Second Contracts

Monday, May 28, 2007 Monday, May 28, 2007

This always happens to me: I am visiting SL friends, and suddenly connections are made and I am off building something for someone. I don't mind doing this (especially if I get paid!) because it means more exposure for me – both others seeing what I do, and me seeing what others are doing. The more you understand your SL market, the better. I take every chance I get to learn what's going on.

Here's how it went down the first time: I am at a SL house party, and a very nice lady asks what I do in SL. I explain that I build particle effects. “Oh, can I see some????? Pull-eezzzz!!!!”

“OK.” I don't mind showing off – my effects are usually quite a lot of fun anyway. I showed off some of my fogs and poofers, but she got very excited when I demonstrated my hearts poofers.

“Wow!” she said, and “Hold on a minute,” just before disappearing.

Moments later I am summoned via TP to a dance club, where I am introduced to the owner, another very nice lady. She likes the effects and buys several on the spot, but goes on to explain that they need something to spice up the club's lounge area. We visit the lounge and I recommended a few changes and suggested that I could build a custom particle effect that might work.

A few days later I had created a unique effect for that club's lounge – and the owner bought it on the spot. Suddenly, I was a virtual contract worker!

And that's how it usually happens. Some builders may turn down such requests (or not even identify them as opportunities), but I believe I gain much by doing these custom builds:

  • Exposure to more potential customers. Who knows how many people will hear the story of how the lounge effect was built? Any additional sales that develop, even one, is more than you would have had otherwise
  • Experience. Contracts typically cause me to push my knowledge of LSL and building a bit further than I have previously gone. This makes you a better builder and enhances your future products automatically. Of course, you have to have a nose for this kind of thing: don't take on contract work that you just cannot achieve. A little bit difficult is A Good Thing
  • Customer service reputation. By helping my friend and being patient and listening carefully to the contract customer, they are likely to buy more items from me in the future (hopefully!) If not that, then they may again tell others of their customer experience. Besides, I like to be nice in general, and I can't do it any other way
  • Items that are custom built for one are often resellable to others. In other words, you just received a great idea for a new product! Use it!
  • Connections. Meeting people is always important, because not only do you gain social value, you also gain a potentially useful connection for future activities. Who knows when you might need to have a buddy who builds japanese furniture?
So, when ever I have the time and the ability, I do take on special contracts. It's just good business.

Land Shopping Strategy

Thursday, May 24, 2007 Thursday, May 24, 2007

Hmm, having decided I need an 8192 parcel, what should I pay for it? Market price, it turns out. I don't have any brainiac real estate strategy, but I do have some considerations:

  • I want to be on a new sim. My particle effects will be demonstrated at the new shop, so I want as much horsepower available as possible
  • I want to be on mainland. I do not want to be at the mercy of a potentially maniacal island owner. I have had too many friends get suddenly ejected - what happens to a business in that situation? (Recall my thoughts on moving and landmarks in the last post)
  • I want to have neighbors that are compatible. “Compatible?” Well, I am not precisely sure what that means – I think I don't want neighbors who have operations or perform role-playing that do not work beside me
  • I would like to have neighbors who might happen to be drawing people that could also be my customers. A busy club would be of interest, for example
  • I want the land to be flat, so that I can easily build a shop. Many parcels I've seen recently are hugely mountainous and could be difficult to use
Of course, parcels and their operations come and go, so no matter what area I select it really won't make much difference over the long term. Hopefully, I will score some land soon.

Land Strategy

Friday, May 18, 2007 Friday, May 18, 2007

Well, my 512sm parcel in Lanestris, while successful, must be replaced. I can wait no longer. The question is, what should I do next? Here's some options:

  • Buy the neighbor's 512 parcel and expand!
  • Sell my 512, and buy a 1024 somewhere else
  • Sell my 512 and buy a larger parcel, 2048/4096 or even 8192sm
  • Buy an entire mainland sim
  • Go crazy and buy my own Island!
Lots of options here, but which is the right one? My first consideration was cost: what could I afford? Upon looking at my revenue, it turns out that I probably could afford my own island! Would this be a good investment? Eventually, I conclude that it would not be a good investment, since most of my profit would be eaten up by tier payments and also I simply cannot use 15,000 prims. I don't need or have the time to carefully create 15,000 prims worth of stuff. Most of the island would be empty! Spending money on prim capacity – and not using it – would be silly.

What about a slightly larger parcel? The speed at which I outran my first 117 prims (2 months) suggests that I would also rapidly outrun 1024 or even 2048 prim quotas. Well, theoretically I could certainly use a 1024 or 2048 parcel, but I would simply be forced to move again in a few months. And I think moving is bad...

Why is moving bad? Because Linden Lab's landmarking system is static. Once a landmark is created, it doesn't react to changing conditions of the land. All the landmarks I have carefully included with my product packaging are suddenly obsolete. In other words, if I move, my customers will have a landmark to an old location and they might not find me. Sure, they can re-search for me, but why should I take that risk? If they do a search, they may find another supplier before me! My philosophy is to make buying from me as easy as possible, and thus having customers losing my location is just a bad thing. Therefore, I believe that while I have to relocate, I should move as infrequently as possible.

This means only one thing: buy as big a parcel as is reasonable and financially sound so that future moves are postponed as long as possible. I'm going to buy an 8192sm parcel.

Mall Time!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007 Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A customer came by my store the other day and convinced me to set up a secondary shop location in his mall. He says he gets lots of traffic (verified by Linden Lab stats) so it should be a good deal for me. Even better, he's giving me a few weeks at no charge so that I can see how it goes. How can I say no to a fellow Canadian?

So I've set up this new shop in Monowai, and it's basically a miniature replica of my main shop. I've put in a small selection of the most popular products, and built a single custom demonstrator unit to show them off. Also, the demonstrator automatically triggers a brief random demonstration every five minutes to attract passers-by.

But now a question comes to mind: should I purchase special advertising for the secondary shop? In the end, I decided that is NOT a good idea. Here's my reasoning:

  • Advertising is used by consumers in a very simple way: search -> results -> select one of them -> TP to shop location. There is no need to have more than one shop location if you can instantly TP to any location from a search hit. Why spread your advertising L$ budget over several ads when you can concentrate that money on one ad that would get higher search ranking?
  • On the other hand, the mall may have existing traffic, and if someone is already at the mall they may notice your shop and drop in for purchases. But again, this doesn't require me to advertise
My bottom line on mall advertising: if you already have an advertised main location outside of the mall don't bother advertising the mall location. Spend it on your main advertisement instead.

So, I now have a second shop in a second location and I am depending on existing mall traffic to drive results. Apparently there is a busy club nearby so I am hoping to grab some customers from that traffic. We'll see what happens.

One Hundred and Seventeen

Wednesday, May 9, 2007 Wednesday, May 09, 2007

One Hundred and Seventeen is no longer my favorite number. My measly 512sm parcel is now full – all 117 prims have been used by my products and very rudimentary shop structure.

I tried really hard to make this work by using these low-prim strategies:

  • No personal items (e.g. Mansion, Bowling alley, Battlestar Galactica replica, Rideable pet elephant, etc.) using up scarce prims are allowed on the property. If it doesn't contribute to the sales process, it isn't on the site!
  • Ultra-simplified building technique. Yes, this means no roof, using ramps instead of prim stairs, plain walls w/o prim-riddled adornments, etc.
  • Embedded gadgetry. Need a notecard giver? Or a visitor counter? Put the script in the floor or walls, not a separate object – and for god's sake don't ever use more than one prim for something like that!
  • Building work takes place in public sandboxes, not on the property

In spite of the “advanced” or “efficient” (or just plain cheap) techniques above, I am STILL running out of prims. Maybe I have too many products? Hah! I must figure out another way to expand my business.

Romance in the Atmosphere

Monday, May 7, 2007 Monday, May 07, 2007

I wrote earlier about addressing products towards specific genres, and now I believe I've found another one: Romance. Sure, we all hear about the incredible dramas taking place between people (and non-people – it's SL after all!) It turns out that these situations do require products. Romance in SL, like RL, requires not only time and a great personality, but also items that help establish the mood. Things such as shape, skin, hair, clothing, smell (well, not smell!) and particle effects!

I've created two items that seem to be quite popular with the Romantics: a hearts poofer that gently blows away in the wind, and a fogger that produces pink and white colored fog. I call it “ValentineFog”. These are obviously not for everyone, but some people are really turned on by them – well, rather they are affected by how the effects alter the mood of the situation.

It's kind of like art: it's not what it looks like, it's how it makes you feel. That's what is going on in SL: people are trying to achieve meaningful alternate situations. Particle effects, clothes, music and other factors can dramatically affect the situation's mood. There is clearly a market for these items.

Come and try them out via live demonstration at my shop in Caso Milo!

Maybe I am a Particle Artist, instead of a Particle Engineer?

Listening to Customers

Wednesday, May 2, 2007 Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A few weeks ago I wrote about how I discovered how to listen to customers. As I described before, I simply spend time in my shop and chat with prospective customers to find out their needs. It's most important to speak with customers who don't buy anything. You see, they want products You Don't Make. Actually, it's products You Don't Make Yet!

By now I can say that perhaps half of all my products were created as a result of requests from prospective customers! These are people who would otherwise have TP'd out of my shop without having purchased anything. Even better, the products that tend to sell the most are usually those that were originally special requests. This makes sense – somebody wanted it, and therefore it is likely others may want it as well.

Listening is most definitely a successful strategy.

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