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It's Your (Home) Party

Make it a gala to remember.

The idea of a home party-à la Tupperware-might conjure up images of old ladies sitting on comfortable sofas and sipping tea in someone's living room. But if you think these parties are a selling technique of the past, think again.

Today's home parties are much more about, well, having a party. The idea couldn't be simpler: Plan the party with one of your clients, who serves as the host in exchange for a discount on your merchandise; invite a group of potential clients, most of whom will be friends and family of the host; demonstrate your product on the appointed party date (or hire an independent contractor to do it); and take all the orders you can.

For Meredith Laws, president of Good to Grow Garden Outfitters LLC, there's nothing like bringing your product right to your customers. "I think for a long time it was seen as this housewife thing to do," says Laws, who started her Anacortes, Washington, garden company in 1999. "But the success of some of the larger companies has really shown it's a viable marketing plan that can't be overlooked." The Pampered Chef, for one, started small but now brings in $600 million a year and has more than 60,000 independent kitchen consultants selling its kitchen tools via live demonstrations.

Home parties not only bring a targeted audience together, but also expand purchasing power, allowing customers to hold the products in their hands instead of looking at a catalog or ordering online. Says Laws, "[The parties provide] all the things that people like to have in a shopping experience."

Keep the following in mind as you plan your smashing soiree:

Theme. Plan your party around a theme that ties in to your product line, and mention the theme on the invitation. Work closely with your host to get ideas and to keep him or her informed of replies and cancellations.

Timing. Set a time and date that's convenient for your guests, keeping dinnertime and other potential conflicts in mind. If it's going to be on a weekend day, make sure it doesn't interfere with any local events like a graduation or a football game.

Invitations. Send out plenty of invitations at least two weeks in advance, and follow up a week or so beforehand with a friendly reminder call. A good turnout-10 to 25 people-keeps the party atmosphere and conversation going, thus enhancing sales.

Refreshments. Every good party needs good food and drinks (in this case, nonalcoholic), whether it's just cookies and coffee or a full meal. Don't forget some background music, too.

Introductions. Your guests will feel more comfortable placing orders if you help with introductions or make nametags for everyone.

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It's Her Party

While Laws' staff of demonstrators is still in the single digits, she's quick to point out how easy it can be to cash in with a home party. "When we first started the company, I was the only demonstrator," she says. "In three months, I went out and sold $10,000 worth of merchandise in my little community of 12,000 people. The possibilities are wide open."

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