Selling Stuff to Friends

I was talking with someone about network marketing the other day. Multilevel marketing.

So this fellow says to me, “I can’t understand trying to make a living by selling stuff to your friends.”

That got me thinking.

Because that’s what we try to do online a lot of the time. Make friends and then sell them stuff.

When you get really good at cross-selling and upselling to your online customers, you’re beginning to develop a bit of a conflicted relationship.

On the one hand, you’re trying to build a relationship that serves the needs of the customer. You’re trying to make a friend.

On the other hand, you’re trying to increase the lifetime value of that customer by selling him or her other items and services.

So what are your intentions as you invest in building a relationship with your customers?

Do you want to cash out in the short to medium term? Or do you want to build a longer-term relationship where you’ll get paid more in the end but you’ll have to wait a bit?

I ask, because there is a third “selling” to the upselling and cross-selling equation.

It’s over-selling.

And we’re all in such a big hurry to cash out online, there’s always that temptation to over-sell.

Here’s what I mean.

I open an online bank account because I want to pay my bills online.

The bank collects my profile, sees I’m a new customer, and tries a little cross-selling.

“How about some insurance?”

A week later it’s “We can handle your mortgage too!”

A week after that: “Have you heard about our investment accounts?”

The bank is beginning to over-sell. It’s too much, too fast.

Why are they doing this? Because they can. And because email is cheap.

But email isn’t always cheap. There may be little upfront cost. But if you email that customer too often with yet another cross-selling or upselling message, you may lose the customer. And that will cost you plenty.

So here’s my advice for the day.

Blend active cross-selling and upselling with some of the passive equivalents.

Active is when you use email or a pop-up box on your site to thrust your message in front of customers, whether they want to read it or not.

Passive is a whole other area.

Passive is when I go to check out my account at the bank site and, while I’m on my account page, there’s a link that says, “If you like paying your bills online, you may want to check out our low-fee investment program.”

The message is there, but it isn’t imposed on me. I may ignore it the first five times I see it, but click on it the sixth time.

Over the period that you’ve been waiting for me to click that link, there’s no harm to our relationship. The message has been there, but it’s been passive. No imposition. No multiple interruptions. No damage done.

But if you’d sent me five emails with the same message over the same period, I’d likely get pretty annoyed with you.

Sure, active cross-selling and upselling via email will yield higher response rates and please your investors.

But if you’re in this for the long haul and value the relationships you’re building with your customers, don’t push too hard.

Blend active selling with passive selling. And avoid over-selling.

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