Have you ever got a weird idea stuck in your head? A vision of the future that bears no resemblance to your current reality?
I used to get it while I nursed a Sunday hangover watching the London Marathon on TV. “That will be me one day,” a voice whispered, years before I eventually took up running. I’m now 44 and it still hasn’t happened, but I just KNOW it will.
The same goes for being an Avon rep. There was nothing to suggest this was on my path. I’d recently left my job to become a freelance writer. I’d never been one to take ages putting make-up on and my nails are a car crash. The only sales job I’d done was behind the bar at my local. But I’d always known.
So the only person who wasn’t surprised when I woke up one day and applied to be a rep was me. What did surprise me though was how much I’ve learnt about starting a small business in a few short months.
1 Friends will support you to the hilt
If your friends are the same demographic as your target market you’re onto a winner. They’ll be your sounding board, your guinea pig and, hopefully, your customer.
I test marketing messages with them, I seek feedback on my social media, and I’ve run Avon parties to find out what products they want to see in the flesh and buy in the moment.
And they’ve been amazing customers – beyond buying a token product or two to keep me quiet. There are plenty of places where you can buy kids’ shampoo, lipsticks, face cleanser… But they keep coming back, and it means the world to me.
2 Print is dead
My background is in print marketing, so my first instinct was to design a flyer to spread the word. The feedback from pals was positive, so I confidently ordered 1,000. Oh, make it 1,500 – why not?
It took hours and hours to put a small dent in the huge pile, but I kept going. I became familiar with every letterbox design in HP4. Guess how many enquiries I got. Zero. I still can’t quite believe it.
At one point, perplexed by the ‘No cold callers’ and ‘No junk mail’ signs on some doors, I’d posted in my town’s feisty Facebook group. How did they feel about unsolicited leaflets through their doors? The unanimous response was that social media and word of mouth was king. So far, this has been backed up 100% by my experience.
3 Print is not dead
But everyone goes bloomin’ mad for an Avon brochure! No matter how much I push customers towards the website and digital version, all I hear is that nothing beats a browse with a cuppa and biccie. Maybe a throwback to when we scoured the Argos catalogue as kids?
4 Buy low, sell low
With Avon, there’s always a deal to be had – whether it’s buy one, choose one for free, 50% off, five for £5 or a free gift. Everyone loves a bargain, right?
Although it’s tempting to pocket the biggest possible profit, I always do right by the customer and make sure they get the most for their money. If they know you’re on their side, hopefully they’ll keep coming back.
5 Make your customers feel awesome
With make-up and skincare products it’s easy to harp on about how they’ll make you look younger or more attractive. This concept makes me want to claw my face off.
For me it’s about making customers feel fun, funky and fabulous. It turns out that’s how my business makes me feel and I want to spread the love! And if they try something and don’t love it, they can wash it off and know they’ve only spent £4 (and I don’t feel bad).
I’m sure there are plenty more lessons ahead – every day’s a school day and all that. I’d love to hear the mantras you’ve picked up in and outside your day job.