A New Year, a New Path Forward

Jan 25, 2021
By Ryan Napierski, President, Nu Skin Enterprises and Chairman, DSA Board of Directors*

I have always loved the beginning of a new year. The discovery of reflection as we consider the experiences of the past year combine with the promise of potential to create within us a resolution to do better and drive for excellence.

It is this very spirit of discovery that is the driving force behind our three-tiered strategic industry focus—improving our industry reputation by repositioning our Association to succeed in a modern world and rejuvenating the direct selling environment. These three tenets have been the focus of DSA for more than a year now, but our continued commitment to improvement in each of these will be critical to ensuring our success in a world that continues to change.

Becoming Comfortable with Discomfort— A Path to Reputational Excellence

One key question I hear consistently, both in my role as President of Nu Skin and in my role within the Association is, “What can we do to change the perception of direct selling?” It is an issue that our companies and our industry have wrestled with for decades. But with shifts in the way people interact, how they work, and how they connect with brands and products that matter to them, there has never been a better time to rewrite our narrative and improve our reputation.

I believe there are several reasons for these shifts, but they all seem to roll up into one of two things—shifting consumer perspectives with a new demographic landscape and transformative technological change in how people work and interact. This requires us to rethink everything and become comfortable with discomfort.

Reputation is a complex equation, and the answer is never simple. Fairly or not, our reputation as an industry has been built by the combined impact of everything we, and those who represent us, have done and said for decades, and the brushstrokes we have allowed industry critics to paint us with for far too long. It can only be rebuilt by each of us learning to think differently, speak differently, and, ultimately, act differently than we have been accustomed to in the past.

Building Adaptable Teams to Reposition Our Story

Key to our reputational efforts is our focus on repositioning the Association and building teams within our companies that can quickly adapt to changing circumstances as macro-economic shifts reshape the world.

Ours is an industry that has traditionally relied heavily on face-to-face, word-of-mouth marketing because of its effectiveness. However, along with virtually every other traditional business model, we have been disrupted by the convergence of social commerce, influencer and affiliate marketing, and the growing gig economy.

This is, of course, not new to anyone reading this article. But most recently, these trends have been accelerated by the global pandemic that pushed both consumers and businesses to double-down on technology to enable migration to remote work, and which has solidified the adoption of online shopping across all industries.

It is more important than ever for direct sellers to listen and to understand what consumers and potential affiliates need and want."

At Nu Skin, these seismic shifts in the way people live and work is hastening a transformation that, for us, began three years ago as we evolve to become a digital-first, socially enabled, affiliate opportunity platform. The power of word-of-mouth marketing has always been the backbone of our business, and together with these converging macro-trends, we are seeing a new horizon of growth. From working remotely, to moving our events, field training, and product promotions to digital formats, we are leaning into a new reality and learning to work better and smarter.

Rejuvenation by Listening for Evolutionary Opportunities

Along with facing the economic realities that drove change in our industry in 2020, we learned more than ever that to truly provide what the world needs, we must become better listeners and better at finding the hidden opportunities for evolutionary change in how we do business.

For example, a hidden gem among both millennials and Gen Z is their openness to gigs, side hustles and, yes, direct sales—and to the products and services that can be accessed through these channels. Yet, despite this accessible attitude, our experience at Nu Skin tells us that both consumers and potential affiliates want to engage with brands differently than in the past. They want to be heard. They want to represent companies and products that not only provide opportunity, but also meaning and connection.

It is more important than ever for direct sellers to listen and to understand what consumers and potential affiliates need and want, and to engage them in a customer journey that ultimately fits each individual. This requires some work from companies to evolve and orient themselves around being customer obsessed.

It also becomes critical that the Association provides an environment for our member companies to be successful. From the smallest startup to the most established industry brands, we each add value that can help one another to succeed. It is critical that our Association represents an environment where new companies are teaching old companies how to operate more effectively while established companies provide help and guidance drawn from their years of experience to mentor up-and-comers.

Our industry has always been collaborative in nature. Crises, like those we faced in 2020, tend to bring people together. Our DSA leadership pivoted from on-site events to regular and frequent check-ins on critical strategic topics. They have provided settings where CEOs could share best practices. Here at Nu Skin, we have found purpose in being able to help great companies find new opportunities throughout the challenges of the past year.

Effective Stewardship

With so much uncertainty facing both our channel and the world—from regulatory scrutiny to health issues to social unrest—we all must be willing to honestly ask ourselves how we collectively and individually can act as effective stewards in developing and maintaining confidence among our consumers and teams.

I love the word stewardship in this instance as it implies a responsibility to care for and nurture the businesses that we lead. As we focus on our stewardship to change the face of direct selling by becoming comfortable with discomfort, building teams that can adapt, and focusing on evolutionary—not revolutionary—plans for incremental change, I am confident that we can overcome any challenge.

The world needs what we have. As we continue to evolve into providers of amazing products and opportunities that people want and need, we can effectively build a positive reputation for direct selling, reposition ourselves for success in a changing world, and rejuvenate a nearly 200-year-old industry to be ready for the next century—and beyond.

*Contributor-submitted article. Articles submitted by contributors and published in Direct Selling Journal do not necessarily represent a DSA endorsement nor do opinions expressed therein necessarily represent those of DSA.

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