Friday, February 14, 2020

When it makes sense to invest in a perfume

    The thought of marketing your own perfume and making a pot of money from your efforts is tantalizing. But when should you do it? Or should I say, "attempt it"? There are times when it makes no sense at all and times when "you'd be a fool not to do it." Here are some guidelines that can help you spot opportunities and avoid costly fiascos.   


Four Essentials


    Before you invest money in a perfume you need to have four areas nailed down. They must be secure rather than "probably okay." They are (1) The market, (2) Distribution, (3) Promotion, and (4) The knowledge of how to have your perfume produced for you at the lowest reasonable cost. Let's look at each of these considerations.

    The Market

    It makes no sense to develop a perfume unless you have people to sell it to. Here you have to think about numbers. How many people are there in your market that are candidates for your new perfume? Really what you are looking for is a specific opportunity, a gathering of people that, for certain specific reasons, are likely candidates to become customers for your perfume.
    The reasons cannot be general. You cannot proceed thinking "women always love a new perfume", or "men are attracted to a new cologne." You can't proceed thinking "everybody will love my perfume if I put a clever spin on the marketing." When I had my great success with "P" cologne it was because I had a captive market of older men, most of whom had never bought a fragrance in their lives, but who would try almost anything my company offered them once we had made an appealing pitch to them. You have to find a very specific opportunity for your perfume where the odds that the right number of people will buy from you is in your favor, before you launch your project.
    Looking at "numbers" and your specific market you must estimate the size of your market and then scale your project to that size. If your real market is only a few thousand people (often the case!) you have to scale your project -- your production and marketing expenses -- to insure that you'll be able to make a profit (an outstanding profit!) developing your perfume for that market.
    The first step in determining whether it makes sense to invest in a perfume is to identify this opportunity, a market that, for specific reasons, will be receptive to your perfume.


    How are people going to go about buying your perfume? How will you set up your distribution? "Internet" is the easy answer (which is really a highly complex approach) but I've had entrepreneurial hopefuls also cite "Macy’s" and "Walmart." Why not QVC and Duty Free Shops? None of these are the answer unless you have carefully prepared the way. Bint El Sudan (from Bush Boak Allen) -- a huge marketing success in Africa of the 1930's, '40's, and '50's -- bypassed the established trading houses and was distributed through mammy traders, women who sold goods in village market places. The fame of Bint El Sudan spread through the social media of the day -- word of mouth.
    "Internet" itself is not a distribution system. There are many online possibilities, your own website, affiliate marketing, etsy, eBay and more. But the challenge is in getting people to come to these various sites to make their purchase. The advantage of "internet" is that there are no barriers to setting it up. From your home office you can go out and do it.
    Retail stores have the similar drawback of being useless unless you can drive motivated traffic to them. The larger chains, the Macy's and Walmarts of this world, will have no interest in working with you (unless you are heavily funded and have brought on board some key industry veterans who can open doors for you.)
    Smaller retail stores, particularly local retail stores, can be more receptive to displaying your fragrance but establishing a relationship with these stores and servicing each "account" requires that you really think in terms of developing a distribution network that can be used for more than a single perfume. No one store will sell enough of your fragrance to make it profitable.


    Regardless of what your distribution may be, you can not expect to make sales unless you have developed a promotion that will motivate people to want to try your perfume to the extent that they will interact with your distribution system to buy your perfume.
    For example, if you are selling from a website (the easiest distribution to set up), what are you going to do to round up motivated prospects and drive them to that website? A website can only take sales (like a retail store). For the most part if will not executed the step of making people want to try your perfume. This is something you have to do and, until you can work up a plan for a promotional program that will make enough converts to make your perfume profitable, investing in your own perfume will be folly.
    How do you make these converts? How do you inspire people to seek out your perfume and give it a try? This is one of the great mysteries of marketing for which there is no stock solution. But it can be said that following a "business school" formula will probably not do the job for you. For you, a really powerful hook will be essential, otherwise hang on to your money for now.

    The knowledge of how to have your perfume produced at the lowest reasonable cost

    "Buy low, sell high" -- the rule of marketing success. If you buy at the wrong price, that is, if you pay too much to have your perfume made for you, profitable sales become impossible. The people who make money will perfume are the people who have studied all the costs that go into producing a bottle of perfume and how each can be minimized or controlled without degrading the quality of the finished product. This is true whether you are producing your fragrance yourself, in your garage or barn, or whether you are working with a consultant or through a fulfillment house ("assembly house" or "contract packager").
    You really have to look at all your costs before you get started. My own concern is usually with the cost to produce the fragrance. Have I fought for realistically low prices from each vendor? Have I cut every corner that can be cut without cheapening the product or compromising quality? You want to avoid middlemen as much as possible, particularly those who offer you a "package deal" if you'll follow some formula they've worked out to make their profit from entrepreneurial hopefuls who are ignorant of a manufacturer's cost for services and materials.
    Likewise with both promotion and distribution. Is someone ready to sell you an advertising program? Media is always looking for advertisers but is it media that can do something for you? Media salespeople have their statistics but none will really apply to your perfume. You have to think this through quite clearly. Where are your best prospects? How can you reach them? What will it cost?
    It is easy but not so effective to simply buy an ad and hope for the best. (I recall with embarrassment spending $10,000 for a page in a major fashion magazine -- without first testing -- and not making one sale -- thus this warning.
    If you have to convert people to your cause and see social media as a way to do it, you've got to consider the time and attention you will have to devote to the project before you might be in a position to launch your perfume. "Time is money" as they say and this truism tends to be forgotten when "free" social media are available.



    Here then are the basic elements that must come together before it makes sense to invest in a perfume. But look, they can and do come together for those with open eyes and, when they do, the results can be quite profitable.

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