Summertime can be a tough time for independent contractors. While it’s traditionally the season when the fast-paced world of business slows down due to family vacations, the kids being home from school, and the need you feel to tackle all of the items on your to-do list, this is the time your direct selling business needs your focus the most.
It’s no secret the direct sales industry is going through massive change. According to Steve Jamieson—who has more than 20 years of experience in direct sales and is currently the strategic advisor and director of business development for Exigo, a business data company—sales and recruiting in the industry has been decreasing for the last three years. This means, according to Jamieson, that we need to shift away from the complicated pay structure of the multilevel marketing (MLM) approach and focus on a structure that reflects more on customer experience and the shifting consumer economy.
While this information is really geared toward executives and thought leaders in the industry, it’s still important for you to be aware of what’s going on so you can build your business according to the changing direct sales landscape.
Spending your summer focusing on ways to stay ahead is our best advice. Here are a few ways you can do just that.
1. Use the hot weather to your advantage.
Because weather affects your mood, marketing research suggests that it also links to consumer behavior. Depending on the products you sell, this gives you the chance to tailor your sales efforts to reflect the summer season. If you sell beauty products, push products that help protect you against the harsh summer heat. Pantene’s Haircast marketing campaign did this successfully by acknowledging how frizzy your hair can get in the heat, and suggesting a remedy for it. What products do you sell that could help combat or compliment the heat?
2. Give your products as gifts.
You will no doubt go to some type of party, get-together, or celebration this summer. When you do, don’t go empty-handed. Gift the hostess, graduate, or mom-to-be a product from your company line. It’s a great way to give them a quality gift they’ll appreciate and to get your name out there. Be sure to label it with your contact info and website so they can easily shop for more of your products.
3. Connect at parties or outings.
Speaking of celebrations, summertime is one of the most social times of the year. Barbecues and cookouts, pool parties and picnics, and family vacations seem to be limitless during the summer. What better way to get your business in front of people than by going to your next social event prepared to chat about your business venture when asked, “So, what do you do?”
When you planned your last event, how successful was it? Was the attendance what you had hoped? Or is this your first one and you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed? One of the most challenging aspects of planning events isn’t necessarily figuring out the logistics of it (though that can be quite difficult at times, of course) but getting people to show up.
A lot of folks use Facebook’s Events page function to invite guests to their events. It’s a great way to create awareness. But let us stop you right there. Before you do that, create the event through Eventbrite first then sync it to Facebook.
There is a difference between an event you create through Facebook and one you create using Eventbrite together with Facebook. By creating an event in Eventbrite first and then linking it to Facebook, your event becomes supercharged, making it an Official Facebook event, boosting your event’s potential to be more discoverable on Facebook. Not only that, but it saves you time, especially if you’re publishing multiple events across several different platforms, and ensures a consistent marketing message.
Here’s how to do it:
Sync your Eventbrite and Facebook accounts
Before creating your event, you’ll need to create an Eventbrite account if you don’t have one already. When doing this, make sure you link your Facebook account to Eventbrite. Once you’ve set up your account and you’ve made sure it’s linked with Facebook, click the “Create New Event” button. Fill in all relevant information about your event. As your scrolling down, you’ll notice the “Link to Facebook” option, which links this specific event to Facebook, and in turn, creates an event page on Facebook. Go ahead and check that box.
Now hold your horses! Before you publish your event so that it goes live, make sure you have done the following:
- Use a clear, short name that represents the event so people know exactly what it is. Long names can often be cut off in mobile view.
- Choose a 2160×1080 (recommended by Eventbrite) cover photo that looks good at any size.
- Be as specific as you can about the location, time and category so Facebook can help promote your event. Facebook has certain standards that need to be met so your event can be discoverable. If your info doesn’t meet these standards, Eventbrite will let you know before linking to Facebook.
Now you are ready to publish. Go for it!
Once you publish your event on Eventbrite, a banner will come up that says, “Add to Facebook.” Go ahead, add it to Facebook.
Now that your Eventbrite event is synced to your Facebook account, guests can buy tickets to it directly on Facebook rather than being redirected to Eventbrite to buy them there. This improves the user experience and prevents fewer abandoned orders.
So, there’s a direct sales conference coming up and you’re thinking about not going. You’re saying to yourself it’s a waste of time and money. It’s better for your business for you to stay home and keep doing your daily grind, right?
Actually, this couldn’t be further from the truth.
If you’ve never attended a direct sales conference, you’re missing out on a lot of opportunities that will benefit your business and your own personal growth.
Here are five reasons you should attend one in the future:
1. You’ll learn new things
This is ultimately why most people attend conferences, to learn new tricks, tips, and tools to expand their business knowledge. The speakers, workshops, and panels are all designed to present relevant information in a fun and engaging way. And it’s usually information you won’t likely find anywhere else. Some best practices to remember are:
- Find which sessions will benefit you most and make your schedule prior to the conference.
- Make sure to bring a notepad and pen or a laptop to take notes; don’t rely on your memory.
- Use your phone’s camera to take pictures of the overhead presentation.
- Wearing your name badge may be simple enough but you actually might be wearing it wrong. Here’s what you need to know about your name badge.
- When you sign up for the conference use the name you go by and not your given name. Don’t use Sarah if people call you Sally.
- If the presenter hasn’t offered, ask her or him if there’s a way to get the presentation afterward, either via email or a website.
2. Network with industry experts and peers
There is no better place to find hundreds of like-minded folks with high business ambitions than at a conference or convention. Whether you’re looking to ascend the direct sales business ladder or to simply become better in your current position, these kinds of events are made for folks to connect, exchange trade secrets and business cards, collaborate and even meet potential clients and customers. A few other things you could do to make this process easier include:
- Write your social media handles on your nametag so others can easily take a quick photo when swapping contact info.
- Be prepared to pass out your business card. If you don’t already have a business card here are some guidelines for creating one. Digital business cards are important too!
- Contact presenters and peers you know will be at the conference prior to going to arrange a time to meet while you’re there.
- Conferences usually build in networking times in the evenings specifically so people can speak with presenters and peers. Go to these. Or, if none are offered, ask a few folks to go to dinner or invite them to get cocktails.
3. It’s great social media material
If you’re looking for more material to post to your social media channels, or you need fresh ideas for your blog, attending a conference is a terrific way to get fresh content. Here are a few ways to use your conference experience to help fuel your social media presence:
- Take copious notes from the sessions you attend so you have plenty of thought-leadership material to post. It doesn’t have to be much, a tip or a stat per post, or even a great quote. Or, you could write about one of the success stories you hear from one of the presentations.
- Snap selfies with speakers and peers and tag them on social media. This will gain you more exposure online but also give your audience a chance to see you with other experts in the industry, giving you more credibility.
- Do video interviews with session leaders, post them online and tag your interviewee. You can ask questions about their careers, or for advice or product tips. Not only will your audience find this helpful but it also gives you a chance to network and another chance to expand your audience.
More than likely, you’re familiar with how Pinterest works. It’s a social media platform that is designed to inspire creativity and generate ideas among its users. You can create and follow different boards with images, links and product descriptions according to different themes. Users love Pinterest because it’s a great way to get creative ideas for party planning, room decorating, cooking and baking, and so much more.
As a direct sales representative, you can use Pinterest to promote your business to new customers as well. Here’s why Pinterest works so well:
So, who uses Pinterest?
Though women have historically used the platform more than men, that’s changing, as the number of men using it is drastically increasing, making up 50% of new signups.
According to info provided by Pinterest:
- 66% of women between the ages of 25-54 are signed up on Pinterest
- 60% of households using Pinterest have children five years old or younger
- 50% of Millennials use Pinterest on a monthly basis
- 40% of users are from households that make more than $100k annually
You’ve begun to establish yourself in the direct sales world and you need to keep the momentum going. You need promotion, but promoting your business can get expensive. Luckily, we have some ideas on how to gain new audiences and create brand awareness without breaking the bank.
Before we get into our recommendations, we should emphasize the importance of deciding on your budget. How much money are you willing to spend on advertising your business? That figure will help guide you on which options work best for your budget.
Now, about those tips…
Promote Customer Referrals
Customer referrals, also called Word-of-Mouth-Advertising, are a powerful tool when it comes to promoting your business. Most likely, before you buy a product on Amazon, you look at the customer reviews because you know you’ll get a more honest impression from customers about what the product you’re interested in is really like. The same concept applies here. Potential customers are more willing to trust your current clients rather than you when it comes to the quality of your products. That’s why you should encourage them to leave positive feedback about your business on your social pages. You can reach out to them through targeted email marketing, social sharing, or a call-to-action on your blog posts. With referrals in hand, you can then post quotes from customers on your website, in brochures and in your email signature.
Create a Challenge or a Poll
This is a free and creative way to get people excited about your products. You can create a challenge out of any product. For example, if you sell clothing, do a challenge around the theme, “Who Wore it Best?” to inspire people to post creative ways to wear certain clothing products you’re selling. Another option would be to add polls to your Instagram Stories. Not only is it a great way to encourage participation from your followers but it’s also a terrific way to find out more about your target audience. Take two selfies, one with a chocolate meal replacement shake, and one with vanilla, and poll which flavor people like best. Elise Darma has some great advice on how to create Instagram Story polls.
Create Custom T-Shirts
One of the best ways you can advertise your own business is by wearing it! Create T-shirts with your business logo on them and some catchy text. Think of yourself as a walking billboard but at a much cheaper cost. Spending $10 to $20 on a T-shirt about your business is a great conversation starter and a surefire way to get people talking about your brand. You’ll also find new audiences at places your marketing campaigns don’t usually reach, like on a hiking trail, at the grocery store or mall, or at the dog park. To get you started, here’s a list of the top 10 custom T-shirt printing companies of 2019. Not a designer? That’s okay. Most of these companies offer design tools to make designing your T-shirts easier. Embarrassing as this sounds, for those of you with a larger budget, consider vehicle wrap advertising. But be warned, this can get expensive, costing as much as $2,000. Wrapify and Carvertise are companies you can use to wrap your car, with the potential to earn extra money while you’re doing it.
If you’re a team leader in the direct sales industry, you know how difficult it can be to keep your consultants motivated. Sure, you have your superstars but there are times when even the highest-selling members of your team need encouraging because of slow sales, busy schedules, or because life simply gets in the way.
Here are five ways to encourage your team so they feel good about themselves, the work they are doing, and the choice they made to join your team.
Communicate Regularly And Throw A Party
Possibly the most important step to motivating your team is to communicate with them on a regular basis. That means set regular meetings with your consultants, whether that’s weekly or monthly. Ask them how they are doing, what kind of help they need, and offer them an ear so they can vent if they need to. Taking this a step further, Christine Tylee, founder of Direct Sales Inspiration, suggests going beyond traditional communication methods and throwing a mega party to revitalize your team and inspire them to get back into action. Mega parties are large parties where multiple team members book tables that they are responsible for filling with guests. Sales and bookings are taken by the consultant who’s invited that guest. The team leader (that would be you) is responsible for running the party while the team members at each table make sure they have all of the relevant products, samples and info for the guests.
Part of communicating regularly is letting your team know how much you appreciate their hard work and dedication. This is especially important as your team increases in size. The last thing you want to do is to make the team members who’ve been with you since the beginning feel less important than your new ones. A good way to do this is to give your more seasoned consultants mentor roles to help your newer employees. This not only helps your team’s morale, but it also creates trust and loyalty among them, helping you create and keep a tight-knit team that will stick with you through thick and thin. Another way to show your team appreciation is simply to compliment them. “Don’t sit on a compliment if you have one or think the only time it’s appropriate to praise your team is during the holiday season,” says Holly Reisem Hanna, founder of The Work at Home Woman website. “Hard work seldom goes unnoticed and acknowledgement of this is often the biggest motivator of all. If you see someone going the extra mile whether that means staying late to wrap up a project or taking the initiative to reach out to a partner on their own, thank that team member.”
While encouraging your team on a regular basis is a must, it’s especially important when you have team members who are feeling discouraged. Direct selling is a tough profession; one where rewards can sometimes seem few and far between. Offering encouragement to your consultants and providing them with tips, tricks and training can help raise their confidence to sell more products and feel like a more valuable member of your team. Famed direct sales consultant Jillysue says a great way of doing this is to, “Recognize! Recognize! Recognize! Give praise when someone has ideas, drop names constantly during your meetings. Recognize in the newsletter, on Facebook, on calls. Anywhere you can! When people are a part of something and they know the people in the group know who they are, they want more and that means working their business to achieve that.”
When you’re in direct sales, time management can be challenging, especially with summer approaching. Vacations, the kids home from school, or visits from family all can take away from the time you need to devote to your business.
Have no fear! We’ve got some surefire ways to help you get your time back. We can’t entertain your in-laws and we don’t have summer camp recommendations for your kids, but we can help eliminate the smaller distractions in your life that keep you from getting your work done.
Here are five ways to be more productive so you can spend the rest of your time enjoying your summer:
1. Set daily goals the night before
Sometimes we can get overwhelmed thinking about everything we need to get done for our business. The best way to conquer this feeling is to make a list the night before your workday. Just the act of transferring what we have to do from our heads to a visible list helps alleviate stress. Doing it the night before means you can get to work right away rather than waste time making your list that morning. You can use your cell phone calendar or an app like Todoist, or even an old-fashioned pen and notebook. Once you’ve got your list done, prioritize your tasks into things that need to be done immediately and things that can wait until tomorrow or later in the week. Try not to make your lists longer than five items per day. As you perform each task, mark it off your list. There are few feelings better than accomplishing the goals you set for the day. Taking a marker and striking through each task gives you a sense of accomplishment and encourages you to get even more done.
2. Define your business hours
To help organize your time, set up specific business hours. This is the time you designate for yourself to get your work done. It helps set boundaries for you and your family so that you won’t be disturbed. Your business hours don’t have to be the traditional 9-5, and it doesn’t have to be one long chunk of time. You can set a few work hours aside in the morning, take a break in the afternoon and then set a few more hours for work in the evening. Whatever times works best for you according to your schedule. Just be realistic about whether you work best in the mornings, afternoons or nights.
In our last post, we introduced you to the concept of content marketing and how it could be useful with your direct sales business. Now we’re going to give an overview of how to do it.
As a refresher, content marketing is a strategic effort focusing on consistently creating and sending out relevant information to a specific audience that ultimately wins you more paying customers. It can be fun, entertaining, educational, or all three. It can be in the form of blog posts, videos, podcasts, and social media posts. Or very often, all of these working in tandem with each other. Content marketing is all about creating a memorable experience for your customers so they’ll keep coming back to buy your products. It’s about keeping your current customers engaged and gaining new ones.
So, how do you make this happen? You do it by creating a content marketing plan.
Here’s how you do it.
Decide Your Audience
Before you start creating any kind of content, think about who you’re creating that content for. Who is and will be buying your products? Think about the people you’ve talked to who’s shown interest in what you’re selling. What kind of problems are you solving for them through your products? What are they looking for when they buy from you and why? As you think about this, jot your answers down in a notebook, as these will be your seeds of inspiration when it comes to brainstorming ideas for the content you’ll later create.
How Will You Distribute Your Content?
Once you’ve decided on who your audience is, you’ll need to figure out how you’ll distribute it. Will you write blog posts on your website? Will you make videos and post them on youTube? What about a podcast? Or will you stick strictly to writing social media posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? Or, will you develop a strategy to use all or most of these methods to maximize your message reach?
How Often Will You Post?
As you come up with ideas for blog and social media posts, podcast episodes or video, think about how often you should post your content. Be aware that it will also depend on which channel you’re posting content to. If you’re planning on utilizing multiple channels, then come up with a posting schedule. Start off simple. Maybe begin with posting one blog post every other week, and once a day on your social media channels. Then, as you become more accustomed to it, start posting twice or three times a day on social media and one blog post a week. Then, as you excel at your business, play with other formats such as video and podcasting to ramp up brand awareness. There are plenty of tools to help with social media posting such as Hootsuite, Buffer, and TweetDeck.
In our last post, we wrote about 3 Surefire Ways to Get More Customers. But what do you do once you’ve got a substantial list of current and potential customers to contact?
You keep them engaged, that’s what.
Make it About Your Customer
Here’s the thing. Of course you want to publicize the products you’re selling. And let’s face it, you’re always selling something, right? It’s why you got into direct sales to begin with. But like you, customers and potential clients don’t want to be inundated with messages about the products you’re selling all of the time. Sure, it’s good to do that regularly, especially when you’re having a sales event, throwing a party or highlighting new products in your inventory. However, keeping your customers engaged with you and your company involves more than just blatantly promoting yourself. Not only will your audience become bored with the same information, but you might even start to lose customers. There has to be something else in it for them besides the products you’re selling.
There’s a way to keep your customers engaged and at the same time, promote yourself and your products without talking about yourself all the time.
Confused? Keep reading.
It’s Not About You, Yet it is.
Nobody likes someone who is all about themselves. Do you like to go to a party and listen to someone talk about how great they are all the time? Your audience isn’t going to want to hear it, either. Instead, make it about them. What are you offering that only you can give them? You’re offering great deals on products, but you can also offer them knowledge, and you can offer them an experience.
This is called content marketing. Here’s how it works.
Content marketing is a strategic effort focusing on consistently creating and sending out relevant information to a specific audience that ultimately wins you more paying customers. Usually, this info is educational, giving current and potential customers advice and tips they can use to better their lives in some way, to help solve their issues, whether it’s directly or indirectly related to the products you’re selling. The more content you put out, the more your audience will begin to see you as a thought leader, an expert in your field. As you build more trust, the more comfortable your clients will feel to keep buying your products. Because you know what you’re talking about, and they know it. And then you’ll watch your audience continue to grow.
When you’re starting your direct sales business, getting your first customers can be challenging. And for someone who has little sales or marketing experience, it can also be intimidating.
But once that trickle of new customers begins to happen, you’ll have cleared a major hurdle. Not only will you gain confidence in your ability to sell, but you can use that momentum to build your customer base from those few clients. Here are some tactics you can use to gain new customers:
Word of Mouth
Say you have two customers. That’s a great start. You should build on that. Ask your two new customers to recommend you and your products to their friends or family members who might be interested in what you’re selling. After all, there’s no better way to promote yourself than to get others to do it for you. But don’t take our word for it. Take a look at these statistics:
- According to a Nielson report, 92% of consumers trust their friends and family when it comes to product suggestions rather than advertising.
- Eighty-eight percent of people trust online reviews written by other customers.
- Word of mouth is a major influencer when making purchasing decisions, according to 74% of consumers.
Use Social Media
Riding on the back of the whole word-of-mouth idea, using social media is essential when you’re in direct sales. It’s the fastest way to spread the word about your business. You should create a Facebook page, Instagram account, and maybe even a Twitter account promoting your products, and be consistent about posting. We recommend posting at least three to five days a week, once a day. But you can always post more than that. Just be careful about posting too much. You don’t want to annoy your potential customers.
You should also form a Facebook group with current customers and potential customers. Just make sure you have everyone’s permission before inviting them into the group. This is a good way to have direct interaction with folks who have questions, concerns or are interested in buying your products.
One more thing. Social media is a great way to promote yourself. But it’s also a great way for your friends, family, and current customers to promote for you. Remember those stats we provided above? Take those to heart. Promoting yourself on social media can be powerful. But when you’ve got customers advocating for you online, it’s even more powerful.