Stonecipher Sets Pre-Paid Legal on High-Tech Marketing Strategy

Article excerpt

Dispelling the notion that Pre-Paid Legal Service has turned the law profession into a Tupperware party, Harland Stonecipher is convinced that the multilevel company's purchase of a satellite channel is the right move.

Pre-Paid's acquisition of The People's Network and its Success Channel on Primestar earlier this month sent stock values roller- coastering to a year low of 14 compared to a year high of 44 3/16. The deal had some questioning the direction of the company, which closed Friday up 5/8 to 19 1/2 on the American Stock Exchange.

But Stonecipher, chief executive of Pre-Paid, remains philosophical about the market and is a staunch supporter of the Ada company's network marketing strategy. "We can worry ourselves sick about the market, and we're just going to be sick," Stonecipher says. "We've just got to do what we've been doing. We're going to grow very rapidly, and people will understand why I bought the channel." The TPN purchase now enables Pre-Paid to pipe motivational training into the homes of Pre-Paid's sales force, which currently equals about 132,616. Sales associates formerly from TPN, who sell Primestar subscriptions, will now market Pre-Paid memberships -- or policies - - adding 30,000 associates to the Pre-Paid sales force. All sales associates will be "strongly encouraged" to purchase a Primestar package for Pre-Paid training, the CEO says. Eventually, Pre-Paid sales training will air part of the day, with other motivational programming planned for the remainder. Shows include top-earning sales associates providing testimonials about their success and Pre-Paid product marketing. The company's purchase of its own channel was inspired by Primerica, a multilevel travel service company that trains its associates on Direct TV, Stonecipher says. He had experimented with video conferencing and other group training technology but was not satisfied. "This gives us the ability to communicate directly with our sales force and do it daily, do it every evening," he says. Consistent training is key to multilevel marketing, Stonecipher says. He's learned a lesson from Tupperware, which recently pinpointed an unwieldy, undertrained sales force as the culprit in its recent stock backslide. As with any multilevel marketing company, product sales must be coupled with an increased sales force. Not only do associates sell the product or service, but they also want customers to become associates, which allows the first associate to gain an underwrite from all that's sold down the line. …