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Even in our digital age, direct mail and email play important roles in an integrated marketing campaign. Using both can be more effective than using one alone, because emails are easily ignored— and just as easily deleted. Personalize the communication, through variable printing, content, imagery, and offers tailored toward the individual to gain a higher response.
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Direct marketing is a sometimes controversial sales method by which advertisers approach potential customers directly with products or services.
It is a form of advertising that reaches its audience without using traditional formal channels of advertising, such as TV, newspapers or radio.
Successful direct marketing also involves compiling and maintaining a large database of personal information about potential customers and clients.
For many companies or service providers with a specific market, the traditional forms of advertising (radio, newspapers, television, etc.) may not be the best use of their promotional budgets.
Instead of investing in a scattershot means of advertising (like radio), companies with a specific type of potential customer can send out literature directly to a list of pre-screened individuals. Direct marketing agencies must respect the do-not-call list maintained by government agencies such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It is attractive to many marketers, because in many cases its positive effect (but not negative results) can be measured directly.
Click here to order the October 2013 issue in which this article appeared or click here to download it to your mobile device. Even though most direct sellers classify themselves as either party plan companies or network marketers, the truth is that the lines aren’t so clear cut. Take a lingering look at many companies in the industry and you’ll find that many use predominantly one style or another, but they aren’t at all rigid about it.
When asked about their practices, companies in this story proactively called themselves “hybrids.” But every company noted that their sales and recruiting styles were developed because they made sense for them.
Princess House President and CEO Connie Tang is a veteran in the industry, having held several executive positions before taking the helm at Princess House last year. Today’s party plan company has evolved to look a little more like a network marketing company than it did a generation or two ago. She notes that when party plan consultants broaden their practices beyond finding hostesses and holding parties—and they grow by building teams and coaching new recruits—they accomplish a couple of important things. For Tastefully Simple too, recruiting gets started at parties where guests nibble from the company’s wide selection of convenient, easy-to-prepare foods designed to help people spend less time in the kitchen and more time enjoying the rest of their lives.
Even for a proud party plan company committed to group selling, one-on-one interactions are still part of the process. Tastefully Simple relieves some of that pressure by offering something more associated with network marketing companies: an auto-ship program called Simply Stocked.
Bautz admits, though, that even for a proud party plan company committed to group selling, one-on-one interactions are still part of the process.
As much as Tastefully Simple and Princess House are clearly party plan proponents, a few companies in the industry are harder to classify. Chastain notes that the flexible sales approach was developed to adapt to the needs of customers.
Having options for how consultants run their businesses helps them be successful, and Chastain notes that most successful consultants run a pretty evenly balanced business. Arbonne’s hybrid system works for them; 2012 net sales were $377 million, up from $353 million in 2011. Self-proclaimed hybrid Vemma is a network marketer that builds its fast-growing business through get-togethers it calls home events, even though they’re often not held in homes. While their fellow distributors from an earlier generation hold more traditional Vemma tasting parties, millennial distributors’ events may be as short as 15 minutes. The “kids” Patterson is talking about are Vemma’s Young People Revolution (YPR), an exploding group of millennials whose leaders coined the term The Five M’s—More Meetings Make More Money.

Even though many events are held on the go, Brand Partners actually do hold events in homes, as well as in larger public places, often collaborating with other distributors to maximize impact.
Scott Schwerdt, Nu Skin’s President of its Americas Region, says that regardless of a company’s marketing methodology, it’s still all about customer acquisition. Nu Skin has provided replicated websites to its distributors for almost 10 years, but over the last year has migrated toward mobile devices and apps. The combination of technology, group sales and a strong auto-ship program creates loyal customers as well as distributors who stick around. The skill is the same one Tastefully Simple teaches so its consultants can effectively drop “sprinkles” throughout a party. Then when consultants follow up to talk opportunity individually, Tastefully Simple provides them with numerous tools—both print and online—to increase their comfort and to support the conversation. No matter which camp a company identifies with, if they adopt a technique from the other method, it’s a practical decision that they adapt to fit their own culture. Vemma’s Patterson says it well: “I don’t think people are opposed to adopting good ideas, no matter where they are. Two-year-old Chloe + Isabel (C+I) defies description, at least in traditional direct selling terms.
C+I’s distributors, called merchandisers, disrupt not only the direct selling industry but also the brick-and-mortar retail industry.
Waterbury developed C+I with tech-savvy Gen Y in mind, and virtually all merchandisers—average age of about 26—sell online through the company’s unique e-boutiques.
Direct mail is a perfect partner to email communications; it conveys a quick message that either prepares a recipient for an email to come, or reminds them of an email they’ve recently received.
The right design draws the reader’s attention to important information, an offer and a call to action.
Instead, outline the real benefits customers gain if they buy your products or use your services. I saw at the post office recently that they’re offering direct mail services so you can reach a target zip code.
CIAE can not only optimize relationship marketing, create revenue, but also save about 20% cost and time in relationship marketing. Businesses communicate straight to the consumer with advertising techniques such as fliers, catalogue distribution, promotional letters, and street advertising. Direct marketing firms may also keep email addresses of those who match a certain age group or income level or special interest.
Customers also have the right to unsubscribe to unsolicited catalogs and to block bulk emails from their in-boxes.
They’ve often adopted an element or two from the other style, and they don’t see it as so unusual.
In fact, those practices have resulted in solid finances and growth that any company would covet. She notes that party plan companies developed as an opportunity for women to earn a little “fun money.” The focus was on selling products at a home party, not on recruiting. First, they increase their immediate earnings opportunity beyond what they can produce by their individual efforts. Princess House said Happy New Year in 2013 to 40 percent more consultants than it had a year before. Whether consultants talk to their customers one-on-one or in a group presentation, they’re making a business decision based on customer preferences. Arbonne’s data shows that about 60 percent of their business comes from individual discussions.
The language was carefully chosen to be inclusive and appealing to the broad demographics of its distributors, or Brand Partners, especially the youthful cadre that builds businesses on Vemma’s energy drinks.
While their fellow Brand Partners from an earlier generation hold more traditional tasting parties, the YPRs move fast. Scott Schwerdt, Nu Skin’s President of its Americas Region, says that regardless of a company’s marketing methodology, it’s still all about customer acquisition. Nu Skin is a social business model that uses network marketing as a method of compensation for customer acquisition.
It already offers several Internet-related tools and continues to expand its mobile platform, providing distributors with an increasing number of methods to know exactly what their customers are doing so they can respond appropriately.
These companies make sure that their distributors know how to party and that they also know how to recruit. Neither party plan nor network marketer, it has an omni-channel approach, according to its Founder and CEO Chantel Waterbury. They sell C+I’s jewelry primarily through online storefronts, social media, pop-up shops that provide a temporary physical presence, in-home parties if they wish, and by building an individual clientele.

The branded websites are completely customizable, allowing the merchandiser to choose collections, individual pieces of jewelry, or even tips on how to style the jewelry. First, prospects apply to become a merchandiser, and C+I interviews them to be sure they’re the right person for the opportunity.
You pick the zip codes you would like to target and the postage rate is as low as 14 cents each piece. Second, and just as importantly, they protect their business from unpredictable factors such as economic downturns. Relax and Savor is a traditional party where consultants share products and information and then take orders at the end of the party; and Mix and Mingle is a less-used and less-formal come-and-go gathering where guests and consultants float from product area to product area, socializing, snacking and sometimes selling each other on delicious products.
Users can choose whether their favorite products are shipped to them every two, three or four months, and they can change their order at any time. But whether the discussion is between two people or 20, Chastain notes that it’s still about people, products and opportunity. After taking seven years to reach the $10 million monthly sales mark in July 2012, Vemma has now doubled that just 12 months later. While that number indicates strong customer loyalty, it also provides both the company and its distributors a predictable income.
Direct selling is an industry that freely shares information and where member companies learn from each other. As a result, every merchandiser’s site is unique, even while they maintain the Chloe + Isabel brand. There are some rules and regulations to follow but it is a useful service to target market an area.
But today’s party plan company, including Princess House—especially since Tang arrived—has evolved to look a little more like a network marketing company than it did a generation or two ago. While most sales are made at parties, the Simply Stocked program adds an element of predictability to consultant commissions, making life even simpler for customers.
In addition to making heavy use of social media, they use Vemma’s business app to send texts—the preferred communication method for their generation—to their contacts. In addition, Vemma monthly customer and Brand Partner enrollments reached the 30,000 mark for the first time this July. Take the Biophotonic Scanner, an innovative tool Nu Skin developed to measure blood antioxidant levels without actually taking blood—an irresistible way to pique interest in Pharmanex supplements. For years, the company had stellar skills at retaining distributors, giving it an experienced salesforce. C+I doesn’t want to oversaturate a given market and place merchandisers in competition with each other. Sir Speedy can assist you or do the entire mailing from design of a marketing piece to delivery at the local post office. Tang shifted the focus at Princess House to place more emphasis on recruiting, holding network marketing-style hotel opportunity meetings and training consultants to talk a bit more about the company’s earnings opportunity during parties, even as they sold its high-quality, durable products. The text may include a video of an experienced leader making a simple business presentation. In its first generation in 2003, “You almost had to move into someone’s house to do a scan,” Schwerdt jokes.
When it started placing more emphasis on recruiting, its success in attracting so many new consultants changed the face of its salesforce. With the business side of the “home meeting” already in place, they can appear with their cooler of Verve products, tell their story, maybe show their new car and close the deal. Now in its third iteration, it’s smaller and operates using an iPad and a Bluetooth connection, making it the perfect conversation starter for spontaneous one-on-one interactions.
Consultants with relatively little experience needed to learn skills from the ground up—how to hold a party that results in sales, how to work with hostesses and also how to recruit. Princess House consultants typically recruit during individual conversations after a party, but less experienced consultants had to learn how to plant the opportunity seeds while they ran a party—a skill that can be tough to master. College students, whose needs are unique, get enrolled in a special training program called GEM, Growth and Empowerment through Merchandising. Every new merchandiser is assigned a mentor, who does everything from providing moral support to answering ad hoc questions, to connecting the new merchandiser with a like-minded community of other merchandisers.

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