Direct Sales Brand Democratization: Social Media Style

Jen did it to me again. Here’s another post re: social media, democratization and the power of the people:

Kate Newlin’s new book, “Passion Brands”, talks about the power of democratizing the brand – and the fear so many larger companies have over “giving over” to the masses the presumed power of the identity of the brand. She also outlines an amazingly simple formula to take your brand from “blah” to “bravo” that EVERY company owner should read.

In reality, the brand belongs to the people anyway. Why not try to encourage and persuade use that’s in line with the company’s objctives, rather than throwing down a blanket of fear, and essentially stifling the growth of a company?

With over 12 years in the industry, I’ve seen all KINDS of restrictions, as well as a very lassiez faire approach, to online promotion. I think there needs to be a middle ground.

Rather than a no-holds-barred approach to online promotion, companies need to set ground rules and guidelines that enhance the marketing and top of mind awareness for the brand, and balance that with the needs of the tens (or hundreds) of thousands of consultants on the payroll. Many companies provide “approved” ad copy for local publications – there’s really no difference here, except that there’s a fear that the brand will “get away from them” in terms of corporate ownership.

If brand owners were enlisting the help of real “passionistas” in their sales force, this would be a non-issue, because the consultants would be so passionate about the product and the service that the message COULDN’T be dilluted.

Instead we have companies with “zero tolerance” for online marketing of any kind putting the fear of being kicked out of the company firmly in the face of every consultant. Except for their top income earners. Those people can seemingly get away with murder sometimes and not even get a slap on the wrist form the very same home office that says “no online advertising of any kind”. Yes, it happens, I see it more than I care to count. And the reps and leaders not as high up on the food chain see it too – and it creates serious derision in the ranks whether you care about it or not.

The bad news is that I’ve personally experienced the decline of a company because their top income earners ultimately had the LEAST amount of loyalty to the brand – still shopping around for the best income opportunity to pad their own bottom line even after years with a company. The leader leaves, taking half the organizaton with them, and a company is crippled, because they put all their eggs in the baskets of their leaders, instead of allowing the most passionate people (regardless of rank) market and promote the company in a positive light.

On the other side of that coin, consultants need to remember that they are the owners of “You, Inc”, not your Direct Sales business, and as we’ve seen all to often in the last few years, a company can go ‘belly up’ and consultants are left holding the bag with a now defunct consultant web site – having to start all over again to rebuild with new company. For advanced leaders, they can bring some of their recrutis with them to the new company, but for young leaders or even new recruits, it’s painful, difficult, and sometimes exasperting to have to make a transition, explain it to your customers, and not really have any solid information to give them abotu what really happened.

I teach consultants that if they start embracing the idea of running a real business, then they will see that they are just using their direct sales company as the vehicle to build their own “you inc” PERSONAL brand. A company can’t prohibit you from marketing yourself – just from using their company marks, products, names, etc. Real business owners promote themeselves FIRST anyway. The rest comes secondary.

When we democratize a brand, we naturally give some control over to the people that embrace that brand. It’s important to remember that brands are ultimately nothing more than a perception. Yes, we can shape that perception – but as we’ve learned since childhood, ACTIONS speak louder than words.

What kind of perception do you (company owners) want to have in the arena? How are you conveying that to your sales force?

What kind of perception do you (direct sellers) want to hav in the marketplace? How are you conveying that to your customers?

The kind of action you need to take to bring a brand closer to the hearts of your passionistas is to get involved with them. Stop distancing yourselves from them, and don’t rely on your leaders to communicate everything to the home office – very often they don’t. Take time to connect on a personal level with people at ALL levels in your organization. THEN communicate the brand.

Remember, people don’t care what you know until they know that you care.
The same holds true for your brand.