Archive for the ‘direct sales’ Category

Whole FoodsThe article “5 Social Media Lessons Learned from Whole Foods” on Mashable has a number of useful strategies for direct sales companies who are considering a social media strategy. What I find most interesting is the approach Whole Foods takes on both a corporate level, as well as how it empowers its local stores to participate.

Some learnings that apply to direct sales companies:

  • Individuals in the corporate office who use Twitter in their official capacity are empowered to use it however they are comfortable, within a few guidelines. Some choose to share personal details, while others are strictly business. This enables each individual to come across as authentic.
  • The way different social media tools are used by Whole Foods is interesting, and I think the approach is something that would work well for direct selling. Twitter, for example, is mainly used for customer service. Facebook, with its multimedia rich tools, is used for embedding video and providing longer content. They also have a flickr page, corporate blog, videos on healthy cooking, and even a presence on Get Satisfaction, which is a customer feedback site. Their approach is “go where your customers are.” This is a good rule of thumb no matter what business you are in.
  • Whole Foods has a national approach at a corporate level, but is also mindful of the local level. It empowers individual store owners, and even specific depts, to provide info of interest to local customers. As direct sellers, we should consider how we can empower the sales force to work locally, while the company provides info of interest to a national or international audience. We should also train the sales force to use social media tools to tap into each seller’s local market more fully.
  • As a smaller, non-tech company, Whole Foods is achieving success over its competitors by being bold with its approach. While other companies are taking a wait and see approach, Whole Foods is diving in to social media, and seeing real success.
  • Participating in the conversation and allowing it to happen, even when that conversation is negative, provides value in the long run. You must be aware of what is being said about your company online, so you can address issues as needed.

I think the Whole Foods model definitely has elements that will work for direct sales companies, and is something that should be closely observed as direct selling companies put their social media marketing plans into place.

What do you think? Have you tried any of these strategies with your company? Has something else worked? Would love to read your comments below!

Photo Credit: adam*b

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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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

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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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CB101520If you’re in direct sales, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about social media.  Yes, you may have heard at your convention that people are starting to use it for their direct selling businesses.  Maybe your company has set up a Facebook Fan Page.  But do YOU need to get started?  Is it really worth the time you’ll need to invest to get it set up properly?  And then, do you have the time to maintain your social media presence once you’ve set everything up?

The answer is that now is the PERFECT time to put the power of social media to work for your business.  Think about it.  Direct sales is a networking business.  Our success comes from the number of people we can get in front of each month.  The more people that know about us and what we do, the more likely we will find the customers and team members that will help us achieve the success we’re dreaming of.

Social media is growing EXPONENTIALLY.  Every day, more and more people are signing up for accounts on tools such as Facebook and Twitter.  Consider these statistics:

  • Facebook is the largest social networking site (over 70 million users in the US alone)
  • More than 120 million users log on to Facebook each day
  • Twitter has more than 26.5 million US users monthly, and has grown 1,382% in the last year (475,000 users in Feb ’08 to 7,038,000 users in Feb ’09)

If you were invited to a party with that many people, and knew you could specifically meet the people in your target market at that party, would you show up?  Of course!!!  The more people you meet, the more money you make.  Of course, you have to use your networking skills.  You need to ask about others, make connections, give and share, and generally be a nice and helpful person that engages others.  However, at the end of the day, the law of averages states that you’ll find people who want to do business with you.

Despite the crazy numbers above, social media is still in its infancy.  If you want to ride the tidal wave to unprescendented growth, get started NOW, before the market is so flooded that your voice can’t be heard.  Establish yourself NOW within social media, and it will significantly benefit your business for years to come.

Want to learn more?  Sign up for my newsletter to find out about my training programs that teach you how to put these social media tools to work for your direct sales business.

What do you think?  Have you used social media to build your direct sales businness?  What results have you enjoyed?  Would love to read your comments below!

Slide 4

¢Largest social networking site (over 70 million users and counting in the US alone!)

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CB104391What leads to success in social media marketing?  As a direct sales professional, this is a fair question to ask as you weigh the time commitments involved against the expected return on investment.  Is social media going to provide the results that you hope for?  How long will it take?  Is it worth the effort?

As a social media consultant and trainer, I have the opportunity to work with both companies and individuals as they plan and implement a social media strategy.  And I have noticed a real indicator of success.  In fact, within 24 hours of working with a company or individual, I can pretty much tell you who is going to experience the most immediate success.  Perhaps it’s not so earth shattering or surprising what the key is.  What I have noticed is that those people who will be successful in social media is that they are willing to TAKE ACTION.

Makes sense, doesn’t it?  People who are willing to dive in head first, once they understand the benefits of social media for their business, are the ones who will be successful.  They don’t worry or let fear hold them back.  Instead, they start smart: identify objectives and narrowly focus on a specific target market.  They choose the tools that will help them meet their objectives.  And then they dive in with confidence, focused more on connecting with others than they are on what they might do wrong.

I was recently working with a direct sales company on their social media strategy, and before I was out the door they were already assigning action items to staff.  Before a week was up they already had a plan and a presence in social media, and within a week their Facebook fan page already had over 200 fans.

On an individual level, I have a student in one of my social media classes who downloads all the materials BEFORE the class session (I post them 24 hours before each class) and works through the materials before coming to class.  That way he’s already familiar with the application we’re talking about that week, and he’ll get even more from that week’s session.  He also knows the right questions to ask, and is ready to put himself out there so he can be successful.

In both of these scenarios, it’s the TAKE ACTION companies and individuals who will be the most successful.  Are things new?  Absolutely!  But with a plan in place and the instruction to back it up, these people are willing to focus on the goal, and as a result are displaying the confidence necessary to get the job done well.  Social media is all about jumping in and experiencing it, and also projecting the confidence which leads to success.  By avoiding hesitation and getting started in a smart way, people and companies are setting themselves up for success.

What do you think?  How does this relate to your start in social media?  Would love to read your comments below!

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