It’s hard to believe that this blog celebrated its third anniversary this month. Somehow those milestones are starting to just slip by without my noticing. The blog is starting on its fourth year now, and I’m finally coming to grips with the fact that it’s OK if I don’t post something every day, as long as I do it fairly regularly, when I have something to say, the time to say it, and the mental discipline to sit down and actually do it. At this point there’s a certain amount of mild momentum going on, it’s all working reasonably well, and I plan to just keep on doing what I’m doing blog-wise over the coming year.
Olympic Orchids Artisan Perfumes will be three years old in July, and that’s where the changes will happen. It seems like I just started with the perfume-making process and am still in the infant stages of learning about production, packaging, marketing and everything having to do with the business end of things. I keep experimenting, finding that what works at one stage becomes maladaptive at the next stage, and I need to rethink processes, products, and presentations. Here are a few of the changes that I’ve made, or plan on making.
Formulating fragrances is the easy part of the process. As a perfumer who does everything myself, the hardest task is making samples. It’s tedious work labeling and filling all those tiny vials, but it has to be done. I keep changing the way I label and package the smallest, 1-ml samples, trying to find the best way to present them. I finally broke down and bought a label maker that spits out the stick-on labels that go on the vials. That’s great, but what I found was that when the vials were packaged next to each other in my storage bins or in a plastic bag, the tiny bit of exposed adhesive on the edge of one label would sometimes stick to the adhesive on the label of its neighbor, causing the labels to try to pull each other off the vials. No one complained about this, but I’m sure it must have happened to customers, not just to me.
The solution I’ve come up with, at least for the immediate future, is to put each sample in a tiny labeled baggie of its own, so the sample is double-labeled, once on the vial and once on its baggie. One of my pet gripes is with unlabeled sample vials that are on a card or other container, so that once taken out of their wrapping there’s no way of knowing what they are. Another gripe is with samples that are labeled with the name of the fragrance, but not the brand, or the brand but not the fragrance. I put both on each vial and each baggie.
With 28 different fragrances in production (how did that happen?) it’s no longer practical to send out sample packs of everything. For the 1 ml vials, customers can now order individual single samples, 5-sample packs, or 10-sample packs. I’m still selling the 16-sample deluxe variety pack of 2-ml screw-top bottles (photo on left), but will probably discontinue it once I use up my current supply of little bottles.
Because many people prefer larger spray samples I’ve added several boxed discovery sets containing 5 or 6 samples in 3-ml glass spray bottles, each with its own theme (Just Orchids, Scents of Place, etc), and these have been very popular. I just put together a special Father’s Day discovery set containing the 6 most popular fragrances with a “masculine” tendency.
One thing that struck me at the Seattle Artisan Fragrance Salon earlier this month was the number of people who wanted to mix and match samples from several of the pre-made discovery packs. To accommodate this desire, I’m going to add a “build your own” discovery pack of 6 spray samples.
As the queen of sample hoarders (I have a library of over two thousand!), I’m very much aware of the need to have a good sampling program. I try to keep costs down, more or less covering materials and my own less than minimum wage work producing them, thinking of them as sort of a hybrid between advertising and a commodity for people to purchase and enjoy. Shipping of samples is free within the US, and a nominal amount internationally, and will stay that way unless postage rates go up dramatically. All orders for full bottles include a pack of free samples.
I thought I would cover everything in this post, but just talking about samples is filling up what seems like all the available space in a single post. If any of you have suggestions, please leave a comment. What kind of samples do you like? How do you like them packaged? What else can you tell me that would improve my sampling program? The spray sample discovery sets were in response to a customer’s comments, so this sort of feedback is important.
If you leave a substantive comment, you will be entered in a random drawing for a Perfumer’s Perfumes Discovery Set.
[Both third birthday cake images from Wikimedia]