Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Some truths about selling your perfume in retail stores

What do you really know about getting stores to take your perfume?

I wrote a little book a few weeks ago called A Method For Getting Boutique and Variety Store Owners To Take Your Perfume. What I wrote wasn't just a few random thoughts. This book was inspired by some very recent encounters with store owners. Let me elaborate.

Every time (or almost ever time) I come across a "make money selling your perfume" pitch, the writers (most of whom have never made or sold perfume!) suggest that you can make money by having your perfume in retail stores. After all, isn't that the way most perfume is sold? Actually it's a bit more complicated.

The distribution and sales of "brand name" fragrances is a far more complex business than first meets the eye. But a "general rule" would be that the "big names" are sold only though "big retailers." you won't find the really famous brands in small, independent stores or in small, local chains. The "big names" won't sell to them.

So it might seem that this creates an opportunity for you. But it's not so simple. Big retailers DISTRIBUTE name brand fragrances more than they "sell" them. The perfume sales that they make require the buyer to come into the store LOOKING for perfume. If their perfume sales had to depend on impulse buyers, perfume sales would take a big hit. In fact, perfume sales in retail stores are driven by multimillion dollar advertising campaigns paid for by the brand owners -- NOT the retail stores. (And often these campaigns themselves fail to sell the brand, although this is rarely admitted!)

So the first reality you -- with your own perfume -- have to face is that while seeing your perfume in a store might give you a great ego boost, it isn't any guarantee that you'll make money. The cold reality is that without promotion on your part, merely getting a store to display your perfume can easily result in zero sales. This becomes a big hit to your ego.

Now in this little book I just wrote, A Method For Getting Boutique and Variety Store Owners To Take Your Perfume -- which was inspired by recent and wonderfully vivid experience (that involved a perfume that was NOT one of my own!) -- is not about getting store owners to "take" your perfume so much as it is about how to work with store owners so that they become receptive to taking on your perfume with the honest intent of helping you sell it. And that's what you want.

The simple fact is that retail stores exist to make money. The kindest, nicest, friendliest, kindest to the environment, store owner still has his or her rent to pay, salaries and related benefits to pay, plus all sorts of administrative expenses. Quite likely this person is putting in long hours trying to "make it" with their store, which could be their entire livelihood.

The store owner might be kind enough to let you display your perfume for a few weeks (on consignment, meaning if it doesn't sell, you don't get any money) but unless the store owner is enthusiastic -- not about your perfume so much but about the money it can make for them -- you won't make money simply by having a few stores "take" your perfume.

Where you make your breakthrough is in developing a mutually profitable relationship with store owners. You do this by understanding their needs and what it takes to make sales in their particular stores. With this understanding you are better able to talk shop with store owners and develop a program that will make your perfume attractive enough to the store's customers that they will buy it.

It's not easy, but it's not impossible ... and it is essential if you are counting on selling your perfumes in stores. That new book again, A Method For Getting Boutique and Variety Store Owners To Take Your Perfume. If stores are your target, this book will help. (And don't blow off small stores when you're new at the game. They are your stepping stones to larger stores, and larger sales!)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

It's all about the lists

Lists. The engine behind almost all promotions. Today email lists are in the spotlight thanks to hackers having broken into a major emailing facility and walked off with millions of email addresses. But street address lists are still a vital part of our economy. Ask any politician or charity -- or catalog marketer.

In the earliest years of the 20th century, before newspapers had become a cost effective mass advertising tool, fortunes were made by those who possessed the postal addresses of millions of American and Canadian heads of households.

Today, once again, I am thinking of lists -- A list -- one I don't yet have. I'm thinking of compiling a list of small, owner-operated, jewelery and gift boutiques that might be good prospects for a particular perfume. Let me explain.

Yesterday I received a bottle of a perfume I had ordered that is being marketed by a small company that caught my eye a few months ago when I was working on our Perfume Maker's Club newsletter. I don't want to mention its name here and I am not connected with the company but I will say that this perfume had a strong concept behind it. This is almost unheard of in fragrance marketing today. And the concept was reflected in the packaging. Visually it made a very strong impression with a clear message.

I knew the owner of a local jewelry shop that I thought might be a good fit for this perfume even though the shop has never sold perfume. I showed it to her and not only did the packaging get a very positive response, the perfume itself was judged to be excellent. When I explained that a small company was behind this perfume and a large order would not be necessary to get it for her shop, there was an immediate interest. Contacts were exchanged.

Anyone who has ever sold anything knows that an immediate positive response on the part of a prospect is solid gold. Then, if the "deal" is right -- the pricing, quantities, and terms offered are acceptable -- sales are quickly made.

This, however, is incredibly rare. Very, very few products "sell themselves." Especially perfumes.

So when you have a potentially hot product -- such as this perfume -- you want to pounce on it. This is where THE LIST comes in -- THE LIST is the difference between middling sales and grand profit.

I'm, not sure how involved I'd want to be with these people and this perfume. My own projects tend to keep me pretty busy. But, from my own experiences in marketing and with lists, I find myself "thinking out" what I would do to market this perfume and my first step would be to develop a list of small, successful, owner-operated boutiques specializing in jewelry or fashion, shops similar to the one I already visited.

And I already have a second shop in mind. That will make TWO shops for my list.

But to make this work I would need first, dozens, and then, hundreds of "doors" (as they are called in the retail trade) on my list. And each of them has to be hand picked as being "right" for this perfume. To do this I'd have to reach out to people in other parts of the country that might know of appropriate shops in their areas.

And commission structures up and down the line would have to be worked out.

If you've dabbled in marketing at all, what you're beginning to see is something akin to "multi-level marketing" or "affiliate marketing" but this is not all that different from the corporate marketing techniques of big companies such as Procter & Gamble and IBM -- dividing markets into regions and then sending out salespeople into territories.

But it all comes down to THE LIST -- knowing which doors to knock on so that a reasonably high percentage of sales calls will result in orders.

Now as I doodle with these thoughts, I'm not thinking of imagining first a national sales organization and then working my way down to small salesperson territories. No. I'm thinking of STARTING with a small territory -- shops within pleasant driving distance of my home, shops my wife would like to visit regardless -- and seeing how many I can uncover within, say 50 miles of my home.

Now about this list. What about competition between stores and exclusivity?Not a problem unless ... unless one of the stores wants to advertise this perfume, to put its own money behind promotion. Then I would consider giving it an "exclusive" within a specified territory.

But I think, for the most part, each store has its own customers. And, should this perfume be seen by someone in more than one store, that goes to boost the perfume's credibility and make more sales for both shops.

As for my mental marketing plan, besides the two shops already on my list, I have two contacts elsewhere in the USA who might be interested in showing this perfume around.

My list is going to grow.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A new perfume, (another) new blog

I'm working on an (almost) new perfume. It's a variation on a perfume I did slightly over a year ago on the theme of Patchwood, a new aroma chemical. (Yes, "chemical," ugh! But the whole world is chemical and that includes you. Sorry about that.)

Anyway, I'd been working to smooth out some bumps in the formula when I read about a new social networking blogging site that, according to some, has really hit it with the ultra trendy.

So naturally (or not so naturally) I opened an account and, for starters, decided to post some comments on the steps I'm going through to develop this new Patchwood perfume. You can read all about it and follow the story there.

While I've done a good deal of writing in my life and while My writings have been financially rewarding, I'm not much at this "keep up the heat" kind of social network interaction that has become so popular for marketing, but neither have I ignored it. I now understand that today life isn't complete unless you have an iPhone, Blackberry or equivalent. (I'm now carrying the Blackberry in my left pocket and the iPhone in my right. I like each of them for different reasons. One doesn't seem to replace the other.

But this isn't about devices. It's about how we communicate today. I've had a Facebook page for ages but, until I started using the Facebook iPhone app I never paid much attention to it and rarely returned the individual messages I received.

Now, thanks to the iPhone -- which I still look at as something of a toy -- I can sit watching TV and, during the commercials, check Facebook feeds, email, etc -- kind of like playing a video game. It's the most fun since PAC-Man.

But it's more than fun. Through Facebook I've connected with people I have known in the past but who I haven't seen for years. And now, living away from the big city, through these media I can still, easily, keep in touch with the wider world. It's the internet at a far faster pace.

And, as you've probably discovered by now, it's being used by companies, large and small, to sell things, like perfume.

The social networking sites, unlike the traditional website, have greater marketing power because they create communities, communities interlinked by common interest.

When I first started to use the internet to sell, a friend introduced me to the concept of having one or more forums on your website. They were interactive and dynamic in drawing appropriate visitors and, for a time, they were great for improving your standing with search engines and, ultimately, for making sales.

But forums became difficult, and then almost impossible to maintain. Flamers, spammers, advertisers, hackers all sought to disrupt your forum and take it over for their own playground. So one by one, forums that had sincere purpose and nice followings disappeared. But the urge to interact did not.

Blogs offered some of the virtues of forums without the pain since the software was given to you (you didn't have to set it up yourself, on your own website) and comments could be moderated -- they didn't get posted until the owner approved. The old spammers continued to try to post crap -- crap disguised as legitimate interactions -- but this was pretty easy to weed out (although I have let some slip by me.)

But again, blogging is a slow and time consuming way to build a community. Those who do it successfully -- Victoria Frolova -- for example -- put out a steady stream of thoughtful writings.

But if your head is into some new perfume you're developing, there isn't much room in it for thoughtful writing, much less a steady stream of thoughtful writings.

So we get Twitter. 140 characters that -- in most cases -- say nothing. Or, say "this is what I had for breakfast today." Who cares?

But Twitter plus Blogs start to add up. Twitter is a quick way to TELL people what you've done. Then they're directed to your blog.

Facebook, for me, has been a slow eye opener. The tools to build your own community are intense. When I look at "friends" suggestions I find myself reading a virtual who's who of the perfume business today -- the smaller, independent perfumers -- both the creators and the bloggers -- and discover many I know by name and some I know from personal encounters. And then, with Facebook, you're introduced to the "friends of friends" who you might want to make friends of your own.

And now there's Tumblr, yet another social networking site no doubt headed for success. At least I'm giving it a try.

All of this comes down to something rather simple. It's the reason companies like Coty, Parlux, and Elizabeth Arden sponsor so many celebrity perfumes. To sell, you have to have a fan base. Wal-Mart has its fans. Lady Gaga has hers. If you don't happen to own Wal-Mart and if you don't have a following like Lady Gaga, you're still free to DEVELOP your own following using social media. Developing a following is the first step toward being able to successfully market your perfume.

Don't kid yourself. Your perfume may be great but the world isn't going to beat a path to your door UNLESS you've gone out there and gathered up fans.

How do you do it? Nobody can tell you. But, if you have enough creativity in you to create perfume, perhaps you also have enough creativity in you to find ways to develop a following.

The great thing about all this internet social networking stuff is that, for now, it's all free.

The "cost" is the time and energy you put into developing effective ways to use it.

Good luck!