I came across an interesting blog post today from a freelance writer who has covered direct selling in the past. I respect her because she always asks really great questions when she interviews me and does a fair and equitable job of laying out the facts. While I hesitated momentarily on linking to this post because it focuses on a specific product from a specific company, the point is really one that’s much larger – it has to do with price and value.
Reporters often ask me questions about how the price and quality of direct selling products compare with that of their in-store counterparts. I haven’t done any research to assess price or quality of direct selling products, so there will be no dollar figure or performance assessments here.
But what intrigues me about Leah’s post is her description of how the kitchen shears she bought ended up being such a useful tool for her that she bought another pair to have around the house. Were the kitchen shears so special that every household in America should have a set? Probably not – but they worked for Leah. Could she have picked up a comparable set of scissors at Target for less? Maybe, but they may not have cut the same way, or been as versatile as Leah found her favorite set to be. The point is, those scissors have value for her and that’s all that matters.
She also mentions that she left the direct selling party she attended with some other gadgets that she hasn’t really used yet. She saw them demonstrated and had to have them. Trust me – I know the feeling. I have plenty of items in my closet that I might have seen demonstrated in the store or featured at a direct selling party. I don’t regret having purchased them, I just don’t use them as much as I’d like to – witness with proverbial treadmill or gym membership.
But back to the discussion of value and quality. I can buy a $3 lipstick through direct selling – I can also buy a $50 lipstick through direct selling. I can do the same in a retail store. I can be disappointed with the quality of a product I bought in a store – or be amazed by it. The same is true for direct selling products. In any shopping environment, there is never a substitute for the consumer’s ability to evaluate a product and make a purchase decision. I don’t care if you are in a busy mall or your best friend’s living room, the assessment of value remains with each individual consumer. What has value to me, may be outrageous to you – and that’s the beauty of having choices.
However, neither price nor quality even touches on what really differentiates direct selling from a traditional retail store – often, the extra value for direct selling products and services comes in the form of the demonstration and personal service.
It’s true, demonstration of a product, whether in a store or someone’s home, probably sways a lot of people to buy a things they wouldn’t have purchased if that same product was just sitting on a shelf with only its packaging to speak for it – why do you think grocery stores set up sample stations on Saturday afternoons? It’s not to give patrons a free snack – it’s so you’ll be exposed to something you otherwise wouldn’t have noticed and buy it!
So, the next time you are invited to a direct selling party or demonstration, look at it as the opportunity to be exposed to new products and ideas that you otherwise might not have noticed. Don’t feel compelled to fall in love with anything – but don’t sell the experience short, either. You never know when you might find the perfect pair of kitchen shears.