Thought Leadership

#DSAFocus – What We Learned Days 1 & 2

TL;DRYour complete rundown on some of the hottest talks from days one andtwo at the Direct Selling Associations Sales & Marketing Conference from Hyperwallet’s own Garrett Hughes. Includes highlights from the marquee session on the gig economy, quotes from marketing mastermind, Scott Stratten, and tips for keeping your field engaged.

Were you unable to attend the Direct Selling Association’s Sales & Marketing Conference this year? No worries—I’m here in Las Vegas and have been diligently taking notes through all of the educational sessions. Below you’ll find some summaries of my favorite talks thus far; but don’t worry, you can expect to see more discussion on a number of these topics in the coming weeks and months.

Wednesday, Dec. 9th

Marquee Session: The Rise of the Gig Economy

  • Lori Bush – President & CEO, Rodan + Fields
  • Will Rinehart – Director, Technology and Innovation Policy, American Action Forum
  • Elizabeth Davis – Dean, School of Management, University of San Francisco
  • Paul Skowronek – SVP, Public Affairs, Direct Selling Association

The speakers discussed the growing segment of independent workers in the United States and explored how the rise of the on-demand economy might affect direct selling. Will went into detail on the regulatory climate around independent work and direct selling, while Elizabeth explained the importance of preparing the next generation of American workers for the transition to independent or contractual work. Lori Bush observed that the on-demand economy is a blessing for direct selling, noting that the general public is beginning to appreciate the benefits of independent work that the direct selling industry has known for years.

For those of us in direct selling, this is a BIG topic, and one that we’ll continue to explore on Voices in the coming weeks.

Thursday, Dec. 10th

Debunking Preconceived Notions on Marketing & Sales

This was a long talk by Scott Stratten (better known as @UnMarketing), one of the leading minds in marketing and social media, so there’s a lot of content to cover. Here are some highlights.

“We think we control brand, but we don’t… Brand is whatever response or reaction a consumer has when they encounter your company.” – Scott Stratten

Scott gave a great example: for the past few years, whenever he tells people he’s from Toronto, they bring up Rob Ford. Whether Torontonians like it or not, Rob Ford is a part of Toronto’s brand. Of course, while brand perception is largely out of their control, organizations that offer exceptional products and memorable customer experiences are far more likely to to be perceived positively.

'You want word of mouth? Do something worth talking about.' @UnMarketing #DSAFocus Click To Tweet

Scott went on, noting that every time a direct selling distributor does something, it has an effect on the corporate brand—either positive or negative. Scott noted that word of mouth is no longer a localized; instant, global communication has given a stronger voice to consumers everywhere. For example, a poor brand experience in China might have a tangible impact on brand perception in the United States.

“Social media is terrible for sales and marketing.” Unlike other channels of communication, like as phone or email, the receiver of a message on social media (a tweet, a status update) isn’t expected to respond—the message just rolls through their feed and is gone in a few minutes. What social is good for, Scott asserted, is building community, developing connections, and providing customer service.

On using social media platforms, Scott noted: “Just because you’re not using it doesn’t mean it’s not being used.” In the same vein, though, trying to force your business onto every social media platform—regardless of whether it makes sense for your business—is a bad move.

“Match the communication preference with your audience.” If you’re racing to get on every new platform, you’ll inevitably neglect some of them. “Trying to have a presence without being present is a mistake… It’s like sending a mannequin to a networking event.” Choose platforms that make sense for your organization, then commit to them.

Scott noted that how companies react to negative word of mouth on social media makes a huge difference in brand perception: “When problems happen, they can turn into an opportunity.” Stratton gave an example, explaining how FedEx responded to video of a courier mishandling a package by rapidly issuing a statement that outlined what they were going to do about the incident and offering an apology. That response, Scott asserts, left FedEx with a better brand image than they would have had if the incident never took place. “You can’t change the fact that you’re in the spotlight,” Scott explained, “but you can change your reaction to it.”

How companies react to negative word of mouth makes a huge difference. #DSAFocus Click To Tweet

Finally, Scott explained the importance of listening to customer and distributor feedback, both directly and indirectly. He suggests that companies investigate potential concerns before they develop into real problems by seeking the opinion of distributors—what should we stop doing, what should we start doing, and what should we continue doing? Similarly, companies need to pay close attention to what people are saying about the brand on social media so that they can respond quickly. “The worst problem is the one you don’t hear about.”

'The worst problem is the one you don’t hear about.' - @UnMarketing #DSAFocus Click To Tweet

Cultivating a Field in a New Country: Rodan + Fields Case Study

Rodan + Fields’ Natalie Loyd (Director, Global Expansion), Janine Weber (Country Manager, Canada), and Brandee Winikoff (Senior Counsel, Global Affairs) took some time to describe the process of launching in Canada. They explained the appeal of the Canadian market—the similarities and proximity to the United States, the acceptance of the direct selling business model, the comparable skincare philosophy—and described the hurdles of pricing, product, and regulation as they moved towards their February 2015 launch. From a payments perspective, it was interesting to hear how they handled commissions for distributors that were selling and sponsoring in both the United States and Canada, and to learn the importance the company placed on paying in their distributors’ home currency.

(Full disclosure, Rodan + Fields have been long time Hyperwallet commission platform users; needless to say, we’ve been happy to help them with their expansion efforts near and far!)

Warning Signs from the Field

This panel was hosted by renowned direct selling consultant Jan Gilmore (you can read Jan’s recent piece on motivation here) and featured:

  • Christina Snyder – Chief Sales Officer, Thirty-One Gifts
  • Chris Veit – Former President, Creative Memories
  • Traci Costa – CEO, Peekaboo Beans

The four took the stage and had a very casual discussion around acknowledging and responding to issues like slowing productivity and lagging recruitment. The speakers largely reiterated the point that Scott had emphasized in the day’s first session: listening and responding to distributors’ concerns is crucial to improving your business and encouraging growth. There was also a discussion around the value of data in recognizing trends within your sales force.

Responding to distributors’ concerns is crucial to improving your business + encouraging growth Click To Tweet

That’s all for now. Check back for a summary of Friday’s sessions and expect deeper discussion of these topics in the near future.

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