Pure growth

Tupperware parties revolutionized retail sales by pioneering the in-home product party in 1949. Fifty years later, in-home sales are still all the rage — but the products are vastly different.

While Tupperware is still going strong, the in-home sales technique has been adopted to promote everything from candles and kitchen supplies to more intimate wares such as lotions and lingerie, which is what Pure Romance specializes in. Founded in 1993 by Patty Brisben, the company relies on a network of more than 6,000 female sales consultants to sell sensual products from their living rooms.

The concept has been wildly successful — Pure Romance reported $40 million in revenue in 2004 and expects revenue this year to be close to $53 million.

The secret to Pure Romance’s growth isn’t having a great product, which it does, or rolling out huge marketing campaigns, which it also does. The secret is constant consultant training and support.

Smart Business spoke with Pure Romance President Chris Cicchinelli about how the company trains its independent work force and keeps the message consistent, and how he plans to grow the company.

Do you see most of your growth in recruiting consultants or through product sales?

In the recruiting side. The products are a byproduct of this company — the relationship side of it, the female camaraderie that we’re able to give, the experience of the party that we’re able to give, those are [our real tools]. Women see that and say, ‘I want to be involved with somebody like that. I want to be able to help women.’

Before, when I first started, people were like, [whispers] ‘Oh, I can’t sell toys. Oh, my gosh, I can’t do that.’ Now women are like, ‘You know what? I’m going to open up. Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives said it’s OK.’ Since those shows have aired, and since Pure Romance has been advertising and taking this business mainstream, people have been more interested, more willing to experience and open up their wild side a little bit.

What are the benefits and drawbacks of working with independent consultants?

The benefits? I don’t need 8,000 store locations, with 8,000 different managers, 8,000 water bills, 8,000 different electric bills. That’s the good part.

Some of the drawbacks of using consultants? Consistency of the message is probably one of the hardest things. You know, when you work in a corporate environment, the message is drilled into you, drilled into you, drilled into you. When you don’t have that same message being drilled in every day, you can kind of get away from the core message that we’re trying to get across.

With 6,200 consultants, how do you gauge and maintain that message consistency?

That is the biggest, biggest thing that we do. We travel all over the country. We get out to see as many of our consultants as possible whenever we can.

When we come into markets, we say, ‘Hey, we want you to come and meet with us at this time, we want to take a look at your presentation, you’re doing good numbers.’ And we even take some of the girls that are doing not-so-hot numbers and say, ‘Hey, come on in here, let’s take a look and see if we can help your presentation.’

Every presentation has come from our CEO, so everybody has taken her party and then taken it to the next level.

How do you train and educate consultants?

One, we have bimonthly meetings in 63 cities across the United States. I have a trained team that goes out to each of the different cities and works with all the consultants in those different regions. The other way is through our monthly newsletters and our bimonthly publications. We also send CDs, DVDs, CD-ROMs, all kinds of training materials once a month to our girls to keep them updated on the ongoing trends, what’s going on with new products, what are some of the new ingredients we’ve added to the products, stuff like that.

We also hired in a Health and Education Department. We got a young lady with the Kinsey Institute … because a lot of women are having questions about the human body, about anatomy, about how these products actually work and what phases they work in.

What else does Pure Romance do to support its consultants?

The difference between Pure Romance [and everyone else] is that Pure Romance goes out and spends between $2.5 (million) and $2.8 million each year in marketing for consultants. We do that because we understand.

I don’t want this ever happening, when you hand that business card over and people go, ‘I’ve never heard of you. What is this?’ I want them to go, ‘You know, I think I’ve read about you or heard of you. Hey, did you throw that party for Jessica Simpson?’

I want the girls to know that they have a company that’s going out to work for them. When people think of parties and they think of relationships, they think of Pure Romance. We’ll go out there and we’re going to build this for you. You do your part and you hand out your cards, and you preach the message.

How to reach: Pure Romance, (888) ROMANCE or http://www.pureromance.com