This week, we are going to look into the issue of our “industry image.”
“Do you think the direct selling industry has an image problem that needs to be worked on? What makes you think that way?” was the question we asked some of the experts.
Let’s see what they have to say on this…
Jeffrey Babener, Legal Counsel at Babener and Associates
“Short term answer: Absolutely. However, as noted by famed Univ. of Chicago economist, Milton Friedman, the future is longer than the present. In the current financial markets furor of hedge fund titans bashing direct selling, with the financial press piling on, a slightly dejected industry should take note that in the “big picture”, it actually isn’t doing so bad at winning the “hearts and minds” of consumers and potential recruits. With some blips, long term image trends are good. In the past two decades, just witness direct selling’s extraordinary international expansion, its emergence on the NYSE and as acquisition target by NYSE companies.”
Miroslaw Lubon, Executive Director at Poland DSA
“The regular studies and polls conducted by the Polish DSA clearly show that the perception of direct selling keeps improving – slowly but steadily. Yet it would be premature to conclude the industry image is satisfactory. The two main factors which hurt this image are pyramid schemes and dishonest direct selling companies. While the former are illegal, the latter are not which means a battle against their deceiving of customers and poaching on the sale force is twice as difficult. It would be unwise to believe both categories will disappear altogether, but the fight against them has to continue – primarily by means of widespread education of consumers.”
W. Alan Luce, Managing Principal at Luce Murphy Fong & Associates
“Direct selling’s image always suffers when the industry gets lazy and allows the focus of the discussion about direct selling to be on the method of selling as a money making business rather than focusing on the real story of direct selling which is as an entrepreneurial incubator providing opportunity for individuals to learn and hone their business skills. Wall Street may want to focus on revenue growth and profits but direct selling must always focus on the genuine opportunity it provides to everyone rather the money it may or may not provide to a few”.
Ed Ludbrook, Network Leadership Expert
“The general image of Direct Selling is positive, the image problems are specific, challenging and related to its ‘MLM’ sector. The first issue is that MLM world never use the term ‘Direct Selling’ when marketing as it is perceived as a low income ‘sales job’. The second problem is that the failure rate [attrition] of the MLM opportunity is so excessive that the public, media and government questions its’ credibility; certainly the claim that ‘everyone can do it!’. This is why the industry still has the ‘pyramid selling’ stigma and why the term ‘MLM’ is a very negative brand for direct selling. Fix the ‘attrition’ problem and the image problem will go away!”
Paul Southworth, Director General at UK DSA
“Following the outrageous attack on Herbalife in the USA, yet again we find ourselves unjustly having to defend the image of direct selling. Here in the UK we have spent a lot of time on our PR campaign to improve image by targeting key government officials,media and opinion formers, and we have found the only way to convince them of the high levels of ethics and credibility in our industry is to relate to their own political agenda. We constantly remind them that companies contribute significantly to the economy, offer earning opportunities to thousands, create many entrepreneurs and develop many micro businesses. This resonates with them as they constantly express their desire for this to happen across the country to kick start the economy, and as a result has had a positive impact on our overall image.”
Jeff Stroud, Consultant at Jeff Stroud Consulting
“Our prevailing image with the general public is a unique challenge for the direct selling industry. Despite our success stories, ground-breaking products and the empowerment of millions of entrepreneurs, there are many who look unfavorably on our business model. We know this fact through DSA research. At the heart of the issue is an unfounded belief that direct selling companies are unethical schemes that benefit a few at the expense of many. We must help the public understand that people achieve success in our business through their own efforts and not because they were on the ground floor of a scheme.”
We would be happy to know what you think, too…