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!