To gain perspective and understanding about what’s around the corner for 2021, it seemed prudent to profile some 2020 direct selling outliers. Here, eight executives reflect on a year that sometimes delivered unexpected and rapid increases in sales and growth for their companies, despite less-than-optimal pandemic conditions that caused pain and recession-like contractions for so many other businesses.
Beyond having in common the ability to adapt and be nimble, these companies are all driven by products in demand by consumers and readily accessible via robust e-commerce platforms. And these companies, much like direct selling legacy company Tupperware Brands—who experienced a resurgence thanks to more people needing to store leftovers during the pandemic, marked quadrupled profits of $34.4 million in the most recent quarter and saw stock prices soar from $1 in March to $28.80 per share in late October—want to ride this wave of sales through 2021.
Here, they lay out how they intend to do that using the insight of hindsight. They detail what worked this year, what challenged them, and how they coped with the unpredictability 2020 consistently threw. They share what sustained them in strife and offer up advice to those feeling the strain today. And lastly, they look forward through a pragmatic and transformative lens on a 2021 that will ultimately be what direct selling companies make it.
FOUNDED / 1993
HEADQUARTERS / Cincinnati, Ohio
TOP EXECUTIVES / Patty Brisben, Founder and Chairwoman;
Chris Cicchinelli, CEO and President; Chris Postler, COO
PRODUCTS / Relationship Enhancement and Wellness
Well over two decades ago, Pure Romance placed its mission squarely in the middle of strengthening relationships. Their product offerings allow consultants and customers new ways to explore, expand and deepen relationships, and their sales figures for 2020 reflect consumers’ desire to do just that.
The changes in the world this year spun positively for Pure Romance, which reports 2020 YTD through September revenue increases of more than 51 percent. April to September revenue growth was up 85 percent year-over-year. COO Chris Postler expects to finish the year “above $350M in gross revenue or +55 percent YOY on a consolidated basis.” The phenomenal results also speak to the number of new Pure Romance consultants joining the ranks in 2020.
The Cincinnati-based company ranked #37 on DSN’s Global 100 for 2020, with revenues of $225 million, will undoubtedly rank up in the 2021 listing.
CEO And President Chris Cicchinelli and COO Chris Postler on 2020
Chris Cicchinelli: We have been encouraging our consultants to implement online parties and social selling for the past few years. This [Pandemic] forced all of us to pivot in a matter of weeks to nearly 100 percent virtual selling. Our training and creative teams were dedicated to providing marketing and sales assets and support for Zoom and Facebook live parties and social selling. We have always been nimble in our operations and corporate strategy, and this helped as we quickly changed directions in March and April. We launched a social seller business starter kit for the first time in the history of the company with a $39 market entry. This brought 10,000 new consultants into the business—each with their own website. The goal of the social seller starter kit is to serve as a gateway to the business, an entry without the expense of an initial inventory purchase. We also started pushing e-commerce product bundles and online sales promotions to help the social sellers generate business.
What obstacles or concerns did you face in 2020?
Chris Cicchinelli: Our business was 95 percent done through in-home parties. With virtually the whole world going into lock-down, our consultants had to quickly transition. We, as a corporate office, also had to add an additional focus to our e-commerce and social media platforms. We increased our customer service team and ramped up all areas that were in touch with consultants and customers.
As the CEO, I also put a large focus on communication and wanted the entire process streamlined. During times of uncertainty, we all need leadership and stability in the areas of our life that we can control. I wanted our consultants to know Pure Romance was there for them and could be a constant income stream if they needed it.
I implemented a live morning and evening motivation and communication session. Every morning at 9 a.m. ET, I host Rise & Grind on Facebook live and Zoom. Every weeknight, it is Focus & Fuel at 8 p.m. We also added Zooms to all levels of our leadership with the Executive team to ensure we had all avenues covered. I believe in communicating fast and often during periods of frequent change.
How did your company cope with the unpredictable nature of doing business in 2020?
Chris Cicchinelli: 2020 has certainly brought about unprecedented changes in the world and, most importantly, accelerated changes in the way that people interact with each other. The digital and social media age was radically intensified during the rise of the Pandemic, which caused many individuals to reduce face-to-face social interaction to only their family and significant other. Our company and over 40,000 consultants worldwide showed an amazing capacity to transform our business to meet the needs of the customer during that time. An increase in virtual events, daily corporate social media engagement, improvements and increases in the frequency of our e-commerce offerings and promotions, and leveraging the social media platforms that people were now living their social lives on became key to the success of the company. We have great plans in 2021 to further expand those capabilities and improve the ease through which consultants and customers interact with the organization on a daily basis.
What is your plan to sustain the new business in 2021?
Chris Postler: We plan to continue to offer amazing products into 2021 through our incredible network of consultants. Constantly improving the platforms on which our consultants interact with their customers is key to the delivery of great service. We will introduce new mobile applications in 2021 that will significantly expand that capability. We are always finding new ways to enrich the lives of our consultants through meaningful virtual engagement, which improves not only their daily outlooks but motivates them to go out there and earn the income they need to live the life that they deserve. We will provide impeccable delivery of those products and strive to beat aggressive SLAs with respect to order fulfillment.
What sustains you and your company during times of strife? What advice would you offer to others?
Chris Cicchinelli: We became hyper-focused on the revenue-generating activities. We also increased our communications and opened communications pathways for leadership and all levels of the company. We didn’t sit down and strategize for days. We just started moving in the new direction.
When the unexpected happens in life and your business, you simply can’t stop and wait. You need to push forward. It is progress over perfection. As long as your team is focused on the same goals and the focus is clear, you are moving in the right direction. Too often, I see companies and leaders paralyzed when the unexpected hits. This is when you need to make decisions, stick to them, and provide a clear plan for your team.
Any insights for 2021?
Chris Cicchinelli: We are focusing on building our consultant and sexual wellness community. Our focus is on expanding our beauty line, toy technology and consultant communication tools. We are implementing a sampling program and will continue to explore additional ways to increase marketing and promotion for our consultants use.
Innovation and customer experience is our key focus in 2021, and we are excited! Now more than ever, people want to spice up their relationships and explore ways to add a twist into the bedroom. Also, we believe sex care is the new self-care and the market’s growth momentum in sexual health products is accelerating as the products go mainstream.