Yes, but not for the reasons you might think.
A good lead generation program can help with recruitment, reward the field and protect your brand. But careful about getting carried away.
Online ads may work for some industries, but a long-held tenet of direct sellers is that our companies don’t advertise — that’s what the field is for, right? “We don’t spend money on ads, we pay commissions instead” is the mantra.
“Not our thing.”
True, it doesn’t align with our model of personal selling. As a result, most direct selling companies are not actively marketing their opportunities online due to the sensitivity of “going around” the field and breaking the no-ads taboo. The idea of procuring leads on the Internet seems cheap somehow and is counterintuitive to most direct selling executives.
Shouldn’t we just let the field figure out where the leads are and close them, and keep a distance so as not to create more problems?
Well, not really. The internet is far too integrated into our industry now. Online leads must be addressed and even embraced by companies if we are protect our brands, enforce policy, and even grow our businesses.
Your field has already figured this out.
The reality is, savvy online networkers have discovered not only how to market online, but are doing so en masse, on the back of your brand. Although their intent may be good, this activity is mostly uncontrolled and unmonitored by the companies they are promoting. As a result, many distributors’ online efforts go against policy, such as cross-line recruiting or making non-complaint claims.
Uncontrolled online ads create compliance problems and risks to the brand. Additionally, thousands of 3rd party bottom-feeders use our brands to steer business away which hurts revenue and dilutes the brands we are working so hard to build.
Your brand, your leads.
In my opinion, your company needs to own the acquisition of internet leads under its brand name, not only because of its ability to help grow your company, but to protect your brand as well.
While “leads” are never nearly as valuable as relationships, your company should still work to generate (and in effect, already is) leads for your field. Your company should serve as lead generator-in-chief, using all means available including the internet and social media, and distribute them directly to the field in a very deliberate, thoughtful manner.
I suggest to our clients that they jump in and dominate their brand names in paid ads. This entails buying “branded” ads and other strategies. Buying your own brand name in search engines is not overly expensive, and as a nice side benefit it can drive up ad prices for those who advertise against your name.
- Consider a lead-generation campaign for recruitment. Buying ads for key categories can be more expensive; however. it is completely measurable and can return significant ROI when properly implemented.
- Create a distribution system. If you advertise for leads you must have a method to fairly distribute them to your field. There are several ways to do this: You can forward them to leaders for distribution to their teams; sell them in bulk to the field; or use them as a reward for hitting rank. In all cases you’ll want the leads to be worked and followed up. Distribution to people who can “close” the leads is best; conversely, giving them out to any and all who ask may not be the best idea.
- Be fair. The most important factor of any leads program is transparency and fairness. Never show favoritism other than to rank, and make sure all know the requirements of being in the rotation.
- Use professionals. Self-managing campaigns is not for the inexperienced or faint of heart. Anyone who tells you paid ads don’t work probably cobbled together their own campaigns and failed. To be successful, you’ll need gurus who understand direct selling. Mainstream consultants often do not have a strong grasp of which ads work best to attract potential distributors. Fees for ad management are typically 15% of ad spend.
Online ads are a proven method for getting interest in direct selling opportunities. It’s time for direct selling companies to own the space.
In a follow up post I will discuss techniques a direct selling company can use to build a successful program.