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For a number of years now you’ve probably heard the Direct Selling Association talking about its Image Enhancement Program—an effort on an industry level to educate the public about direct selling and its benefits. The goal of DSA’s efforts has been to soften the marketplace for independent sellers so they can focus on their company’s unique selling proposition, and not on debunking the many myths associated with direct selling, networking marketing, multilevel marketing or any of many terms that may have a less than positive connotation in the minds of consumers.
While most direct selling executives would probably agree that as a whole our business model could stand to have a greater level of acceptance by consumers, many of those same executives (maybe you?) might also assert that efforts to improve the image of direct selling aren’t relevant to you because your company doesn’t have an image problem. Having heard this many times, it became clear that we need to improve the image of the Image Enhancement Program!
If there has ever been a time when it’s beneficial for direct selling companies to lock arms and sing a universal refrain, this is it. One of DSA’s most important roles in the marketplace is to find the commonalities among companies and educate consumers about them. Sure, there are many things about direct selling companies that make them different, from products to sales strategy to compensation plans to, yes, even reputation, but at the core, all direct selling companies share a fundamental ability to improve the lives of others both through the opportunities they offer and the products they sell. That is the common refrain, and your association is committed to making sure it’s one that the public understands.
One of DSA’s most important roles in the marketplace is to find the commonalities among companies and educate consumers about them.
Let’s delete the word image from our vocabulary. No one wants to believe they have a poor image, and trying to improve it always requires dredging up the reasons why one acquired a poor image in the first place. Instead, let’s focus on the many reasons why direct selling is the profession of the future. There are millions of entrepreneurial young people entering the workforce every day who don’t want traditional employment. There are a similar number of mature adults who want to leave the workforce but don’t have the financial stability to do so. There are moms who want to stay home with their children while still contributing to the family income, and there are 9-to-5ers who need some extra cash or just want to have an excuse to meet their neighbors. These people are seeking something that will change one or more aspects of their lives, and direct selling can help them do that and help them replicate that success for others.
People are seeking something that will change one or more aspects of their lives, and direct selling can help them do that.
Now that’s a positive message it would be hard for any direct selling company to disavow. And the good news? As you read this, the Direct Selling Association is in the midst of a 12-week pilot marketing campaign designed to test messages and approaches intended to have a broad impact on the general understanding of the benefits of direct selling.
What is entailed in this campaign and what are the parameters of success?
Of course, the ultimate success of an industry marketing campaign would be a dramatic increase in the number of qualified and motivated individuals pursuing direct selling and the subsequent increases in sales. But DSA believes there are many additional metrics of success that we’ll experience in the shorter term. These include:
- The development and testing of research-based message strategies that can be adapted for use in the future at both the industry and company levels
- Insights into the industry recruiting process across multiple companies and selling models, and the opportunity to develop best practices based on the campaign outcomes
- An in-depth understanding of the impact digital marketing and other tactical approaches can have in spreading messages about direct selling
- A deeper understanding of the values and ideals that motivate individuals to choose direct selling
What does the campaign look like? The campaign will use two test markets—St. Louis, Mo. and Tampa, Fla. In each market a series of targeted digital advertisements will appear in carefully selected online locations. The messaging will focus on “Creating a Better Life” through direct selling, using the themes of doing something you love, independence and flexibility, pride and recognition, personal connections and changing lives. The messaging will be supported by an invitation to explore the full range of direct selling companies via the DSA membership directory, with the ability to request additional information from one or more companies.
An additional component of the test will include the engagement of 15 member companies whose Tampa-area representatives will utilize the campaign messaging during demonstrations, parties and other aspects of their direct selling business.
Measurement and evaluation of the success of the program will include a variety of research and analytical techniques, as well as business and performance data from participating member companies on both test and control markets. We’ll no doubt uncover some key information that either supports our assumptions about the most effective ways to market the benefits of direct selling at an industry level or perhaps provides us with new and critical insights to help us shape our outreach in the future.
For better or worse, we are all in this together. For every thing that makes a company unique, there are just as many things that bind it to others in the industry. DSA’s goal is to identify and exploit these similarities for the benefit of all. The marketing campaign is but one part of this journey, and is hopefully one that will give us the tools and motivation to seek bigger and better successes in the future.
Amy Robinson is Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of the Direct Selling Association. For more information about DSA’s pilot marketing campaign, contact Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org.