Letter from John Fleming, October 2013

Click here to order the October 2013 issue in which this article appeared.


Each issue of this magazine brings to you selected thoughts and stories about what is happening in the direct selling industry and other content that we hope is always beneficial to you, our readers. Original content is what we treasure most, and during the course of the year our writers and staff gain the opportunity to interact with many of the industry’s strongest leaders. In this issue, our cover story discusses the “synergy of successful styles” of selling, specifically networking and party plan. Such a story will be read in many different ways, and some may even feel it is predictive of the evolution of how direct selling will be conducted in the future. The story is certainly an indicator of how certain marketing and sales methods have already changed.

Party plan as a marketing methodology—originated by Stanley Home Products and made famous by Brownie Wise of Tupperware in the late 1940s and early ‘50s—is a story about the social origins of direct selling and the emphasis placed on social before the word ever entered into business vocabulary. Today, many direct selling companies are identifying with the word social to the extent that they refer to their company as a social selling company. In writing this cover story, we observed many party plan and network marketing companies and spoke to a few. What we found to be most interesting were the common attributes—how technology has changed the game and how few differences remain between the two marketing methods. Providing consumers with the convenience of “auto-ship” is almost an expectation of a company that defines itself as a network marketing company, but auto-ship is also being utilized—and perhaps being redefined—by a company that still proudly categorizes itself as party plan. The term “hybrid” was used more than once by companies interviewed. From compensation to how training is conducted, demographic and technological shifts have created a more powerful form of direct selling, which is also becoming attractive to younger segments in the marketplace. The new synergies between the labels “party plan” and “networking” are obvious. Perhaps the biggest common denominator is that it is still all about customer acquisition through social interaction; regardless of what you call the gathering, it is still an event.

Our company spotlight this month is on Primerica, a publicly held provider of financial services and the seventh largest American direct selling company (DSN Global 100). Primerica prides itself on providing products and services that support the most essential of family needs. Primerica trades on the New York Stock Exchange as PRI, and Co-CEO John Addison is emphatic about it being a “Main Street” company. Founder Art Williams started the company on a very basic premise that struck on the common sense of average American families: “Buy term life insurance and invest the difference.” Today, the direct selling industry can be proud of this financial giant of a company that has over $670 billion worth of life insurance in force, over 4.3 million people insured and 1.9 million active investment accounts containing over $37 billion in asset values—and it all started as a direct selling company, an idea in the mind of one person.

As always, we are grateful to those who contributed to this month’s issue, especially the executives who took the time to share thoughts with all of you. They include Joe Mariano with DSA, Dan Chard with Nu Skin, Candace Matthews with Amway and Maurits Bruggink with Seldia (the European Direct Selling Association). We especially enjoyed the opportunity to interview Ross Creber, who retires at the end of this year as President of the Canadian Direct Sellers Association.

We also enjoyed the opportunity to work with former DSA President and CEO Neil Offen, who retired in 2012. His experience and active involvement in support of direct selling spanned 40 years and is considered legendary. Neil remains a passionate supporter of direct selling as a business model and channel of distribution. Many conversations with Neil led to him contributing his point of view relative to his observations of the direct selling industry over this past year.

It has been an interesting year and one in which direct selling is proving to be far stronger and much more resilient than some may have thought. Neil’s article starts on page 58, and it covers industry attributes, negative myths, suggestions and a personal vision for how we continue to maximize the industry’s positive attributes and potentially quash some of the negative stereotypes and myths. This represents the first time Neil Offen has made public a summary of his observations and thoughts since leaving the helm of DSA last year.

It’s fourth quarter for most within the industry and, for many, the biggest quarter of the year. Thanks to what you do and how you do it, people from all walks of life can look forward to the incentives you are now offering, the special products you will bring to market, and the hope and optimism you bring to the people!

Until next month… enjoy the issue!

John FlemingJohn Fleming
Publisher and Editor in Chief

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