Friday, September 14, 2018

Selling Perfume Online — Sampling

Scent is powerful. When we are exposed to a scent it reaches our brain so quickly we can only react; it doesn't give us time to think. It's the way our bodies are wired. Perfume is, of course, scent. It is fast acting, for better or for worse. We smell; we react. Then we may think about what we have just smelled, if the scent has elicited particular notice. A great fragrance can help "sell itself."

But what happens when you're selling your perfume online? There are many good reasons for taking an online approach to distributing your perfume. Arrangements with retailers can be difficult to negotiate. Perhaps the power of your perfume is enough to make an immediate sale, once someone has smelt it. But first you have to get some of it — a sample — to them so they can smell it. Here are three ways you to do this —

Method # 1 — Scented test blotters

This is a low key method and might seem a bit amateurish but if your following feels a strong personal relationship with you, the perfumer, it can be appropriate.

You simply spray or dab a unscented test blotter (for sources, visit the Perfume Projects Vendors listings ) with your fragrance, wrap the scented blotter in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and mail it in a business size (or even smaller) envelop along with details for ordering a full size bottle.

The virtue of this method is that your shipping cost will be minimal and you won't be running up against prohibitions on mailing "hazardous materials" — i.e., perfume.

If you are paying both product cost and shipping and if your requests for samples are modest in number and if your conversion rate (people who buy from you after receiving your sample) is acceptable, this can be an excellent way to distribute samples. A "one-person" or small company can prepare the sample packages by hand; a larger company could have sample packages professionally prepared by an outside vendor.

Method # 2 — Glass sampling vials

Small glass vials with a plastic dabber stopper are the classic way of distributing perfume samples. At one time when you bought an expensive perfume at a sales counter you would be given a gift bag of samplers, often in these glass vials. Glass vials are cheap and can be mounted on a card with your sales message. A vial might contain enough fragrance for two or three small applications.

I have used glass sampling vials myself, both the standard ones with the plastic dabber top and another type, just slightly larger, that had a snap-on spray closure. This was a class act among samples and could also be attached to a business card size card to present details about the fragrance along with ordering information.

There are some downsides to using glass vials, even glass vials with a spray. Glass can be broken. I once watched a woman drop one on the hard floor of a doughnut shop and, surprising to me, the glass shattered freeing the scent for all to enjoy, whether they wanted to or not. This could happen in the mail too unless the vial was protected by bubble wrap or a well padded mailing bag.

And this brings us to two issues: shipping cost and postal regulations. Using a padded bag for shipping is a good deal more expensive than using a business envelope. You, the perfumer, would not want to bear the cost so you will have to ask your prospect to pay something for shipping. This once again puts you in the position of having to "sell" your perfume before it has been smelled.

The second issue is postal regulations. Does your postal service allow you to send these sample vials through the mail? ship these sample vials? Although the volume in the vial is minimal, will you come up against an all-inclusive ban on shipping perfume? It will be up to you to be sure you are in compliance with postal regulations but my own experience suggests that you could inquire at six different post offices and get six different answers. Likely if you wing it and just do it, odds are you will never have a problem but if you suddenly have a problem, it could put a major kink in your sampling system.

There is one more strike against using glass vials to sample, particular those with the plastic dabber top: they tend to look cheap and unexciting. They have been around too long. People have seen too many of them and, unless someone is a real perfume enthusiast who will judge by the scent rather than the presentation, they don't have a "value" image. They look like throwaways. While you may find ways to use glass sampling vials effectively, in my mind their day has passed.

As to the sprayer vials, they are very hard to find. Mine came form a closeout and although I was able to purchase a large quantity, I haven't found them anywhere since.

Method # 3 — Small bottles

If your regular size bottle is anything from one to two ounces, a 1/4 ounce bottle makes a good sampler. Historically major fragrance marketers made use of miniature bottles, bottles that looked like their full size bottles but were more like doll house size, containing just a small amount of fragrance.

These miniatures were effective because they previewed not only the perfume but also the packaging and packaging, like it or not, plays a major role in the sale of perfume.

Today to sample with small bottles you are unlikely to find any that reflect the design of your standard size but you can create a "family" effect through use of a sticker similar in design to the sticker used on your regular bottles. Because 1/4 ounce is a more generous quantity than the contents of a glass vial, your customer now has a chance to "live" with your perfume, to let it grow on him or her, and (hopefully) fall in love with it.

There are some difficulties with this approach. First, the cost of packaging and delivery again requires a payment from the customer to cover your costs, so again you must sell what cannot be smelled, but at least the sale to be made will be for a much smaller amount than the price of a regular bottle.

Postal regulations again can intrude and now you are shipping a bottle that really looks like perfume. Then there is another issue, perhaps more serious than the others. Suppose even if your customer falls in love with it, 1/4 ounces of your fragrance is enough to keep him or her satisfied for the time being ... and hence no desire or need to order a full size bottle! With this in mind it is worth making an effort to make the sale of even your small bottle profitable, whether the customer converts to the full size bottle or not.


One powerful lesson jumps out of this look at methods to distributed samples of your fragrance. Before you can send out samples you have to do some selling. Even if you were to offer your samples absolutely free, without any charge at all, you would still have to sell prospects on the value of what you were sending them and your sales pitch would have to be strong enough to motivate them to take the steps necessary to request your samples — i.e., fill out a form, send you an email, give you their names and a shipping addresses, etc.

No matter how you slice it, selling perfume involves selling ... right from the start.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Three ways to mess up a good marketing opportunity for perfume

Sometimes we come across marketing opportunities for perfume that should be wildly profitable. The people are there, they want your perfume, they are eager to pay your price. What can go wrong? There are three simple ways you can mess up this opportunity and earn only dimes when you could have earned dollars.

Mess up # 1 - Addressing a mirage and missing the real market


What's the real size of your market? Not everybody who matches a particular demographic is your market. Your real market is concentrated - people who will respond to you and your perfume, people who are enthusiasts for you and for your perfume, people who have enough mad money on hand to buy it. (read more)

Mess up # 2 - Too much production


Marketing opportunities come in different sizes. You have an opportunity to sell 5,000 bottles but you produce 10,000. Look what happens:

Say your cost to produce a bottle of your perfume is $4.50. You wholesale it at $17.50 and it sells - successfully - at retail for $35. But "successful" relates only to the 5,000 people who want your perfume. That's all who want it. That's the size of your market. But you produced 10,000 bottles. You're left with 5,000 bottles you paid $4.50 each to produce but can't sell. Let's look at the math: (read more)

Mess up # 3 - You paid too much for your perfume, even when you knew what its highest possible retail price could be


This is the classic cause of marketing failure in almost any field - the opportunity is hot but you pay too much to obtain your product (in this case a perfume) even though you know what its highest possible retail price can be.

Say your perfume will retail for $35 and you will wholesale it for $17.50 and correctly expect to sell 5,000 bottles. Your gross receipts will be $87,500 but now you have to deduct the cost of those 5,000 bottles.

Say your cost per bottle was $4.50. That's a total cost of $22,500 giving you a gross profit of $65,000. (read more)



The most profitable marketing opportunities come in fixed sizes. You maximize profit by understanding (judging correctly) the size of your opportunity. You produce just enough perfume to meet the anticipated demand. You don't fret over the handful of people who say they want to buy your perfume but waited until your supply was sold out. You don't produce another 5,000 bottles of perfume because a dozen people failed to buy it while it was available. (read more)



-- As the article was a bit long, I've given you links to the original, which has all the numbers for comparison. Again, thanks for reading this message. And, on another topic, our four most popular books are now available at Amazon. They are listed in a link at the bottom of this full article.

-- Phil

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Producing 1000 bottles of perfume

     The original version of Creating Your Own Perfume With A 1700 Percent Markup! was about nothing more than producing 1,000 bottles of perfume (all of which were sold successfully at full price.)

    Selling 1,000 bottles of a perfume of your own can be wonderfully profitable if you've kept your production costs in check. But there are a few special issues about producing this number of bottles. You're over the limit for a "crafts" project perfume that makes use of decorative bottles that were never designed for the controlled dispensing of perfume; no spray and often no dabber.

    And you are, for the most part, under the minimum for commercial assembly by automated equipment (although you might find a contract packager willing to undertake your "small" job by doing by hand what you could do by hand yourself.)

    Producing 1,000 bottles of perfume almost begs for hands on desktop or kitchen table top assembly by you, the boss, the owner, the chief engineer, bottle washer and promoter. The "putting it together" isn't really difficult. The real hurdle is locating the components in the quantities needed. To accomplish this you must know something about each of the required components: fragrance, alcohol, water, bottles, closures, labels, and boxes.

    The fragrance itself is the most complex issue. It can be stock or custom but either way it will be a very important part of what sells your product. Obtaining the "right" fragrance is both a marketing and a creative project but, if you think you know what smell will sell, you can work out the fragrance issue.

    Alcohol and water are not major issues. Real perfumery alcohol is available if you're willing to hunt for it. You don't have to resort to substitutes such as using vodka (no!) or going for a non-alcoholic perfume (which can be fine but is not the kind of perfume I'm writing about here.)

    Bottles, in my mind, are what separates the professional/commercial perfume from the hobby project. You want to put your perfume in real perfume bottles, 1,000 of them. Your problem is finding a bottle you like available in the quantity you want (1,000 bottles) with a neck that will mate with the closure you want.

    While bottles, in small quantities, may be sold by the dozen, when you want 1,000 bottles it is unlikely you'll be able to buy this exact amount. Distributors sell bottles by the case and the number of bottles in a case is not a fixed number. The count will depend on the size of the bottle and on how much weight the manufacturer wants to pack into each case. Glass is heavy.

    To get your 1,000 bottles you'll have to buy a certain number of cases. For example, if your bottle is packed 426 bottles to the case, to get your 1,000 bottles you'll have to order three cases, which will give you 1278 bottles -- 278 more than you want. But the alternative -- ordering two cases -- would give you only 852 bottles, 148 short of what you need.

    At this point you may want to reevaluate your production quantity. 1,000 now looks like an oddball number in terns of ordering. But there is yet another issue to deal with: minimum order size. Most distributors have a minimum order size, say $500. Sometimes you can get around this by talking to the distributor heart to heart.

    Now you can go out and buy the closures, usually a spray pump and overshell. Again the offerings will not give you an exact 1,000 but here having a few extra on hand shouldn't be a problem.

    Labels offer some complications in that you'll want labels that fit your bottles and this may require ordering a custom size which will involve setup charges. You'll also confront the issue of the printing -- a simple one-color job or a multi-color job with detailed artwork. Here it's easy to see your potential cost by going to label printers' websites and getting quotes or just looking up available label sizes and costs for your 1,000 quantity.

    Finally there are the boxes. 1,000 is not a good number for boxes but, if you're planning to sell your fragrance through retailers, boxes are important. Many, perhaps most, printers have a 5,000 box minimum. There are exceptions. In all likelihood if you want a box you'll find yourself with many more than 1,000. But think positively. Your project may be a big success and 1,000 bottles could simply be a starting point that finances a larger venture.

    Vendors for all these items can be found at the Vendors pages of our website. My book about all this is Creating Your Own Perfume With A 1700 Percent Markup!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Market testing is really important when you're trying to grow a perfume business

    In Creating Your Own Perfume With A 1700 Percent Markup! I mentioned I had done a test with a dummy product before making a $2,000 commitment to developing manufacturing our own fragrance, a men's cologne. Market testing is really important when you are trying to grow a business.

    Testing involves risking a small amount of money to get data -- data that will guide you through larger decisions. The testing mentioned in Creating Your Own Perfume With A 1700 Percent Markup! wasn't the first or the largest test I had ever done. Sometimes you don't even know you are testing but when you examine certain marketing results you realize that you have a chance to make a lot more money but it's going to involve spending more money ... and the thought of spending that money can make you uncomfortable.

    Sales results that you already have are the tool you need to make your analysis. But when the new opportunity -- or a larger opportunity -- involves doing something you've never done before, stepping off into the unknown, you have to be very clear headed about what your data really shows.

    For us, one case involved a small ad we had run in a national publication. The cost was under $1,000 and the results were profitable so the question arose, "what would happen if we ran that promotion as a full page in that publication?"

    The bait was simply that the cost per inch of space dropped dramatically as the size of the ad increased. On top of that, the publisher was offering us a deep discount on the posted ad rate.

    Calculating the sales per inch of our small ad and the number of inches we would get from the larger ad, and the cost of the small ad and the cost of the larger ad -- we decided to go with it, based on our proven results from the smaller ad.

    The commitment was scary. We would be spending ten times more money for the larger ad. Yet our data showed it to be a logical move -- and it was. The results per inch for the larger ad were several times what our results per inch had been for the smaller ad. And, not only did we receive a flood of cash orders, we received a flood of new customers, some of whom continued to buy from us for years.

    The test mentioned in Creating Your Own Perfume With A 1700 Percent Markup! was a bit different. It was suggested that our regular, loyal customers would buy a men's cologne from us. We had a print catalog that we mailed, monthly, to our customers. We bought a few dozen bottles of the same cologne a competitor was selling. It sold well but due to what we had to pay for it (too much!) and our matching our competitor's retail price (too low!), the profit was solid but not exciting.

    That all changed when we invested in our own fragrance. Our cost per bottle dropped from $7.95 to less than $1.50 while our selling price was bumped up from $14.95 to $26.95 which did not seem to deter buyers.
    To some, $2,000 might not seem like a lot of money but at the time, as our business was focused elsewhere and we had never sold a fragrance, $2,000 seemed to me like a huge leap into the unknown -- except for our test data that cried out to us, "there is profit to be made here!"

    Again, the data had the answer; we made our money.

    It's not always easy to develop a test that will give you good data. But that's no excuse for blowing off the idea of a market test and plunging into the unknown without any data to guide you.

    Test today and live to see your business grow!

    Here are three links to other articles I've written on testing:

Tips on test marketing your perfume

Test marketing your perfume

Testing — from the past

Thursday, April 13, 2017

What kind of perfume business do you want?

People come to my website because they want a "perfume business." For the most part the dream is either having a marketing business selling famous name perfumes at retail (or making your own name and perfumes famous) or, more interesting to me, a business selling perfume they can make themselves.

    My own start in perfume was on the marketing side. I had a business with customers. We sold various products. Somebody suggested we try a men's cologne. After some inexpensive tests, we did our own cologne and it made money. That was my start.

    People ask, "What does it cost to launch a new perfume?" In my case the numbers broke down like this: First of all, about $2,000 to produce 1,000 bottles of perfume. We estimated our cost per (1-ounce) bottle to be just under $1.50. That leaves $500 unaccounted. Some of our purchases required orders greater that 1,000 units so, after doing our 1,000 bottles, we were left with bottles and other components to start on our next one thousand.

    Let's just say our production cost was about $2,000. We bottled the fragrance ourselves and I wrote a book about how we did it. (Special price here -- offer expires May 31st, 2017).
    That first $2,000 was just the production cost. We still had to sell it and that is the sticky point for someone who wants to launch their own perfume business with their own perfume.

    In our case we had a catalog sent monthly to loyal customers. Larger catalog companies know the cost of ever square inch of every page of every catalog they mail. That lets them track how well one ad is paying off compared to the others. We never did that kind of precise tracking so I never put a dollar amount on the cost of the full page in our catalog we gave our new fragrance.

    But before we could advertise the fragrance, we had to develop an ad for it. In this case it involved some creative copywriting, graphic design, and both still photography for the bottle and model photography which involved props, styling, and two models. Add a few dollars for those costs.

    For us at that time, this was all within the way we typically developed new products and tested them in the catalog. We had to test new products continuously to stay in business. If you are attempting to start a "perfume business" launching your own perfume, you have to look at your opportunities to sell your perfume. The first question you must ask is "Are there any?"

    If, at the moment, you can't say how you are going to sell your own perfume, you're not ready to start a perfume business. But this doesn't mean you can't start, now, looking for that niche that will allow you to start a perfume business. You'll find some ideas in a book I advertised here.

    Now if, instead of wanting to make and sell your own perfume you simply want to build a perfume factory to make perfume or develop a retail chain to sell famous name perfumes (or their copycats), I'll save that for another day.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Starting a new business before writing a business plan

    I recently did a major re-write on a small book focused on a business plan. In doing it (it took several months of work) I came away impressed at how important a business plan is and I vowed that for my next project I wouldn't spend a penny until I had prepared a business plan and double checked every paragraph. Yet now I am going ahead with a new project without a business plan. What happened?

    I did not develop a sudden antipathy for business plans. Much of what I have learned over the past six months is still very much in my head. But there is one essential part of any business plan that poses a problem, particularly for the very small business or solo entrepreneur or the creative voice that doesn't quite fit into any category. The problem is research -- market research, competitors, market size, pricing within that market -- core data. Getting this information accurately is what makes a business plan worth something. This is what makes a business plan work.

    In the abstract you can think about preparing a business plan and fudge the numbers (since no one knows that they will be anyway) and do your "market research" on Google and you'll come up with fillers for the blanks in your plan but you'll end up with a very risky plan. It may fool a few loving relatives but not a banker or serious investor and, should you try to implement it, the fooling will stop very quickly. Just pray that you are working with someone else's money, not your own.

    It's that section called "market research" that's the killer. Here, accurate information is really important. If you don't get it right your quest may be hopeless so let me explain why, for my new project -- The Green Wave Newsletter -- I am going forward without a business plan, even though I believe business plans are very important.

This is a test --
Can I find a market?

    I'm not sure how much I've ever written about testing but perhaps I'll write more about it some day. Testing is the art of getting accurate information at the lowest possible cost. Yes, information can come at a cost. You can't find it all on Google. I'll give you an example from the past.

    Back in the days of junk mail and mailing lists, the use of the right list to promote your offer would make the difference between a very profitable promotion and a failure.

    But how could you find the right list? The renters of mailing lists (they were always rented, not sold) would propose various lists to you. Their interest was in making sales, to you. But you had to sort through their proposals to find out which if any of these lists would work for you.

    So you made minimal orders of many lists, mailed your offer, and counted the results. Your results showed what lists would work and what lists would not. You had to spend money to get the information but, with the information, you could now rent the good lists and make a lot of money.

    For my new newsletter, The Green Wave, I need information. I need to find out where to promote it, what people to promote it to, and how enthusiastic they will be once they start to get their monthly issues. I need feedback.

I'll run it up the flagpole
and see if anyone salutes

    In fact, the whole project may be off course -- the frequency of publication, the price structure, the format -- feedback is really important to me and the only way to get it is to put the newsletter and promotions for it out there and see if I can begin to assemble the audience I am looking for -- people who will read it and pay to keep reading it.

Later, perhaps, a business plan

    Someday a business plan for this project may get written. And if and when it does, that "market research' section is going to be filled with some very accurate information, information I will be able to show bankers and serious investors, if I care to do so.

Monday, November 7, 2016

It's about problem solving

 I'm launching a new newsletter, really a continuation of the most recent issues of my Perfume Strategies newsletter. The theme: "It's about problem solving."

    Want to succeed with your perfume? With your business? (With your life!) -- get better at problem solving.

    Look at it this way: You have a great idea, you start putting it together, then you hit some sort of glitch -- it always happens. Your success now hinges on your ability to solve the problem that is causing the glitch whether it be money, a person saying "no" when you need them to say "yes," a technical issue which you don't understand, some equipment you need but can't come up with -- whatever. You either solve the problem or ... or you fold -- end of project.

    Sometimes problems are really small and seemingly trivial. I had one last week. I had fabricated my own instrument cable (to hook an electric guitar to an amp) and one end of the cable went bad. Bummer, especially since I had used top of the line components.

The plug at the other end went bad

    So the next step was analysis. For some time I had been aware that my soldering techniques wasn't good and, when working with electronics, that's bad.

    I had previously addressed this problem by buying a new, slightly more powerful, soldering iron. It made no difference. The solder wasn’t melting fast enough so the components were being exposed to too much heat. Bad!
Small and larger soldering irons

    But every YouTube video I watched showed equipment that looked like mine doing a good job. My (initial) conclusion: I needed an even more powerful (and expensive) soldering iron. I started looking through online catalogs thinking perhaps my wife would buy me one for Christmas.

    Then something happened. I watched one more "how to solder" YouTube video and picked up one small point I had missed. I went at it again, this time with a different roll of solder (much thinner!) and it all worked like magic, just like in the videos.

On the right: the solution

    The point I had missed wasn't the solution to my soldering problem but it quickly led me to the solution.

    My problem wasn't the soldering iron, it was the solder. Now I solder like a pro and a few rolls of the right (for this job) solder cost nothing against what would have been the cost of (another) new soldering iron.

    Problem solving isn't about throwing money at a problem; it's about thinking the problem through and filling in the "information gaps" by doing some research and sometimes with some small scale testing and experimentation. The better you get at problem solving, the more perfume you'll be able to sell and the more money you’ll be able to make.

    You can read more about my new monthly newsletter, The Green Wave, here. Cost is just 99 cents for the first three months (3 issues).