As an executive with eCommerce, direct selling and strategic partnership experience, I hear about 3-5 companies a month wanting to move from solely an eCommerce company to a multi-channel brand which includes a direct selling arm.
The main reason: the desire to have a dedicated field of independent representatives.
All direct selling companies operate a digital storefront no different than an eCommerce company. They have a website, a product to sell and customers. They use social media, SEO, retargeting and email marketing campaigns to try and acquire customers and build brand awareness. Some use CRM and other digital strategies. And some have a strong social mission that pulls everything together. So far, a direct selling company looks the same as any other company in the digital world.
Where they are different is in their business opportunity and team of independent field representatives. I want to focus on the field for now - as they are incredibly strategic when leveraged correctly. As a direct selling company grows, they'll have thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions of independent field reps. They may stay in one country or expand globally.
BUT, as a direct selling company...how do you plan on maximizing your passionate customers and field representatives strategically? Do you leverage their experiences using authentic videos? Do you have access to those user generated videos to tell brand stories?
If not, you MUST create a user generated video strategy ASAP!
“The single most important strategy in content marketing today is video. No matter what you are selling, no matter what your company does, if you don’t have a video marketing strategy, you are going to lose.” - Gary Vaynerchuk
Let's take a high-level look at the current user generated video situation:
- You have a passionate following of customers and field reps
- Those customers and field reps capture video content at every moment around your products, your training events, your incentives, your trips, your challenges, etc.
- That content is shared across several different social media platforms
- You as the brand rarely sees that content and can't leverage it to your advantage
Yes, you spend a ton of money on photo and video shoots to make things look "on brand". News flash - people trust user generated content way more than they trust company curated content. This is even more true with Millennials! (click link)
So, how are you involved in the user generated content process? How are you leveraging your field today? Please don't say you're involved because you use a hashtag.
Just showing up doesn't cut it anymore!
For the recent past, we all looked to social media as the answer to engagement and reach. Some direct selling companies grew rapidly by maximizing the strengths of the platforms. However, a few years ago social platforms like Facebook started implementing algorithms, sponsored ads, boosting posts, penalties for posting too many promotional posts, penalties for posting from a third party site, etc. The result - organic reach died and overall engagement decreased dramatically.
Social media platforms were not designed for business-building. The sooner we all accept this the better. We need to leverage social media platforms for their strengths - sharing stories with friends and family.
New technology and strategies exist today - to enhance your social media strategies. You need to build a brand culture of your own with exclusive experiences. Just ask (or click the links) Sears and K-Mart, Macy's, Sports Chalet, BCBG, etc. Think Dollar Shave Club, Warby Parker, Harley-Davidson, etc.
"In 1983, Harley-Davidson faced extinction. Twenty-five years later, the company boasted a top-50 global brand valued at $7.8 billion. Central to the company’s turnaround, and to its subsequent success, was Harley’s commitment to building a brand community: a group of ardent consumers organized around the lifestyle, activities, and ethos of the brand." - Harvard Business Review -
Direct selling companies must leverage their strategic differentiators to their advantage - their passionate customer and field representatives.
Create a digital community for your brand, for your culture. Leverage your passionate customers and field reps to engage with your digital community. Foster a user generated video destination that is fun, interactive and rewarding.
You will acquire authentic videos around every aspect of your business: products, training, trips, incentives, social mission, recognition, etc. A digital community full of these user generated videos is priceless.
From an acquisition standpoint, your branded digital community shows the world who you are and what you stand for. From a retention standpoint, it allows people to stay engaged on a level that does not exist today. Those who join your digital community will create stronger relationships and gain access to tremendous business insight.
Make user generated video content a part of your overall growth strategy. This is how people communicate today, so embrace it. Stop sending people to a clunky back office where they have to navigate through menus to ultimately find a PDF.
Back Office systems are not how people want to learn and interact. PDFs are fine for some, 3-5% of followers, but most will never read them. User generated video content is the format for sharing, learning and engaging. It's also FREE, so there's no excuse not to build your digital catalogue.
Direct selling companies have a massive strategic advantage over eCommerce companies. Use them, because today, those advantages are not being maximized.