Success rarely comes as a surprise. It is typically the product of years of hard work and dedication, arriving as the ultimate reward for a life well lived.
But occasionally, success can arrive in a different form than was expected. This is the story of Nerium International, one of the youngest companies in the direct selling industry that is tackling one of its oldest issues—how to hold back the hands of time.
The Accidental Company
Nothing about Nerium International has been predictable. In fact, the genesis of the company arrived through an accidental discovery in the labs of Nerium Biotechnology Inc., an international research and development company. While researching the potential uses of the Nerium oleander plant—previously considered little more than an ornamental plant—the scientists of Nerium Biotech discovered that the plant’s extract delivered remarkable age-defying results when applied to the skin.
“We had a eureka moment in our research labs when we stumbled upon what Nerium oleander could do for skin,” says Dennis Knocke, Chairman and CEO of Nerium Biotechnology Inc.
The Slight Edge,
Nerium scientists then developed a proprietary process to extract the beneficial ingredients from the Nerium oleander plant in a way that preserved the unique components and beneficial properties of the plant. The resulting product is now the critical ingredient in NeriumAD™, a first-of-its-kind, age-defying night cream that is being marketed as the launch product for Nerium International.
“We had a eureka moment in our research labs when we stumbled upon what Nerium oleander could do for skin.”
—Dennis Knocke, Chairman and CEO, Nerium Biotechnology Inc.
However, when the extract was first being developed, the leadership of Nerium Biotech was not even considering a direct sales strategy for distributing the product. Rather, they were speaking with traditional retail channels, direct marketing channels such as infomercials and sourcing companies who would source Nerium oleander into products. Ultimately, they determined that the strongest opportunity would be to develop their own product based on their proprietary extraction technology.
Once they made this decision, a member of Nerium Biotech’s board of directors expressed an interest in potentially partnering with one of the existing direct selling companies to market the product for them. As they embarked on the discovery process for this strategy, they met veteran network marketing leader Jeff Olson in Dallas.
Olson was consulting in the industry at the time, having enjoyed a long and successful career in a number of other direct selling companies. He had even written a best-selling book, The Slight Edge: Turning Simple Disciplines Into Massive Success, but had recently declined several offers to lead other MLM companies. Olson agreed to pursue the offer from Nerium for one reason:
“Integrity. I knew who these guys were and knew they were legitimate. I also knew that if what they were claiming was real, it would be a game-changer within the industry—not just within the anti-aging industry, but within all of skincare.”
The Nerium Biotech team presented Olson with a stack of peer-reviewed studies on the extract’s effects on the skin. Impressed but also aware of how critical it is for direct selling companies to defend their claims about their products’ performance, he demanded that they verify the findings with third-party clinical trials: “I knew that we needed to prove that this company was the real deal. One of the mantras that I’ve adopted is to ‘Go Slow to Go Fast.’ I wanted to ensure that we built a company that was worthy of this product.”
“One of the mantras that I’ve adopted is to ‘Go Slow to Go Fast.’ I wanted to ensure that we built a company that was worthy of this product.”
—Jeff Olson, Founder and CEO, Nerium International
Once the results came in, Olson was convinced. He then worked with Nerium Biotech and their subsidiary, Nerium Skincare, to form a partnership to market the product. This partnership became Nerium International, which is more than 30 percent owned by Nerium Biotech. Olson became Founder and CEO of Nerium International.
“Nerium Biotech is not our supplier; they are our business partner. This keeps Nerium International grounded in research and focused on the mission of changing lives,” says Dennis Windsor, President and Co-Founder of Nerium International.
According to several of the leaders at Nerium International, this is the opposite process that most direct selling companies follow. Nerium Biotech began first with its product, and then arrived at the direct sales process later. The result is a partnership poised for rapid growth within one of the largest and most competitive markets in the skincare industry.
“Nerium Biotech spent two years searching for the best way to market this revolutionary product that they had discovered, and network marketing stood out as the best way for the company to expand globally while retaining control over the brand and the quality of the product,” says Amber Olson, Co-Founder and Director of Marketing and Culture for Nerium International, as well as the daughter of Jeff Olson. “Nerium International now has globally exclusive rights to the proprietary ingredient that makes this product uniquely successful.”
Windsor adds, “This truly was an accidental discovery, and we are building a company whose success will be parallel to the real breakthrough. We are rapidly expanding nationally and building our global presence.”
(Left to Right) Nerium International Founders Dennis Windsor, Renee Olson, Jeff Olson and Amber Olson.
The Key Ingredients
Like its signature product, Nerium International has a unique ingredient that sets it apart from its competition—a formal partnership with a globally recognized biotech company. According to the company’s website, “Nerium Biotechnology’s scientists established the world’s only commercial farming operation for the cultivation of the Nerium oleander plant. With strict biomedical field protocols, the farm provides a dedicated and renewable biomass resource reserved exclusively for research and production.”
Joel Curtis, Director of Farm Operations for Nerium Biotechnology, says, “Our team takes very seriously the scientific protocols that are followed in establishing this biomedical orchard. We are passionate about what comes out of these fields because it is truly impacting people’s lives. This is more than a field of dreams; this is a Field of Life!”
Windsor adds: “There is a huge barrier to entry to get into this market. Nerium Biotech has made an enormous capital investment in getting this product launched and developed a proprietary process for extracting the essential ingredients from this plant that is difficult to grow and difficult to cultivate. They could have gone retail or sold this product through an infomercial, but they chose direct selling as the best way to get this product to market.”
Even after this significant up-front investment, Nerium Biotech invested another 12-18 months in developing Nerium International into its marketing partner. The senior staff members were in place for nearly a year before the company took its first application from a potential distributor, or Brand Partner.
Another key ingredient is the role of third-party evaluators, such as ST&T Research in San Francisco. This firm recently completed a comprehensive analysis of the impact of NeriumAD™ by using a face-mapping technology to gauge the impact of the products on reducing the signs of aging on skin; this same technology was originally used to detect imperfections in microchips.
ST&T Research in San Francisco found in its study that NeriumAD™ delivered an average 30 percent reduction in the appearance of wrinkles and other signs of aging within 30 days.
The result was a rigorous scientific study that proved that NeriumAD™ delivered an average 30 percent reduction in the appearance of wrinkles and other signs of aging within 30 days. In decades of research and testing, ST&T had never seen results of this magnitude. These results were also confirmed by a third-party plastic surgeon, who reviewed the results of ST&T’s tests and gave positive reviews to NeriumAD™. The company is so confident in its results that it has even posted videos on its website to present them along with a public Facebook page that allows any of Nerium International’s customers to post their own before-and-after photos.
“This is the real differentiator for Nerium—our product works better than any others out there. NeriumAD™ truly sells itself,” says Renee Olson, Co-Founder and Corporate Liaison. “The simplicity of our product line also allows our Brand Partners to carry a single product. This means that they don’t have to buy a massive inventory to be successful. We focus on equipping people to be very successful, very quickly. We want to make it as simple as possible to succeed.”
“We keep the price as low as possible to create a large footprint, something that we can do since we are not sourcing ingredients from a supplier.”
—Amber Olson, Co-Founder and Director of Marketing and Culture, Nerium International
Nerium International also benefits tremendously from what Amber Olson describes as a “seed-to-bottle” form of vertical integration that allows complete control of the product. This also allows the company to charge a price point that is comparable to its competitors whose results cannot compete with those of NeriumAD™, she says. “Our price point is around $80 for a product that would be sold at around $200 through retail. We keep the price as low as possible to create a large footprint, something that we can do since we are not sourcing ingredients from a supplier but essentially sourcing them ourselves through our partners at Nerium Biotech.”
Jeff Olson added, “Every day thousands of people walk into thousands of department stores across the country and pay more for products that produce far inferior results than ours.”
According to Windsor, nine of the top 10 companies in the direct selling industry are in the beauty segment, and age-defying skin treatment is among the top two or three markets within that segment: “The bull’s-eye is anti-aging skincare.”
During its development phase, Nerium International invested significant time and resources in developing a way for Brand Partners to get started quickly, affordably and successfully. The company offers a very robust starter kit that Windsor describes as being designed to wow the spouse who is used to asking, “Are you in another one of those network marketing deals?”
The company’s compensation plan includes a generous offer to provide Brand Partners with free products for their own personal use or to help them further build their business. For example, when three customers sign up for a monthly auto-delivery, the Brand Partner will receive a free shipment of their own monthly supply. Brand Partners also receive free bottles of the product for every auto-delivery order that they sell, allowing them to quickly build a sizable inventory of products that can be used to make further sales. Windsor says, “Our products really sell themselves.”
Amber Olson outlines three primary reasons why Nerium International has been so successful since its launch: First, the product excites people—and the customers are becoming an active salesforce themselves.
Second, the leadership is very dedicated to the ultimate success of the company’s Brand Partners; they have over 150 years of combined direct selling experience, with an average of at least 20 years.
Third, the company works very hard to keep the culture “real.”
Amber Olson beams with pride as she describes her job as being focused on building community among the Brand Partners and their customers, centered on a product that provides true results: “We want them to feel like this is their home, like they belong here at Nerium.”
Keeping It Real
“When we were first starting the company, we put one word on the wall—REAL,” says Windsor.
Despite the youth of the company, this strategy has already led to some very creative and highly effective marketing campaigns. Rather than relying entirely on the professionally produced before-and-after shots that similar companies employ within their marketing materials, Nerium International has a public Facebook page where it invites customers to post their own photos. The company has a dedicated employee focused exclusively on social media, which recently allowed them to have a “Bottom Drawer” campaign in which their customers were encouraged to take a picture of the bottom drawer in their bathroom.
The tongue-in-cheek campaign confirmed some important assumptions for the company. According to Amber Olson, “the photos frequently had five to seven half-empty bottles of similar products that had disappointed customers. Our goal is to provide a single product that replaces all of these while delivering superior results.”
Prior to joining Nerium International, Amber Olson owned and operated a medical spa; the experience provided her with a deep understanding of the competitive landscape and how NeriumAD™ stands out as a product. “All of the products that we sold were essentially the same ingredients in different packages. NeriumAD™ contains a groundbreaking new ingredient, allowing our product to truly sell itself.”
She goes on to say, “Our customers previously had to use four to five different products to achieve anything close to these results. We can now give them a single night cream that can deliver the best results they’ve ever had in improving discoloration, reducing the appearance of wrinkles and fighting the signs of aging.”
Having a product that stands on its own merits allows the company to have a much more authentic form of branding and a less aggressive form of sales, continues Amber Olson. In addition to a Real Results Party that is similar to the group sales events other MLM companies employ, Nerium International equips its Brand Partners with the ability to give their potential customers a Five Day Experience—dropping off a week’s worth of products and taking a photo of a person, then returning five days later to take another photo and show them the comparison results. “It is easy to gain loyal customers when you lead with a product that wins, and not a sales pitch.”
Nerium International is now in every state, as well as the U.S. territories of Guam and Puerto Rico. To build their global presence, the company has hired Senior Vice President of Global Operations, Trevor Scofield who has experience working in 30 different countries. At least six countries are slotted to open their doors to Nerium International in the near future.
“In six months we have accomplished success that historically only 1 percent of new companies achieve,” says Jeff Olson. “We are very proud of the customer acceptance of NeriumAD™, because long-term customers are the foundation of a long-term business for our Brand Partners.”
Launched with NeriumAD™ as its only product, the company now has over eight other products under development. These niche products, such as an eye cream and a targeted age spot product, will complement the core product of NeriumAD™. Windsor continues, “The top concern in the world when it comes to beauty is keeping skin looking younger for longer. This is no longer just for older people. Our market is 18+ since the alertness is a lot higher about skincare.
“We have the right team with the right hearts and the right experience. We have a product that is one of the best breakthroughs in the past 20 years, but we want to be more than that. We want to integrate the best of personal development into everything. We want to build one of the best direct sales companies in the world.”
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