Tips for Home Based Business Success
As most small business owners know, building strong relationships is vital to maintaining a loyal customer base. This is especially true for home-based business owners.
Home based businesses are competing with an online marketplace accessible via laptops, desktops, tablets and smart phones. Mixing business with pleasure and inviting clients into our homes has never been more vital; it sets us apart from faceless companies and sterile storefronts.
As the owner of a direct sales fashion jewelry business, I have visited the homes of women all over northern California. Being in a home environment helps strip away the salesperson/client awkwardness and opens the door for a more personal relationship. From a one bedroom apartment overlooking the bay to a rambling, five bedroom house, all of them had one thing in common: someone took the time and care to make the house a home.
The same is true when I invite clients into my home; layers of professional pretense melt away once they cross the threshold of my home. I am able to give them a snap shot of the way I live, enabling them to feel more comfortable with me while selling the products I love, all without leaving the comfort of my home.
Setting up a business event in the home takes planning, preparation and attention to detail. The home must be presented in a manner that is pleasing to your clients' eye, without distracting them from the reason they are there: purchasing products.
Marketing the Event
Many professionals shy away from working at home because they fear they will lack credibility. Given this statistic, how does one market an event at your home? Will people come? Yes, they will if they understand what they are coming for. It's important to be clear and completely honest that the event is a home-based, direct sales or whichever label is most accurate to explain the type of business they will be presented with.
Encouraging new clients to bring a friend will increase their possibility of coming to the event because they will know at least one other person there. Also, the label “Open House” denotes a quick, drop in ability instead of being stuck in a presentation or workshop setting.
Appearance is Everything!
You can't make a first impression, twice. No matter the size of your home or the layout, one thing is for certain: tidiness is key! Clients can easily be distracted by peripheral clutter and “stuff” in your home. The overall upkeep of your home is a direct reflection on you, the salesperson. Clients may shy away from doing more business with you if they feel that your home is not well managed.
One way to create an appealing atmosphere for the event is by creating a theme. Using pre-selected colors, specialized decor and other themed pieces can close the deal on appearance. The small touches are equally important. I always make sure to have a scented candle or two burning throughout the house and low, subtle music playing if possible.
Creating an Appealing Storefront
When setting up an event in your home, make sure to clearly delineate the sales area from the other areas of the home. For example, when I have my semi-annual jewelry sales, I set up two tables in my family room complete with all of my inventory, catalogs, literature and then a small checkout area to prepare their purchases. My guests aren't distracted into other areas of the home because everything they need is in one area.
Let them Eat Cake
I serve food at every event, but it is never homemade. I want clients to focus on the product I am selling, not my wonderful (or terrible) culinary skills. I purchase high quality hors d'oeuvres and present them on elegant serving pieces. Also, since I have a direct sales business, I want potential hostesses to feel that they can duplicate my efforts. I arrange my refreshments in an appealing way in the kitchen or dining room, depending on how many people I am expecting. Another tip I have learned is to place a jewelry stand or two in the food area so that customers continually see product while eating.
Each time I calendar one of these events in our home, I make certain my family is scheduled to be elsewhere. There is nothing more distracting (or unprofessional) than having children, pets and spouses walking through your event, unless your business is family oriented. The invitations for the event should set up this expectation ahead of time. Most of my events are “ladies only”. Women are encouraged to come out and have “Me” time, enjoy the company of other women and shop for jewelry. I have found that clients purchase more products when they are relaxed and not being pulled on by their children (or yours).
Long after the events are over, clients need to know that you are still “open for business”. All new clients are invited to see my office while at an event. The office is a separate space in my home that is strictly professional. This space is dedicated to my jewelry business, my blog, and my future professional pursuits. Clients are able to sit and conduct business with me there without being drawn into the rest of the house. I set “work hours”; when I am available to meet with clients, show them product and/or just enjoy a cup of coffee.
Having rented several professional office spaces throughout my career, I wouldn't trade my home business for the world. I enjoy the intimacy with my clients and certainly don't miss the overhead! At the end of the day I haven't met anyone who is more interested in purchasing fashion jewelry in a store, standing in line or fighting for a parking space, instead of coming into my home, enjoying a cup of tea and shopping one on one. I have made dozens of new friends over the years through home-based businesses and made thousands in home-based profits.