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Welcome to our blog...

Friday, June 15, 2012

Are You a "Boomer?"

Do You Want to March to the Beat of your own Drum?

Before the Fuller Brush man and Mary Kay, there was the Watkins door-to-door salesman.

Sounds sexist, I know. But back then, women just didn't just take the reins of a horse-drawn wagon carrying a heavy load of products to distant farms in rural Minnesota where the J.R. Watkins company is still based today.

J.R. was in tune with his market by offering door-to-door service to homesteads far from the Winona general store, as well as offering a 30-day money-back guarantee on his patented pain liniment “trial-mark” bottle.

Today, the company continues to utilize nostalgia to retain multi-generational customers, but now also appeals to today's health-minded young adults by promoting its long-time goal -- producing products with the most natural ingredients possible.

I will turn 65 in September. Ever since I was old enough to have a credit card, I have been bombarded by advertising messages from companies attempting to sell me numerous products aimed at the baby boomer population. Now, as we boomers approach retirement, we are the marketing focus for supplemental insurance companies, financial planners and related industries.

We boomers are excellent candidates for direct sales teams. We have a strong work ethic, drilled into us by our parents who survived the Great Depression. They taught us that if we worked hard enough to become the best that we could be, we would succeed.

We have discovered, however, there are many things beyond our control. The real estate market crash, the Wall Street mess and the bank debacle eroded many anticipated pensions, 401Ks and retirement savings plans. Therefore, many boomers are in search of other ways to supplement monthly Social Security checks, when the future of even that cornerstone of US financial stability is being debated in Washington. In other words, we baby-boomers want to regain control of our financial future, rather than leaving it up to the political party in control of the House and Senate.

I spent the first 35 years of my career in university advancement and publications management, collecting a steady paycheck from such institutions as the University of Arizona, San Diego State University, United Way and the City of Hope National Medical Center. But a work injury forced me into another field where I wouldn't spend all day pounding on a computer. When I mentioned to my rehabilitation counselor I had been investing in Southern California real estate for nearly a decade, she suggested a private business school, where I could prepare for the state real estate license exam, and begin a new career.

After passing the exam, I was offered a position as an academic advisor to help others prepare for the same exam. Again, that steady paycheck was too enticing to pass up. Enrollment was booming at the school as hundreds of new college graduates and bored housewives with grown children figured they could become millionaires by passing the state exam.

As quickly as the real estate market exploded, it fizzled just as rapidly when properties became so over-inflated that only a few buyers could qualify for a mortgage on a small condo, let alone the home of their dreams. School enrollment plummeted, and the administration – concerned with its own bottom line – slashed staff to keep its doors open.

Fortunately, I was friends with Alan Lukes, whose career path had taken a different direction. He had the experience of running his own business in Big Bear, plus several years as a leading Tupperware salesman. As Alan was approaching 50, however, he decided to settle down, obtain a certified rehabilitation counselor license, and take a steady position at a local social service agency.

However, the agency was dependant on the state Department of Social Services for funding. The position was extremely rewarding for Alan, who helped countless individuals and families during his first five years with the organization. But property tax revenue dropped dramatically during 2008 and 2009 as California home values plunged 50% during the two-year period. All state-funded agencies had to make drastic cuts in operational budgets. And Alan soon found himself on unemployment.

Being a transplant from a Chicago suburb, Alan remembered his mom purchasing an assortment of products from a door-to-door salesman associated with a company called Watkins. He also had become quite a computer guru with his own web site long before it became fashionable. Alan assumed today's Watkins sales force had traded in their door-to-door sales routes for their own websites.

Alan was right. In fact, the Watkins main website states that now is an ideal time for anyone who grew up with these products, and is considering a part-time business as they wind down a long career, to become a Watkins Associate. Alan clicked on the link for more information. A few days later, he was called by a pleasant-sounding woman in Southern Florida. Today, Tracey Palmer is our direct upline manager, who helped us achieve Watkins “manager” status in a few short months.

Now in our fourth year as managers of our online “Big Bear Country Store,” our initial 25% sales commission has grown to nearly 40%. We are helping a number of our associates make that transition from a steady pay check to the sometimes scary world of private enterprise.

We believe our success is due to finding the perfect company for baby-boomers. Just looking at those classic Watkins labels has many of us nostalgic for those “good ol’ days” when product quality and outstanding customer service made that trip to the corner grocery a highlight of the week. 

In January 2012, we launched a marketing program to spread awareness of our Big Bear Country Store website. As a result, online sales have doubled, and new associates from across the country have been drawn by our “country store” philosophy. With customers from coast to coast and throughout Canada, we are transitioning to an expanded domain name, the "All Natural Country Store." It brings attention to Watkins’ continuing effort to reformulate its traditional products so even more can be classified as "J.R. Watkins Naturals."

I know blog postings aren’t to go on this long, but Watkins has helped us realize that it is possible to reinvent oneself long after passing that “5-0” milestone, or even the big “6-0” number! I’m able to use my degrees in journalism and communications in a way I never envisioned when I sat through those graduation ceremonies many moons ago. Alan has found his counseling abilities can help even more individuals overcome obstacles – sometimes their own self doubts about taking a new path at a “certain” age – to gain greater self-confidence in their own abilities.

Some of our new Associates are boomers about to retire, or had their hours reduced or jobs eliminated in this economy. Some are new moms, who prefer to work from home rather than turn the rearing of their pre-school children over to a nanny. Some are young men perfectly happy to be stay-at-home dads because mom is on the fast-track to management with her full-time employer. Direct-marketing is perfect for these non-traditional families, as well as us aging boomers!

If you consider yourself non-traditional, but have a love of the Watkins quality tradition handed down from generation-to-generation for nearly 145 years, perhaps this is the road less traveled meant for you. March to your own drum beat. Set your own pace. Become your own boss. We’re here to help you every step of the way. Just call our toll-free All Natural Country Store phone number, 888-881-7372. We can assist you through some of those barriers that are blocking your path to a fulfilling future. 

David Gurzenski