Rob Frankel - Branding Expert

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Rob's Party Checklist

As anyone who's been through four years of college knows, there's only one thing worse than throwing a party where nobody shows up, and that's throwing a party where way too many people show up.

If you're smart, somewhere between your sophomore and junior year, you learn that promoting a party well before the weekend is really what makes or breaks it. Subtly suggesting that the cutest girls and the hunkiest guys usually draws a substantial crowd. And rumors of free, bottomless kegs of beer vaults you over the finish line.

Well, in a weird, Animal House sort of way, the same rules apply to your own business.

One of the biggest mistakes I see new businesses make is spending a huge proportion of their resources on their product or service. A travel agent might invest in the latest computers. Or a software engineer might have automated an entire e-commerce web site. But all to frequently, these people forget that there's more to a party than just a keg of beer.

What about cups? Do we have enough paper plates? What are we going to with all the trash? Who's in charge of the music? Have we prepared enough food? Does everyone have a place to park their cars? And so on and so forth.

The point is that just because you have the basis for your business doesn't mean you're really prepared to do business. So before you send out the party invitations to the world, make sure you have enough business party favors to go around. After all, you only get one chance to impress your guests, so with that in mind, here's my little checklist to run down before the grand soiree:

1. How will you handle party crashers?
Look, you and I know that everyone will absolutely love your product, but what about the escapees from institutions whose life work is devoted to complaining and making your life miserable? There has to be a system in place that soothes those beasts -- and makes them go away happily and permanently.

2. How will you treat invited guests?
You'd be amazed at how many companies don't even consider the aspect of customer service, a substantial line item in a business's operating costs. But legitimate people with legitimate issues deserve a knowledgeable answer from a friendly company representative.

3. What if too many people show up?
Hey, it's happened to everyone at one time or another. You have enough beer for 20 people and 200 show up at the door. A very bad look. The same thing happens in business. One of the worst things that can happen to you is to find yourself in a backlog situation. Here you are, advertising yourself as the model of efficiency -- and you can't deliver the goods. Okay, so overstocking inventory isn't smart, but designing a set of phased contingency plans sure is. It may turn out that you have to pay more for the beer, but better that than lose paying customers forever.

4. Enclose a map with the invitation.
There's no point in hyping the heck out of a shindig and making it impossible for your guests to show up. Which is why every invitation you send out should include as many easy-to-follow directions as possible. Throw in a URL, a mailing address, an e-mail address and a toll-free number in case they need to pull over and call for directions. Make your party easy to find, or you'll be sitting there hosting a singalong with six primed kegs and your stereo.

5. Make sure everyone knows when the party starts
The last thing you need is for some freeloading wiseguys showing up on your doorstep expecting free beer while your hair is still in curlers. So if you're planning on launching -- especially online -- successfully, for Pete's sake keep a teaser page up there until the very last minute. If people have heard your pre-publicity and want to line up at your door, place some sort of mechanism there that allows them to leave their information so that you can contact them the minute your hair is dry.

6. Invite the cutest girls you know.
Look, I'm a guy, so I wrote it that way. But it works the same the opposite way, so spare me the feminist hate mail. The point is that when you invite the Beautiful People to your party, the wanna-be's invariably show up, so why fight it? It never hurts to ask a reviewer in your particular field to offer his or her comments about your site BEFORE you launch. It's one way of getting a famous person's quote regarding your site and who knows? The suggestions might even improve things.

7. Give away party favors.
Sure, beer and pizza can get expensive, but if you really want to go down in history as the Party Meister, give each of your guests a little something by which the can recall that wild night at your place. It doesn't have to be expensive, but it should be something thoughtful that reminds them of how good a time they had -- and who was responsible for it.

Whoa, would you look at the time? I've got a business plan to write and I haven't even picked up my tux from the dry cleaners.

Rob Frankel

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