A new business can’t be successful if it can’t generate consistent revenue (i.e. make sales). When it comes to direct selling, finding ways to attract and retain customers is vital.
Direct selling refers to selling products directly to the consumer in a non-retail environment (i.e. the sales process occurs at home, work, or at another non-store location). In fact, many home-based businesses incorporate direct selling to connect with consumers.
A direct sales business removes the middlemen involved in product distribution, like a regional distribution center and wholesaler. Instead, products go from the manufacturer to the direct sales company. If you are a distributor (i.e. a sales representative) working with a direct selling business, then the manufacturer gives you the products to ultimately sell to the consumer.
What and who are involved in direct selling?
Beauty products, skin care, essential oils, tupperware, and other care products are the most popular categories for direct selling. The cosmetic industry is known for using direct sellers.
Mary Kay is a pioneer in the direct selling business, selling cosmetics through a multi-level marketing (MLM) business model, which is a marketing strategy for the sale of products or services where the revenue of the MLM company is derived from a non-salaried workforce. Participants sell the company’s products or services and earn a commission. Each seller is looked at as a freelancer or small business owner.
Mary Kay distributors, or sales representatives, make money by directly selling to people in their community, and they receive a commission on wholesale purchases made by people they recruit into the distribution network. Avon is another well known direct selling company in the beauty and personal care category. They also use an MLM model.
It can be easy to confuse direct selling with direct marketing, but the two terms are very different from one another. Direct selling is when individual salespeople reach out to consumers directly, whereas direct marketing is when a company markets directly to consumers.
Strategies for direct sales
Having a friendly and professional attitude is a great start to being a direct sales superstar, but savvy business owners also use effective strategies to get their physical goods into the hands of customers.
At the heart of direct sales is the power of storytelling, leading with value and building relationships. If you can demonstrate that you’re passionate about your products or services, then it will resonate, and in turn, have a positive effect on your bottom line.
Here are five direct selling strategies so you can achieve long term success.
1. Give it away for free
Startups and small businesses rarely have the funds to finance large marketing initiatives. And without brand recognition, convincing customers to pay for products they haven’t even heard of can be tough. Free samples are an effective direct selling strategy because they allow customers to try your product or service before they buy it.
You can use free samples to:
- Introduce your product to new audiences who are unfamiliar with your brand.
- Create loyalty with existing customers, and develop relationships.
- Expand prospective customers’ knowledge about the products you provide.
- Establish repeat customers to generate more sales of new products.
Free samples can have a strong effect on your business and revenue. It develops trust and connection between your business and consumers. Not only do you have the opportunity to turn these shoppers into long-term clients, but you can also benefit from word-of-mouth referrals if the trial period is a success.
Additionally, offering free samples enables you to collect feedback and identify possible issues in product development.
2. Use email marketing
While the days of door-to-door sales aren’t entirely behind us, today’s businesses are increasingly using the internet for their direct-sales needs. Although email marketing offers a number of benefits, including greater reach and affordability, you should be aware of the best practices when employing this marketing method.
If you contact customers and potential customers through email, be sure to avoid automated marketing programs. This can come off as insincere and look like you’re only interested in selling a specific product line, rather than creating a connection or solving a problem for the consumer.
We live in an era of constant emails and direct messages, so it’s important to keep your email pitches short and to the point. Include your offer in the subject line. Limit your first message to a few sentences where you can encourage the recipient to contact you by phone or respond directly to your email.
Your goal is to begin the process of building trust rather than try to sell someone on your first interaction.
3. Get social with social media
Social media initially began as a great way to stay in touch with old friends, but in recent years, social media has become an effective marketing and sales tool for businesses looking to engage in direct sales.
When starting a direct sales business, people usually turn to their close networks, like friends and family, to get off the ground. It can be a great way to begin your business, but it’s not sustainable.
With social media, you can expand to a greater market. Social media can help you create business pages, post high-quality photos and updates, collect feedback from customers, and more importantly, build a community.
Community helps you build trust and authority. Your goal is to have consumers engage with your business because it’s a sign of a credible business operation. It works because we tend to trust businesses who have a strong connection with their customers.
Additionally, social media enables businesses to keep in close contact with members of their sales teams. As a direct selling business, you can use social media to send your employees a quick reminder about an upcoming product promotion, which can help you increase sales. Better yet, social media can be leveraged to communicate directly with consumers about new offers.
If you want to be successful with social media, it’s important to choose the right platform. For example, Pinterest is a great platform for a product-based business to showcase goods in an artistic manner. Instagram, with one billion monthly active users, is also a major platform to showcase your products and build a connection with consumers.
Both service and product-based businesses can use Twitter to post spur-of-the-moment updates and advertisements that are likely to be read — and acted upon — quickly, while Facebook can help you build a central community.
4. Cut costs with cross-promotion
With your own business, marketing costs can feel overwhelming. Rather than spending heavily on advertising, you can create strategic partnerships to help you cut down on your marketing budget. With the right cross-promotional marketing, you can attract more customers with less effort.
Examples of cross-promotional strategies include bundled offerings, joint media appearances, events, podcasts, interviews, blog swaps, and partnerships with influencers in your space.
Cross-promotion can pay off exponentially because with strategic partnerships, you can successfully expand through each other’s customer bases. Traditional methods of marketing such as networking, advertising, and even public relations are automatically taken care of with cross-promotional marketing. It ends up working for you.
Cross-promotion is also a great way to cut marketing costs because you can split the costs between partners. As part of your overall direct sales strategy, don’t just build relationships with customers. Strive to build relationships with other sellers in the community too.
5. Offer extras
To succeed in direct sales, businesses need to find ways to attract and retain customers.
One of the most effective ways of building a loyal customer base is offering extra incentives. Extras can include discounts like buy one get one free or half-off offers, or value-added services like providing free gift wrapping.
Also consider sponsorships like sponsoring a local youth sports team, or charitable contributions like volunteering at events that relate to your business. These activities can raise your business’s profile.
Connect to sell, don’t just direct sell
Direct selling has had a bad reputation in the past for being nothing more than a pyramid scheme with aggressive sales representatives hammering the phones. In recent years, however, direct selling has had a renaissance with an ever-increasing focus on providing valuable content, products, and services to consumers. If you take the proper steps, you can work through those misrepresentations to build a trustworthy and successful business.
The direct selling model is popular as a work-at-home business opportunity because it doesn’t involve selling out of a physical location. You can differentiate yourself by focusing on user-experience and passion.
Make sure you focus on developing a good user experience, building a community, providing exceptional customer service, nurturing strong partnerships, and having your online presence translate into a powerful story. Customers identify with a story. It makes the sales process work for you rather than you working for sales.
Whatever direct sales strategy you employ, it’s important to make every customer feel like a valued member of the company’s family. It fosters loyalty, builds a connection, and creates trust.