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Start a Party Plan Business

Most people's first experience of party plan is an invitation to a relative's home to view kitchenware or cosmetics, jewellery or giftware, or to sample the latest rejects and returns from some local fashion designer.  Whatever the scene, the main objective is to create a pleasant, welcoming environment, one where guests are inspired to enter into the spirit of things - and BUY!

Party plan is just another marketing method, probably originated in the USA, and an extremely effective means of generating mountains of orders from all over the country - or the world - for the organisation at the heart of the plan.

There's a lot of money to be made in this business, especially if you are the sole supplier for goods promoted this way.  So exactly what does party plan involve and how can you grab your share of the action - and the profits?

 

The Mechanics of Party Plan

Party plan operates through agents who normally enrol with the company direct on an undertaking to sell the firm's products in return for commission on sales often a fixed percentage; sometimes increasing at specified levels.  Some companies reward agents with additional gifts for achieving set targets, while others operate on a networking - multi-level marketing - structure, generating even higher profits for super-achievers. 

Marketing is easy, with guests invited into agents' homes - sometimes the host's home, for a well-organised get-together which should be both enjoyable and create an almost captive audience for the items involved.  Friends, neighbours, colleagues and relatives are invited to attend and a few simple refreshments are usually offered. 

On the day - more often the night - the party starts with the host welcoming guests and encouraging a little social interaction before the main task of demonstrating and selling begins.  Guests are usually allowed to try on samples and to pass items around before orders are finally invited, usually as the party draws to a close.  The most common final task of the evening is to invite guests to host parties in their own homes in return for various incentives, usually a small gift coupled with a percentage of the takings on the night.

About Agents

Being an agent means arranging parties yourself or looking for others to host them for you.  Party guests are your most likely source of new recruits and others can easily be contacted through advertisements in shop windows and local advertising freesheets.  Whether you want to become an agent for an established business or you intend to market your own goods through party plan, try to gain experience first by hosting a few parties yourself or by enrolling as an agent with one of the major party plan firms advertising in most business opportunity magazines.  Alternatively, become a regular guest at other people's parties, noting what goes on, what literature and display equipment is used, how goods are demonstrated, and how orders are taken and processed.

What You Will Need

No experience or qualifications are needed to be an agent or host, although it helps to have an interest in the things you are promoting and to genuinely enjoy selling to a live audience.  What you do need, more than anything else, are products with universal appeal, like current party plan favourites books, designer clothing, costume jewellery, perfume and cosmetics.

What You Can Earn

Average earnings are inappropriate to this business where agents can receive anything from a few pounds pin money to hundreds of pounds at each and every event.  Most importantly, the agent can increase his profits in many ways, and might even consider starting his own party plan business and recruiting others to work for him as agents and hosts.  It really is up to you!

What Kind of People to Recruit as Hosts

Hosts must be friendly and entertaining, not just interested in benefits to them.  Most importantly, they should have a wide circle of contacts friends, relatives, workmates, neighbours. 

A useful tip is to keep your eyes open for anyone working for a major company or living on a particularly large housing estate, as well as any who have already hosted parties successfully and need little prompting from you.

What Makes a Good Party Great? Professional Tips and Techniques

-    Displaying your goods properly and attractively can increase sales many times over.  Products should be displayed on a sturdy table with quality cover, preferably in a fabric and colour to compliment your goods.  Crushed velvet or silk is excellent for silver and jewellery and increases the perceived value of what you display.  Go for pastel shades and medium fabrics, not fancy textures or gaudy patterns!  Have a spotlight focussed on your display, especially for silverware and jewellery.  Where possible, stage your display to add height at the back and make sure everything is easy to see.

-    Keep 'like' goods together fancy goods beside giftware, jewellery next to cosmetics, household goods beside kitchenware, and so on.

'     For jewellery and cosmetics, always have a few hand mirrors available or arrange a fancy mirror on a small folding card or picnic table covered with plain fabric.  Place a chair alongside.

'     Evening parties tend to be most productive, with possible exceptions Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and it seems the most convenient time for most people to attend is between 7.30 pm and 9.00 pm.

'     When a party has been arranged and a host appointed, follow up with a telephone call a few days before the event.  Go over the arrangements and send an informal note indicating the hosts' responsibilities.  Make a point of emphasising what incentives the host receives.  Ask the host to send out party invitations and to remind their most regular contacts.

-    Don't forget it's a social event too.  Arrange chairs in a circle and place refreshments and nibbles close by.  Allow guests at least ten minutes to mingle and chat before the selling begins.

-    Don't have television, radio, pets or children playing in the background.  Keep all distractions to a minimum. 

-    Work to an agenda, including starting and finishing times and the order you want to accomplish your major tasks demonstrating, selling, taking orders, recruiting hosts, and so on.  Allow about 20 minutes for demonstrating the goods and follow up with 15 minutes or so for guests to get a closer look or discuss their purchases with friends.  Place order forms in a convenient spot and announce the time when guests should place their orders with the host, or with you direct.

-    Mingle with guests but don-t be too pushy.  Have them wear name tags and make sure your name is noticeable, too. 

-    At the end of the party, make a big thing of presenting the host with her gift and inviting her, publicly, to the next party to receive her cash award.  Hand out leaflets or business cards to guests indicating when your next party will be and how they might apply to host parties themselves.

Above all, be enthusiastic!  If you show you are enjoying yourself, this will reveal itself in the way you demonstrate your goods and, in turn, will mean increased profits for you.  Have a good time!

Helpful Organisation

Direct Selling Association, 29 Floral Street, London, WC2E 9DP

Produces a number of useful free leaflets to explain the basics of direct selling, including party plan.

Avril Harper Titles

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