{guest post} what i learned about party plan style sales

Kerry Dean is the builder and owner of Callie’s Palace, an online shop for ‘everything girly for your little princess’. She was inspired to add a party plan component to her sales plan, and shared with us the steps she took to get started in the world of party plan style sales. She has kindly offered to write a second guest post to share with us how her launch party went, what worked well and what she discovered she needed to change.

The Callie’s Palace launch party was hosted on the 15th of August. Wow what a day! It is an understatement to say I was nervous. The weeks leading up to the party I was so busy and when the day came I was totally exhausted but very excited. I had everything ready, a great range of stock, a display table with lots of goodies from friend businesses, our yummy CP cupcakes, some great guests and of course our brand new party plan representative running her very first party. I decided to take on the duty of babysitter for the day so took the kids outside to play some games and let my rep run the party without me hovering over her making her more nervous.

I stopped in from time to time to see how things were going and answer questions, but I let my rep run the party the way she felt would be best.  It ended up being a fantastic afternoon with excellent sales and three more parties being booked in.  I was very happy with the result as it showed me that our products really are great quality and appealing to our guests, and three of them wanted to see more of our products and invite their friends as well.  I continued to get more and more orders being added to these orders two weeks after the launch party! Although the launch party was a huge success sales and feedback wise, we did find that there were some things we needed to fine tune before our next party.

Things we need to change:

Presentation Length

~ Our presentation was too long; we took every single product we had and the presentation which we thought would only take 30 to 45 minutes ended up taking over an hour! As this was our launch party is was great to showcase everything but we don’t want bore guests with a presentation that just takes too long.

~For future parties we will look at only taking approximately 80% of our stock.  We have catalogues at the parties so stock we don’t have on hand can still be viewed on the day in the catalogue.

Order Forms

~ We provided order forms to our customers on the day but didn’t have payment due dates on our order forms! On the day we just verbally told everyone when payments were due and the delivery date.  I will add this onto the order form so the customer has a record of this.

~ We also didn’t have payment options on the order form; oops yes definitely a big mistake! So for the first party I emailed each person individually with payment details.  I will be adding payment details to the order forms to make it easier for the customers. 

~ I’m in the process now of having some carbonless order forms made up so we can give one copy to the customer, one to the consultant and one for myself to prepare orders. This way I don’t have to continuously email my consultant back and forth finding out order information etc.

Product Samples

~ In order to not take every item of clothing we had, we took only a size 2 and size 8 in each item of clothing. What I didn’t think about was the age of the children of our guests.  A lot of our guests had little girls between 3 and 7 so we really needed to have other sizes for our guests to look at and try on. This may have given us more sales. 

~ In the future we plan to speak with the host to see what age children will be there so we know what stock to focus on at the party. We may also have themed parties, so if a group are mainly interested in vintage wear we can run a vintage party where we bring mainly our vintage designs. A little tip given to me by a facebook work at home mum who used to manage Tupperware parties!

Party Games & Goody Bags

~ We had organised 3 different games throughout the afternoon however we didn’t organise these well enough to fit them all in. We played one game before the presentation started which went well but we ran out of time to play the other game.  In the future we will only be playing one game to ensure we get through everything else on the day.

~ We also provided goody bags to our guests: in each there was a Callie’s Palace business card and if there was a little coloured sticker on a guest’s business card they won a prize. However, what we didn’t think about was the fact that we had extra goody bags and none of the guests chose the bags with the prize in them!   Next time we will be putting these cards in the bags at the last minute once we know how many guests are there.  

Things that worked well:

Showcasing New Designs

~ At the last minute we had a whole table of stock from one of our designers showcasing a new line of clothing that was not out at that time. This proved to be a great idea as we sold a lot of items out of this lot and were able to put in an order with this designer before their new range was even released to other stores.  I would definitely love to offer this to my guests again in the future.  Customers love knowing they are the first to view and buy a new design, and this gave us extra sales we otherwise wouldn’t have had.

Delivery Timeframe

~ Our three week delivery time was a great time frame for me to be able to ensure I had all stock needed. Before the launch party, I tossed up between 2 or 3 weeks delivery time.  In the end I went with 3.  It gave me more time to order any stock I may have run out of.  Being a business of only 4 months we don’t always have huge numbers of products so this allowed us to provide all our customers with the items they wanted without any delay.

Hiring a Party Plan Consultant

~ Having a party plan consultant has been fantastic. Working part time three days a week, running my store both online and at markets has kept me pretty busy.  I would definitely struggle to run my party plan parties as well.  I am so glad I found a fantastic consultant, who is professional, reliable and turned up to her first party in uniform with Callie’s Palace embroidered on her shirt!  I will continue to give our consultant every party booking until it gets to the point where she cannot keep up then I will look into hiring a second consultant.

Catalogues at the Party

~ I printed out 6 catalogues and displayed them in a pretty pink binders which I put on the chairs before the party started. This proved to be a great idea.  Even though we had the stock in front of people, guests still wanted to flip through the catalogues as the presentation was underway.  They could see in print, what colours and sizes were available and more information about fabrics that may not have been mentioned in the presentation. 

~ I also had products in my catalogue as “Coming Soon” items.  This was a great idea as a lot of the guests really wanted to see some of the new items.  I think this helped contribute to us getting three more party bookings on the day.

Being Flexible

~ Someone who has experience in party planning advised that I should ask for a 20% deposit at the party to ensure that customers didn’t cancel their orders after the party.  I really tossed up whether I wanted to do this or not.  It may have stopped customers cancelling their orders, however I thought it may also stop customers from ordering what they wanted if they didn’t have money with them.  In the end I decided not to ask for a deposit which was a great decision. We didn’t have any customers cancel their orders and I’m sure we ended up with more sales because of this.

~ Allowing the guests to touch the products and let their little girls try on sizes was great.  As soon as we showed one of our tutu dresses a 3 year old girl stood up and announced “Mummy I want to try it on!” It was so cute and yes, ended in a sale.  What mum could deny a little girl a tutu dress?  It is definitely worth inviting children along to the party, and will continue to encourage that.

Cash & Carry

~Guests were able to pay on the day and take available stock home with them, immediately.  This allowed some customers to spend on the day and take the items they just had to have but also put in orders for stock they wanted but didn’t have money for at the party.  It also meant we had less stock to deliver later, saving time and money.  Just what a new business needs!

Hostess Reward Program

~ I set up a hostess reward program which gives rewards for each level of sales the hostess reaches at the party: $200 in sales, $400 plus 1 party, $600 plus 2 parties and $800 plus 2 parties. Hostesses get to choose one of three items for FREE at each level.  This is a great incentive for guests to spend just that little bit extra to take their host to the next level, increasing sales.  I made sure that the hostess prizes were relevant to any age child.

~ I also have incentives for guests booking parties.  Currently if a guest books their own party we offer a choice of two items FREE.  This gift is given to the guest on the day of their own party to ensure we are not giving out gifts to a guest who may end up cancelling their party.

Looking to the Future:

Expanding to Themed Parties and Baby Showers

~ The launch party was a huge success: we got a lot of positive feedback, more interest in our stock and I’m sure a lot of word of mouth sales also. But, I’m not stopping there! I’m not the sort of person to just do one thing and stop at that, I seem to have idea after idea! This at times can be frustrating as I always want everything to happen now, which obviously isn’t possible.

~ My next step with my business is to expand into running themed parties for little girls like Vintage Tea Parties and Pamper Parties. I will supply everything to run these parties and will have a Callie’s Palace representative coming out to run the parties so mums can just sit back and relax while their little girls have the best day ever!

~ Also in the pipeline are baby showers. One of our lovely customers has already asked us to run a baby shower for a friend of hers in November. I am still working on the logistics of this but I’m looking forward to the challenge and to expanding Callie’s Palace even further.

Market Stalls

~ I ran our first market stall in August and had a great time! I met some of our lovely customers and learnt about selling to real live people (vs online sales). It was definitely an adventure and something I want to do more of in the future. I have already booked in 3 market dates at The Mummy Tree Markets at Morningside Brisbane starting on the 30th of October and I will start to have stalls at Chandler Markets soon.

Expanding Interstate

~ My ultimate goal is to have Callie’s Palace party plan parties and stores all over Australia. I recently had a fan on facebook ask if I wanted a party plan consultant in Perth. I was so excited! I’m still in the very early stages of thinking how we can make this work but stay tuned; our products may be coming to a party near you soon!

Code of Practice

~ After seeing an order form from another very successful party plan business, I have decided to join the Direct Selling Association of Australia (DSSA). I want to make sure Callie’s Palace is a fantastic place to shop where our customer is number one. I really believe that subscribing to the DSAA code of practice will set a bench mark for us to adhere to and to ensure our customers are always dealt with in a fair and professional manner.

I’m looking forward to the challenges that the future holds. I’m sure I will learn a lot more over the next few months and as I expand I will no doubt make mistakes and learn some very valuable lessons. But what’s life without taking a risk every now and then. Finally, I’m doing what I have always wanted to do and I’m having a blast doing it!

Do you have a question or advice to add about party plan style sales? Please add a comment, we would love to hear from you!

Do you have some expertise that you can share with other little biz builders? I am always looking for guest posts, please send me an email.