Retailers will often ask me why their sales aren’t doing so well online, that they post in their group but their group members don’t seem to be interested in buying anything from them, but they will engage on posts for freebies and giveaways. Some will even say that their page is active, with lots of engagement, but no one is purchasing. The first thing I do is look at their VIP group to see where the problem may be occurring. 9/10 I have found that retailers are engaging in 3 very specific habits that are resulting in a decline in sales – and once we are able to target why those activities don’t work, and replace them with ones that do, they usually see a massive change. For our inaugural 3 podcasts I will go over what those 3 items are in SOME detail, and what you can do to
Now that we have talked about some of the basics, who are you, and who are your customers, let’s move on to the third mistake which may seem like a small thing, but actually can end up playing havoc with your VIP group if you aren’t careful with it. And that is understanding the difference between a community and a shopping group.
If you recall, in our last podcast we talked about how Facebook never intended for the groups feature to be used exclusively as a sales platform for Direct Sellers, and how many of the algorithms that are causing us as direct sellers some trepidation do so because we are approaching them as roadblocks to our ultimate goal, which is making sales. I am going to preface this entire podcast by saying that I have had the privilege of meeting thousands of retailers at this point, and through our discussions I have learned that you truly care about your customers, you want them to be happy, and customer service is your top priority. But at the same time, we are all still entrepreneurs and we do need to make money to feed our families, and we have chosen to do so through Direct Sales, so that means we do need to sell. Nothing I say is meant to invalidate that feeling, but rather to talk about how that feeling doesn’t always translate into practice as we get caught up in the day to day routine.
We are all on the same page that we care about our customers, AND that we need to make sales so we can make money to help support our families. For many of us, those two goals can seem like they are in opposition with each other, and they bring out what Kendrick Shoppe calls the “icky feeling of selling.” When you truly care about your customers, and you are trying to sell something to them, we feel icky. Take it a step further, and if we feel like we are pushing something on them, we feel even ickier. All of us have been approached by a salesperson at some point or another in our lives who just oozed that slimy feeling of, “I am trying to convince you to buy something you don’t really need,” and we, as retailers of any kind, feel a strong sense of anxiety when we feel like we might be approaching the line of ickiness. We’ve all been there, there’s no shame in acknowledging it – in fact, it’s a good thing! It means you really do what to do what’s best for your customer, you want them to be happy and satisfied with their experience with you, so that feeling like, “OMG, am I being too pushy?” can help keep you in check.
That said though, it can go too far in that direction to where you start to give away the farm, and in the end don’t take a profit or even break even, but you operate with a loss, which is never a good thing. Here’s the thing though, the problem with selling isn’t that selling sucks, or that it by default is icky. Selling only feels gross when you are TRYING TO SELL to someone you aren’t sure wants to buy, and/or when you are doing it solely to benefit yourself. Its like that shop owner from the last podcast, who asks you to like his page not because he cares about you, or what you need, but because there’s something in it for him. How many times has that happened to you? Where someone approaches you at a store of some kind, and you feel like they legit don’t care if you need the item, or want the item or service, they just need you to sign on the dotted line and give them your money because they need to hit a quota, or reach a goal. How does that make you feel? I’ll tell you for me, it makes me not want to shop with them – not now, not ever. In fact, it usually makes me want to not sell ever again too.
Now let’s think about your VIP group. We have a few conceptual ideas to unbox specifically regarding our groups. For a variety of reasons, Direct Sellers rarely take advantage of the Facebook Business Page option, and instead invest their heart, soul, time, and energy into their shopping group. Though this may have worked at one time, this approach may be hamstringing your business. Dealing with the Facebook Business page is a whole ‘nother show so we will come back to that at a later date. But for the moment, lets assign the Facebook Business Page as your storefront, and say that your major advertising, giveaways to gain new customers, and smart, funny posts you are hoping will boost the ability of others to find you. Your VIP group is where you go to hang out with your friends – your community. Your community of loyal shoppers who joined YOUR group because they saw something in it that they liked, connected with you for some reason, and so took the time to join your group.
There are a lot of reasons why someone would join a VIP group:
- Personal Connection to you: Your friends, family will want to join to see what you are up to.
- Recent Shopper: they met you in person somewhere and got your card – they really enjoyed their time with you and their shopping experience and decided to try your group out.
- New Shopper: people who feel weirded out by shopping online, aren’t sure what they are supposed to do, but feel safe joining your group because you said/did something that made them feel like they could figure this out with your help.
- Great Selection/Outfits/Lives: You have solid stuff, and you share it hysterically. They LOVE your personality, your style, your inventory, so joined the group to see what was available and will stop by when they want to shop.
This list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a representative example enough to where we can use it for the conversation we’re having today. If you use this as your baseline list for why people would join your VIP group, the next question – and this is the big one – with so many people out there selling, why would they STAY in your VIP group? For all of the people I listed, even your friends and family – what reason do they have to stay and continue to visit your group on a regular basis (thereby increasing the chance that they’ll shop with you).
The truth is that there are only 3 reasons why people will not only stay, but continue to visit your group: 1) Constant rotating inventory, new stuff all the time, 2) New content, and 3) Community.
Take a moment and ask yourself how often you are rotating inventory – and I mean rotating it out entirely with very few leftovers from the last sale. Chances are, unless you are one of the top sellers, not very often. This by the way is the only one of the 3 on the list that is (moderately) out of your control. Your ability to get new inventory is dependent upon your ability to do strategic swaps, or to sell more so you can purchase more, which is totally fine. There are still 2 other reasons people will come to your page. Reason 2 is for new content. How often are you posting new content to your Facebook group? Interesting content, stuff people want to read about, not generic engagement posts. And lastly, do you foster a sense of community in your group? I’ll be honest, after visiting hundreds of VIP groups I can tell you that the number of retailers out there consistently posting new content or creating community are few, and their inventory rotation is limited at best. Which means of the 3 reasons people will visit and revisit your group, most retailers aren’t doing even 1.
And this explains why sales are low. Because the people you brought in for whatever reason – be it new shopper, friends and family, what have you, came in, saw what you had, came back a few times, saw nothing changed, and then just stopped coming. So now no one is participating on your pages, and as a consequence no sales are happening.
This sucks, I know it sucks, but don’t worry, I have a solution for you.
To explain my solution, I want to talk through the process of purchasing something online from a Facebook Group. I am a customer, hanging out at home. As a customer, I do not spend 24/7 on my phone waiting for someone to post on Facebook, most people who are not bound to their phones by their jobs tend to actually NOT spend their entire lives on Facebook. Which means that whereas retailers are notified in passing whenever anyone posts to any groups, the only way for MOST customers to see what you post is to either make a decision to go to their notifications section and go through them, or make a choice to go to your group, since by the time they get to their phones, most of your posts will be drowned out by pictures of their sister’s new cat. So if I am sitting at home, and I want to buy something, like a Carly for example, I am going to make a choice to go to a group, go to the album for Carly (assuming its up) see what you have, and actively make the purchase. So you see how that works – we have intent to purchase, decision to go to your group, and then we have two options, either I discover what I want and buy it, OR I will not find what I want and move on to the next retailer. But in both these cases I have to make a decision to BUY something, and then I come to you, look for the SPECIFIC item, and then if you don’t have it, I move on.
Now imagine this instead. If I asked you to right now, I bet each of you could name 2-3 websites or Facebook groups you visit whenever you have a free moment. For me, whenever I have downtime, and the first thing in the morning, and the last thing at night, I go to People Magazine, Us Magazine, Cracked, and Vintage News. Those are my go tos. Its what I do when I have second to kill, to catch up. All of you have yours as well. Maybe it’s a news site, maybe it’s a group, maybe it’s an Instagram feed, whatever it is though, you already know the ones I mean. What if your Facebook group had enough community and content on it, to where you become that for your customers? To where when they have a free moment, they go to see what’s happening in your group? Oh Minessa is always posting fun 80s stuff, I wonder what she posted today, let’s go look! And when they visit the group, they find I posted about the Golden Girls. A few hours later, maybe at night, they go to it again as part of their routine, and I have a post about my favourite music video. They come for those little nuggets of content, and will comment on the ones they feel connected to. What happens then, is that others feel connected to some of the same posts, or with other peoples comments, and the community begins to talk to each other. Not just to me, but to each other, and they come back to see if anyone has responded to them. Note that at this point they aren’t coming because I am selling anything, or because they made the conscious decision to buy something, but because they wanted to hang out online.
The next step of this is where the selling comes in. If people are already coming to your group 2-3 times a day to hang out, it’s a small next step to add in uploading featured items, inventory, and outfits to the wall. So when they do come, now they aren’t JUST talking to people and being talked to, but they are also seeing the amazing things you have to offer. You don’t have to push them on it, you just have to show them. Now they are in the position to where they may see something they like, and though they may not have made an active decision earlier to come to your group to purchase something, now that they are there, and they see something they like, they buy it.
What you are doing is creating a community where MANY things happen, people talk, they share videos, they engage with you and each other, AND they also purchase stuff. But the primary reason for visiting is NOT to buy, and because it isn’t people will visit more often, so that when there IS something to buy that they like, they will buy it. What you have done through this is created content, and created community. The last reason people stay, for inventory, I’ll talk about next week, since its an extensive question with a podcast long answer!
The thing to do then is this, first – ask yourself what you post in your VIP group. Go take a look, and scroll down 10-20 times, and look to see if you have posted any new content that would keep someone coming back. Would it keep you coming back? Would it even have interested you? If not, then make a note to yourself to not post content like that any more and instead BE DELIBERATE in your posting. Don’t just post random pictures you saw some other retailer post because you think its cute – at least not as your primary engagement strategy. Focus on REAL and MEANINGFUL content when you post, and make sure that it matters. Community is built on authentic engagement, not on effortless and easy posts that encourage people to show you their favourite emoji. There’s a time and a place for that for sure, but as I said, it shouldn’t be your primary means of communication.
Before you post anything on your group from now on, its important that you ask yourself – is this something I would look at and think, “Wow this person really cares about me and what I think?” or would you think, “Oh shes trying to boost engagement, its cute, so I’ll do it and then leave her page.” ONLY post the ones that fit into that first bucket.
Much like exercise, this is going to have a HUGE impact on your group. Firstly, it will render your level of caring about the facebook algorithm to 0, because you will be doing exactly what Facebook wants you to do, which is build a community, so as you consistently post engaging and interesting content that your readers care about, it will start to reprioritize your group for others, as will the content you post. Second, it will create an environment where your VIP members WANT to visit your group for a variety of reasons, and while they are there, they might just scroll by a Featured Carly and decide they MUST have it, and Lastly, because you are not trying to hard to sell, you will feel better about your business and less icky as a salesperson. Because you will see yourself as a community builder, not as someone trying to fill her group with as many people as possible so she can sell more. Just try saying both of those out loud, ask yourself which one feels better! You don’t have to tell me, I already know!
Today we talked all about community and how important it is to create one as part of your business – but we did touch on inventory a bit today, and I know you really want to hear about how to maximize your inventory for your business, so next week we are going to talk ALL ABOUT inventory, capsules, buying, swapping, and destashing! If you have any questions about this podcast, or would like to suggest future topics, please email me at email@example.com