Deb Bixler is a successful Party Plan consultant, coach and trainer. Her background in the food service industry combined with her ambitious entrepreneurial spirit has led to a wonderful career involving many aspects of direct selling.
Deb was featured in the Direct Selling Live Power 50 list of 2010 for her passion in health and wellness education. She offers educational seminars and presentations on the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.
In the interview below, Deb talks about how she moved from the restaurant business to direct selling, by slowing building her presence online. Her incredible guidance on how to balance a business both on and off line is valuable for beginners and experts a like.
I’m here today with Deb Bixler. Deb is a well known coach, speaker and trainer in the direct selling industry. She has made a name for herself in the Party-Plan market offering seminars and classes to help companies get professional results from their home parties.
Deb was featured on the Direct Selling Live’s power 50 list of 2010 to recognize her passion for health and wellness.
Deb thanks so much for joining me today, can you tell me a little bit about what you were doing before you entered the direct selling industry and how you got to where you are today in the Party Plan market?
I always say I didn’t go to college for sales, I didn’t go for marketing, I’m actually a trained chef. I went to the culinary institute in Hyde Park, New York and worked 30 years in the food service business. I was very very successful, I really enjoyed the excitement of the industry.
In 1999 I started to realize that I had been giving so much time and energy, I’m sure people have heard that the restaurant business is stressful. I was missing a lot of things in life, I think was starting to get burned out.
I had been looking for a job, I looked at moving into the grocery business, we have a farmers marker here, I applied to be the market master. I applied for jobs in industries that I felt were laterally related in either food or entertainment. Every job offer I had was less money and more stress, I wasn’t necessarily seeking out more money. I had three solid 10 year jobs in my career in the hospitality industry and did pretty well. I wasn’t looking to move just for the sake of moving.
I went to a home party in November, the fall of 1999, I went to a Party Plan show. I had never been to a Party Plan show, I heard about Avon ladies but I never had a concept of the vastness that was out there in the industry.
I went to the show and the consultant said “Watch what I do here today, and for those of you here that would like to learn more about making money and having fun with my company just get with me after the show and I would be glad to give you more information.”
The consultant was a gentleman, he had a similar background to mine. He had been in the food service business and quit his job in food service and was very successful in Party Plan. I was sitting there in the room thinking “Yeah Right, I’m not going to do this, this guys a looser”. As I watched the program and saw how much fun it was, I realized that everything that was going on at that time in the room during the show was a lot of why I stuck with my career for so long, a lot of what I loved about the industry.
So I realized there was something there. I decided it was put in front of me for a reason and that I aught to take advantage of it, otherwise I might be missing the opportunity of a lifetime.
So let’s jump ahead about 10 years. Things have obviously changed a lot, you are very active on Twitter, there are always great conversations happening on your Facebook page, your Youtube channel has almost 200 videos. At what point did you realize that social media could provide you with strong business results?
The first process in becoming an entrepreneur is having an income. So I needed to maintain my full time job on some level, so that I had the capability of giving my new business time to [grow]. I built my party plan business up through marketing one-on-one. But I also decided right from the beginning that I wanted to be online. Prior to that I had no Internet experience, 10 years ago the Internet was there, but it wasn’t what it is today.
I wasn’t involved with it at all, but I decided to incorporate that into my marketing plan. I was able to replace my full time job in about 8 to 9 months. I quit my full time job and I worked a Party Plan business from home, it replaced my $80,000 per year job.
I worked it for a solid 5 to 7 years as my total household income and gradually started to build my Internet business up and became an authority.
It’s a learning curve, in the process of learning one thing, you learn more, and you learn more. I have a major Internet presence now in all the social sites, including my blog. It is just one giant social media function on the Internet, and when you connect them really well you can do well in the search engines too.
That’s a perfect segue into the next question I have for you. You have got a lot of ball in the air at any one time. You seem to do a really great job of keeping them connected. How do you manage to keep everything tied together to maximize the web for you?
You can’t do everything and you can’t be everything to everyone. Over the course of the past 10 years my business focused has shifted entirely, entirely may be a little bit too strong, from one-on-one live interactions to, as I said from the beginning I wanted to grow my Internet presence. I look at the Internet as my retirement plan.
I am not doing my Party Plan business anymore. It built and gradually phased out to a point because my public speaking and my educational opportunities started to increase. I still educate and still do Party Plan a tiny bit. But I started to educate more and more people and am being more involved in education.
On a local level, the balls I have in the air are all about health and wellness, because that is where I started in the food industry; healthy living. Online I have that presence as well, but online my major focus is on sales education for Party Plan consultants.
Connecting the web, which is what a web is when you think about a web, is a bunch of connections that leverage all the other connections to get really good results. One of the things that happens a lot for some people on the web is they never connect it. They are on Facebook and they have their direct sales affiliate site, but those 2 little strings connecting each other are not a web, they are a cloths line. It’s not connected very well to the rest of the world.
To do it all is a process. What I would recommend to manage the web is to do one thing, get really good at Facebook, or get really good at your blog. Get a system going, blog 3 times a week, become more knowledgeable on keywords and descriptions. Learn that piece, and once you get a routine going, you are blogging 3 times a week, you have learned everything there is to know about your blog and how to get the best results for your terms and your keywords and you are really getting a handle on that, start doing Facebook.
Then you do your Facebook page, and you do it really well. You start to put a system together, you go there 10 minutes every morning, go for 10 minutes every night. And once you have got that ball in the air, like a regular juggler, he doesn’t throw all 10 balls up in the air at once. At least I don’t think they do. They throw up 3, then add 2 more and 2 more until they have got a dozen.
So once you get really good at Facebook, then you can start doing Twitter. The best thing to do, is to do one right, put some systems into place, because systems make things run smoothly, and then move on to the next thing. Eventually you will have a massive connected Internet web.
Do any companies come to mind that you think are offering that kind of advice to their distributors? Companies that are doing really well at offering the tools that any consultants or distributors need to start out on the right path?
A direct sales company of the 21st century needs to have a solid Internet policy. I believe that they need to be liberal in their focus on that. Many of the older companies are scared of the Internet, but they are coming around.
I think it all starts with a solid Internet policy. I do actually do social media consulting to different companies. The Rendy Company uses me for their social media for their consultants. We do webinars and teach people how to do it right. Avon, I am not a consultant for them, but Avon is very proactive on the Internet, and they are really an older company who you might think would not be prone to that kind of thing.
When a company has a solid policy that’s put into place to protect the company’s brand, which is also protecting the consultant as well because the brand is really important to the consultant too. When they are proactive on educating their team on how to use the Internet and how to take the most advantage of it, it does well for the consultants.
As we move forward in the 21st century, the newer people, the younger people, my niece who is 13, she is not going to join a company who doesn’t allow social networking. The new people that are coming into the industry are going to be so adept at the Internet, that the policies have to be strong and they have to be there. If they’re not, the new generation won’t join your company. Companies that don’t embrace the Internet in the future will not be here in 20 years, in my personal opinion.
Party Plan business doesn’t only operate online, it can operate online, but all sales are [about] emotional connections. Yeah we can run businesses strictly online, real direct sales businesses operate both on and off line. Savanna is 14, 15 now, her attitude toward direct sales is, “This is really cool because people get to hold products and they get better service”. She sees the value of it, she is not going to join a company that doesn’t have technology embraced.
A lot of companies give their consultants an affiliate site when they sign-on. It’s not necessarily the most dynamic approach to engaging with prospects or to generate leads. As far as those tools go, do you feel distributors should have their own website or blog? Should they just rely on a Facebook page? How do you feel about those affiliate sites?
The affiliate site is necessary because they are not going to let you sell on your own site. I don’t know any direct selling company that allows you to sell the products off your own site. I believe that if your company allows you have a Facebook page, a Twitter page, a Youtube page, a LinkedIn page and a blog and you are going to do it, and do it right, you should do them all.
You need to start where you can manage it, and take the process, the learning curve. Start where you feel most comfortable, get really good at it, add another piece. It will take about 2 1/2 years of dedication to master and connect the web.