Thursday, December 3, 2009

Getting To Know The Fragrance You Sell

When a giant fragrance marketing company launches a new fragrance today, chances are they have done a LOT of homework trying to match up the "image" they will be using to sell the fragrance (a celebrity, for example) with the fragrance itself, and with the packaging. Hundreds of thousands of dollars will be spent. By one estimate, the entire anticipated first year's sales will be plowed into developing the fragrance and its launch.

And for all that, it's a crap shoot.

Giant fragrance launches need giant numbers of buyers. I was taught many years ago that to appeal to the masses -- the only place you can find a giant number of buyers -- you have to make the sales pitch as tame as possible. It must be acceptable too all, offensive to none. Leave out anything that might be regarded as controversial. Keep everything "nice." And in perfume, the same goes for the fragrance. Keep it "nice" so EVERYONE likes it. If you think this is boring, please read on.

For someone who wants to sell their own fragrance and IS NOT a marketing giant, the opposite approach works better. In fact, it is the only way to make headway against the giants. Let your product be a little "edgy" ... let your advertising be targeted to the few rather than the many. Don't try to compete with Coty and Estee Lauder on packaging.

But to make this work, you have to know your chosen market. And your fragrance.

Now let's talk about people who are making their own fragrances who are NOT part of the industry. Let me speak for myself.

When I work on a new fragrance, unlike the system of the giant fragrance marketers, I DO NOT have it all together in my head as to who (exactly) my target market will be and how I am going to appeal to them in my packaging. As to the fragrance itself, I may start off with a theme or image in mind, but for the most part I am working with my nose. I am tracking down "smells" that interest me, fascinate me, provoke me, and challenge me to "do something" with them. One of the results of this "method" was my men's fragrance, Toxic.

Of course like anything you create yourself, it's hard to see it the way others might. Among the first people to get a sample of Toxic were a perfumer with over thirty years of industry experience and a research chemist working for one of the world's largest fragrance creation houses. They were NOT impressed. (At least, not impressed favorably.) I was a bit disappointed, as anyone would be, but I kept my disappointment to myself and proceeded to offer Toxic to the world -- at least to my small niche in the world -- my websites.

At this point, Toxic has been around for a few years and I can't tell you how many men are using it but I can tell you that I use it myself. And I use it more frequently now than I did a year ago, because I have come to understand it.

Understand it? Yes. And a little background in history has helped me. First, my thoughts have very much been on "modern" art -- the art that emerged in Europe around 1900. This art was DIFFERENT from traditional art. It was scorned and rejected because it called for a new way of seeing. The eye -- and mind -- had to adjust to what the artist was doing. It took time, interest, and motivation. And today we look upon those once rejected painters as the heroes of the art world.

So ask yourself. Must today's men's fragrances smell like yesterday's men's fragrances? Is there room for a breakout? Can we adjust our noses to something new?

My nose had adjusted and, as a result, a whole lot of mass market fragrances are now nothing but stink to me ... and I am quite happy to wear Toxic in public.

But there is a second side to it that also relies a bit on a knowledge of history and it deals tenacity -- the ability of a fragrance to linger on, for a long time. Most 19th century fragrances -- particularly men's fragrances -- lacked tenacity. It is said that Napoleon Bonaparte never went anywhere without several bottles of cologne in his boot. When you think of a cologne lacking in tenacity, you can understand his need to keep refreshing himself.

And "refreshing" is perhaps the key historic word that goes with cologne.

4711, which claims to date back to 1792, calls itself "The Instant Freshener," Mennen called its famous after shave "Skin Bracer." Edmund Roudnitska's Eau Sauvage for Christian Dior was distinguished by its lack of tenacity. The deal is simple. Refresh and go away! Don't linger. Don't make a man feel "perfumed" (as a good number of men's fragrances do today!) Just wake the guy up in the morning, make him feel good, and then tone it down to just above zero by the time he gets to the office, factory, school or college, or the big government office.

In fact, seen THIS way, Toxic is a PERFECT fragrance that will not offend, even if a guy works in a "fragrance free" zone!

So here's what I've learned about my own fragrance, Toxic. First, you have to look at it like a piece of modern art. Your nose has to adjust to the concept -- and it can. Then when it does, you'll understand and appreciate it.

Secondly, Toxic's lack of tenacity is a VIRTUE, not a shortcoming. It gives you that 7AM jolt, it wakes you up and helps you get EXCITED about the day (what mass market men's fragrances can do that!) and then it settles down to just a very, very light, lingering note that won't offend the most vehement fragrance objector.

This is what I've learned about Toxic, my own creation. And now I want to learn more about the men who "accept it."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Split Run Testing

The "split run" is a testing device long employed in mail order advertising. You have two ads. Which is more effective? You get the answer with a split run test. In addition to testing the effectiveness of an entire ad, headlines, photos, color vs. black and white, etc. can all be tested.

The mechanics for a split run test are simple. The advertiser prepares two ads of identical size and gives each a separate key code on its order coupon. When the coupons (orders) come in, the numbers are read and the winner declared.

The "perfect A-B split" is made possible thanks to the mechanics of the printing press. Some (not all) publishers of newspapers and magazines are able to print in such a way that, as the pages come off the press and are bound, alternate "books" include first the "A," then the "B," then the "A" ad again, etc. Thus a "perfect" split as the publication goes into distribution.

But now we're on the internet. How do we test ads and advertising concepts? It isn't easy and the attempts we make produce much less precise results than a "perfect" A-B split. Yet there are times when we still want to give the concept a try.

I have a number of fragrances that I have created. By myself. My own formulas. And I sell them on the internet. I have been developing a website, and that website has produced some sales.

But, since I'm pretty much unknown as a perfumer outside of my own blogs, I need to stand on my head to get attention -- like the owner of a used car lot -- so to give the website some "personality" I have tried to make it a bit colorful and not exactly what most perfume buyers would expect. website soldiers along.

But could I do better? Would a more "serious" approach to selling my own perfume outdo the seemingly frivolous approach of Thanks to the low cost of setting up a new website, I decided I would give it a try. Thus I now have a second website selling my own perfume and men's fragrances, a "serious" site,

This split test will never have the accuracy of a traditional mail order perfect A-B split. But, as the new site acquires visitors (this will take time), I will be able to see whether I get more sample requests from the one or from the other. This information will help me develop new dvertising pages that sell more effectively.

Ultimately, it's the perfume itself that will make or break the business. But without a "following" you can't expect sales and I want to develop effective communications to build that following. I'm sure that you want this too.


I have said repeatedly that trying to develop an "internet only" perfumery is not a wise move for anyone who is totally unknown yet hopes to get rich quick. Please credit me with patience.

I do believe that developing such a business is possible and my own results to date have been, if not dramatic, at least encouraging. I believe that the "secret" to making such a business flourish is to find a compelling "hook" that will stimulate significant numbers of visitors to request a sample or samples, of your perfume or cologne.

So the fist challenge in this business, even before the fragrance itself, is finding a hook that will bring in sample requests. If you get lots of sample requests but no sales, you can rest assured that the problem lies in your fragrance, not your marketing.

So while my brain and nose are working on new fragrances, I keep my eyes open for marketing ideas that will stimulate requests for samples. My latest brainstorm, which I want to share with you, is the "TWO CENT SAMPLE" offers I am currently employing at my new retail sales website,

The deal is simple. Send me two cents (plus postage and handling) and I'll send you a generous sample of each of the fragrances you request. Obviously two cents doesn't cover their cost. The standard postage and handling charge helps. Of course it would be nice to offer absolutely free samples because I really would like to get them out there but the last time I made a significant "free" offer, about sixty-five percent of those who took me up on it were serving prison sentences and not likely to become cash customers, even upon their release.

"Free" is a strong concept but in the practical world of business it has to be controlled. Thus "two cents (plus postage and handling.)

Will this concept work? Time will tell and I'll be happy to report back at some future date. Meanwhile for your own perfume marketing projects, always keep in mind the value of a sample and the need to get those samples out in the marketplace where they hold the potential to stimulate profitable sales.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Marketing with Museums

I was updating the perfume museums listings for our Perfume Maker's Club the other day and it struck me that there were more "perfume museums" this year than there were a few years ago, and a significant number of these new museums were connected to a shop or business.

Now museum shops are nothing new. All sorts of art museums and cultural enterprises feature a "museum shop" that helps them raise money to support the museum. But in the world of perfume marketing the priorities have been reversed. In a number of interesting cases the "museum" exists to support the shop! For example, in France, one perfume house has two "museums" in Paris, one in Grasse and a fourth in Eze, just outside Grasse.

The deal is simple. You visit the museum and the museum tour leads you to the museum shop where you can buy that which you have just learned something about.

Fragonard has been the master of this technique but now Gamilard and Molinard are getting into the game. The Perfume Museum in Havana, Cuba is another example of this concept. Of course these are reasonably well financed operations so you wouldn't be setting up a museum and shop combination on their scale, perhaps.

But look what you can do with the concept.

It starts with a tourist attraction. This can be a very small tourist attraction if you happen to be in a part of the world where tourists come but there isn't much for them to do. A lot of tourist destinations are like this.

Next you need a location -- some "retail" or "museum" space. Think in terms of people selling antiques out of their home, garage or barn or an inexpensive storefront. Whatever it is, it should be inexpensive and it should have room for a nice sales area.

Now for a concept. Every museum needs a concept. The concept should, of course, entice visitors into buying a bottle or two of your perfume.

But your concept also has to have enough "educational" content so that your museum will make it into local tourist guides. It has to be more than just "come and see how I make my perfume." So turn it into, "come and see how perfume is made," and perhaps and additional flourish such as "with all natural ingredients" or "by an historic, traditional method." You can work out the theme but it should not sound too, too self serving.

Next you have to set up your museum. What do you need? A few bottles. Some modern equipment. A demonstration of how you work. It's up to your imagination but the more interesting you can make it for others, the more likely you are to get FREE publicity on local websites and in local tourist guides. If you can come up with a really strong concept and back it up by creating a really interesting and educational little museum, the bigger, more commercial enterprises in your area may actually highlight your activities, to draw visitors to the area, visitors who will stay at their hotels, B&Bs, or whatever.

All this needs to be done in a pleasant environment. No pressure sales. Friendliness toward all visitors whether they buy or not. Constant new additions to your "museum." A constantly developing website. Lots of energy.

But, if you think it out carefully and develop it with love, you just might build yourself a "museum" that can sell perfume!

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Random Business Plan To Sell Very Exclusive Perfume

How many times have you seen it happen. A struggling creator of handbags, dresses, jewelry, makeup ... or even PERFUME scores one celebrity client who brings in a few celebrity friends and soon it's all over the news (and the promotions for the lucky creative) and now THE PUBLIC, who have never shown the least interest in this person before, JUST HAVE TO HAVE the handbag, dress, jewelry, makeup .. or PERFUME that this person has created.

The money rolls in, the celebrities move on. The fame and fortune may or may not stick but either way, the creator rushes to make the creation as non-exclusive as possible. Perhaps there's even a deal with QVC.

But suppose the PERFUME (this is a blog about perfume after all) was -- and remained -- exclusive.

The business plan I am proposing here may sound a bit far fetched. And certainly I don't claim it to be "well thought out." But I offer it freely and, who knows? Perhaps the right person can find the right "adjustments" to make it a reality and thereby make money for themselves. You are welcome to try. Now here's the plan.

You start out struggling to sell the perfume you create. Nobody knows you. Nobody cares. But you manage to sell a bottle or two here and there, and you're crazy enough to keep at it, even though all your friends are putting big dollars into their retirement plans and you're still struggling to make your minimum monthly payments to MasterCard. Yes, you LOVE creating perfume!

Then one day somebody walks into your (perfume business) life who really LIKES one of the fragrances you've made. And this person is rich and famous. And, again, this person REALLY LIKES your perfume.

But this person DOES NOT want to be wearing the same fragrance thousands of other women are wearing. IF another woman is wearing this fragrance -- YOUR fragrance -- it had better be someone rich and famous. For all the lovely praise this new client is giving your perfume, she clues you that, if she is to continue to wear it, the fragrance MUST remain exclusive.

Up to this point your fragrance was "exclusive" only in the sense that you hardly had any customers. But now, thanks to the custom of this rich and famous person, you have an incredible opportunity to promote it from here to Walmart. But to do so will destroy any hope you might have had of selling to more who are rich and famous. What should you do?

Here, at long last, is my idea. Make your fragrance exclusive by limiting the number of people you sell it to. Say 100, tops.

Make it like a country club. Limited memberships. For one to be admitted, someone else must die or resign. Person 101 has to wait until one of your original one hundred no longer uses the fragrance.

Now clearly the mechanics of this proposal are not simple. How do you select the lucky one hundred? How to you deal with them? Clearly a commitment to buy more than a bottle or two of your fragrance will be required. I am NOT contemplating a situation where each bottle is so extravagantly priced that a single bottle yields great profit. But there needs to be some sort of "fee" system for membership in this elite group.

One possible way to do this would be to have two lines -- the exclusive line where only a limited number of people are allowed to purchase a particular perfume -- and another less exclusive line of fragrances that, while not cheap, were available to anyone with the money.

Think back to Studio 54 days in New York City. ANYONE could wait in line outside the club and hope to get in. But to get in, you had to be SELECTED. Many were not.

I recall that Picasso regularly withheld his works from sale in order to maintain the exclusivity of those he allowed his dealer to sell. He was a prolific creator and would have flooded the market had he allowed all of his works to be sold.

Selling "by appointment only" may be going a bit far for most of us (I hate making appointments) but the idea is certainly worthy of consideration.

But I think that my "100 Club" idea has some genuine potential in the right hands. Personally I have yet to develop a celebrity following so I still have time to think it over.

Meanwhile I'll continue to create perfume.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Getting the feedback you deserve for your perfume

If you are going to market a great perfume, you want others to talk about it. You want lots of people to talk about it, so that as many people as possible will know about it. The more people that know about it (if they hear about it in a positive light), the more people are likely to try it, and this results in sales for you.

I once had a friend whose father reviewed books for a leading newspaper. Periodically large boxes of books would arrive at their house and it was up to his father to read and review them. Judging from the number of books his father received -- and the amount of space the newspaper would give to reviews -- I would guess only a handful of those books got the full treatment. But for those that did get reviewed and whose reviews got published, I'm certain that these reviews boosted awareness of those titles and, no doubt, sales. Look at Oprah's Book Club.

As you are no doubt aware, there are today magazines and newspapers that publish reviews of perfumes. Although I don't pretend to know the exact mechanics of the business, it can be assumed that fragrance marketers shower reviewers with bottles of their latest perfumes in the hope that they will be favorably reviewed. It has also been "revealed" that certain "independent" bloggers receive outpourings from fragrance merchants and, in return, post appropriate comments.

But now let's look at the situation of the smallest of the small perfumeries -- operations like mine (Frank Bush) and perhaps yours. Speaking for myself (and you?), I don't have "connections" and -- in this year in particular, like almost everyone else -- I don't have (a lot of) money to throw at public relations and publicity. But I do have a strategy that I'm going to share with you, and I'd be willing to bet in advance it will be helpful in generating "talk" which, ultimately, will generate sales.

What I have done is simply to "create" a "Fragrance Evaluation Board" for my perfumes and masculine fragrances (I hate the term "colognes" for modern men's fragrances that bear no relationship to the colognes of the past, and most men wouldn't like to be told that they are wearing "perfume," even when they are.)

The way the Board works is quite simple. Anyone can ask to be included on my mailing list for the free -- yes FREE -- samples I send out when I feel the urge to get some WRITTEN feedback.

Of course when I send out samples, not everyone gets one because of the cost of mailing and the small number of samples I make up.

The deal is that, if you receive a sample, you are expected to email me your written review for it -- your HONEST, THOUGHTFUL review of course, even if your reaction to my fragrance is not entirely positive.

Just as there are people who cannot smell, there are people who cannot write, so they don't make good reviewers. Texting and tweets have not been kind to the fine art of English composition. Among those who receive samples and return reviews, it is necessary to discover those who are highly literate and can return meaningful commentaries on the perfumes in question. These then become candidates for ADDITIONAL free samples, while the less literate may be dropped to the bottom of the mailing list.

Beyond this, the best candidates for my Fragrance Evaluation Board are those who have their own web presence through a blog (or blogs) and/or social networking activity such as Facebook. Then, assuming that their reaction to my fragrance is positive, they have the ability to spread the word even farther and wider than they could through face to face contacts alone.

So there it is. The plan I've put into action. But I think this strategy could work for you too.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Sample piled upon Sample

(My own sample strategy is found at the END of this article)

The surest way to get someone to buy your perfume is to let them try it and be overwhelmed by how its beauty is "so much like them." Yes, even if they LIKE what they smell there is no guarantee that they will buy it. But getting people to TRY what you are offering is the first step.

How do you get people to try your fragrance? If you are selling your fragrance through retail stores, you supply the stores with tester bottles and paper test blotters. In my experience I'd say that stores are often lax in keeping the tester bottles filled and available, and even worse at supplying paper test blotters. And probably worst of all is the mutual failure of marketer and retailer to IDENTIFY what is in each tester bottle. Often the consumer is left to guess. But at least, at the perfume counter of a store, there is some hope that your fragrance will get sampled.

Drawing customers to the perfume counters of retail stores is the second big issue. For the larger marketers it is done with magazine advertising and, in many cases, sample cards inserted into the magazine. This type of advertising requires a considerable budget. The ad pages alone are not cheap. Then add the cost of preparing samples -- and the graphics, including model fees, and you are into the millions. But even this is not enough. Today these ad pages serve only as a reminder that the fragrance is available. The real push for the new fragrance is through publicity events with the celebrity endorsing the fragrance, and what major marketers would dare to introduce a new fragrance today WITHOUT assistance from a recognized personality?

Now suppose you aren't a large fragrance marketer. Suppose you are starting your business by attempting to sell your perfume through one or a handful of small, carefully selected boutiques. There are two ways you could make a success of this. The first, and most likely to be profitable, is to build a buzz for your perfume in the communities where these retail stores are located. Your buzz will drive people to the stores where they will ASK for your fragrance as they are already "pre-sold." For the store owner, this is the ideal situation. On your part, it takes a good deal of energy and creativity and it helps if you are well known in your community or have teamed up with someone who is popular and well known.

The tougher alternative for selling your perfume in stores -- and less favored by store owners -- is for your entire promotional effort to be your in store, point of purchase, display.

Think about it. In this second scenario you are first competing for the customers attention with everything else in the shop. The customer did not come into the shop to buy perfume and particularly not to buy YOUR perfume. So you first have to attract attention, you then have to inspire an INTEREST in perfume, you then have to "sell" the customer on BUYING your perfume. This requires some clever marketing. It is a myth to think that just because you have PLACED your fragrance in stores, people will buy. They will not. They need a great deal of inspiration to push them over the edge and reach for their credit cards.

My Own Approach -- Outside The Mainstream

Mail order sales -- and now the internet -- have long been my specialty. I've never sold one of my own fragrances through retail stores. (I hope you aren't too disappointed to hear this.) Why do I (now) sell only online? Simply because I work alone, I have good systems to handle online orders (I've taken orders from just about every country you could think of, although not always for perfume), and it allows me to focus on what I WANT to focus on -- building a library of fragrances that I can take pride in, and building my online store,

But if you are selling online or through a mail order catalog, how do you get people to buy PERFUME? I won't kid you. It's not easy. But it can be done and, once you get it down, it can be nicely profitable.

Let's face it. Right now -- Summer of 2009 -- a good part of the world is struggling through a difficult economy. So what better time to offer MORE rather than less, to offer your BEST rather than the minimal. And that's what I've been doing.

Before leaving the office at the end of June for our summer house in Canada, I put together a "deal" at my website that offers "samples piled upon samples." I've been offering small, "tester" samples for some time but, although I'd worked at it, I was never full satisfied with the sample "deals." I think I worked too hard on the presentation of the samples and not enough on the "tremendous money savings" side of the offer which, let's face it, can be pretty compelling both in good times and in bad.

So what I've done has been to take TWO sample testers (I use a small spray tester) of each of my TOP women's fragrances, TWO small samples (sorry, these are smaller than originally intended -- looking back, I wish I had used larger sampler bottles) of each of my (two) original men's fragrances and then, after dumping all these samplers in a simple zip lock baggie (I was rushing to get away for the summer and didn't have time for "elegant"), I tossed in some ADDITIONAL samples of fragrances I am planning to discontinue (although some people really like them), and then I added a full size bottle (of a fragrance to be discontinued) to the offer. Wow!

This seemed a bit like overkill. Too much for too little. So I was about to stop there but then I got to thinking, wow, I have a NEW fragrance that people tell me they like but I haven't yet made available because I'm still doing some final "tweaks" on the formula. Why not throw THIS into the "sample bag" too? So I did -- but just ONE tester of it.

So that was it. A "??? dollar" value all for just "XXX" (plus shipping and handling, of course). Why did I do it? Because I WANT to 'spread the word' -- I WANT people to use my fragrances and talk about them and have others ask, "what's that wonderful fragrance you're wearing?" -- and it happens.

The cost of putting this "sample bag" together hasn't been an issue. Advertising dollars spent judiciously can provide bountiful returns. No, my only "regret" as I departed for the summer was that I didn't leave ENOUGH of these "sample bags" behind and my summer staff may be left short before I return to the office at the end of August when I am going to produce ... MORE!

Oh, yes, that number to call, again -- Check it out for yourself!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Using social networks you don't yet know about

A woman phoned me the other day with a question about her perfume business. After a pleasant conversation (I tried to help her as best I could) I asked her to send me an email with a link to her website or whatever so I could find out a bit more about her and her perfumery work.

The email arrived. No website was listed. But, when I cranked her name into Google, all sorts of links popped up because she was actively using the internet in blogs and various social networking sites to talk about her background and perfumery work and make her creations known. This is great.

This week I made my own discovery about social networks: there are more social networks out there than you might think. Let me tell you what happened.

I have been reworking the copy and graphics on my website, which is my retail store for the fragrances I create. In the distant past I had always used live models and original photography for my advertising but in recent years I had gotten away from that. Now I decided it was time to once again recruit models, shoot new photos, and use these pictures to build my new web pages.

For models -- since I'm located well outside of New York City -- I turned to our local Craigs List and advertised under "talent gigs." Craigs List is a great network in itself but one person who responded gave me a link to her portfolio at Model Mayhem, an international networking site for models, photographers, makeup artists, photo retouch artists, etc. I had never heard of it but I jumped.

In a short time I was showing MY portfolio on Model Mayhem while advertising for models on our local Craigs List.

I got the models I wanted -- some really great people -- but that wasn't the end of the story.

When you photograph someone for an ad they are always eager to see the ad when it comes out. I was moving pretty quickly on the new web pages for this project and notifying the models as the pages with their image were completed and posted. I knew THEY would want to see those pages. What had NOT occurred to me was that each of THEM had their own following and immediately, after seeing themselves in the ad, sent an email blast to all their friends and contacts -- other photographers who might use them in the future, client possibilities, and gosh only knows who else.

So the models became MESSENGERS, sending people to my website. Best still, since they are active daily in pursuing new assignments, they continue to send people to my website so that people can see their picture in my ad pages. All of a sudden traffic on my site was increasing dramatically. (My web stats showed it was from the models.)

Now this blog is an effort at honesty in what REALLY happens when you go out to market a perfume so I'm going to share some inside information with you that you probably won't find elsewhere.

First, my "retail store" website does not (yet) draw a lot of traffic (although I've noticed that Microsoft's new Bing search engine pops it up pretty quickly). The traffic generated by the models was a big addition.

In the second place, traffic does not necessarily translate into sales. Getting people to your website is one thing. Getting them to buy from you is something else. Building traffic is essential for a website but, to make money from it, you've got to convert browsers into buyers and this -- quite frankly -- is neither easy nor automatic. It takes a good deal of thought and strategy.

But let's look forward a bit. What about all these models, friends of models and business connections of models? You KNOW a bit about the models because you have just worked with them. They TELL you about others they have worked with or hope to work with. So could this constitute a niche market? Could you develop fragrances that NAME THEM??? Call out to them??? Say to them, "This fragrance will bring you GOOD LUCK in your endeavors if you wear it because it was crafted just for YOU!"???

Now isn't that a thought that has some possibilities? Fragrances developed specifically for a niche social networking group?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The value of face to face selling

Personally I'm in the mail order business and the closest I usually get to customer contact is the telephone. But yesterday I had a walk in customer and a sale was made but it didn't go at all like I had expected.

Let me start with some background. A new friend who I didn't yet know very well heard that I made perfume and wanted to buy a bottle as a birthday present for his wife. I've met his wife and know a bit about her background and that small amount of knowledge gave me an impression that she might like one particular fragrance I had, one that several people had remarked upon quite favorably.

But there was one small problem. This fragrance, which I though my friend's wife would like, wasn't yet bottled. In fact, nice as it was, I had been planning to plan with it a bit more before I declared it finished.

But, with the customer in mind, I went ahead and produced one bottle, reasoning that even if my friend didn't want it for his wife, I could use that bottle for photography. So when he showed up I was ready with my four different women's fragrances and a pad of the aerosol testing blotters I use with spray perfumes.

I turned out that my friend has a very good nose -- probably much better than my own. And, instead of rushing to judgement, he sprayed four blotters and let them stand for a while while we talked. (Have you ever seen anyone doing that at a perfume counter?)

Then he evaluated the blotters, and ranked the fragrances by his preferences. I was stunned! My pick for his wife cane in last! And, in first place, he selected (and purchased) a fragrance which I personally like a lot because of certain images it conjures up for me, but which hasn't set the world on fire (yet,) probably because it is clearly a step away from today's main stream perfumes.

So a sale was made but, more important, a perfumer got a bit of education as to how a very honest, straightforward, customer with a good nose viewed his creations.

Now I await his wife's judgement.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Can you do your own creative thing and still focus on the consumer?

For an independent perfumer -- particularly one who does not have to earn a living at it -- there is a strong tendency to do your own thing creatively and, only later, worry whether you can sell your fragrance or not. I find myself in this situation constantly. I have a fragrance idea I want to develop and I go for it, regardless of consequences. Then, at times, I find myself scratching my head wondering what I can possibly do to sell it.

Perfumery is an art, a creative art. So too is marketing. But the thought patterns needed to achieve great perfumes are not the same as those needed to achieve great sales.

Over time I have found myself thinking more about "my market" as I set out to develop a new fragrance. Even so, working along with no one to prod and push the development of my fragrances, I find myself following the inclinations of my idiosyncratic nose rather than obsessing over what I think "people" want. I want people to want my perfume. But it is more for the ego gratification of having others enjoy what I have created than for visions of large financial wealth. Obviously with this attitude following hot trends is out.

When the new fragrance is "done" -- in the bottle, ready to sell -- I turn to marketing. I confess that I love marketing as much as I love creating the new fragrance. But I must also admit that, when I "switch over" to marketing, the perfumer side of my brain shuts off. Instead of doing my daily exercises with aroma materials, smell shuts down entirely; the perfume because "the product." I detach myself from all that energy of my own that went into creating the new fragrance. At this point my thoughts revolve around how I might build a bridge between the product and the consumer. Marketing and advertising are the tools with which these bridges are built.

Flipping to the marketing side of my brain, I must look now at my fragrance though the eyes of my consumer. How does he or she see it? (Here's where the independent creator-perfumer gets the biggest shocks!) Always the consumer sees it differently than does the creator. And this is why I can no longer "be" the perfumer when I step into the role of marketer. As the perfumer I would want to argue with the consumer and scream, "NO! YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND!!!" But as the marketer I want to grab hold of the consumer's understanding, get inside his or her mind and go with it. I want to USE the consumer's understanding and turn it on them to make my sale, just as an judo practitioner uses the strength and speed of the opponent to make the fall, by redirecting this strength and speed in a direction the master has selected. You can ONLY make sales by giving the buyer what THEY want but you do have to get them pointed in the right direction.

So we study the buyer and how the buyer relates to the new fragrance. We look at what we have through the buyer's eyes. How do they judge the aroma? What image does it convey to THEM? This will be our clue as to how we present it commercially. We may have to shift the image we were aiming at to the image we have actually "hit" with the buyer.

Packaging is always a major headache for the small, independent perfumer because (1) you don't have enough money, (2) you don't have a fantastic graphic designer, and (3) even if you did have #1 an #2, if you turned them loose to do their thing -- to do what THEY thought was the ultra-marketing presentation -- you would discover that your cost per bottle was so high that you could never make it back on sales. Marketing is not just about making sales. Marketing is about making profit.

So now we begin thinking of price. Price is a funny thing. Long ago business people discovered that price and product are not so closely linked as you might imaging. Lowering the price may -- OR MAY NOT -- increase volume. Raising a price may -- OR MAY NOT -- increase profit. We have to know our costs and do the math and be guided by the math in our marketing.

While the "creative perfumer" side of you may groan over this requirement, the creative marketer side of you will immediately see that the situation DEMANDS creativity ... the creativity of developing advertising and sales promotion that will take the product -- at is is -- and present it to the consumer AS THE CONSUMER WOULD LIKE TO SEE IT -- all within the financial constraints that our mathematics has given us. Tell me that's not an invitation to be creative!

What I am finding, more and more, is how essential it is to separate the mind of the perfume creator from the mind of the perfume marketer. Each requires intense creativity, but of different kinds. And, if each is allowed to work without interference from the other, sales will be made -- profitable sales -- and when those sales start to make the cash registers ring, the two sides of your brain can shake hands with each other and congratulation each other over a job well done!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Selling your perfume in an absolutely impossible market -- It's not impossible!

The starting point in approaching a difficult market (think "a difficult time to sell perfume") is to understand that there ARE NO simple answers or guides. NOBODY really has the answers. But there are some "tricks" that can greatly improve your chances of success. Here are some thoughts for you.

First and most important of all, you have to understand this one great TRUTH. Yes, this IS a TRUTH: It is NOT impossible to make profitable sales, even when it appears that all the odds are against you.

Keep this TRUTH in mind. If you forget it you are doomed.

Next -- and this is a truth too -- it is better to do SOMETHING than to do nothing. In other words, get off your duff and get to work, even if you think you're just spinning your wheels. ACTIVITY on your part stimulates activity on the part of the consumer. Lack of activity on your part leads to your being forgotten. Forever.

RETHINKING your business is essential. If things are slow, rather than sitting around complaining and feeling all depressed, use some of this "spare time" (quality time?) to think about your business -- where you've come from, where you are now, and how you can use this "analysis" of your business to prepare for a successful tomorrow. Yes, it's hard to think "forward" when things are slowing down, but it's essential for your future success AND your current survival.

Cycles reverse. You can't predict the timing but you can predict that -- if you keep your head and don't panic -- in time all will be well again ... probably in less time than you now forsee.

So clean up the garbage. Get rid of those elements in your business that don't really belong. Polish up the good points so that you look sharper and better. Do the fine tuning you were too busy to do before. This is the time to make your business shine, to really do your best to make a good impression. Look dusty and mouldy now and you are doomed. Forever.

REMEMBER that SOME people have money to spend and LOTS of people can still afford to buy the things they raelly want. You have to entice them properly. If somehow you can make YOUR perfume the one thing that they MUST HAVE, you will make profitable sales.

What it all comes down to is finding ways to make the PURCHASE of YOUR perfume irresistable. Good luck!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Selling Perfume In An Absolutely Impossible Market

(It's NOT impossible!)

The starting point in approaching a difficult market (think "a difficult time to be trying to sell a new perfume") is to understand that there ARE NO simple answers or guides. NOBODY really has the answers. But there are some "tricks" that can greatly improve your chances of success. Here are some thoughts to help you.

First and most important of all, you have to understand this great truth. Yes, it is a TRUTH. It is NOT impossible to make profitable sales, even when it appears that all the odds are against you.

Always keep this truth in mind. Forget it and you are doomed.

Next -- and this is a truth too -- it is better to do SOMETHING than to do nothing. If you wait for "times to get better", you and your wonderful perfume will be forgotten, forever. In other words, don't just sit on your duff. Get up and get to work, even if you think you're just going down a dead end. ACTIVITY on your part stimulates activity on the part of the consumer. Lack of activity on your part will doom you.

RETHINKING your perfume and your business is essential. IF things are slow, rather than sitting around complaining and getting yourself all depressed, use some of this "spare time" (quality time?) to think about your business -- where you've come from, where you are now, and how you can use an analysis of your business to better prepare for the future.

Yes, it's hard to think "forward" when things are getting really slow but it's essential for your future success AND for your current survival, both physical and mental!

Cycles reverse. Two points are certain. First, that the BUSINESS cycle will get better and second that, when it does, your position in the market will be different than it is today. If you keep your head and don't panic, if you keep pressing forward with activity and new ideas (ideas don't always cost money ... some can save money!), if you can clean up the garbage in your business so that it LOOKS better and better to consumers (whether, right now, they are buying or not!), when this cycle reverses you will be AHEAD of those who sat around and did nothing -- those who thought that spending a few dollars to develop their new perfumes and new ideas was "too risky" -- you will find yourself AHEAD of these (now former) competitors.

Yes, this is your chance to overtake your competitors and build your following, even while sales may be painfully slow. If you can maintain a higher level of activity -- greater, more exciting communications with your market -- you can be the one to emerge in a strong position.

Finally REMEMBER that SOME people have money to spend and MOST people can still afford to buy the things they really want. IF, somehow, you can make YOUR perfume the one thing that a handful of special people MUST HAVE, you will make profitable sales.

So really, what it all comes down to is finding ways to make the PURCHASE of YOUR perfume irresistible to your customers. That's a goal that will keep your body busy and your mind active. Find out what they REALLY want from your fragrance ... and your business ... and offer it to them! Your cash register will, once again, begin to sing.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Money Back Guarantee?

One of the most powerful selling tools in the mail order business has always been the money back guarantee. Retail stores -- the best -- have also long employed this policy Don't like what you just bought? Bring it back to the store, show your receipt, and your money will be refunded. My wife does it all the time, and she shops a lot!

Of course for some categories of goods, stores have long since halted this policy except where the original merchandise was defective. I can't imagine any store that would be happy about taking back a bottle of perfume that had been opened and used. But times have changed. Or have they? Can we take a classic idea from the past and mold it into an effective and profitable selling strategy for today? Can we use the money back guarantee to sell perfume on the internet?

Back in the 1890's, Richard Hudnut made this offer: Send me 50 cents and I will send you "12 large [scent] tablets" and, if you are not entirely satisfied, tell me and I will "at once and without question refund your money." Hudnut's business flourished and he may well have been the first American to become very, very wealthy selling cosmetics and perfume.

Hudnut didn't make his money by being a fool so let's think a bit about what he was doing -- and let me speculate a bit on what he was doing based on my own experience in the mail order business.

In the first place, Hudnut was not sending out heavy, expensive, breakable bottles. He was sending out pellets -- tablets -- intended to be dissolved in water, and of course, the water -- and its weight -- were not included.

This makes shipping simple, safe and inexpensive. Based on my own experiences I would guess that not only did the 50 cents cover the full cost of shipping (probably less than five cents!), it also covered the cost of the product and part or all of Hudnut's advertising expense. It also, quite likely, covered the small expense of refund requests Hudnut might have received.

In short, the offer was self liquidating.

Now look what else is going on. Hudnut, no doubt, is enclosing a catalog (1-page flier) with the outgoing orders. He is also capturing their names and addresses for his mailing list which he will use to send out larger catalogs periodically. Customers who are pleased with his perfumed pellets are also pleased that Hudnut trusted them -- that he considered them to be honest citizens who would not enjoy his perfume and then demand a refund. So good will is created and, I would expect, about 20 percent or so of customers who took the 50 cent offer probably went on to buy his more costly products.

This is good business. It is also a great way for Hudnut to sell nationally from his office in New York. This in turn paves the way for retailers -- nationwide -- to want to stock the Hudnut line. (Think Billy Mays's original TV ads for Kaboom, at the time sold only by mail order but now found in major supermarket chains.)

Now what about the handful of people who might make multiple requests for Hudnut's no-risk offer and each time request a refund? I can tell you how I've handled this problem and I suspect Hudnut did the same.

We simply kept a list of "problem customers" and, when any order came in, we checked that customer against the "problem customer" list and, if the customer appeared on that list, we told them, "sorry, we can't extend our guarantee TO YOU." This system can be quite effective and in no way harms your relationship with good customers.

Would this strategy would today?

The key to making this strategy work is setting it up properly. This will usually mean developing special products that meet the requirements of the system -- low (very low!) product cost, low shipping preparation cost, low shipping cost, and a seemingly low selling price but one that will cover your expenses and possibly yield a small profit. If your advertising media is your own website, your advertising cost comes close to zero.

Also, to make the strategy work, you absolutely must deliver a good value for the money requested. The "no risk" product must please customers and draw repeat business. If it does not, even if your "no risk" offer makes a small profit up front, ultimately it will burn out and fail.

Ideas to avoid

Forced return of the "impossible to return" product -- One diabolic strategy that has been used by a handful of mail marketers is the money back guarantee which requires the return of the product on the product which is close to impossible to return. In this scenario, to receive a refund the customer must return the merchandise in good condition -- but the merchandise is packed in such a way that it is almost impossible (deliberately!) to rebox and return it to the vendor. It's a "ha ha, I fooled you" deal for the vendor -- whose laughter dies when word gets around.

"Refund your purchase price" -- less shipping charges. This is an accountant's misguided hedge that deflates the power of the guarantee by suggesting that the seller is less than fully confident that the customer will be satisfied. In fact, there are no savings from this hedge because it deflates sales proportionately to the "non-shipping charge" refund savings.

Fine print that voids a guarantee -- We had a local restaurant that distributed money saving coupons. But every time you tried to use one they found some excuse to dishonor it. Their food was good but they are no longer is business. Is it any wonder?

Are you ready to give it your own trial?

I'm working on a promotion using this concept. I don't know how long it will take me to assemble the details and put it into action and I'm not sure which of my perfumes I'll use for the offer (probably my best). I want to see what will happen if I do it right. I'll report the results in time.

If you give this "money back guarantee" concept a trial before I do, let me know how it works for you.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The wrong way to think about launching a perfume business

No successful marketer of perfume has ever started at the top.

I regularly receive emails and phone calls from people who have some money and want to launch a perfume AND get instant distribution with major retailers. So the question I ask them is, "Do you have a following? Will your name and fame bring customers to the retailer, customers who will buy enough of your new perfume from the retailer to make him want to stock it?"

That's the rub. The retailer would be happy to offer your perfume, even if he has never heard of it or of you, IF he can be assured profitable sales.

Can you make that guarantee to a large retailer?

Aside from lack of name and fame, one problem that faces the aspiring-to-national-distribution newbie perfume marketer is lack of money. When people tell me that they have $20,000 or $200,000 to invest in their new perfume, I have to explain (and I don't think they believe me!) that these sums of money can be more than enough to launch a new perfume (business) ONLY if you are planning to introduce your perfume into a limited, targeted market where your name and fame already have some credibility.

Selling to your followers, fan club, extended circle of friends and acquaintances, social network, etc. is very different than trying to sell to strangers.

I sometimes want to cry when I'm approached by someone who really does have enough money to start a profitable business marketing their own perfume but, instead of targeting obvious and profitable markets, they are blinded by dreams of instant riches and can't be bothered with "small (profitable!) potatoes" because it will only distract them from their higher calling.

If you want to succeed in selling your own perfume you have to target a market, build a relationship with that market, and tailor your product to the tastes of that market.

Then you have to keep strengthening your relationship with that market and encouraging that market to expand, either in the amount of money individuals are spending with you or in the number of people who are drawn in to your social group -- or both.

None of this is to suggest that you should not aspire to vast sales and great personal fortune. What I would warn is that those who have achieved vast sales in the perfume business ALL started form a small -- sometimes very small -- customer base.

But it was from their success in selling to this small base and the lessons they learned by working on a small scale that allowed them to expand over time and develop grand international enterprises.

If you can name me one exception to this rule I would be happy to check it out. But, in the entire history of perfume, I doubt that you would find a single exception.