Direct selling is the process of networking with people, and then sharing and demonstrating products in a person-to-person or person-to-group setting. The beauty of the method is the relationship building that happens prior to the sales, which creates a more satisfying customer buying experience.
With the rise of social media, many direct sellers are caught between two worlds. Since the 1950’s, the traditional party has worked very well for many established direct sales companies, because house parties were a housewife’s only daytime social outlet. Women could justify going out with their girlfriends when a house party was involved. This is what the foundation of the party plan business is built on.
Today, however, things have changed. Women have a lot more freedom, and can go out for girls’ nights and other entertainment without needing the “excuse” of the house party. Now you absolutely still have people that love the party format, and it can make people’s lives easier, shopping from a living room instead of slogging through the mall, but the traditional house party does not have the allure that it once did for our mothers.
These days, social networking is happening more and more online. I read somewhere that a full 11% of all web visits are to social networking sites. That is a TREMENDOUS number, and one that should give any direct sales executive pause. People are getting together online. Since our business is about building relationships with people, we need to go where they are. And where they are is social networking sites.
One of the fears that a lot of established direct selling executives have is the difficulty to control misinformation that can spread quickly on the Internet. Yet that fear cannot be allowed to paralyze us if we are to adapt with the times. I believe that new direct sales companies must embrace social media if they wish to create a company with any staying power.
As a direct sales executive, I am on a journey to explore and understand the options available through social media, and then put together a plan that will help the distributors within my company use these tools to their greatest effect.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
- It is critical for distributors to establish an online social presence on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. If we teach our distributors how to do it, we can avoid some of the problems of the company being misrepresented.
- Set up Google Alerts, so you know what’s being said about your company.
- It’s also important for the company to have its own presence on social networking applications. Your company should have its own Facebook site where you post company events and information, and you can also take advantage of other free and paid messaging opportunities provided through these sites.
- Any distributor that wants to embrace social networking as a business strategy NEEDS to be provided with a customer-facing website by their company through which they can sell to customers.
- Distributors need to be allowed to advertise online. Provide them with banner ads/buttons/copy/etc, but don’t prevent them from tapping into an extremely valuable and profitable form of marketing.
- Learn from your distributors. Many of them are already in this space, because they know it’s good for business. Provide an internal, online message board where they can share what they’ve learned. You can learn too.
- Do it yourself. You will not understand social media until you take part in it. You must devote the time necessary to learn this medium.
- Provide training for your distributors on how to use social media. If you don’t know yet how to do it yourself, hire someone who does. The more of your distributors that use social networking, the more positively it will impact your company’s bottom line.
By embracing social media as a legitimate marketing strategy, we as direct sales executives are poised to enable our distributors to enjoy increased profits and exposure. By crafting a marketing plan that includes social media, we are staying true to the foundations of direct selling and the social aspects of it, while taking our companies into the future.
My company, Learning is an Art, provides two different consultant “tracks.” One is the traditional home party consultant, who buys the full business kit containing products and marketing materials for $100. The other is our Digital Consultant track, that allows a consultant to run their business exclusively online, taking full advantage of social networking. We teach our consultants how to build a social network, and then use it to sell our products. This option only costs $25 to start, and we’re finding that’s very appealing to people that want to build a business, but don’t have a lot of capital. We provide the Digital Consultant training to ALL our distributors, however, because we want all of them to know how to use the tools.
We also have a presence ourselves as executives on these tools, which enable us to model for our consultants how to use them. I believe we may be one of the first DSA (Direct Selling Association) companies to provide for an exclusively-online consultant option, and I believe it holds real possibilities for the future of the industry.
Would you like to share your ideas, or go on this learning journey with me? Here’s how to contact me:
- Email: jennifer (at) learningisanart (dot) com
- Twitter: liajen
- Facebook: Jennifer Linnell Fong