This week’s episode is a little different because I wanted to talk about something that recently happened in my own life, and it’s also something that I know happens to others on a pretty frequent basis. If you’ve been on social media at some point in the last five years, chances are you’ve been hit with a cold message. You know what these look like: maybe a high school acquaintance starts selling essential oils and sends you a DM. Or a family member you only see every other Easter wants you to check out the makeup she’s now selling. These messages are awkward, they feel super icky, and they’re just all around a really crappy way to market our business—ANY business, no matter if you’re in an MLM or not.
I want to get one thing straight before I start this episode: I don’t have a problem with MLMs, networking marketing, or whatever you want to call it. I know people who have been successful with them, and I know people who haven’t been successful with them. I actually use a TON of MLM products in my daily life. Nearly my entire makeup bag is BeautyCounter, Young Living essential oils are littered all over my house, Monat is in my shower, and I’m newly obsessed with BeachBody OnDemand because the morning meltdown workout is bomb. I don’t have a problem with the products or even the companies; but I do have a problem with the icky sales tactics that are often promoted in these companies, and that’s what I want to talk about today.
First, let’s talk about the messages I’ve received in the past month to give you an idea of what we’re talking about. I’m not going to name names or even products in these examples. My goal is not to drag any one or any thing through the mud here, even though I do get a little riled up. My goal is simply to talk about what is a sales tactic that needs to die, and what you can do instead. I truly do not think that anyone who has ever sent a cold message is meaning to be inauthentic or annoying. In a lot of cases, they are simply doing what they have been told by the company or in many times, a mentor. And in some cases, these tactics may have worked! But it doesn’t mean they are okay.
The messages always start the same. The person has just stumbled across my profile and loves what they see. They’re super complimentary, so of course I keep reading. By the end of the message, there is usually some kind of “ask” involved that is usually cryptic or vague. And honestly, what I’ve noticed in the last year is that the wording has changed a little bit – they pose it as a collaboration or they want you to come work with their team or partner with them.
Basically, it’s never upfront. Nobody is ever saying, “Hey, I just started working with this company, I really like the product, I think you might like it too. Do you want to try it?” Don’t get me wrong, if that is coming from someone you haven’t talked to in 10 years, I still have problems with it. It’s still not okay, but at least it’s a little more direct. For me, it’s those vague messages asking me to “collaborate” that really put a bad taste in my mouth.
If you are going to send a cold message, at least be upfront about it and call it what it is. It’s not a partnership; you want me to buy something that you are selling or representing. I firmly believe that sales don’t have to be icky, but this approach makes it gross and icky, so stop doing it.
I truly don’t just want to use this episode just to complain, and I understand that in a lot of companies this is the message that is told that is what you need to do. I get it, so I want to actually offer some real advice for what you can do instead of cold messaging. But in order to do that, we need to back up a little bit.
My Personal Experiences
In the past month, I’ve had about 5 or 6 of these messages. I’m pretty sure in every single case, I was actually already using the product they wanted to talk to me about it. Granted I’m not sharing online that I use these products, so I understand they don’t know I already use them. However, I think that that goes to show, that there are people on our friends list, in our life, or people we follow on social media – people we already have that personal connection with – that are also selling that product or a similar one.
The way I see it is we are about 12 million percent more likely to purchase a product/join a team/etc. from someone we have a personal connection with over someone who sends us a cold message, who we have no connection with. So why waste your time cold messaging people you haven’t spoken to in so long? Why not instead focus on your family and friends list.
A Few Tips
If you are part of a networking marketing business, here are a few ways you can market your business and/or product in a non-icky way. My suggestions are the same no matter what business you are in or a part of.
Build Your Personal Brand
Show your face on social media, connect with people you enjoy following or who enjoy following you, spend time on social media actually being social and being authentic. Show them you are human. Be thoughtful and nice online so people want to follow you and interact with you. Work to build those relationships so people not only know you but also begin to like you and trust you. That is what is going to drive sales.
It Takes Work
But I think the reason that people don’t default to this option is because it’s not the easy option; it takes work. But that is building a business. I don’t care if you are working with a network marketing company or starting your photography business from ground zero. Building a business takes work, and you don’t get a pass at that. It’s just the way it is, but that’s not a bad thing. The work it takes to build a business can be fun and exciting and bring growth.
Don’t Skip the Messy Stuff
If you are trying to skip over that and go straight for the hard sell, you are missing out on all the messy stuff in the middle that makes up a legitimate, sustainable business. By creating something that just sort of passively attracts people, as opposed to going out and being very aggressive and trying to capture an audience, your business is much more thoughtful and real. And putting that work in makes you a better business owner, making your business more sustainable.
Don’t Tie Yourself so Tightly to the Sales
Think about this: what happens if in a year this network marketing company doesn’t exist or you no longer like the product or you just want a change of pace? If you’ve been building your personal brand, all of that will go with you. It makes it so much easier to pivot to where you want to go next or to your next venture, because you’ve built a personal brand, you haven’t just built another brand. You aren’t just a person selling ___ (fill in the blank). You are a real human being, and human beings are allowed to have interests and passions, and those things can change and evolve.
But if you are tying yourself so closely to sales, sales, sales, and you aren’t thinking about the bigger picture, you miss out on the opportunity to have that. So, let’s be done with the cold messages. They are just a marketing tactic that needs to die.
Focus on Your Audience
And with that, we need to stop seeing others a dollar signs. It’s not fair to look at someone and think about how much money they can make you. Instead, take a step back and see people for who they really are and understand how you can help make their lives better and how you can serve them, whether they are paying you or not. When you approach it through that lens, no matter your business, you are creating a business that people want to interact and engage with.
When I receive a cold message from someone who is just trying to sell me something, I feel like a number and like I’m not being seen. I also can’t help but think this person copy and pasted this message to 20 other people, and that doesn’t help make you feel good. People want to be seen and heard and understood.
And we can do this as business owners if we look at this through the lens of serving and not through the lens of “how many sales can I make.” I can tell you from experience, if you are thinking serving first and sales second, the sales will come. And honestly, that feels so much better as a business owner.