Letter from John Fleming, August 2014

Click here to order the August 2014 issue in which this article appeared.

Could it really be August? From our point of view it seems like we are just getting started in working toward the many objectives we set for ourselves and this publication at the beginning of the year. However, after a quick count of the issues we have produced in 2014 (eight) we quickly realize… this year is rapidly coming to a close with one full quarter left.

John Fleming At this time of year, each of us begins to get a sense of how the year is shaping up overall. Two full quarters have closed, and many companies are in the midst of major conventions/meetings where new products are being introduced and plans are being laid out for the balance of the year. Attendance and predicted attendance is strong and record-breaking in several cases. Our listening provides us with a strong sense of optimism! We hear the excitement! New companies are emerging seemingly at a faster rate than the prior year, and private equity investors appear to be paying close attention with increasing interest in direct selling as a channel of distribution from both a startup and acquisition perspective. Companies recognized for their growth over the past few years are still growing, and we are feeling another year of progress.

In order to verify some of the qualitative feelings we have been experiencing through our DSN radar, I sent a message to Nancy Burke, Senior Director of Membership at the Direct Selling Association, to ask whether or not she was experiencing an increase in applications for DSA Membership over the prior year and, sure enough, DSA Membership Applications are indeed up. In fact, year to date 2014, DSA has already exceeded the total number of applications received for the full year of 2013. Based on this relatively unknown stat, along with what we are observing, we continue to look forward to another growing year on top of the recently released 2013 results by the U.S. DSA. Lauren Lawley Head discusses this more on this issue’s Back Page.

Most noteworthy, in addition to the comments in the previous paragraph, would be to reflect briefly on the happenings of the past 18 months. We know our industry experienced some of its most vicious attacks ever! An attack on one company is in many ways an attack on all. As a result, the direct selling business model is being evaluated possibly more than ever before, including every pseudo-expert one could imagine. Pseudo-experts can immediately create their own “press” and “media” to voice opinions. While this has been concerning at times, this freedom of speech through Internet media may also play to the advantage of the direct selling industry. Our own experts as well as qualified observers are also being published, and their points of view are duly noted. In our recently published Direct Selling News insert distributed in The Wall Street Journal, we described the direct selling industry in a manner supportive of the facts recently released. Direct selling is a growing industry. Growth in 2014 would represent three consecutive years of growth during what some refer to as very challenging years—another testimony to the value and receptiveness of the direct selling model.

Your human resources departments might take note of the availability of the DSN/Wall Street Journal insert, which can be ordered at: www.directsellingnewsproducts.com. The information contained makes for excellent reading by your corporate personnel who always need nurturing as to the merits and attributes of the direct selling model. The DSN/WSJ insert defines the industry, and of course, is very validating because of the informative manner of the articles and facts presented.

As we now move through the final months of the current year and prepare for another year, we also see adjustments and continued improvements in terms of business model effectiveness, especially in how customers are acquired and managed. Social tools continue to have a greater and greater impact on relationship building and the effectiveness of communication. Digital is consistently being redefined, and many of the newer companies are leading the way. A younger generation is providing a different perspective and also creating a different need in terms of what a direct selling company is expected to deliver. Social entrepreneurship is real and very appealing. Direct sellers have always expressed fun and enjoyment for what they do, but when you embrace new tools, break some of the old paradigms, and truly position the company as being a solution for social activity, products, and services, you get the new definition of what direct selling companies are becoming. You also have the added benefit of a business opportunity that you grow and manage on your own terms with the finest in support and service. We see where the industry is going. We see it happening, and we feel it.

This issue of our publication takes a look at how the marketing departments of direct selling companies have evolved. Thanks to all who contributed. We also put the spotlight on Nu Skin Enterprises, which grew by almost $1 billion (2013 vs 2012), and as always, the Nu Skin team shares a lot. Attorney Kevin Thompson also contributed a great review of the recent BurnLounge Opinion published by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, so turn the page and continue the journey.

Until next month… enjoy the issue!

John Fleming
Publisher and Editor in Chief

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