Sunday, July 13, 2008

Is it possible to launch a successful "internet only" perfume brand? (Part III)

This post is a continuation of my last post and the last of a three part series.

Step # 2 -- Converting appropriate website visitors into buyers

Once you learn how to attract good prospects to your website, your next step is to make a sale. This can be incredibly difficult.

To start with, unless your perfume was given a favorable review by another website, one which has an enthusiastic following of well-heeled perfume buyers, people who come to your website will have more CURIOSITY about you and your perfume than they will have interest in buying it. In fact, you might consider yourself lucky to have them just LOOKING at it! To turn them into buyers is going to take some extraordinary EFFORT!

The FIRST RULE to selling these people is to MAKE IT EASY FOR PEOPLE TO BUY. IF you happen to get lucky and someone decides they want to try your perfume, have your shopping cart set up and ready to take their order. The smoother you can make the process, the more likely they will be to COMPLETE their order -- meaning you get the money.

The SECOND RULE to selling people is to MAKE IT FUN, or in some way A PLEASANT, UPBEAT EXPERIENCE to do business with you. People will spend money for the intangible pleasure of dealing with a "fun" salesperson who makes the buying experience alone worth the entire purchase price. So don't bust chops. Be nice to your prospective customers. Entice them, flatter them, let them know you CARE about them. DON'T hang big signs on your website reading "CASH ONLY" ... "ABSOLUTELY NO REFUNDS" ... "ALL SALES ARE FINAL." Make people feel that you have confidence in your product and confidence in THEIR integrity. You aren't out to rip them off and you trust them to deal honestly with you and not make complaints unless those complaints are fully justified.

The THIRD RULE is OFFER THE RIGHT DEAL. IF the deal you are offering seems too risky or too out of line with what the customer expects, no sale will be made, regardless of how charmed the customer was up to that point.

I can remember most vividly an experience in a dress shop in a small, semi-chic, upstate New York town when my wife was looking at a simple dress she liked (but noticed that it was badly sewn) and, because she was whim shopping, was prepared to pay sixty or eighty dollars ... but NOT the EIGHT HUNDRED dollars the sale clerk quoted. Sorry, folks. No sale!

I recently had a similar experience myself when trying to rent space in New York City for a perfumery workshop. After a pleasant chat with the rental agent, I was quoted a price ten times what I was expecting (and I knew the building and had lived in the neighborhood!) The quote was so ridiculous to me that I didn't bother trying to negotiate. I just walked away.

Think about your price points!

Pricing involves STRATEGY. Pricing involves your prospects ABILITY to pay and his or her WILLINGNESS to pay. There is no use pursuing a prospect that cannot afford your perfume. Instead, focus your attention on converting those who can afford your product. Woo them into becoming willing buyers.

One way to hit the right price point is to SIZE your product to fit. In other words, if you need to get $300 on ounce for your fragrance but know that the customer expects to pay about $100, offer your fragrance in 1/3 ounce (10 ml) bottles at $100 for 1/3 ounce.

And remember too, in selling a luxury product -- with yourself as the ONLY SOURCE (since it is your own perfume being sold only on your own website) -- a TOO LOW price can turn off sales as quickly as a "too high" price. You are not a discounter and your customers is looking for quality and originality, not "cheap."

Now let's look at how you get over the sales resistance barrier. Assume that you have brought prospects to your website (which, in itself, is difficult to do!) and assume (miracle!) that they have a real interest in the perfume that you are offering ... what do you do to make the sale?

Drawing on thirty years of experience in the mail order business, let me tell you. There is no mystery to this. The technique has been used for generations. It's the TWO STEP CLOSE -- LEAD and CONVERSION. It is simple and profitable. It can sell VERY EXPENSIVE items. Here's how it works.

BAIT THE HOOK -- In mail order, small, affordable ads can be used to get leads. Then, when you have the prospects name and address, you can mail them a BIG sales brochure, VIDEO, or even send a salesman to make a house (or office) call. In selling perfume on the internet, your "bait" is a SAMPLE. Please note that this is the SAME bait used at perfume counters in big stores!

Strategies for distributing samples will differ. In 1921, Chanel gave samples of her "No.5" perfume to customers, as a gift, before it was available for sale. Her customers were, of course, spending thousands of dollars with her. She could afford this pleasant giveaway.

For website inquiries you don't know who you are dealing with. My thought would be to make even the samples a bit exclusive, by charging a (small) amount of money for them so that you don't waste your distribution on people with no intention (and not enough money!) to buy.

But HOW you choose to distribute samples is up to you.

I should add here that the samples you send out should NOT be the same size and packaging as your regular size perfumes. They should, however, be presented to the customer with at least a degree of elegance. Again, how you achieve this will be up to you.

CATCH THE FISH -- The sample is your bait. Your bait has to be powerful enough to make the sale. The customer must, first of all, BE PLEASED with the fragrance you've sent out as a sample. In fact, the customer must be pleased enough to WANT MORE!

IF you find yourself sending out too many samples and not getting enough sales, consider that your problem may be in the perfume itself -- OR, possibly, in its price. Perhaps people like the perfume but don't feel that it is worth what you are charging. In this case, you can adjust your price (even if it means losing money!) and see if you can begin to make more sales. (You can make a "special offer" to those who are taking the samples.)

If reducing the price does not step up your number of conversions, it is likely that the problem lies in your perfume itself. It is simply NOT winning the hearts of your customers. Your best solution here it to go back into the laboratory and develop a more appealing fragrance.

FOOTNOTE : Packaging Elegance -- A nice bottle and elegant packaging can be a great help in stimulating orders. Unfortunately, the small, independent perfumer or perfumery is likely to find itself quite limited in its ability to purchase elegant bottles and to design and manufacture elegant packaging to set the bottle off.

There are a number of tricks that can be used here but packaging is a whole other topic, one that requires a good deal of study and experimentation and, when possible, assistance from a talented and knowledgeable graphic designer.

Lacking a source of assistance in packaging and presentation, my advice is simply, "Do the best you can!"

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