Actionable insights and opportunities from the first-ever direct selling generational engagement study.
Direct selling has become an increasingly popular avenue for individuals to start their own businesses and earn income. To gain a comprehensive understanding of the perceptions surrounding direct selling, the Direct Sales Generational Engagement Study was conducted by Bridgehead Collective and carried out by The Center for Generational Kinetics, led by President Jason Dorsey.
In this first-of-its-kind study, Bridgehead Collective chose to partner with the Center for Generational Kinetics, which has led more than 100 research studies in all major industries. Their seminal annual study, The State of Gen Z, formed the basis for the best-selling book, ZConomy and has been consistently featured in national and global media including The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, CNN and many more.
I set out to discover America’s perceptions of entrepreneurship, the gig economy and—more pointedly—direct selling. Statistical significance was of ultimate importance in this analysis, so the study represents a wide-sweeping sample that is reflective of America, with an equitable mix of genders, demographics, employment status, education levels and location that allows for a 97 percent confidence level. This study aimed to explore the attitudes, motivations, limitations and beliefs about starting a business in America, as well as uncover perceptions of direct selling, recruiting strategies, onboarding methods, distributor retention and preferred payment structures.
We designed the study to provide actionable insights across 10 key categories:
- Perception of Industry and Channel
- Recruiting and Prospecting
- Motivations and Decision Criteria
- Onboarding and Getting Started
- Compensation and Value Proposition
- Incentive Trips and Events
- Duplication and Role of Team Building
In this series, we will be digging deeper into each of these categories, focusing this month on Recruiting and Prospecting as well as Motivations and Decision Criteria. As we shared in last month’s issue, the news surrounding all generations is that their perception of our industry is actually far more positive than we sometimes think it is.
One Approach Does Not Fit All
An element that was a recurring theme in this study was how differently each generation responded to each key insight area. On one hand, that shouldn’t be surprising. However, I am struck by how often we, as an industry, tend to approach all prospects and distributors with one voice, one message, one point of view.
The data shows that a radically different approach is required. Each generation has distinct (and often competing) preferences, decision criterion and motivators. These differences were on full display when considering recruiting and prospecting.
The study took a comprehensive look at all facets of sponsoring including probing each generation for where, how, from whom and in what forum they wanted to hear about the earning opportunities that we provide.
We started first with finding out how comfortable each generation was learning about direct selling opportunities across a whole range of different scenarios. Options for them to rank included: a discussion with a friend or family member already involved; video or series of videos on YouTube; automated on-demand portal; group discussions; in-person meetings as well as several others.
Not surprisingly, the highest ranked selection with 74 percent of all generations choosing it as their top answer was learning about the business from someone they know already working it. BUT, coming in just one percentage point behind, was—wait for it—learning about the opportunity from a video or series of YouTube videos. When you isolate just Gen Z and Younger Millennials that increased to the top spot by a wide margin with over 85 percent of those generations indicating that was their preferred choice.
Action Item: Take a hard look at your YouTube channel. Don’t have one? Start one now!
The least preferred place to meet? A full 35 points behind the number one choices: meeting one-on-one or in a small group in a coffee shop or restaurant. This beloved and much-trained-upon method was deemed “old-school” and “cringey” across the board.
Action Item: Scrub your training materials for suggestions to schedule a 1:1 in person as a great prospecting tool. Maybe five years ago, but not today!
Then, we looked to understand what tools or resources they would find most helpful when first making the decision to join. This was intended to get us all some answers for how to best create/re-create those opportunity “leave-behinds.” Turns out, the highest scoring item for conversion was a one-to-three-month written roadmap for success. That was more pivotal in any decision making than success stories, income claims and projections, videos, brochures or even product samples. The only generation that didn’t rank this first was Gen Z. They wanted to see examples of people in their age range that had found success. So—sort of the same principle—but they wanted that roadmap to come from someone they could consider a peer.
Action item: Ditch the opportunity brochure. Create a one-page roadmap to success instead.
What Really Moves the Needle
Okay, so every generation has now been approached and provided with a roadmap for success…but what are they really looking for from us? We asked them what the biggest benefit was that they saw in direct selling. Again, the number one reason was sort of obvious—make extra money, of course! But second and third were a virtual tie between having control over when and where they worked and getting paid weekly. Weekly pay is a key benefit and decision driver.
Bringing up the bottom of that list were some old-school favorites that we may want to rethink how much we focus on, such as getting to attend celebrity events, keynote speakers and the opportunity to get recognized for their success.
Wow Stat: 75% of all generations and 92% of Younger Millennials were more likely to join a company that supported a social cause that they believed in and pointed to that as a key decision factor.
So, what will help them make that final decision? There are two major drivers that showed up as factors that would OVERCOME any skepticism they might still feel over joining.
- A cost to get started UNDER $100
- Generating sales and income in first month of business
This “less than $100” showed up clearly in all generations but particularly for Millennials.
Action Item: Take a look at those starter packs and your overall cost of entry. In all cases—regardless of generation—having an option less than $100 is critical for success.
Stay Focused (and Stay in Touch)
The Direct Sales Generational Engagement Study, conducted by Bridgehead Collective, sheds light on the perceptions of direct selling across different generations. It reveals varying levels of interest and motivations among different age groups; highlights effective recruiting strategies; emphasizes the importance of onboarding and retention strategies; and explores the significance of community in fostering success as a direct selling distributor.
By understanding these generational perspectives and using the information to precisely position all facets of your business, you can tailor your approaches to attract, engage and retain distributors effectively.
Next month we will walk you through Onboarding and Getting Started and share the shocking (yes, I said shocking) insights on how each generation—especially those Young Millennials and Gen Zers—want to engage with your company. I promise you it’s not how you think!
With 20+ years of cross-functional experience in direct selling, Heather Chastain brings a solid understanding of sales, marketing, technology, manufacturing, operations and C-Suite challenges as well as a strong collaborative and relational style of leadership to the table. Heather has held executive roles at Shaklee, Arbonne International, Celebrating Home and BeautiControl. Heather also serves as the Strategic Advisor at DSN and is the Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Bridgehead Collective.
From the September 2023 issue of Direct Selling News magazine.