Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Many Styles of Perfume Web Selling

The other day I was cleaning up some links on the "members only" pages of our Perfume Maker's Club. Going through the "Small Companies That Sell Their Own Perfume" links -- clicking on each to see if the companies still existed -- I was struck by the wide variety of styles of these websites, all of which sold perfume.

Let me say here as an "aside," you can make this study for yourself without being a member of the Perfume Maker's Club simply by doing a bunch of your own Google searches.

Dead links themselves fascinate me as they aren't all dead for the same reason. Some links die because the companies (or people) simply pack it in and go out of business. Either perfume was not so profitable for them or they moved on to other ventures that were more to their liking, or more profitable.

Then there are dead links from companies that have changed their website name (Bond No. 9 for example) and moved without leaving a redirector at the older website. (Maybe they did for a while, until they were sure everybody knew their new web address -- or perhaps they just felt those who were interested would find them through Google.)

A third set of dead links arose when companies and individuals perfumers changed their company name or business affiliation and thus their web addresses. These people were still making and selling perfume, their commitment unchanged but perhaps in a new business arrangement.

You may ask, what is the great interest in all of this? For me, since it has been about five years since I first put up this web page, I'm fascinated by those who have survived and those who have not. Remember, it can cost well under $100 a year to maintain a website so, for those who are gone, times must have gotten pretty tough; or perhaps their interest simply faded.

Among those who have continued in business I have noted some changes, some "upgrades" to websites that made them more graphically appealing. Yet among the group, at least one survivor had an absolutely crude, unaesthetic web site. And it is still offering to take orders. Of course the wonder of the internet is that a very small company can have a very beautiful, professional website which gives off the aura of major company size and success. But let's go on about these small perfume marketers.

Excluding the grotesquely inartistic, the web styles I found ranged from "friendly" to "ultra sophisticated." In the middle of this are websites that I would describe as simply "businesslike," websites that exist to take orders but don't make much effort to charm.

Now for the purpose of all this discussion: If you (or I) are thinking about setting up a new website to sell perfume we've made (or perfume someone else is making for us) it is important to match the tone of the website -- the text, the graphics, and the MECHANICS -- to our perfume ... and to the "reality" of our prospective customers.

Are they sophisticates? Then our presentation should be sophisticated. Are they down to earth fragrance lovers? Then our website should be down to earth. Do they already know exactly what they have come to buy? Then let's make it easy for them to complete their purchase.

Developing a website is, essentially, is a marketing exercise. It exists to connect our product to our market. To do this we must gain credibility with the type of people who are most likely to buy our perfume. We must ask, "What do they expect to see when they come to our website?" And then we must create a website that fulfill those expectations.

It is worth remembering too that if we try to create a website for "everyone" we only manage to create a website for no one. We need to take a position; to identify our most likely prospect; to craft our website to that individual -- not to "everyone."

At the beginning this is difficult since often we don't have a clear picture of who are best prospect will be. If we also have a retail business, a bed & breakfast, a "museum" (Fragonard) or some such, we can match our web design to our shop design. We are in the enviable position of having face-to-face dealing with our customers. Lacking this advantage, we sometimes must simply take a position and say, "this is what I am going to be ... these are the people to whom I will sell my perfume" and then design the website around this fantasy and hope that it works.

Your website is your opportunity to create your own fantasy world or to extend the ambiance of your retail shop, B&B, or museum. But by studying what others have done and are doing, you get ideas that help stimulate your own creativity and lead to greater success in selling your own perfume.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Hooking up with someone bigger than you

I was reading about this fellow in Thailand, a pharmacist who had a new toothpaste. He was making good sales. How? By hooking up with a popular political party, associating his toothpaste with that party, and then selling his toothpaste through the party as a fundraiser for the party.

For him, toothpaste sales were good, so good that he was already looking for a second product to add to his line.

The concept can as easily be applied to perfume if you have a credible perfume that really pleases.

There's no getting around the fact that developing a perfume that pleases a large number of people is not an easy thing to do. But think how hard it is to develop a new toothpaste, a toothpaste that can go up against the giants in the field.

Moreover, if you are a small operation, you don't have to look for a giant opportunity -- just an opportunity, someone to hook up with, that will help you get exposure and profits for your perfume beyond what you could otherwise achieve.

If you are a developer of perfume, and you find yourself with one or more perfumes that people really like, and the number of people who like them is beyond your ability to market, give some thought to marketing through another organization. It might just give you the breakthrough you are looking for.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Can You Sell Your Own Perfume, Soap, Candles, Oils, etc., etc. On The Internet?

I've been approached with two marketing problems in the last week, both of which I would LIKE to address with solutions ... if I had any, but I'm not sure I do.

In one case we were talking about shooting a video at our 2010 Perfumery Workshop -- but shooting (and editing!) a professional quality video costs money, so how is that money recouped? How is that video marketed in such a way that it makes money? And in competition with all of the free offerings on YouTube? It would take some serious thinking, researching, planning and testing, all of which would take considerable TIME ... and, as you've heard so many times, "time is money."

In short, the first question that has to be asked is whether the TIME it (and the outlay of at least some petty cash) would be worth the potential financial reward that the project might bring.

In this particular case, I can't yet "smell" enough money down the road to make the project feasible in spite of the low (almost zero) cost of using the internet as a marketing tool.

The second project that was discussed involved selling quality -- unusual -- natural aroma materials online. Now here we already have a lot of people doing it and certainly the internet -- a website -- is an excellent marketing and retailing tool for this sort of business. The questions are (1) how would I drive appropriate traffic to the website? and (2) how would I establish credibility for the products so that, in a competitive market, they stand out and are preferred over those of other vendors?

These are pretty standard internet issues and they can with effort, I believe, be addressed successfully. The first issue -- appropriate traffic on the website -- depends largely on the overall CONTENT of the website, content that is directly related to the products being sold and which goes beyond the stories being told by competitors.

This means digging deeper when researching the products you sell, digging deeper when researching your competitors products, and then being able to articulate your findings in a story using mostly words and, as appropriate, photos, illustrations, diagrams, videos, etc. And TESTIMONIALS from customers that also tell an appropriate story on behalf of your business.

If you've done your research, if you've amassed a ton of reports on the industry, your products, your competitor's products -- you ARE in a position to establish yourself as an EXPERT in the field, which gives you credibility when recommending your own products.

So you set all this in place, on a nice website with lots and lots of pages with real, relevant information about your products, their origin, their use, and perhaps ways to use them that your competitors have not yet discovered.

Then you get busy with the social networking -- make "friends" -- communicate regularly -- develop a following -- and, in time, you begin to make sales.

For those products that are "internet friendly," -- products that people LOOK FOR on the internet -- the internet is a great way to make sales. But it takes TIME ... lots of time, to put it together ... and it takes lots of creative energy.

The good news is that it does NOT take much money. Less than $100 a year if you're doing it all yourself. That's pretty darn affordable.