Direct Sales Year in Review and Looking Ahead

Direct Sales Year in Review and Looking Forward from

It’s hard to believe that 2013 is almost over. How was this year for you?

Social Media Trends

There have been some interesting trends and events this year worth paying attention to when it comes to social media.

  • Most recently, Facebook has really become a “Pay to Play” environment for brands and business owners. Most Facebook Page posts reach only 2-3% of your fans. For direct sellers, this means a couple of things. First, if you can afford to pay for advertising, you should. Focus on paying for ads that are most closely tied to your conversion objectives, with an emphasis on recruiting. Second, if you haven’t personally friended your online contacts, now is the time to do so (but don’t fill your personal feed with ads!) Rather, as I’ve always advised, provide useful content related to what you have to offer, along with personal stuff that helps people get to know you. This will help you build the relationships that lead to business.
  • Instagram has really been the breakout social network for 2013. I was just at a DSA conference where I had the chance to talk to the owners of some newer direct selling companies. And many of them told me that they are having a LOT of success with Instagram driving traffic to their websites.
  • And speaking of traffic to websites, analytics and ROI have become increasingly important this year. (Not that they weren’t always important, but more folks are realizing this this year.) Many more companies and business owners are beginning to realize how much valuable information they can gain by using analytics tools appropriately, and reporting on results regularly. And I expect this to grow even more in 2014.
  • Text messaging rules have changed. You may not be aware that, as of October 16, the FCC has updated its text messaging regulations. You now must get WRITTEN consent to send text messages to customers and prospects: While it’s important to get legal advice on this, it’s likely that most direct selling companies will add a check-box to their host coaching materials, order forms and request for information forms that permits text messaging.
  • Mobile traffic continues to increase dramatically to most direct sellers’ sites. In fact, if you look, you may find that mobile traffic far outweighs traffic from traditional computers. If your site is not yet optimized for mobile, it’s time to get on that. And consider your forms as well. Do you like to fill out long forms using your phone? Not likely. Neither do your prospects, and that may be one of the reasons why your form abandonment rate is so high.

Industry Attacks

As direct sellers, we’ve also seen how negative impressions of our industry can blow up in social media, as evidenced by the unsuccessful attack by Bill Ackman on Herbalife. Direct selling has a huge potential to make a big difference in people’s lives, but when direct sellers stretch the truth or engage in unethical business practices, people have long memories and a forum to share their experiences online. It is absolutely essential that every single direct seller has a staunch focus on ethics in business. No outlandish income claims. No claims of “easy” or “auto-pilot.” The fact of that matter is that success in direct sales takes a great deal of work, and minimizing this fact does no one any good. And in fact, it harms the industry as a whole. (So quit it!)

The Direct Selling Association has produced a website to help investors and other interested parties get the real facts about our industry. You can see it here: They’ve also produced a video:

Can’t see this? Click here:

Virtual Parties

Virtual parties have also been a focus in 2013, with individual direct sellers and direct sales companies exploring this medium, seeking best practices that are duplicatable across the salesforce. I’ve been excited to be involved with some software companies this year that are developing tools that will make it even easier for direct sellers to offer virtual parties in cost-effective ways, and I’m looking forward to seeing the evolution of the virtual party in 2014.

Looking Ahead

Looking ahead to 2014, here’s what I see for our industry:

  • Learning how to use tools beyond Facebook to connect online is essential. Instagram is a great place to start. I’m also interested to see if Google+ is going to become more important.
  • Measurement and reporting continues to be the most important thing for direct selling companies to pay attention to. There is a wealth of data that is available at your fingertips for free. You simply need to put into place the processes needed to report on the right data regularly.
  • Facebook Ads are going to become an essential part of every direct selling company’s strategy. Those that are most successful will be tied to measurable objectives and custom landing pages.
  • Shopping within Facebook is evolving. I have seen some promising tools that allow customers to shop right within Facebook, and credit the orders to consultants. This is huge, and I think it will be a game-changer for the industry in 2014.
  • 2014 may be the year that companies finally roll out standard virtual parties that everyone can use. The technology has finally evolved to the point that it’s possible.

What have been the most interesting developments you’ve seen in direct sales in 2013? Where do you think our industry is going? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments!

3 Responses to Direct Sales Year in Review and Looking Ahead
  1. Alyce Eskew
    January 6, 2014 | 7:33 pm

    Jennifer, would love to have you expound with more specific details on;

    Shopping within Facebook tools that allow customers to shop right within Facebook, and credit the orders to consultants.

    Also 2014 standard virtual party technology – how-to use by direct selling consultants.

    Thanks much, I love all the good industry tips you provide for us.

  2. Barb Orozco
    December 30, 2013 | 2:23 pm

    Jennifer, you consistently provide us with excellent and implementable information. Your update on the laws regarding how we use texts is very much appreciated. Thank you!

    • Jennifer Fong
      December 30, 2013 | 2:34 pm

      Thanks so much for the kind words, Barb. Glad it’s helpful to you. Happy New Year!

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