The “Next Big Thing” for Direct Sales? A Standard Model for Virtual Parties

 As digital technology continues to transform the direct selling industry, one area we haven’t placed enough attention is the virtual party. And this isn’t just a party plan company issue. More and more, traditionally MLM companies are also using group events. In my opinion, mastering the virtual party will make a huge difference in a direct selling company’s ability to compete and excel in today’s business environment.

Imagine if you will an ideal online party…people log on from the comfort of their own home (or from the sidelines of their kids’ sporting event, etc.):

  • There can be a live demo which is also recorded for those that can’t come at the live time.
  • A live-streaming video of the consultant appears so that she can welcome her guests, set the tone, and give her brief presentation.
  • Guests sign in with their name and email, and the system feeds that information directly into a database which auto-generates an emailed thank you note to each person that attends and puts that person onto the list to receive the consultant’s newsletter.
  • The platform allows our consultant to run polls (and show results to everyone) as well as play games which are pre-programmed, so she just needs to select the game and add a few customizations related to her product line and what she plans to present.
  • As she presents each product, the photo of each product appears on the right, along with a link to add that product to the customer’s wishlist or shopping cart. The customer can zoom in on the product, spin it around, etc, just like with any online shopping site. Meanwhile the consultant is explaining the features of the product on her video which is always on screen.
  • During her presentation, the consultant can have the company’s opportunity video play for all of the guests at the same time, making the opportunity portion of her presentation easy. “Join Now” and “Get More Information” buttons are available.
  • At the end of the presentation, guests can message the consultant privately with any questions while browsing the entire catalog, reviewing their wish lists and placing their party orders.
  • Guests can message each other to ask their opinions before making purchases.
  • Links to purchase, host a party, and join are readily available on the screen the entire time.
  • All of the links and buttons are live whether you are viewing the demo in real time, or viewing the recording.

Some companies within our industry have started adding the technology to support a virtual party. You can add an order to a particular hostesses’ party when shopping online. But we need to go further, because our current technology is simply a glorified catalog party, without the human element that’s so important in our business. Technology companies that want to win the business of direct selling companies need to provide features such as those described above, because these will directly contribute to the success of individual distributors, and the company as a whole.

And having a standard platform that many companies use will make it easier for guests as well. They will know what to expect when attending, and will be able to find things easier. Consultants won’t be so limited by budget and technology to set up an event that doesn’t look amateur. Our consultants are way out in front of us when it comes to these parties. It’s time to give them professional-looking tools to get the job done well.

One last point…sometimes we as an industry worry that something is going to “kill” the direct sales industry as we know it. First it was online ordering and the web. Then it was Facebook. But just as we have learned that these online technologies have not destroyed the business but rather enhanced it, we need to understand that virtual parties are a logical step for our industry. Social tools are enabling our distributors to reach a much wider audience than when they could only focus on their local area. Now we need to give consultants the tools to invite those folks to the party. Virtual parties give people the chance to experience our products in a way that a typical online shopping site never will. That’s the magic of our industry…what the consultant brings to the table. Now we need to use technology to help our consultant give that experience to anyone she touches, no matter where she lives.

Have you offered virtual parties? What would make it easier for you to do so? Which features are you looking for in a virtual party platform? Would love to read your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

10 Responses to The “Next Big Thing” for Direct Sales? A Standard Model for Virtual Parties
  1. Angie
    December 29, 2013 | 10:00 pm

    Also, what about this scenario? You come home from a busy day of ________ and you realize you’ve got that “thing” at your friend’s house tonight. Ugh. It’s raining, dark and cold. You don’t want to go back out but you want to support your friend. A lot of people would not go to the party even though they’ve told their friend that they would be there. What if that person who had full intentions of attending could show up virtually instead of not showing up at all. Or the friend calls the hostess and says she can’t come and the hostess says “It’s okay. Just go to ____ online and watch it there.” If there was some way an attendee could “see” the party that was happening at their friends home. They would probably still order something and not feel bad for flaking out on their friend. This is something I would love to see developed. Not replacing the home party but running concurrently with it.
    Angie recently posted..Holiday Shipping Dates for your 2013 Miche Christmas – There’s still time to put Miche under the tree!

  2. Angie
    December 29, 2013 | 9:48 pm

    I remember years ago, probably 10 at least, I went to a virtual baby shower. It was through the old chat windows that were on forums long before blogs, etc. It was a community of graphic designers and we didn’t know each other personally but we had become “friends” through the forum boards. The owner was expecting a new baby so the other ladies threw her a virtual baby shower. It was so fun. I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was so excited to attend and I counted down the minutes until it started. Throughout the event, they gave out graphics that you could download immediately as door prizes, the parting gift was an exclusive digital kit and we played games that were around in those days like “name a baby item that starts with an A.” The designer gave a discount on the items she had for sale and we bought them to support her like bringing a gift to the shower. It really was so fun. We all hated for it to end. I’ve never had an experience like that to this day but I keep thinking that virtual parties COULD be as fun as a shower I didn’t really attend with people I didn’t even know. It’s such a fun world we live in…

  3. Scentsy
    December 17, 2013 | 3:27 am

    I had never attended a home party and really
    was not even sure what it was all about. The fragrance bars come in many scents, and you’ll find a fragrance perfect for the season and
    your mood. Do you want to make your home smell
    amazing and help the Great Lakes Mastiff Rescue at the same time.
    Scentsy recently posted..Scentsy

  4. Brooke @ Home Candle Business
    January 11, 2013 | 7:31 pm

    I love that you are talking about this! I am a new Scentsy consultant, but I also run a web strategy company and have focused my efforts on social media marketing and building a nationwide network for my Scentsy page (in four days, I have 4,000 Facebook fans around the country not connected to my personal network).

    I am currently working on a post/strategic plan for hosting virtual parties. I think this will appeal to the more tech-savvy customer moreso than a more traditional direct sales customer. It blends the home party with the catalog party, hopefully increasing conversion rates from a traditional catalog party by allowing customers to actually see the product as well as allowing the consultant to have a presence and presentation at the party. It does involve some extra prep time as well as taking some risks with loaning out tester products, but it expands the networking opportunities for consultants and can really build an amazing sales database.

  5. Angie Nelson
    December 6, 2012 | 7:17 pm

    This is an amazing setup that I haven’t seen yet personally. As a regular webinar attendee however, I believe it is 100% possible.

    I don’t think anything will ever completely replace the intimate, ladies night in atmosphere that comes with a home party, but that doesn’t mean that other lucrative opportunities don’t exist.
    Angie Nelson recently posted..Home Party Plan Gift Guide: Support Our Favorite Reps Edition

  6. Jennylou Raya
    December 4, 2012 | 4:15 pm

    A built in facebook app makes the most sense to me. Your friends, customers, team, sponsors are already there. Instead of building a new platform, build on top of one that already exists.

    It would be cool to host an online party via a live stream and after your customer makes a purchase a facebook post is automatically sent to all their friends: ‘Jen just bought _______. You may like __________’. Its like the ultimate Facebook/Ebay/Amazon mashup ;)
    Jennylou Raya recently posted..Origami Owl San Diego

  7. Bernice Caruth
    December 4, 2012 | 11:21 am

    This is a great way to reach the younger audience who don’t like the concept of real in-home parties, i.e. that’s what Mom used to do. And it may appeal to the busy baby boomers who are retiring. My customers are split…young and busy, and elderly with no computer or computer skills.

  8. Mark Bosworth
    December 4, 2012 | 8:26 am

    Great blog Jen. As you know, this has been the topic of conversation around the industry for many years. It is kind of the “holy grail” of party plan companies. To update a party so that it works on the web would be amazing. I don’t have the answer but do have a couple of thoughts.

    I think the thing that is hardest to replicate in the on-line environment is the social aspect of the gathering. As company people, we can find ways to demonstrate and to take orders. What we need is to find a format that is so engaging that our customers can’t wait to come back and do it again. I think something interactive like Pinterest, where the guests are all visually interacting with each other would be amazing. I also think that anything that allows group interaction is helpful.

    Second thought is that this is much easier with a visual product. All of the tactile product interaction goes away on-line. So companies that thrive in a taste/smell/feel environment have a hard time duplicating a party.

    I do know that with all the amazing entrepreneurs we have out there, every year we will get closer to the answer.

  9. Karen Clark
    December 3, 2012 | 2:01 pm

    WOW Jen! Your “ideal” online party is something I’d support 100%. There are many challenges with the options we have right now (including webinar/video/hangouts) and most consultants end up putting in so much more time prepping/following up than they do with “real life” parties that they are hardly worth it except when someone is truly remote or housebound and has no other option.

    If the technology were available from the company where clickable links were embedded that 1) give a hostess credit, 2) give the distributor credit for any sales, sponsoring and bookings, 3) captured leads for follow up (how about a virtual drawing slip that asks their interest level in booking/joining your team) and 4) is totally interactive AND archivable for those who miss it – this would be a home-run and sure to take the company to the next level. Wow I am drooling here thinking about it!

    I’ve always said NOTHING replaces in person parties and I truly do not think they are going away but I do think there needs to be a technology-based option that works better than what we have today, as an additional way to do business. You’re onto something!

  10. Lisa Robbin Young
    December 3, 2012 | 1:13 pm

    There are a couple of ways I show clients to do this. While both are slightly cumbersome at first, both result in substantial return on the time investment.

    The first is to pre-record a video edit in hyperlink URLs and then direct folks to a private viewing page. The second is to use G+ for smaller groups in real time. The benefit of the second is that you can get more live interaction, and if you go “on air” you can even have the video for later viewing.

    The technology and infrastructure exists. The two obstacles I see are cost for implementation into a proprietary system (something nearly every direct sales company tries to do), and roll out to the field. Once they do, it becomes another element to monitor and police. The third obstacle is getting consultants to embrace it, but that’s a generational thing, imho.

    As the web gets faster and connecting in real time becomes almost an imperative (despite distance), the direct selling companies who trail too far behind on this technology shift are going to get caught with their pants down.
    Lisa Robbin Young recently posted..7 Reasons Your Calendar Is Empty – And What To Do About It

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