Taking Business to the Customer
“Hi, my name is Ann and I own and operate Custom Embroidery and Designs. I want to thank all of you for being here, and I want to thank our hostess for inviting me.
Custom Embroidery and Designs is an embroidery/monogram/digitizing business that can offer the solution to any garment-decorating needs you may have. At my home parties, I provide a number of quality, classic garments and you can customize them by choosing from a collection of beautiful embroidered designs. You can personalize them with a name, monogram or phrase to create a one-of-a-kind gift for yourself or someone special.”
So begins another home embroidery party—a savvy addition to your marketing arsenal that that can accommodate both a family and a desire to have a profitable outlet for your business. This method of selling can be a win-win program as it allows the owner to schedule parties around his or her schedule and that of the potential customers.
Being a home gift consultant is a road less traveled, but those who venture find it has a lot of rewards. Building a good customer base begins with socializing, and where better to do that than at a party. Not only do you have plenty of opportunity to glad-hand, you also have a captive audience. Home parties lend themselves to expansion as well. Find a few fun-loving people (maybe gleaned from the guests at your parties) and offer them a job. Pay them a percentage, mileage and expenses and watch your business grow!
Home parties are a great way to promote your business and have fun. Not for the faint of heart or the wallflower, the home party plan of selling embroidery suits the social butterfly to a T. It’s a great way to build a business for those who don’t want to be in a retail setting and don’t want to have customers coming into their home. You set your hours (evening, lunch, brunch or breakfast parties are all fun) and have no rent. You can price profitably to a group that has come to buy. It is a way to really connect with the buyer.
How do you find the very first hostess for your party? Start with an open house at your shop, if you have one. Invite customers and friends and ask each to bring a friend. Have a section of your shop dedicated to the items that you will be offering through the home party plan and plenty of posters and story boards to explain the process. Ask a few friends to host a party to help you get started and offer a really special gift to the one who will help you kick off your new business direction.
The first thing to do when building a home party approach is to decide on policies and procedures. As always, simple is best. Determine which days or nights are best for you and book your parties accordingly. Decide if you will take cash, check, credit card or all three. Establish the down payment requirements. If you are not set up to take credit cards, consider it. It is much easier to spend money with plastic. Perhaps you will decide that the guest must pay in full, or you will take fifty percent the night of the party and the hostess will collect the rest. Perhaps you will decide that the goods will be picked up at your embroidery shop (a great way to introduce your business and encourage additional shopping) or you can deliver to the hostess who will take care of disbursement and collection of funds. A good idea when serving customers through the home party is to co-ordinate the time the customer gets the goods with a their pay period (usually every two weeks). Allow two weeks (or more for really special things) for completion of the work. If youfinish earlier, you look good.
Now, about the incentives. A special hostess gift is a must. Additionally you may decide that a percentage of the sales can be spent by the hostess on the products offered at the show…or from a special hostess catalogue. An added incentive might be a booking award. If three of the guests book parties of their own, have a special brochure with booking awards in it—things the customers can get no other way. You might decide to offer a reward for the number of attendees (a great way to encourage the hostess to tell each guest to bring a friend). …and determine up front if you will count those who order but can not be there. The absent guest is a great way to boost the sales at a home party, and the hostess will be more motivated if the order taking counts towards her total sales as well as her number of guests. A suggested hostess offering is ten percent in a gift certificate if the orders total $250.00 or more. If a guest at the show books a party, offer an additional thirty percent discount. Using this figure, the hostess would be paid $20.00 for a personal order of $100.00 ($100 x .7 - $50).
Have a planning session with your hostess. Provide her with a packet that contains your catalogues, order forms, a guest list planner, an envelope for collected checks and cash, and your business cards. Ask her to include your business card in each invitation (which you might also supply—perhaps a custom one with a place for your business card) and even those who can’t attend will know where you are and what you do. This is where you encourage her to over-invite, tell her guests to bring a companion. Perhaps you could have a small surprise gift ready for those who do—or have anyone who is bringing a friend bring an item to be monogrammed…which will be taken to your shop, stitched for free, and returned with the orders from the show. Explain to your hostess how it boosts her rewards if she collects orders from those who can’t attend. Give the hostess a script to follow so she can explain to her guests what an embroidery party is. This an old favorite of mine.educating the customer (and helping her to educate her customers).
Be sure to get a copy of the guest list from the hostess so you can mail out a reminder a week before the party. This will build your company mailing list as well. Keep in touch with your hostess as she plans her party. She will need guidance and encouragement, especially if her party turns out small. Always remind her about absent guest orders so she can keep her eye on the gifts of her choice. Help her plan the refreshments. Maybe she wants to have a theme party (Christmas in July, Birthday Bonanza) but make sure it dovetails with the items you are offering at your party.
It is wise to tell the hostess that the refreshments should be served after the presentation is over, and in an area away from your display of embroidered goods.
The hour of the party has arrived, and you are dressed professionally and ready to help your hostess earn her premiums and her guests to buy unique and quality gifts. Arrive an hour early to set up your display before the guests arrive and answer any questions your hostess might have. Tell your guests, “Giving personal; gifts is easier than ever. We are all busy and, if you are like me, you hate spend hours at the mall, looking for something that may end up being the right color and the wrong size or the right size but the wrong price. I hope you will call me anytime you need something special.” Make the party work for your complete business by offering the information that you are available to fill special orders outside the party and discuss being the solution to any identity needs.
Your display should include a sample book with sewn designs, and a sewn sample of each thing you plan to offer to the assembled guests. Remember these are potential customers and, as the saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression.
Bring garment samples in several different sizes…stitch different logos on different sizes to economize on what you have to carry with you. Choose quality garments and other embroiderable goods that have appeal to your audience, are easy to embellish, and are always readily available. Limit design and color choices so your audience is not overwhelmed to the point where they can’t make a decision. Offer designs similar in stitch count—and size—so that your pricing is simple. One party-embroiderer I know offers shirts in red, white, navy, black and ash. T-shirts and sweat shirts are popular items and she offers medium through extra large as well as children’s sizes. You can also get 2X and 3X for an additional charge. The t-shirts are Fruit of the Loom Lofteez and the sweatshirts are Jerzees 9 oz. 50/50. Her golf shirt is a Country Cotton 100 percent pique made by Russell. She also offers the Jerzee cardigan and Three Rivers denim shirts which are available in men’s and women’s styles. A Cannon golf towel is offered in red, white or blue. A tote in white or navy, a baby blanket, a throw, and a pillowcase complete her selected gift line.
Avoid offering too many choices to customers; it can be a fatal mistake. Marketing experts report that given a choice of something that is almost perfect and easy to order and something that is absolutely perfect and difficult to order, the easy order always wins. It is my experience that this is true. Keep it simple. If you offer 6000 designs and a few classic garments, you will be much further ahead than to offer a multitude of garments, which you have to stock in order to guarantee that you can get it if someone orders it.
Make sure all of your designs are similar in size. Choose those that are left-chest size, about 2.5 by 2.5 inches. Secure written permission if you are offering stock designs to make copies of the design pages for your sales presentations. You can cut the headers and footers off the pages, adds your logo and a note about the copyright. Put the pages into plastic protectors and present in a three-ring binder. Consider enlarging some of the most popular designs for the visual comfort of older customers, and put them into one small volume. Small books are easier to transport to parties and are less overwhelming to new guests. (Bring one or two of your larger books for the more daring customers.)
Make it easy for people to understand all the possibilities. Show them the decorated garments and explain that they can substitute any of the designs for the one shown on the sample garment. Using your design books and offering different placements effectively increases your offerings. Avoid really large designs or you will sacrifice the ease of ordering and confuse the customer.
Another fatal mistake is special ordering and pricing. Don’t special order something you don’t normally carry. Offer any special to everyone and limit the time. If you insist on being a full service embroiderer, limit the offer to quantities of 6 or more. Then you are justifying the time it takes to source and produce it and cover any replacement costs in case you make a mistake or the customer rejects it.
When pricing your goods, look at the garment cost, the shipping to you (and delivery to the hostess) materials and supplies, your overhead to produce, and the charge to embroider the design on the goods. Add to this a percentage for your profit and salary (this in case you add sales reps along the way). Then, consider what the market will bear. If you have unique items and designs…things they can’t find in the store or designs that you have created exclusively, adjust your prices upwards.
Limit the fonts you offer, four or five fonts is plenty—both script and block— and show all the letters in the party book so the customer can see any letters that pertain to their order. Add lettering is added in standard ways, and she use a standard set of colors. This keeps garments looking consistent and there is an increased probability that the customer will be able to visualize the finished garment.
What about personalization? If the customer wants the design personalized be ready with the pricing for that…so much a name, so much a letter…whatever it takes to be profitable.
Back to the presentation. Begin on time. Perhaps you can start with a get-acquainted game or just have the guest introduce themselves—or even each other. Name tags are a good way to make the getting-to-know-you easier. Consider some ad specialty items for game prizes. The show should last about 2–3 hours; you might consider including an explanation of you business mission.
Acknowledge your hostess and present her with a thank-you gift for having the party. Announce the hostess incentives and as you do your presentation point out things that are well within the reach of a hostess for her percentage shopping. If the hostess has reached her guest requirement for a gift, announce this as well. Add up the sales before the guests leave so that they can hear how well the hostess has done.
Invite your guests to come up to the display after the presentation to see the designs up close and personal. Pictures in a book are never as impressive as the sewn design.
Include the garment and any design in your pricing. Round the price to the nearest dollar and include tax—again, keeping it simple for the customer. Start your pricing by considering the cost of the garment, material, supplies, shipping, overhead, and the embroidery with an average stitch count, whatever you have chosen. Then mark it up, adjusting the prices up or down, depending on what the market will bear.
One party girl I know sells a t-shirt with a regular design for $17.00. The regular design is approximately 2.5 by 2.5. Lettering can be added for $.25 per letter. So a tee with a regular design and a five-letter name would be $18.25, tax included. This regular design can also be centered of the shirt, with or without lettering. She also offers a 3-across selection where the design has been reduced slightly, duplicated and centered. This carries an additional $10.00 charge, or for the same additional fee you can super size the single design. Lettering is $.25 per letter no matter which design size or placement you choose. The only other charge is an extra $3.00 for any 2x or 3x sizes. Golf shirt is $33.00, the cardigan is $31.00, and the denim shirts are $40.00. Youth size shirts are $15.00 for the tee and $22.00 for the sweatshirts. Baby blankets are $29.00, throws are $35.00, pillowcases and totes are $13.00, and golf towels are priced at $14.00.
Use a professional looking order form so there is no question about the order. In order to save paperwork for the hostess, consider requiring payment on the night of the party.
Take orders at your parties; don’t bring the machine. Establish your turnaround time—2 weeks is usually good for all concerned. Deliver the bagged and tagged garments to the hostess. Each garment should have a tag with care instructions and instructions for reordering. Think about a guarantee for everything. Saying it is guaranteed to be what you ordered and free of flaws with a 30 days return limit (replacement or a refund. ) is a great way to increase sales.
Take the opportunity during the social hour to talk to the guests about booking a party. Be low key. Use phrases like, You would make a wonderful hostess and ask what items interest her as a hostess gift. Perhaps one of the guests has a wedding coming up in her family. Consider doing a shower party that would allow the guests to purchase custom embroidered gifts for the bride. You might want to develop several theme catalogues so you can offer these special parties…a birthday theme, a baby shower theme…endless possibilities. Always be on the look-out for new things to add to your party line. Look for things that are sentimental, unique and have broad appeal. Browse shops and catalogues for new ideas.
Treat your hostess well, be on time and be generous with thank-you cards. How about presenting the hostess, during the show, with the sample tote bag, which has been monogrammed with the appropriate initials. “This is for you, as a thank you for helping me spread the word about my gifts.” Never underestimate what a hostess goes through to promote your product.
Prepare a professional presentation, in words and display. Your confidence will show, your commitment to your business will be evident.
When you get home from the party, be organized in your approach to the paperwork. Do all ordering and bookkeeping on one day.
Keep yourself up-to-date with fresh ideas for your business. Attend craft shows, as a browser, and search for new ideas. Gift shops and catalogues offer inspiration.
Somebody once said that life is a party—and for the embroiderer who combines embroidery with the party scene…well, that says it all.