In a down economy more people turn to entrepreneurial opportunities as traditional 9-5 jobs continue to be scarce. Consultants and coaches, service providers and product creators are more frequently dipping a toe into the entrepreneurial waters through online marketing. Independent businesses based on the franchise model with either a physical location, a cyber location or both are a one-stop shopping option offering a business blueprint, start up training and support to grow a business with a product or service that already has a proven success track record.
Another independent business model is direct sales. A direct sales business, whether a home party model or a web based or catalog sales strategy, usually has a lower buy-in requirement than a franchise and can be an attractive option for entrepreneurs and solo-preneurs who want to own their own business, but want to begin with a more modest start up cost than what is required to buy into a franchise. A direct sales entrepreneurs still needs corporate support for training, business practices guidance, ideas and back end support in order to succeed.
Of all the training and support direct sales companies provide, helping new (and even experienced) consultants understand how to leverage social media platforms can give a direct sales company a high ROI. Social media is an ideal additional to the marketing toolkit for direct sales entrepreneurs. Direct Sales, by nature, has always been social. From the first business models of sharing products and services with friends and neighbors one-on-one in their own living rooms to the party demonstration model to the website referral programs, direct sellers have always understood the sway of personal recommendations from a friend and the collective excitement those friends can bring to a product “aha” moment in a group setting.
You tell 130 friends, and you tell 130 friends and so on and so on. . .
With more than one billion people spending rapidly increasing hours on the top social platforms, the pool of potential customers for direct sales consultants is massive. The average Facebook user has 130 friends. Active Twitter users tend to have more than 1,000. A single Pinterest board can reach hundreds every day. Blog readership can reach thousands within hours. Each of these consumer touch points amplifies the excitement, referrals and sales that previously would have taken a consultant months or years to build. When every action someone takes on Facebook can be seen by their 130 friends, and any “likes” or comments by those friends are seen by their 130 friends, the potential ripple effect is not hard to understand. Time spent by direct sales consultants on social media builds credibility, likability and trust. The return on that time investment is brand visibility, accelerated growth and leveraged referrals and sales.
The original direct sales model is not replaced, but is enhanced, by social media. Facebook is the new living room. Twitter the new networking party. Pinterest and Instagram are the new catalogs and blogs like WordPress or Tumbler are the new brochure or leave behind. All of these consumer facing outreach strategies can and should lead back to a purchase opportunity and a few of them provide sales opportunities right at the point of engagement. Sales directly to friends and followers on Facebook mean that consultants can prospect and sell without requiring their contacts to ever leave the platform where they play.
Nothing can replace that person-to-person connection for building relationships but social media comes very close as people increasingly consider their cyber connections to be real friends. As direct sales entrepreneurs learn the language and behavior required to create deep and meaningful connections on social platforms, they can do “virtually” what they would naturally do in person; create lead generation through referrals, recruit through sharing the opportunity, convert interest into a sale or another booked engagement and retain interest through continued product education and information and nurture further sales while introducing new products and opportunities.
Social media is a place, a new location, where direct sales customers and potential new consultants spend a growing number of hours socializing. Social media platforms are a massive permission-based marketing opportunity for direct sellers if they understand the language and social mores of each platform, and direct sales companies that model and teach best practices in social media and social automation will have an advantage over those who do not. So what are the basic social media rules every direct sales entrepreneur should know?
Social Selling Rules
- Treat prospective customers online exactly the way you’d treat them in person. Use their first name, welcome them, introduce them to others, and give them a reason to stay.
- Be open and transparent about your business offer but also make it easy for them to play and enjoy themselves until they’re ready to purchase or engage. In other words, don’t make every interaction a sales pitch, but shy away from letting people know you are in business.
- Share the transformation you offer. Nothing is more magnetic than success, either through sales or the product. Share your success with both. Invite others to share theirs. People are attracted to excitement and enthusiasm. Give visitors to your social properties a reason to say “I want that.”
- Let the customer purchase wherever they are. Consultants can now sell directly from Facebook, take payments and the customer never leaves the platform. Mobile payment options allow consultants to take credit cards with the swipe of a card through their payment app. Pop up Opt in web pages take Paypal or credit cards right from ipads or computers. Consumers expect any product to be available for purchase right now, right where they are, and with ease and security. The direct seller who delivers on that desire will succeed.
- Be a leader. Share, thank, praise and promote others publicly. Welcome new consultants. Thank a friend for a purchase. Praise a team’s achievements. Cheer for the financial success of a direct seller and make a joyful noise about new product launches. Create an atmosphere of success. People want to be at the popular party. Then invite people to the party and invite them to invite their friends.
- Create a social spot where people want to play. Reward loyal fans. Give discounts to insiders and brand evangelizers. Make sure they know you’re glad they stopped by.
Direct sales is one of the many industries in which I consult and you can read more about DSXgroup, Inc. here.
Are you using social media to build your direct sales company. I’d love to hear about you, your business and especially about your biggest challenges in using social media to market your business.