The global economy has been in a bit of a tailspin ever since the novel coronavirus started spreading its tentacles around the world. Countless businesses have taken a hit. And while recovery efforts are in full swing as we approach the first anniversary of the emergence of COVID-19, it would be a while before everything is back to normal.
However, some sectors are thriving in the current climate as well. The most obvious one being pharmaceuticals. Others include ed-tech, logistics, consumer goods, network marketing (MLM), etc. It’s this last segment that has grown a fair bit since the onset of the pandemic, particularly in the United States.
COVID-19: A Blessing in Disguise for network marketers?
Worth more than $35 billion today, the network marketing industry is evolving quite rapidly. This is largely due to the Internet, social media, and online forums that brands now have access to wider audiences. Compared to the past when door-to-door sales used to be the bread and butter of network companies, today’s operators have a readily available online audience of millions.
Using platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and others, distributors can easily spread their message to all corners of the world. And with the pandemic inducing layoffs almost everywhere, there’s no shortage of individuals willing to come onboard.
In a survey conducted by the Direct Selling Association (DSA) at the beginning of June, more than half of the 51 respondent companies said that the coronavirus had positively impacted their 2020 revenue. Later on, the DSA (the trade group that represents network marketers) carried out another study in which 59% reported the same about their earnings for the year.
Periods of widespread economic uncertainty tend to go well for network marketers. As per a different DSA report, following the Great Recession (2007-09), the number of MLM marketers in the US went from 15.1 million (2008) to 18.2 million (2014).
Impact on Direct Sales Industry as a Whole
Despite the “boom” that MLMs have enjoyed, the coronavirus outbreak has been quite a challenge for the direct sales industry. Lack of face-to-face interactions has certainly hamstrung professionals in the field. Specifically, women-owned businesses and female sales/marketing pros have gotten the short end of the stick.
As a result, they’ve had to be smarter and creative in their way of doing business. More importantly, the situation these days is a case of “survival of the fittest.” So, the ones exhibiting greater resilience are more likely to come out unscathed.
There are, of course, some opportunities to be tapped into. According to research by L.E.K Consulting, a British management consulting firm, consumers actually want many products offered by direct sellers.
A survey of about 2,000 US customers revealed that while people are significantly cutting down on monthly expenses, purchases have gone up in many categories. For instance, compared to pre-crisis days, more nutritional supplements are being sold now. This might be because we’re living through a health debacle and consumers tend to take a greater interest in wellness items during such times.
Also, direct selling is seen as a viable business opportunity by many women (and men) who’ve lost major income sources recently. While a lot of those who’re fortunate to still have paid work may also think of this as a decent alternative/secondary revenue stream.
Herein lays another positive. These trends have made a significant shift in the recruitment paradigm. Because of this, a much bigger talent pool is available for MLMs and direct selling companies. In a nutshell, while the situation is challenging, several tactics can be employed by players in this industry to not just survive but also thrive.
Tips for Women in Sales, Marketing, and Networking to Scale Up
As stated earlier in the piece (and also in many of my previous posts), working women and female entrepreneurs have borne the brunt of the COVID-induced economic catastrophe. For those running sales and marketing businesses, the following tips can help keep their ventures afloat.
When the chances of in-person prospecting are few and far between, strengthening existing relationships is a good ploy. This is what Suraya Yahaya did to keep her management consulting company Khazana Inc. on track.
Being a mother herself, she focused on business leaders within her network that had children of their own. Her intention was simply to check in with them as they were likely to be facing similar challenges.
This eventually led to more referrals and resultantly new customers coming in. The strategy worked so well that many of Yahaya’s major clients these days happen to be leads generated through her fellow businesswomen.
Soda Kuczkowski is a “Sleep Health Educator” and the founder of Start with Sleep. The company offers sleep consultation services to individuals having trouble sleeping well every night or not being able to follow a consistent resting schedule.
Ardent sleep advocates like Arianna Huffington had been urging the public to stop cutting down on nap time for quite a while. In the wake of COVID-19, the need for a good night’s sleep has become even more important, especially for first responders and shift workers.
They have a hard time maintaining a regular bedtime routine, largely due to the nature of their jobs. For them, Start with Sleep is one option that can help get their sleeping patterns on track.
While the company does have a physical location, Kuczkowski took her business virtual soon after the pandemic took over the world. However, beyond that, she realized that there’s a unique opportunity to be tapped into.
A broader market segment could be targeted by going international. Her research revealed gaps in service delivery in many places overseas, with people having to wait as much as 18 months to get a sleep consultation. A proper sleep study could take more than 3 years. Surely, there could be a faster way to address the sleep challenges of consumers in this market?
The coronavirus provided that to Kuczkowski. Start with Sleep now offers its services online, the agonizingly long wait for a checkup and potential treatment can be avoided. Even though the company had Internet-based offerings before COVID-19 was a thing, people are more comfortable with the telehealth model that Start with Sleep follows these days.
There’s a much greater willingness to reach out and collaborate with individuals who might be based on the other side of the world. Again, this has been facilitated by online connections that can be initiated and maintained at the lowest cost possible. Digital safety measures are also being taken to ensure that users can feel at ease while availing of a service.
Kuczkowski still has a brick-and-mortar location for her business. But, Start with Sleep is not limited to it by any means. The company, led by its dynamic founder, continues to explore new ways of remote service (and value) delivery.
It hasn’t been long since Oriana Turley laid the foundations of Medicine Mountain Scrub. The company provides sustainably sourced and manufactured scrubs for female medical professionals. A registered nurse herself and mother to a two-year-old girl, Turley has to be on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19.
On the one hand, finding childcare for her kid became problematic since caregivers aren’t keen on children interacting with their peers. So, Turley and her husband simply opted to keep their toddler at home.
However, a bigger challenge awaited her business. Due to the stay-at-home orders, her company’s supply chains shut down. This happened after a year and a half of launch preparations. It could have been demoralizing. But, Turley is apparently made of much sterner stuff.
And just like with her daughter’s care needs, she focused on controllable stuff instead of fretting over the uncontrollable. Research indicated an increasing need for self-care among the caregivers themselves. Turley realized that these people who work so passionately for the well-being of others are often prone to neglecting their own needs.
This eventually led to her writing a self-care ebook which was offered free in exchange for users’ email addresses. About 90% of her current email list is made up of leads generated through this research and repositioning. It would surely come in handy for a new Kickstarter campaign due to be launched in the fall of 2020.
Remember why you started it all. What were those motivations? Think about the mission that has been spurring you on all this time. And most importantly, be resilient. Know that the pandemic will eventually end and things will get better.
Public relations professional Shawn Zanotti is the CEO of Exact Publicity. She knows a thing or two about adversity, both personally and professionally. Having dealt with the loss of her husband and parents while raising a little boy during the past decade, she is now successfully keeping her company going through the pandemic.
Following the spread of the virus in America, Exact Publicity took a hit as expected. Many of Zanotti’s clients struggled to make their monthly retainer payments. This is where the pain she has encountered in her family life helped increase her empathy and compassion for the clients. It also gave Zanotti some perspective.
She was able to look deep within herself, rediscover and reinforce her mission, and analyze her purpose objectively. Was she just in this business to make money or was there a higher calling of helping others and believing in what they were doing? Eventually deciding that the latter is more important, she began finding creative ways of supporting those clients while keeping her business running.
Sitting at home with only a phone and computer, Zanotti went back to basics. Other than strategizing and applying the fundamentals of PR in different ways, she’s been able to help many struggling clients find new revenue streams by refining, redefining, and reengineering their business models.
Importance of Financial Freedom for Female Entrepreneurs and Direct Sales Pros
As an entrepreneur, you have the unenviable responsibility of managing your own finances as well as those of your business. And yes, it can be overwhelming. But, this is just something that you have to deal with if you want to continue enjoying the freedom of entrepreneurship.
Therefore, being a woman in business, you need to have a good command of the language of finance. If you’d been putting it off till now, it’s time to get on top of it. The longer you wait, the more you’re likely to lose your peak earning years.
It’s important to have a good foundation while you’re still young and healthy. Whether that is by implementing a solid savings plan, making astute investments, or creating multiple (and stable) income sources, gaining financial independence is crucial.
By not earning money-related freedom as a woman business leader, you might also deprive the world of hearing about and learning from your potential success story. More often than not, being economically savvy tends to be the difference between making a fortune and just making money.
I am here to help you achieve your financial goals. Just schedule a time so we can chat. https://www.sarachevere.com/pages/calendar
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