Sunday, October 4, 2015

"Join the conversation" -- No thanks!

    Anyone who follows marketing trends is aware of the stampede to commercialize social media and the growing number of success stories from businesses that claim to have used social media exclusively to promote their products profitably.

    There is no argument against the wisdom that you CAN use social media to grow your business. But for the smallest businesses, an individual making their own perfume for example, HOW can you use social media successfully WITHOUT losing the creative mojo that inspires a new perfume?

    Here's the rub. Promoting a product through social media and building a social media presence (now called your "brand"), is a full time occupation. If you don't believe me, read Brooke Erin Duffy and Emily Hund's article in the Atlantic, "The Invisible Labor of Fashion Blogging." It will quickly set you straight.

    The heroes of the blogging world, the real stand outs, are the ones who receive dozens of comments to each of their posts. Readers of these posts are invited to "join the conversation" by adding their comments to the post. These comments, each of them, must be moderated by the blogger or a member of his or her staff.

    The vast MAJORITY of comments that will be received are spam -- comments trying to move you to another website so the commenter can push some nonsense on you.

    Some comments will simply be "thank you for your post," which adds nothing to the conversation. No information or intelligent opinion on the post is being shared.

    Abusive comments have become rare but the real "problem" -- if you are busy trying to make your own perfume, write books, articles, or a newsletter, or are engaged in any other labor intensive task -- are the comments that call for a RESPONSE.

    These, ironically, are the comments you WANT. They are the other side of the "conversation." I write something and you ask me a question about what I have written or share useful insights on the topic that will be of value to others who read my post.

    But now I have to join the conversation with YOU. I have to respond with the information you have requested or acknowledge and perhaps validate information you have shared that expands on the topic. I have to be AVAILABLE to interact with you.

    And I must constantly monitor incoming comments so that my response, to the few that should get a response, is TIMELY, so that you will feel that I am part of the conversation, that WE are interacting. In short, to "join the conversation" to my own blog, I must be on call 24/7.

    But I don't want to be.

    If you look at the history of this blog you'll see tremendous posting gaps -- weeks without a post. Why? Because I am busy elsewhere, perhaps working on the products themselves, the fragrances, the books, the newsletters for which this blog was created as a marketing tool.

    Feedback is good. I welcome it. But I'm not ready to devote my life to "conversations" 24/7. For now I would rather blog as time permits, when I feel I have something to say and want to share, and when my head is not fully engaged in some other project.
Moonfaire perfume by Lightyears
Moonfaire perfume by Lightyears

    In using social media to market your own perfume or other product you too will experience this same conflict. My advice? Don't feel bad about it. Build the product. Then worry about getting the word out. But don't play the 24/7 game.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Can experimenting with price help you improve your perfume?

    In my post earlier today I discussed how pricing experiments by the Bezos-owned Washington Post could be helping not only to fix the "right" future price for the Post but may also be helping develop the Post itself by adjusting the content, based on reader metrics to shape the right product at the right price.

    If you are a developer and seller of your own perfume, could you use price experiments to help make your perfume more commercial? ("Commercial" is not a dirty word. It just means being able to sell your perfume profitably, which must happen if you hope to have a business.)

    How might price experiments help shape your future perfume offerings? One "discovery" you might achieve is finding the best way to deliver your fragrance. What might be the best bottle size for a fine, alcoholic fragrance? Are you using too big or too small a bottle? Size affects your cost, cost affects your potential retail price range. Is there a sweet spot where cost, price, and bottle size make both you and your customer happy?

Xotic, by Lightyears
Xotic, by Lightyears.
  Would a solid perfume be greeted with more enthusiasm than a liquid perfume? A solid perfume is easier to ship. No problem with "hazardous material" restrictions. No problem with glass bottles that can break or closures that can leak. You can ship internationally with ease and produce your fragrance at a lower cost.

Xotic solid perfume
Xotic solid perfume by Lightyears
    But maybe customers would prefer your fragrance in a soap, or a shampoo, or in a room spray or some sort of diffuser. You might not have the resources to test all of the possibilities but it is helpful, when you are testing, to know that they exist.

    Tests can be difficult to set up. Responses must be adequate to insure statistical significance. But there are secrets in the pricing model that are worth trying to unlock.

The topic is price and pricing


 I just finished and mailed the one hundred and twenty-seventh issue of our Perfume Strategies newsletter. The four articles in this issue all involved pricing strategies and the advantages an online business has in experimenting with price.

    The articles were inspired by a special subscription offer I received from The Washington Post, now owned by Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame, and an article I cam across about the Triangl bikini company, a business said to have been launched to fill an unserved niche in the bikini market. Both Amazon and Triangl sell online exclusively.

    The Bezos link, to me, was particularly interesting and while I won't go into the details of the offer I received, I will confess that I was hooked by it and paid the price. I expect that, when renewal time comes around, I'll receive more bold and interesting offers.

    The hook wasn't in the copy, it was in the price. Now that I've revealed this you can guess that the price was remarkably low. But the Post got a new subscriber and their cost to service my account is likely close to zero (excluding administrative overhead).

    The offer I received was bold and was likely sent to a limited number of potential subscribers. These people aren't fools. They aren't trying to build a business on the subscription rate I received but they are gathering valuable data and in my case they did move the needle from my being an occasional reader to my becoming a paid subscriber.

    But I suspect, at the moment, the data from their tests is more important to them than the access they are giving me to the Post. And now, from viewing the Post daily, I am guessing they are conducting many experiments and gathering a great deal of data -- data that will mold the product, The Washington Post, as the data is analyzed and the analysis acted upon.

    What do you charge for a bottle of your perfume? How did you arrive at that price? Is your price simply some multiple of your cost? Have you priced your fragrance based on what others charge for their? Have you done tests to determine the most profitable price for your perfume? Have you asked yourself how having some price data from customers might help you develop a more commercially successful perfume? Are there bold but intelligent tests you could be making to learn more about people who have been watching you -- but are not quite yet your customers?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Using free software to (help) generate perfume names

    In a recent article I wrote about the value a coined name -- an invented name -- could give a new perfume. One technique I've mentioned in a book on naming new perfumes is to use automatic name generating software. This will not -- except in the most extraordinary circumstances -- give you a good name, a usable name, for your perfume but it can help open up your imagination in a way that will lead you to a good, usable, totally original perfume name.

    In the book I've mentioned a few websites that let you use their automatic name generators without charge. None are particularly useful except to get you started moving around ideas, words, and letters.

    Free to use, automatic word generators exist to help expectant parents generate baby names and entrepreneurs name new websites or even new companies or even new products. While baby names can be useful in perfume naming -- particularly in popping up rare names or names from other cultures, they may be best used when used as only part of the naming process, by starting with the conventional and then working into the "Sally to Shallie" mode, transforming adding and subtracting letters until a new -- appropriate -- name is coined.

    Then continue to play with it. Think about the sound, the color the name might suggest, and the scent. (The name should at least help suggest a scent.)

    I've been playing around with two name generators -- just for fun (and because, at present, I have two fragrances that need names!) My toys today have been a baby name generator (where they ask for "Mom's name" and "Dad's name," just enter some themes from your scent story), and a business and product name generator (just keep clicking and you'll see some wild names and, with enough clicks, you might get something close to useful.)

    Even if you aren't naming a fragrance today, play around with these toys now. You might want to come back to them -- strictly for inspiration -- in the future.

    (These comments were inspired by my book, How To Create A More Valuable Name For Your Perfume.)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Is it possible to find a "perfect" name for a new perfume?

There is a standard formula. The name, scent, and marketing must all tell the same story. The scent "is" the name, the marketing sells precisely what the name and scent suggest. This is the creative side of naming a new perfume.

But there is more to it. While you would not rush to abandon a name that fills the standard formula perfectly, there are some additional considerations that can help you cement your sole possession of this name so that nobody else can use it -- unless they pay you for the rights.

By now you're probably thinking "trademark" -- if I trademark my name I'll be fully protected -- and you could be but you might not be. It depends on ... on the name you've chosen and how you are using it. It's not complicated but a little knowledge here can help you obtain more valuable rights for your perfume's name.

If you are an individual or a small company, you're probably asking "What will it cost?" Here the good news is that, if your perfume name isn't already being used by somebody else, you can obtain some very valuable rights to that name without spending a penny.

Of course the most important step in naming a perfume is to develop a name that harmonizes with your scent and marketing strategy. This is about 90 percent of the game. But if you want that extra 10 percent, that extra value that might even allow you to sell your name to someone else some day, read more here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A test of your ability to sell perfume!

    I'm running a campaign to find marketers for my perfume -- people who can take a bottle of one of my perfumes -- with their name and artwork on it -- and go out and sell it. My campaign is in the form of a contest and the prize is perfume. You can find the basic details here, and more information at my Perfume Strategies blog.

    Meanwhile let me share an insight with you -- not one that will be useful for the contest but one which will help you to understand, in the big world of fragrances, how companies select their licensing partners and distribute their fragrances. I am not going to give you direct links to follow. You will learn more by discovering them for yourself. But I will give you all the clues.

    Publicly traded perfume companies -- I am thinking in particular of Elizabeth Arden, The Limited, and Parlux -- produce annual reports and their annual reports can be downloaded, free, from their corporate websites. They are typically found under the heading, "Investor Relations."

    These reports can run over 100 pages. You don't need to read them from cover to cover. But, in these reports, you will find discussions of the fragrances the company sells, sometimes a few words about how they are produced (always by an outside contractor), and how they are distributed.

    This information is not likely to help you market your own perfume directly. But it will help you understand how large companies work with perfume.

    Now about my contest ...

Thursday, May 1, 2014

How to revise your business plan when everything goes wrong

Everything going wrong? Cool off. Relax. Then sort it out and try again!

    It is rare that "everything" goes wrong but there are times when you might have that feeling. Last fall I wrote business plans for two projects of my own and this week I've been taking stock of my success -- or lack of it -- with one of those plans. My initial impression was that everything had gone wrong.

    But what has happened is now water over the dam. Time to move forward. But if the business plan didn't pan out, if the goals weren't reached, if certain assumptions now seemed dubious, it's time to take stock of where things are -- now -- and what didn't happen that the plan had called for to happen.

    In short, it's time to re-work that business plan and bring it more in line with present realities. Going forward without a plan would be insane. The business plan is what focuses your energy and, if you find yourself lacking in energy toward your project, it may be that you need to rework your business plan, to make it more realistic, so that you can, once again, get excited as you go about putting it into action.

    I've been going over that business plan in which everything seemed to go wrong. What I've discovered is that certain points were overambitious and certain assumptions have proven doubtful. But most important, I've noticed that, while some money was made, certain necessary points were left out.

    The points that were left out didn't seem important to me last fall when I wrote my plan. Today they appear critical. Two issues stand out.

    First, I was looking at what I wanted to achieve long range without putting enough thought into how I was going to lay the foundation for this project, or what that foundation should be.

    True, I had it all in my head, but I've noticed that ideas that can seem so clear when they are in your head can suddenly become very muddy when you are forced to put them down on paper, to communicate to others. (That's why writing up your plan is so important!)

    The second point I seem to have messed up on was the classic inventor's downfall. I was more concerned with what I could build than with what it would do for others, and who those "others" were, or should be.

    I was reminded this morning of two people I know and have worked with who have made a good deal of money with their projects. The first had both hits and misses. The second had a few insignificant misses but a very strong track record of hits. Both had "creative" minds but I believe that this second person was far better at understanding the customer and building his projects around what people really wanted.

    So as I rebuild my business plan I'm starting with the market and what the thoughts and needs are of the people for whom I am developing my product. As I develop my product -- and write my plan -- I'll be thinking about how my product can serve these people in a way that will be so exciting to them that they will happily seek me out.

    I'll work more on the foundation of this business, developing a following with a core group however small it may be. I'll seek to improve my product to better serve the interests of that group. I won't project big numbers for now but project the need for the R&D, the development inputs, that will allow me to build a product, and a business, that in time will scale.

    These are the thoughts and inspirations that are now going into my, revised, business plan.