As the direct sales industry transitions from home parties to online selling, direct sales consultants are often left wondering how to market their businesses online successfully. I’m not suggesting that home parties are a thing of the past. However, as the internet makes the opportunity to start a direct sales business easier and more appealing to a new generation of home-based entrepreneurs, direct sales companies are leveraging the accessibility of the internet to attract new consultants.
The problem is that many companies haven’t yet figured out how to train their consultants in effective online marketing strategies. What ends up happening is that consultants play follow the leader and do what their upline instructs them to do or what they see other consultants doing – often with detrimental results.
You may have joined your direct sales company because you thought it would be easy to market your products online; just start posting on Facebook and Instagram and your friends and followers will want to buy your jewelry, makeup, or essential oils. The truth is that while your friends and family may support your new business, their purchases won’t be enough to grow your business beyond a hobby. Worse yet your social media posts may begin to annoy your friends and family. That gives you and the direct sales industry as a whole a bad rap.
I've been in direct sales myself for 15 years. I've seen it happen and have learned a few lessons myself. Fortunately, there is a better way.
To sustain and grow your business, you will want to use the power of inbound marketing to reach new potential customers. One of the facets of inbound marketing that will help you attract a wide audience is content marketing. Content marketing is the use of published content, in the form of blog posts, videos, social media posts, and email messages, to attract and connect with a target audience. To use content effectively, you’ll need a content marketing strategy.
Copyblogger defines a content marketing strategy as:
“ A content marketing strategy is a plan for building an audience by publishing, maintaining, and spreading frequent and consistent content that educates, entertains, or inspires to turn strangers into fans and fans into customers.” – Demian Farnworth, Copyblogger
I particularly like this definition because it emphasizes content that educates, entertains, or inspires. In direct selling, it’s important to create a following of fans and customers who know, like, and trust you. By creating a connection with your readers based on mutual interests and aspirations, you become a trusted friend, someone they want to hang out with online. Once strangers begin to trust you, they are more likely to purchase your products.
Your first instinct when writing content may be to write about your products and how to join your company. But, you know how it feels when someone you meet hits you with “buy my stuff” or “join my team” without getting to know you first? It feels icky. Avoid that. Write content that shows who you are as a person – your obsessions, your life, your family, your struggles, and celebrations. Be a human being first, direct sales consultant second. Then as people get to know you, they will be more receptive when you publish content about your products, how to use them, and what’s on sale.
Brenda Ster, Social Media Consultant and Founder of Sassy Suite, describes a successful content marketing strategy as focusing on the “3 Ps” - content that is purposeful, shows your personality, and is promotional. Most of the focus should be on the first two – purposeful and personality. Promotional content should appear less frequently in your content strategy.
Now that you have an idea of what a content marketing strategy is let’s dive in and piece together how you, as a direct sales consultant, can create a content marketing strategy to build your customer base.
A strategy begins with a goal. Begin with the end in mind. Then work backward. What are your objectives as a direct sales consultant? There are four main objectives for your content strategy:
Objective #1 Fill Your Sales Funnel
Objective #2 Gain Followers
Objective #3 Increase Sales
Objective #4 Add Team Members
Each of these objectives impacts the next one. Fill your funnel by attracting your target buyers, and you will gain new followers (social media followers and email subscribers). Followers will become customers, and some may become team members.
So, how do you fill your sales funnel? How do you increase the number of people that see your content on a consistent basis as they move toward making a purchase? That’s where content marketing comes in. A content marketing strategy follows a series of steps that parallels the buyer’s journey from stranger to customer.
Visualize the customer journey like this:
Search engine or social media search answers to a question or solutions to a problem > Find blog article or social media post that answers question > Follow blog or social media account > Download offer that makes life better in exchange for email address > Enjoy blog or social media account and develop a connection with the direct sales consultant > Buy product on the recommendation of consultant and other followers > Become loyal customer
Visualize your content marketing strategy like this:
Buyer persona + Keyword research > Create engaging content that attracts readers and followers by answering their questions and solving their problems > Offer irresistible resources > Capture email addresses > Build relationships > Convert into customers & team members > Delight with excellent content and customer service
Once you’ve decided to use content marketing in your direct sales business, you will need to determine the topics that are of interest to your target audience. Your goal is to attract new customers who are searching for solutions to their problems. The answer is in keyword research as well as knowing the needs and desires of your target buyer. We’ve written about these two topics previously, so I will refer you to two articles which will help you understand your target customers and create a list of topics that will appeal to them.
How Buyer Personas Shape the Way Your Business Connects – Knowing the day-to-day life of your customers and their needs, wants, struggles, and motivations will help you write content that appeals to them and connects with them on a deep level. It may be tempting to skip this step because your buyer is likely someone very much like yourself but creating a buyer persona will help you dig deeper and will set your messaging and blog content apart from others in your company. Our buyer persona template will help you.
After you’ve determined your buyers’ pain points, you’re ready to do some keyword research so search engines can find your blog articles.
How to Find Blog Topics That Improve SEO – To gain new customers, you have to get the right people to your website. This article will guide you through the process of keyword research to determine what your target buyer is searching for online. This will help you create blog topics that attract your potential customers.
Once you have clearly defined your buyer persona and keywords, it’s time to start creating content. Make a list of topics that you can write about and plan them out using a content calendar. Vary your topics to keep your readers and followers interested and looking forward to the next article or post.
So, you’re probably wondering, where am I supposed to publish content? Do I need a website with a blog? Are there any alternatives? Let’s examine the options.
If you’re wondering whether or not it’s worth the time and expense to start a blog, you’ll want to check out our article Should I Have a Blog for my Direct Sales Business. The short answer is that it depends.
If you will commit the time to publishing content on your blog consistently and create a strategy for promoting your blog articles on social media, then the answer is yes. A blog is the best way to develop a body of content that you personally own, that’s branded and is uniquely yours.
You’ll be able to add landing pages and forms to build your list of email subscribers. You’ll have a place where you can provide resources for your customers. Blogs are also great for SEO. Having your website served up in searches can help you stand apart from other consultants in your company. There is a lot you can do with a blog, and it will serve as the hub for your content marketing.
If you cannot invest the time into researching keywords, writing articles, creating resources, and promoting your content, then the answer is no. Skip the blog and develop an alternate plan.
If the thought of starting a website and writing blog articles is daunting, there are alternatives. Although starting a website doesn’t require you to be as tech-savvy as you may think, I understand it’s not for everyone. You will want to investigate microblogging.
Microblogging, or short-form blogging, is a method of publishing short blog articles as social media posts. You may have seen Facebook and Instagram posts that are longer than normal and read like a short blog article. That’s microblogging. Twitter and Tumbler are other popular microblogging platforms. The advantage of microblogging is that it gives you the opportunity to connect with your followers in a deeper way. Since posts are published directly on social media channels, there is an immediacy that can’t be obtained through traditional blog articles.
Assuming they take the time to read the entire post and engage with it by sharing, commenting, or liking the post, it can help increase your page’s reach.
If you’ve been in the direct sales industry a while, you’ve probably heard the saying “Facts tell, stories sell.” In your home parties you’ll have higher sales if you tell stories about the products and how they improve your life rather than drone on about their features. The same advice goes for writing content. Write in the voice of a trusted friend, using stories rather than facts.
Going back to the definition of a content marketing strategy, write content that educates, entertains and inspires.
This may be the easiest type of content for you to write. We love our products and teaching others how to use them, right? Create content that demonstrates the amazing abilities of your product, how it makes life easier, how it transforms the ordinary into something extraordinary, how it speaks to your heart and touches those who receive it as a gift. Educate your audience on how to use the products to get the best results, complete with images and instructions. Better yet, educate them on ways to use the product that they may have never thought of. Set yourself apart from others in your company by having the best, most creative ideas. Make a video showing the use of the product. The ways to educate your audience are limitless.
Besides educating your audience on the uses of your product, I challenge you to educate them about other things related to your product. Product-related posts can cross over into “promotional” territory, so balance it with educational posts about related topics. For example, if you sell jewelry, write about fashion and style trends. If your product is kitchenware, post recipes. If essential oils are your thing, write about health and wellness.
Entertaining content makes you relatable and shows your audience that you’re someone who experiences the same silly life moments that they experience. Everyone loves a great gif, so gif away! Your buyers will love knowing that you have a sense of humor and don’t take life too seriously. Entertaining content is your opportunity to show your personality (one of the 3 Ps). If your readers fall in love with your personality, they will keep coming back for more.
Add some content that inspires others to be their best self, to take action, or to do good in the world. People want to do business with people who are good human beings, who have the same aspirations and are inspired by life. Write about how you overcame a difficult situation, let your audience in to see who you are as a person. Creating that human connection with them helps develop deeper relationships with your customers.
Beyond blog articles and social media posts, it’s important to offer something of value to your potential customers that is tangible and irresistible. Create downloadable freebies such as checklists and eBooks and offer them in exchange for your reader’s email address. You can also use quizzes and giveaways to collect email addresses. You can learn more about creating quizzes for your direct sales blog here.
You can also think of your social media accounts as a valuable resource. Use your Instagram account and Facebook VIP group to provide unique and valuable content that will hook your followers. By making your social accounts THE place to get updates about product specials and your best ideas and behind-the-scenes glimpses into your life and your business, your followers will stay tuned for the latest and greatest from you.
Pinterest has been a very successful platform for many direct sellers and bloggers. Be sure you are using Pinterest as another place to offer valuable content. Check out Pinterest SEO in 2018 for the latest on using Pinterest for your business.
In step 3 you guided people to your email list by offering valuable resources in exchange for their email address. The reason to do that is so that you can continue to build a relationship with them via email. The email addresses you collect are gold. You now have a list of contacts that you own and a way to connect with your customers directly. Treat your email contacts like royalty. Give them the best information that can’t be found anywhere else. If they want your secret special best stuff, they have to be subscribed to your list.
How often should you email your contacts? A good rule of thumb is no more than once a week unless there’s something urgent like a special sale that you want to let your customers know about.
This step isn’t specifically about content marketing strategy. It’s more about the benefits of all of the content marketing you’ve been doing up to this point. If you’ve been following all the steps above, you’ve been working toward building relationship with your potential customers.
Like any relationship, the relationship you have with your customers is a two-way street. Give more than you take and reciprocate the attention they give you. What I mean by that is, on Instagram, follow people back and engage with their posts. If they join your Facebook group, send them a friend request and get to know them. If they refer customers to you, send them a thank you message. As you get to know your customers better, you’ll come across opportunities to suggest products you think they will like or helpful tips you think they will enjoy. Wish them happy birthday, offer sympathy when they are going through a hard time, and laugh with them. The internet has made it easy to become friends with strangers. It’s a special opportunity to connect with others who share similar interests.
So, now we’ve come to the ultimate goal – gaining new customers and team members. By using content to attract people who are looking for what you offer, becoming a trusted source of education, entertainment and inspiration, and developing a relationship with your readers and followers, you are now in the unique position of being looked upon as the go-to person in your company to fill their needs and provide solutions to their problems – solutions that include your product line.
Again, you’ll use content to help you achieve your goal. This time the goal is to nurture your customers into becoming customers and team members.
Your readers and followers are just waiting for the right time and the right reason to purchase. When the time is right and they need the product you sell, they will purchase and they’ll purchase from you because you are top of mind. Stay on their radar by continuing to provide value and also make it easy for them to connect with you and to purchase from you.
On social media it’s not always easy to know how to make a purchase, so include links in your profile to your other corporate website. On Instagram, use a tool like linktree which gives you a way to optimize the one link that you’re allowed in your profile, taking followers to a page that includes links to all of your other ways to connect, including your blog, your corporate website, Pinterest profile, Facebook VIP group, Join My Team page, and more.
When your audience is interacting with you on social media and reading your blog posts, you can bet that they are asking themselves, “Could I do this too? Could I sell this product? I love these products but could I really sell them and be successful.” Use content to answer those questions. Include blog articles covering topics about how to run a successful business. Include helpful tips and tutorials on business-related topics. Become known as the consultant who knows how to run a business and is willing to show others how to be successful as well. Your potential team members will see you as a good mentor, someone they will enjoy learning from and partnering with.
Be sure you measure and analyze the results of your content marketing strategy. Are you gaining new followers and subscribers, improving your search engine rankings, getting good engagement on your social channels and your emails, increasing sales and adding team members? You’ll want to make adjustments over time as you learn what your customers respond to and what actions help you meet your goals.
If you’ve read this far, you may be wondering if all of this effort is worth it. If you are committed to building a successful direct sales business online then absolutely it is worth it. You’re running a small business, and to be found online and reach potential customers, you will need content just like any other small business wanting to attract customers online. What will set you apart from others in your company is the research you put in to develop a solid content strategy, the quality of the content you publish, your commitment to consistently publishing content, and your ability to connect with your followers and build relationships with them.
Put all of that together, and you have the recipe for a content marketing strategy that will help you find more customers and new team members for your direct sales business.
Want help developing the best content marketing strategy for your direct sales business? SMA Marketing is committed to your success. We’ll help you define your target buyers, research keywords that will attract them, optimize your website for search engines, and develop a content marketing strategy that gets results. Contact us today to learn more.
In direct sales, YOU are your brand. Are you connecting with your audience in a way that attracts followers and builds relationships? Our content marketing guide will help. Get your copy below.
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