Business

The Crowdsourced 1099 Salesforce Enters The Picture

Marketing tips from Kabbage founders

We are all salespeople — we all have influence over certain friends, relatives, neighbors and co-workers. Assuming people trust us (assuming other people consider us more than boastful blowhards), they are likely to at least listen when we talk about favorite products and services, retailers, and consumer-oriented experiences.

We don’t expect to get rewarded, much less paid, for providing such advice — nothing beyond the satisfaction of helping someone out. Yet, what if we could get paid? How many of us would take that opportunity, assuming we only had to do pretty much what we’ve already been doing?

That’s essentially the thinking behind a new online-focused company called Drum, designed as a souped-up affiliate marketing and networking service via which businesses, no matter how small or large, can essentially crowdsource a solid salesforce. The new company, now active in Atlanta and New York City, comes from the founders of Kabbage, a global financial services company and online lending platform for small businesses. Karen Webster from PYMNTS had a chance to discuss what Drum means and wants to do via a recent conversation with Kabbage Co-Founder Kathryn Petralia.

 

Petralia certainly knows the landscape, given her long involvement with small businesses, which often lack the funds and operational know-how to set up dedicated, profitable salesforces. She also knows the challenges that Drum is meant to address, according to what she told Webster: “The hardest thing businesses face is finding the customers they want.” While so much of commerce (and payments) have become digital, the human element remains significant — and even top-of-mind — in many situations, she said.

Influencer Income

Enter what are known in the world of Drum as “drummers.” They are those de-factor, amateur salespeople who end up — usually by their word-of-mouth efforts — drumming up consumer interest and sales for various businesses. Maybe those drummers are enthused about their new glasses or shoes, or have discovered a new make-up routine, or have serious chops in pulling together a fashionable outfit. Instead of just promoting those products for free, they can use Drum to make money in a way that is similar to affiliate marketing and networking.

Those drummers can earn extra scratch by getting others to redeem promotions or discounts offered by businesses, or by bringing other drummers to the Drum platform — Drum is meant to serve businesses, other drummers and consumers, Petralia told Webster. A consumer who, say, uses a QR code provided by a drummer would end up earning money for that drummer via cut of the resulting sale. The people who make the referrals via the Drum platform can decide what they are interested in selling, and do so in a way that can be more efficient and targeted to them by just offering affiliate product links from their blogs, for instance.

The result is what amounts to a 1099 salesforce. “Super small businesses could never imagine delivering or launching a salesforce,” Petralia said during the PYMNTS discussion.

Such an independent salesforce could not only drum up business for retailers, but service providers, such as salons and dental practices. “It can take you to a much larger scale,” she explained.

It can also work for much larger businesses as well, she told Webster, given that the people who would promote a company’s products and services — who would choose to do so on their own terms — tend to be among the most engaged and loyal customers of that business. These people would presumably have the knowledge about who among their own personal networks would be most receptive to offers. “We are formalizing the networks that exist today,” she said.

“What if every garage became a showroom, and what if every make-up counter or bedroom became a studio?” is how Petralia put it during the PYMNTS discussion. “Imagine the world’s largest affiliate marketing network.”

Vital Challenges

Well, maybe. For now, Drum operates in only two cities — though, of course, there are plans for expansion. Drum is also operating at a time when influencers are finding a home, and income, via various platforms, and through various retailers — even Amazon is getting in on this game via its The Drop fashion offering. Not only that, but Drum is still young, and has yet to fully work out some significant issues that will certainly be important in the near future.

One such issue is building a robust rankings system for both businesses and drummers. Another such issue is payments. Down the line, the vision is clear, according to Petralia. “We are not going to own or control the payments network,” she said. However, she also told Webster that Drum is still in the process of building its payments capabilities and infrastructure.

Whatever happens, the launch of Drum and its planned expansions demonstrate the role of influencers and normal, everyday consumers in building sales for retailers and service providers. One can count on more attempts at innovation in this space in the years to come.

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