This series started with a history of replicated websites in the direct selling industry. A look at how these sites evolved to help distributors grow their business online, and what challenges began to arise. The last piece focused on talking to distributors and understanding their needs. Before making any choices about what tools to put into place for the sales force, companies need to fully comprehend what it is they are looking for and for what reasons.
Finding the right solutions
After gaining an understanding of distributor needs and the end goals for the company provided replicated websites, companies need to start looking at the specific details and features available.
Level of Personalization and Control
Making replicated websites more personalized for distributors is clearly the best approach to leveraging the strengths of the sales force to increase recruitment and retention. But how much personalization should be granted, in order to still protect the company from compliance risks? Where do you draw the lines when it comes to use of the brand, testimonials, original content, design, and the layout of the websites?
Distributors today want to blog, post videos, promote events, connect on social media, and more. You may not be able to comfortably meet all of these needs initially, you do need to plan for the future. Since your stance on these considerations will invariably change over time, along with the needs and interests of the sales force, you need to offer a system that’s flexible and that can adapt seamlessly to your changing needs.
The right replicated websites will also help to uphold the reputation and expectations of the company online, by facilitating compliance with corporate policies. Another consideration is legal compliance – maintaining the rules and regulations set forth by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), and other governing oversight bodies.
There have been many legal precedents set over the years as to what is allowed and prohibited on distributor websites and other marketing communications – and millions of dollars lost in the process through litigation.
But the standard practice that most companies take – to restrict public communication about the opportunity as much as possible from distributors – is counter-intuitive. Instead, given the technology capabilities available, find replicated website solution that has compliance tools built-in, while still allowing distributors to have a voice and build relationships through their sites.
With the Empowerkit platform, we focus heavily on giving this careful balance of corporate control and distributor freedom. Companies can at any time restrict or open up distributor access to customizing specific areas of content (i.e. videos, photos, event listings, social media feeds, etc.), closely monitor activity, prohibit certain words or phrases from being used, and even set specific controls on design and layout.
The solution you choose needs to allow this level of control when it comes to ensuring distributor compliance through their websites, without constraining the sales force too much where the replicated websites become uneffective.
Distributors already have active profiles on sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, where they are finding new recruits by building relationships and moving them into enrollment conversions. The right replicated website should integrate social media directly into the site, creating a seamless bridge from interactions on social networks to sign-ups on the distributor’s site.
Resisting social media, or putting too many restrictions on what distributors can and can’t do, is not the answer. Take it from companies and executives blazing the social media trail – like Vemma, Mary Kay, and others – it certainly pays off when an effective social media strategy is implemented and your network of distributors is empowered to use these tools to grow their businesses.
Empowerkit has gone beyond making it a snap to pull social media feeds into replicated sites, and allow for social sharing of content on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. We also offer a tool allowing distributors to sync their compliant replicated website content directly with their Facebook Page, creating a landing and conversion area right where the most conversations and connections are taking place.
If you’re not thinking about how social media needs to be woven into your company replicated sites, you need to take a serious look at the possibilities and confront your own hesitations head on. Ignoring the powerful phenomenon of social media while distributors struggle to figure it out could be costly, and competitors are gaining traction in this area more and more by the day.
Regardless of your market or product, every company and distributor competing online today needs to take SEO (Search Engine Optimization) into account. SEO is the process of improving the visibility of a website by search engines such a Google, Yahoo or Bing. Most replicated websites today have no ability to perform well in search results for a number of reasons.
The biggest problem is that all of the distributorwebsites for one specific company have the same content; search engines reward original content by giving higher placement in the result, while penalizing websites with mostly duplicate content.
Taking SEO into account, there are a few clear solutions to make sure a replicated website performs as well as possible search results. The first is to populate each site with a certain degree of original content (the more the better), by giving distributors the freedom to post their own articles, tips, videos, etc.
This will ensure all replicated websites across the sales force are personalized with some unique content, not only for SEO but for a more enjoyable user experience for visitors to the distributor’s site.
Beyond making it as easy as it gets to compose and edit content, Empowerkit also has advanced SEO tools in place to maximize search results for distributors, such as metadata management, sitemap submission, and more.
You may not be worried about SEO for your replicated sites, but your distributors certainly are, and you owe it to them to offer a better solution that will allow them to be found more easily online.
Ease of Use For Distributors
Many distributors struggle to get their replicated website up and running, or quickly drop off usage due to an unfriendly interface, or a steep learning curve.
Having a simple content editing system that visually guides you lets distributors focus on the website content and lead management, instead of worrying about the inner-workings of their website features and how to troubleshoot problems that come up.
Company provided replicated websites should be the distributor’s home base online, full of tools and applications for them market and brand themselves while maximizing their qualified leads.
If the tool you provide is at all complicated or requires a learning curve, adoption will be low, distributors will become frustrated, and end goals will not be realized.
SaaS vs. In-house
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions offered by specialized providers are quickly making on-premise, proprietary software obsolete in the IT world, because of the overwhelming benefits and cost savings. Services like Gmail and Salesforce are the most popular, however replicated website solutions like Empowerkit are now becoming available through SaaS as well.
With a replicated website SaaS solution, website editing can be done from any Internet connected computer, there are no updates or added features to install by your IT team generally, and security measures, system back-ups, hosting, feature enhancements, and maintenance is done system wide and off-site.
In other words, there’s less dependency on your IT resources, allowing for more focus on building your core business, and when the right system is chosen, there are huge cost savings.
Developing a replicated website system in-house is extremely costly, and very difficult to do effectively. With the technology and suppliers available today that offer powerful and highly specialized services to meet your needs, it simply doesn’t make sense to attempt to reinvent the wheel.
Picking the Right Company That’s Invested & Cares About Distributor Needs
There are a lot of software providers that claim to offer replicated websites for direct selling companies. But most just have the same tired solutions that are ineffective at gaining distributor adoption, lack any real personalization capabilities, and don’t generate results for distributors or the company.
You need to find the right company to partner with for your replicated sites – one that intimately understands the needs of distributors and direct selling companies, and that’s forward-thinking in their approach. Cost is an important consideration, but look beyond the price tag to make sure you’re fully confident that the supplier will be able to execute on what’s needed to meet your goals for your company replicated sites.
Empowerkit has a deep knowledge of the direct selling industry, and we know first hand the challenges companies and distributors face every day in the online marketing space. Increasing recruitment, strengthening retention, and ensuring compliance are all at the core of our platform and company culture, and we strive to eliminate the challenges our industry has faced with replicated websites.
Up next: Education & Training
In The Evolution of Replicated Websites Part VII, we will look into the importance of training the sales force. Everything from how to maximize their replicated websites to fully understanding the company policies and procedures.