Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘distributor training’

handshakeMany of the direct sellers that I work with tell me that they wish their direct sales companies would do more with social media. They want their companies to provide training and tools to use social media more effectively, and are surprised when their company’s policies and procedures more or less prohibit contact with prospects through social media at all.

What I often say to these direct sellers is that now is the time for you to help your companies.  They’re still figuring this all out themselves, and your experience can be helpful.  While your companies may not take every suggestion you have (after all, they can see the big picture of the entire company, while you can only see your part of it) your input can be useful as social media policy is drafted.

Here are some of the issues going on as your company considers social media.

  1. Policies & Procedures Outdated.  The policies and procedures of your company may have been written before social media was invented, and that’s why it’s so unclear what you can and cannot do.  As a direct seller, there are 2 things you can do.  1) When in doubt, ASK!  If you’re not sure what you’re allowed to do, ask your company; and 2) Ask your company for specific policies & procedures related to social media.  It may be time for an updated version of this document.
  2. Inappropriate Postings by Your Peers. One of the big concerns that direct selling companies have about social media is when consultants blur the lines between personal and professional, and begin posting things for their friends that don’t reflect well on the company.  The best thing you can do is make a decision…how will you use social media?  If you’re going to use it for business or include a link to/mention your company at all, then clean up your profile, and be sure EVERY single thing you post is appropriate for your company, your customer, your kids, and your momma to see.  One of the big hang-ups companies face when deciding whether or not to allow social media usage is the stuff that’s already out there that is NOT appropriate.  So if social media is important to you for your business (and it should be), you need to say something to your fellow consultants when they post inappropriate things.  Only when we all work together will we bring this industry forward.
  3. Ask for Training and Resources. Companies are still trying to figure out how best to support their sales force in social media.  If you believe that you need specific types of training, and it would be beneficial to you to have certain company resources (such as a Facebook fan page, recruiting videos, etc.) available, let your company know!  Social media is new to many direct sales companies, so it will often be helpful for them to know what it is you need.  One of the first questions I ask of a company when they bring me in to help them craft a social media strategy is, “What have your consultants been asking for?”

The direct sales industry is moving forward into social media, and it will truly be a collaboration between consultants and companies that has the greatest, and most successful, impact.  If it is important to you as a direct seller to have the tools and training you need to succeed at social media, communicate with your company.  And as a direct sales company, be sure you’re tapping into your socially-connected sales force, so you know the kind of support that your sales force is looking for.  A collaborative effort will bring forth the best results.

What’s your take on this issue?  Would love to read your comments below!

Photo Credit: Andyrob

Note to Readers: Within the next few days, I will be moving my blog over to my new website at http://jenfongspeaks.com.  While blog content will be shared between these two sites for the next couple weeks, eventually everything will be moved over.  If you subscribe to this blog via email, you will need to update your subscription in order to continue to receive content from my blog.  If you’d like to update your subscription now, just click here: Subscribe to Direct Sales and Social Media by Email

Read Full Post »

Guest Post by Lisa Robbin Young

There’s a horrible face of direct sales that, to my chagrin, I see more and more often now that I’m a coach.

The face of fear.

Maybe I was lucky as a young “orphaned” consultant, because I never really saw fear rearing it’s ugly head in my business.

But now that I work with other consultants regularly, I’m hearing the tell-tale signs of decades of fear that have permeated our industry.

“I’m afraid to give that booking to my new recruit because it means I’ll loose that train.”

“I’m afraid to share my ideas with others because it means I have to work harder in my own business.”

“I’m afraid of the fact that there are SO many other XYZ consultants in my area.”

And this is not your run-of-the-mill, everyday “fear”. This fear has a distinct aroma…

“I’m afraid to share the opportunity with her because she’s such a great hostess!”

“There are so many direct sales companies now selling the same kind of stuff, it’s just hard to compete.”

…It’s the fear of competition.

Its an easy trap to fall into. The belief that everyone and everything out there is “just like you”. Sadly, this problem is most apparent when examining teams within our own company – and even within our own downlines.

Top leaders in some well-known companies even propagate this nonsense by having consultants sign non-disclosure agreements at training events. I’ve not yet seen this at the corporate level, and hope I never do! The very thought that direct sellers would be reluctant to share what is working for them with others seems the antithesis of the direct selling concept: a rising tide raises all ships.

How does this tie into Social Media?

Social Media is a possible cure for this cancer we know as fear.

Via blogs, social media, and even newsletters and personal (not company owned) websites, a consultant can express his/her uniqueness – that thing that sets them apart in the marketplace.

The title of this post is one of the mantras that pervades my coaching: YOU, the consultant, are the most important product your company has to offer. It’s not your catalog items, host benefits, or even the comp plan. It’s the very nature of who YOU are, and what YOU bring to the table that makes you a valuable piece of the direct selling puzzle.

Think on this: at every party/presentation you attend, what is the ONE product that every guest will experience before the end of the evening? And what one product is very likely to NOT be in the catalog everyone is holding in their hands?

The consultant.

You make the difference. As a consultant, you are the face, the living breathing, interacting product that clients come to know, like, trust, and even make repeat orders for when they book parties over and over again.

The consultant is the best selling product of every direct sales company. When that product is no longer available, the company no longer exists.

So if it follows that you are a best-selling product, and you’re NOT in the catalog, shouldn’t SOMEONE be marketing your skills, abilities, availability and the benefits that you provide that are unique to you?

Enter Social Media & Online Marketing.

Social media is a communication platform that can no longer be ignored or poo-pooed. Jen is one of a handful of people that understand and communicate the value of that platform.

But social media is just one piece of the online markting puzzle. In Jen’s “preaching to the choir” post, she mentions newsletters. While not exactly a social media platform, content-driven communications are what separate the social media leaders from the also-rans.

Look at any trainer in the direct selling industry today and they are all using e-zines to reach out to their lists in a value-added way. I do it (online marketing for direct sellers is my specialty), Jen does it – even Tony Robbins does it! A newsletter/ezine is the single most effective way to consistently reach your target market.

Target marketing is another key coponent to your effectiveness in business. But Jen asked me to stay on the social media topic, so you’ll have to find me on my blog to hear about that.

Content is NOT a coupon or an announcment about the ‘greater than sliced bread’ offers your company has coming up next month. It’s not an enticement to “book now before my calendar is filled”. Those things have their place in a newsletter, but in reality, should make up no more than about 25-30% of the total content in the newsletter.

What kind of content CAN you include? Tips, hints, time and money saving ideas related to your product line are all great places to start. You can even recommend (in passing) a product from your collection that fits perfectly for the tip. But the content should be valuable whether or not you recommend your products or services. THIS positions you as an expert that is more interested in helping your target market than hawking your wares to anyone that’ll open your newsletter. Plus, it gives you the opportunity to share a little bit about who you are as a human being – a person with successes, kids, flaws, cravings, faux pas – warts and all.

It will require a little more work on the front end, but the return on investment is huge. Like Jen, I enjoy a very high open rate on my newsletters, which only confirms that I’m providing content that works for my market. And because I can monetize that traffic, it also yields a tidy little income from people across the country (or around the world) that I would NOT have earned any other way. It’s hard to do a party in California when you live in Michigan!

And content that you create for your blog can be re-used in your newsletter (and vice versa). Repurposing is TOTALLY acceptable, and it cuts the workload down. I frequently post my ezine articles to my blog for people that haven’t already subscribed.

Ideally, companies would come on board with this, and start sharing more helpful content in their customer newsletters, but that is not the job of the corporation. Not to be too blunt here, but the company’s job is to help you sell more of their products and services. They’re in business to make money – and it’s reasonable to expect that their obligation begins and ends with their product line. That’s a forseeable, controllable situation for them. Consultants (in all their varieties) are an unknown.

YOU are in business to make money as well. So it behooves you to have your own method of consistently reaching out to your customers in a value-added way. The simplest, easiest way to meet your prospects where they are is the humble e-zine.

It can be text only – it doesn’t need to be pretty. It DOES need to provide value in such a way that people look forward to getting it, reading it, and USING it.

It is your responsibility as the owner of “You, Incorportated” to share with your prospects, clients, recruits, etc, the value of who you are, what you have to offer, and what sets you part in a field of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of other consultants in your very own company. When you do that, you don’t see competition anymore, because no one else is quite like you. You are the only you there is, and while this may sound a bit “Pollyanna”, it still rings true. When you no longer see yourself as a commodity, no one else can compete with you. Thus, competition fades, and all that’s left is YOU serving your target market to the best of your abilities – while your target market loves you more and more for it!

It’s the relationship you build that determines whether they do business with you (perhaps from across the continent) or the consultant down the street.

Social media, blogs, ezines, and the like make building and maintaining those relationships happen faster & more efficiently. Sometimes without those venues, it wouldn’t happen at all. And from an economic standpoint, you’ll stand a far better chance of surviving downturns when your income isn’t tied to your local economy, but is diversified across different localities. The Internet makes that possible for everyone.

But you can’t rely on your company to do it for you. That’s not their job. You’re a business owner, and it’s your job to promote YOU. If you don’t do it, who will?

(c) 2009 Lisa Robbin Young. All Rights Reserved.
==========
Lisa Robbin Young created the first certified Direct Sales Marketing Coaching program and teaches direct sellers how to transform their expensive hobby into a real business. Leaders, coaches and trainers look to Lisa for online marketing strategies that deliver results. Learn more about the Home Party Solution Live Workshop and sign up for her free weekly ezine, “PartyOn!” at http://www.homepartysolution.com

Read Full Post »

Jennifer Fong

Jennifer Fong

Today’s post is firmly tongue-in-cheek, however it contains an essential message.  Those that have been through my training know that I am a firm proponent of content marketing through social media channels, which means that you do NOT spam the world with your products or your opportunity.  Rather, you provide valuable, actionable content that people can use right now without spending a dime, in order to draw people into a relationship with you.  Once they know, like, and trust you, then you have a much more potentially successful opportunity to share your business.

So in today’s post, I am going to share with you the very WORST types of status updates and tweets you might find from direct sellers.  Keep in mind these are all fictional.  But if it sounds even remotely like something you’ve posted lately, take heed!  You’ll be a lot more successful with content marketing.

Here we go…PLEASE don’t let this be you!

Bad Facebook Status Updates

  • XYZ Company is having a SALE! Buy my products right now and you’ll save 50%.  Shop now!  Here’s my link…
  • I have the greatest business on the planet! Have you thought about direct sales? Are you living your dreams? Join my team today!
  • XYZ Product cures cancer and will save the world (UGH! This one had BETTER not be you!!!)

Bad Twitter Tweets/Direct Messages

  • I saw you mentioned “Product.” I sell product! Here’s my link!
  • Thanks for following me! Click here so you can buy my stuff:…
  • You should join my company because it’s the greatest company in the world. Here’s my link…

Notice that all these are “me” focused.  They’re all about me and my product/opportunity.  Consider now some messages that are YOU focused.  People respond a lot better when it’s about them.

  • Let your white wine warm up a bit before drinking.  You’ll get better flavor.
  • This makeup tip will bring out your eyes…
  • Need a quick dinner tonight? Try this quick and easy recipe (Link to my blog)

See how now the messages are solving a problem for the reader?  Not all the messages immediately send people somewhere.  Instead, they are relationship builders that help a person know, like, and trust you before they ever spend a dime with you.  Once they like you and opt-in for your messages, they’ll be a lot more likely to buy or join.  Just like you can opt-in by clicking here for my newsletter. :)

And that’s just smart social media marketing.

What do you think?  Have you had experiences on either end of this type of marketing?  Would love to read your thoughts in the comments!

Jennifer Fong

Read Full Post »

by cdsessums

by cdsessums

This is a question I get asked a lot.  Now that social media has arrived on the scene, do direct sellers really need to continue doing parties, and running the business the “old fashioned way?”  Can’t we just point everybody to our website, and call it a day?  And wouldn’t it make recruiting easier, if those people who don’t want to do parties could now be told they don’t have to?

My answer is NO.  Social media is a fantastic tool for finding new prospects for your business, for providing superior customer service, and for positioning yourself as an expert that people turn to for advice and products.  However it is my very strong opinion that it is NOT a substitute for booking, selling, and recruiting.

First of all, parties are where the immediate income for your business comes from.  Your company most likely has party averages, and when you do a party, you can pretty much count on making a certain amount of money.  You also give people a chance to interact with you live, see and touch the products, and enjoy the experience of being with friends while making informed purchasing decisions.  In short, nothing replaces the party.

Social media marketing also has a longer cycle.  It takes time to build relationships online, develop content for your blog, and build up enough know, like, and trust to get someone to make a purchase from you.  You have to connect with someone 7-15 times online, typically, before they’ll make a purchase from you.  There are online tools that help you do this, but you do need to invest time into building those relationships.

Social media marketing is an addition to a party plan direct sales business.  It can enable you to connect with people you couldn’t have met otherwise, find people that are business minded and specifically looking for an opportunity, and provide superior customer service and customer contact through community-building online groups and events.  Once those initial contacts are made at live parties, customers can get better service which can result in a thriving reorder business when they are plugged into you through social media.

In short, social media complements a traditional party plan model in many ways, and can enhance what you already do.  But nothing replaces the core business activities of booking parties, selling products, and recruiting new consultants.

What are your thoughts on this?  Have you had experiences that prove or disprove this?  Would love to hear your comments!

Read Full Post »

I love direct sellers. I really do.  They are some of the most passionate, giving, enthusiastic people that I know. However, one of the occupational hazards of friending a lot of direct sellers online is that those who have not (yet!) taken my social media training for direct sellers still do what I affectionately term the “Sales Swoop” any time they see an opening (and sometimes when they don’t!)

So today’s post is about what NOT to do as a direct seller online in social media.

Done Right! Status Updates Should Inform and Engage

Done Right! Status Updates Should Inform and Engage

Let me preface this by saying that what you SHOULD be doing is providing valuable content online that people appreciate.  You should NOT be a sales pitch.  I love it when people get it right.  One of the ladies I’m friends with on Facebook who happens to be a wine consultant posts wine tips a few times a day as her Facebook status update.  I’m learning the temperature my white wine should be to bring out the flavor.  I laugh at her jokes about how most people age wine for as long as it takes to get it from the store to the glass.  In short, she’s got an audience.  She GETS it.  I know she sells wine.  But she’s not ramming it down my throat, and I look forward to her posts.

So let’s talk about some direct sales faux pas in the online world.

1. If I mention your company or your product, do not swoop down on me and ask if I already have a consultant.  If you really want to know, start a conversation with me.  Get to know me and find out what I like, what my interests are.  Check out my blog and see what I write about.  In short, know me as a person before you try to be my consultant.

2. Don’t provide me with a link to your website the minute I meet you online, because I’ve mentioned anything remotely related to your product line.  I won’t click it.  Instead, I’m more likely than not to ignore you and never click on anything you’ve sent me ever again.  Instead, engage with me.  Say hello.  Share (FREE) resources with me about the interest that I’ve mentioned.  I’m a lot more likely to be interested in what you have to offer when you express an interest in my needs, and try to help me with my needs (without trying to sell me immediately.)

3. Do not make every status update a broadcast about your product.  You may think you’re meeting people’s needs by sharing valuable information about your products, but you’re not.  Instead, you sound like a commercial.  And I like to go get ice cream during commercials, not pay attention to them.  I’d rather get to know YOU in your status updates, and have you get to know me.

4. PLEASE don’t make your logo your avatar.  People in social media want to connect with PEOPLE, not logos.  It’s amazing, but I feel a LOT more connected with those people online who have faces.  When people have a logo up, I have no idea who they are, and I pay less attention.  The people you’re trying to reach will do the same thing.

5. And finally, DON’T sign me up for your newsletter until I do it myself.  Now perhaps this is another occupational hazard of communicating with a lot of direct sellers, as I do for my job.  But my friends, this is actually against the law.  It’s called SPAM if I don’t sign up for it myself.  If I have an interest in your newsletter, rest assured, I know how to find you.  But don’t sign me up without asking first.

Social media can have a dramatic impact on your business.  It can help you connect with people you never could have met before, and can position you as an expert that people turn to for advice and products.  By avoiding the direct sales faux pas I mention above, you will be on the path to success in social media.

What do you think?  Have you experienced the “Sales Swoop?”  Are you a reformed “Sales Swooper?”  Would love to read your comments below!

Read Full Post »

home-jewelry-party-largeIf you’re in direct sales, as either a direct seller or a corporate executive, you know what I’m referring to in the title of this post.  The pity purchase is the purchase a customer makes at a party because they feel that they should buy SOMETHING.  So they locate the cheapest item in the catalog and buy it.  If you’re a direct seller that depends on pity purchases to build your business, you are not creating a sustainable business model, and I dare say that if you’re not creating value for your customer, you will not be in business long.

When you begin to market your business through social media marketing, you need to realize that you’ve entered a realm where the pity purchase does not exist.  Not to mention, the pity purchaser is not a repeat purchaser.  People have a vast array of products available to them, and they can comparison shop to their hearts’ content.  They can compare product features, costs, shipping, and more.  They can read what other people have had to say about each product their considering.  In short, if you’re not providing a superior value at a decent price, it’s hard to compete.

So how do you use social media marketing to your advantage in this type of environment?  First, you become someone that provides value for free.  Yes you heard me.  For free.  How do you do this?  My favorite way is through a blog, just like this one.  Give out tips, advice, links, guidance, and more, that can be immediately implemented.  Why do you do this?  Because you position yourself as an expert, and you build relationships with your readers.  A purchase (or a recruit) is more likely when a person knows, likes, and trusts you.  So provide valuable content, related to your product line, and you will find that people will come read your content, and will refer their friends to you as well.

Once you’ve established yourself as an expert that provides value, give people a chance to get more from you, and get to know you. This can be through social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, through your newsletter, or through communities that you build in places such as Facebook groups.  By giving people a chance to interact with one another, with you at the center seeding conversations and providing value, you continue to provide people with a reason to trust you.  So when you do make product recommendations, or talk about your opportunity, people have a reason to listen to you.  Help THEM first.  Then they’ll consider what you have to offer.

Finally, once you’ve got people signed up for your newsletter, or participating in your groups, gently provide them with the oppotunity to be introduced to your company and your product line.  Make special offers, just for them.  Provide online events (such as online wine/food pairing chats, decorating ideas chat, online party, etc.) that give education as well as the opportunity to buy.

By investing some time in providing value, you build a sustainable business model that does not rely on the “pity purchase.”  And that’s a business that you can feel good about.

What do you think?  How has this strategy worked for your business?  I would love to read your comments below!

Read Full Post »

Social Media is Great for Team Building!Social media can be an incredible tool for building and supporting your direct sales team.  One of the ways to build long-term income in a direct selling business is through recruiting other sellers and supporting them.  Your compensation for building and supporting your team is the commissions that you earn on your team’s sales, and this provides more income than you can earn through your own sales alone.  As your team becomes larger, however, it can become challenging to meet your team’s needs, while building your own personal business at the same time.  Social media can help with this.

Here are some social media tools that can be used for building and supporting a team.

  1. Twitter/Facebook/LinkedIn: Social networking tools such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are excellent for finding people that may be interested in your business opportunity.  Now this is not license for you to SPAM people.  However, as you share delight in your successes, enthusiasm for your business events, and your love for your customers and team, you will naturally attract others who may want to learn more. 

    You can also use groups on Facebook and LinkedIn that are dedicated to people looking for work, and build relationships/provide valuable content there.  By participating as a relationship-builder and giver in these forums, people who are good prospects for your business opportunity will be interested in learning more.  And don’t forget to use searching tools to specifically identify those people who are interested in your product line!  People who are interested in your products are often your best prospects for the opportunity.

  2. Your Blog: A blog is such an incredible tool for your direct sales business.  It is a place you can provide content of interest to prospective customers, and is your home base for building relationships with people.  Your blog is also a valuable tool for team-building.  By providing content that is of value to opportunity-seekers, you become a trusted resource that attracts people to your business. 

    A separate blog can also be valuable for your team, providing team information, incentives, links, and a place to ask questions and make comments.  Imagine being able to provide your team with articles specifically dedicated to skills your team is currently working on building!  Blogs make it possible for you to provide that content without having to email everyone, worrying about spam blockers, etc.  You can provide a central location that your team can learn to come to as they need information.  Because all the information is archived on your blog, you can also send team members to specific information as they need it, providing a valuable library of topics that will be of benefit to your team for a long time. 

    And because blogs are easy to set up and maintain, they eliminate the need to go to the expense of setting up a personal website for your team.  Instead, you can set up an attractive blog with a few clicks, and provide all the resources your team needs in one place. 

  3. Groups - A Facebook group can be another valuable tool you can use to support your team.  Facebook makes it possible to set up “Secret” groups that are not available to the general public.  Your team members must be invited by you into the secret group, and this provides an excellent forum for team members to learn from and support one another.  As your team gets large, you may feel like you are answering the same questions over and over.  Imagine being able to send your team members to a central location for the answers!  You can set up a series of frequently asked questions on the discussion board of your group, and add to these as necessary. 

    Your team members can also use your group to support one another.  If someone has a question and you are not available, she can post her question to the group, and other team members can share what they’ve learned.  The collective wisdom of your team can help you build a stronger team than you ever thought possible!  And social media enables that sharing. 

By employing social media tools that your team can access, and then teaching your team how to make the best use of those tools, you can be more efficient and effective in your team building.  Your team will develop closer relationships with one another, and that will naturally attract more people to your team.  Social media makes it possible.

Are you a leader in direct sales?  How are you using social media to build and support your team?  Did you get some ideas from this article?  What are you going to implement?  I’d love to read your ideas in the comments below!

Read Full Post »

Blogs are everywhere these days.  Chances are, if you’ve done a Google search lately, you’ve come up with blog posts containing answers to your questions.  Blogs are becoming an increasingly GREAT source of information on a large number of subjects.

If you are a direct seller, you should seriously consider blogging.  Why?  Because when people are searching for answers, you want them to find YOU.  Not to mention the fact that blogging is a FANTASTIC way to build a raving fan base that refers their friends, joins your mailing list, and gives you credibility as an expert.  And at the end of the day, who will people want to buy from?  Someone who provides them with value and a solution to their problems, or someone that just sells stuff?  This is a competitive advantage you will gain over other direct sellers when you blog.

I’m holding a live free call Thursday, 4/2 called Blogging for Direct Sales Professionals.  It’s at 12 noon, Eastern, and even if you can’t make the live call, we’ll send you a link to the recording as long as your register.  You can do that here: http://cli.gs/dEz1jj On the call, I’ll be talking about how to make a blog work specifically for your direct sales business, along with some of my favorite tools to make a blog work for your business.

Here is a great list of blog posts on the subject of blogging by Chris Brogan, who is a master of all things blogs.  You can check out his list here: http://www.chrisbrogan.com/my-best-advice-about-blogging/ (Good stuff here!)

I started my own business with a blog, and it has helped me meet some amazing people, and given me opportunities I never dreamed possible.  A blog can help your business too, and the only investment you need to make initially is time.

Do you blog?  Why or why not?  Has it helped your business?  I’d love to hear your comments and questions on this topic!

Jennifer Fong

Read Full Post »

There are so many reasons why social media is good for a direct sales business.  There are so many things social media can do to help you grow your business in a powerful way:

  • FIND PROSPECTS who are looking for your products and opportunity right now!

  • Provide BETTER CUSTOMER SERVICE than you ever thought possible

  • Position yourself as an EXPERT that people go to for product recommendations

  • BUILD COMMUNITIES of people that want what you have to offer, and who will refer their friends to you

  • SUPPORT YOUR GROWING TEAM members, and help them learn from one another

  • Grow professionally as you LEARN from the best of the best

All of this results in additional income for your business.

There are a number of online tools that can make it easier for you to use social media effectively.  Some of my favorites include:

Facebook

Friend Lists in Facebook

Friend Lists in Facebook

  • Friend Lists – This feature of Facebook enables you to group the content from your friends in meaningful ways.  As a direct seller, this is a great feature, because you can make sure to keep up with the content, and build relationships with your targeted niche.  You won’t miss their content because of a very active feed.  The best part is that you don’t need to download anything.  It’s already built into your Facebook account.  Just click the Friends link at the top, and start sorting!

Twitter

  • TweetDeck – This is a great tool that can be used to sort your Twitter stream.  As you begin to gain more and more people that you follow on Twitter, the number of comments flying by can get a little
    TweetDeck

    TweetDeck

    overwhelming.  And since there are specific people and search phrases that you really want to pay attention to as you build your business, TweetDeck is a FABULOUS tool to help you keep up.

  • Twellow – Dubbed the “Yellow Pages of Twitter,” Twellow is a fabulous search tool that helps you find people in your targeted niche market to follow.  Simply enter the key phrases that your targeted niche is most likely to include in a profile, and a list of Twitter users will appear.  Browse the list, and choose who to follow!
  • Twitter Search – Another great way to search for people and topics important to your targeted niche.  Twitter search enables you to search conversations.

Blogs

  • Feedburner – Feedburner allows you to set up an RSS feed for your blog.  This means that the people who read your blog and like the content can be automatically notified, either through a feed reader or through email, when you update your blog.  Some of you have already signed up for this service on my blog.  It’s a great tool because it lets you know how “sticky” your blog is…how many readers want to come back for more.  And that helps you produce better content.

AutoResponders

  • Did you know that it takes 7-15 times for someone to hear from you before they purchase from your website?  Now if you’ve been in direct sales, you know the effort it takes just to do the regular follow up needed for your party customers.  How are you going to keep up with contacting the right people at the right time with the right messages in the right order?  It gets overwhelming!
    My Favorite Autoresponder

    My Favorite Autoresponder

    Fortunately, technology comes the rescue again, through the use of Autoresponders.  When someone signs up for your mailing list on your blog, you can have a series of emails, already in place, pre-written, that they receive on a regular schedule.  This might take the form of an e-course, valuable info, a newsletter, or some other information.  The point is, when people start receiving info of value from you, they start to trust that your emails have value, and they’re more likely to read them.  Then, when you make a product recommendation at the bottom of the occasional email, it’s taken a LOT more seriously.  Trust me, if you are considering marketing your business online, you NEED an autoresponder.

    I spent a LOT of time looking through autoresponder programs, trying to pick the best one.  After a lot of time, I’ve finally decided on AWeber.  It’s got the most user-friendly features and templates, and it makes your life a LOT easier, once you get it set up.  And for less than $20/month, it’s TOTALLY worth the investment.  Click here to check it out.

So that’s my summary of tools that I think are great when you’re implementing your social media strategy.  You don’t want so many tools that you get overwhelmed.  But by making careful, informed decisions about selected tools, you can be more efficient and effective, saving you time while reaping the benefits of social media for your business.

What do you think of these tools?  Do you have other recommendations?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Read Full Post »

I am absolutely thrilled today to introduce you to Karen Clark.  Karen is a direct seller who is very successfully using social media to build her business, and she very kindly agreed to be interviewed on my blog today.

Here’s some background information on Karen:

Karen Clark

Karen Clark

Karen Clark is a wife and mother of 3, who are 14, 11, and 5, living in Sonoma County, California. She is an Executive National Director with Story Time Felts and also their Director of Consultant Development. Karen is the Chapter President of the Sonoma Marin Direct Selling Women’s Alliance, proudly uplifting the direct selling profession in her community. You can find Karen on her business website at http://www.funfelt.com or her personal blog at http://www.karen-clark.com. You can connect with her on Facebook at http://profile.to/karen-clark, and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/funfelt.

Jennifer: Karen, can you give us some background on your direct sales experience? How long have you been in direct sales, and what have been some of the highlights of your career?

Karen: I joined the direct sales profession in 1998 with the company I still represent today. My direct selling business has been a constant in my life and I appreciate all that it’s taught me and the friends all over the US that I’ve made. When I was fairly new, I was awarded our company’s Star Gazer Award in 1999 for sharing innovative ideas and bringing the company to the internet.

Shortly after joining, my then-husband was transferred to Washington state with the Navy. I had dabbled in website design and had been connecting with other moms online for a while and with some help from a friend, I began my website. This enabled me to continue my business while transitioning to my new state.  At the time, the company did not have an internet presence, and seeing mine grow, they asked for my guidance in creating an internet policy for their consultants that would encourage them to continue selling person to person but also allow them the ability to market online for extra exposure. We were able to connect consultants to each other and potential customers online during an age when most direct selling companies were not open to it. I found ways to train and educate my rapidly growing team using the internet and it enabled me to grow the company nationwide and open up areas we had not previously had consultants. It was a high point to be recognized for this innovation!

I became Director relatively quickly due to my online connections, and had a strong home party business and large personal organization across the USA. In 2005 I was offered the position of Director of Consultant Development. We conduct online meetings, conference calls, and an interactive forum and I value each person on my “team” as we truly are like one big family!

Lastly, in 2008, having been an active member and Chapter President of the Direct Selling Women’s Alliance, I was recognized at their Education Celebration, as the DSWA Spirit Award recipient. This award is an immense honor – to be recognized not only by my peers but by those in a vast variety of other companies, and by those who are the kinds of leaders I strive to become one day! It was truly a thrill for me to receive this award as it meant the DSWA, an international organization, sees me as representing their core values as a businesswoman.

Jennifer: How long have you been using social media in your business, and why did you start using social media?

Karen: I’ve been using social media since the very first day I started my business 10.5 years ago. Back then it was done through text-only forums on ‘telnet’, or in folders on AOL communities. I would visit message boards and connect with other parents or teachers on subjects not directly related to my business, but always was sure to have my business information in my profile or signature. Social media has changed over the years but the principles are still the same.

The reason I began was because I knew it was yet another way to reach out to people who have a need or would benefit from my product, and would not have otherwise found me or my company. I had already been connecting on a mom to mom level, so extending it to my business presence was a natural progression for me. Some of the best friends I had ever had were ones I had never met, so I knew the potential for relationship-building online.

Jennifer: What are some of the considerations that you’ve kept in mind when creating your online presence?

Karen: I think it is very important to use your best judgment and only conduct yourself in a way that you would in your “real life” business. The online world parallels the real world – people have feelings, sensitivities, and opinions, and it is important to conduct yourself with respect even though you may not be looking them in the eye or reading their body language. In everything you say or do online, ask if you would be saying or doing this in person? There will be some differences, but there is a time and a place for everything online, so be discerning (or ask if you aren’t sure!) and represent yourself and your company with honor so that you build trust and rapport that will warm your heart, and maybe your pocketbook.

Jennifer: Can you tell us about some of the social media tools that you’ve found most helpful in building your direct sales business online, both for sales and recruiting? How do you use them?

Karen: I have tried just about everything under the sun and it is important to note that, as my Mom always says, “There is no such thing as a free lunch!” In this case, the cost of your lunch is going to be the time invested and the patience you will need to exercise! There is no specific tool that can be traced to sales or sponsoring, as anything you do will add layers and depth to your online presence – it all counts, and it builds over time.  When I started my website, I did not see a ‘random’ sale for nearly 2 years, and that was after spending 2 or 3+ hours a day promoting myself online. Over time though, the back-links, search engine rankings, and word of mouth spread to where people looking for what we sell were able to find it through my website. That said, I was able to recruit online almost immediately due to the social networking – mentioning that we were looking for consultants on a stay at home mom’s message board or email group, sharing what I did and how excited I was on a local forum…I found that there were people hungry for home-based business opportunities and often went online to research them.

One of the best ways to get sales and recruits through social networking is through referrals. Be the kind of person you would like to do business with, and others will see you the same way and be more likely to share your links or information with their friends, and their friends, and so on. You can do this through whichever method you choose, it is all good! I happen to like Twitter and Facebook right now but to be honest the landscape of the internet changes so quickly I truly feel that it isn’t one specific tool that will get you results – it isn’t what you are doing, it is who you are being. You can express yourself and build relationships in any interactive space online, whether it is through Facebook or Twitter, or LinkedIn or blogging. You can search for forums or message boards on a related topic and participate in discussions, or you can post comments on other people’s blogs. The main thing is to get out there on the internet somewhere, meet new people, find a common interest, be helpful and service-minded, and be visible in that community – just like you would in “real life.”

Jennifer: Please describe one specific time when social media made a big difference in your business.

Karen: There is a syndicated radio talk show host who had some very strong opinions about a certain topic that was corollary to my product and business opportunity. Since I knew she had an interactive website, I posted a message stating my opinion (agreeing with her) and thanking her for bringing the topic to the public on the air. Since I had a blog, and a website, when she looked at them to check them out, she liked what she saw, and decided to read my letter on the air and gave out both my business website and my blog address to her listeners, and told them to all shop from me for Christmas. This was huge – I had so many orders I could barely keep up with them, and met many of her listeners who later became consultants! When I posted another message thanking her, she read that one too and it happened all over again! It was a wild ride but it really drove home for me the fact that Sharing and Caring and Appreciating are where it’s at – that and the ability to express yourself through writing!

Jennifer: What advice would you give to the direct seller who is thinking about getting started with social media?

Karen: Start with one thing – study it, observe what others are doing, especially those you seem to feel set good examples – someone you’ve come to respect or admire just from who they are online. Try some things out for yourself, and do just a little every day, or even every week. It does not to be an all or nothing thing – a little bit over time will show you results over time, and will not distract you from your bread and butter – your home party or person to person business! You will want to still pick up the phone, still set appointments and still get out in front of the people. Social media doesn’t replace your “real life” business but it can be another way to meet more people that can enhance your business. The important thing is to get on the train – this social media age is really just beginning and the explosion is on the horizon. Get involved in something so you are in the game. Take just one hour a week or 10 minutes a day but work on something consistently over time and be patient!

Jennifer: What do you think is the number one mistake direct sellers make when using social media?

Karen: I think the number one mistake is forgetting that there are people on the other side. Even though you may be looking at the printed word, the audience is made up of people just like you and want to be treated with kindness and respect.  Treat people the way they want to be treated! Don’t come onto the scene and advertise your product without the rapport built up first. Would  you walk into a party or other crowd and start telling people to buy your product? Consider offering something helpful (unrelated to your product), or asking a (non-leading) meaningful question, or sharing about  your (non-company) self as a better alternative. Allow the relationship to build, allow them to observe you interacting with others and allow the trust to build. Remember always that you are a representative of you, your family, your company, your team. Know that sometimes you will say something, make a comment or write an article and not get a response. This is OK, and remember that often people are still observing and opening up to who you are slowly. When you share something in a group in “real life” you do not hear feedback from every person who is in that group, but the others who do not speak up are still participating in a way that they need to at that moment – observing, maybe conducting some internal dialogue, relating to you in some way. So be patient and don’t just come onto the scene with that big D (desperate) written on your forehead! If you aren’t sure, ask someone what the protocol is, people like to help!

Jennifer: Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Karen: I’d like to just emphasize that placing the primary focus on your “real life” business is so important – that is how you will duplicate yourself and grow your business in a systemized way that you can count on – when you call the people and see the people you will grow in sales and sponsoring, traditional direct sales is a proven business model with measurable results that are directly related to the amount of people you talk to. For direct sellers, social media is more of a branding or reputation building tool, that sometimes turn into sales or recruits but are even more effective at reinforcing trust and rapport, and then referrals to new clients or opportunities that lead to them. Enjoy learning about social media, and especially enjoy the richness of the new friendships you will make along the way, and you will take your business to a new level beyond sales and sponsoring!

Karen, thank you so much for taking the time to share your knowledge with us!

Social media can do incredible things for a direct sales business, and I will, from time to time, be highlighting direct sellers that have used this media successfully.  If you’d like to recommend someone to be featured, please email me at jennifer (at) learningisanart.com.

And please take a moment to leave a comment below, and let us know what you think, or experiences you have had building your business with social media!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.