How to Pick the Right Direct Selling Company to Join

Ever wonder where that new neighbor got the money to build that new home in your neighborhood? Well my wife and I did. A few years ago we were driving around some neighborhoods in Salt Lake City, Utah looking for a place to move. We came across a hidden little neighborhood of brand new homes with new cars in many of the driveways. We were curious so we stopped a couple out walking their dog and asked them what everyone did to afford living in these nice homes.

To our surprise the couple said that the majority of their neighbors were self-employed and worked from home and half of them were already retired in their late 30′s to mid-40′s. What did they do for a living? The internet!

Shortly after that my wife and I had an opportunity to join a new direct sales company called Scentsy and it has been 5 years of work building a future, but here we are knocking on the door of early retirement.

We’ve tried a few direct marketing companies before so why did this one work for us? It took me a while to understand that it is a combination of opportunity, belief in the products, hard work, and yes just some dumb luck. I believe that there is plenty to share in the market so I want to help others understand what a career working from home with a direct marketing company can work for you too.

Opportunity:

No question that success in any business requires understanding of the opportunity. Basically this means will the business make money or not. With a direct sales opportunity you have to look to see if the parent company is still growing or is it in what they call a maintenance mode. Companies like Pampered Chef or Amway have been around a while so it is more challenging to grow fast compared to companies like Scentsy which are still relatively young.

But the age of the company is just one factor to consider. We have all worked for companies where we ended up hating what we did. So it is super important that you hook up with a direct sales company that helps you feel good about what you are doing.

Product:

Have you ever purchased something from a shopping channel or an infomercial on TV and later regretted the purchase because the product did not do what it advertised or was so cheaply built that it would break within days to weeks of the purchase?

I have. I’ve learned from those experiences two key things. First if you want to get in shape, hit the gym with a friend; secondly if you are going to be successful in a business over a long period of time you need to offer quality products and you have to feel good about selling and using them yourself.

One thing that made my wife and I love working as an independent consultant for Scentsy was the quality of their products. The flameless candle products are dependable, safe, decorative, and adds to our home. That last part is huge! We are not afraid to put the candle warmers out on display where our friends, family, and neighbors can see them.

Compare the feeling of confidence of a decorative item you are proud of to a weight loss shake, a bottle of some super anti-oxidant beverage, or an additive for your car. We actually have conversations started by visitors to your home about the products we are proud to represent in our business. This makes it much easier for us to be with the company for the long-haul.

Hard Work:

Not many people will come up with the magic numbers to win a power ball raffle. So your efforts towards financial freedom should be with an expectation that it is going to take some hard work to set up the finances for the rest of your life. But as others have said, if you love what you do, it really does not feel like work.

In the direct sales industry hard work covers three things. First it is putting yourself and the product in front of people to create the opportunity for success. Second it is providing the absolute best customer experience. Third is recognizing that along you cannot succeed, but that the success of the people you work for and the people you bring on board to work with you all add up to your long term success.

Les Miserable is a great example of a hard work and dedication. The authors of that wonderful musical totally flopped with their first release. They did not give up though. Instead they evaluated what went wrong and change the script and the music score and the result has been 25 years of fantastic fan reviews.

A bit of Luck:

Every success has a bit of luck involved. Luck in the direct sales industry occurs when the parent company has an explosion in the market right after you join; is evident when you sign up for someone that will help you grow your business, even if they are not your next door neighbor and best friend; occurs when you just happen to sign someone up from half way across your country or even a different country that becomes a rock star and explodes on their own.

One thing I have learned is that if you keep at something long enough the luck will find you. Eventually you build the success that will lead you to a financially independent lifestyle.

Networking: It’s A Mistake For Small Businesses To Overlook This Marketing Tool

It’s been said, “It’s not about what you know, but who you know.” This phrase applies especially to those who want to master the art of brown-nosing as they climb up the corporate ladder in a large, multi-billion dollar company.

But this article isn’t for those people. This article is for the entrepreneurs and small business owners out there who are wondering:

a.) “How can I get the word out about my company?”

b) “Where can I get more leads and sales?”

c.) “Where can I meet other like-minded business owners and employees to learn and exchange ideas?

There are many ways to market a business. The obvious one is direct marketing such as newspaper ads, flyers, brochures, TV commercials, and radio spots. All of these are great when done correctly. But first, you have to decide which medium is right for you, and then you have to design or pay someone to develop your message. Once that’s done, you sit and wait for a response. Direct marketing works, but it has to be done correctly to get a good return on investment. You probably won’t get it right on the first try and fine-tuning your strategy is the only way to go about get profitable results.

Networking as a Marketing Tool

There is another way to market your business with a lot of extra benefits that you just can’t get with direct marketing. It’s called Networking. Most small business owners and new business owners either don’t do it, or don’t do it enough. Those who are doing it know that it works. There are many ways to network and this article will go into detail on many of them. And no, we’re not talking about “networking” with the stranger at the gas station and telling him all about your business.

My business, a graphic and web design studio, was only a few months old when I realized it was time to start meeting new leads face to face. Yes, I was initially keeping busy as I exhausted the “friends, family and their referrals” resource, but I knew that my business needed something else if I was going to be in it for the long haul. I started with one networking event which I dreaded going to because I did not like meeting new people. I’m great around people when I know them, but I had a hard time talking to complete strangers, especially business professionals.

The first event was a Chamber of Commerce lunch. From then on, my desire to meet other business owners hit the ceiling. I was shy at first, but you just have to throw yourself in with the sharks, so to speak. I quickly got over my fear of talking to new people as well as my fear of public speaking. If you love talking to new people, than you can just skip the whole “getting used to it” step. Some small business owners are very good at running their business, but contact with other people may not be their strong point. That is why you either have to force yourself to network, or have another, more gregarious person in the business do it for you.
Networking is great because there are a lot of things happening at once. You are meeting driven people like yourself. You are talking about your business and learning about other small businesses. You are exchanging ideas that will benefit everybody in the group. Eventually, once people know and trust you, you will start getting leads and sales.

You have to put in the work and time to get results from networking. Networking is about developing relationships and that doesn’t always happen on the first try. There is a lot of commerce going on in our capitalistic society, so when you are producing a high ticket item like a custom website, home remodeling or financial services, people will be much more inclined to buy from you if they trust you. The same principal applies to pretty much anything you are selling. Once people learn that you are a legitimate business owner, then they will have no problem buying from you or referring someone who will.

OK, enough about networking in theory. Let’s explore some groups, organizations, and other ways to actually network.

Open Networking Groups

Chamber of Commerce – Almost every city has one. Some are invaluable while others can be a complete bummer. It really depends on where you are and who is running the organization. Our local chamber of commerce has been great for kick starting my networking bug. Although I met other people in my industry that may be competition, I have actually formed alliances and a referral system for exchanging business with them. In addition, you’re meeting a ton of people in other industries that you can learn from. There are some common factors that apply to all businesses, so its beneficial for you to learn how other people are running their business so you can borrow or innovate upon their ideas.

Just search Google for “Your city: chamber of commerce.”

Small Business Alliances – I know my town has one and it’s incredibly beneficial because they focus on the growth side of running a business. They help with all the questions a small business owner could have like: What do I need to know about my lease, do I want a 401K plan for employees, or who can help me find a good insurance? Anything in regards to the growing pains of a small business! Try this site and see if there’s a local chapter http://amiba.net/. Keep in mind, there are a bunch of other small business alliances that don’t have to do with American Independent Business Alliance. My SBA is actually a local one that is not associated with the AMIBA.

Meetup.com – Yes, there’s actually a site out there that networks people and brings them together in real life. I have yet to go Meetup.com event, but that’s only because I found out about the site a few weeks ago. It looks very promising. The “Meet-ups” are usually free, and if they cost money then it is usually going to pay for food, drinks, and the space.

Meetup.com has every kind of group imaginable, from single mother meet-ups to Dungeons & Dragons meet-ups. If you look hard enough, you’ll find the golden nuggets that relate directly to small businesses, entrepreneurs, or even your industry. The good thing about Meetup.com is that you can start your own group if they don’t have what you’re looking for!

Rotary Clubs – We are not part of a Rotary club yet, but it is a well established business networking organization that helps out the community. Being part of a Rotary can add extra credibility to your business. From their site: “Rotary is the world’s oldest service club organization. It’s made up of more than 32,000 Rotary clubs in nearly 170 countries. The members of these autonomous clubs are called Rotarians, and they form a global network of 1.2 million business and professional leaders, all volunteering their time and talents to serve their communities and the world. Individual Rotary clubs, in turn, belong to the global association Rotary International”

Leads Groups – These groups have one goal in mind: networking. Some are national and others have one chapter. Some are open and others are closed. You have to look hard to find these groups, but they can be some of the best resources out there.

Search Google for “Leads Groups: Your City”

Closed Groups
LeTip – This is a networking group that only allows one company from each industry, hence the closed group title. The exclusivity of closed groups is great if you can get in with a good group that has every intention of getting bigger. That means you will have all of the members acting as your salespeople, which is far more cost-effective than hiring a sales team of 20+ individuals.

This group has a greater sense of trust among the members than say a “Chamber of Commerce,” because you are with them every week and you get to know each member and their business individually. There are a ton of chapters throughout the US so check it out at http://www.letip.com

BNI – Very similar to LeTip. One company per industry. Both BNI and LeTip have training programs that help you learn how to market yourself to other people quickly and effectively. The one catch is that closed groups usually do not let you be a part of other closed groups, so you have to pick one you like and stick with it. Loyalty is important. If you have more than one person in your company, divide yourselves among the different closed groups. Visit http://www.bni.com for more information.

Networking is essential for small business growth.

I’m sure I missed a lot of groups in the list because I don’t know what they all are. Some heavy searching on the internet or communication with other business owners can yield some great results for your area.

I’m fairly new to the networking game. I can’t imagine what it will be like a year or two down the road but I promise you it will be exciting. There is no other way to grow a business like small business networking because you’re going to be face to face with like-minded people. They are either going to be your clients, allies, or in some cases both.

One thing is for sure though: if you stick with these like-minded individuals in the groups and organizations mentioned above, your business will grow faster than you could have imagined. If you’re sick of spending money on direct marketing or if you just sit around on your butt wondering why your business is not growing, get out there and meet new people. The worst case scenario is that you’ll make a friend and get a free meal.

Marketing Incest

I think we all know that “incest” is a terrible word. But how does it apply to marketing? Well, in this context, it applies when your products or services, your company, or your marketing methods or strategies are too closely related to those of your competitors.

In human culture, inbreeding dumbs people down and makes certain rare illnesses far more prevalent. The same thing happens in non-human populations. I’ve raised dogs all of my life, and I’ve learned that purebred dogs are the ones most likely to have health issues, because they’re inbred. Sometimes the healthiest dogs are what we call “Heinz 57″ dogs — the kind where you can’t tell what breed they are, because they’re a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. Well, those types of companies are the healthiest companies, too.

Marketplaces tend to be incestuous in the sense that they’re resistant to outside influence. Ultimately, you end up with the blind leading the blind, and to be blunt, the stupid following the stupid. Everyone following the same methods. There’s no innovation. People are afraid to stand out. There’s nothing that really separates one company from another company. Even if there are things that separate them, they’re not making a big deal about them in an attempt to attract new customers — and they should.

You could ask a hundred different marketing experts, “What is marketing?”, and their answers would range all over the place. Some of the people who have advanced degrees behind their names will give you very complicated answers that take fifteen minutes or more to explain. That’s not necessary. What it all boils down to is this: Marketing is all you do to acquire and retain customers. Period.

There’s a great book by Seth Gordon called Purple Cow, and it tells you how to transform your business by being remarkable. You do that by offering something that’s so great about you, your company, or your products or services that people talk about it. It gets them so excited that they feel it’s worthy of conversation. We’ve seen this in action with great movies, great restaurants, or excellent services. You can do the same with your company. Make people talk about your products and services with awe. If you do that, you’ll be rewarded with money.

This is extremely important, because effective marketing requires that you separate yourself from everybody else. Technically, this is known as “differentiation.” You must differentiate yourself to avoid marketing incest. You’ve got to offer something different to your customers, something unique and intriguing. So here’s the burning question: what makes you, your company, your products and services different from everyone else? What makes you important to your best prospective buyers or customers?

You have to ask yourself that question repeatedly; and I suspect that at first, your answer will be “nothing in particular” or something weak like, “We offer great service.” (This is normal, by the way.) But if you ask that question often enough, you’ll start zeroing in on what you do or can do better than anyone else in your market. That’s a great starting point. From there, you have to either discover or create your points of differentiation.

The average prospect will rarely ever say to you, “What’s different about you, opposed to everybody else?”, or “Why should I choose you over all the other available choices?” But nevertheless, you need to have an answer ready — because they’re all asking themselves variations of that question. They have a finite amount of money to spend, so they’re wondering, “What is it about you, your company, and your products and services that makes you different? Why should I choose you?”

Just because they don’t say the words doesn’t mean that they’re not thinking then, because they’re always wondering. And as I’ve already indicated, the real answer for most companies is, there’s not a whole lot of difference between them and everyone else. That’s why behavior that some might consider outrageous stands out. Consider the entertainment world, where Lady Gaga might be the best example at the moment. She’s worth something like $100 million these days — and her fans adore her.

She does the most outrageous things. She showed up at the 2010 MTV Music Awards dressed in meat. I’m not making this up! It was outrageous, and people talked about it — a lot. Well, I’m not asking you to do anything like that, but you do need to make some effort to make yourself different. Don’t go too far, but don’t just copy everyone else, either.

Now, is Lady Gaga more talented than other singers? You make the call. If you’re reading this sometime in the future and the name’s not familiar, just check her out on the Internet (or whatever it’s morphed into by then). She’s a marketing phenomenon, if nothing else. Her name is kind of dumb, but it sticks, doesn’t it? And her outrageous performances make her memorable. She’s always dressed in something outrageous, something that looks totally different every time. As for her music, there’s not a lot of difference between it and everybody else’s. I don’t see her being especially gifted musically, though of course she does have some talent. But her big talent is standing out in a very crowded marketplace.

Personally, I’m a big fan of Bruce Springsteen. He’s got loads of talent, but he made his big mark through the length of his concerts. Where others might last 90 minutes to two hours, he’s up there performing for four and five hours, sometimes longer. He’s also a phenomenal performer, giving it all he has for all that time, putting it all out there for the fans. He’s remarkable, because he’s different from all the other rockers — and I’ve seen plenty of them.

Wichita, Kansas and the other cities I’ve attended concerts in aren’t exactly on the main circuit… and you could see how bored the performers were when they got up on stage. Sometimes they would even turn their backs to the audience. These guys were our heroes, and we paid big bucks to see them — money that could have gone for a million other things — and they were blowing us off like we didn’t matter. That’s like a slap in the face.

Bruce Springsteen wasn’t like that. He performed for us, singing his heart out. Not only did he go for two or three times longer than the rest of these guys, but he gave everyone a hell of a show. I became a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen and his band, because I admire them so much — especially how they’ve differentiated themselves from everybody else.

It’s easy to see real differentiation in the music business, which is crowded with clones. Most markets are like that, and again, many of the companies in all marketplaces are like the blind leading the blind. But in the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king — so keep your eye open. Instead of copying others, reach for something different. Why don’t more people do this? Because they’re afraid to.

Look: people want to know who you are. They want to do business with other people. It’s the relationships that are important. So don’t be afraid to tell your story — and stop being a copycat. Sadly, you find Market Incest everywhere you look. Once you’re aware of this, it’s like the Jackson Browne song with the line that goes, “You take Sally, and I’ll take Sue, there ain’t no difference between the two.” You can’t let yourself be like that, so find those differentiations that make you unique. Look for weak areas that your competitors aren’t serving, jump in, and inject that “wow” factor to make yourself stand out above the crowd.

Here’s another useful idea: adapt ideas from other markets. My best example here is something you take for granted every time you go to your local fast food joint and don’t even have to leave your car to get your food. A McDonald’s executive was at a drive-through bank one day when it occurred to him that he could adapt the idea to his restaurant — and the rest is history. Nowadays, everybody’s got a drive-through window, even Starbucks. People are pre-conditioned to expect it. If you don’t have a drive-through window, they’ll go somewhere else that does.

So look for ideas outside your marketplace. The essence of creativity is combining existing ideas in whole new ways. Innovate. Search for new and exciting ways to do the same things that everybody else is doing. Look at it as a game — a challenge.

Remember: “In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king.” All you have to do is find those points of differentiation that make you different, and build them into your business. Do that, and you’ll see a lot of prospects gravitating to you instead of your competitors.