We always encourage direct sellers to build an online presence with a personal brand in mind, because we know your value goes beyond your company. This week on the Modern Direct Seller Podcast, one of the industry’s top leaders, Sarah Strunk, joined us to share exactly how it’s done! She went from a solo saleswoman in the crafting and DIY space to Chalk Couture, where she built a team of 97 people in her first week, and she’s been growing ever since—all because she kept herself at the center of her work. Listen in to learn how the flexibility of personal branding can benefit you!
- 1:30 Sarah Strunk introduction
- 5:48 How branding builds business
- 9:12 How to show up on Facebook
- 16:38 How to build a second business
- 24:39 How to stay invested long-term
- 26:00 How to lead and grow
- 28:03 Sarah’s favorite office supply
So, as we get started, why don’t you just kick things off and let everyone know a little bit about your direct sales journey? How did it start? And, how’s it going?
I come from a background of not having been a lover of direct sales my whole life. It really started when I found my company. And, I am a military spouse. I have two boys. We move around often. So, direct sales, on the outside, seems like it would be a perfect fit for me. But, being a military spouse, I felt like it’s what every other wife did. So, when I was new to Air Force life, every other day I was getting invited to direct sales parties, and I was like, “I can’t support all these people.” I felt like I didn’t know how to help everybody. So, as a blanket statement, I was just like, “I don’t support direct sales. I’m just going to help no one.”
And then, about 5 or 6 years ago, I did not come across a company; I came across a product that I knew I needed prior to being in direct sales. I was doing really well with crafts and DIY. I was doing Etsy and the whole thing. But, I needed a way to duplicate my efforts and scale the business. So, I came across a product through Chalk Couture, which is basically a stencil I could use over and over and over again. And, it simplified my life. And, when I got the products in my hand, I was like, “Oh, hot diggity dog! This is life changing.” I told everyone. And, because of that product, I was like, “Okay, fine. I’ll join this industry.” And, I grew a team incredibly quickly; I recruited 97 people in the first week from the network that I had built and the work that I’d been doing.
Now, I’m not an overnight success. It was seven years seeking success. And, that’s it. I seemingly had a team overnight, and I’ve been running ever since and have fallen in love with the industry now.
So, tell me what your business looks like today. How have things evolved and changed?
So, early on, it was hustle mode, right? I believe that success loves speed. So, I ran really, really fast in the beginning, and I hustled really, really hard. And, you have to do that to get started. Now, I’m able to take a foot off the gas. I have that time freedom that I wanted. So, my product sales come on autopilot through subscription programs now, and I work with my team. And, I love the leadership aspect of giving my team ideas and working together. I would rather sit on phone calls all day and help people reach their goals than try to sell product, honestly.
So, you added 90-something people in your first week, right? So, you had really built a name for yourself, and you did that even before you were in direct sales, before you were even really thinking, “I’m out here on social, building a brand.” So, tell us why that was important for you and how that impacted your business, both when you first got started and now years later.
It is so important to have your personal brand, you guys. I harp on my team on this: “You are not your company.” You can love your company and be so passionate about your company, but if you do not brand yourself and let people get to know you, who you are, what makes you tick, why you work…? Like, why did you choose this opportunity? People should know that about you. You know, I mentioned direct sales is a perfect fit for me, because I’m a military spouse; we move all the time. So, my audience knows that.
And so, early on, because people knew I was the go-to person for tips and advice on DIY. I wasn’t just the person that made signs or what have you; I was the person who taught other people how to do things. And so, I positioned myself in a really unique way, and then when I said, “Guys, I’ve got something really cool,” people were listening to me, because I built that personal brand. They knew me. They liked me. They trusted me, right? That’s what we always talk about.
And now, it’s easy for me to branch out and do some different things or add on some social media training, and I’m able to do that because I didn’t brand myself as the company. I branded myself as somebody who loves to teach others how to do business, whether that’s in direct sales or outside of direct sales. So, personal branding truly gives you flexibility. As the world changes as the economy changes, you will forever be able to pivot as you need.
You’re right. Life happens around you. You never know when your life is gonna change. I look at Usborne Books and More, which is now Paper Pie, and you never know when a company might pivot and the way you’re working with them might change. And, through marriage or divorce or personal choice, maybe your own identity will evolve and change. But, if people know you, and they know the brand that you’ve developed, they’re gonna stick with you through all those ups and downs and changes. We just can’t highlight that enough.
And, I know you’re doing a little bit of social media training, so I want to dive into that, as well. What tips do you have for optimizing how you show up on Facebook? I feel like there’s an opportunity to do a little bit more business through a personal account.
I have always been a huge proponent of using your personal page as a tool in your business. And, one of the biggest things that you can do is make sure that your name is your name. Both first name and last name need to be somewhere on there. Make sure you have a really clear profile picture that is just you. And, make sure you have a good cover photo.
Then, when it comes to diving into content, I always say to “use the three E’s.” And what that is, is entertain, educate, or empower with everything you post. People do not come to Facebook to be sold to. Instead, your personal profile is a strong relationship-building place.
I don’t know about you, but like, I’m a bit of a stalker online. I’m like, “I want to see your cat. I want to see your kids.” Like, “Where do you go on vacation?” I want to know! And, I do that because people want to relate to people, right? And so, one of the ways that I do that is by making sure that the content on my personal profile is curated in a way that is showing up and providing value for people, but it also making a really strong connection point. Before I post, I always think, “Is someone going to relate to this? Will they say, ‘Me too’ when they read that post? Will they connect with me?”
There’s so much I can say about your personal profile, but it’s how I’ve grown my entire business. I’m very active in Facebook Groups. And so, when I make a comment and connect with someone inside of a Facebook Group, what are they gonna do? They’re gonna click my name. They’re gonna go look at my profile. They’re gonna check me out. And so, if your profile says, “I help women make money online,” or “I help you live a more meaningful life,” they’re gonna be more likely to follow you.
Do you have a rule of thumb of how much personal you post and how much business?
For the last 12 years that I’ve been building a business, I’ve always gone with the 80-20 rule. And that is 80% content that’s entertaining, educational, empowering, and 20% could be a business post. But, even still, I want to make it really clear: not a business flyer. Not your company graphic. Brand yourself. Intertwine your business posts on your personal page in a way that just makes it feel relatable.
I think that’s such a good perspective to have, because how often do we overthink, you know, “Do I want to share this part of my life? Because, I don’t know if anyone really cares.” So, when you think about the word “relatable,” remember that people relate to a lot of things. Don’t overthink it and feel like you need to rewrite the post 4,000 times over. Instead, treat social media as a little bit of a test. There’s no right or wrong. Anything that you do today is going to be old news tomorrow. So, just putting yourself out there and building your brand in that way is such a big deal.
I totally agree. Like, the very first Facebook Live video I ever did, I wrapped twine around a glass bottle, you guys. Stop overthinking! You’ll be amazed at where you are just a few years from now—or even a few months down the road.
Okay, so I have to ask, because I noticed that you’ve added a new social selling business to your personal brand. And, I get questions all the time from people thinking, “Is now the time? Should I layer in another business? Or, should I look at another business opportunity and potentially move from one company to another company?” So, I’d love to hear your perspective on when is the right time for that change, and what are those factors that someone should consider before saying “yes”?
I’ll be honest, this was not something that I jumped into lightly, because I’m a big believer in the idea that you can do many things, but you can’t do a lot of things really well. I even tell my team that about social media; you don’t need to be on Instagram and TikTok and Pinterest and Facebook and Clapper and whatever the heck is out there. Just do one thing really well.
And so, for me, I am 12 years down the road in business, 5-1/2 years down the road in my direct sales company. And, like I said earlier, I’ve hit that point where I have time freedom because I’ve systematized my team and my teaching, and so I felt like I wanted to add in something different.
And, it is a bit of a balancing act, I’ll be honest. And, my blunt opinion is, should you be in two network marketing companies at the same time? Probably not. For 99% of you? No. But, there are network marketing and direct sales companies now that are evolving, and they’re more in the social selling model, and that’s the company that I partnered with. So, I didn’t have to build a team. I didn’t have to do any of that over here. And, I felt like I could be successful.
So, if you feel like you need to add something else, my advice would be to look for something that is an affiliate or social selling, where you do not have to have that team-building aspect, and focus on what you love. Try to sit down with yourself and go, “Is this burnout? Do I just need to tweak what I’m doing? Do I need to look at what the economy is doing?” There’s some evaluation that you need to do before you decide to juggle, because it’s a juggle, for sure.
It is a juggle. So, I think it’s such good advice to take that self-reflection and evaluate, “Is now the right time for me? Should I double down and focus on what I already have? Is there something that I’m not getting here that’s available somewhere else?” And then, I love the fact that this wasn’t an impulse decision for you. This was something where you felt like you were in a good spot and you could be able to do both businesses successfully. So, if someone else is at the point in their business that they want to layer something else in, then there’s an opportunity to do that, and to test something out, and to try it, and to just see how it goes. So, I just really appreciate this piece of the conversation, because it’s not something we talk out loud about too often.
And, to add to that just a little bit: I think that it’s usually not the company that’s the problem. Like, when you find yourself blaming the company, and you may be new to the industry, and maybe you’ve given it a few months, or maybe it’s even just a few years, remember that you can be successful anywhere if you have the skills to do so. And so, another point of that self-reflection needs to say, “What skills do I have? What have I learned? What have I really invested in to grow myself and have that personal development?” Because, that is such a key thing. You’ll see people jump around a lot, because they just think “the grass is greener,” right? But, the grass is greener where you water it. You just need to make sure that you have those skills.
So, that self-reflection is so important, but not giving up too quickly is important, also. Because, I think some people get so frustrated so early when they’ve still got a whole lot of personal development and skills to develop.
You’re speaking my love language here. It is that point where you’re like, “Okay, this is hard. Things are getting hard.” Let’s just be transparent: business isn’t easy. You’re going have days that feel really, really hard and really, really challenging. And, it’s such great advice to really think, “Okay, do I have the training that I need? Do I have the skills that I need? Do I have the mindset that I need? Do I have all of those things in my toolkit to be successful right here? And if not, where can I go find those?”
Because, I think the most heartbreaking thing is when I see people step away from their business because they feel like they just couldn’t do it. They feel like they didn’t have what they needed. Or for them, it’s like, “Oh, I ran out of people to talk to,” or “My priorities shifted.” But really, a lot of the time, I think what’s needed is just the longevity of being able to stick with it and look at it as a long-term investment, right? That overnight success story is not reality. And, for so many, they make the decision to leave or jump right before they’re about to see that success. But, success is right around the corner, and if you can just stick with it and ride it out, even when things are challenging and tough, you can do so much more.
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