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Archive for the ‘Content marketing’ Category

j0438691Do you have a newsletter for your direct sales business? Perhaps your company provides you with one (hopefully it’s one that you can add content to yourself), or maybe you create and send one yourself. Regardless of the source, an e-newsletter is an important part of your overall social media strategy. Why? Because content marketing is essentially about lead generation. Once people opt-in through your blog or Facebook Page, then you have permission to market to them. And the best way to market is a content-driven approach through the vehicle of your newsletter.

So what makes a great e-newsletter? First of all, there still needs to be content. Remember, people opt-in for content. They don’t opt-in for ads. If you’re just going to be a commercial, don’t even bother. There’s a reason most e-newsletters have a 5-10% open rate. There needs to be a compelling reason for people to open your newsletter…there must be something in it for them. So be sure you’ve got GREAT content that is very relevant to the target market you’re trying to reach. Just like with your blog content, the content in your newsletter should be free and actionable steps that your target market can use right now without spending a dime.

Once you’ve created some great content, then you can include a special offer or product/opportunity highlight that may be of interest to your target market. I like to refer to this as the “content sandwich.” Make sure you surround your advertising with great content that will draw people in. That will lead to more success than just flinging ads at people. And be sure you’re including visuals. People will more easily consume your content if you give them a visual break. So learn how to add pictures through whichever program you’re using, and use them often to highlight the content and offers you’re making.

If you’re a direct sales company, consider providing your sales force with a newsletter service that allows them to add a content-driven article, based on the needs of the target market they’ve defined. However be sure that you as a company are also providing content that will go even if the salesperson doesn’t have time to add an article. That way all prospects are gaining value from your company, and will be receiving the all-important follow-up that leads to sales and reorders.

And if you’re a salesperson with a company that does not provide you with an e-newsletter (and understand that it’s an investment that not all companies are able to make right now), you can still create your own. Services such as Constant Contact and AWeber (my personal favorite) provide attractive templates that you can use to follow up regularly with your prospects and customers (as well as provide regularly-scheduled training to your team if there’s a robust auto-responder like the one AWeber offers.) You’ll pay a monthly fee for these services, but often just one sale as a result of this follow-up will pay for the month’s service.

Finally, be very sure that you don’t use your e-newsletter to spam anyone. Remember, people MUST opt-in for your newsletter, or else it’s considered spam. So don’t sign up your friends, your mother, and your dog for your newsletter without being sure you have permission. A simple strategy is simply to ask every contact, “Would you like to receive a free copy of my newsletter, which has great articles about…?” If they say yes, then you have permission to send it.

By making your e-newsletter a strategic part of your overall content marketing strategy, you will be able to provide the follow-up necessary to convert social networking contacts into customers and recruits for your business.

What do you think? Do you provide a newsletter for your prospects? What do you include? How does it work for you? Would love to read your comments below!

Note to Readers: This blog is moving!  I am in the process of 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 and I will no longer be updating this site.  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

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CB107234One of the biggest concerns I hear from direct sellers when they contemplate blogging is the fear of what to write about.  “How will I think up new stuff to write all the time?”  “I’m not an expert on anything!”  As a result, they paralyze themselves into complete inaction.

But here’s a news flash.  Your blog doesn’t HAVE to be a great work of literature (in fact it shouldn’t be!)  And it doesn’t have to be the length of War & Peace either (and it shouldn’t be!)  Here’s a little test.  Get out a pen right now, and come up with 3 things your customer can do right now to solve a problem he/she has.  Now this should not involve BUYING anything.  Instead, if you sell kitchen products, it might be 1) Plan weekly menus, 2) Prep veggies ahead of time, and 3) Stock up on staples.  Quick and easy, right?  And that’s the foundation of a blog post…3 quick and easy ways to save yourself headaches at dinnertime.

Don’t let your need to be perfect or your fear of not having all the answers keep you from writing the blog that will help you make more money!  Just get out there, share little tips, and make the world a little better for someone.  After all, someone NEEDS your content right now!  You are solving PROBLEMS, after all.  Don’t keep it to yourself!  Get out there and start blogging!  You’ll be glad you did.

And if you’re ready to start blogging for your direct sales business, you may be interested in my new course, Blogging for Direct Sellers.  You can get all the details by clicking here.

What do you think?  How have you overcome your fear and gotten started blogging?  Would love to read your comments below!

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CB107250Social media activities for direct sellers are primarily focused around two activities: relationship development and list building.  Through a content-marketing strategy, a direct seller provides free, actionable content that prospects can use right now without spending a dime.  After that, the direct seller builds relationships with prospects through social networking tools, and invites those prospects to consume her content.  If the prospect finds value in the content, that prospect may subscribe, and at that point, the list begins to be built.  You ONLY have permission to market to that prospect once they have opted in to your list.

As you can see, the foundational element of the entire social media strategy is the content.  Without content, you have nowhere to send people.  Without content, there is nothing to entice people to sign up for your list.

I believe that the BEST way to build a list is to start with a blog.  Prospects are more likely to sign up for your list because they know if they do, they will receive more content.  So it’s important to get inside your target market’s head, understand the type of content they’re looking for (related to your product line), and produce it on a regular basis.

So for example, let’s say you sell skincare products.  Your prospect will NOT say to herself, “What skincare solution should I buy?”  That’s not how she self-identifies needs.  Instead, she might say, “I see some fine lines on my skin.  I wonder what I can do to make those go away?”  See the difference?  She identifies PROBLEMS.  Not PRODUCTS.

Now on your blog, you should NOT be a sales pitch.  Your company’s replicated website already serves that purpose.  Instead, tell them through your blog what they can do right now, for free, to solve those problems.  What can they use that’s already in the house?  What lifestyle changes can they make?  By being generic with your advice, people come to know, like, and trust you without feeling like they’re going to be subjected to a constant stream of advertisements.  And once they trust you, they’re more likely to sign up for your list.

If you’d like to learn more about how to get inside your prospects’ heads, develop a blogging strategy, and create a blog optimized for a direct sales business, I invite you to check out my new course, Blogging for Direct Sellers.  This 2 session course, held at the end of August and recorded, will help you get started with your social media marketing strategy, and provide you with a home base where you can invite your prospects to join your list.  I would love to have you join us.  Learn more by clicking here.

So now it’s your turn!  Are you currently using a blog for your business?  How is it working for you?  Or have you held back from creating a blog?  Why?  Would love to read your comments below!

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crowd by James CridlandThe true value in using social media to find more customers for your direct sales business comes from going where the people are.  It’s a basic rule of sales, based on the law of averages…the more people you have access to, the more likely you are to find people who want to buy from you.  Unfortunately, some direct sellers translate this into thinking they need to join EVERY social media site that’s out there.  People often ask me, “is there a way to update all these sites at the same time? I need to have time to work on my business too!  And do I need to be on EVERY site my prospects are on?”

These are GREAT questions.  If you’ve been reading my blog for any period of time, you know that I recommend that you avoid services such as ping.fm that allow you to update your status on multiple social media sites at the same time. The audiences for each of these social networking sites is different, and the way you should be interacting with them is different.  Plus, relationship building requires your presence.

But then how do you ever get the rest of your work done if you have to visit each site individually?  If you’re in direct sales, you need to be meeting with customers, hostess coaching and doing parties (if you’re in party plan), providing customer service and follow-up in order to generate rebookings/reorders, etc.  There are simply not enough hours in the day to add a multitude of social media sites and build relationships on all of them well.

schedule by jrvetstonYou know what?  You are absolutely right.  There AREN’T enough hours in the day to be on every social media site there is, and still run your business well.  And that’s why you should be choosy.  As the title of this post says, less is more.  Rather than trying to find every single prospect that may possibly exist on every single social networking site that’s out there (and then not be able to do the relationship-building activities required to turn them from prospects into customers), instead focus on just a few sites with the highest population of your targeted niche market.

In my opinion, the best sites for direct sellers to focus on are Facebook (#1…biggest social networking site with the most people who are mostly in our main demographic), Twitter (when you’ve dried up that group of family & friends and are ready to build relationships with new people), and LinkedIn (where you can connect with people that may become business building recruits.)  You may also find niche-specific groups that are specific to your target market, where you’ll be able to build the relationships that lead to success.

Now this is not to say that new sites won’t emerge in the future (and when I know about them you can be SURE I’ll write about there here, so be sure you’re subscribed.)  But for now, if you’re just getting your feet wet in social media, start with Facebook.  Most connections are based on an underlying relationship that’s already established, and it’s a great and comfortable way to get started in social networking.  Plus the viral-sharing capabilities in Facebook make it a great way to share information without spamming anyone.  (And DON’T be one of those direct sellers posting things like “Join my business!” “We’re having a SALE!” “I need 2 more hostesses this month.” People don’t like it and they will ignore you in large measure.  While you may get 1 or 2 customers from this strategy, you will gain a lot more over time if you skip the spam and employ a thoughtful content-marketing strategy.)

So remember, less is more!  Don’t join every social networking site there is and overwhelm yourself.  You also don’t want to get so busy with social networking that you forget your income-producing activities!  By being strategic in the sites that you join, you’ll experience a lot more success in your social media marketing.

Now it’s your turn!  What sites are you a part of?  How do you manage the time and relationships?  How does it relate to your overall business?  Would LOVE to read your comments below!

Jennifer Fong

Photo Credits: James Cridland, jrvetson (Creative Commons license on Flickr)

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Facebook Page suggestionThis post was written because my friend Heather McCarron Allard over at The Mogul Mom blog, where I’m a regular columnist, asked for it.  You see, sometimes when I’m trying to think up great blog posts, I ask for help from my regular readers.  After all, you all come and subscribe to my blog because the content is helpful to you.  So who better to ask when I’m trying to come up with more content that’s helpful?  So I put out on Facebook a request for topics that my readers would find helpful.  And here’s what Heather wrote to me:

I get SO MANY requests to “Become a fan” of XYZ’s page on Facebook and sometimes I think to myself, “WHY??” Not to be rude, but to discover the value of becoming a fan. What are people doing with all these fans? Does it strengthen their brand? I would love to know more. 😉

So today’s topic is Facebook Pages.  What are they?  Do direct sales companies really need them?  Do direct sellers need them?  And if so, where do they fall within the entire social media marketing framework?  How do they benefit your brand?  Heather, this one’s for you. 🙂

Starbucks_PageA Facebook Page is a marketing tool that businesses can use to build brand awareness, engage prospects, and promote viral visibility.  The only part of Facebook that is by default indexed by Google, they are good way to improve your business search engine rankings, and help people find your business.  Companies such as Coca Cola, Starbucks, and Victoria’s Secret have all had great success engaging their target markets through their fan pages, and you can put this power to work for your business too.  While you are only allowed one personal profile on Facebook (per Facebook terms of service), you can have multiple business pages.

I recently did an informal poll of direct sellers, asking them what the number one thing they wished their direct sales company would do in social media to support them.  Surprisingly, the number one answer was that they wanted their companies to have a regularly-updated Facebook page.  A consultant-facing Facebook page that contains contests and incentives for consultants, specials that consultants can pass along to their customers and prospects, photos of fun events such as recognition, team meetings, and convention, etc, can all be a way to engage consultants, helping them to be a part of the community, and providing them with tools they can use to market their own businesses successfully using social media.

Vantel_PageFor independent direct sellers, a Facebook page is an OPTION, but in my opinion not a necessity.  Since a direct seller’s primary purpose in social media is to build relationships and drive traffic to a site (such as a blog) with the conversion objective of subscribing (you want people to come to your blog and subscribe, so that you then have permission to do more overt marketing), you can just as easily (or more easily) build relationships through your personal Facebook profile.  If it is important to you to have a separate business presence on Facebook, a page is the way to go, but realize that it will take work and time to build an engaging presence that causes you to benefit from this presence.  Some of the benefits of a Facebook page include the fact that Facebook caps your number of profile friends to 2,000, while a Facebook page can have an unlimited number of fans.  You can also add some nice applications to your Facebook page, making it interactive.  However, your page needs to be compelling and, frankly, fun enough for people to want to come back.  If your page is just an unending series of ads that provides value for no one but you, even if people become fans they’re not likely to come back.

So that brings us to the value proposition of your Facebook page, as well as Heather’s question.  She gets plenty of invitations to become a fan of friends’ pages.  But the question is WHY?  What’s in it for her?  If you don’t have a compelling answer to that question, you shouldn’t be creating a Facebook page in the first place.

Consultant_PageYour entire social media marketing strategy should be designed around the concept of providing value, positioning yourself as an expert, and providing the content that people need to solve their self-defined problems right now.  (“Self-defined” is the key term here.  You must get inside your prospect’s head.  People don’t say to themselves “I wish I knew which widgets to buy.”  They have PROBLEMS they define such as “I wish I knew what to do to relax and relieve stress.”)  Then, as part of your marketing strategy, you provide free, actionable content that provides solutions.  So in the context of your Facebook fan page, you might import your blog that contains helpful articles, and provide little tips through your status updates.  You might have someone design and build an engaging application for your page where people measure their stress level.    Notice you’re not pitching products with this approach.

Now that said, you can have a section on your page where you share the monthly specials.  People understand to an extent that a Facebook page is about business.  But if your Facebook page is an unending sales pitch, I don’t need to show up for that.  I’ve got commercials on TV that give me my fill of ADVERTISING.  This, instead, is MARKETING, and there’s a difference.  You must meet people at their point of need, and create the value that causes people to want to know more about you and what you have to offer.  It’s an engagement process.

When you succeed in providing a Facebook page that provides value, it does strengthen your brand.  Your fans are more likely to return because they’re engaged, and they’re also more likely to refer their friends.  The image and video files you share through your page can help you gain viral visibility through the news feeds of your fans.  And you can gain more readers for your blog (with its conversion objective of subscribers) by sharing it on your page.  The more interactions you have with someone through your page, the more they’ll remember you when it’s time to  make a purchase.

If you decide that a Facebook page is the way to go, I encourage you to check out my friend John Haydon’s blog.  Here’s got a great post on “How to Create a Facebook Page in Less than 4 Minutes.” But remember that’s just the creation.  Then you have the responsibility of creating an environment on that page that provides interactivity and value.  If you’re not willing to invest the time and effort that that will require, you may be better off sticking with marketing through your Facebook Profile. (And incidentally, I don’t have a Facebook page myself.  I have generated tremendous business simply through my profile and other social media tools, and have not felt the need to add a page I’ll have to support to the mix.  Will I one day?  Perhaps, when I hit the 2,000 friend limit on my Facebook profile.  But for now, I’d rather spend my efforts on other marketing efforts.)

What do you think?  Do you have a Facebook page?  Has it helped your business?  Would love to read your comments below!

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WAHM 2.0 Direct Sales Blog

WAHM 2.0 Direct Sales Blog

One of my favorite direct sales blogs is Laurie Ayers’ and Leslie Truex’s WAHM 2.0 blog.   If you haven’t read it, you really should, and you should also consider subscribing.  They really have a handle on the issues that today’s direct sellers face, and always share great ideas.

I enjoyed Laurie’s article today: 7 Replicated Website Mistakes.  You can read the whole article here: http://www.sparkplugging.com/wahm/7-replicated-website-mistakes/

While the article today raises some important issues about what you should consider when customizing the website that your company provides to you (which is an important part of your overall social media strategy), what I really wanted to point out today is that this blog is a really good example of a blog designed for recruiting.  Now I don’t know Laurie and Leslie, and I have no idea if this blog is actually designed for recruiting, but it is a good example of a blog that COULD be used for recruiting.

CBR001028It’s pretty easy to design a blog to find new customers for your business.  Simply identify the problems your customers have (related to your product line), and then provide simple, actionable solutions that your prospects can use right now without spending a dime.  As your readers come to know, like, and trust you, they may become customers for your business.

I’ve noticed, however, that people struggle more with recruiting blogs.  Perhaps it’s because we get into this recruiting mode where we only have one language that we use.  “Are you living your dreams?” we ask.  “Do you need extra cash?”  But the problem with this approach in a social media arena is that people are very wary of hype.  They’ve heard that too many times from aggressive, unscrupulous people, and so red flags go up any time they see those phrases.

So a soft sell is a much more effective strategy.  Instead of recreating the opportunity section of your company’s replicated website, instead solve PROBLEMS for your prospects, just like you would with a customer-facing blog, and keep it company neutral (don’t pitch your specific opportunity here.)  Some ideas include:

  • How can you manage working from home while keeping the kids entertained?
  • What technology do you absolutely need to work from home?
  • How do you evaluate a direct sales opportunity? (you might provide a link to the EXCELLENT http://www.directselling411.com produced by Amy Robinson at the DSA)
  • Websites to meet other work at home moms
  • Ways to be a more effective direct seller

And many other things.  The point is to be a valuable, company-neutral voice, with an opportunity to subscribe to your newsletter for more information.  (Sign up for my newsletter here.)  When you do so, people don’t get their backs up so quickly, and are more willing to consider what it is you have to say.  People will most likely be in the research phase when they discover your blog, and if you become a trusted resource, they will come to know, like, and trust you.  Then, when they begin to consider specific opportunities, they are more likely to consider yours (which you highlight on your About Me page, as well as in your content-rich e-newsletter.)

What are your thoughts?  Do you maintain a blog designed to find more consultants to join your team?  Would love to read what you think in the comments below!

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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.
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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

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