Author Steve Jamieson is the Chief Executive Officer and Founding Partner of WorkingSocial, offering innovate and transformational business, sales, marketing and digital strategies to network marketing companies at every stage of success. Steve has a 20+ year career in direct sales that included working as the CEO at three prominent network marketing companies and as the CMO and Executive VP for Success Partners and Success Magazine.
Guest post by Steve Jamieson
AdvoCare’s Leadership Council: The Truth Behind Their Season Ending Story!
On the very same weekend distributors of AdvoCare saw their story come to an untimely end, Tyrion, one of the lead actors in Game of Thrones said to the Leadership Council in the show’s climactic final scene, “true power and lasting impact doesn’t rise from the ashes of what people are willing to die for… but in the powerful stories they live to tell”.
Will the story of AdvoCare be a turning point for network marketing? Based on the initial reactions from industry leaders, distributors and customers, I question whether we are all reading from the same page.
For many it is being read as a story of betrayal, for others a hollow victory for government regulation, callous mismanagement, a family dynasty taking the money and run, a bold and necessary decision to avoid litigation and protect the company, the “Armageddon of Network Marketing”… and then they told us what they really think.
Network marketing was borne out of the art of story-selling. Stories that begin with the origins of our products, the benefits from their effects, and the riches one may receive by sharing their story with others.
When personal and powerful stories were told in living rooms, remote meeting rooms and 3-way phone calls, stories were frequently told in careless whispers, grew in legend and overcame skepticism with infectious enthusiasm. Stories were sold and volunteer armies of impassioned story- sellers enlisted to spread the word for their respective cause… and this was even before the Kardashians invented influencer marketing!
As technology rapidly scaled network marketing’s exposure and duplication, people moved from hearing the stories at a private kitchen table to the public counter at Starbucks or on a Zoom Webinar across the country. We went from sharing our “Why”, to making sure they had Wi-Fi. Stories were no longer rumors that needed personal validation, but permanent testimonials broadcast simultaneously to thousands of potential customers and distributors, as well as government agencies and consumer watchdog groups.
Spontaneous selfie videos, internet marketing, and real-time social media postings changed the way we tell stories. It changed who saw them and changed how companies would be held accountable for their distributors who told them.
A huge part of AdvoCare’s final chapter is they could no longer empower their distributors to tell their best stories. “Do the products give you energy? Yes, but you can’t say it! Did you earn more than$10,000 last month? Yes, but don’t tell anyone! I heard there was a double-blind placebo study in Germany proving our products cause weight-loss? Yes, but I can’t share it with you!”
The government has gone so far in protecting people from lies and exaggerations that the unintended consequence is people can no longer hear the truth.
If like AdvoCare, we can no longer tell and sell “our” stories… can we still be the competitive network marketing industry we have come to know? Can we compete with the stories of Shopify, Uber and the alternative Gig economy if we can’t tell our best stories and they can? Do we as an industry have an alternative strategy to communicate?
Pharmaceutical companies adapted when they were told by the government, they had to tell people how their product could kill us as well as cure us in the same 30-second commercial. Wal-Mart adapted to a new strategy for free shipping that didn’t cost their customers a $119.00 membership fee. Legacy Airlines adapted to deregulation and low-cost start-ups by trading leg room and baggage fees for cheaper 3-hour plane ride loaded with reward miles. Costco adapted to an influx of Dollar Stores with bigger cash back amounts on their credit card programs instead of offering even bigger boxes of Cereal.
AdvoCare said “No!” to network marketing. More importantly, they said no to seizing the moment and showing us how a successful network marketing can adapt to today’s new regulatory, e-commerce and crowded competition from alternative income opportunities. This should have been our story. The new story for our industry to sell.
It is easy to criticize AdvoCare for the decision they made or how it was implemented. It is even more incumbent upon us to criticize those companies who continue to ignore the reasons AdvoCare felt compelled to address the very viability of our business model. At least AdvoCare didn’t look away, they just failed at looking hard enough to find the difficult answers.
What if AdvoCare was right in recognizing there are fundamental problems in our business model, but wrong in their solution?
Should they have considered adapting to a company-sponsored customer acquisition program, because distributors might be better suited to servicing customers than to finding them? Are exaggerated health claims or financial promises inherently unavoidable when accompanied by high-pressure sales goals and lofty expectations.
The difference between a taxi driver and an Uber driver is a taxi driver spends half his day looking for a customer and the other half driving them to their destination. An Uber driver spends all of his time getting paid for driving his customers to where they need to go!
Do we have the ability to drive customers to our network marketers?
Did AdvoCare discuss adapting to a simplified referral and instant cash-back customer program to create viral behavior among their 400,000 VIP satisfied customers, as has been done so successfully with popular websites and apps such as RetailMeNot and Dosh Cash?
Would a new compensation plan, designed towards most people’s needs instead of a few people’s wants, made AdvoCare seem relevant and credible alongside the competitive landscape of other alternative income opportunities?
AdvoCare is not alone in re-evaluating and making tough decisions. Some of the most iconic names in our industry have had difficult challenges in the past 5 years. In 2015, Avon split itself into two separate companies. 3 years later after a near 50% drop in sales, New Avon of North America sold to a South Korean consumer giant at a significantly lower price. Avon International is also entertaining takeover offers. Herbalife went through a bruising government investigation and wall street challenge to its business model. Amway had 4 consecutive years of declining sales until stemming the tide this past year.
The story of AdvoCare is a message to all of us to embrace the changes that are inevitably coming. There is nothing wrong with network marketing! There is only something wrong in missing the opportunity to elevate it to the forefront of the Gig economy.
Great leadership, great ideas, and great companies are not born out of momentum but out of moments of disruption and transformation.
Many AdvoCare loyal distributors as well as those from other companies throughout the industry, cannot help but feel like we were all scorched by a fire breathing dragon today. It is up to all of us to use this story to make us stronger, make us more determined to make our industry the most powerful story in the new gig economy.