Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘online parties’

Today’s post is the next in a series discussing the successes direct sales professionals are experiencing through the use of social media.

I conducted a poll a few weeks ago asking direct sellers what social media tools they are currently using. 37% said they use Facebook, 23% are using Twitter, 23% use LinkedIn, and 17% are using other niche-specific tools.  All of these tools can help you find success in social media, and it’s so important to define your goals in order to use each social networking tool effectively in direct sales.  You’ll read how one direct seller is using some of these tools below.

I’m so excited to share today’s story with you.  This is an email I received from a subscriber to this blog (you can subscribe by clicking here), and I left it intact so you can hear it in her own words.  I love that Melissa has shared the specifics of what she has done, because I think it provides great value for those seeking guidance on applying social media to a direct sales business.  If you would like to share your story, please email it to me! You may be featured here as well.

Melissa Laverty

Melissa Laverty

Jen-
First, let me say, that I have learned so much about social media and how it can help my direct sales business from you; so thank you.  In fact, I recently promoted to Senior Executive Manager because of social media.  The solutions that have most positively impacted my business are Twitter, my blog, and Ustream.  They all work in tandem.

I update my blog daily.  This is how I am able to establish a ”relationship” with my online customers.  It is here they can learn more about me and my business and decide if they want to do business with me.  A new recruit told me that she wanted to sign up with me because my About Me blurb reads, “I’ve been a Close to My Heart consultant for over two years and have loved every minute of it”.  She said she wanted to have that feeling, too.

Recently, I had a customer come to me from the UK because of my blog.  The most important thing I have learned about blogging for your business is that you HAVE to use keywords in your titles.  This is what will drive searches to your blog, and therefore allow you to acquire new visitors & hopefully customers.

I have set up my blog to “auto-tweet” so that when I have added a post, it automatically gets sent to Twitter.  I follow scrapbookers in the hopes that they will follow me and then check out my blog.

I also have a search set up on TweetDeck for “scrapbooking” & CTMH.  This way when someone posts a question or comment about either one of those things, I can respond as an expert.  Recently, there was a post from a woman who was looking for a good online resource for acrylic albums.  I directed the Tweet-er to my Shop Online site, and she purchased two.  I have sent an Idea Book to another Tweeter who scrapbooks weekly with her friends and has never used my company’s product.

Finally, I conducted a UStream webinar that I promoted through my blog and Twitter.  The purpose was to host an Online Opportunity meeting.  I told the attendees about the consultant opportunity and presented to them the contents of the new consultant kit.  I had about 6 attendees, and 1, from Alaska, choose to join my team.  (I’m in Virginia, so this would have never happened without Social Media.)

That’s my story so far.  I’m so excited to have even these few success stories because I know it will just continue to grow.

Sincerely -
Melissa Laverty, Close To My Heart Consultant
http://fancymelissa.myctmh.com
http://fancymelissa.blogspot.com

Thanks Melissa for sharing your story!  You are an inspiration.  Keep up the great work!

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 »

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 »

If you are a direct sales consultant, you may be asking yourself whether it’s worth investing your time to learn about social media.  After all, as a consultant, you’ve got three major tasks: book parties, sell products, and recruit new consultants. These three tasks are the foundation of any party plan business. Can social media help you with these tasks?  There are several tools that a direct sales consultant can use to build her business.  In a series of posts, I will be discussing how these tools can help your business.

Today’s post will discuss the benefits of using Facebook to help build your direct sales party plan business.

Now I want to be clear.  Nothing will REPLACE the essential activities of getting in front of as many people as possible, learning the skills required to book at parties (I personally LOVE Karen Phelps‘ booking game), and knowing the features and benefits of your product line and opportunity.  These are the tasks that will give you an immediate income stream.  But social media can take you beyond the boundaries of what you currently do, providing an additional revenue stream, and giving you the opportunity to build relationships beyond those you can build face to face.

Let’s begin with Facebook.  I think Facebook is the perfect tool for the home party plan consultant to use to begin her foray into the use of social media to build her business.  And the best part is, you should use it at first for the pure fun of it.  Now that doesn’t sound like an income-producing activity, does it?  But it actually is, and the reason is because, first and foremost, social media tools are for the purpose of building relationships.

Jennifer Fong's Facebook Profile

Jennifer Fong's Facebook Profile

It begins with an excellent profile.  Add pictures, your education, the company you work for (with a link to your website), etc. Choose a profile picture of your face that shows you looking professional, open, and friendly. If you a woman, put on makeup, dress well, and choose an attractive background.  As a man, put on a jacket and tie, and again choose an appropriate background.  This is your first impression to your potential customers and recruits, so put your best foot forward.

A point of caution, however, as your build your profile.  NEVER forget that this is first and foremost a BUSINESS profile.  Remember that your customers (and your company) could very well see everything you post.  So be sure it’s something you feel comfortable having them see.  I advise people to leave strong feelings about politics and religion out of it, as these can be polarizing and can turn people off. There is nothing wrong with stating your religious view (aka Presbyterian/Christian, Jewish, etc.), but leave it at that.  Don’t put up links to your local right to life group, your liberal rally, etc, unless those are the only customers you wish to service.  I know that I personally shy away from connecting with those who I feel may aggressively subject me to opinions that I don’t necessarily agree with.  And your customers may too.  So keep in mind your objectives, and design a profile with that in mind.

Then connect with everyone you know…friends, family, old classmates, church members, etc.  Facebook very helpfully recommends people you may know, so pay attention.  Reconnect, share stories, catch up.  Join groups based on your interests, and the interests of your customers, and find new people to connect with.  Participate in discussions, share information, and build relationships.  Post status updates that people will find interesting.  The idea is to engage with your community, and enjoy getting to know people.

Once you have built relationships through Facebook, you can once in a while share information about your business through your profile.  Post an occasional status update about a sale or special your company is offering, with a link.  Write the occasional note about the fundraiser you are doing through your business.  The key here is BALANCE.  Don’t overwhelm your community with advertisements, or they’ll ignore you.  So continue to build relationships while once in a while mentioning your business.

There are also other tools you can use within Facebook to promote your business.  For example, you can invite your customer opt-in email list to join a group you set up on Facebook.  Provide value in your group by providing content and information related to your products.  For example, if you are a Tastefully Simple consultant, you might want to provide a forum where customers can share their favorite recipes.  If you sell housewares, perhaps you might provide a forum where customers can post decorating photos, or run a contest where you’ll do a room makeover with suggested products.  If you sell eco-friendly products, perhaps you can provide a forum for customers to share their favorite green tips with one another, talk about community events, etc.  The point is to develop community, and give your customers a chance to interact in a way that they feel provides value.  It also gives you a good way to connect with your customers and provide specials and deals just for them.  Customers are more likely to join your community if they will get specials and valuable information as a result of joining.

As your customers interact in the community you’ve built, they have a constant reminder of your business.  If they have a need for your product, they’re more likely to think of you first.  If people are sharing their favorite products from your company, a customer may discover a need for it herself.  These also become a great resource should you decide to begin offering online parties.  If your customers are already accustomed to interacting with regards to your product online, it becomes very convenient for them to shop at your online parties.  You can also encourage your group members to invite their friends to join the group, spreading your reach beyond those that have the time to come to a party.  You’re not tied to a time frame to meet new people, because Facebook is available 24/7!

If you do it right, your group can become a good source of recruits.  If people are committed enough to your products that they’re willing to join your online group, interact, and learn about the products, they may very well decide that your opportunity is for them.  Especially if they’re having such fun in the community that you create, and are gaining value from the experience.  And then you can create another group for your consultant team!  What a great way to connect people who may be spread all over the country, and may not be able to meet in person.

There are other tools within Facebook that you can use too: Flair, Virtual Gifts, etc.  But by using Facebook as a forum to build relationships and connect with people, you can develop a source of revenue for your business that will provide additional sales, community involvement, a source of new recruits, and additional bookings.

You have to invest time to get this return.  You have to nurture your community, get to know people, provide useful information, and make it worth your customers’ time to participate and invite their friends.  But once your community is built, you will develop a loyal following committed to you and your products. And THAT is good for business.

Connect with me on Facebook by clicking here, and sending me a Friend Request!

Would you like training for your direct sales team or company on how to use social media to build your business?  Custom training available!  Contact me at jennifer (at) learningisanart (dot) com.

Read Full Post »

When you market your business, it’s important to be clear on what it is you are trying to communicate.  If you are a direct seller, your company probably has an “about” page on their website.  Have you read it?  What makes your products, your company, your offer compelling for your potential customers?

Before you write a blog post, set up a profile, or hold a live party, take some time to make sure you’re clear on your message.  Answer these questions:

  • What do I have to offer? (both in terms of product and opportunity)
  • What makes my products better than other products?
  • Why did I get involved with this company?
  • What makes my company special?
  • What benefit will someone gain when they purchase from me?

Once you’re clear on your positioning (a.k.a. why people should purchase from you instead of someone else), then you’re in a better position to market yourself, because your messaging will be clear.  Prepare your 30 second commercial/elevator commercial, highlighting what you do and the benefit to your potential customer.  Then you can decide which tools to use from your arsenal to present your products and company to your prospects.

Remember, once you’ve established your networking relationships, you can leverage them for a profitable business.  Give people enough of a chance to talk about themselves, and they’ll eventually ask about you.  By being clear on your marketing message, you’re prepared to get attention with your 30 second commercial, and then schedule your presentation, send them to your blog or your profile, or schedule your in-home show.  Whichever tools you use to market yourself, start by having a consistent message in order to be sure you’re always providing prospective customers with a clear idea of what you have to offer, and how it will benefit them.

Read Full Post »

One of the comments on my blog this past week got me thinking.  It was stated that social media marketing is not the FUTURE of direct sales, it’s the PRESENT.  I’m sorry, but I’m not sure that I can agree with that statement.  Is it true that many forward thinking direct sellers are embracing social media marketing with varying degrees of success?  Yes.  Is it true that some forward-thinking companies are putting tools in the hands of their distributors that make it easier for them to implement a social media marketing strategy within their businesses?  Yes.  But is this the norm?  I have to say no.

And furthermore, I think the question still needs to be fully answered as to whether or not every company in our industry NEEDS social media marketing.  Now I know, if you’ve read my stuff on how social media marketing is the future of direct sales, you must be scratching your heads.  And I do have to say that I believe that there can be components of social media marketing that apply to every business.  We especially have to consider that 18-24 year old demographic, which is our next wave of consultants.  They have grown up on this stuff, and would be surprised NOT to have it available.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that social media marketing will not be the same for everyone.  For some companies with lower ticket items, it makes a lot of sense to have the online storefront for distributors, training on online parties and how to expand your social network using sites like Facebook and Twitter, etc.  Yet for other companies, perhaps regular online newsletters and social networking training is enough.  The company can build content that creates value around the company’s name and products through a blog and YouTube videos, without requiring this of its distributors.

But no matter what social media marketing strategy is employed, the keys are content that provides value to the customer and potential distributor base (and it’s important to decide who is going to be producing the content…that conversation needs to happen NOW), as well as the ability to employ networking strategies that work.  Consultants MUST be taught how to network effectively if the strategy is to benefit the company, and provide income for the distributor.

So if you’re reading this, what do you think?  How will social media marketing affect your business?  What are you currently doing to put it to work for your business?  Let’s learn from each other, and create a resource that will be valuable to the entire industry.

Read Full Post »

I am greatly enjoying the comments and feedback I’m receiving from those who are reading my blog.  Keep ‘em coming.  I think the direct sales industry needs the debate in order to move into the future.

I was talking to my new Twitter BFF @DonnaSpeaks (check out her great website at http://www.donnaljohnson.com/) and she shared with me that she thinks that people need a  basic introduction to social networking, and a definition, if they’re going to use it effectively.  Mark Bosworth’s comment to my post the other day also got me thinking: if direct sellers simply think that social marketing is a way to a quick buck, they’re missing the point.

Think about it…what do we encourage our successful in-person consultants to do?  Have you ever watched the best of them?  Go to a DSWA (Direct Selling Women’s Alliance) meeting sometime and see what they do.  Network, connect with people, build relationships.  Relationships are not just about selling your widget.  Relationships are about building meaningful connections with people, so when they have a need for your widget, they’ll think of you.

I went to Damon Gaylor’s website (thanks for the comments Damon, http://www.truestarservices.com) and I found it quite relevant that this is what he lists as the benefits of direct selling:

Benefits of Direct Selling PDF Print E-mail

Research shows some of the most popular reasons people choose direct selling are:

  • Direct selling is a good way to meet and socialize with people.
  • Direct selling offers flexible work schedules.
  • Direct selling is a good way to earn extra income.
  • Direct selling is a good way to own a business.
  • Earnings are in proportion to efforts.

How interesting that one of the very first reasons people choose direct selling is because they can meet and socialize with people.  This brings be back to my point from a couple days ago: 11% of all web visits are to social networking sites.  You can meet and socialize with people there, not to mention learn a tremendous amount.

Let me put it in terms of ROI for companies.  Let’s say that companies have direct sellers join digitally (running the business exclusively online) and they pay a website subscription of around $10/month.  Well they’re most likely going to want to sell enough to at least meet their subscription fee.  If your base commission is 25%, they’re going to probably sell at least $50/month.  I believe that’s in line with your experiences Mark.  So the company benefits from the profit on that regular sale (and my experience is that many in-person consultants, without a monthly cost, aren’t that consistent), as well as the website subscription fee.  So maybe the company is making $20/month as a result of the efforts of that one digital consultant, if they do just the minimum.  If you’re just talking about 1 consultant, that may be small potatoes, but multiply that across 10,000 consultants and you see the impact. And if the company trains that person to do online parties and market online in other ways, you’re going to see them with higher sales and greater recruiting.

The other thing we’ve found in this economy is that $100+ for a traditional consultant kit is more than a lot of people have.  But a low entry fee with a monthly charge (that they can earn) attached is a lot more palatable.  This gives you the  option of recruiting more people than a solely traditional model allows.  And it can be a good springboard for them to earn the more expensive kit once they’ve started making money with you.

So this takes me back to Social Media Marketing and what it is (and isn’t).  Social Media Marketing is a way to network with people, build relationships, and ultimately make the connections that can result in a thriving business.  No, it doesn’t happen overnight, it doesn’t with any kind of networking exercise.  But it does happen.  And the consultant is richer for the networking experience, both in terms of cash as well as friendships and information.

The consultant that begins to embrace social media marketing needs to know that you can’t start with “Hi my name is X…buy my widget.”  People will “unfollow” you faster than you can say “BOO.”  There was just a conversation about this yesterday on Twitter, and it’s true.  Direct sales is getting a bit of a bad name on Twitter because too many consultants are missing the point.  Consultants, listen up: It is not all about you and your widget.  If you’re looking for a quick buck, do a home party (although online parties are gaining traction too…but I digress.)  Some people are very good at them.  But if you’re interested in growing relationships, learning from others, getting better at what you do, and enjoying the experience along the way, then consider investing your time into social media marketing.

By building relationships first, people will be more interested in what you have to offer.  And you will walk away richer too, from all you’ve learned.

Read Full Post »

Tonight I’m leading a training for our consultants on direct sales online parties.

Since the whole concept of online parties is relatively new to me as well, I decided to do some research.  The website momchats.com provides a great, free online chat room for parties, so this seemed like a good place to start.  I looked at the schedule and logged in at the appointed time.  When I logged in, there was only 1 other person there, and she was looking for a parenting chat.  It was only after she started talking to me that the consultant finally showed up (a good 30 minutes after the party was scheduled to start).  Then the consultant gave me her website link and that was pretty much it.  No games, no discussion.  I asked a few questions about products, and I had to ask 2-3 times, and wait forever for an answer.  Very disappointing experience.  And the consultant told me she holds 6-8 online parties a month!

Here are some conclusions I have drawn from my first foray into the online party experience:

  1. Get RSVPs. It is so easy to use a free service like evites.com to find out if people are coming to your party.  And if you’re not getting RSVPs, that tells you that you need to do more advertising/inviting for your party.
  2. Make sure everyone understands how to use the tool. This goes back to my experience as an instructional designer when virtual classroom technology first came out.  You can almost always assume that there is someone at your party that’s never been in a chatroom before, especially if they’re attending from your warm lead list.  Take a couple of minutes at the beginning of the party to point out the features of the chat room so people don’t waste time trying to figure out how to communicate.  Because if they’re trying to figure out the tool, they’re not listening to you.  When I was in the chat room I kept getting private messages from the mom who wanted the parenting chat, and I didn’t know how to turn it off.  Very distracting.
  3. Encourage your guests to keep the sound ON in the chat room. That way, when you’ve sent them to your website to play a game, they will know when you want them to come back, because they’ll hear it when you post something in the room.
  4. Especially if you are a slow typist, have your script typed up so you can copy and paste the main content. If people have to wait a century for you to answer their questions, they’ll be gone.  You’ll also want to have a list of links you’ll send people to during the party, so you can cut and paste them as well.
  5. Offer specials if people order by a certain time. You really want to encourage sales while people are in the moment, because they probably won’t order if they have to come back later.  So encourage people to order by midnight or something like that to take advantage of your specials.
  6. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by offering to send samples/catalogs/other info before asking people to order NOW. One of the parties I attended, the consultant offered to send samples before I even had a chance to look at her site.  She basically assumed I wouldn’t buy now, and guess what?  I didn’t. Even though I had fully intended to.
  7. Games are essential. Don’t just send people to your site without an activity.  You want them to interact with your website in a meaningful way, and then have a reason to come back to the chat room.  Offer prizes to get people involved (it can be as simple as a discount on a purchase that night) and give them something fun to do.  I think one of the mistakes we make as consultants is that we forget our basics in an online chat room.  Just like a live party, if people aren’t having fun, they’ll buy less and they CERTAINLY won’t book a party with you.  A thriving business depends on a fun party, so if your parties aren’t fun, go back to the drawing board.

I’m sure I’ll have plenty more conclusions as I continue to explore this topic (and I’ll write about them here).  Online parties can be such a great tool to use to build your business and get sales.  One of the best things about them is that typical online parties are held weeknights, whereas live parties often do better on weeekends.  So if you have a multi-pronged approach to your business, you have double the chances to earn income.

But it does take planning if you want to do it right.

If you’d like to learn more about online parties, you are invited to attend my training tonight (FREE) at 9pm Eastern.  Simply click here http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1191894950&ref=profile#/event.php?eid=54319631966&ref=mf to RSVP for the event tonight, include your email, and I’ll send you the info.  You can also email me at jennifer at learningisanart.com and I’ll send you the info.

Read Full Post »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.