Home Contact List

Tips on test marketing your perfume

There are lots of reasons why perfume creators and perfume marketing entrepreneurs do not test market their new perfumes. All of these reasons are bad. Let me list a few and see if any apply to you.


Test marketing is very important. It will cost you some money but it could save you a lot of money — and embarrassment.

A reality check that comes too late.

Develop your perfume, name it, launch it and see what happens. If you've put all your eggs in one basket the results you get and the lessons you can derive from your results may be coming too late to do you any good.

I say this because I've heard from too many perfume entrepreneurs who put all of their eggs in one basket, launched their fragrance and then found the results were not up to what they had hoped.

This is not to say all of these promotions were failures. Some showed nice signs of life in certain areas. But, since these promotions had been blasted out in full rollouts, limited only by the marketer's available capital, no money was left to regroup, eliminate the weak spots, and build on strengths that had been discovered.

Learn to test!

Testing is something you do before you commit all of your money to a new perfume. Testing is something you should build into your marketing plan. This means right from the beginning you set aside money for testing.

To set up your test you'll need perfume and you'll need a test market that is a typical but small segment of your total market. Here are some tips to get you thinking in the right direction.

Select your test market with care

Even if you decide not to test at all, this is a good exercise. To select an appropriate test market you must first be able to define your total market. If your criteria for our total market are too vague, you will have trouble defining an appropriate test market and this is a warning bell that you have not properly targeted any market.

To be appropriate your test market must be made up of typical buyers, the same people you are marketing to overall. The idea is that you want the sales data you gather to be projectable to your total market. If sales in the test market are skewed because the people in your test market were not typical representatives of your total market, your projections for your total market will fail and your promotion could produce results opposite to what you expected.

It is essential that your test market — that small segment of your total market -- be typical of your total market.

Test with a dummy perfume

The most important question you must ask when developing a perfume promotion is not whether the perfume will succeed but whether the promotion will succeed. For a perfume entrepreneur with a limited budget this is the essential question. What you need to find out, before you invest significant money, is whether you have a viable promotion to sell your perfume.

If your marketing method works, you can sell lots of perfume profitably. If your marketing method does not work, you will sell very little of your perfume. Quite possibly you will sell none at all.

So the real question you want answered before you develop your fancy fragrance is whether or not you have the ability -- with your current resources — to sell perfume. If you have identified a test market where you can afford to test, a market that is typical of the larger market you hope to address, it doesn't matter what perfume you are offering. What matters is that you have a perfume to offer. That perfume can be a cheap dummy.

Look at the numbers for producing perfume in the conventional manner. You will select a bottle that is unique. You will be faced with a minimum order requirement. The more elegant the bottle, the larger the minimum order is likely to be. If your bottles are a custom design, your minimum order will be large.

Packaging and nicely designed labels will also require minimum orders. The nicer they are, the larger the minimum is likely to be. Certain technologies will require runs of at least 10,000 and possibly 100,000 bottles.

Then there's the fragrance itself. Here you're looking at another significant number which will depend in part on where the work is done and the demands you make on the perfumer.

All this is fine if you have the money and if you have confidence that your promotion will succeed. But there's no way you can have statistical confidence that it will succeed without first running a marketing test.

For the well-heeled start up, a dummy may not be needed. It could be enough to purchase all your minimum quantities but then fill only a small number of bottles. This is ideal and will give you the most accurate test results. But it is also expensive and, should the test fail, you'll find yourself trying to unload all those unused components, at a fraction of what you paid for them.

A better way — the dummy perfume

With a budget of well under $1,000 you can put together a small number of bottles of a perfectly nice perfume, give it a good name (but not the name you really want to use), and use it for your test.

So what will your test tell you? Clearly nothing about the perfume you want to sell but almost everything about the method -- the marketing program — you planned to use to sell it.

With the data from this test, you will be able to judge whether you are ready to sell perfume successfully or whether you need to refine your marketing method.

Set aside part of your budget for a test

The smart approach to marketing a new perfume is to dedicate part of your budget to testing. Testing should not be an afterthought. Testing should be an integral part of your total marketing plan.

If in doubt about the validity of your test results, refine your data capture system, refine your market definition, and retest. To go ahead — or to quit — without solid data can be a marketing disaster or a missed opportunity.

Good test data will tell you in what direction to go.

Regardless of your situation, you can find a way to market test before you shoot for the moon.

Our books for perfume developers and marketers are available at Amazon:

For article updates, etc., add your name to Phil's mailing list.

Philip Goutell's Signature
Photo of Phil Goutell

Philip Goutell
Lightyears, Inc.