BK Boreyko has a reputation in the direct selling industry for always being one step ahead. As the CEO and Founder of Vemma, he has pioneered the use of social media not only for himself but for Vemma Brand Partners as well. During our conversation BK talked about the risks and rewards of distributors using Facebook and Twitter.
Vemma encourages the use of social media through leading by example, BK has an active blog, Facebook account, Twitter feed and Youtube channel all found on his Vemma website.
Listen to our conversation below to hear BK talk about everything from preemptive compliance to offering the right training and tools. BK’s transformation from helping his parents sell Amway as a child to running an international business is nothing short of astounding.
To find out more about BK Boreyko visit his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter.
I’m here today with BK Boreyko, the CEO and founder of Vemma. I guess first of all, thanks so much for taking some time to be here with us today. BK if you could give a quick personal background introduction about yourself and how you got into direct selling and got to start Vemma?
I was forced into it. My parents got involved when I was 7 years old, my parents got involved in Amway. I remember sitting at the top of the stairs in my pajamas while they did their little white board meetings and things like that. In the summers I didn’t go on holidays like most of my friends, we worked in the Amway store with my parents.
When I got out of high school I got into Amway, I did it for 3 years, you know my hat’s off to people in Amway because that is just a tough gig, I couldn’t make it work. I went into corporate America selling advertising and then about 6 years later I got involved in a company. My parents had sold their Amway business and moved onto another company and I got back into the network marketing industry back then, and the rest is history.
That’s fantastic, that’s really interesting how you kind of got into it. A big focus for us is social media and web. What do you feel distinguishes Vemma from all the other direct selling companies out there and how do you really make sure that whatever separates you guys from everyone else, that that’s communicated, especially in the online channels? So when people are searching for you, they find you on social media or otherwise, how do you make sure that the Vemma brand and what really sets you guys apart is properly communicated?
You know I hired a guy, maybe over a year ago, Gary Vaynerchuk, who just has a new book out called “The Thank you Economy”, so go to Amazon.com and buy it, it’s a great book. Buy the book for 20 bucks and really get a good grasp of how important a social media platform is to either a company from a corporate perspective, or from a distributors perspective.You are your own CEO, you are responsible for that.
One of the bits of advice that Gary gave me back then was to hire a social media manager, so we have a full time social media manager that just watches the buzz in the social media field, and makes sure that if any body’s got issues, we address it quickly and keep as many people as possible happy.
We call them Brand Partners, we don’t call them distributors, Brand Partners at Vemma, we are very careful at how we position our Brand Partners in social media because you know, you wouldn’t go to a cocktail party and try to sell somebody a watch, and so you need to be very careful that you use social media for it’s intended purpose, which is to connect with people.
It’s just as easy to meet a new friend in Toronto as it is in Tempe, but you can’t meet somebody by trying to sell them something over social media. So you connect with people, you care about what’s important to them and then if they are the kind of people you are looking for, and they are going to care about what is important to you, then you can introduce health and opportunity and all of that kind of stuff.
So we have an aggressive social media platform and it’s something that we think is only going to get bigger. From a corporate standpoint it’s kind of hard to put an ROI on that type of an investment. You know you are paying for all of this and you can’t really track any kind of measurable results, but you can’t track word of mouth advertising either but you understand how important it is. And so that’s kind of our position on it.
Somebody once told me I am the most active CEO in network marketing on Twitter, so I don’t know if that means anything, but I do understand how critical of a role that is going to play now and into the future.
That leads me to my next question, like you said you’re very very active, you are constantly on Facebook having updates, you have a Youtube channel that is very active publishing videos and you are on Twitter. Do you feel as though you really try to lead by example in terms of setting the standard of how Partners should leverage social media, or do you guys have separate guidelines and strategies for how you advise your network of Brand Partners to really get involved in Facebook and some of the other platforms?
I think any leader needs to lead by example, I think it’s going to be the early adopters and then there is going to be those people that follow afterwards. With everything that I have to do in a day, for me to take time out to do a Facebook posting or send out a tweet, it lets you know that it’s important.
I think that you as a leader can’t really ask anybody to do anything that you’re not willing to do yourself. Whether that’s a home event or a group event or whether it’s prospecting somebody or being active in social media. So I think any good leader needs to really get out there, even before the rest of your people buy into it. I think you need to get out there and set the pace and just be encouraging people to kind of put their toe into it.
I had a unique advantage where I had Gary come up to me, because I wasn’t getting it, before Gary Vaynerchuk I did not tweet, I didn’t do any of that stuff. He just spent 4 months with me and just kind of indoctrinated me into the power behind this. The thing that staggers my mind is that this stuff is free.
I remember back when I started, “facts on demand” came out and that was such a big deal, where you could push a button and get all this information right there. Social media is such a powerful tool for our industry simply because its one sole purpose is to be able to connect people. That’s what network marketing is all about. Like I said, you have to be careful, you don’t want to be trying to sell them a watch, you want to just be connecting and caring and build a reputation.
I had some take aways from the event we both attended in Phoenix a few weeks ago. I noticed a lot of other companies and CEOs and leaders out there come at it from a different angle. I guess they haven’t had the benefit of working with folks like Gary Vaynerchuk. It seems like a lot of companies that I’ve seen have a lot more trepidation and are really worried about the compliance aspect of their Partners or distributors going out there making false claims, doing like you said, acting like a sales person and just saying “hey buy our watch or whatever it is”. Have you guys run into any compliance challenges managing your Partners, how has that played out for you guys so far?
I think you can’t adopt a marketing strategy based on the fear of what could happen. You have got to base your marketing strategy on what can happen. You are always going to have the 1 or 2 people that say crazy things, and we have a compliance department for that, and our social media manager watches that. It is ludicrous for a CEO in the network marketing industry not to, and I don’t want to insult anybody, not to take an aggressive position towards social media and properly position their distributors. I think maybe the reason why we don’t have a lot of challenges with people saying the wrong thing or doing the wrong thing is because we position them correctly, in our training we talk about social media. We had Gary Vaynerchuk as a keynote speaker at our last convention. That stuff trickles down, when you establish the right sort of guidelines, that duplicates, you don’t establish any guidelines, unfortunately that duplicates as well.
So, you can’t not do social media based on the fear of what might happen, you’ve got to go in with the thought that it’s all about connecting people to people and that is what our business is based on.
What kind of effects have you seen since you and Vemma have really embraced social media and made it a core part of some of the marketing campaign that you do? Have you seen an increase in recruitment, has there been any correlation to an increase in product sales? What are some of the effects that you have seen take place?
2010 over 2009 we were up almost $20 million and the economy was crappy. Like I said it’s hard to get an ROI on social media, but you need to have the understanding that everything matters, and everything effects everything else. I wouldn’t attribute social media to all of that growth because it obviously is driven by our tremendous leadership in the field, but it’s a big part of it, it’s a big part of keeping people plugged-in.
On my iPhone have TweetDeck, which connects everything to social media that I want to push out. But it’s so amazing when you see something that strikes you or you are hearing something and you can take a photo and send it out, or record a video and send it out, or just do a short message, all for free, which staggers the mind.
So I think one of the keys to retention in our industry and I think one of the keys to growth in our industry is to keep people plugged-in to keep talking with them. You know there are so many distractions that people have in the world, to keep your name and to keep your brand and to keep your opportunity and your mission in front of people is critical, and social media does a fabulous job of that at minimal investment.
You guys launched the Verve lounge at the US Airways Center. I think that is a great example of how you have taken the company and thought outside the box for different marketing campaigns. How did that concept really come about and what have the results been like from that, because I thought that was a really interesting project you guys did?
It was expensive, but what we wanted. Verve is a couple of years old, we sell over a million cans a month of this product, it is a great, healthy energy drink, tastes great, really designed to attract a younger demographic to Vemma.
I think we are one of the only companies that allow 14-17 year olds to actually sign-up as Brand Partners with parental permission. But where the brand really resinated was with the baby boomers, people that didn’t drink any kind of energy drinks are thinking, “hey this is a clever way to get all of my nutrition”.
So I believe in something called the transference of credibility, and by being the official energy drink of the Phoenix Suns, and having a really, and I’m not just saying this, a really really cool night club that holds probably 5, 6, 700 people, it’s the place to be when you go to a Phoenix Suns game.
It’s just a night club setting that has Verve drinks on their menu. Everybody that walks in that has heard about it, is even more impressed after they have experienced it, just because we really did it up. On the East coast we have a Vemma Lounge, we also teamed up with the Charlotte Bobcats, Michael Jordan’s team over there, and we are Partners with the Bobcats.
So we have got East coast/ West coast coverage, it just gives people that added confidence to talk about the brand. To talk about the product and it helps make them more successful. When you can transfer the credibility of NBA teams of that caliber to your Brand Partners daily marketing efforts, it’s going to win. It’s hard to analyze on how much it’s worth, what’s the ROI on that, but I have got to tell you, the Brand Partners love it and they talk it up all the time.