What’s 22-times more powerful than facts alone? Stories. Stories are the lifeblood of the direct sales industry. In this industry, we hear and share amazing stories of success about life transformations: financial security, college tuition, independence from a job, care for loved ones, world travel, and more. Their stories are about success–hard work, persistence, consistency, caring for others. To grow businesses, sharing stories is critical. How we share them is equally vital. Why? Because stories are the most important form of human communication and connection.
While there’s a score of event trends driving the future, the three trends that are at the forefront driving the future of impactful direct selling events are:
- The growing importance of exterior branding.
- The growing need for event strategy – how to create strategies to deliver dynamic, engaging, live events.
- The increased role of digital.
Let’s first step back and think of historic events. Events are the oldest form of marketing and sales. Humans have been marketing and selling at events for centuries. The importance of events cannot be overstated. To underscore this point, consider the fact no United States president has ever been elected without events at the core of their campaign.
Events have the greatest potential to create what Dr. Morris Massey, from The University of Colorado at Boulder calls “SEEs” (Significant Emotional Events–SEEs). The direct sales industry has incredible and powerful opportunities to create “SEEs” to generate personal transformation, grow business, and celebrate achievements.
Richer, More Connected Experiences
Starting with trend number one, “Exterior Branding,” our audiences are demanding richer, more connected, and more meaningful experiences. Competition among direct sales companies has never been greater. There are more companies, more products and more sales plans. Increased competition means your company’s brand is now even more of a priority. Gone are the days of confined, interior branding. Look outside the walls, literally, for exterior branding opportunities.
A simple and effective way to help deliver richer experiences is to brand the exteriors of your events’ facilities. And not with just a single banner. That won’t achieve any real impact, and in fact, may hurt your brand. For sufficient impact, exterior branding works best when it is used to convey key points of the story you wish to tell. When design uses scale to its advantage to amplify your story and to drive impact, remember, it delivers on our goal with direct sales events to create “SEEs”–significant emotional events.
But there’s another good reason for exterior branding of your events; Ambush Marketing by a competitor. This is the sad new reality. Competitors buy outdoor advertising billboards, street pole banners, the sides of buildings facing your client events’ facilities, and more. Technology companies that hold user conferences like Salesforce’s Dreamforce and events like the Super Bowl have battled this type of competitive activity for years. As a tactic, Ambush Marketing at direct sales events is growing.
Bright Shiny Objects
Trend number two is “The Growing Need for Event Strategy.” Not long ago it was enough, at direct sales events, to get audiences excited, enthusiastic and energized to sell and recruit more. We added lots of what I call “BSOs” (bright shiny objects), special effects and theatrical devices deployed for audience effect. These tactics have their place for sure, but today, audience sophistication demands more than the “Wow factor.” To maximize the impact of your events and reinforce the authenticity of your brands, make sure that your “BSOs” are effectively applied for the right reason.
The most compelling way to ensure “BSOs” increase the authenticity of events and maximize their impact is to engage in a methodology of creating an Event Portfolio Strategy. As a primary marketing channel, direct sales companies are collectively spending tens-of-millions-of-dollars every year. Yet, most companies are relatively casual or late in their planning, especially for content. This diminishes the impact of our events, reduces their authenticity, and increases costs. Ironically, those same companies are engaged in significant strategy efforts when it comes to product, distribution, sourcing, and more. Why not apply that same discipline to a primary marketing and sales pillar that represents a significant investment for the company?
Event Strategy works to increase the effectiveness of events by defining clear objectives, audience definitions, messaging, style of the events, and how the objectives will be achieved.
THE STRATEGY GOALS SHOULD BE:
- To drive authenticity
- To create more meaningful experiences
- To deliver greater effectiveness
The significance of an Event Portfolio Strategy is overarching. It looks at all of your events to ensure effectiveness, efficiency, optimization of resources and maximization of reach and impact. Event Strategy is a methodology that takes discipline, organizational adoption, and time. But you will find it is well invested time and is the future of impactful direct selling events.
The Role Of Digital
Trend number three is the “Role of Digital”: live streaming, social media, online, virtual and digital. In most event development discussions, these terms get used interchangeably and co-mingled. As we all know, there are distinct and profound differences between them. In this article consider “digital” as an umbrella term.
There are two important things to know about this digital trend; digital is here to stay, and it’s growing.
In 2007 and 2008, as technology costs dropped dramatically, as tools proliferated, and as the internet’s infrastructure significantly improved, we began seriously exploring how to deploy digital at events. Current infrastructure is vastly better, servers are exponentially faster and cheaper, and a multitude of tools and applications exist, often eliminating the need for custom development. Gone is the time when digital was treated as a bolt-on, as a secondary consideration to the physical event.
A previous prevailing assumption, what works for face-to-face also works for digital audiences, is no longer valid. That has all changed. In the “BYOD” world – bring your own device, it’s vital that your digital audiences and digital devices be treated and integrated seamlessly into your events.
The aspect of the “Role of Digital” focuses on live streaming and virtual engagement. These are two very different mediums, though they look very similar on the outside. The best way to think about live streaming is to look at it through the viewer’s eyes. Streaming is viewing. It’s just like watching broadcasting, and it’s a passive experience. There’s no engagement with the viewer and no feedback to receive. Virtual engagement, on the other hand, does just that: it engages the digital audience by turning them into participants with real-time interactive opportunities.
An excellent example of virtual engagement is Cisco GSX back in 2009, at the height of the recession. Traditionally, Cisco would fly their more than 19,000 salespeople from around the world to a
single destination for their Global Sales Meeting to experience a week of communication, motivation, and recognition. In response to the economic climate, the world’s first ever, virtual global sales meeting was born. Cisco GSX was an industry and historic milestone.
Your events are the unique expression of your company’s brand, where you will meet your most important audiences. Events are your most powerful, enduring, and meaningful strategic marketing and sales pillar available to your company. Leveraged appropriately, your brand and your sales will achieve great results.