I remember sitting in the conference room at our office meeting several years ago with a group who was starting a new direct sales company. They had questions about tools, compensation plans, leaders, and even events. I asked them if they had a product yet. Their answer was surprising. They said, “We haven’t thought a lot about that. We figured if we get the other parts of the business lined up, the product is just an afterthought.” Fast forward 15 years and I am so grateful for how the industry has changed. Gone are the days where Direct Sales was the vehicle and the product didn’t matter. In the current direct sales climate, you must have a product focus and a customer journey to be successful. So, what does it take to create a successful product, and what are the benefits of releasing a product in direct sales? I recently sat down with Dr. Shawn Talbott, Chief Science Officer at Amare Global, to discuss this very topic. Dr. Talbott has over two decades of experience formulating products in the direct sales industry. He has worked for start-ups and billion-dollar brands. His insights help show what it takes to create successful products that will produce a loyal customer base.
For the full Masterclass Video with Dr. Talbott click here.
At the Forefront of Product Innovation
One of the great things about direct sales is that the industry is at the forefront of innovation. That tends to be true in everything from sales tools to compensation and is a key benefit when it comes to wellness products. The nature of being a relationship business with a volunteer salesforce makes it so that if you create products that have value for your customers, your customers will promote the product for you. This type of model allows companies to get the science-based story out there as fast as possible.
“Direct sales allows companies to be on the cutting edge of products…and the next cutting edge…and the next cutting edge.” – Dr. Shawn Talbott
Oftentimes, direct sales products require a story to be told. Being on the cutting edge is good because you are early to the story, but the downside is no one has heard the story. Even if your products are ahead of the curve, if your field can’t tell the story then you aren’t likely to succeed. The benefit of relationship selling is that your distributors have direct interaction with their customers. In comparison, it is extremely difficult to tell a cutting-edge story on a product label while your product sits on a store shelf.
The Right Tools Help Tell Your Product’s Story
The key part of helping your field to effectively tell a cutting-edge product story is giving them the right tools. If a distributor feels like they need to become a science expert, then your duplication will slow down or halt. It simply isn’t scalable. Tools allow your distributors to be the messenger without having to be an expert who tells the message. They can share a tool and let the tool do the work for them. When we first started working with Dr. Talbott nearly 20 years ago, we were writing books, booklets, and brochures to tell the story. Now we partner together on digital tools to accomplish the same goal: enable the field to simply tell a complex product story. And with the power of technology, the duplication process is easier than ever.
When Amare Global launched four years ago, one of the tools that they provided their distributors was a Mental Wellness Survey. In the format of a tearpad, this tool was a consumer version of a scientific tool. Distributors would hold home parties or hotel meetings and pass out the tool to the attendees. They would answer the survey and be placed in a group based on their answers. The distributor would then recommend the right Amare products for their situation. The company quickly realized that this tool had limitations. What about someone who couldn’t attend a meeting? How was the follow-up happening? What if someone didn’t want to make an on-the-spot decision? Amare quickly went to work using the technology of their Verb app to deliver the wellness survey as a tool that could be shared with anyone, anywhere, at any time. The distributors went from handing out tear sheets to texting a link for their contact to take the survey online. When the results came in, the contact was added to a drip campaign based on their answers. In addition, they were given the opportunity to try a free sample of an Amare product. Technology improved not only the delivery method of the tool, but also the follow-up, and created a much better user experience for the prospect.
The follow-up of this digital tool has been a key part of the customer journey. An educated consumer is a continued consumer. In the same manner that a tool can improve a distributor’s confidence in sharing the product story, the right educational tools can improve your customers’ confidence in your company’s products. Education helps them understand why your product approach makes sense for them. They are more likely to stay a customer in months two, three, four, and beyond.
The Product Formulation Process
Bringing a product to life takes a combination of multiple factors: Science, story, taste, delivery method, and more. Dr. Talbott uses the approach of taking the science and matching it with a need that exists for the consumer base. This approach ensures that there is a demand and that the product has the science to support the need.
Problem > Need > Solution
One of Dr. Talbott’s focuses is providing a phased benefits approach to a product line. This means that the phased benefits can help you get better. And then better. And then even better—in different ways. Product development requires that your customers feel it. Even if a product can be measured scientifically, if a customer can’t feel it then they may not measure the benefits on their own and aren’t likely to stay as a long-term customer. Focusing on the customer journey can help keep them engaged starting with the initial purchase to the next month and on to the next year. This type of a phased benefit approach prevents the dropoff. Because fingers crossed isn’t a great strategy to keep customers long-term. A successful company will keep reminding them what to expect during the different phases of their journey and what they have to look forward to.
Amare’s latest product, Edge, is an attempt to pull the benefits as early as possible in the concept of this phased benefit approach. The ingredients begin to work almost immediately. People begin to feel it—thus experiencing the product—within the first 30-60 minutes. They can experience mental wellness in half an hour. This can leave them saying, “Oh, that’s what you mean by mental wellness. Tell me more.” This quick experiential aspect of the product provides additional opportunities to have another conversation, another touchpoint, and another way for them to feel even better.
“Anyone can sell anyone once; the trick is to create a long-term customer that keeps coming back.” – Dr. Shawn Talbott
The Power of Sampling
Sampling has the potential to accomplish several of the initiatives listed above: experiencing the product, educating the consumer, creating a phased customer journey. Samples also remove friction from the selling process. Allowing someone to try a three-day sample pack opens the door, provides follow-up education and creates a relationship without requiring a long-term commitment. Allowing people to experience the science that Amare is trying to educate them about has become a big win in the process.
The Amare app provides the field the necessary tools they need to educate their prospects, gives them simple technology tools to start conversations about mental wellness, and allows them to send samples to interested contacts who want to try the science before they buy it. The right products, with the right science, and the right tools to help educate can create a winning combination.