Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Matching your project size to your market size

    You don't have to sell a lot of a perfume to make money. You don't have to sell a lot of a perfume to develop a profitable business, one that in time might feed your family. What you do have to do it to sell your perfume profitably. This means matching the money you spend for development and marketing to the size of your market and the potential sales you can reasonably expect.

    This article was inspired in part by a book I just finished by Seymour Stein, founder of the Sire record label which was acquired by Warner but kept alive for many years with Stein at its head. The "Sire" lesson was that you could make good money signing artists that would never be superstars. How? By judging the artist's potential popularity and then investing just enough in that artist to let them fulfill their potential within their niche. Yes, Stein signed Madonna, the Ramones, K.D. Lang, and the Talking Heads. But he also made money on Echo and the Bunnymen, Flamin' Groovies, Killing Floor, the Climax Blues Band, and many, many (obscure) others. 

    So how does this relate to perfume? Your perfume? The lesson is simply that, as a marketer of perfume, everything depends on your ability to spot viable markets -- audiences -- for your perfume, judge with reasonable accuracy how much perfume you will be able to sell to each of these markets, and then produce just the amount of perfume each market is likely to require.

    It's not uncommon for someone who is new at perfume, even someone with a marketing background who should know better, to feel that if they are going to launch a perfume they must produce a certain minimum number of bottles because "that" quantity makes "economic sense," that is, "that" quantity produces a low cost per bottle and thus, runs the wisdom, you are buying cheap so you can make a greater profit on every bottle sold. Production is guided by cost, not market size.

    What is overlooked is the production cost of bottles that go unsold. How many would-be perfume entrepreneurs have produced 10,000 bottles of a new fragrance and then found buyers for less than 2,000? Each bottle you pay to produce but fail to sell reduces your profit by the cost of that unsold bottle. (Here's a link to the math of an example.)

    The real disasters come when lots of bottles go unsold. The best profits come when few or none of the bottles you produced go unsold.

    What makes this "matching the market" strategy work for the long run is your very necessary unending search (and perhaps seat of the pants analysis) for markets. This is what marketers do. They find and exploit markets. If you seriously want to develop a business selling perfume rather than just having a colorful and expensive frolic, forget about moon shots. Go for a steady drumbeat of undramatic but profitable promotions.

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