Direct Salestips: Cookie Cutter Service Doesn’t Cut It Anymore
In the evolution of marketing, one trend that has thankfully become a mainstay in the strategic planning process of today’s innovative businesses is the practice of niche-marketing. In brief, it is the deliberate attempt to more narrowly define your marketing message so it speaks clearly and powerfully to a small market segment whose needs you are uniquely qualified to meet. Companies who have jumped on the niche-marketing bandwagon are successfully navigating the rough whitewaters of today’s uncertain economy and are demonstrating that a company can never stop “fine-tuning” their strategy for growth.
Having made this point, you may be expecting us to lament about the many reasons you should incorporate niche-marketing into your strategy for growth, or expound upon the 6 steps you should take to more narrowly define your customer profile. While these are certainly worthwhile endeavors, that is not the focus of this article. In fact, narrowly defining your target customer is a difficult task for most direct selling companies, due to the fact that their increasingly diverse distributor base reaches an ever widening target customer.
Any direct seller will tell you that it is not uncommon to find at an in-home show, the hostess’ 16-year old niece sitting alongside her 72-year-old grandmother. Niche-marketing is a challenge at best for direct selling companies and would make for an interesting topic of a future article. Instead, we use the example of niche-marketing to make a point that there is great value in knowing – without a doubt – who your customer is and suggest that this same concept can be used to understand your distributors and ignite your business.
What’s this miracle elixir that will improve distributor loyalty, increase retention, revitalize recruiting and strengthen distributor moral? It’s something called… niche-servicing. Put simply, niche-servicing is the effort on the part of a company to narrowly define the various segments that exist within its distributor base, going to great lengths to understand, acknowledge and meet the unique needs of each of these segments. Stop for a moment and let that sink in. In fact, go back and read the definition once again so that you grasp the significance and value of this new concept.
Now that we have your attention, let’s take a closer look at the four components of niche-marketing and how you might employ them within your business.
Component #1: Narrowly define the various segments within your distributor base. This means that you no longer see your distributors as one cohesive group with similar interests, needs and motivations. To do this, you’ll need to extract some data that can give you a better picture of who you are serving. For example, what percentage of your sales force falls into the four age ranges: 29 and under, 30 to 45, 46 to 65, and 65 and over? What other groups exist within your distributor base? Are there significant size groups of stay-at-home moms, single moms, husband and wife teams, “Internet Only” distributors, or rural dwellers who may be in an area all on their own? Find out if there are specific ethnic communities within your sales force. Know where they are located and meet the leaders of these groups. Knowing the “genetic make up” of your sales force is the first step to implementing niche-servicing within your direct selling company.
Component #2: Understand the unique needs of each of these segments. This requires that you invest some time and resources in researching each segment you have identified as being significant. Two methods of getting to know a specific segment of your distributor base are surveys and focus groups. While face-to-face research is ideal, it can be costly. Randomly selecting a group within a segment and flying them in for an all day focus group would certainly provide you with a wealth of information and create massive good will within that segment however, it may not be in your R&D budget just yet. A less expensive alternative is to utilize your company’s website to gather the necessary insights from your primary distributor segments. Interactive on-line surveys are ideal, in that they allow you to capture the results in a format that can be analyzed statistically as well as objectively. On-line chats with a particular segment are another way to open up dialogue and better understand what a particular segments needs.
Component #3: Acknowledge the unique needs of each segment. The first outward step to incorporating niche-service into your strategic plan is to simply acknowledge these groups as valued segments of your distributor base. This may be as simple as putting the spotlight on a success story within a particular ethnic group each month, or establishing an award for a husband and wife team who exemplify true partnership in business and in life. Acknowledgment of distributors who are single moms may come in the form of an annual college scholarship that is awarded to the son or daughter of a star distributor who is succeeding in business while raising a family on her own. There are endless ways to acknowledge and bond with these unique segments. In fact, the simple act of recognizing the challenges a particular group may face can do more good for distributor moral than you ever imagined.
Component #4: Find innovative ways to meet the unique needs of each segment. Here is where a company puts its money where its mouth is, by going the extra mile to meet the needs of their primary segments. This may include adding a few pages to the company website that speaks specifically to a particular segment or offering special breakout sessions at your national convention that offer solutions to the unique needs of seniors, Hispanics or distributors who also juggle a 9-5 job. If you have a considerably sized segment under the age of 28, niche-service might include a “Generation X” Conference that features retro music, young keynote speakers and a message that hits a cord with this very special generation.
As we round the corner and head further into the 21st century, consider the value of forgoing the “cookie cutter” approach to servicing your distributors and incorporate niche-service into your strategic plan. Your reward will be greater loyalty and an influx of distributors who see your company uniquely positioned to meet their specific needs.