Direct sales (Multi Level Marketing) have been around for years, there are many companies who have been operating since before the internet became a household staple. Companies like Avon, Ann Summers and Betterware have been selling their products via representatives since our parents needed an income top-up. Before Facebook finding a representative for one of these companies was much harder, you’d have to wait for a book to be delivered or ask your Mum’s Auntie’s Cousin’s best friend for the one they used if you wanted to order anything or book a party. Recruitment often happened during coffee mornings, mum and baby groups or during actual parties for anyone interested in a slice of the direct sales pie. Then along came the social media revolution which has changed the way direct sales (or Multi-Level Marketing) not only sell but recruit.
If you haven’t seen Juice Plus, Younique, Forever Living or Jamberry all over Facebook then you obviously live under a rock. Twitter, Instagram and of course Facebook have made it easier for representatives to connect with potential customers and team members. The days of walking the street in the rain and posting catalogues has almost been eradicated with companies jumping on the social selling bandwagon; even these older companies are now focusing their efforts via social media.
Online parties, which were pioneered by the company Younique, have now replaced gathering together at the host’s house with drinks and a few nibbles – this has a mixed result as it is now easier for the host with there being no clearing up/food prep but it does detract the actual face-to-face interaction. These parties have, however, made it easier for anyone to become a representative because they can hide any insecurities behind the computer or phone screen; before, it took a certain type of person to be able to flog sex toys or make Tupperware look exciting.
Recruiting has become a bit of a nightmare for anyone who isn’t interested in any of the opportunities offered. Selling groups are overrun by “the next best thing” with representatives trying to increase their teams, these groups will often have thousands of local people in them so it’s a wide audience to see what your offering. Some representatives will use their personal pages to advertise to friends and family, often a couple of times a day. The benefit of social media is that, for the most part, it is free advertising – traditional methods such as shop windows, local papers and flyer distribution can be costly with no guarantee of interest.
Love it or hate it, direct sales companies are here to stay and as new ways of communicating are launched there will be more ways for these companies to expand their reach.