The concept of online parties is a bit of a hot-button issue in the direct sales world. Why? Well for one thing, with the way they’re conducted now, they are rarely as successful as in-person parties. Wouldn’t it be better for direct sellers to focus their efforts on sales activities that generate the maximum amount of income? And for another thing, direct selling is an industry of tradition. We have built this great model (and industry) on a tradition of face to face selling, which includes the sensory experience of the in-home party. It’s worked very well for us for a very long time. Why would we mess with something that works so well?
Yet there is a growing undercurrent within our industry that is watching a coming wave, namely social media. Tradition will only get us so far, they believe. After all, the folks that are afraid of social media for direct sales are the same folks who were afraid that replicated websites for consultants would kill the business, and now most direct sales companies wouldn’t even consider starting without them. Consultants and customers both expect to be able to check out the products online, and it makes those outside orders so much easier. Is the concept of online parties this generation’s replicated website?
Why should we even focus on online parties if they’re not as successful as in-person parties? Well the biggest reason, in my opinion, is the fact that as consultants begin to use social media, the new contacts they make are going to be geographically spread out. This is going to make it a lot harder to do in-person parties with this new audience they’re building. Now some may say that we can take one-on-one orders with this group, and that’s true, but one of the beauties of our industry is the group sales model. Wouldn’t it be more profitable to find a way to sell to groups of people online at one time? Or, the flip side of this is that if we CAN’T find a good online party model, perhaps we want to train the sales force to focus on geographically-based social networking that results in in-person parties. Local small businesses do this all the time, connecting with folks in their local area. Is this the direction we should be moving as an industry?
None of these questions can be answered well without further research. I believe we need to deconstruct the traditional party, and find compelling online group sales events that people want to attend. Then we need to measure the results of those events, and see how they compare to in-person events. With online events we obviously lose the benefit of the sensory experience that happens at an in-home party. But if we increase a consultant’s ability to reach more people, and sell more product, does this even out the disadvantages?
Obviously I have more questions than answers on this right now. I’m working with a few dedicated folks who are helping me explore these issues. But I would love to hear what you think. Have you tried online events? What were your results? Do you think they’re a waste of time for direct sellers? Will they kill direct sales as we know it? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below.