Let’s just get this out of the way. Direct sales is not easy. If it were, everyone would be successful at it. And, the fact is, most people are not.
When people start a direct sales business, whether it’s selling cookware, essential oils, or skin care, they think their friends and family will love it as much as they do and they’ll have an instant network of customers that will keep them in business. Or, they get super excited about their business because they love the product. Then they have to get out of their comfort zone and actually talk to other people about it. That’s when their business quickly becomes a hobby.
According to the Direct Selling Association, direct selling in the United States represented $35.4 billion in retail sales in 2018. It's a large industry, operating with a sales model that has worked for over a century. However, it's good to keep a few things in mind when you start a direct sales business:
Ok, now that we are clear on that. Let’s talk about what IS possible, and what does work in direct sales.
Direct sales is about selling products directly to consumers and building a network of customers and sales representatives. At the heart of direct sales is the power of storytelling, leading with value and building relationships. The direct sales industry has evolved, but those principles have remained constant.
What has changed in recent years is how the direct sales industry has embraced the power of the internet and social media to give direct sales representatives the opportunity to expand their networks further than ever before.
Technology has made it easier to reach customers outside our local market. However, the basics of direct sales have remained the same for over a century. Effective direct selling requires finding a target market and meeting their needs, building relationships, and using stories to sell. Those things haven’t gone out of fashion, as any successful direct sales leader will tell you. The vehicle we use may have changed, but the message is still the same.
So, how do you find your target market, develop relationships, and tell stories to market your direct sales business online? You use the power of inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing is using the internet to attract your ideal buyers. It involves using the following to attract customers who are looking for a solution to their problem.
Think of it this way; you are drawing targeted customers in rather than sending a message out to the masses.
Maybe you’ve been doing part of inbound marketing a while but didn’t even know it had a name. My guess is that if you found this article you have been using social media, and maybe blogging, to build your direct sales business. You have been using parts of inbound marketing. But, you may not be using it to its fullest potential, in an organized way that will yield the best results.
So, if you’re ready to grow beyond your current network of customers and expand your direct sales business, I’ll take you through the elements of inbound marketing that you can use today to see real results.
If you make a committed effort to use the approach that I outline below, you will stand out from your competition. Most direct sellers don’t use all of these practices. They pick the easy one, social media, and think that blasting promotional images on their Facebook page will bring in the sales. After reading this, you’ll know better and do better. Here we go!
The focus of your marketing should always be on your customer. Not on your product. Focus on serving their needs and adding value to their experience, and you will set yourself apart from the crowd.
The first thing you want to do is create a buyer persona profile. Your buyer persona will determine everything in your inbound marketing strategy. This semi-fictional generalized representation of your ideal customer is your north star in determining the content and promotion strategy of your direct sales business. Getting crystal clear on your persona is crucial.
To help you figure out who your ideal customer is, it’s helpful to think about their daily life, their problems, and their desires. Think about obstacles they face in their lives and how your product makes their lives easier.
People are motivated by love and status. How do your product and business opportunity specifically solve those needs? If you use that in your messaging, people will be compelled to use your products and join your team. Here are some examples:
My ideal buyer hates to cook. But she loves her family. Her family needs to eat. If she has an easier way to prepare nutritious, tasty meals, then she will be showing her family that she loves them.
My ideal buyer hates to shop for clothes in stores. But she needs to look good when she has video conferences with clients. Looking professional helps elevate her status as a virtual assistant. If she purchases my clothing online, she will have professional attire that is comfortable yet stylish.
My ideal team member is a work from home mom who had a professional career before having children. She loves staying home with her family but misses the feeling of accomplishment, confidence, and status that she enjoyed when she worked outside the home. If she starts her own direct sales business, she will put her skills to use and once again have that feeling of accomplishment that she craves.
You can see that once you are clear on who you are speaking to, it becomes easier to craft a message that resonates with your ideal buyer.
You’re clear on your buyer persona. Now it’s time to get clear on who you are and how you can set yourself apart from others in your company and your industry.
Answer these questions to create your brand:
Your direct sales company will provide you with a replicated website from which customers can make purchases. It’s the same as every other representative’s corporate site. What we’re suggesting here is that you start your own website and include a blog. Put the power of content marketing to work for your direct sales business.
**Check with your company's policies first and make sure you are allowed to have your own website. They may allow one as long as you do not sell from it, but use it to educate and inform your audience and team members.**
When you have a blog, you have a vehicle to answer potential customers’ and team members’ questions. It gives you content to share on social media and a platform that you can use to differentiate yourself from others in your company. You become a trusted authority on your product line and a helpful friend who offers advice and value, taking the sale further and building a relationship.
Another reason to have a blog is that it helps you show up in search engine results. A blog is great for SEO because it provides content that can be found when your potential customers search for either your brand or solutions that your product provides.
Need more convincing? Read our article on the reasons direct sales consultants should blog.
Once your blog is set up, you’ll want to optimize it for search engines. When someone does a search for your product, you want to come up on the first page of Google. How do you do that? You need to optimize your website and follow SEO best practices.
You’ll start by doing keyword research around your product and the problems it solves. Come up with a list of questions your customers ask before buying your product. Then write blog articles on those topics and add an FAQ section to your website. For help in this area, be sure to check out our article on how to find blog topics that improve SEO.
You’ll also want to install Google Analytics on your website and track how your website is performing in search. You can use Google Analytics to track keyword performance and the behavior of users on your website. These metrics will help you adjust your content strategy to improve your website's search performance.
If you have a self-hosted WordPress site, we recommend installing a plugin such as Yoast SEO or WP Meta SEO to guide you in optimizing your blog for search engines.
A word here about Pinterest. Pinterest is a search engine, not a social media platform. So, be sure to optimize your blog post images for Pinterest and enable rich pins. Set up a Pinterest account for your business. Then learn how to use it for your direct sales business.
Learn more about Pinterest SEO.
In social selling, which is what direct sales is, we attract people who want to socialize with us, be it online or in person. We attract people who aspire to be like us, trust and agree with our opinions, and enjoy our personality. Use the power of attraction in your branding and social media presence.
Here are a few ways to use attraction marketing in your direct sales business:
Your goal is to quickly establish a relationship with your readers and social media followers. They should get an idea of who you are, your personality, your values, and your mission within a few posts.
More than any other aspect of marketing, social media has revolutionized the way direct sellers have built their businesses over the past ten years. Social media has allowed direct sales consultants to reach a wider audience than ever before while building relationships and spreading their message quickly.
However, along with the good, there has come some bad. Social media is very powerful, yes, but using social media improperly can turn off your friends and customers. Have you ever been added to a direct sales consultant’s Facebook group without your permission? Have your friends blasted their business posts daily, clogging up your newsfeed?
Avoid sending unsolicited messages to your friends about your business. Direct messaging can be a good way to offer help and keep the lines of communication open with your customers. But, follow DM best practices and don't spam your friends and customers.
The better way to do it is to lead with relationship and value. Be authentic and be a friend first. Attract people to your business by showing how fun it is, how useful the products are and how your business is making you happy and fulfilling your family’s needs.
Two effective ways to build your following on social media are through the power of community and the power of storytelling.
A highly effective way to build your customer base, establish a relationship with them, and keep them coming back for more is to bring your followers into your tribe. Using a Facebook group as your home base, engage your community with helpful posts, entertain them with your personality, and treat them like they are part of an exclusive clan. The most successful direct sales Facebook groups are not the ones that constantly promote products; they are the ones that people look forward to checking every day because there is always something fun going on in the group.
Make your group special by posting exclusive content there. Don’t cross-post the same things on your other social accounts. Otherwise, there is no reason for them to engage with your group.
Be sure you’re also helping build relationships among your group members. People want to hang out with people they know. Use engaging posts to get members to reveal things about themselves so they can get to know each other.
Words tell, and stories sell. Use storytelling to draw your followers in and allow them to get to know you and your product line authentically. It’s tempting to want to post about products by telling what they do. Focus instead on how they change your life for the better. Tell stories about how you use your products in everyday life. Include images and video that grab your followers’ attention and pull them into the scene.
Invite your followers and customers to be a part of the story. Ask them to tell you how they use the products and what their experience has been since they started using them. This provides social proof that the products work and make people’s lives better.
Don’t forget that social media is meant to be social. Follow the 80/20 rule on all of your social channels. 80% of your posts should be offer value and be engaging while 20% of your posts should be directly about your business. Cinchshare offers some great ideas about what to post 80% of the time to keep your followers engaged.
Before I make a purchase, I like to know what other people think of the product. Don’t you? The same applies in direct sales. That’s one of the reasons home parties work so well in direct sales. We like to hear from others who have used the product. If the party hostess loves the product enough to invite people into her home to buy it, that’s the first step in knowing it’s worth checking out.
In online marketing, reviews and testimonials are even more important. If we’re purchasing something sight unseen, we want to know that others use it and love it. Testimonials are also powerful because we want to have things that other people have and love. We often purchase so that we can be “on trend.”
Include reviews and testimonials on your website, social media accounts, and your Facebook group. Give people an easy way to review your product. Then highlight customers who have given you glowing testimonials. It provides social proof that the products are amazing, leading to more sales.
Customers love to get a shout-out on social media. Make customer spotlights a regular part of your social media strategy. You will get even more reviews and testimonials because your customers will want to be the next ones in the spotlight.
The same strategy works for team building. Highlight your team members as they grow their businesses. People love praise recognition and will often work harder for it than for money. Be their biggest cheerleader and make sure they know you are grateful for them.
Use video in your direct sales business. It’s so easy, and nothing can help you build a relationship with your customers as fast. All you need is your computer or cell phone, and you can go live on your social channels. It gives your customers a way to put a face and a voice to the name and really humanizes your business.
Use video to build your business in the following ways:
Having a large social media following and email list is one thing. Converting those people into customers is another. Set up lead generation funnels so that your followers have ways consume your content and then purchase from you. Always point them in the direction you want them to go with clear calls to action.
Places you want to funnel people to are: your Facebook group, your blog, your email list, and your replicated website. If you are adding value and building relationships at all of these touchpoints, they will purchase from you when the time is right for them to order.
Let’s not forget the power of in-person networking in building your business. When you meet people at events, home parties, and in daily life, be sure to send them to your website and social channels. Lead with value and give them a reason to follow you. Then start to build the relationship with them online.
One effective way to do this is to take a selfie with the person you meet (with their permission of course) and tell them you want to post it on your Facebook or Instagram page. Tell them to like your page (right then and there) and then tag them in the post. Make it fun, and they will want to join your community. Then send them invites to your email list, your Facebook group, and your blog.
The internet has changed the way direct sales businesses are built. Using effective digital marketing practices to attract customers to your direct sales business provides limitless ways to grow your reach online. Never forget the founding principles of direct sales - use the power of storytelling, lead with value and build relationships – and your business will no doubt grow as you learn to master marketing in your direct sales business.
Need a road map for creating a digital marketing strategy for your direct sales business? Our Simplified Digital Marketing course is perfect for you! Learn more by clicking below.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on April 4, 2018 and has been updated with fresh content.
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