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The Joy Of Party Plans

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Let’s start with the obvious question first of all. What are party plans? Like everything in marketing, they mean different things to different people, but my definition of them (which is the one I’m talking about in this article) is organising an evening get- together of several people and bringing your products and services to the party to a) tell people about them and b) get people to buy them.

You can organise a party plan for virtually any product or service that can be demonstrated. For instance, a health and beauty company might organise a party to give makeovers to people as a taster of what they can do; a local craft company may sell products at a party; a dog walking company could organise a party to show people how to look after their dogs and a personal trainer could organise weekly ‘power fitness’ sessions where anyone could come to trial out the session.

In other words, a party plan gives you the opportunity to demonstrate what you can do and encourage people to buy from you in the future.

So, should you charge for them?
Ah, the difficult question. Should you charge for them and if so, how much? This is obviously quite personal to you – if you don’t feel comfortable charging for them, no amount of persuasion will convince you otherwise. But my general feeling is that you should charge for the party plan. After all, you’ve had to organise it, buy stock, and turn up on the night – this all costs money, with no guarantee that the people there will turn into regular customers.

Now, the question of how much should you charge.
Well, the easiest way to work this out is sit down with a calculator and write down how much it’s costing you to organise the parties. Think about your time from when you go out until when you get back; your travelling expenses and any stock you have to buy. So, if I wanted to get £20 an hour and planned to be at the party for 4 hours, that would be £80. Stock might costs me £15 and travelling at 40p a mile about £5. So my total costs for that night would be £100.

OK, so we know how much it costs us – let’s say that on average at each party there are 10 people there. To cover all my costs, I would have to charge them £10 each. But, I wouldn’t mind making a bit of profit on this too (after all, I have to live), so I might put the price to £15 each.

This means that I would bring in £150 (£15 each x 10 people). My costs are £100, so I would make a profit of £50.

So, we know how we can make a profit on the party plan. But, it’s easier said than done isn’t it? After all, you might not feel people would pay £15 each. There are several ways to look at this. Firstly, people usually pay over £15 for a good night out and they’re getting a treat and pampering themselves at the same time. Secondly, no one would expect you not to make a profit on the party plans – after all, if you’re in business, you’re not a charity.

If you do decide to lower your prices though, please please make sure you don’t go below your costs. I met a girl recently who was charging just £5 per person for the parties and was making a loss of over £90 per party plan. Remember if you make a loss, it’s not worth your time to do the parties.

How do I turn the parties into business?
If you’re thinking about doing party plans, I hope that this is one of the burning questions you have in your mind. It’s all very well giving them and if you make some money from them all the better. But, surely you want to turn these people into regular customers too?

Firstly, don’t expect them to turn into customers if you do nothing other than turn up on the night. We all lead incredibly busy lives and it’s highly likely that once people walk out of the party, they’ll start thinking of their kids, what they’re doing the next day, tomorrow’s food and so on. You’ll be the last thing on their minds even if they had good intentions to contact you while they were there.

So, here’s some ideas of how to turn the parties into regular business.

a) Get them to buy something there and then. If they’ve had a great time, they’ll be up for buying stuff, so get them to commit to buying something there and then i.e. if you’re a health and beauty business, get them to book an appointment and pay for it then (give them discounts that expire after the night to make sure they pay for it now); if you sell jewellery, get them to make a purchase. But here’s the important bit – don’t give them the item there and then. Send it to them afterwards. Why? Two reasons – firstly you get their contact details so you can follow up with them and secondly, they’ll be looking forward to receiving their gift so you’ll be fore front in their minds.

b) Tell them you’ll send them all a free gift. This is a great way to get contact details of anyone who doesn’t buy from you on the night so you can follow-up with them afterwards. The free gift could be anything from a bottle of wine to a gift voucher and could also be a free tips sheet too. Competitions work just as well, but it’s vital to get everyone’s contact details while you’re there.

c) Follow-up with everyone afterwards. Remember that people will forget about you and even though they said they’d call, it’s unlikely they will. So, take the burden out of their hands and follow-up with them instead.

The little details
Finally, I guess you also want to know about the little details – the things around organising. Let’s look at organising the party first. The easiest way to do this is to team up with a friend and get them to invite all their friends to it. Have details of organising a party plan with you when you go to the party and make an announcement about looking for other people to host one while your there. Send this fact sheet out with your free gift when you contact people. A word of warning though – hosts expect to be paid for using their house and putting on a small buffet, so don’t forget to add this into your costs.

What about purchases? Having a cash float with you on the night is essential for change. Make sure you have enough cash broken down into smaller amounts to give change. Think about taking cheques and also think about having a card machine with you on the night (very useful for impulse buying). If you don’t have a card machine, but have methods to take payment on your website, why not have the internet on a laptop in front of you and take payments directly onto it?

For receipts, I would simply go to WH Smith and buy a receipt book (they cost about £2) and give out receipts that way.

Although party plans are hard work, they can be worth it – setting expectations before you start putting one
together of what you want to get out of them can really help focus your mind on achieving that goal.