. Instagram, for instance, provides an opportunity for a jewelry consultant to provide images of each piece being worn in order to showcase the versatility and real-life appearance of the jewelry for sale. On Pinterest, the same consultant can not only create boards showcasing all of the jewelry looks, but can also show her individual style suggestions. This enables her to show her creative side and projects an image to her customers that she can be a resource for accessorizing.


The key for maintaining a successful social media presence is to understand where your customers are most active and provide them with valuable and relevant messages in order to cultivate those relationships.


The content-sharing opportunities made possible through social media are compelling, and direct selling organizations and consultants who use them strategically can find that they truly engage with customers and prospects in new and fun ways, even as their social media preferences change.

Mobility Shift: Consumers—and Consultants—Are Always On

Mobile devices are increasingly an integral part of everyday life. And while mobile devices serve many purposes, both personal and professional, one of their most common uses is to access email anytime, anywhere. This can be an important point for the direct selling industry. The key is providing relevant and engaging content to keep them interested and informed.

But it’s not just consumers who are impacted by the increasingly mobile landscape. Consultants are using iPads and tablets to run their businesses—conducting presentations on them at parties and using them for order management. We are starting to see a shift where printed materials—catalogs, order forms, invoices—are increasingly becoming electronic.

Think about the advantages: If you are hosting a party, you can easily look up information and show additional products that may not be showcased in the catalogs or as part of the live demonstration. Even if they are, it’s likely that online you can show multiple product images, giving the potential customer a clearer picture of the product. Order management is easier for both parties and processing is quicker, as well.

Outside of parties, consultants are more likely to be prepared for anytime sales, since most won’t leave home without their mobile devices (but may leave home without their product portfolio and paper order forms). The ability to immediately show customers what you are selling, even in moments when you least expect a potential sale, is changing the direct selling game!

Analytics Shift: Tracking ROI and Driving Leads

Consultants who are serious about marketing are increasingly using tools to help track ROI and drive leads. Along with managing their own social sites, consultants are increasingly tracking ROI on Google Analytics to see what’s working and what’s not by examining where their site visitors are coming from, how long they are staying on their site and how many are converting to leads. They’re using Facebook Graph Search as a new way to find new prospects and drive leads. This service helps users find more of the people, places and things they’re looking for and discover new connections based on what others have shared with them. They’re measuring the success of each of their email newsletters by examining open and click-through rates. All of this data is more readily available to consultants, who are increasingly empowered to track their successes and determine the most effective strategies for driving leads and sales. As more and more data analytics tools become available, the direct selling industry will continue to be impacted by the insight they provide.

As direct selling continues to evolve, the same overarching lessons remain true: Staying in front of the customer, delivering relevance and engaging with them via their preferred channels will be the key for driving direct selling success. While technology shifts can impact the communication channels, the same best practices ring true.


Michele LarterMichelle Larter is the Worldwide Director, Direct Selling, at IMN Inc. Larter has more than 20 years of experience in sales, including more than 10 years specifically with direct sales. She is a contributing writer to direct selling and technology publications and a frequent speaker at industry events. IMN Inc. was awarded the prestigious 2013 DSA Ethos Award for Partnership.

The $100 Million Growth Club

by Teresa Day

Click here to download this issue to your mobile device. Watch here for the print version to become available.

DSN Cover, July 2014

Several years ago, the staff at Direct Selling News began the research necessary to create an industry list that demonstrated the impact and contribution of direct selling companies worldwide. The DSN Global 100 list has become a respected ranking, and each year the research team increases its ability to gather the necessary and relevant information. This annual list creates an opportunity to understand the significance of our industry as a whole, and showcase companies above a certain revenue threshold, which marks them as significant contributors to local and global economies.

We have been very pleased to hear that “making the list” has become a goal for many company executives as they work through their strategic planning for growth. Though the Global 100 list only presents 100 companies, we recognize that there are hundreds of smaller companies all working within our industry that offer excellent products and services, and serve both the needs and dreams of customers and representatives alike. We celebrate and salute them all!

While at work on the 2014 list (which is based on 2013 revenues), the DSN research team recognized a remarkable pattern emerging among a significant number of companies—18 companies, to be exact. These 18 companies achieved such a remarkable milestone during their course of business in 2013 that we knew we had to write about it and share this achievement with you, our readers.

In fact, the achievement appears to be so rare in the general business world that there is actually little written about it anywhere, furthering our decision to bring the information forward. The achievement is this: Eighteen companies on the Global 100 list grew by over $100 million in one year.

While we were, at first, definitely impressed as we saw this pattern and thought about these 18 companies, it was in doing further research on the growth of companies in general that turned our admiration into downright astonishment, and ultimately, extreme pride in their achievements.


Very few companies in any industry ever achieve a growth level of $100 million or more, much less in a single year!


Here’s why: Very few companies in any industry ever achieve a growth level of $100 million or more, much less in a single year! With that knowledge we, of course, felt compelled to call out and celebrate this achievement, and further, discover what we could about how and why these companies could reach such a milestone.

However, before we move onto the commonalities of these companies, let’s point out a few pertinent differences. These companies range in age from 2 years old to over 50 years old in operating age. These companies sell vastly differing products, from jewelry to health and wellness and from energy and essential services to cosmetics and skin care. These companies operate in one market to dozens of markets. They are headquartered all over the U.S. and even the globe—Noevir in Japan, Vorwerk in Germany and Telecom Plus in the U.K. Maybe the most apparent and extreme difference in these companies is their size—companies that grew over $100 million ranged from those producing $24 million (Origami Owl) and $37 million (Plexus) in 2012 to five companies already in the billion-dollar range.

We point out all of these differences to emphasize that remarkable growth is possible, regardless of product offered, number of markets served and even company size. In other words, remarkable growth is not only the purview of an already giant, established company.

As we considered this growth number—the $100 million threshold—we found some very interesting commentary on the validity of this number measuring something important. Paul Kedrosky, Ph.D., a senior fellow at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, contributing editor with Bloomberg Television and founding partner at SK Ventures—an early-stage venture capitalist firm—has written about and studied this $100 million number in conjunction with business growth, and his thoughts on the subject are quite revealing.

In a report issued by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in May 2013, titled “The Constant: Companies that Matter,” Kedrosky writes, “There are few constants in entrepreneurship—perhaps none. That is why when something appears to be even semi-stable across meaningful periods, it is usually worth further investigation.” The “something” he is discussing in his paper is the question of how to measure a company “that matters.” In Kedrosky’s estimation, a company that can promptly go from founding to $100 million in revenue qualifies as a company that matters. Why? Because these companies impact the economy. Because these companies create jobs and wealth for stakeholders. But primarily because so few actually do it.

According to Kedrosky’s research, which is presented in this Kauffman Foundation short paper, there are roughly half a million (552,000) new “employer firms”—those that employ others as workers—opening in the U.S. each year, every year. Since 1980, the number of those firms that reach $100 million in revenue at some point has been pretty stable, and it’s a very small number—only between 125 and 250 firms out of the entire half a million.

Let’s break that number down into a percentage. If half a million employer firms are created every year, and at the high end, only 250 of them ever go on to achieve $100 million, that’s less than one-half of 1 percent. Supporting data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that even during a six-year window, only 175 companies out of the half a million new ones every year ever achieve the $100 million mark. No wonder Kedrosky uses this achievement to qualify a company as one “that matters.”

This data says that ever reaching $100 million in annual revenue marks you as a company that matters; a company that has significant staying power; a company that puts you in the top quartile of companies within your industry, no matter what it is. But we feel that this stunning statistic makes our $100 Million Growth Club even more of an outstanding achievement for these companies, because not only have they achieved and exceeded a mark that less than one-half of 1 percent ever reach, but they have duplicated that effort in a one-year time frame! We again salute and celebrate these 18 companies for a truly remarkable achievement.

Of course, the natural next question is how on earth did they do it? So we took a hard look at this group of remarkable companies, and though they are incredibly diverse, we found that they did, in fact, have some best practices substantially in common.

  • They have tremendous focus on their brand and product.
  • They utilize tools for their salesforce.
  • They invest in customer acquisition.
  • They emphasize personal development in their culture.
  • They focus on developing strong leaders.

Focus on Product/Brand

Staying focused has the natural result of bringing things into alignment, and since you can’t be focused on multiple things at once (focus just doesn’t work that way), staying focused automatically generates simplicity.

Peter Drucker, hailed as the father of modern management, very precisely puts it this way: “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” In addition to identifying what should be done, focus helps identify those things which should not be done.

Staying focused requires discipline and attention. It can be difficult; it can feel ”boring”; it can feel like putting a straitjacket on creativity; it can feel too simple; it can feel that opportunities are passing you by as you focus on one main thing; however, those companies that have been able to do this have reached this remarkable achievement. Their leaders would tell you that the benefits of the discipline far outweigh any opportunity that would have distracted you.

It Works! is one of the 18 companies in our $100 Million Growth Club, and CEO Mark Pentecost is one executive who set his sights on “making the Global 100 list” a couple of years ago. Prior to this decision, it’s important to note that It Works! had been a successful company for nine years, and had grown at a respectable rate each year to $45 million in 2011. Placed against the data presented in this article, It Works! had already achieved success. But Pentecost wanted more, and he knew that by creating a simple message and staying focused upon it, his team could achieve it.

Pentecost says, “I’ll never forget that day near the end of 2011 when I met with members of our team—both corporate and in the field—and we made one decision that will forever be a milestone in our company history. We set a goal to double the company in 2012. That was a big goal. That meant we would create over $100 million in sales in the next 12 months.”

With singular focus, the small, respectable company truly exploded into growth. In 2013, the company debuted on the Global 100 at No. 56 with 2012 revenue of $200 million. This year, it moved up to No. 26 with 2013 revenue of $456 million.

“Anyone can complicate things,” Pentecost says. “It takes genius to simplify it. We had one message from the top down, and we worked hard to stay focused. We said no to anything else that came up.”

Researcher and celebrated business author Jim Collins writes about the “Stop Doing” principle, something he learned from a grad school professor at Stanford and has applied ever since to his own thinking. He writes, “… the ‘stop doing’ list became an enduring cornerstone of my annual New Year’s resolutions—a mechanism for disciplined thought about how to allocate the most precious of all resources: time.” Collins also incorporated the Stop Doing List into his criteria of what makes a company great in his celebrated book Good to Great, giving examples of great leaders who were able to make big decisions about what to stop doing in order to achieve the greatness they were capable of.


“Anyone can complicate things. It takes genius to simplify it. We had one message from the top down, and we worked hard to stay focused. We said no to anything else that came up.”
—Mark Pentecost, CEO, It Works!


Nu Skin President and CEO Truman Hunt and his team utilized the “Stop Doing” principle when they scaled back their products and brands to one anti-aging line, AgeLoc. The focus has clearly paid off. It was however, a very big decision. Nu Skin had expanded its operations to include three distinct opportunities: Nu Skin products, Pharmanex and Big Planet. Different management teams ran each division, and they competed with one another. Hunt decided to focus the opportunity on one path.

Hunt says, “We took advantage of that moment in time to evaluate all business issues. There were no sacred cows, and it resulted in an overhaul of our organization and strategy. The process was not without pain, but it was also clearly a key point in the growth of our company.”

Two companies among the 18 are exceptional primarily because of their extreme focus on offering one product in one market. Interestingly, the two companies couldn’t be more different—one is skin care, and one is energy. Nerium achieved over $200 million in revenue in its second full year with only one product in one country. Ambit has been the fastest company to achieve the billion-dollar threshold—within seven years—in only 14 states in the U.S. with one product. Focus clearly has played a central role at both of these companies.

Tools for Salesforce Support

Applying disciplined focus to your product line and brand will only get you so far if you don’t also carry that focus into your field support and training. No matter what product or service is being sold, every sales field needs simplicity and clarity in order to achieve the kind of growth our 18 companies achieved. It’s important to remember that those entrepreneurial souls who are your brand ambassadors are also very creative. In the absence of simple, clear and duplicable tools and systems, creative salespeople tend to create their own processes and selling methods. While this may produce enormous success for one or two individuals, it does not translate across the field to everyone. In order to achieve uniform success across the entire salesforce—which is necessary to generate $100 million achievements—the field needs simple and duplicable systems.

In just two remarkable years, Nerium has developed an expert ability to provide its salesforce with simple and duplicable tools. By so doing, they have maintained incredible consistency for their independent representatives in the form of support tools, training materials and back-end support, enabling even brand-new IBOs with no experience the ability to set up shop quickly and dive right into their businesses.

Each new representative receives the same starter kit, which includes a DVD that trains the individual on company business practices, along with other standardized materials to get them and keep them on the right track. From their first day in business, each representative has access to online support tools that are personalized for them. Every representative has the same experience, and every customer has the same experience, enabling the company to present a uniform, and clearly successful, approach to the business.

With two decades’ worth of experience in creating back office systems for other direct selling companies, Randy Ray and Wendy Lewis were well-versed in tech support tools when they decided to launch Jeunesse, the anti-aging skincare company, which grew from $126 million to $267 million in 2013 (growth of $131 million) and was seated at No. 46 on the Global 100 list. Their prospecting system easily allows a distributor to share a video on any social media platform, and the viewer can immediately request a free sample (paying only shipping). The company’s extensive tools support allows a distributor to enter the business and share products from almost anywhere in the world.

Most, if not all of the 18 companies on our list use consistent and simple tools to support and train their sales field such as DVDs, magazines and brochures, mobile apps and websites. Herbalife’s President Dez Walsh told DSN that he believes the continued use of systemized training methods to support distributors is a primary reason for his company’s sustained growth.

Investment in Customer Acquisition

Though in our industry many distributors are also customers, a business can’t grow to the levels we are discussing without creating a strong customer base.

In looking at our 18 growth companies, we found they had various means of reaching new customers, including investing in technology and reaching out to Gen Y, expanding physically into new markets and territories, and reaching out to new customers through sports sponsorship programs.

In all customer acquisition strategies, it is imperative that the company follow the customer. A company can no longer insist that a customer follow them; the balance of power has shifted, and it is now necessary for the company to meet the customer where they want to be met, whether it’s on Facebook or literally in a new market.

For example, Vemma has developed a customer acquisition strategy targeted at the very tech-savvy 80 million Generation Y’ers, the oldest of whom are now in their mid-30s. According to a study produced by Oracle on Gen Y’ers’ banking habits, their annual spending next year is projected to be $2.45 trillion. They don’t read newspapers, they don’t pay attention to TV advertising and they pretty much disregard anything that isn’t digitally produced. Vemma has captured their hearts and minds by tailoring the message and the messenger to be exactly what they want. Once these young people got their own revolution going at Vemma (YPR—Young People Revolution), they propelled an already somewhat successful company onto the Global 100 list at No. 81 with $117 million in revenue; and then skyrocketed the company to No. 53 on this year’s list with over $100 million in growth.

When Herbalife came to understand in some of their markets that people don’t shop the way Americans do—by stocking a pantry and large refrigerator with days’ and days’ worth of food—they made an effort to understand what was happening, and why. As a result of understanding their customers’ habits, they created a daily consumption model that mirrored the way people actually behaved in those markets.

The daily consumption and nutrition club model has also revealed additional benefits for Herbalife that have aided in their sustained growth. A social aspect has developed around the clubs, producing more and more frequent customers; and customers go to the distributor—rather than the distributor going out to them—which creates great efficiencies for the distributor.

AdvoCare puts its brand in front of millions of fans of NASCAR racing, professional soccer, and both college and pro football through its sports sponsorship programs. AdvoCare is the first-ever jersey sponsor for the Major League Soccer team FC Dallas—prominently displaying the company logo at every match, including those broadcast on national television. Other sponsorships include the No. 6 AdvoCare Ford Mustang in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2014, driven by the youngest-ever winner of the Daytona 500, Trevor Bayne. Drew Brees, quarterback of the New Orleans Saints and MVP of the Pro Football World Championship Game, is AdvoCare’s official National Spokesperson and helps lead the AdvoCare marketing efforts.

Expansion of the customer base is a foundational practice of each of the 18 companies on our list, regardless of their product, markets or even methods.

Emphasis on Personal Development

Today, personal development is an integral component of most direct selling companies, and its roots can be traced way back to the inspirational and motivational leanings of David McConnell, Mary Kay Ash, Mary Crowley and others who forged our industry.

Including a personal development program for representatives actually provides the company with great benefits. Mary Crowley, Founder of Home Interiors & Gifts in 1957, said, “If you grow your people, you will grow your business.” Many executives can testify to the truth of this statement. The 18 companies on our extraordinary growth list all pay attention to the personal development and growth of their salesforce.

Giving your salesforce access to personal development materials can take many forms, including utilizing tools, speakers, systems and opportunities to create a culture based around personal growth and awareness. It’s a cultural mindset and requires investment—just as product development and marketing efforts require attention and investment. Access to personal development material should be a critical part of the new representative’s first experiences. This can be accomplished by including CDs, DVDs, reading material such as magazines, or access to subscription services for personal growth.

Personal development and culture development can also be facilitated by your event strategy. Great events on consistent rhythms create great cultures. Great companies have powerful cultures. In fact, it’s that unique culture of your company that attracts the people you want in your organization and keeps them there.

ACN’s large-scale quarterly events represent an essential component to the company’s success system, which is why event after event, year after year, IBOs turn out in droves for its events. Almost 20,000 of them from around the world flocked to ACN’s hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina, for the company’s International Training Event last September, and they continue to host sold-out events quarter after quarter.

“It’s not a coincidence that the top people in ACN never miss an event,” observes Greg Provenzano, President and Co-Founder. “We hold them quarterly and they truly provide the motivation and fuel our IBOs need to build their businesses. For a brand-new person, there is nothing quite as powerful as walking into an arena of 20,000 excited, supportive IBOs. It truly is the best way to be exposed to our opportunity and to see the big picture of ACN firsthand.”

Vemma and It Works! recently went from a one-event-a-year system to four events a year. Many of the other growth companies are having at least two events a year on a national basis, plus regional and leadership events. These companies are creating consistent local, regional and national rhythms with their events as they try to build their culture and build their companies. By staying in front of your people, you can keep them engaged, keep them motivated, keep them fired up, keep them going when they don’t feel like it. We all know great events and great rhythms build great cultures. They also create an emotional attachment between your salesforce and the company—and the salesforce among themselves.

Focus on Developing Strong Leaders

Great cultures also create great leaders. The 18 companies in the $100 Million Growth Club all adhere to one final best practice: They create positive environments where people, particularly women, have the ability to grow into strong leaders capable of successfully replicating their business opportunities through others.

That positivity derives from the shared belief that anyone has the potential to succeed in direct selling. Two of the Global 100’s top 10 companies—one a network marketing company and the other a party plan company—have proved over the last half-century that focusing on leadership skills strengthens not only the individual but the business itself.

The No. 1 direct seller in the world, Amway, was founded by Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel with the core belief that people, not products, were the greatest resource. The company, which recorded $11.80 billion in net sales in 2013, embraces “diversity of opportunity” which, according to current Amway President Doug DeVos, “enables stronger global expansion and [helps] manage change and opportunity.”

Amway IBOs are provided with leadership skills training upon joining the company and as they climb through the different levels of the organization: Platinum, Ruby, Sapphire, Emerald, Diamond and Double Diamond. They are also provided with the assurance that leaders in their upline maintain the highest levels of honesty, integrity, responsibility and accountability. “They can count on these values to be placed front and center when it comes to ensuring products are safe, individuals are reliable, compensation is fair, training is effective, and support and guidance are readily available,” Doug DeVos states.

Mary Kay, which broke into the Global 100’s top five this year with $3.60 billion, has since its inception been an organization that has grown exponentially because of its development of female leadership. Of course, such skill training was of the utmost importance to its founder, Mary Kay Ash, who in a 1985 Inc. interview stated, “I feel like I’m doing something far more important than just selling cosmetics. I think we’re building lives.”

Today the company’s beauty consultants can count on leadership training as they progress from consultants to sales directors and national sales directors. “You cannot keep a determined person from success,” Mary Kay once exclaimed. “If you place stumbling blocks in her way, she will take them for steppingstones and will use them to climb to new heights.”

The Clues of Success

The 18 companies that achieved over $100 million in growth in a single year did something so remarkable that very little is written about it. We hope this brief article showcasing these companies and sharing some of their common strategies will inspire many more to focus on a similar achievement for themselves. These companies have not been successful by accident; they have left clues for everyone else to see and follow.

We expect that next year even more companies will achieve the remarkable milestone of growing $100 million or more!


The $100 Million Growth Club

The Road to $1 Billion

by J.M. Emmert

DSN Cover, April 2014

When Inc. magazine named Ambit Energy America’s fastest-growing private company in 2010, the then 4-year-old company’s annual revenue already had reached $325 million, making it one of the 40 largest direct selling companies in the world.

A year after the Inc. article appeared, the revenue number had doubled to $664 million. And 24 months later, Ambit did what very few direct selling companies have been able to do: break the billion-dollar barrier.

Hitting $1 billion in revenue is a milestone for any business, and to do so in seven years puts Ambit’s growth on a trajectory in line with some of the most recognizable brands of the past few decades: Apple (six years), Facebook (six years), Amazon (four years), eBay (seven years) and Google (five years).

Technology certainly helped. Co-Founders Jere Thompson Jr. and Chris Chambless have pointed to the company’s data processing technology as a key factor in Ambit’s rapid expansion. And Ambit, like all modern direct sales companies, leverages the connectivity afforded by the Internet as well as social media platforms in its sales strategies.

Yet despite the ubiquitous nature of technology, the billion-dollar milestone remains elusive for many direct sellers. In order to better understand what it takes to break through that barrier, we decided to study some of the members of direct selling’s Billion Dollar Club: six from the United States—Ambit, Amway, Avon, Herbalife, Mary Kay and Nu Skin, as well as Germany’s Vorwerk, Brazil’s Natura and Peru’s Belcorp.

What is it that makes them billion-dollar companies? What do they have that other companies are still trying to learn and to possess? In our review, we identified four key drivers behind the members of the Billion Dollar Club.


Growth Comparison ($0-$1 Billion)


1. They were founded by outstanding leaders.

Which one would you invite to dinner: the visionary, the revolutionary, the dream-builder, the groundbreaker, the risk-taker, the mover, the shaker or the history-maker? In the Billion Dollar Club, you’ll find them all sitting at the table.

Take Amway’s Jay Van Andel and Rich DeVos, for example. Van Andel was a firm believer in and fierce advocate for free enterprise, and DeVos was among the first proponents of teaching distributors to start with believing in themselves.

“We were just two guys from Ada, Michigan, USA, who wanted to have a business of our own,” DeVos says on the company’s website. “We were two kids (it still feels like that sometimes) who were hungry for success and who wanted to give others the chance to be in business for themselves, too.”

The current generation at Amway is building upon that foundation. Co-CEOs Steve Van Andel and Doug DeVos have led the company to record sales growth marked by continued global expansion to more than 100 countries and territories.

Avon offers a similar lesson in the power of strong foundational leadership. As a salesman in the 19th century, David McConnell was far ahead of his time in recognizing that women could be successful sales professionals. Beginning in 1886 with Mrs. P.F.E. Albee, he tapped the power of a female salesforce to go door-to-door extolling the virtues of products from the California Perfume Company, the forerunner of Avon. By 1920, he had built a $1 million business, which adjusted for inflation would be nearly $12 million now.

Today, CEO Sheri McCoy, whom Fortune magazine ranks as among the 50 most powerful women in business, exemplifies McConnell’s vision of building the company for women. She joined the Avon team in April 2012, bringing with her 30 years of experience with Johnson & Johnson, and now leads a $10 billion business with more than 6 million independent sales representatives.

2. They offer distinctive, high-quality products or services.

Having bold, visionary leaders is critical to building a billion-dollar company. So, too, is creating products that bring true value to the marketplace. The club members reviewed here have done just that.

The United States has the largest cosmetics industry in the world, with estimated revenue of nearly $55 billion. Amway, Avon, Mary Kay and Nu Skin are all able to thrive because they continue to be at the forefront of scientific research, developing new products designed to enhance the lives of customers.

Nu Skin, for example, spent more than $46 million on research from 2011 to 2013 and has made several key acquisitions that brought new technology into the company. Its Pharmanex health supplements product line comes from the acquisition of Simi Valley, Calif.-based Generation Health Holdings Inc. in 1998. Since then, Nu Skin has gone on to purchase substantially all of the assets of Madison, Wis.-based LifeGen Technologies LLC in 2011 and Malvern, Pa.-based Nox Technologies Inc. in 2012, which added more anti-aging technology to the Nu Skin portfolio.

Avon significantly upped its research and development game in 2002, announcing plans for a state-of-the-art R&D center and a $100 million increase in research spending from 2002 to 2005. The company has continued that commitment, spending $67.2 million on research and development in 2013 and launching more than a dozen new products.

Unlike its personal consumer product peers, Ambit is using direct sales to introduce customers to a relatively new product category: energy. Deregulation in many utility markets is giving consumers a choice when it comes to purchasing their retail electric and gas services.

Since its launch in Texas in 2006, Ambit has used direct selling to spread the word. Co-Founder Jere Thompson Jr.’s mother and father were the company’s first customers, and received the first bill. Today, Ambit has more than 1 million active customers.

3. They target growing markets.

In order to hit the $1 billion mark, choosing where to sell can be just as critical as choosing what to sell. Of the nine companies in our report, six of them have a presence in more than 35 markets around the globe. Only Belcorp (16), Natura (seven) and Ambit (one) have managed to make the Billion Dollar Club with less.

According to a September 2013 DSN report, advanced markets—the United States, Japan, Korea, France, Germany, the U.K., Taiwan, Italy, Canada and Australia—accounted for $89 billion in retail sales in 2012. Emerging markets such as China, Brazil, Mexico, Malaysia, Russia, Colombia, Thailand, Venezuela, Argentina, Peru, Indonesia, India and the Philippines accounted for $65 billion. Those markets, however, are home to 85 percent of the world’s population; gaining a foothold there now establishes a foundation for future growth.

Take Brazil, for example. Natura has established itself as the biggest cosmetics company in its home country. The No. 2 cosmetics name in Brazil? That was U.S.-based Avon, which counts Brazil as one of its largest markets and where it keeps some research and development operations.

4. They invest in their people.

In the end, while leadership can create a desired path, quality products can help establish a business, and new markets can help bring a company’s story to a worldwide audience, it all comes down to the people who say yes to the opportunity to represent the brand.

The nine companies in this report have more than 20 million salespeople combined across the globe. Those salespeople are of every age and ethnicity, with diverse educational backgrounds and diverse reasons for wanting to be an entrepreneur. In fact, according to the U.S. Direct Selling Association, most people who join direct selling come for one of five things: supplemental income, recognition, rewards, social connections or product discounts.

Six of the nine companies currently have more than 1 million salespeople who, for the most part, are compensated on a multi-level structure. The most-frequently used sales method is person-to-person, which accounted for 80 percent of sales in 2012. Vorwerk, Mary Kay and Belcorp employ the party plan method as well.

The founders and leaders of the Billion Dollar Club companies recognize and value the diversity among their salesforces. Family men like Belcorp’s Eduardo Belmont and the brothers Carl and Adolf Vorwerk have shown that fostering a culture of love and respect brings in the greatest returns on investment. Motivators like Herbalife’s Mark Hughes and Natura’s Luis Seabra set out to help people change themselves so they could, in turn, change more lives for the better. And Nu Skin’s Blake Roney, Sandie Tillotson and Steve Lund are among the many philanthropists in direct selling who have reached out a helping hand to those in need.

A key to becoming a billion-dollar company is to have people talking about it. So whether the talk comes from the standpoint of a 150-year-old legacy or a new, spirited startup that has re-energized the industry, happy salespeople translates to happy customers; and happy customers is always a winning formula.