Beginning to Market Online
During the mid to late 1990s, sales organizations of all stripes – from corporate America to mom and pop, B2B and B2C – were exploring ways to grow their businesses and connect with consumers online. Direct sellers saw the online marketing trends accelerating, and companies and distributors alike were looking for how they could effectively leverage the web to increase recruitment and sales.
Unlike retail and wholesale businesses that were primarily focused on selling products, direct selling companies were generally more concerned with expanding and supporting the sales force.
The First Movers
Some of the larger direct selling companies that first ventured onto the Internet quickly learned the complex difficulties of extending recruitment efforts from the living room onto the web. Many questions and problems began to arise when trying to design a system for distributors to market themselves online:
How could companies involve distributors without creating competition between the company and the sales force? How much control should the sales force have over their own websites and “personal brands”? What roles should the company and distributors play in building an online community? How would leads be managed, routed, followed-up on, and so forth?
Distributors wanted to have their own presence on the web, so they could market themselves individually to attract potential recruits. Companies wanted to provide a good solution to distributors, but without exposing potential compliance liabilities and taking on other risks. In trying to find an answer to this dilemma, the initial solution emerged – replicated websites.
Up next – Replicated Websites Gain Popularity
In The Evolution of Replicated Websites Part II, I will look at the first early attempts at replicated websites. What did distributors need and how were direct selling companies responding?