Archive for October, 2011

Direct Selling Education Foundation: Making the World a Better Place for Direct Selling

Direct Selling Education Foundation: Making the World a Better Place for Direct Selling

Organizations such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE), the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB), the United States Association of Small Business and Entrepreneurship (USABE), the American Marketing Association (AMA), and the National Consumers League (NCL), as well as numerous marketing professors at universities across the nation and additional influential organizations and individuals are linked arm and arm with the DSEF in order to spread the word and educate the public on its mission.

Read the full article in Direct Selling News

A World without DSEF: Reflections on the Foundation’s Past, Present and Future

A World without DSEF: Reflections on the Foundation’s Past, Present and Future

By Nancy Laichas
Chief Marketing & Development Officer
Direct Selling Education Foundation

I have heard it said that without the Direct Selling Education Foundation, there would be no direct selling industry.

Can you imagine? Millions of people unable to take advantage of a low-cost, low-risk way to be entrepreneurs. Billions of dollars for charitable causes not raised. Thousands of cutting-edge products not developed. And hundreds of companies unable to contribute to our economic landscape, our communities, our citizens, our world.

Can you imagine?

But in 1973, a few industry visionaries recognized that an independent foundation that served the public interest could change the negative perception about direct selling so prevalent at the time. A foundation—a 501(c)(3) organization—could turn foes into friends in a way that the Direct Selling Association (DSA), as a trade association, could not. And so began nearly 40 years of building relationships with consumer advocates, government agencies, academics, women’s organizations, public policy officials and members of the small business and entrepreneurship communities.

Today, through the efforts of DSEF, direct selling is acknowledged in colleges and universities around the country as a vibrant and relevant channel of distribution. Industry executives stand side-by-side with Federal Trade Commission regulators, teaching students about consumer protection issues.  They work hand-in-hand with consumer leaders developing programs that benefit the public. DSEF funds forward-thinking research that can give companies a competitive edge in the marketplace. We’re collaborating closely with DSA to develop online resources to benefit the field.  And we work with DSAs all over the world on global programs that support consumer welfare.

I’m the new kid on the block at DSEF, and when I came on board a little over a year ago, I thought I understood what the foundation was all about. Boy, was I wrong.  I was amazed to learn all that the small, but mighty team at DSEF had accomplished over the years: the depth of its partnerships, the richness of its programs and the power of its commitment to fostering a fair, educated and ethical direct selling marketplace.

And we’re just getting started.

Our ongoing partnership the Council of Better Business Bureaus continues to demonstrate to millions of consumers the industry’s commitment to ethics. We’re developing a curriculum, in partnership with the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship, that will provide direct sellers with the tools and training necessary to become successful entrepreneurs. And we launched a new website and social media presence that helps us better communicate what we do and is building a community of more connected and better educated direct sellers who are can benefiting from and sharing the resources we’ve developed.

Yes, the world would be a different place without DSEF. But it’s you—industry executives, companies, suppliers, individuals—who make our programs possible. Without your financial support, it would indeed be a world without DSEF. We have much more to do and will continue to count on your help. So click on that bright orange button on our homepage—the one that says “Donate Now.”

Nancy Laichas is Director of Marketing & Communications for the Direct Selling Education Foundation and collaborates with the DSEF staff and board to deliver contemporary messages that inspire people to get involved with the foundation’s important work. Nancy has more than fifteen years of publishing, marketing and public relations experience in corporate, entrepreneurial and nonprofit settings.

How Much Time Should I Spend on Social Media?

How Much Time Should I Spend on Social Media?

As an entrepreneur, you have a million things to do. From sales to finance to marketing, many entrepreneurs find themselves responsible for every aspect of their businesses. When you hear about social media, it’s often pitched as a critical component to the success of a small business. As a result, you take time away from other important tasks in order to optimize and maintain a Facebook Page, Twitter account, blog, or any one of a number of social tools pitched as the “next big thing.” And then you’re disappointed when it doesn’t bring the results you’re looking for.

So how do you balance it all? How much time should you put into social media so that it brings results without sacrificing other income-producing time for your business?

Here’s a process to follow to help you decide:

  1. Decide what your goal is for social media. What specific, measurable result are you looking for as a result of your social media efforts? Are you trying to increase sales? Find more recruits for your direct selling business? Increase reorders? Whatever it is, choose one goal to focus on in the beginning, and make a plan to measure your progress towards that goal.
  2. Decide who you want to reach. Who is the best target market for the goal you are trying to achieve? For example, if your goal is to increase sales, what is the demographic that you can reach who will buy the most? This is who you want to focus on. What is important to them? What need do they have that your product or service solves for them? Where do they spend time online? By answering these questions, you’re better prepared to reach out to them online.
  3. Decide when you can realistically use social media for your business. Try to choose a consistent amount of time each day, even if it’s only 20 minutes, and schedule it as part of your day’s routine. Obviously the more time you invest, the more results you’ll see faster, but plenty of entrepreneurs invest 20 minutes a day on Facebook and see results.
  4. Choose your social media tools based on your available time. If you’ve only got 20 minutes per day, choose just one (probably Facebook.) If you’ve got more time, you might want to add a blog to the mix. But don’t take on more than you can realistically manage. This is very important if you want to use social media tools to build the relationships that lead to business.
  5. Plan your tasks ahead of time. One of the best ways to keep yourself focused when you’re using social media for your business is to write down your tasks ahead of time. What can you do online to reach the goal you defined in step 1? Will you reach out to former customers? Search online for great content to share? Write blog posts? Respond to comments in online forums? By deciding ahead of time, and then sticking to your list, you can make sure that social media time is productive for your business, and you avoid wasting time that would be better spent on offline activities.

A little pre-planning is essential for effective business social media use. By making a plan, you can enjoy the benefits of social media for your business, without taking too much time away from the other important things you have to do.

How do you manage social media for your business? How much time do you spend, and does it translate into results for you? What tips would you share? Please share in the comments below!

20 Keys to Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur

20 Keys to Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur

Being an entrepreneurs is very freeing and exciting, but there’s a lot of hard work and sacrifice behind it. Simply wanting to be an entrepreneur doesn’t always translate to success. For those of you who are entrepreneurs, or are ready to take the plunge, here are some factors you must learn, improve on and master to become successful.

  1. Do what you are passionate about.
  2. Get organized and disciplined – time management, organization, and management skills.
  3. Create a business plan and follow through.
  4. Manage cash flow carefully.
  5. Develop salesmanship skills.
  6. Promote and enhance your brand at every opportunity.
  7. Be professional, personable, and inviting.
  8. Listen to your customers and improve.
  9. Use and build on your strengths and surround yourself with people to help with your weaknesses.
  10. Find a niche and become the expert.
  11. Use technology wisely to improve your business and processes.
  12. Focus on standing out from your competition.
  13. Make sure people can easily find you, promote all your contact information and make sure people can reach you any time.
  14. Seek and develop partnerships to help your business grow, add brand value and increase brand awareness.
  15. Establish continual professional development for yourself and team, and stay current on the latest information in your business.
  16. Your business focus should be about solving problems and helping your customer’s needs.
  17. Your business should be very actively involved in the community to increase exposure.
  18. Excel in customer service and satisfaction.
  19. It’s always about the customers. Follow up on every sale, listen and improve, befriend them and provide personalized excellence consistently.
  20. Establish a relationship and/or friendship with your customers. Stay in contact with them online and face to face.

There will be a process of trial and error as you learn, improve and master these factors. Start locally and build on a base of loyal customers. Become the master of your brand, establish a network of supporters and customers, and excel in helping your customers solve problems with your business. Here’s to your success!


Free Educational Series for Entrepreneurs

Free Educational Series for Entrepreneurs

Money Wise Women Educational Services is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating and empowering women to live financially healthy lives. DSEF proudly sponsors the free Money Wi$e Women Get Smart Teleseminar Series hosted by Marcia Brixey, Founder and President of Money Wise Women Educational Services and author of The Money Therapist: A Woman’s Guide to Creating a Healthy Financial Life. The series covers topics related to business and finances and provides women the opportunity to learn from professional experts in a safe, comfortable environment.

Here are only some of the topics that can empower your business, money and life. Listen to past interviews with professional experts:

  • The 5-Keys to Unlocking Passion, Purpose and Prosperity: A Transformational Approach to Goal Setting
  • Managing Your Time and Multiple Commitments
  • Tax Tips For The Self Employed
  • Reduce Debt, Reduce Stress
  • Your Money Personality And Self-Employment
  • Power of Vision Using Dream Boards
  • So You Want to be an Entrepreneur
  • Give Your Elevator Speech a Lift
  • Create the Life You Imagine: Dream It, Believe It, Be It
  • Goal Setting for Financial Success and Prosperity
  • Train your Brain
  • Achieving a Lifetime of Financial Security
  • Women And Leadership – A perfect match
  • Email writing that counts

And many more! To see the complete list and access each recording, visit

To find out about and register for upcoming teleseminars, visit

How to Find Customers

How to Find Customers

There are two major components to a thriving business: Happy and loyal customers that come back, as well as a steady stream of new customers.

The first is a matter of consistently providing excellent service that people appreciate and talk about.

The second one may seem a bit more challenging. So how do you find new customers?

Go to where the people are. You should not rely on your salesmanship, but instead focus on increasing the quantity of people that you engage with on a regular basis. People are around you all the time, and within that group are your customers. Your goal is to find them, talk to them, befriend them and nurture them so that they become the first group: happy and loyal customers.

First, let’s begin with where to find new customers:

  1. Join an association/club/organization
  2. Take a community-sponsored class or course
  3. Present a workshop or be a speaker
  4. Get a hobby and join others with the same interests
  5. Get involved with a charity or cause
  6. Go to a networking event
  7. Go onto social media networks, engage and find old/new friends
  8. Go to family parties, reunions, and social events
  9. Promote and sponsor a community activity/event of your own
  10. Start a book, breakfast, coffee, coupon, or arts & crafts club
  11. Network with other businesses and business people in your community
  12. Become a connector/referrer for others, and become a go-to person
  13. Start a referral rewards program with existing clients
  14. Use local advertising and marketing

Second, once you find them here’s what you need to do:

  1. Be curious and learn to enjoy meeting people
  2. Ask questions and improve your listening skills
  3. Be positive and inviting
  4. Be professional and authentic
  5. Don’t be a salesman, but be friendly and social
  6. Become a “let’s have coffee” person and meet face to face with people
  7. Be a social and party person
  8. Have all the possible ways to contact you on your business card
  9. Start using and writing notes on your business card to hand to people you meet
  10. Make yourself memorable, but not over the top. Make your first impression a lasting one
  11. Convey passion in what you do

It’s all about the numbers. Seek quantity. Quality customers will only come if meet enough people. Start with a new goal of meeting new people and engaging them every day.

Let us know how these tips help you increase new customers. What tips can you share for finding new customers for your business? Would love to read your ideas in the comments below!

Knowing Your Market

Knowing Your Market

Are you considering starting your own business? It’s an exciting step! Before making the leap, however, it can be helpful to do some market research, to make sure that people will buy what you have to offer. In direct sales, your company may already have a lot of this legwork done for you.

Here are some simple steps to briefly analyze how well your business might do, and to help you understand who you want to reach with your new business.

  1. Ask everyone you know in your local community if they would purchase your products/services.
  2. Within your local community, identify the people who would purchase your products/services. They are your target market in the beginning.
  3. Within this target market understand why they would purchase from you:
    • Is it because they trust you?
    • Is it because of your education and/or background?
    • Is it because of your friendship and/or relationship?
    • Is it because of the uniqueness of your products/services?
    • Is it because of your personalized service?
    • Is it because of the great value of your products/services?
    • Is it because your products/services make your market more attractive?
    • Is it because your products/services make your market more healthy?
  4. Identify and define your target market similarities:
    • Are they families or individuals?
    • Are they professionals?
    • Do they own homes?
    • What’s the age range?
    • What’s their income level?
    • What are their hobbies and interests?
    • Are they a two family income?

Understanding why your target market will purchase from you will help you create an effective marketing plan. By identifying your target market’s similarities, you will be better able to promote your message to the right consumers. But most importantly, you will know if you can quickly make an income with this business and who your potential customers will be before you open for business.

Free e-book “Business Owner’s Road Map to Success.” It has over 50 pages of techniques for everything a small business owner needs to master, from business planning and ethical selling to a success mindset. It’s all there and it’s free for you. To get it, just “Like” our Facebook Page here: Pass it on!

How to Build Your Brand

How to Build Your Brand

It seems like everyone is talking about branding these days. People are branding everything. For example, what’s the difference between tap water and bottled water? Are there real differences or is it all in the branding?

Branding is an important topic for your small business because it helps you stand out from your competition. Your brand identifies and defines your business for your target market.

Here are some simple steps to help you build your brand.

  • Identify your target market by connecting your uniqueness to the appropriate consumer. Your brand promotes your strengths and how you service your target market, and it establishes a clear difference from your competitors.
  • Be positive and a resource to others. These two elements will help attract people and build your brand.
  • Create and establish an online presence/brand that genuinely engages others on social media networks. Provide responsive customer service that builds loyal relationships within your target market.
  • Share, impress and promote your expertise. First identify problems in your target market that you can help solve. Then, starting locally, find outlets where you can share your uniqueness and business. Also create your own promotions like a radio show, online video show, become a community speaker, and present workshops.
  • Connect with influencers. Help and support others who have large followings and/or great reputations to add value to your brand. This is a quick way to develop positive buzz about you and/or your brand.
  • Be memorable. You must make an impression on your target market. Stand out by being friendlier, more helpful, having better products or services, more responsive customer service, personalized care and authentic communication to create long lasting relationships.
  • Be active in your community. Use community activities/events/causes to continually remind people about you and/or your brand.
  • Initiate projects. Start locally, sponsor, lead, or organize solution-oriented (that you can help solve) projects that generate positive conversations about your brand.

Your brand should quickly convey who you are and how you help your target market. As your business grows, ask your customers for their feedback to ensure brand recognition and that you’re meeting customer expectations.

How do you build your brand? Would love to read your thoughts and tips in the comments below.

‘Fiercely loyal’ to a financial institution? – Guest Post by Janet Garkey, CUNA

‘Fiercely loyal’ to a financial institution? – Guest Post by Janet Garkey, CUNA

From the DSEF: Today we’re thrilled to bring you a guest post from Janet Garkey of the Credit Union National Association (CUNA), a DSEF strategic partner. In partnership with state credit union leagues, CUNA provides many services to credit unions, including representation, information, public relations, continuing professional education, and business development. Ms. Garkey has more than 20 years of personal finance experience in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors.

Janet Garkey

‘Fiercely loyal’ to a financial institution?
by Janet Garkey

Even a simple dog walk can turn educational. And the day job comes in handy at these times.

One of my neighbors—in the wake of so much media attention about big banks charging new or higher debit card fees—approached me during a recent walk and asked, “What’s the difference between a bank and a credit union?”

My dog is smart. She sat down. I turned to my neighbor and began to explain.

Credit unions are not-for-profit financial cooperatives that exist to serve their members, not to make a profit. The original concept was simple: Credit union members pool their savings and lend to each other. Earnings are returned to members in the form of better rates, fewer and lower fees, and improved services. Banks exist to earn a profit for stockholders.

Ownership: Each credit union member has equal ownership and one vote, regardless of how much money the member has on deposit. That means each customer is both a member and an owner. Banks are owned by stockholders.

Control and management: Credit unions are managed by unpaid directors, who serve voluntarily and are elected by members. Banks have paid directors, legally bound to make decisions in the best interests of their stockholders.

Membership eligibility: People qualify for credit union membership through a common bond. Most U.S. citizens qualify. For example, membership is open to those who work, live, worship, or attend school in a defined community. There are credit unions for military personnel and teachers, and credit unions open to everyone in a particular county. Currently, nearly 94 million members own more than 7,400 U.S. credit unions.

Social purpose: People helping people. Every member counts, and the goal of a credit union is to serve all members well, including those of modest means. Members are fiercely loyal because they know their credit union will be there for them in bad times, as well as good.

Financial education for members: From the very beginning, credit unions wanted to keep members economically independent by helping them learn to save and borrow wisely. Credit unions hold educational seminars on car- and home-buying, basic budgeting, fraud prevention, and more. And they offer a wide variety of print and online tools to help members become better-educated consumers of financial services.
Just as I paused, my dog stood up, anxious to move on down the street. But I had one more message for my neighbor. Credit union founders had a motto that described why credit unions were formed in the first place: “Not for profit, not for charity, but for service.” And in this day and age, great service translates to loyalty. Just ask my dog.

To find a credit union near you, visit


Janet Garkey has more than 20 years of personal finance experience in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. She joined Credit Union National Association in 2003 and develops personal finance products for credit unions. She has held positions at Iowa State University Extension, American Express Company, and the U.S. Office of Consumer Affairs. She currently serves on AFCPE’s Board of Directors. She twice served on the Board of Directors, served as President 2002-2003, and chaired several committees for the American Council on Consumer Interests. She has a B.S. in Consumer Affairs from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, M.S. in Consumer Economics/Public Policy from the University of Maryland, and completed the Accredited Financial Counseling certification from AFCPE in January 2009.

How to Stand Out from Your Competition

How to Stand Out from Your Competition

To succeed in business, you need to set yourself apart from your the competition. That means knowing what makes you great, and communicating it! Successful businesses make this a part of their business culture, and follow through every day. Is your business ready to take the next step?

Here are some factors that can help your business stand out from your competitors:

  1. Deliver great value – Offer excellence for a great price.
  2. Offer more choices in your products/services than your competitors.
  3. Make the sales process more convenient, easier and quicker than your competitors.
  4. Make it easy to find and contact you – use memorable business cards, post information on how to reach you through social media networks, post your cell number and promote testimonials.
  5. Share your sense of passion and excellence for what you do – make sure you come across passionate, caring and willing to do what it takes to earn your customers’ loyalty.
  6. Follow up immediately after the sale and continue on-going follow up.
  7. Anticipate your customers’ needs and help them with solutions.
  8. Ask for feedback and act upon those suggestions.
  9. Continue to improve.
  10. Be a connector and networker – help your customers find solutions to their needs, even before they know what they are, and engage in becoming friends with everyone you meet.
  11. Stay current in your area of expertise – keep up with professional training, industry trends and share innovations with your customers.
  12. Be positive and approach everything with a can-do attitude.
  13. Strive for excellence every day.
  14. Be more personable, friendly and approachable.
  15. Become solution oriented.
  16. Be creative and innovative while also following through.

As you begin to invest your energy into these factors, you’ll find that not only will you begin to stand out in your industry, but you may also be amazed that most will not even try to compete with you.

How do you stand out from your competitors? What makes your business special and unique? We would love to read your tips in the comments below!

Free e-book “Business Owner’s Road Map to Success.” It has over 50 pages of techniques for everything a small business owner needs to master, from business planning and ethical selling to a success mindset. It’s all there and it’s free for you. To get it, just “Like” our Facebook Page here: Pass it on!