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Best Practices for Virtual Parties by Jennifer Fong from http://lucemurphyfong.comLast week I conducted an online, virtual roundtable of 8 party plan companies, inviting them to share their thoughts, experiences, and learnings about the concept of virtual parties. It was a fabulous discussion, and I think we all walked away with some ah-ha! moments that will help us as we work towards creating a duplicatable model for virtual parties.

I share some of the best practices we discussed in today’s post on my blog: http://www.jenfongspeaks.com/best-practices-for-online-virtual-parties/

Does your company do virtual parties? What have you learned? Would love to read your experiences in the comments below.

Jennifer Fong is a Managing Principal of Luce, Murphy, Fong and Associates. She helps party plan and network marketing companies throughout the direct selling industry embrace new technologies and adapt to the rapidly changing sales environment that we face today.

Turkey: A Hidden Treasure? Guest Post by Hakki Ozmorali from http://lucemurphyfong.comToday we are pleased to welcome guest blogger Hakki Ozmorali.  Hakki Ozmorali was the first corporate professional in the Turkish network marketing industry. After serving various direct selling companies as Country Manager and Regional Manager in Turkey and Canada, he now provides consulting services to the industry in Turkey. Hakki Ozmorali is also the publisher of the popular weekly newsletter, The World of Direct Selling.

Turkey: A Hidden Treasure?
by Hakki Ozmorali

You decide it for yourself:

  • Turkey’s population is 75.6 million. This is the 17th highest in the world, and the 3rd highest in Europe after Russia and Germany. Turkey is expected to be Europe’s 2nd largest market by the year 2020.
  • 14 million people live in the largest city Istanbul. This is more than each of the European countries Portugal, Greece, Belgium, Hungary, Sweden and Bulgaria.
  • There about 3 million Turks who live in the European Union countries keeping very close ties with their relatives and friends at home.
  • Turkey has a growing economy. The GDP growth rate in fixed prices was 9.2% in 2010, 8.5% in 2011, and 2.2% in 2012.
  • Due to the birth rates and the increasing productivity in the economy, unemployment remains a major problem: There is over 10% urban unemployment. This rate is almost twice as high among the young and also among women.
  • To an industry that relies very heavily on communications, the physical infrastructure and people’s attitude towards these means are very important. Currently, there are more than 20 million Internet and 68 million mobile subscriptions in the country.
  • The direct selling model has been widely accepted by the society. The volume generated by the industry was USD 1.2 billion in 2011. This puts Turkey in the so-called “Billion Dollar Club”. Well over 1 million people are thought to be affiliated with at least one direct selling company on a full time or a part time basis.
  • There are now more than 80 direct selling companies operating in the market. Among those internationals that are currently in Turkey are: Amway, Avon, Herbalife, Forever Living, Kyani, LR Health & Beauty Systems, Nikken, Nu Skin, Oriflame, PM-International, Saladmaster, Sunrider, Tiens, Tupperware, and Vision.
  • Companies are required to get a license, a procedure that takes no longer than few days. Direct sellers on the other hand, are not required to get any licences, nor are they required to tax-register. Direct selling companies are to withhold a percentage of the commissions and transfer it to the tax office.
  • The Turkish economy has close ties with many countries, the EU being on top of the list. Turkey has customs union with the European Union since 1994 lifting any duties for products coming from and through this region.

So, what do you think? Isn’t the potential huge?

When working with field leaders, I’m often asked how to sponsor “good” people – ones who aspire to become leaders.  And on occasion, a leader tells me she only talks to people who “prequalify” as a solid prospective consultant. Ouch! I believe, without hesitation, that we can’t tell if someone will be wildly successful. We can have a hunch, for sure. But too many times I’ve worked with new consultants who just needed encouragement and someone who believed in them. What a rush to see them succeed! I would hate to eliminate them from the start. So I always respond by saying, “Sponsor everyone because you never know – you just never know.”

Recently I learned about an informal field test from Shelley Whitmarsh, VP of Sales for SimplyFun. When Shelley was in the field, she and a fellow team leader noticed that Shelley’s team grew proportionately faster so they set out to determine why. Was it personal sponsoring? No – they sponsored about the same number each year. Was it the amount of time they dedicated to building their business? No – that was also roughly the same. Yet when Shelley’s team tripled in size, her friends team doubled.

Here’s what they came up with. When Shelley presented the business opportunity – to everyone – she presented it as just that – a business opportunity. Her friend had a different approach. When she presented the business opportunity – to everyone – she positioned it as a part-time job. That “full-time vs. part-time” mentality worked it’s way through their organization. In Shelley’s team, more aspired to become team leaders, which led to overall team growth. Now, when asked if there is a secret ingredient to sponsoring future leaders, I’ll say, “Sponsor everyone and tell them about the advantages of building a substantial business from the start –because you never know – you just never know.”

.With over 25 years of direct sales experience, Lori develops training packages for start up companies and works with established companies to update sales training and methods.  Lori is an accomplished speaker and specializes in creating presentations tailored to meet each company’s specific needs.

Hmmm, I never thought this would be a high priority topic – or even a blog topic at all.  But a recent incident made it come front and center. I was working on a training project out of town, and realized that I needed a car. Since I was already at the office, the company arranged for a car to be picked up at a nearby hotel. How convenient.  My colleague and I headed over and found a very small rental counter tucked in a corner of the lobby.  The representative looked over the paperwork and said she just happened to have a 2-seat convertible sports car for only $19.00 a day more.  We didn’t mean to offend, but we chuckled at the thought of pulling up to the office in a bright red corvette, hair flying in the wind. “No thanks,” we said.  “The car that was ordered would be just fine.”

The representative asked how much luggage we had because our car would only accommodate a few pieces.  A larger one would only be $14.00 a day more. “No thanks”, we said. “The car our company ordered would be just fine.” “GPS?” she asked. “Only 13.00 a day more.”  We declined and asked if she would kindly give us car that was ordered. “Sure thing”, she said.  And I would imagine you want insurance, right”? Only $6.00 a day more.” We held firm and said we were a bit behind schedule. “Let’s just finish up then, she said.  But I highly recommend prepaying for gas.”

At this point, I was finding it hard not to laugh, so I started writing a talk in my head about the danger of excessive upselling. In the background, I heard that something would only cost $2.00 a day more. Then I found out just how far my friend could be pushed when she screamed “NO. JUST GIVE ME THE CAR!” The representative said she had the perfect one for us, but I think I detected a smirk.

Did you know that a top rental car agency still has at least one car with hand crank windows and manual door locks?   I sent a picture to my kids so they could see what it was like in the good old days. “Yes, she got her laugh, but I was ahead of the game because I walked away with the framework for a talk, inspiration for this blog and some wonderful nostalgic memories.  Yes, we do want our sales force to upsell. But let’s make sure they don’t go overboard!

Lori Moser

With over 25 years of direct sales experience, Lori develops training packages for start up companies and works with established companies to update sales training and methods. Lori is an accomplished speaker and  specializes in creating presentations tailored to meet each company’s specific needs.

Lots of direct sales companies have Twitter accounts today. The problem is, few companies seem to know what to do with them. Without a clear understanding of WHY the company has the account (besides, everyone else has one so we should too) companies are broadcasting a stream of ads, without anything to show for it.

If your company is trying to figure out the best way to use Twitter, the first thing you have to ask is “Who do we want to talk to?” And in order to answer that question, you need to understand how Twitter fits into your larger marketing plan, of which social media is a part. Are you trying to find new recruits? Increase brand recognition? Increase sales? Each of these marketing goals may have a different audience. So first figure out who you want to talk to, and then you can figure out if that audience is on Twitter.

If your goal is to reach a consumer audience, frequent tweets about the features and benefits of your product line is the wrong way to go. First, no one on Twitter likes a steady stream of ads, and they’ll simply ignore you. But also, a consumer audience is often easier to find on tools such as Facebook.

Does that mean you should abandon Twitter? No. But it does mean you need a different strategy.

Instead of engaging consumers directly on Twitter, you may be better off engaging the folks that INFLUENCE your consumers. This is often popular bloggers. They often do spend time on Twitter. However a steady stream of ads won’t work with them either. Instead, you need to talk to them. Find out what’s important to them. Retweet their content, and share content they’ll find valuable. You have to actually spend time on Twitter talking to people if you want it to work for you. Simply sending out a tweet a day with information about your product or opportunity won’t do a thing for you. It takes community management to be successful.

Twitter, along with other social networks, has particular types of users. Depending on your goals, you have to engage in a certain way. It takes a skilled community manager with the time to invest in building relationships for your brand, if you want your social networking engagement to bring measurable results for your brand.

Does your company use Twitter? How’s it working for you? Who are you trying to reach? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

Jennifer Fong helps direct sales companies leverage the power of social media marketing to increase sales and recruiting, and manage online brand perception.  She provides strategic social media consulting to companies, as well as conference speaking and training. To learn more about how Jennifer can help your company, visit http://luceandassociates.com/Jennifer-Fong.html.  You can also check out her direct sales and social media blog at http://www.jenfongspeaks.com, and her Facebook Page at http://facebook.com/jenfongspeaks.

Do I have your attention? Sure hope so.  Because whether you are a sales representative in the field, a corporate sales leader or simply checking out the industry, this tip will serve you well.

While exciting new products, elaborate trip promotions and “raise the roof” conventions can increase performance; the best overall strategy to build sales and recruiting is to focus on finding and nurturing Prospective Team Leaders.

A Prospective Team Leader is one who is working to reach the first level of leadership as outlined in the company’s compensation plan. This typically involves a personal sales, sponsoring and team sales requirement. When these performance minimums are met, the Prospective receives a new title and substantial bonus increase.

Why are Prospective Leaders so important?  Because they need to sell more and recruit more in order to reach their goal. And when they succeed, their increased activity will be reflected in your company’s overall performance.  It’s a simple concept but one that can easily get by us.

Now, how do we find those prospective leaders?  Stay tuned…

Image Credit: pasukara76

With over 25 years of direct sales experience, Lori develops training packages for start up companies and works with established companies to update sales training and methods. Lori is an accomplished speaker and  specializes in creating presentations tailored to meet each company’s specific needs.

This post was originally published on Jennifer Fong’s Direct Sales and Social Media blog at http://www.jenfongspeaks.com.

Last night I signed up for NetFlix.  Now I realize that I am probably the last living American to do so.  But I’ve been a Blockbuster Video loyalist for decades, and wasn’t in any hurry to change that status.  But the Netflix business model finally hooked me, when I discovered we could stream videos on demand to our TV through our Wii, and have 1 DVD at a time, all for a monthly fee that was less than 2 videos a month at Blockbuster.

And it really got me to thinking about business models, and how getting too comfortable with ours can cause us to lose touch with what appeals to even our most loyal customers.  You see, Blockbuster was on top for a really long time.  And holding that percentage of the market share, in my opinion, made them short-sighted.  They didn’t even consider the competition anymore.

Yet the competition was innovating.  It started through a mail order service…where DVDs from a list you create online would be shipped to you to keep as long as you like. Then, when you’re done, you ship it back (postage free) and get another DVD on your list.  For some people this was super convenient.  Yet for people like me, their loyalists, we wanted to choose the movie we were in the mood for the night we wanted to watch it.  The NetFlix model didn’t meet that need, and so we stayed with Blockbuster.

The next thing I was aware of was the on-demand model.  We’re not big TV watchers in my house (heck, I’ve still got a VCR!), so we didn’t upgrade to a cable box until we were forced to by our cable company.  At that point we got a whole collection of on-demand programming that we could access for a fee similar to what we would pay at Blockbuster (as well as a collection of free children’s programming).  Without leaving our house.  You couldn’t keep your movie for a week (my kids like to watch things multiple times), but it was sure convenient to not have to leave the house on rainy nights.  We took advantage of some programming through the cable company. Yet we still remained loyal to Blockbuster too, signing up for the loyalty program, etc.

But then Blockbuster began to betray our trust.  They switched from 7 day rentals to 5 day rentals, and didn’t tell anyone (well I assume it was on our paper receipt, but they failed to mention it.)  We racked up late fees as a result (didn’t Blockbuster a while back do away with late fees?  Yeah, not anymore.  We didn’t know that either.)  The loyalists that they should have been rewarding and courting were experiencing betrayal after betrayal.  We didn’t matter to them!

Then I saw a blog post about how we could have 1 DVD at a time in the mail, plus on demand programming to our TV, for under $10 a month through NetFlix. I fiddled a bit and saw how easy it would be to set up. It was a no-brainer.

By the way, have YOU seen any online social efforts to reach me through Blockbuster, either through sponsored blog posts, Twitter, etc.?  To retain my business?  I certainly haven’t. Other than the regular email I get trying to sell me stuff, I never hear from them at all.

And so Blockbuster has lost another loyal customer.  Because they weren’t listening.  And they weren’t paying attention to my needs.

As direct sellers, we have to be very careful that we don’t make the same mistake.  We are VERY fond of our business model, and very slow to change.  And that’s because it works.  But if we don’t continue to adapt to modern technology, and the way our customers want to shop, we could easily go the way of Blockbuster.  It’s hard to believe, but in this day and age there are still direct selling companies that don’t provide their reps with personal websites for shopping.  There are still companies that aren’t reaching out to customers through the social web.  And yet consumers are telling us, loudly, that they EXPECT to be able to interact with their brands online.

Look at Stella and Dot as an example.  How did this direct sales jewelry company get so big so fast? By taking advantage of the social web, and encouraging its reps to do the same.  They haven’t abandoned direct selling principles.  But they’re smart enough to add online technology to the mix, in order to provide their customers with the shopping experience that fits into their lives.  And as a result, they are on par with the Silpadas and Cookie Lees of the world, who have been around a LOT longer.

Customers aren’t going to bend to your traditions.  At least not very long.  They expect you to adapt to them.  Are you prepared to do so?

Your thoughts?

Jennifer Fong

Jennifer Fong helps direct sales companies leverage the power of social media marketing to increase sales and recruiting, and manage online brand perception.  She provides strategic social media consulting to companies, as well as conference speaking and training. To learn more about how Jennifer can help your company, visit http://luceandassociates.com/Jennifer-Fong.html.  You can also check out her direct sales and social media blog at http://www.jenfongspeaks.com, and her Facebook Page at http://facebook.com/jenfongspeaks.

Is your company engaging successfully through social media? Are people responding to your posts on your Facebook Page? Do people comment on your blog posts? When someone mentions your company online, are you aware of it, and respond when necessary?

While a few companies might say “Yes” in our industry, unfortunately the vast majority will probably say “No,” or “I don’t know.”

Why is that? After all, social media has been around for years now. Many best practices have been defined, and consistently applying these techniques has been proven to work.

So what’s the problem?

For many of our companies, resourcing is the issue. We haven’t put someone (or a department) in place to handle online marketing for the company. For others, it’s a desire to tightly control what’s being said about the brand online, which leads us to one-way conversations without any opportunity for people to respond. And yes, there are still companies that just don’t know what to do. They don’t have the expertise internally, and they haven’t brought in a direct sales and social media expert from the industry to educate the executive team and put a comprehensive strategy in place.

The salesforce is going to lose patience with us soon. Because there are direct sales companies that get it. Companies that provide opportunities for the salesforce to develop business online, and who get people excited about the company online through corporate efforts. Those people in the salesforce who understand business will realize where the greatest opportunities lie. It’s a hard truth, but a truth nonetheless.

Let’s make this the year where we do the work that’s needed to develop engaging online presences for direct selling companies. It took a while for us to all get replicated websites, but we eventually understood the need and now it’s SOP. It’s time for the same thing to happen with social media. This is not going away. It’s only going to become more prevalent and necessary.

If your company needs help, contact me. I’ve helped many of the companies in our industry put into place comprehensive social media strategy. But don’t pull the wool over your eyes any longer. It’s going to be damaging to your business to ignore this, or do this poorly, much longer.

Your thoughts?

Jennifer Fong

Jennifer Fong helps direct sales companies leverage the power of social media marketing to increase sales and recruiting, and manage online brand perception.  She provides strategic social media consulting to companies, as well as conference speaking and training. To learn more about how Jennifer can help your company, visit http://luceandassociates.com/Jennifer-Fong.html.  You can also check out her direct sales and social media blog at http://www.jenfongspeaks.com, and her Facebook Page at http://facebook.com/jenfongspeaks.

Largely out of necessity, most startup companies perform all functions of running their business, including picking and packing orders.  That’s a good thing, because this function can be one of the most time consuming and costly pieces of operating the business.  But it can quickly turn into a costly and time-consuming bottle neck during busy times, like the end of month, holidays, etc. 

It doesn’t have to be that way!  A little thought and planning can go a long way in streamlining your pick & pack process, and protecting your budget at the same time. Your goal should be to keep the process as simple as possible, so it requires minimal training and little knowledge about your company.  That way, when those busy times hit you can easily bring in temporary help, and keep your experienced and knowledgeable staff working at their regular jobs.  So here are a few thoughts in keep in mind:

 1- NUMBERS:  Everyone can understand a number, so arrange your products by numbers, not names, categories or other verbal descriptions.

 2-SHELVING: Put the product on shelves (preferably flow racks) that can be filled from behind. This allows picking to continue while the product is being filled.  It also helps to put the shelves in a half circle or horseshoe so the packing station is at the end AND the beginning of the picking line. That way there’s no wasted time going from one end of the line to the other.

 3-ACCESSORIES: Have a rolling cart or a conveyor rack to move the product through the picking line.  And put all materials necessary to pack an order together on one packing station.  Doing these things not only saves time & money, it avoids injuries. It’s also a good idea to create a separate weigh station (if not part of your packing station) to easily and quickly create labels and manifests.

 These few steps will result in quicker, more efficient picking and packing of products.  And that means less labor costs, inefficiencies and bottlenecks for you!

Chris Clark

Chris Clark worked her magic with our warehouse as well as our Consultant Care team. Chris had a hands-on approach and used her extensive experience to guide us towards what worked best for our particular business. Chris had great follow up, always checking back to be sure we were comfortable with any changes and to answer questions. I felt I had a true partner in the changes we made and that Chris was as excited about our success as we were. I would recommend her to anyone in the Direct Selling field! - Pat Difani, Private Quarters, Director of Sales Operations

luceandassociates.com

One of the keys to a successful social media marketing effort is good content.  Companies have to put out great content, and so does the salesforce.  The problem is, not everyone is a writer.  And so what you wind up with are a vast range of posts, some of which represent your company well, and some that don’t.

As a company, how do you address this?  Do you outright ban consultants from producing their own content?  Or do you take the other approach, and leave it completely up to the field?  Is there middle ground?

Some vendors have been working on solutions for our industry.  I’ve seen solutions where companies can go so far as to write individual status updates that they can push out to a distributor’s Facebook Page or Twitter account.  The problem with this approach is that everyone in your company has the same status updates, which flies in the face of the “social” aspect of social media.  Nothing personal about a “form letter” update.

I think there are a couple of things that companies can do to tackle the content issue:

  1. Produce sharable content – When your company puts out blog posts, status updates, videos, and other types of content, think about the types of content that would be easy and effective for your salesforce to pass along.  Don’t just send out ads.  Produce value-driven pieces that will be valued by the friends of your salesforce, and then teach your salesforce how to share them through their own social networks.
  2. Provide a content “bank” – While “word for word” canned status updates aren’t terribly effective, it can be helpful to give your salesforce a group of ideas they can choose from when writing status updates and blog posts.  These can be tied to monthly promotions and incentives, new product launches, holidays, and more.  The goal is to provide more than ads, but rather useful tips and advice that will provide value.

Since social media is so content-driven, it’s important for direct sales companies to tackle this issue early on. Then your entire salesforce has the potential to put out content that represents the company as a whole well.

How does your company approach the content issue?  What advice would you give?  Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below.

Jennifer Fong

Jennifer Fong helps direct sales companies leverage the power of social media marketing to increase sales and recruiting, and manage online brand perception.  She provides strategic social media consulting to companies, as well as conference speaking and training. To learn more about how Jennifer can help your company, visit http://luceandassociates.com/Jennifer-Fong.html.  You can also check out her direct sales and social media blog at http://www.jenfongspeaks.com, and her Facebook Page at http://facebook.com/jenfongspeaks.