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Lesson #2: Do It Yourself
In addition to creating her own products, Lauder also took a hands-on approach when it came to demonstrations and trying to make a sale. That, for Lauder, was often the most exciting part of the job and not only did she enjoy doing it, but she knew that the emotional connection she could establish with customers in person could be an extremely effective sales tool.
After finally convincing the manager of Saks Fifth Avenue to stock her products in the 1940s, Lauder showed up on the first day to open the counter herself. She took much time to set up each product, wanting to create each sales point as a “tiny, shining spa” that would appeal to women and convey a message of luxury and leisure. She selected the mirrors and lights and placed them in a way that would be warm and inviting to women, as opposed to intimidating, which makeup counters could often be. In effective branding, Lauder also made sure her signature blue colour was everywhere.
Each time Lauder landed a new account, she made it her personal duty to observe the store’s activities for at least one week, prior to her counter being launched. In one such case, Lauder recalls she “stood at the door of Saks Fifth Avenue for one whole week and watched women enter. Nine times out of ten, the first place their eyes would wander would be to the right. Not to the left. Not straight ahead.” This led Lauder to demand a space in the store directly to the right of the entrance, in order that her counter be the first to catch the customer’s attention.
Once her product was introduced at a store, Lauder would spend the first week working behind the counter herself. She would train the sales staff, arrange the merchandise, and generate interest among the store’s clientele. “I’d make up every woman who stopped to look,” she said. “I would show her that a three-minute makeup could change her life.”
Over the next decade, Lauder continued to take on much of the company’s responsibilities herself. She would frequently travel across the U.S. to talk to department store buyers, as well as to ensure that her counters were set up to her liking and that the sales staff was doing the best job possible and giving lots of free samples and makeovers. “I was unstoppable, so great was my faith in what I sold,” she said. It was her personal commitment to the business that drove its steady and rapid success.
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