I know all about the consequences of the current economic downturn – I guess you could consider me a casualty. After spending about 12 years of my life in the golf retail business, managing three stores and putting in the the 50-60 hours a week those in retail think nothing about, it came to a pretty sudden end in early 2008. The combination of the deteriorating economy, high fuel costs, overhead from three locations, and increasing competition from online sources we were ill-prepared to compete against, cutting back on expenses became the owner’s primary concern.
Do I even need to say that all three stores were closed before 2008 had ended?
Owning a business was always something I had in the back of my mind, but like so many, I was so busy making a living and taking care of my family it was put on the back burner. I was in no position to invest the amount of money required to start a brick-and-mortar business – between renting space, buildout, inventory, and hiring employees you could be looking at $50,000-$100,000 before the doors are ever opened. Then come the marketing expenses.
Marketing was always something that interested me, and something I always felt was an area where most retailers were woefully inadequate, mainly because the majority of them offer absolutely no value. It is usually about nothing more than the sales pitch, which turns off most people, preventing them from ever becoming customers.
I trained my staff to lead with value, and position our stores as the place to go for expert advice in all things golf-related, thereby eliminating price as the primary issue, and becoming consultants instead of salesmen. I always thought this was the only way to grow any specialty retail business. Unfortunately, the owner did not choose to market in this manner, employing instead the same tired “discount retailer” approach.
The network marketing industry had also engaged pretty much primarily in its own offline methods of marketing up to that time – cold calls, pitching family and friends, the dreaded “3-foot rule”, buying lead lists, and other unsavory activities. I had had my fill of that kind of selling in some (very) short stints with sales companies before I had entered retail. Ironically, one of the things that attracted me to retail was the idea of the potential customer coming to you, as opposed to chasing them down.
Enter attraction marketing.
Some very forward thinking people in the network marketing industry like Ann Seig and Mike Dillard saw the limitations the old model of offline marketing techniques, and introduced a completely different school of marketing – one which is built around the concept that people love to buy, but hate to be sold to. It is about offering value first, and positioning yourself as an authority or expert – the kind people seek out and want to buy from.
Think of online stores like Amazon.com. Is there a more pleasurable shopping experience anywhere? You get personalized recommendations, the ability to create wish lists, and both positive and negative reviews on almost any product under the sun. This is all before you ever buy a single thing! When you’re ready to buy, it can be as simple as one click. Is it any wonder that they are one of the few companies that has held its own despite the awful economy?
To me, this kind of marketing was “attractive” to me because it was to a large degree second nature. Any good retailer understands how vital it is to always lead with value. We have spent our careers building relationships by positioning ourselves as leaders so that we were never in the position of having to chase down customers.
Another reason retail pros would be at home in network marketing is that we are self-starters. You can’t survive as a retail owner or manager being a clock-puncher. No one is going to build your business for you, so long, odd hours are the norm.
It’s no different building a network marketing business, except for one powerful thing – you make your own hours. If you feel like working in the middle of the night, the internet is always open. That’s the reason a lot of people are doing this for a source of supplemental income – there are no set hours. It’s your business, but since you don’t have employees and store hours to worry about, you work when you choose to.
Getting the proper education in internet network marketing is essential, but “sales training” is old hat to retailers. The beauty is that by using the attraction marketing concept of monetization, or affiliate marketing, you can actually pay for your education, and in a lot of cases actually be profiting, while learning. Affiliate marketing is essentially a business relationship with a merchant who allows you to link to that business, usually at no cost to you. This can be done in the course of learning the business, and is a vital part of many attraction marketing systems, like Ann Sieg’s Renegade System.
The fact that we have spent our careers learning to deal with customers, both in person and on the phone, makes us uniquely qualified as leaders in this brave new world. The difference here is that using online methods allows us to reach far more people in far less time, and with far less expense.
The tax savings that many retailers are already familiar with and accustomed to are also very much present in network marketing. Your office is your home, and that in itself provides a slew of deductions.
Those are some excellent reasons for retailers to look at network marketing as a viable business opportunity, but the current economic situation may be the most important factor. The economy isn’t expected to turn around for quite some time, meaning more job losses and less discretionary spending money for Americans. Discretionary spending is the lifeblood of retail, so that fact doesn’t bode well for the industry, particularly for specialty stores.
The network marketing industry is entering a boom period that will only grow in size as more and more unemployed and disgruntled workers look online for income-generating opportunities. This works to the advantage of those of us already established in network marketing. We will be uniquely positioned to be leaders in the right industry, at just the right time, to provide much needed information about those opportunities. The low cost of entry and running a business makes it an appealing alternative now, and with social networking growing more and more every day, that isn’t going to change for quite some time.