Think Like A Retailer


In today’s world the best way to get more distributors is to get more customers.

Control, Alt, Delete

We’re all familiar with this term–it’s the keys on the keyboard you press to reboot one’s computer. I think it’s time for us in the direct selling industry to do a little bit of a hard reset with how we think about the consumer and customer acquisition.

We are all aware that the landscape in direct selling is changing more rapidly than it ever has. Definitely more in the last five years, than it has in the last 25. So what are some of these changes? With product quality rising so high and innovation happening so rapidly, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a competitive advantage based on your product features and benefits alone.

“The most fundamental changes that are happening right now are centered on the consumer…They want to buy products where, when and how they want.”

Next is the rise of the socially savvy generation. Some of the brands in our channel found a lot of success with social media because they were quick to react, adapt and over-serve this audience. Others were a little slow to adapt and missed the boat, and are now trying to catch up.

The sharing and gig economy has really changed competition for us. No longer are we competing for distributor leaders like we used to. Our competition is now time. It’s how people spend their time on Netflix, or Hulu, or whatever. The gig economy has also introduced many alternative sources of supplemental income that allow people to quickly earn money, very quickly.

Consumers Demanding Seamless Experience

The most fundamental changes that are happening right now are centered on the consumer. With the rise of mobile, social, and cloud technologies, customer expectations are increasing dramatically and they are demanding a more seamless experience. They want to buy products where, when and how they want. We need to remember that customers don’t think in terms of channel, even though we do–they just think in terms of product and availability. This has really brought about the rise of the direct to consumer brand (DTC). It’s fundamentally changing the relationships that companies have with the end user.

In the past, companies had very little direct interaction with the end user. This power was really held by intermediaries, whether they were wholesalers, retailers or distributors. I can tell you that in the boardrooms at some of the largest CPG companies in the world they’re talking about these direct to consumer companies and how they need to react going forward. Companies with these same technologies that help customers are able to have greater control of their brand story and develop more intimate relationships with their customers.

Before I came to Young Living, I worked at one of these DTC companies where our brand and a few others disrupted a 20-billion-dollar category in the U.S. We took a tremendous amount of market share, almost 20% in about three years. It wasn’t that our products were better than the incumbents (Sealy, Serta, Simmons) necessarily, it was because we were cutting them out of the process and marketing directly to the consumer. The incumbents tried to catch up by trying to acquire some of these DTC companies to gain a little of the marketing magic they were bringing to the marketplace.

Partnering With Our Distributors

In direct selling, the distributors are our intermediaries. They are the reason we are employed, and I want to be very clear: they are the foundation of this channel. However, I do think there is a huge opportunity for us to partner more closely with our distributors, to be more involved in telling the brand story and in customer acquisition. I predict the brands that are able to bring together the best of direct selling with the best of direct to consumer are the ones who will be the most relevant five years from now.

It’s important that we start acting and thinking more like a retailer, and how we appeal to, communicate with, and provide value to today’s customer. We need to make learning about interacting with us more convenient, seamless and simple. We can no longer expect our customers, prospective customers or distributors to put up with outdated designs, clunky processes and outdated technologies.

We also need to market more like a retailer. We have to be more focused on the consumer, their needs, benefits, how our products can solve problems in their lives, as well as how they ultimately benefit from them. Too much of our marketing is focused on the business opportunity. When we try to speak to consumers with opportunity and distributor-centric language, it’s very confusing to them. Not only do they get lost, it adds complexity and friction to the buying process.

Also, in reality, when we do a lot of our opportunity marketing, we’re really talking to a very small subsegment of people. Think about it. How many times have prospective distributors come to your website, read about the opportunity or compensation plan and join? My guess is very few. Part of the issue is we’re talking to the wrong audiences at the wrong time.

Structuring Your Marketing Into Three Buckets

Why do we need to think more like a retailer? Simply put, in today’s world, the best way to get more distributors is to get more customers. We need to be in the customer acquisition business just as much as our distributors are. Customers are the warmest market and most qualified lead pool that we have. They’re the best people to transition into distributors.

“We need to remember that customers don’t think in terms of channel, even though we do. They just think in terms of product and availability.”

So how do we need to structure our marketing departments to do more of this customer acquisition and act and think more like retailers? There are lots of functions in marketing, from communications to PR, to social, but all of them can be lumped into three functional buckets.

The first bucket is brand marketing. We need to keep doing all the things we’re doing, add some new tools to the toolbox and develop some new muscle memory around customer acquisition. We still need to make sure we have a great brand strategy and that we’ve carved out an effective place and positioning in the market to compete from. We also need to make sure that we have a unique brand voice, and that we’re driving and growing brand awareness and brand preference.

The next bucket is field marketing. Again, this is vital. I’m not trying to take anything away from the distributors. We need to arm, activate, and motivate them in bringing in more customers and distributors as well.

Finally, the third bucket is performance marketing. This is digital marketing that’s focused on customer acquisition, and it’s a new muscle memory we need to develop. Most of your teams are already doing bits and pieces of this. They’re doing some SEO, some organic traffic, but we need to take a more wholistic approach to effectively acquire new customers. When it comes to performance and consumer marketing, there are two fuel sources.

Fuel Source NO. 1: Ad Spend

I understand that companies outside our channel have ample financial resources to put money toward their advertising and marketing efforts. I also understand that a lot of money in our channel goes toward incentivizing our distributors via the compensation plan. But it really doesn’t take a lot of money to get started. If you do it well, it should be self-funding.

When you meet with your performance marketing team daily or weekly, they should be reporting back to you. For every dollar you gave them, they should be giving you back $4.00, $5.00, even $6.00. If there’s not a positive ROI, turn the faucet off. Try to figure out what’s going on and then turn the faucet back on. Again, it shouldn’t be too financially difficult to start doing this.

Fuel Source NO. 2: Content

Everybody says that content is king. Yes, you have to have great content, but you need to make sure that content is focused on the customer and not our companies. As stated earlier, we need to make sure the content we produce is showing empathy for the problems and needs they have in their lives, and then share the benefits your products and services provide them.

It also needs to be emotional, not transactional. None of us like to be sold to, especially when we’re online scrolling through our feeds. Think of it as an emotional bank account. Every time you provide a great piece of content that provides value, makes somebody laugh or connects on a deeper level, that’s making a deposit in the consumer’s emotional bank account. Every time we try to sell to them, we’re making a withdrawal. Eventually, their bank account is going to dry up pretty quickly.

Here are a few more things to consider when it comes to creating compelling content:

Tell Stories

A Stanford research study states that stories are 22 times more likely to be remembered than facts alone. Make sure you’re weaving those stories about your distributors and your customers into your messaging. We are hard-wired to pay attention to stories. A story is a vehicle for emotion, and a purchase is always an emotional decision. The content has to be engaging enough that it makes someone want to stop and look at it. We also need the story told in a matter of seconds, before they hit that skip button.

Use Video

Your performance marketing anchor needs to be video; it’s the most engaging ad asset there is. Whether the length is six, 15, 30 or 60 seconds, you need video in your tool arsenal. Use a framework in your scripting to educate, demonstrate and entertain. Educate them on the potential need that they have, demonstrate the effectiveness of your product, and make them laugh and cry. Make content that you would want to watch.

Track Behavior

Next, track your customers’ and distributors’ behavior across the web, across social platforms, and your own website. You need to make sure you understand what content they’re interacting with so you know what content to provide next. It’s really a series of tripwires to take someone down the funnel. It’s important to know what products they’re buying and not buying. That’s a trigger for an amazing campaign. If they go to your cart and add a product, then abandon the cart, there’s no better content to serve them up the next day than a message from your team reminding them of the product they were just looking at.

“I predict the brands that are able to bring together the best of direct selling with the best of direct to consumer, are the ones who will be the most relevant five years from now.”

Again, tracking and making sure you understand that behavior is vital. Go back to your digital marketing teams and ask them. At a minimum, they need to have the Google and Facebook pixel dropping on every piece of content. They can go a lot deeper than that, but at a minimum, I would start there.

Drive Traffic To Drive Conversions

First and foremost, organic traffic is almost disappearing. With algorithms changing all the time, the preference is going toward paid ad spend. It’s affordable, as I stated earlier.

Look at your organic content more for engaging your existing community. Again, you can boost some of this organic content, but that’s ultimately paid. The point I want to make about traffic is you have to buy it, like everything else. You have to go to the store, buy traffic from Facebook, from Google, and that’s how you get eyeballs, and that’s how you put people into the funnel. If you don’t have a paid strategy, then you really don’t have a customer acquisition strategy. Paid social ads, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube for brand awareness, are amazing ad assets. That’s a great place to start under the main tools of performance marketing.

In conclusion, I just want to remind you that, again, the consumer is evolving, the direct selling landscape is evolving. We need to be more involved in the customer acquisition process, and the new distributors that are joining today, they’re okay with it. They’re used to it. Again, they don’t think in terms of channel conflict like the distributors of old did. We need to think and act, and market, more like retailers. Develop great content, put a little bit of ad spend behind it and then test, learn, scale.

Test, learn, scale.

This is the main framework for your consumer marketing and performance marketing.

When I went to school and started out in marketing, Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) were all the rage where you developed big annual or quarterly campaigns, where every message was consistent across every brand touchpoint.

Those days are long gone. Now, it’s about microcampaigns. With those big campaigns, you went to a huge expense, and you hoped it would work. You might be able to do a little bit of consumer testing before your ad went on TV. Now, you can test all the time. Again, think about micro-campaigns, centered on big, anchor pieces of content.