Like so many other things in our world, COVID became the ultimate unwelcome party crasher for home-selling parties.
A tradition that dates back to the early 20th century, home parties can be credited to door-to-door salesman Norman Squires. Frustrated by the inefficiency of knocking on many doors with only a few positive responses, Squires came up with the idea of getting customers in a block or neighborhood to invite 10 to 12 friends in for coffee, at which time he would entertain them with a demonstration of his complete line of products. He presented his idea to Frank Stanley Beveridge of Stanley Home Products, who immediately approved, and the rest is history.
Selling everything from Tupperware to Mary Kay and even some naughty adult toys, home parties continued to increase in popularity over the years. And why not? The salesperson benefits from a willingly captive audience. The host benefits from discounts based on guests’ purchases. And the attendees benefit from a night out with friends and some goodies to take home. But when COVID knocked on the door, the party abruptly ended.
Mary Kay Independent Beauty Consultant Doreen Miles was immediately impacted when COVID restrictions reached the Pittsburgh area. “Mary Kay has always implemented the home party model for sales,” she said. “When COVID hit and everyone had to be home, we had to come up with new ways to get business and reach potential new customers.”
Having been in the cosmetics business for 60 years, the Mary Kay brand didn’t hesitate to change directions. “Pivoting has been a part of Mary Kay’s history from the beginning,” said Miles. “When we couldn’t have in-person parties, we did what most businesses did—we turned to Zoom.”
Although some salespeople were initially hesitant as to the possible success of utilizing a fully virtual selling method, it didn’t take long for this new tactic to catch on. “Similar to home shopping networks like QVC, I would put on the anti-aging moisturizer while on the Zoom call with customers to show how it worked,” said Miles. “Then I started reaching out to potential customers offering to send sample skin care products as trials. As a follow-up, we would schedule a Zoom meeting for the next week.”
Things are now beginning to return to normal, but with some adjustments. “We are resuming house parties, but some people don’t want people in their homes; they’re just not comfortable yet,” said Miles. “It’s understandable considering what we’ve all gone through.”
For the home parties that are happening, attendance has decreased. “Previously, most people would invite five or six girlfriends to attend. Now it’s only two or three,” said Miles, who doesn’t see these changes as a negative. By using Zoom, Facebook and other digital means, she has been able to reach out to people no matter where they’re located. She’s even been inspired to begin creating YouTube videos demonstrating Mary Kay products.
“The pandemic forced us to expand our horizons and come up with new ways to keep sales up while attracting new customers,” said Miles. “That said, when I do attend an in-person home party now, there’s laughter and good times and the black cloud of COVID isn’t at the party!”