4 Things Every Direct Sales Company Needs Today

Jen Fong Speaking in front of Vision signThe direct sales landscape has changed dramatically in the last few years. No longer can any company consider itself a “pure” party plan or network marketing company. Rather, smart direct selling companies are identifying the components of each that work for today’s consultant and customer, creating an entirely new “social selling” experience that takes into account the ways that people like to buy and sell today.

Based on the many years of experience I’ve had working with direct selling companies as both a corporate executive and a marketing and business consultant, I believe that there are several necessary components that every company needs to include today:

  1. Multiple ways to sell: No company is a one-trick pony anymore. You are not a pure in-person party plan or network marketing/MLM company anymore (even if you think you are.) Consultants and distributors are going to sell the way that people want to buy. And so companies of all kinds are beginning to integrate in-home experiences, virtual experiences, and one-on-one experiences to meet people where they are. We’ve had challenges with technology keeping up with the needs of our industry, but we’re getting there. Now it’s up to companies to make sure you are providing training on each of these sales methods, integrating best practices into your materials so consultants and customers have a consistent experience when interacting with your brand.
  2. Mobile accessibility: I’ve said it before: if your company doesn’t have a mobile strategy, you’re already behind. When we look at the analytics of our clients’ sites, at least 75% of their traffic is mobile. Consider what this means for the prospect. For the consultant. For the customer. Most people do more on the web from their phones than they do from a laptop. Your backoffice, training, shopping, website, etc. all needs to be mobile responsive. Mobile apps can help you stay top of mind for your salesforce and customers. If your website is still coming up in miniature when you look at it on your phone, you have a problem. It’s time to fix that NOW.
  3. Customer club: No matter how a customer purchases from you the first time, the principle of convenience will dictate future business. A customer club helps. By providing customers with a chance to receive special deals and discounts, only available to club members, via email each month, you significantly increase your chances of reorders. All customers need to do is click over to your (mobile friendly) site, and place the order. While they are there, they can be offered other products (You may also like…) All orders are credited to the consultant, however you don’t need the consultant to perform every follow-up. It’s a win for everyone.
  4. Autoship: If your company offers any kind of consumable product*, autoship is a must. We used to consider this an MLM-only offering. But the fact remains that consumables get used up. Identify how long it takes to use up your product, and offer a discount for having a reorder billed and shipped before the customer runs out, so that they don’t have to think about it (convenience!) All backend technology providers, even if they have traditionally catered only to party plan companies, must offer an autoship option today. It’s an essential part of doing business.

*BTW, even if your company doesn’t offer a consumable, autoship is still a possibility. Think a “look of the month.” A sample pack of products each month. The prevalence of monthly box companies out there should give you a good indication that even if you don’t offer a consumable, there are still ways to make an autoship work, and produce ongoing revenue, for your company.

I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it, direct sales has changed fundamentally. While the industry has traditionally been slow to change, it can no longer do so if we want to continue to provide economic opportunity for millions, for generations to come. Rather, we must always keep an eye forward in order to create companies that respond to the changing needs of customers and consultants.

What changes have you seen in the industry? What do you think companies need to do in order to remain relevant? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below!

 

Jennifer Fong, Founder and CEO, Jen Fong Media, LLC http://jenfongmedia.comAbout the Author: Jennifer Fong is the Founder and CEO of Jen Fong Media, a full service digital marketing firm that helps direct selling companies, businesses, service providers and non-profits reach the people online who can help their organizations grow. We believe in marketing with integrity, building the relationships that matter and approaching marketing from a standpoint of service. For information on how Jen Fong Media can help your organization, please visit us online athttp://jenfongmedia.com.

The Principle of Convenience and Why it Matters for Your Business

The Principle of Convenience and Why it Matters to Your Direct Sales Business by Jennifer Fong http://jenfongmedia.comI’ve recently started using an online grocery service. It provides an app that lets me add to my list all week as we run out of things, choose from previously purchased items, place my order and have groceries delivered on my doorstep, even when I’m asleep. The produce is fresh, I can get bakery and other items from NYC, have farmer’s market selections delivered, and more. Pretty much everything I would buy anyway. But I don’t have to give up hours to go to my favorite grocery store.

Note, I said my favorite grocery store. It’s not that I don’t like my grocery store. In fact, I like it a lot. But in the end, convenience wins. I shop at lot more frequently with the online service (I call it my “grocery fairy”) than I do at the grocery store.

So how does this apply to direct sales or network marketing businesses?

Our industry needs to take a long, hard look at itself. 100 years ago, we WERE the convenient option. We offered home delivery. You could touch and try it (unlike mail order services) without having to go to the store. We could find out what our friends thought of products right at the party. But times have changed.

Today, people are used to shopping online at major sites and having items delivered within a day or two, for free (or at least a low annual fee that includes lots of extras). We have far more selection online, can read reviews from our friends as well as others, find average prices for similar products, and make informed choices. The days of a captive audience in the living room are over. People are more time-strapped than ever, and want quick and convenient shopping experiences that suit their preferences without having to get dressed or put on makeup. Direct sales companies that want to survive and thrive need to adapt to today’s preferences.

And a huge preference is convenience.

Direct sales companies need to reinvent themselves to be more convenient. We need to be adding services such as customer clubs, autoship (even if the company is a party plan company!), faster, less expensive shipping, and virtual parties. We need to provide the technology to make shopping fast and easy, removing all barriers to entry. Product demonstrations need to be quick and efficient, and just as effective online as they are in person. We need to allow customers to carry their shopping carts in their pockets on their mobile devices, adding as they think of it, and ordering when they’re ready. And we need to make the opportunity easier too, with mobile tools, videos on demand, social media sharing assets available at the touch of a button, and more.

Many companies have already started down this path. We’re seeing companies providing digital libraries, mobile communication tools, virtual party platforms and more. But we still have a long way to go. In order for our industry to thrive, we have to evolve at the same pace as our customers and prospects. And that means keeping up with technology. No, it’s not cheap. Direct sales companies need to be prepared to spend more than they have in the past to keep up. And the right technology matters, that is user tested and constantly updated.

We can do it as an industry. But first we have to be willing to admit that our traditional model is not serving customers, consultants and prospects as well as it used to. And then make the changes necessary to become the industry of the next generation.

What do you think? How has your company adapted? What changes do you think we still need to make? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Jennifer Fong, Founder and CEO, Jen Fong Media, LLC http://jenfongmedia.comAbout the Author: Jennifer Fong is the Founder and CEO of Jen Fong Media, a full service digital marketing firm that helps direct selling companies, businesses, service providers and non-profits reach the people online who can help their organizations grow. We believe in marketing with integrity, building the relationships that matter and approaching marketing from a standpoint of service. For information on how Jen Fong Media can help your organization, please visit us online at http://jenfongmedia.com.

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