Asma Ishaq joins DirecTech Labs Podcast Series to provide her thoughts on customer-centric core values and the importance of adapting to shifting paradigms in the direct selling channel.
Asma is CEO of Modere, a global provider of healthy dietary supplements, household products, and personal care products. She’s also widely recognized as having spearheaded the growth of the collagen market around the world. She received a dual M.B.A. in finance and marketing in 2002 as a Ben F. Love scholar—and was delighted to receive the 2018 Rice Business Alumni Industry Excellence Award in Entrepreneurship.
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Podcast with Asma Ishaq:
WHAT WAS IT ABOUT THIS CHANNEL THAT MADE YOU DECIDE THIS IS THE WAY YOU WANTED TO GO?
Asma Ishaq: Well a few different reasons. One is the business side of it was really just purely about this emerging category that actually had a huge barrier for success which was the need for cosmetics space and the collagen supplements market. Back then there were no oral collagen supplements. So it made a lot of sense to be able to transfer this knowledge and educate people on the benefits.
I’ll never forget: I was in a meeting with the CEO of this company who actually said that we want to market this as long as we can put you in a video and every one of our stories. I realized at that point that it was the story, it was really the education that was working. If I could only train others to be able to tell that story that I thought we were onto something.
The other reason why this was just a brilliant model or channel, is the fact that it is a people business. There’s something really moving about being able to make an impact on others and see their success happening. Giving people an opportunity to utilize your technology platform, your product portfolio, your operational infrastructure is fascinating to me. So I’m thrilled about the power of our channel.
THIS HAS BEEN A JOURNEY FOR YOU A NUMBER OF YEARS GOING THROUGH THE INDUSTRY AND NOW AS A CEO OF MODERE. HOW DID THAT COME TO PASS THAT YOU JOINED MODERE?
Asma Ishaq: We were very successful with the company that I founded. And I was really interested in figuring out how to normalize our business model. Not coming from direct sales, some things just weren’t really resonating for me. I was already heading down this path of developing a very customer centric model. So with the company that I founded, it was very much of a traditional compensation plan that you would find with other network marketing companies. To this day I go to some of our conventions and events. There I see people who have been on auto ship of the product since 2009. It’s because they need it. It has tremendous value for their lives. It creates important benefits. But those individuals aren’t necessarily recruiting other people or have an interest in building a business. They’ve signed up as a distributor and ended up just using the product.
And so the segmentation part of it was a struggle and I thought the only thing that I could do is provide the traditional compensation model. And so I started really kind of thinking about it. I happened to meet the private equity company that owns Modere. And we were on this very parallel path of thinking differently about our channel. And so it just happened to be that there was a real strategic and complementary partnership. The synergies that it can create would be truly a ‘one plus one equals three’ type of story.
YOU WERE MENTIONING THE STRONG FOCUS ON CUSTOMERS AND I’M SEEING THAT IN MODERE IN TWO DIFFERENT WAYS. FIRSTLY WITH THIS CUSTOMER REFERRAL PROGRAM THAT YOU HAVE. TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THAT.
Asma Ishaq: This interest in the customer centric type of a model doesn’t just have to do with regulations. It’s also in reaction to providing the best solution for people’s needs. When they want to use the product, our value proposition should be our products and what kind of benefits they can provide. When they want an income opportunity, then it should be that. That’s not to shape everybody into this mold, which is basically incentivized by compensation plans to either sign people up as distributors or customers.
Instead of fitting them into our box, we should provide them with the best solutions for what they want in their lives. So we developed a model where it focuses on incentivizing our distributors (we call them social marketers) to be compensated very handsomely. No matter if it is on signing up customers or building a team to others.
I THINK SOME PEOPLE MIGHT FEEL LIKE MOVING AWAY FROM THEIR COMFORT ZONE AND GOING INTO SOMETHING LIKE THIS – AND TRULY FOCUSING ON TAKING CARE OF THE INDIVIDUAL IN FRONT OF THEM – MAY NOT LEAD TO AS BIG A BUSINESS AS DOING IT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THOSE PEOPLE?
Asma Ishaq: When it comes to the sharing economy and our place in it there’s this interesting convergence going on. And companies in the industry do need to adapt to it. I believe the reason why they don’t is because change is difficult. People have to shift paradigms when it comes to how to build a business. Also, when it comes to companies that have been in existence for a long time, all of the field members have built to a certain plan. It’s just very difficult to be able to change a compensation model that drastically, especially on a big scale. And so we’ve had good fortune of being able to be at the right size to be able to make those kinds of changes and learn from it over many years.
Now at this point, the proof even for companies like that is our success for really leading the charge. The direct selling channel is showing three years of consecutive decline as far as sales volume goes but also the number of direct sellers. That could be a result of the economy, job environments right now. Also, the sharing economy is creating different kinds of alternative work options for people. That we have grown tremendously in just the last couple of years – 85 percent in Australasia, 108 percent in North America, 890 percent in Europe – I think that is proof that we are doing the right kinds of things. And it’s fun to be a pioneer in that area!
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