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April Looming

Tips for operating a profitable business in SL

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Rya Nitely wrote:

 

If your items are very good then people will find you. This is only achieved through lots of hard work and concentrating your time on your creative skills. Keep your head down and work, list your items on MP and have an inworld store - one day you will look up and get a nice surprise as the sales automatically start rolling in. 

The most powerful marketing in SL is word of mouth.

This.

But also: The products I made in 2007 are still there. I still can sell them today. The marketing time I invested in 2007 does nothing for me anymore today.

In other words: marktening is something that must be done over and over and over again to gain effect of it. While creating a good quality product needs your time investment only once.

And also: The more products you have, to more chance you will sell something. You increase the quantiy of your products faster by spending your time on making them, then by spending your time on promoting.

 

 

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Abount marketing:

Word of mouth is the best, but you have to reach at least one person in order to start that "word of mouth" chain reaction.  

To reach people, you have to be visible.  You have to be easily found in search.  When people see your creations in SL and inspect them for creator, your profile should point to your store.  When you create new things, you can blog them (free) and have them show up on the feeds you're syndicated to (free).  If you have lots of contacts on Flikr (free), you can post to Flikr and people will see your teaser there (be careful not to make it look like an AD, because Flikr might delete it...

I believe in free advertizing to start that "word of mouth" chain reaction.  Hunts are usually free to join, so those work too.

Events that charge commission (like Charity events) will be profitable and get your name out too.

 

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Customer support and willing to listen

Had an angry resident once as he blamed technical issues on the sim while it was something with his connection to a specific part of the LL farm
As he decided to leave, i kept bugging him to let me help to fix it, even while he was packing up and abandoning his land.

5 more minutes nagging that i would even go grab an LL techy as they are the only ones able to troubleshoot this, he calmed down and i moved him to another region on the estate where he still lives today :P

Was a lengthy call, but the point is, offer support untill they mute you even if they tell you to sod off xD
There are bugs/issues some times within your control or just outside of it, just don`t take the "blame" to easy, even if you have to send them a fixed product or a little gift with the fix for free even if they were rude and mean at the time (benefit of the doubt, second time they can ****** :))

 

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My first brand in SL is a curtain store. I developped the products together with a scripter. We worked for some months to have enough products to fill a store. The day we opened the store the products started selling, not even to the friends we invited to come over and see, but to complete strangers.
At those days I had no idea how these first customers did find the store, but they did. I had not done anything yet to promote the products, I was still working on the marketing plan actually. I was very surprised by these unexpected customers, because back then I had the idea that marketing was an absolute need to sell anything at all.
In the months following I did promote the products, and the  number of customers grew. Within some weeks we sold an average of 300 curtains a month.

But soon enough making curtains was not challenging anymore for me as creator. I wanted to develop further and started to concentrate on making clothes. I worked some months to have enough products to fill a little store, and the day I opened the store nothing special happened.

I discovered that fashion is a field that leans very strongly on marketing. So I invested more and more time in promoting my products. And that gave results in sales.
While I was so busy promoting my fashion brand, the attention for my curtains brand faded. But that didn’t harm the sales of the curtains. Even when I did not do any promotion, we still sold an average of 300 curtains a month. (This did not changed until LL changed the logarithm of the in world search.)

I found it very interesting for a while to investigate which marketing methods work for my brand and which don’t do much. But once you know what methods work for you, it becomes dull work… it is the same routine every time you have finished a new product. You now and then try something new, and when a new method is succesful, this actually means even more work for your next promotional round. I often felt that I rather would spend my time on creating then on promoting. I tried several times to find a marketing manager for my brand, but had not much luck with it.

Sculpties became more and more populair in fashion. But they were not always easy to texture. To be able to get more control over the texturing of sculpties, I started to learn working with a 3D program. While I started with it to support my fashion brand it didn’t stick to that. Sculpting grabbed me because it increased my toolkit. Beside my paint box (Photoshop),  I could now have a clay tablet (Blender) as well. And while I was educating myself to work with this clay, the idea for my third brand began to ripe.

So far I had the idea that the spontaneous succes of my curtains brand was an unique phenomenon. I was feeding mainly on luck, being there at the right place on the right time… Something that only happens once in your second life time.

But what radically changed my mind about marketing in SL, is that the same wonder happened again the day I did put the products for sale that I had developed for my third brand cYo. They just started selling right away.
There was just one big difference compared to the curtain store. The curtains had always sold best in world, though they were listed on Xstreet they did not gain much sales from that source (like 5% or such). For my fashion brand I also used Xstreet, but I saw it mainly as a way to promote my products, this brand neither did sell more then 5% on Xstreet.

But for cYo is was complete different. People started to buy right away from the site, without even bordering to visit the in world store. Or people visited the in world store once and returned as customer, not in world but on Xstreet instead. From the very beginning of cYo the ratio was like 75% Xstreet and 25% in world.

This difference has a lot do with a difference in shopping audience. cYo aims to reach builders and creators, that is a different target group then my other brands. I learned that builders and creators shop in a different way then the average customer.

But I’m aware that was has worked for me, won’t work for everybody. It depends on a lot of factors if your products need much marketing investment or not. Competition is an important factor. One of the reason that fashion needs heavy promotion is the steep competition. But also fashion depends more on impulse buys. Fashion depends on trends too. And fashion depends on the atmosphere and illussions you create around the products, you do not only sell the actual dress, but also the feeling that comes with the dress. ‘Imago’ is very important when it comes to fashion.

But there are surely sectors of the SL market where time spend on marketing is mainly lost time, where it is more profitable to spend your time on creating new products.

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Madeliefste Oh wrote:

My most important tip is controversial.

Don't invest much time in marketing. Every hour spend on marketing is one hour less for creating and improving your skills.

I have made my marketing hours in the past, but after a few years I came to the conclusion that it is more profitable to spend my time on creating then on marketing. I stopped 95% of my promotional activities. It made me a happier creator and my business did not suffer from it at all.

 

 

 

I pretty much agree with this!

Of course, every business is different, but for the most part, if you make items to use in SL, marketing is like trying to get somewhere on a stationary bike. I decided long ago, that engaging in any kind of marketing that consumed my time on a regular basis and took me away from creating products, was not worth the time invested. Actually creating products does much more to advance the business, IMHO. Currently, the extent of my marketing are some enhancements for more popular AOs, and a 1000 linden classified ad. I guess you can call my affiliate system as marketing too. I used to spend 10s of thousands more on classifieds, but LL ruined the system and make it less valuable.

I can't end this reply without talking about how things used to be. Back in the day, meaning before 2010, the inworld search worked in a way that it actually ranked merchants for any keyword. It was all because of the ranking in the search engine that I got 70% of all my traffic to my inworld store. There was absolutely no need to do any marketing at all. All a creator had to do was focus on creating and making their customers happy. If you did this, you got regular customers from search, and you would climb up the search ranking if got enough profits to keep expanding your business. It was win win for every1. LL sold more land, as the size of your store meant alot to your search ranking. Today, I don't think any1 has any clue how anything is ranked in the inworld search. I won't even use it cause all I ever get is a mish mash of random results.

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I have never spent much time at all promoting, other than notifying my customer list of gifts or promo items each week. I used to have Xstreet ads, and then "enhancements" but those got so screwed up I will not touch them. I have one classified which I am pretty sure is worthless. So I am thinking about doing home show things and taking out magazine ads, in place of the no longer viable marketplace advertising. The thing is, it's pretty hard to tell if any kind of promotion has any effect. 

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Madeliefste, I enjoyed reading your experiences and how you got started. You have some very good insights. What you said about clothing makes sense. It would need more marketing, and this is probably where April is coming from in her blog, which seems to be slightly more focused on clothing. Even with MP listing enhancements, items like clothing and skins have the best advantage as these are often impulse buys.

The types of items that don't need much marketing are those that people only buy when the need or want arises, as opposed to impulse buying. They will then do a search for that item. Searches are usually done on MP, and when they get a list of products to choose from then they will page and scan through them. This is where your MP listing has to catch the eye, and this is when you will make that first sale which will set off the word of mouth reaction.

It happened like this with my first boat on Xstreet. It didn't take long to sell because it stood out from the rest.

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Great discussion!  I love hearing the different experiences here too.  Yes, clothing seems to have the most competition, but I think that the same principles which work in that environment also work in less competitive environments.

 

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Rya Nitely wrote:

Even with MP listing enhancements, items like clothing and skins have the best advantage as these are often impulse buys.


I think clothing and avatar accessoiries are often impuls buys, but not skins. Skin is considered as a part of the personality, most people tend to choose their skin with care. I have often heard things like: I have been looking for a skin for days now, I tried like hunderd demos, I have three left now and don't know which one to choose. What do you think, that is the best skin of these three?

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Madeliefste - Strawberry Singh was on Plurk just this morning on that very topic - asking opinions about skins.  Yes, skins are very personal; but I think they are also subject to some of these same principles -

 

  • People need to be able to find your products
  • They should be well made
  • Unique products can offer something distinctive

With skins, unlike some products, demos are mandatory.  

 

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Madeliefste Oh wrote:


Rya Nitely wrote:

Even with MP listing enhancements, items like clothing and skins have the best advantage as these are often impulse buys.


I think clothing and avatar accessoiries are often impuls buys, but not skins. Skin is considered as a part of the personality, most people tend to choose their skin with care. I have often heard things like: I have been looking for a skin for days now, I tried like hunderd demos, I have three left now and don't know which one to choose. What do you think, that is the best skin of these three?

Yeah, I think AOs would probably be the same way, as I hear the same thing from customers, "I've been searching for days(or weeks)". Plus, both skins and AOs get worn pretty much all the time, so they are being essentially advertised to every1 the person knows or sees them. Where as clothing is changed more regularly. Every1 does things different tho, and it's easy to find people that change their skin daily, or AO, but it's not as common. AOs might sell more tho, as there are lots of different things that can be made. Oh, and of course, men and women shop totally differently, for the most part. I have as many clothing items in SL as I have in RL, and that's not many. In 6-7 years, I've only gotten maybe 4 skins.

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Pamela Galli wrote:

I have never spent much time at all promoting, other than notifying my customer list of gifts or promo items each week. I used to have Xstreet ads, and then "enhancements" but those got so screwed up I will not touch them. I have one classified which I am pretty sure is worthless. So I am thinking about doing home show things and taking out magazine ads, in place of the no longer viable marketplace advertising. The thing is, it's pretty hard to tell if any kind of promotion has any effect. 

To me, the problem is that LL never created any kind of mass media for SL. In RL, when TV was at it's peak, it was said in the marketing industry, that all you had to do was get your product on TV and you'd clear the shelves. Hence why we started seeing infomercial after infomercial, and shopping channels.

LL could have done something very similar, but the results would have been major advertising for SL too. We had/have Treet TV, or whatever it is/was called, but few people knew about it. We also have Metanomics, which was a great show. LL has it's own Youtube channel, and they could have used it as the central place to show SL related videos. LL has never done anything serious on Youtube. I'm totally a free market person, and I'd not want LL interfering in the economy or just promoting certain businesses, but there are some situations where the benefit help every1 and the negatives are tiny. Simply showing other people's videos on their own channel, would have gotten them many more views and subscribers, as well as being the centerplace for SL videos. Youtube is huge. I'm already making money on it and I'm not even doing much. LL could easily get a million views a month. 95% of all my website traffic comes directly from Youtube.

To me, video is so important to marketing, that if I were CEO, I'd of created a timeline like animation window in SL where you could drop character animation into the timeline and control multiple avatars like this. That would have given the machinima people a nice system to more easily create their machinima with, and had more people advertising SL with their videos. Just a thought.

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April Looming wrote:

 
  • People need to be able to find your products
  • They should be well made
  • Unique products can offer something distinctive

With skins, unlike some products, demos are mandatory.  

_______________________________________________________________

 

Just yesterday I had am IM asking where one of my products could be bought. While I was getting ready to respond the customer said 'Oh I'm here now. I found your LM in your profile.'

My items are displayed around SL, mainly outdoors as I sell boats and landscaping products. People click on the item, go to creator's profile and get my links to inworld and MP store. This is my marketing. Recently, at an expo I gave away some islands free. This was my marketing as I knew the more I give away the more advertising goes with it as people put them out. So each item I sell is a potential advertisement with my name on it and links to buy.

 

But as Maeliefste experienced too, I can sometimes list a totally different type of item on the MP and it will get sales. People seem to find it without any marketing. It's not that they are searching my store because it isn't something I usually sell. So they must be doing a search and finding it that way. What surprises me is that a new item starts off on the last page of search. Maybe people search by newest first. But somehow that new item does get found and bought and then moves up the pages.

 

About skins being impulse buys - Maybe those 100s of skin demos that get tried are impulse buys on the MP since they are free. If I saw a nice looking skin on the homepage I might click on it and buy that demo just to see. Maybe not me, but my days of buying skins or clothes are over until they bring out some nicer men's mesh jeans and tank top or t shirt. There aren't any decent ones <- now there's an untapped, low competition market.

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April Looming wrote:

Madeliefste
 - Strawberry Singh was on Plurk just this morning on that very topic - asking opinions about skins.  Yes, skins are very personal; but I think they are also subject to some of these same principles -

 
  • People need to be able to find your products
  • They should be well made
  • Unique products can offer something distinctive

With skins, unlike some products, demos are mandatory.  

 

I agree with you.

 

  • People need to be able to find your products

When I was a fashion designer, most sales were made in world. So I focussed on selling in world. One of my strategies was to have satelite shops. I did rent a lot of shops (and left a lot of them as well when they were not profitable within the first few weeks). I managed to build up 30 profitable selling spots on the grid this way.

But nowdays this does not work anymore. LL spoiled it by discouraging in world commerce.

Nowadays the marketplace is THE place where customers must be able to find your products. The most important tool you have be found in the marketplace is your keyword field, use it well.

 

Once found the most important things to seduce your potential customer to buy are your pictures. So pay attention to your pictures, make them stand out in the crowd.

 

  • They should be well made

This is maybe the most important. Quality is the keyword to succes. All people in this thread who says they can do without much marketing make quality items. I guess most of them did not come to SL without any skills, or have invested a lot of learning time to become good in their own field of creating. Quality comes from skills. You can make better textures when you have 10 years experience as a Photoshopper, then when you just start to learn Gimp. You will make better animations when you know how to work with motion capture, then when you just start to learn qavimator.

 

  • Unique products can offer something distinctive

Indeed. Creativity is not only about skills, but also about ideas. Unique ideas and beliefs can lead to distinctive products.

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Rya Nitely wrote:

 

Maybe people search by newest first. But somehow that new item does get found and bought and then moves up the pages.


I have heard from several of my customers that they always search by newest first. Some of them check one subcategory on daily base (for example mesh creator tools) by newest first.

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I'm the odd man out here but I do market. I wouldn't say I spend money on marketing like placing ads and all that...I think those are a waste of time. But my marketing efforts include:

 

  • Having a subscriber list in my store and sending them a weekly sales letter that has all that weeks sales or new releases.
  • Participating in several sales groups like 60L Weekends, Fable Fridays, My 60L Secret, etc.
  • Participating in monthly hunts to help build up that subscribe list and get residual sales from.
  • Actively keep my blog and facebook up to date and active.
  • Holding contests occassionally
  • A pay to join VIP group.

And I can tell you when I don't do these things...if all I do is build and never remind even my current customers that "hey we're still here" my sales plummet. Case in point, I had a baby last December. I was so dead to SL business from about the end of November through Mid January and my sales show it. I come back in February and voila...back to business as usual. Maybe not every type of business needs marketing but I think every business can benefit from it.

I think it's especially important if you are a new business and don't have the customer base to backup your ignoring the marketing part of business.

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log in.JPG

 


Medhue Simoni wrote:


To me, video is so important to marketing, that if I were CEO, I'd of created a timeline like animation window in SL where you could drop character animation into the timeline and control multiple avatars like this. That would have given the machinima people a nice system to more easily create their machinima with, and had more people advertising SL with their videos. Just a thought.

There is no reason they could not embed videos in the Log In page.

They are embedding links to destinations but those really do no good in showing someone what is there.  All they do is take you to the map.  Only LL knows how many people continue from the map to sign up but I'd bet it is infinitesimal.  A well done video would be much more enticing.

There have been so many phenomenal videos done.

I used to show RL friends "Fleet Week."

 

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Maybe as Madeliefste pointed out, marketing is something you either put a lot of time into or you don't do at all. Deja, I think you must put a lot of time into it, even if you don't spend money on it. April made a point of saying it's free to do this and that. As merchants, nothing is free in SL if it uses your time. I am happier creating. At the moment creating new items to keep up with the mesh trend is so very time consuming that it would be stressful to add marketing hours to it.

So I guess it depends on what you enjoy, otherwise it's not worth it. I would rather spend my hours watching mesh tutorials to refine my skills and creating new products than getting involved in marketing and networking etc.

The little marketing I have done like hunts etc. didn't increase my sales. I participated in an expo recently (I had the time because of a break from RL work). It was fun, but only because I didn't feel I had to do it to get sales. I wouldn't like that pressure. We were featured in blogs after that expo. It made me feel proud, but I'm seeing no increase in sales as a result of it.

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Deja Letov wrote:

I think it's especially important if you are a new business and don't have the customer base to backup your ignoring the marketing part of business.

Now when I think of a new business, I think of an individual who hasn't been around long enough to have a great range of items or skills. Should this person really be spending precious time on marketing? If their items are few and of average quality then I would be advising them to work on their skills and collection. Otherwise it's like Medhue put it... 'like trying to get somewhere on a stationary bike'.

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Rya Nitely wrote:

Maybe as Madeliefste pointed out, marketing is something you either put a lot of time into or you don't do at all. Deja, I think you must put a lot of time into it, even if you don't spend money on it. April made a point of saying it's free to do this and that. As merchants, nothing is free in SL if it uses your time. I am happier creating. At the moment creating new items to keep up with the mesh trend is so very time consuming that it would be stressful to add marketing hours to it.

So I guess it depends on what you enjoy, otherwise it's not worth it. I would rather spend my hours watching mesh tutorials to refine my skills and creating new products than getting involved in marketing and networking etc.

The little marketing I have done like hunts etc. didn't increase my sales. I participated in an expo recently (I had the time because of a break from RL work). It was fun, but only because I didn't feel I had to do it to get sales. I wouldn't like that pressure. We were featured in blogs after that expo. It made me feel proud, but I'm seeing no increase in sales as a result of it.

Not too much time really. Currently, Id say maybe an hour per week. A lot of it is stuff that's just kind of "there". Like the VIP group, I don't have to do much other than send my newsletter out, which is one of about 6 groups I send it out to each week and takes me about 2 minutes per week to send it to all. And about 10 minutes to write up the whole newsletter. And I can whip out a hunt gift item pretty quickly too. If I stick to no more than maybe 3 hunts per month it falls right in line with my other time and still keep me about an hour a month. I saw a several hundred real dollar difference when I did nothing. So ya, i'd work an extra 3-5 hours per month to see a couple hundred extra dollars in my real world pocket. :)

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Rya Nitely wrote:


Deja Letov wrote:

I think it's especially important if you are a new business and don't have the customer base to backup your ignoring the marketing part of business.

Now when I think of a new business, I think of an individual who hasn't been around long enough to have a great range of items or skills. Should this person really be spending precious time on marketing? If their items are few and of average quality then I would be advising them to work on their skills and collection. Otherwise it's like Medhue put it... '
like trying to get somewhere on a stationary bike'.

For someone in your description who doesn't have items or skills...well obviously they shouldn't spend time marketing and ya I'd probably recommend sharpening their buidling skills first. But why would someone even consider marketing if their stuff is either crap or just not enough of it? but I don't think of a "new business" person in the same way you do. I just don't think that's the majority of people who would actually consider marketing. If someone is considering marketing, they most likely have a product range and know enough about SL and creating that they feel they can market effective. I think the description you're giving is the worst case scenario and it would be common sense not to try to market craptastic products.

But I don't believe in the whole "build it and they will come" theory. It doesn't always work and even if it does...it will be harder and take longer to get steady and lucrative business coming in. I could bet money if two people created similar products, same number of products, both had a store on main land and had marketplace listings...if one opened the doors and didn't tell a soul about it and instead just went up to their skybox and built more stuff and the other opened their doors and took part in just two hunts, the 60L Weekends group, started a subscription list, etc...I would put money on who would be more profitable in the starting up phase of things. The other guy may get there eventually, but by completely ignoring every aspect of marketing, it will take him much longer.

Although maybe these aren't good examples because many (not all) of the people saying not to market, did in the beginning as far as I can remember.  :)

And I'm not saying anyone is wrong, to each his own, but I've seen real world and SL world examples of this...experienced them myself in some cases. So all I can go by is what I've seen and experienced. What works for someone  may not work for others.

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Deja Letov wrote:


 I saw a several hundred real dollar difference when I did nothing. So ya, i'd work an extra 3-5 hours per month to see a couple hundred extra dollars in my real world pocket.
:)

Well, now that is just amazing . If I could get a couple hundred extra dollars in SL for 3 to 5 hours extra work a month then I say YES :smileyvery-happy:

Perhaps getting the ball rolling would be the hard work because all the things you mention would take time for me - I've done some of it in the past but not for long enough to see the results you get.  One day I would like to find out exactly how it works.

  • How does facebook get people to actually buy your stuff?  I mean, I check out what people here sell all the time but it's just curiosity :smileyembarrassed:.
  • How do you get people to actually take an interest in your blog so that they visit it regularly?
  • And people who come to the hunts seem to just grab and go, and never return.
  • And yeah, I have a group but I just don't like to send people things. To me it feels like spam but that's just me - I don't like people sending me things.

Maybe your items are just amazing, and that's great, but I don't think I could create such a strong fan club for my items - although I believe spending more time on my skills and creations will bring me closer.

I recently looked at my most recent MP customers in  order transaction history, and the majority of customers have only bought once or twice - so it isn't that people know me.

But yet I do well enough - I pay tier for 2 sims, my partner depends on his SL earnings for RL expenses, and I do most of my RL shopping online with SL money.

So for me the 'build it and they will come' method works. Although, this method only works if there is a demand for what you sell - not if you have to coax customers.

But Deja, I will say again I'm very impressed at how well marketing works for you. You have planted the seed in my head - an extra $US200 a month without much more effort :smileytongue:

 

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Well, I think it really does depend on what you make, and what that market is like. Also, it depends on what your goals are. Some marketing is almost always needed. When I say I don't do any, I don't really mean that. I put out a kind of press release the day I release a product, or update a product. I hit all the social networks, and some SL related sights. Beyond that, and some enhancements, I don't really market things.

What I try to do, is involve my business in self perpetuating things. For example, vending machines for my affiliates. Once the vendors are set up, it all just runs on it's own. I have hundreds of affiliates, and it grows daily. Word of mouth would be another self perpetuating type of marketing.

The real question, around any kind of marketing, is whether a certain type of marketing is worth the time or expense. Here is where the problem lies in SL. We have yet to figure out an affective marketing system, at least for most of us.

For me, I'm not too sure that spending even 5 hours to make an extra $200 is totally worth it. If you strictly look at it from the point of view of an hourly wage, that's not bad. Here's the thing tho, if you work fulltime on the net selling digital goods, your time is not based on hourly rates. For example, I'll spend a good couple of weeks, or 80+ hours making an AO, and over time, I'll make up the cost of producing it. Eventually, I make a profit and much more. Another example would be making Youtube videos. It might take a couple of days to make a video, but I know that if it gets marginally popular, I'll make $20+ a month off that 1 video for years. Who knows how much if it goes viral. I'm just saying that looking at things from an hourly rate doesn't really show the true cost.

The last point I want to make about marketing is that it all can amount to a big bubble. We all have to get our products seen, but there can be many dangers in marketing so much that your view of the products real worth gets distorted. This happens all the time in the real world, and we can see this when the stock of a company falls rapidly. When the profit margin on a product starts to shrink, so will the budget to advertising the product. When half of all your sales are based solely on that advertising, every less dollar you spend, or time, will result in fewer and fewer sales. Imagine all of a sudden, you don't have 10 hours a week to spend on marketing, or even 5 hours a month. Or, let's imagine that you spend so much time on marketing that you don't spend enough time updating, or improving. This is all part of the distortion. Maybe you are making too much because of all the marketing that you react too late to a major change in the market.

I don't mean to poo poo marketing, I'm just saying that there is a correct level for every industry and probably every business. Spending any more time than is needed, will hurt you in other areas.

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