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Tag: Strategic Planning

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.

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.

This week I wrote a post about a bad experience with Domino’s Pizza, and how I felt that they ignored me on Twitter.  My thought is that if you’re going to have a Twitter account, you need to be prepared to service customers there, even if it’s simply to direct people to the appropriate customer service channel.

And I had someone on Twitter question whether I was being fair to Domino’s.  After all, the national brand is represented by independent franchisees.  Shouldn’t we hold the individual franchise responsible for a customer service failure, instead of the whole brand?

And as nice as that would be in a perfect world, I think it’s unrealistic.  Fair or not, consumers do hold national brands accountable for the service they experience from franchisees.  And that affects our direct sales model too.  If a customer or prospect has a bad experience with an individual consultant, they are most likely going to hold your brand responsible for that experience.  They may tell others how terrible your brand is as a result of that experience.  And more and more, they’re going to do that on social networks.

And as a result, social networks hold both the potential for disaster, as well as the potential to identify issues and resolve them before negative word of mouth takes off.  Every company needs to take a long, hard look at their monitoring and customer service functions as they relate to social media.  This is where our customers and prospects will increasingly congregate.  And our response as brands to issues will have a tremendous impact on the public perception of our brand.

Maybe it wasn’t fair for me to expect the corporate Twitter account for Domino’s Pizza to resolve my issue.  (And incidentally, as a result of my post they did open a customer service ticket to resolve my issue.)  It doesn’t change the fact that I DID expect it, and was disappointed when they didn’t come through.  Maybe it’s not fair for a customer to complain about your brand online because of a negative experience with a consultant who was already on the way out.  It doesn’t change the fact that they will complain.

The only thing you can control as a brand is your response.  Begin planning now.  You NEED a monitoring solution in place, you NEED a support path in place to direct issues appropriately, and your customer service department NEEDS to be trained to support web issues.

We can talk about what’s fair until the cows come home.  It doesn’t change what IS.

Are you ready?

image credit: sdminor81

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.

This post originally appeared on Jennifer Fong’s Direct Sales and Social Media blog.

Recently I’ve been doing some research on mobile options for our industry.  Some of the companies in our industry have done some really interesting things.  For example, Close to My Heart has an iPhone application that goes along with its Studio J digital scrapbooking product that allows people that use the software to show off their creations on their phones.  Both Amway (their app here) and Herbalife (their app here) have apps that allow iPhone users to enroll new consultants, shop, view/show videos (product, opportunity, training…), view backend data like volume and contacts, and so much more.  Very cool stuff.  Lia Sophia (their iPhone app…they also have one for Android) and Mary Kay (iPhone and Blackberry) both have mobile catalogs.

Amway's Mobile App

But mobile applications such as these present challenges for direct selling companies, and in particular smaller ones.  First, these applications are expensive to develop.  A custom application can cost tens of thousands of dollars.  And that’s for one platform.  If, after reviewing your site’s analytics, you discover traffic from multiple smartphones (iPhone, Android, RIM – Blackberry) you might need to build more than one.

And then you need to support it!  It’s not like you can build it and walk away.  That takes a budget too.  Is your company up for that challenge, and will it bring enough ROI to make it worth it?

Another option for companies is Mobile Websites.  These are sites that are optimized for mobile web browsers.  If you are reading this post right now on a smartphone through your web browser (not email) you’ll discover that the site looks different.  That’s because I use a plugin on my website that automatically detects when someone visits the site using a mobile browser, and serves up the content in a different way. (The plugin is called WPtouch, for those who are interested.)  Which works for a WordPress-based blog, but doesn’t work with your backend consultant data or your corporate website.

If you’re developing a mobile website, you need to keep in mind that Flash doesn’t work in most mobile browsers.  Here’s a website that lists more things to keep in mind when developing for mobile browsers: How to Design and Build a Mobile Website And here’s a list of tools you can use to test how your website appears on various mobile devices: 10 Excellent Tools for Testing Your Site on Mobile Devices (hat tip to Dave Sabol and Deirdre Reid for this info.)

When deciding which path to take, it’s important to take a look at your site analytics, to determine how many people are currently accessing your site via a mobile device, and which phones are being used.  For example, if you take a look at my mobile site analytics, you’ll see this:

Based on this, I can see that from over 7,000 visitors, only 96 (less than 2%) visited using a smartphone.  (Although this doesn’t give me data for the thousands of people that have subscribed via email…they could also be reading the email version of my posts via a smartphone.) Given that my audience has a large number of corporate readers, I’m not surprised that the number one type of operating system is Blackberry. Interestingly though, people who read the site on mobile devices spend less than half the time that people who visit my regular website do, although iPad readers stick around the longest.  I suspect this is because when you read this site from your computer, you see “related posts” (via another plugin) that might cause you to stay longer.  (I think I need to go buy an iPad now to figure out why this is.  I think my husband will see this as a justifiable expense, don’t you?  It’s RESEARCH!) :)  Based on these numbers, I would probably not pay to develop a mobile site right now.  (The plugin I use is free.)  What do your analytics tell you?  (Google tells you all this, by the way, for free.)

Companies in our industry need to start taking a serious look at how they’re going to tackle the mobile issue.  Before long, consumers are going to expect to be able to order from a consultant website using a mobile-friendly website.  Are you prepared to support them?  Not to mention the fact that our very mobile sales force can derive significant benefits from being able to access training, opportunity videos, and more while on the go.  Here’s a post I wrote a few weeks ago with some ways the field can benefit from mobile opportunities: Field Support Tools On the Go

So are you ready for mobile?  What are you doing to prepare?  What questions do you have?  Would love to read your thoughts on this topic in the comments below!

p.s. One more hat tip to Dino Baskovic and his team over at Amway for providing the iPhone app image that appears in this post, on a weekend no less!

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.

The viral nature of the internet can be a wonderful thing.  Messages about your company can spread far and wide, resulting in new consultants and higher sales.  But that viral effect can be a double-edged sword.  Because if someone has a bad experience with your company, or one of its consultants, that can have a devastating effect on your company’s reputation, and its ability to recruit.

We saw this very thing happen to United Airlines when they broke a musician’s $3,500 Taylor guitar, and then refused to pay for it.  Google “United Breaks Guitars” and you’ll see a remarkable string of posts that have preserved this rocky patch in United’s history forever.  If United had had a strategy in place to deal with such situations before they became viral sensations, they would have been much better off (and you can bet they do now!)

This past year we saw a member of our own industry, Arbonne International, manage this quite well.  When the company went through a debt restructuring, it could have been very easy for negative information to fly, causing many of its distributors to flock to other companies.  But the company took a pro-active approach, creating a company blog as part of a larger communication strategy that kept distributors informed, and helped the company weather the storm.  Now this is but a far-distant memory that the company has been able to put behind them.

Does your direct sales company have a plan for when disaster strikes?  We all know that the information that the salesforce sees and consumes is essential when it comes to managing crisis.  What should you have in place ahead of time to be prepared?  Here are some tips:

  • Create an escalation procedures document. Make a list of “worst that could happen” scenarios, and who is authorized to make a public statement.  This will save you hours of meetings trying to decide who should take care of the situation, while it spirals out of control, and makes it very easy for the person who spots the issue to quickly route it to the correct person, no matter what the hour.
  • Create a “24 hour statement” for each issue you identify. This is a standard response that can be made in response to each of the scenarios you identified, so the company looks responsive while you’re crafting a more specific company response.
  • Have “community ambassadors” within your corporate structure. These are folks who work with influencers in the online communities most important to you.  When a crisis arises, chances are these influencers will reach out to the person they know and trust in your organization, for your side of the story.  This means these influencers are a lot more likely to provide a balanced view of the situation.
  • Create a culture that admits when you’re wrong. Transparency and authenticity are DEMANDED in social media communities, particularly when things go wrong.  Be sure the employees in your organization are able to admit it when you’re wrong, and empowered to fix it.
  • Have a place for your official corporate response. This is typically a corporate blog.  If the issue is big enough and mainstream media picks it up, they’ll have a place they can go that provides the official corporate response.

By planning before crisis hits, you can more effectively manage online crises before they go viral.  And if you handle them well, you might even get some positive feedback from the online community.  It all starts with a plan!

image credit: Jim Linwood

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 planning 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.

image credit: jurvetson

Direct selling companies are in an interesting position right now.  Many executives who don’t know much about social media are looking to hire people who do, to guide them.  The challenge is finding people who also understand our industry and its specific nature. Just because a program or site someone saw is cool, doesn’t mean it’s going to work for direct selling.

It all comes down to understanding your business objectives before diving into social media.  By establishing a clear goal up front, every new program and site can be weighed against it, to decide if it’s a fit.  For example, let’s say that a social media advisor is in love with a virtual reality site he thought was cool when he worked at his last tech-savvy company.  This, he says, will be the shining star in the company’s social media strategy.

A quick look at the company’s business objective though, reveals that the goal is to increase consultant productivity.  Even though the site may be cool, it’s neither a) a place the company wants its sales force to be spending time (we want them selling and recruiting!) nor b) a tool that will in itself provide any tools to consultants to increase their productivity.  Sure, the site might help with brand recognition, but that has not been identified as the goal for the company’s social media strategy.

It’s critically important to ensure that companies start with business objectives, and not the “oooh! shiny” tools that try to sway our attention.  Focus is key.  The latest and greatest is not always the best solution for your particular needs.  Your best bet is to focus on tools that have the greatest concentration of your target market.  And then focus on ways to increase productivity by using those tools.  This is what will bring success with social media.

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 planning 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.

image credit: jurvetson

Working for yourself is hard… much, much harder than working for someone else at a job. When we work for someone else as an employee, they tell us what days and hours to work, they define our job and what constitutes success at that job, and they worry about whether there is enough money to pay the bills.  Employees, even senior managers, go to work and do the job that has been defined for them.  Sure there are big, high stress, complicated jobs that many employees do. But at least most of the scheduling, tasks and limits of authority have been defined for them by someone else.

When we are our own boss running our own business we not only have to accomplish the tasks that will bring us financial rewards, we also have to create a work schedule, define the tasks to be done, create a strategy and business plan and take out the trash.  There is no “boss” to help us prioritize our time and work on the “big picture”.  No, the self employed must do it all.  And that is the downfall of many who try to build their own businesses.  This inability to effectively manage ourselves is the single biggest reason that direct sales leaders fail.  In fact, it may be the primary reason why many self employed people are unable to be successful.

Think about it:   If you are unable to create and maintain a productive work schedule each week without the benefit of someone prodding and reminding you to do the work, how can you teach others to do so?  If you are unable to effectively prioritize your tasks into “must do” tasks versus “nice to do” tasks then you will not get the truly important business building things accomplished. You will waste time doing things that don’t really count.

So often over my career when counseling a leader who built a good downline and business and was now watching it fall into decline I have heard:  “I’m just so busy doing my newsletter and recognition and planning my team holiday party that I just don’t have time to do my personal business anymore!”

This is a classic example of not managing one’s self well.  She built her business by doing the fundamental business activities well: strong and consistent personal sales, effective recruiting activities, teaching new sellers to be successful and coaching the most willing and promising to become leaders themselves.   These are the “must do” tasks.  Newsletters, recognition and team celebrations are important, but should never be given priority over the must-do tasks that are fundamental to success.  My advice to leaders is this situation is always “Go back to doing the things that made you successful and hire some part time help to do the important “nice to do” things.  When you concentrate on doing the important stuff, your volunteer sales team members will do the same.  After all, they too want to build their own business and most are not sure how to do that.  So, they look to you and copy what you do.

If you run your own business, now may be good time to review how well you are managing yourself.  Are you concentrating on the “must do” tasks or have you been sliding into spending time on the “nice to do” things?  Are you focusing your most productive hours of the day on your income producing activities?  Do you work consistently at your business on a daily, weekly, monthly schedule?  In other words, take stock:  Are you managing yourself well?

Alan Luce

Few people in the direct sales industry can match the experience, expertise and successes of Alan Luce. With over 25 years in senior management, guiding start-ups and established companies alike, Alan has met virtually every challenge a direct sales executive can face.  Learn more about how Alan can help your company at http://www.luceandassociates.com/Alan-Luce.html.

Does your direct selling company have a blog?  Does it need one?

There are lots of good reasons to consider having a corporate blog.  It’s a great way to provide your company’s official response to anything, for PR purposes.  You can use it to provide valuable content that your consultants can easily pass on to their social networks.  Your blog content can auto-populate onto your company Facebook Page, providing more value to your Facebook fans.  It can provide real SEO value.  Some direct sales companies are even using it to provide training to the salesforce!

Yes, there are many things a blog can do for your company.  But it does require a commitment.  Starting a blog and then never updating it won’t bring your company any benefits.  If you want a blog to work for your company, here are some suggestions:

  1. Decide how the blog fits into your larger social media strategy. What is the purpose of the blog?  Is it to provide resources for consultants?  Give insight into the inner-workings of the organization?  Provide training?  Whatever it is, be very clear on why you have it, what you want to communicate, and who your audience is.
  2. Assign it to someone. It has to be someone’s job to ensure that the blog is regularly updated.  If you expect that people with other jobs will “remember” when it’s their turn to add a post, it most likely will not happen.  Someone has to have both ownership of the blog, as well as authority to ensure that the posts get turned in on time, so you have consistent fresh content.
  3. Create an editorial calendar. One of the best ways to ensure that the blog is working as part of the overall business is to create an editorial calendar.  Plan at least 3 months out, and decide how the posts can work with the goals of the organization.  Are you launching a new catalog?  Think about posts that will support the theme or new products.  Is there a philanthropic initiative that the company is running one month?  Think about what you can write on the blog to highlight that program.  Your blog should work with the other initiatives the company is working on to be an effective resource.

By taking some time to plan before setting up a company blog, you can ensure fresh, consistent content that will provide your company with SEO benefits, your consultants with resources that are easy to share, and the public with information that helps them come to know, like, and trust your company.

Does your company have a blog?  What do you do to make sure it is relevant and consistent?  What benefits does it bring to your organization?  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.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.

We as an industry have always been big on barriers to entry.  If someone wants to order something, we want them to do it at a party.  We must preserve the rules of first contact.  Every order must go through a consultant!  And while the reasoning of avoiding even the hint of competition with the sales force makes a lot of sense, and we really would like people to go to parties, there are ways to credit things to consultants and encourage parties without throwing up barriers to entry that are driving away our business.

In this interconnected world we now live in, people expect things immediately.  I decide to join your company at midnight…I want to do so RIGHT NOW.  I don’t want to wait for that email form I submitted to reach someone in your office, and then for you to connect it with the right consultant, and then that person to call me. That could take days! I expect to be able to sign up RIGHT NOW and you can do your backoffice procedures later.  Same goes for ordering.  If I want to order something (especially if I’ve looked at your catalog via a mobile app) and you tell me after I’ve made my choices that now I have to pick up a phone or in some other way interrupt my flow to do something else…well, frankly, you’ve lost me again.

This generation expects immediacy.  If we stay tied to our barriers to entry, we’re going to very quickly find that we are becoming irrelevant and outdated.  I’m not saying we should take recruits or orders away from the sales force.  Goodness, no.  And we should encourage people who want to join or order to identify their consultant at every step in the process.  But if I don’t have someone I’m working with (or, dare I say it, don’t particularly WANT to deal with a particular person in your sales force), don’t make me jump through hoops to connect with you.  It’s completely the opposite to the way the world expects to do business today.

Barriers to entry must become a thing of the past if we hope as an industry to remain a relevant way to do business.  Young companies get this and build those systems from the beginning.  Older companies are finding it a much harder process to change the minds of both our internal and external stakeholders on this issue.  But it must be done.  If we allow outdated ways of doing business, and fear, to guide our decision making, very soon we’re not going to have a business that appeals to a new generation of buyers and recruits.  To build a sustainable, long-term business, we must adapt, and barriers to entry have to be eliminated.

What are your thoughts on this?  What are the challenges to eliminating barriers?  Have you had experiences in attempting their removal?  Would love to read your thoughts in the comments.

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.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.

image credit: Mark Hillary