In this highly competitive, oversaturated marketplace, establishing and maintaining brand equity is crucial to differentiating your products from the pack and ultimately assuming a leadership position. According to businessdictionary.com, “brand equity” is defined as “a brand’s power derived from the goodwill and name recognition it has earned over time, which translates into higher sales volume and higher profit margins against competing brands.” In other words, it’s a company’s value based on consumer perception. In the world of direct selling, brand equity not only lets consumers know what a brand stands for and what they can expect, but can also instantly open doors and start conversations for the salesforce with potential customers and prospects.
Identify and Differentiate
The key to building strong brand equity is to be consistent, strategically, in your values and positioning in every decision you make—from the products you develop and the spokespeople you use to the support you offer the field. Identify what differentiates your brand and makes you you, and stick with it, as equity does not develop overnight… it takes years to build.
At Rodan + Fields Dermatologists, our brand equity is built on the credibility of the founders, Drs. Katie Rodan and Kathy Fields. As leading dermatologists, media darlings and creators of Proactiv Solution, Dr. Rodan and Dr. Fields are well respected in both the media and dermatological communities. As skincare pioneers, Dr. Rodan and Dr. Fields are sought-after experts who are frequently quoted in national women’s magazines and on television. Rodan + Fields’ unique brand equity is one of the reasons that people want to try the products and engage with the brand; this, in turn, helps attract new consultants who otherwise may not be interested in a direct selling business opportunity.
Understanding the value proposition of your brand and making it “sticky” is key. For Rodan + Fields, we constantly reinforce the credibility and celebrity of Dr. Rodan and Dr. Fields in every marketing decision we make. For instance, in 2009, Drs. Rodan and Fields co-authored a best-selling book, Write Your Skin a Prescription for Change, to expand the doctors’ equity in skin beyond acne and into the anti-aging arena. This reinforced their position as skincare experts while expanding their marketplace footprint and differentiating them from the competition.
Borrow from Other Disciplines
The world of finance is not where you would traditionally hope to gain ideas for the beauty industry, but we opened our minds and adopted some practices from the investment world with extremely successful results. In building the Rodan + Fields brand, we are constantly looking to other industries for new ideas and modern approaches to the direct selling industry. We try to take what works and make it special to the Rodan + Fields brand.
In the high stakes world of venture capitalists, the initial presentation is everything. Getting potential investors hooked right away is essential, or an opportunity will be missed. We believe these same principles should apply to engaging someone in our direct selling business. With this in mind, Rodan + Fields engaged a highly regarded communications firm that specializes in high-stakes investor presentations and created a “prospectus”-type presentation following the format used by venture capital companies looking for funding. For many of our consultants, their livelihood depends on the effectiveness of their presentations; on an individual basis, the stakes could not be higher. The presentation focuses on the convergence of critical marketplace factors that include the size of the anti-aging skincare market, the product solutions offered by Rodan + Fields, the trends in social networking and the corporate brand equity that allows our consultants to create the blue ocean vision for the business.
But getting a consultant to join the team is only the first step in the process. Developing a true partnership with your salesforce and providing turnkey, interactive tools is essential to achieving success. In developing our award-winning sales support program, we looked to the approach taken by leading software developers.
Borrowing ideas from Silicon Valley, we take a new consultant directly from the online enrollment process into a Web-enabled business launch experience. The program keeps them engaged long enough to implement early lead-generating programs and discover the returns associated with critical business practices.
We recently developed and launched the Pulse Wizard—a unique way to get our new consultants off to a fast start. The Wizard is designed to immediately integrate new consultants into the Rodan + Fields business system. It provides immediate validation of the decision to become a Rodan + Fields independent consultant through live, actionable training that accelerates and simplifies the startup process. The Wizard comprises eight steps to immediately create an emotional connection to the brand and actuate business activity during the critical 48-hour period following enrollment.
Immediately upon completing online enrollment, new consultants are prompted to “Start Your Pulse.” When they follow this prompt, they are taken directly to the Pulse welcome screen to launch their Wizard. This immediately creates an emotional tie for the consultant with the brand by helping her develop her “reason why” she joined the brand and thus validating her decision. The Pulse Wizard provides personalized templates and tools for everything a consultant needs to start her business. With these easy steps, new consultants are integrated into the Rodan + Fields business by personalizing their websites, setting business goals, starting the prospecting practices, establishing hours of operation and scheduling first events and presentations. Within minutes of joining the company, a new consultant will have two highly attractive, personalized, interactive websites to sell products and recruit new consultants. Additionally, the Rodan + Fields business system provides a unique lead-generating widget that enables new consultants to place engaging video vignettes on social networking sites, such as Facebook, to bring people directly back to their personalized e-commerce sites and start the engagement process. The immediacy of these tools builds the confidence that first-time entrepreneurs need to successfully launch their new Rodan + Fields businesses.
The Pulse Wizard has proven to be an effective tool to help Rodan + Fields independent consultants get off to a fast start and increase downline retention. And we’re proud to say that in 2010 we received the DSA’s Award for Excellence in Sales Force Development.
Continued Field Development
Because the vast majority of our sales organization, including our top-performing leaders who are now earning significant six-figure annual incomes, are not seasoned network marketers, one of our greatest challenges has been to help them to develop the business disciplines that leverage the brand equity that attracted them to join us in the first place. For this we have adopted training and leadership-development methodologies that we have tested and refined as “SWAT” initiatives in specific markets. Over the past year, the techniques have resulted in triple-digit growth in market revenue and recruiting in a matter of months in the test markets, and in 2011, in partnership with the field leaders, Rodan + Fields sales management is rolling out the “critical practices” program to other targeted U.S. markets.
Maintaining Category Leadership
Building and leveraging brand equity requires commitment and investment. Because consultants see the business opportunity connected to our brand equity, we are obligated to continuously maintain a leadership position in our category and in the way we support our products and brand proposition. Because our consultants generally do not come to us as experts in skincare, nor do we expect them to become experts in the category, we provide the R+F Connection—email and phone access to trained nurses to help answer product and skincare questions so consultants can focus on growing their businesses with the assurance that their customers are being supported with service that surpasses what they would find from other skincare companies. We also have several monthly blogs for both consultants and customers to benefit from the expertise our founders and scientists bring to the company and to the industry. These blogs help us leverage the consumer press and scientific publications that further support our position in the skincare segment of the beauty industry.
Commitment and Consistency
Since Rodan + Fields withdrew from prestige department stores in 2008 to re-launch as a direct selling company, we have been committed to connecting people with the products, the knowledge and the resources to change skin and change lives. Our appreciation of the credibility and trust that is garnered from the brand equity that we build is at the heart of our mantra, changing skin… changing lives. It’s also at the core of our company strategy map that drives every decision and investment we make. Brand equity is what has brought us the talented, passionate sales organization we have today. Continuing to build our brand equity is our key business imperative to live up to the standards we have set for our independent business owners and to raise the bar for the future.
Lori Bush is President and General Manager of Rodan + Fields.