Talking with one of my VIP coaching clients this week, she shared her frustration that her company has put the kibosh on consultants using Facebook Pages to promote their business. Along with a slew of other fuzzy guidelines, her company is essentially pulling in the reins on all forms of online marketing using the company name, logo, or likeness. She expressed that not only were the consultants upset with the change, but also many of teh leaders, who had been using Facebook as their personal online sales magnet for months now.
I told her that this was an opportunity to get excited instead of getting bummed. Because now, the playing field truly was level, and everyone could market themselves rather than the company they represented.
See, sites like Facebook and Twitter make it easy for any consultant to create an online outpost for their direct sales company. The problem is that, sooner or later (usually sooner), some consultant gets a little too overzealous, and makes a claim or a comment that sounds like it’s coming straight from the home office, rather than the company. Customers can’t tell the difference between a page created by a consultant or one created by the home office.
How are they supposed to know what claims are accurate, and which ones are being made by a new consultant that doesn’t have a clue?
They can’t, and so many companies have tried to create rules, guidelines and policies to “protect the brand”.
To most consultants (especially new consultants), it feels as if they’re not just protecting the brand, they’re just making it harder to do business online.
Here’s the truth: If you’re counting on your company’s brand name or logo to keep you in business, then you’re absolutely right. By restricting the use of those corporate owned identities, they are restricting your business.
But that’s not their problem, because in reality, you’re relying on the wrong elements of your business to market yourself.
See, I could get a ton of traffic to my facebook page if I called it “The biggest Justin Bieber Fan Club of all time”, and created “pictures” of the J-man with my direct sales products. I could probably sell a ton of them too. But as soon as Big-J got wind of it, I’m sure his legal eagles would be all over me with a cease and desist order, citing my use of his image as being a violation of his rights to use his likeness to promote a product.
So yes, I could get a short-term gain of new leads, but at what cost? This is an extreme example, to be sure, but this is exactly what you’re doing when you use pictures from your company catalog, use the company brand name, or any unauthorized company logos to promote yourself in ANY venue (online or offline). Because it’s challenging for direct sales companies to track all the ever-expanding social media outlets, most companies create policies that focus on the big 4: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Youtube. It would be virtually impossible to create an exhaustive list of sites, which forces many companies to just say “no online advertising of any kind,” essentially throwing out the baby with the bath water.
My colleague Jennifer Fong has been leading this crusade for a few years now, and slowly the tide is turning, but for those of you stuck in a “no-way” company policy, here are some options to help you continue to market online – without violating company policies:
- Make your page about you, not your products or company. Stop blathering on about your super-duper product of the month in public areas of the web. Use your facebook page to talk about you, not your special offers. Take photos of your trips, and the incentives you’ve won. Post pictures from parties, and tag hosts/guests (with their permission). Don’t talk about what company you’re with, just let people ask. Then, you can send them a private message or a link with more details.
- Market from a mailing list. Use social media sites as a place for your clients to learn more about you as a public persona, and drive traffic from those sites to an opt-in mailing list. I don’t know any company that presently prohibits you from sending an email to your own list of clients to let them know about your company, your products, and your specials. Plus, this makes a great way to screen prospective leads. They get on your list, THEN they get to learn about your company, your products, your business opportunity.
- Stop using logos as your avatar. People want to know, like and trust you, not your logo. Put your friendly face on your online outposts so people can start to see you everywhere, instead of the company logo. Besides, if you ever switch companies (it does happen, you know), then, all your online efforts won’t have to be scrapped.
- Stop product pushing and keep it social. Social media is a great funnel, but it’s lousy at converting prospects into customers. What it is GREAT at is turning strangers into friends. Just like your home shows, turning strangers into friends takes time, but ultimately yields better results.
- Give them a reason to want to know you. Your product isn’t enough. If you look at the majority of folks that are in your social media circle, it’s probably not because you used the company name on your blog or in your page title. Chances are good that while that may have been why they first ventured to your page, they stick around because they know you, like you or trust you (there it is again!). Do more for your existing online community so that they have more reasons to want to talk to you – and share you with their online community.
- Stop trying to circumvent the party. Yes, you can make good money online. It takes effort, but it’s possible. Yes, you can do it without doing parties. It takes a lot more effort, but it’s possible. BUT… your parties (face-to-face interactions) will always be the most lucrative means of developing a solid direct sales business. The personal touch outshines an email or facebook “like” any day of the week.
I’ve yet to see a company that can prohibit you from having a blog, website or other social media presence that talks about you, rather than your company or product line. By marketing yourself, instead of your company or products, you become the focus of your business – and clients can gravitate toward you. While it sounds a little self-centered, it’s actually creates an asset for your business, because your clients are following you then your product, not the other way around.