Sunday, July 27, 2008

Can Article Marketing Help Your Direct Sales Business?

One of the most frequent questions I am asked is “how can I advertise for free?” I have never supported methods such as free classifieds. Nobody reads this. If you look, thousands of folks come and post an ad and never read a thing.

I am a very strong supporter of article writing. Article writing allows you to determine exactly what keywords you are targeting and to get very targeted visitors to your site.

I would rather see someone write 3 articles per week versus placing 100 free classified ads in a week.

If you sell children’s toys or children’s books, write parenting articles. Those who read the articles are the very people who are buying toys. If you sell dietary supplements, write health and wellness articles. Again, those who read your articles are going to be people looking for the very product you offer. If you sell make up and skin care, write articles about fashion and beauty.

Who do you want to visit your site? You want potential customers and potential new sales distributors to visit your site. So, how can you make sure that those coming to your site want what you are offering? Write about the topics that relate to what you are selling. Those who search for your articles or find your articles through a keyword search are interested in what you are offering. Parents need toys. When you write about parenting, your audience is the very people who just might buy from you.

Choose a few keywords or keyword phrases that your potential customers might be searching for. Now write about them. Become an expert writer in your field. Write articles that solve every potential problem or question someone might ask you.

Article writing is the best method of free advertising I’ve ever found. Try it. See if you don’t see increased hits to your website that I hope will lead to sales for you.

Audrey :)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Managing Your Time In a Home Based Business

People decide to start a home based business for a variety of reasons. Some people want to be home when their kids get home from school. Some people are caring for a sick parent and wish to be home. Some people just can not conform to the 8-5 mold.

When you work at home, you are in charge of your time. You will decide how much time is spent talking with customers, how much time is spent marketing your business and how much time is spent doing the laundry.

It is so easy to run out to the grocery store, or do a load of laundry, or finish up those dinner dishes; however none of those activities are contributing to your business.

One of the cutest stories I can share with you is the time I spoke with a woman who just couldn’t find her first customer. She and I had created a list of 50 activities she could do that would help her find that first customer. At the end of the week, she still did not have a customer. She was upset and frustrated. We began to talk about the list of 50 activities. She had not done one of them. What she had done was rearrange her office space twice, buy and put labels on several folders for the paperwork she knew she’d have down the road and read some articles on sales.
When you work at home, there is no one telling you when a project must be completed. There is no one asking you for your completed work. You have to have the desire and the motivation to take the steps needed to create sales for any business you start.

I am strong advocator of goals, both short term and long term. What is it that you want to accomplish today, this week, this month and this year? Put it in writing. If you want to find one new customer this week, that’s a great goal, but how will you find that person? Will you place an ad? Will you write articles? What steps will you take to find that new customer?

I know that sometimes we don’t hit our goals. That’s ok, rewrite them. Allow yourself 30 minutes per day to reread your goals, make a plan to execute those goals and if necessary, rewrite them. Remember there is no boss to tell you how to spend your time, but a goal sheet can help guide you through your days and weeks.

Audrey :)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Buying Leads in Direct Sales

I think at least once daily someone asks “where can I buy leads for my MLM business?” I have both had my name bought and sold and I’ve bought leads, so my comments are based on real life experience.

I’ll start with my own name being bought and sold. I am always very careful when I sign up for “free information”. I either intentionally give myself a middle initial, or I misspell my name. I do this to track what offers I receive and from whom. Many years ago, my daughter actually submitted my name to a site that claimed they had lots of work at home information. Knowing I always loved to see the newest fads, my daughter submitted my name. She used her own first name as my middle name. The site itself spoke of work at home newsletters. What happened over the next 5 years was that I was inundated with offers. Five years later, folks were still buying and selling my name. Five years later I was still receiving offers from those hoping to recruit me. A few times I emailed the person that had postal mailed their offer to me and asked where they got my name and address. I was very nice in my emails. The responses I would get would just floor me. It was the same story over and over again. The person was sold my name and was told I was a “fresh lead”. In a few cases the person was even told my name was under one week old. When the name buyer would go to the company and ask for a refund on my name, they were told I lied to them, that I just must have changed my mind and that I was indeed a fresh lead. The fact that this happened so many times over a 5 year period told me that this was a common occurrence.

Please remember, my daughter originally signed me up to receive free work at home newsletters. It was not even a site saying “work at home opportunity”.

When you buy leads, you have no idea where the lead has come from. You don’t know what the person was responding to, what the person was thinking they would be getting, how old the lead is, or even how many others were sold the same name.

I have purchased leads exactly 3 times, each time from a different company. My results were the same each and every time. I met some very nice people but over and over again, I was told that they too had signed up to receive free information and had no idea that folks would be calling them with business opportunities. One woman I called, she and I just clicked, leading to a wonderful conversation. We developed a friendship. We still communicate today and its 10 years later. Over the years she would tell me each time she received a postcard with a business opportunity, or even a phone call from someone hoping to recruit her. She was also amazed at how many times her name was bought and sold.

I had some folks tell me that they received 6 phone calls all in one night saying “I understand you are seeking a business opportunity”. I’m fairly chatty, so folks, both men and women were comfortable to share with me the amount of calls they received and also some of the lines handed to them over the phone.

My suggestion is to seek other ways of finding those interested in learning about working at home and to skip buying names.

Audrey :)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

How Do I Reach You?

If you are in business, I'm going to guess you want folks to be able to reach you. So, make it easy for folks to find you.

Just today, I wanted to email someone. I went to her website. I did not see an "email me" button. So, then I found her profile hoping I'd be able to find a way to reach her there. Nope, she had her email address hidden. It just wasn't important enough for me to keep trying to reach her.

Just so you know, the person I was trying to reach is in business and does have something for sale. While I was not trying to email her about a purchase, my not being able to reach made establishing a relationship not an option. Having a visible email address leads to communication. Communication leads to relationships. Relationships lead to sales.

Look at your website. Look at your blog. Look at your profiles. Are you easy to reach? If someone wanted to email you, how much effort would it be on their part?

Audrey :)

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fundraising in Direct Sales

Holding a fundraiser as a direct sales distributor is an excellent way to find new customers and possibly even a new distributor.

Fundraisers are a win win for both sides. The group or organization raises funds and you find folks who like, use and buy your products.

It is always my suggestion that you start with small, local organizations. You’ll find more support, have a way to work one on one with the group and you’ll begin to build a local client base.

If you have business cards, add the phrase “Fundraising Expert” or “Ask Me About Fundraisers” alongside your name and phone number. This lets anyone holding your card know that they can raise funds through you.

Prepare a packet to give to potential groups and organizations. Your packet should contain an introduction letter, an earnings sample chart, a catalog, a business card and any flyers you plan on giving to the fundraising participants. For example, I give the following letter to all participants to show to those who might make a purchase:

“Dear Customer,

Thank you for considering a purchase with Tupperware products. The money we raise from this fundraiser will be used to _______________________. Our goal is to raise $______. We hope to make this purchase by ___________.”

I fill in the blanks based on information I collect from the group and then on each catalog I staple a copy of this form.

As you begin hosting fundraisers, collect testimonials from the groups. Include copies of these testimonials in the packet you prepare. If you personally have never done a fundraiser, ask your upline if he/she has a testimonial they can provide to you that shares the company experience. It’s always wonderful to read that another organization was pleased with the company products and service.

If your company does not offer a fundraising program, create your own. If you earn 30% commission on sales, consider giving the group 20% for their fundraising efforts. This allows 10% of the sales commission to be used to purchase the supplies you’ll provide the group. Remember this is not a money maker for you, but rather a money maker for the group and a way for you to find new customers.

At the close of the fundraiser, prepare a thank you form that will go into each order. Your thank you should be very simple and say “Thank you for your product purchase. If you have any questions or comments about the products you can reach me at ________. If you would like to make an additional purchase or receive information about selling ____ I would be happy to help you” Then sign your name.

If you are having the orders direct shipped to the organization or to the individual customers, consider sending out a personal thank you via postal mail.

Begin marketing fundraisers and watch your sales increase and your team grow.

Audrey :)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Gaining Customers By Bartering

If you are in direct sales, you should not be making purchases without first checking to see if there is anyone who might want to barter with you.

For example, if I want to purchase makeup, instead of ordering through a direct sales representative’s website, I’ll first see if there is a makeup distributor out there who needs/wants what I sell. This allows a few things to happen. It gives me additional sales in my own direct sales business. I am ordering products from my business but with money that I was going to have spent somewhere else. In addition, I’ve found a new customer. I’ve found someone who I know needs/wants my products.

There are other examples of bartering in direct sales. Who cuts your hair? Is it someone who might use your products? Ask about an exchange. If the hair cut is $30, is the stylist willing to trade the haircut for $30 worth of your products? Remember, you were going to spend the $30 anyway. Now you’ll spend it on your own business. Keep in mind that $30 worth of products will cost you less than the $30 once you apply your discount. So, that $30 haircut could end up costing you $20 in products. The stylist is happy because she got her products without any out of pocket expense.

What about getting a massage a couple of times a year? If you sell products that the masseuse uses you might be able to barter products for a massage.

There are a couple of “rules” you might want to consider before bartering:

Are the products equal in value? If you want to barter again, both parties must be happy with the value. I’m very supportive of trading dollar for dollar, $50 worth of products for $50 worth of products or services.

Make sure to keep receipts and records. When I mail something, I invest the money to require a signature so that I know the person on the other end has received what I sent.

Make sure both parties understand what they will be receiving. Bartering can be a wonderful long lasting means of doing business as long as both parties feel they got exactly what they had expected and feel that they received the value they believe they sent.

The possibilities of what you can barter for are endless. Think of the places you are already spending money and then see if you can spend that same money on products from your own business, trading those products for the product or services being offered by the other person. Enjoy the benefits of bartering while building your own customer base and business.

Audrey :)

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Conveying a Positive Attitude In Direct Sales

If you are in direct sales then you know that life happens. Products get delayed, items don't meet customer expectations and companies even run out of products and must quit manufacturing them for one of many reasons.

When these things happen, how are you conveying the information to your customers and downline? How you convey these things could make all the difference in the world in keeping that customer or keeping that team member.

I'll provide a few examples. The company you represent has a popular item suddenly unavailable. This could be a tragedy in that everyone orders this product or this could be a golden opportunity to help your customers try a new product. You might even offer a one time coupon for folks to try this new product.

Another example, new catalogs are coming out and an older product is being discontinued. Again, this could be a tragedy and you could lose customers or this could be a golden opportunity to contact your customers now with a coupon for a new product, or possibly the opportunity to buy a supply of their favorite product before it's discontinued. If you have samples, use samples to introduce the new product to your customers.

Tupperware (the company I represent) had a huge warehouse fire this past December, yep right during the end of the holiday selling season. Everything was wiped out. This could've been a disaster for the distributors, but Tupperware turned it around and offered us daily specials, which we could pass on to our customers, a few new products that they were able to get from other plants around the world and even some surprise packages which we all ordered as we knew these items were coming from around the world and we all wanted to see these surprise packages. Truly, I only missed a few items for my customers and explaining the fire to them and promising them a new catalog for January kept me from losing sales or customers.

When life happens in your direct sales company, take the time to plan out how you'll convey this information and how you can use this as an opportunity to increase your sales and build your customer base.

Audrey :)

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Three Business Skills That Will Help You In Direct Sales

When we think of direct sales, we all think of sales skills and communication skills, but often we forget about the business skills that can and will help us in direct sales. I'd like to share three business skills I believe every person in direct sales should have.

1. Understanding some basic software programs.

a. I've always used a database. There is no one database I recommend. My personal choice has always been FileMaker Pro by Claris. However any database can store and manipulate data. I use a database to keep track of customers, keep track of leads and keep track of income tax information. In past years, I've kept track of where I've placed ads and the results of those ads.

b. I've always used both Microsoft Word and also Word Perfect. Each of these word processors has different strengths have helped me with different tasks. MSW is wonderful for creating documents and mail merges. Word Perfect is my choice for creating data source documents. I also use these programs to create flyers, create letters, write my newsletter drafts and create forms.

c. I use Microsoft Excel almost daily. In fact, I recently attended a seminar to learn how to better use this program. I use a spreadsheet to keep track of passwords, keep track of my articles, keep track of where my articles have been submitted and much more. I am by no means an expert in Excel, but I do know how to create simple workbooks and then manipulate the data.

2. Being able to create a business plan. I've always equated a business plan with a road map. In order to get from point A to point B, you must know where you're going and how to get there.
I have folks come to me often and say "I really want to have a large customer base" yet when I ask them about their plan, they come up empty. It is absolutely wonderful when customers find us and come to us unexpectedly but the vast majority of the time we'll need to find them and bring them to us. We need a marketing plan to accomplish that.

We also need a business plan to be able to see how much money we'll need in a month or a year to run our businesses. One of the things I love most about direct sales is that it is a fraction of the cost of running a franchise or retail business. However, there are still expenses in running a direct sales business. A business plan helps us know exactly what we can expect to spend. You can find basic business plan templates online through a web search.

3. If you are in business, you must have some basic time management skills. For many of us, we have spouses, children, an outside job and even some personal hobbies and interests. Time management is crucial in succeeding in direct sales.

If you want tips on time management, I strongly suggest you find a few books, a seminar, or even a few articles. I personally use day planners. I've used them for over 25 years and for me they are a wonderful fit. I know others love the calendar that comes with Microsoft Outlook. Others find a to-do list to be the best fit in time management. Regardless of the system you use, you'll need some basic time management skills.

I believe with these 3 basic business skills, you'll set yourself up for success in direct sales.