Back in 1998 I helped start a web development company, One World Online. Our concept was to create website pages for independent distributors, real estate agents, insurance agents, even medical sites for doctors or dentists. It was a template site where they didn’t have to do much but go in and add a few fields to make it custom to their business. Which today is no big deal, but remember, it was 1996.
Back then, I knew that having a domain would be the most valuable asset a person could have for his or her business. For example: infomercials in the 90’s would list a 1-800 number at the bottom of their ads, and I remember thinking, “If all they would do is put up their web address, people wouldn’t have to memorize the number.” Most people, if they see a phrase, a word or a company name (for example: “avon.com”) that they could remember, it would be far easier than a number. They could even transact the sale right there on the spot without having to get a person on the phone; they could instantly access the promotion or offer online.
I had a feeling that there would come a day when you would not see an ad on TV that a web address was not attached to. It’s really easy and it is smart marketing to have your own domain and to have a web presence. The tools we are using for network marketing are evolving just as quickly as the industry itself is. The 90’s was the era of email and websites and introducing people to commerce. I don’t think any of us realized the role the internet would play in the 90’s in network marketing.
When people thought about “tools” in the 90’s, they would think of tangible things like cassette tapes, DVDs, magazines, books and computers; now all of that has changed. It’s all virtual now, and our thinking has had to change to fit around where the technology has gone. Think of the debate about having a blog vs. facebook vs. a website as an example. Facebook wasn’t really relevant until about 3 years after its inception—now there are over a billion users on facebook. Think about when you first set up your facebook account—do you even have one? The average facebook user has around 190 friends on that social network. And facebook is still only a tool—you don’t really use it to sell, you use it to share: you’re simply exposing people to an idea or a product they can investigate on their own.
Why is all of this relevant to the smartphone? Because now you can do all of that (social media, websites, texting, emails, calling) from one location. The cellphone didn’t truly become significant until the late 2000’s, and look at it today. It seems everyone has one and is operating their business with one now.
I remember, once, somebody told me that they were going to be the first distributor in network marketing to make it without having a cellphone. This incident was only 4 years ago. I remember my response to them was, “Then you’ll never make it.” Today that same person is with an app network marketing company. I think he has had a change of heart!
The cellphone is what makes us mobile.
Not only does the cellphone give us access to websites, social media, emails, phone calls and texts, the smartphone enables the MLM industry to go one further with apps. There is seemingly an app for everything now, including MLM, and most network marketing companies are integrating an app to better communicate with their independent distributors. Most will have an app that will track all your sales activity, events, contests, pin level or rank, volumes and contacts in your organization. All of that and literally with the touch of a button you’re contacting someone in your organization either by phone or an email or text.
There is accessibility and ease of not having to look someone up—you can do it even without going into the contact folder on your phone. An app gives you convenience and simplicity—you simplify your life by having a smartphone: it’s like having your office in your hand. A smartphone is the ultimate communication tool.
We are in a different economy and it is shifting fast. The younger generation has embraced the social media world. They understand how to use it and if you want to compete for their attention in this space, then you are going to have to take some time to learn the ins and outs of the tools. Face to face is always going to be the best way to close your product, but people are often too busy. They don’t have the time they used to, and if you’re able to make your case with a quick post or text or blog, you will reach a larger audience and save yourself a lot of time running around cold-calling.
Today, most people access the web with a smartphone—checking emails, taking a glance at social media sites for an update, even using them for navigation when traveling to an appointment. We used to think that it was the laptop that was revolutionary, but then the smartphone came out. Laptops are more cumbersome, and a smartphone or even a tablet is much more mobile and far easier to access.
One company that took early first advantage of the social media sphere was ViSalus. They encouraged facebook and twitter as ways to communicate with their sales force about contests, events, and recipes. I don’t think there is a company out there that can compare with what ViSalus has done with social media over the last 3 years. They introduced their first version of an app ahead of anyone else, two years ago. The app is easy to access and instantly tells me where I’m at with my personal volume, my group volume, and pay level. If I need to go to the web for something I can, but having that information accessible on my iPhone sure makes it easy—to give me exactly my rank, where my volumes are, who’s creating the volume, to place an order or sign up a new customer or promoter—all of what is important to a rep, whether part time or full time. The fact that this is on the phone changes everything because I don’t have to be at my laptop at my home, which might be the only place where I have the internet other than my smartphone.
To net it all down: If I’ve got this little multi-tasking tool (my smartphone) and I’m able to access messaging, access the internet and make calls, I’ve got my office. With my smartphone I can do anything, and I can be anywhere I need to be and still be connected. I’ve watched what a company like ViSalus has done, and I’ve been observing closely what they are doing and how they are adapting to this new era. I’ve cut my teeth on what this new age of direct selling is becoming by watching them and the role social media is playing; and I’ve learned so much paying attention to what these young people are doing that it has kept me from being left behind. I am in the loop. I’m in it and I get it. That’s what it has come to today, to be in this business of direct selling and network marketing. Unfortunately, if people don’t like to use a phone, or they hate to answer their phone, they don’t like to text, they hate social media; they’re going to have a difficult time making it in today’s direct selling world. If you’re not staying up to date, making the technological advances with the industry, you’re going to be left behind.