I’m delighted today to introduce you to Hakki Ozmorali, a direct selling expert and management consultant from Turkey. I have had the good fortune of getting to know Hakki exclusively through social media circles, and have come to respect his work, and his expertise. His World of Direct Selling blog is read throughout the industry, and I have had the privilege of being interviewed there a couple of times.
I wanted to introduce you all to Hakki, and he agreed to this interview that I share with you today. Enjoy!
Jennifer: First, please tell us a bit about your background. How did you get involved with direct selling, and what is your current role in the industry?
Hakki: My involvement with the industry started with the Swedish direct selling company Oriflame’s entry into the Turkish market back in 1991. Oriflame was the country’s very first network marketing company and my role as their Country Manager made me the first network marketing corporate person in Turkey.
After that I led the country operations of Herbalife and LR Health & Beauty Sytems in Turkey and worked for the Canadian network marketing company Lifestyles as the Regional Director, North America, based in Toronto, Canada.
For the last two years now, I have been providing consulting services at my own consulting firm, DS Consultancy to direct selling companies, based in Turkey. We provide assistance to both local and international companies in basically all areas that a direct selling operation may need assistance at. I am proud to say here that DS Consultancy is among the very few service providers in Europe that are recognized by SELDIA, the European Direct Selling Association in Brussels, Belgium.
Jennifer: How do you think direct selling internationally differs from direct selling in the United States?
Hakki: The differences we see basically stem from the fact that all other markets are new as compared to the US market. The corporate direct selling has its roots in US. So, whatever we see now elsewhere was already seen in US before. This brings us to one important fact: And that is, something that perfectly works in US does not mean it will work in all other markets. This is simply because, not all are there yet.
Other than this, there are of course, the cultural differences and we see these between all cultures. For instance, aggressive or “loud” presentations can put the prospects into very defensive positions and alienate them in some countries. whereas this is quite acceptable or even favorable in some others. Respecting these differences and adapting accordingly can only bring better results.
Jennifer: How effectively do you think US-based companies are doing social media in their international markets? What strategies do you think work the best, and what are some areas where companies could do better? Can you give us some examples?
Hakki: Before that, please let me say few words about social media and what this means to our industry from my perspective. Until few years ago, many used to think that the Internet would kill direct selling due to the emergence of e-commerce. They had their reasons to think that way, although not quite right. However, now, we have social networking tools that I believe has put an end to this discussion. I believe we did not have such powerful tools before to complement face-to-face communication that has always been in the heart of direct selling.
Coming back to your question, I think the companies can do much better. I don’t think we, in general, have fully understood how we can get the maximum out of these tools. Having said this, though, there are successful examples. Oriflame’s “Dare to be”, for instance is a campaign that is based solely on social media, covering many countries.
In Turkey, what Avon has been doing on Facebook is phenomenal. You can check their page to see the number of fans they have now and how active they are. In fact, early this year, Avon Turkey’s Facebook page was ranked as No. 1 in terms of wall-activity index. For those who are not familiar with this term, this represents how active a Facebook page’s fans are. And an additional note, this ranking was not among only the direct selling companies, but covered all industries in Turkey.
We should also always bear in mind the “PR” impact of social media activities, besides the ROI we expect from the activity itself. Once you launch a sound, creative campaign, you are tagged as one of the innovative companies, separating yourself from the “old school”.
Jennifer: In your opinion, how should international direct selling companies resource their social media efforts? How do they find skilled employees to handle their social media presence?
Hakki: Social media is an entirely new area. Not only for the direct selling industry, but for all industries. That means, there are still not so many professionals who are knowledgeable and experienced in social media. So, in my opinion it is crucial for international companies to create strategies and to lead the implementation, at least for a while, from the headquarters. This will bring harmonization to efforts and also efficiency.
Jennifer: What advice would you give to US companies related to their social media efforts, as they consider expanding internationally?
Hakki: They should definitely consider social media as a part of their overall expansion strategies. When one looks at Facebook’s statistics, can he or she think otherwise? If people are already there, a direct seller should be, too!
There is an amazingly high volume of voluntary interaction going on there. We speak of hundreds of millions people. Erik Qualman, the author of “Socialnomics” says, “We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.”
Thank you Hakki, for taking the time to share your wisdom and experience with us. There’s a lot to learn as direct selling companies prepare to expand internationally!