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.