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DSOs do not tend to find themselves in competition with individual product-based direct mail campaigns; usually because they are sensibly geared towards higher transaction values . This does not mean that direct marketing skillls are not of interest to DSOs. Many of today’s best run DSOs use retail customer databases, provided by their salespeople, for several very good reasons. The first is to enable the DSO to maintain contact with ‘stranded customers’, those who have lost contact with a direct seller, and to reallocate them to another direct seller.

Another purpose is to provide a direct marketing service to the existing customers of their salespeople with a degree of professionalism, and a lower cost, than would be possible were direct sellers to try to provide this support themselves. This technique is particularly effective in encouraging consumers, who have an immediate demand for a replacement product to make contact with a direct seller prior to their next call, or to make them aware of new market offers. The use of direct marketing techniques by a DSO is now generally known as integrated marketing and is not limited to direct mail.

The technique of supporting direct sellers with a comprehensive integrated marketing programme, including inbound and out bound telemarketing, have been pioneered in the United States by Mary Kay Cosmetics Inc.

Mary Kay encourages their consultants to provide to the company details of their own retail customers . For a modest cost, of around 60 cents a letter which is charged to the consultant , the company will produce personalized, lase-written letter and send them directly to the customers in a form which is perceived as coming directly from their local direct selling consultant. This is, in effect , an excellent ‘house list’ from which a good response can be expected with orders phoned or posted directly to the consultant.

This combination of direct selling and direct marketing techniques provides those DSOs offering repeat purchase consumer goods with a good way in which they can re-cement a relationship between a former customer and a direct seller.

Direct sellers should and can ensure that the customers have a telephone number or at least an address as a point of contact for future orders. Some provide this resource t6hrough yellow pages but no system that requires a customer to go to that level of trouble, let alone requiring them to locate a past order form, is conductive to good service. Integrated marketing campaigns are one solution.

However, setting up these programmes demands that a DSO carries with them the confidence and the support of the sales force . It is not unreasonable for a direct seller that providing consumer data to their DSO is a prelude to the DSO becoming a direct marketing business and perhaps denying them a future livelihood. For this reason, even if the programme includes outbound telesales, it is sensible to allocate commissions to the salesforce.

Amway is another multinational direct selling business that uses direct mail to keep in touch both with existing retail customers and former direct sellers. In the UK, Amway mail out a regular magazine Connexions with reminders and updates on Amway’s product range and details of special offers on other products and services which are available to Connexions Club members . Orders are supplied directly to the customer, with a commission going to the Amway distributor who introduced them to the business – provided they are still with the business. This continuing relationship with the DSO also serves to remind former distributors of the advantages of re-establishing their direct selling activities.

Reference: Richard Berry: Direct Selling

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