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April Looming

Tips for operating a profitable business in SL

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Rya Nitely wrote:


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:

 

Ok let me try to answer some of your questions and throw some numbers at ya too. I'm just writing these nubmers out, but if you'd like to see actual charts from my tracking software, Ill be happy to post em, just so ya know I ain't pulling any legs here.

Facebook marketing...Ok I admit I am a FB junkie. I mean I'm on that stuff constantly while I'm at work LOL  ssshhh don't tell my boss. Seriously though, I know there are others like me. LOTS of others. Facebook is just one of the ways I keep in contact with them so take that into mind as well. Basically my facebook and blog work together. We do our longer more detailed posts on the blog and then link back to them from Facebook. For example...if I have a new release, we will post pics and detailed descriptions on my blog. But then on facebook you might see "hey check out our new release" and it links to the blog. We use FB to post contests, to announce sales, etc. People read the weekend sales stuff and head on over to the store. The cool thing is...people who like our FB page and posts...they share those on their own FB pages so other SL people see those and then they come to the store or at least over to our FB page.

I saw "we" above, because my assistant actually does most of it for me which is why I can still only spend an hour a week on marketing. I'm all about working smarter, not harder. I don't do blog posts myself. She does them all. She also does most of the FB posts too.

As for hunts...I have a lot of success with them. I also get a ton of purchases from them. My software that I use to track sales, I can see everyone who picks up a hunt gift and then I can see their purchases they made AFTER they picked that item up. Mostly I'm interested in if they have never bought from me before, did they buy something from me after they came through on a hunt. I posted results from one hunt awhile back and I had several thousand in sales from hunts.

As far as the groups go, it's not spam to them because they ask for it. I have two groups. One is a basic subscription kiosk type group. They choose to sign up for it and can unsubscribe at any time so why not send to them if that's what they want? And the second group is a pay to join group which is my VIP group, where they get a free gift every month. I will tell you..my VIP group is awesome. The sales from those people is awesome!

Now...just to give you an idea on exactly how much marketing makes a difference. It's actually far better than what you might think. I know I said a few hundred dollars, but let me show you EXACTLY what we're talking about here.

In December I mentioned I had a baby. So I basically did nothing for marketing towards the end of November through about January. My total sales was 170,986 for the month of December. Now, take last month, where I spent on average 1 hour per week doing my normal things of sending out newsletters, posting to FB and blog posts, etc. My sales for last month was 308,546. That's a difference of 137,560L. Right now if I go try to cash out 137,560L that's over $500. To me...those couple of hours are totally worth that.

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Deja Letov wrote:

I saw "we" above, because my assistant actually does most of it for me which is why I can still only spend an hour a week on marketing. I'm all about working smarter, not harder. I don't do blog posts myself. She does them all. She also does most of the FB posts too.

And how many hours a week does she spend on your marketing?

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Madeliefste Oh wrote:


Deja Letov wrote:

I saw "we" above, because my assistant actually does most of it for me which is why I can still only spend an hour a week on marketing. I'm all about working smarter, not harder. I don't do blog posts myself. She does them all. She also does most of the FB posts too.

And how many hours a week does she spend on your marketing?

She writes one blog post and one facebook post a week. Occassionally if I have new release in the middle of the week and I don't want her to wait til the weekly newsletter she might do one additional. So maybe 20-30 minutes.  It's pretty quick cause she grabs most of the copy from my marketplace listings. The nice thing is...it doesn't matter because I pay her the same weekly amount no matter what. :)

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Oh also...let me be clear, when I say I spend a lot of time on Facebook, I don't mean for SL. I'm just a FB junkie in general and 99% of it has nothing to do with Sl..other than if I see someone post something to my business page, I will respond to it if my assistant hasn't already. I mainly stated that to show how junkified I am to it, and others are too so it's a good medium to target.

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thanks Deja, my partner and I consistently make around 350K a month, of this 64K goes to tier and the rest we split. November and December 2012 were down for us too - these were our worst months in 2 years. But besides this, our profits have been fairly steady for about two years - so, I believe that without creating new items it would decrease.

I would love to have an assistant but I prefer not to pay anyone for work I can do myself. Although it does take time. Today I spent a few hours just fixing MP listings. I also have so many items in my inworld store that are not yet listed on MP - I'm working on this too because that's lost money right there. I have so many ideas for new creations if I could only find time to make them.

And my rl work sucks -  all social networking pages are blocked, including this forum :(

Because of this thread, I am now starting to ask customers how they found my inworld store (but only If I get a chance to talk to them without being intrusive). So far, the answer is always MP or I bought from here before, but I haven't asked that many yet. I know people also find me by seeing my items inworld because over the years we've been told this often. 

Now here is an interesting experiment - I'm looking at my MP Orders - Transaction History, and there I'm looking at my customers by clicking on the name. This brings up a record of every item the customer purchased from me on MP. This is a good indication of whether you have regular customers or not. The vast majority of my customers are not regulars. It's first or second purchases. So this tells me that I don't have a regular customer base. I often hear people saying 'my customers tell me this or that'. I don't have the same customers, it's different people all the time - but a constant flow of them so that it gives us a regular income.

Facebook is not for me, and I'm pretty sure nobody visits our blog, but I am going to give hunts one more go and keep a visitor list and then track down those people to see.

Thansk for your explanation. It's great to share experiences. :)

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Rya Nitely wrote:

thanks Deja, my partner and I consistently make around 350K a month, of this 64K goes to tier and the rest we split. November and December 2012 were down for us too - these were our worst months in 2 years. But besides this, our profits have been fairly steady for about two years - so, I believe that without creating new items it would decrease.

I would love to have an assistant but I prefer not to pay anyone for work I can do myself. Although it does take time. Today I spent a few hours just fixing MP listings. I also have so many items in my inworld store that are not yet listed on MP - I'm working on this too because that's lost money right there. I have so many ideas for new creations if I could only find time to make them.

And my rl work sucks -  all social networking pages are blocked, including this forum
:(

Because of this thread, I am now starting to ask customers how they found my inworld store (but only If I get a chance to talk to them without being intrusive). So far, the answer is always MP or I bought from here before, but I haven't asked that many yet. 
I know people also find me by seeing my items inworld because over the years we've been told this often. 

Now here is an interesting experiment - I'm looking at my MP Orders - Transaction History, and there I'm looking at my customers by clicking on the name. This brings up a record of every item the customer purchased from me on MP. This is a good indication of whether you have regular customers or not. The vast majority of my customers are not regulars. It's first or second purchases. So this tells me that I don't have a regular customer base. I often hear p
eople saying 'my customers tell me this or that'. I don't have the same customers, it's different people all the time - but a constant flow of them so that it gives us a regular income.

Facebook is not for me, and I'm pretty sure nobody visits our blog, but I am going to give hunts one more go and keep a visitor list and then track down those people to see.

Thansk for your explanation. It's great to share experiences.
:)

Totally agree with you that without new items it would decrease. I'm always putting out new items...I guess that's the benefit of having an assistant and "store reps" greeting people. I don't have to do that so I can be up in my skybox building. I guess I've just found a happy medium for both.

I tried finding it but couldn't, but awhile back...sometime last year I think, I posted a thread about a test I did with a survey in my store asking people how they found my main store. I'm gonna look for it again and see if I can post the thread here but the results were really interesting! Some are probably gonna laugh at this but I prefer NOT to get sales on the MP. I'm always contacting my MP customers, sending them a quick Thank you, asking them to join our subscription group and inviting them into our store. It really helps to build that loyalty when they come into the store and I try not to be one of those shopkeepers that never talks to customers.

What's interesting too, is that you noticed that most of your sales are not regular customers. Imagine what would happen if they were!

Facebook isn't for everyone...and honestly, in the grand scheme of things probably isn't all that important. It was just one of the things I do so I listed it. There is a certain crowd that follows it, but the majorty of my customers are not on it.

And yes most definitely I love sharing experiences. There are more than one way to skin a cat!

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Darn it I found it right after I hit post. here is the link to that thread I mentioned above with ths survey results.

http://community.secondlife.com/t5/Merchants/Survey-Says/m-p/1650645/highlight/true#M26578

What I love about this was that Word of Mouth and Hunts were my top 3 answers for how people found me. Both due to my marketing.

I may run this again because my marketing methods have changed, for instance I no longer sponsor events...at least not that often. i was doing that quite a bit back then but wasn't getting very much in the way result.

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Deja Letov wrote:

What's interesting too, is that you noticed that most of your sales are not regular customers. Imagine what would happen if they were!

 

I'm reading your survey thread, and just thought of something relating to your above comment. The information was MP customers only. I have a feeling that inworld is different. Regular customers are much more likely to shop inworld than on MP. In my short survey some people are saying they've shopped in my store before. But since 80% of my sales are MP, that information is more important.

I also find that people who shop inworld are more likely to buy a few things and return for more. So getting them inworld is important. And when I go to customers' homes I very often see a few of my items. I'm thinking these are my inworld shoppers

I'm going to try to communicate more with customers. I usually only IM them if I have a reason to do so. But I might start to IM them after customer service to see if everything is going ok. Or randomly send an IM to MP customers to find out if they're happy with purchases, and suggest shopping inworld. 

Back to your survey thread. Lots to read there.

Edit: Yes, I'm still reading the thread (up to page 3), and I'm realising why MP customers are usually not regular customers. It's because, in general, MP customers would do a search for a particular item and that is how they find you, and then they make that one purchase and move on. Inworld shoppers are more likely to be there to see your range of items, and will buy more than one item and they come back. It's a different shopping trend.

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So here's my conclude -

Active and regular marketing probably has a significant impact on the level of sales you get inworld because it helps establish a loyal customer base. But it doesn't help MP sales that much. Deja, your primary focus is on your inworld store. But for me, because 80 to 90% of my sales are MP that is where my focus lies. I work on increasing and improving my MP listings. My inworld store, although very expensive, is not what brings in the money.

But I do see your point, increasing inworld sales would be a huge boost in profit -  because inworld customers are more likely to go on a spending spree.

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Rya Nitely wrote:

So here's my conclude -

Active and regular marketing probably has a significant impact on the level of sales you get inworld because it helps establish a loyal customer base. But it doesn't help MP sales that much. Deja, your primary focus is on your inworld store. But for me, because 80 to 90% of my sales are MP that is where my focus lies. I work on increasing and improving my MP listings. My inworld store, although very expensive, is not what brings in the money.

But I do see your point, increasing inworld sales would be a huge boost in profit -  because inworld customers are more likely to go on a spending spree.

Most definitely! I do focus much more on my in world sales, although right now they are about 50/50. I've tried making in world higher but I just can't do it. too many people are using the MP search these days. But I think you're right that people who shop on the MP aren't loyal to your brand necessarily...they are choosing what comes up in the search, especially when it comes to new customers. I'm guilty of it myself actually...though I tend to do more purchasing in world than on the MP...even if I first find it on the MP.

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I agree with Deja, particularly participating in hunts.  From the very beginning 99% of my sales are from the MP, although I noticed that many of those customers had been in my store but still purchased on the MP so I do believe in having inworld stores if only for customers being able to see and demo an item. (I sell small home furnishings.)

The only time I have any significant sales from my inworld store is when I participate in hunts.  That's it.  I have sent out notices in various groups and done a few other types of marketing, but hunts are what works for me.  However, I primarily stick with one major hunt group that, over the years, have become somewhat of a community between the merchants and hunters.

I have temporarily closed my in world store so I can update my older items, create new ones, and I want to redesign my shop look.  My MP sales remain fairly steady no matter what I do, or don't do.

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Yes, I think we are all agreeing now. Often people aren't talking about the same thing or looking from same angle, so long debates may arise. But when we talk about marketing then we need to be aware that what works inworld might not necessarily work in MP, and vice versa as well. It's two different shopping evironments with different types of customers. MP is more for the quick shopper, whereas inworld is for customers who want to take their time and look around. So, marketing needs to be approached in different ways for both stores. Although, there would be overlap - what works for one will have some flow on effect into the other.

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Rya...I'm just replying from your post but this isn't just for you, but I'm curious from a marketing perspective, what some good marketing techniques would even consist of for the MP. I guess they would be including MP links and such in my notecard which I am already doing. Like when I do a new release I send out the details along with a MP link and my LM. But being furniture most people like to try before they buy, so they mainly come into the store. But I'd love to learn some new ways to increase MP sales even higher aside from good photos, good descriptions, good keywords, etc. Aside from just good general listing techniques how can we market our MP stores better?

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Deja Letov wrote:

But being furniture most people like to try before they buy, so they mainly come into the store. But I'd love to learn some new ways to increase MP sales even higher aside from good photos, good descriptions, good keywords, etc. Aside from just good general listing techniques how can we market our MP stores better?

That's interesting, Deja. I also sell furniture, prefabs etc. and I find that my sales are evenly split between inworld & the MP. I have everything on display inworld and yet I would guess that half my customers buy from the MP without checking it out "live" so to speak.

As for increasing MP sales, I believe that the use of social media (blogging, Twitter, Facebook, etc. as mentioned earlier in this thread) probably results in sending more people to my MP store than the one inworld.

As for marketing in general, selling in a niche market (French Antiques for me) can be an interesting challenge in itself. I support my role-play community in a number of ways including running a social networking site which benefits the community at large as well as the merchants, landowners, etc. within it. I've found that having community support can make a big difference to the "little guys" of a niche market.

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/slight derail on

I just have to comment on your sim/s, Tatiana.  I spent an enjoyable afternoon in your sim awhile back.  It is GORGEOUS!!!  I've said this before, but I enjoy atmospheres that incorporate what is sold into them and you have done that so elegantly.  I even saw an apartment I would love to live in but I don't want to give up my current parcel and can't financially justify two places in SL.  But if I ever have to leave where I'm living - I'm making a beeline to your sim.

/slight derail off

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Czari Zenovka wrote:

/slight derail on

I just have to comment on your sim/s, Tatiana.  I spent an enjoyable afternoon in your sim awhile back.  It is GORGEOUS!!!  I've said this before, but I enjoy atmospheres that incorporate what is sold into them and you have done that so elegantly.  I even saw an apartment I would love to live in but I don't want to give up my current parcel and can't financially justify two places in SL.  But if I ever have to leave where I'm living - I'm making a beeline to your sim.

/slight derail off

/extended derail

I have to agree and add that the textures she creates are some of the most ostentatiously beautiful textures that I've ever seen in SL.

...Dres

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Agree, Tatiana's things and the community environment (with events) she has created are just beautiful -- and a terrific business model!

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TatianaDokuchic Varriale wrote:



That's interesting, Deja. I also sell furniture, prefabs etc. and I find that my sales are evenly split between inworld & the MP. I have everything on display inworld and yet I would guess that half my customers buy from the MP without checking it out "live" so to speak.


If I am buying on the Market Place the odds are I have seen the item somewhere In World and either asked the owner where they got it or checked the object for who the creator is and have followed the trail to a store.  So even if I have never been to your store In World it does not mean I haven't seen the item there.

It is very rare for me to buy something that I have not actually seen In World unless I have already been persuaded that a Merchant produces quality products.

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TatianaDokuchic Varriale wrote:


Deja Letov wrote:

But being furniture most people like to try before they buy, so they mainly come into the store. But I'd love to learn some new ways to increase MP sales even higher aside from good photos, good descriptions, good keywords, etc. Aside from just good general listing techniques how can we market our MP stores better?

That's interesting, Deja. I also sell furniture, prefabs etc. and I find that my sales are evenly split between inworld & the MP. I have everything on display inworld and yet I would guess that half my customers buy from the MP without checking it out "live" so to speak.

As for increasing MP sales, I believe that the use of social media (blogging, Twitter, Facebook, etc. as mentioned earlier in this thread) probably results in sending more people to my MP store than the one inworld.

As for marketing in general, selling in a niche market (French Antiques for me) can be an interesting challenge in itself. I support my role-play community in a number of ways including running a social networking site which benefits the community at large as well as the merchants, landowners, etc. within it. I've found that having community support can make a big difference to the "little guys" of a niche market.

Yes mine are split right down the middle to, I was speaking mainly about when I send my weekly newsletter and happen to have a new release, my current customers like to come into the store and try it out first and then buy it. I can tell because when I do a new release, it never fails, MP sales for it are usually new customers for the most part and in world sales are current or repeat customers. I really don't get too many of them buying on the MP even if I include a link in the newsletter.

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Czari Zenovka wrote:

/slight derail on

I just have to comment on your sim/s, Tatiana.  I spent an enjoyable afternoon in your sim awhile back.  It is GORGEOUS!!!  I've said this before, but I enjoy atmospheres that incorporate what is sold into them and you have done that so elegantly.  I even saw an apartment I would love to live in but I don't want to give up my current parcel and can't financially justify two places in SL.  But if I ever have to leave where I'm living - I'm making a beeline to your sim.

/slight derail off

Ditto...I've been too...though it's been awhile and it's so lovely.

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Perrie Juran wrote:


TatianaDokuchic Varriale wrote:



That's interesting, Deja. I also sell furniture, prefabs etc. and I find that my sales are evenly split between inworld & the MP. I have everything on display inworld and yet I would guess that half my customers buy from the MP without checking it out "live" so to speak.


If I am buying on the Market Place the odds are I have seen the item somewhere In World and either asked the owner where they got it or checked the object for who the creator is and have followed the trail to a store.  So even if I have never been to your store In World it does not mean I haven't seen the item there.

It is very rare for me to buy something that I have not actually seen In World unless I have already been persuaded that a Merchant produces quality products.

I shop the same was as the martian. Love to find things in world and then locate it in world. I really prefer to buy in world even if I do happen to find it on the MP. I think it supports SL better, puts more money into the creators hands and really promotes what SL was meant to be in the first place.

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ray gun.jpg

 


Deja Letov wrote:


Perrie Juran wrote:


TatianaDokuchic Varriale wrote:




That's interesting, Deja. I also sell furniture, prefabs etc. and I find that my sales are evenly split between inworld & the MP. I have everything on display inworld and yet I would guess that half my customers buy from the MP without checking it out "live" so to speak.


If I am buying on the Market Place the odds are I have seen the item somewhere In World and either asked the owner where they got it or checked the object for who the creator is and have followed the trail to a store.  So even if I have never been to your store In World it does not mean I haven't seen the item there.

It is very rare for me to buy something that I have not actually seen In World unless I have already been persuaded that a Merchant produces quality products.

I shop the same was as the martian. Love to find things in world and then locate it in world. I really prefer to buy in world even if I do happen to find it on the MP. I think it supports SL better, puts more money into the creators hands and really promotes what SL was meant to be in the first place.

That's how I got stranded on your World.  I was sitting in my home on Mars watching one of your TV shows on my Video Machine and saw this really cool ray gun and wanted one for myself.  I clicked to set a beacon, got in my space ship and headed here.  But as fate would have it the SIM crashed just as I arrived.  When I regained consciouness my no-copy ship was gone and I've been stuck here ever since.

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Rya Nitely wrote:

 

I'm reading your survey thread, and just thought of something relating to your above comment. The information was MP customers only. I have a feeling that inworld is different. Regular customers are much more likely to shop inworld than on MP. In my short survey some people are saying they've shopped in my store before. But since 80% of my sales are MP, that information is more important.

I also find that people who shop inworld are more likely to buy a few things and return for more. So getting them inworld is important. 
And when I go to customers' homes I very often see a few of my items. I'm thinking these are my inworld shoppers


When I look at my shopping audience, I don't see a the link between regular customers and in world shopping. I have many returning customers,both in marketplace and in the in world store.

I think it depends not only on the selling place, but also on the type of customer and the kind of merchandise you have, if you are going to have loyal customers or not.

When I look at my three brands I see different trents for all of them.

Curtain store -> No returning customers. Except from that there are people who buy one curtain, and then a few hours or a day later they come back and buy for example 8 more. After that I don't see them anymore. It is not the the customers don't like the products, but is has do with the nature of the products. How many curtains could a person need? Just enought to cover all the windows of his house and that is it.

Marketing methods that aim for returning customers don't work for this kind of products. Marketing methods that reach new people who have never heard of you before might work for this brand.

Fashion store -> Some returning customers. People, and specially females, need new clothes all the time. Once people fall in love with one of your items, there is a pretty good chance you see them back for other products as well.

Marketing methods like hunts help to get new costumers. Methods like subscribers group, new release groups, blogposts and such work to seduce customers to return to your shop.

Most important is my opinion is new releases, fashion and new go hand in hand.

cYo -> Many returning customers, both on marketplace and in world. Most of my customer shop marketplace only, and a few are always buying in world.

 


Rya Nitely wrote:

I'm going to try to communicate more with customers. I usually only IM them if I have a reason to do so. But I might start to IM them after customer service to see if everything is going ok. Or randomly send an IM to MP customers to find out if they're happy with purchases, and suggest shopping inworld. 


Communicating with your customers is very important in my opion. Not directly as marketing method, but for analysis of  what kind of group of people you have to do with. For cYo I talk a lot to customers, many of them are merchants themselve. Most of the time they contact me with a question, that can be about all kind of things, questions about the products, questions about a Photoshop technique, questions about my terms of use or the use of my products in other virtual worlds or requests for custom items.

Sometimes I just answer the questions, but often I'm curious about the story behind the question. Then I aks for example: 'What is it you plan to do with this item?' And once people start to talk about their plans the most interesting conversations can take place, about all kind of things. It goes from general Linden bashing to very personal talks, from how other virtual worlds are doing to the use of particles, from the difference between 3D programs to running a community.

When I talk with individual customers it is not so much with markting goals in mind, I just concentrate on the subjects that pass, but between the lines you get a lot of information. What is really helpful to me is the image I get from all these talks together. To give an example, I often hear 'I hardly leave my building platform'. I don't have any hard figures, but since I hear this line or a comparable one all the time, it declares things to me. Builders and creators are busy in their own creative proces, they don't have a strong urge for other forms of amusement in SL. This is very likely the reason that hunts don't work for cYo, my customers just don't have time for hunting, they choose to spend their time on creating and running a business. It might also be the reason that long before the marketplace even existed 75 to 80% of them never shopped in world but always on Xstreet.

 

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This is a great thread and I have learned a lot here, probably going to scroll one more time through some posts but for now I just want to wish a great day to everyone and say thank you for sharing your experiences! I still call mine a baby business and don't really have some valuable experience to share, just enjoying my tiny steps and trying to learn as much as I can:)

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Interesting Madeliefste -- for SL, my store is large but by RL standards it is a little Mom & Pop -- I have one PT emplyee, not a staff --  and I do talk to my customers often, because so many are regulars.  In the process I find out what you do -- how they are using my things, what they would like me to make, etc.

 

Interesting observation about creators holing up. I am here in SL to do one thing: run my business, which includes creating but a lot more. I don't have time to get to everything I need to do, so the last thing I would ever do is go out into SL and see the sights for myself (I do read some blogs that keep me constantly amazed by some of the things out there). This is how I work and how I have fun.  

 

I don't do hunts but have until recently marketed exclusively to my strong customer base. My asst, however, has set up all the social media stuff recently and is going to keep up my sadly neglected blog. 

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