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April Looming

Tips for operating a profitable business in SL

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I don't keep a record of the names of my inworld customers or how many purchases they make. The only record I have is the one MP gives in Order Transaction History, which goes back to the beginning of MP. I don't know if the customers who buy in MP have also bought inworld or vice versa. All I know is that 80 to 90% of my purchases are MP, and they are thinly spread over many many customers - there is no way to establish loyalty over a customer base that large. 

I believe I get a lot of my sales by people clicking on an item to find the creator’s name, then going to MP to buy it. I also often find the same item gets bought twice in quick succession by two different people – almost like a friend of the first purchaser is buying it as well - this is word of mouth.

My items are displayed all over SL. When I go to a customer I will always scan around the surrounding sim parcels to locate something of mine, and I always do.

You're right that it depends on what you sell. Your full perm items are aimed at creators and would have a different market with different needs to clothing, which would be different to furniture, which is different to landscaping products and boats and so on.

I would think houses would be like your curtains. Would customers really come back again and again to buy a new house? When people buy boats they buy one or two and that's it. When people buy my landscaping items they will often go on a one time spending spree - perhaps they've bought a new parcel of land - and after that they might return 6 months or a year later for something else. I don't call these regular customers. I just checked out a customer on MP and noticed she bought from me 4 times from 2011 to 2013 - this is the closest I get to a regular customer. But maybe she has also shopped inworld, I don't know.

Now, about talking to customers - I don't work in a skybox. I don't work in an area designated 'no customers'. I work right there in my shop. Customers come up and check out my work and ask me about it. They often say they want to buy it when it's done. I watch customers in the shop, and when they see me they come up and ask questions. I'm starting to initiate conversation more often now. Here's part of yesterday’s effort:

[2013/06/05 01:30] Rya Nitely: Thank you for your purchase. Please let me know if you have any problems with it :)
[2013/06/05 01:31] Customer: Awesome. A creator that's actually helpful to his customers. :smileyvery-happy:But alright, I'll let you know if I have any problems. :)
[2013/06/05 01:32] Rya Nitely: cool, good feedback there :)

So, this customer was actually surprised I spoke to him. This tells me it mustn't happen to him often.

 

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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.

 

I'm marking your sim down on my 'To  do' list. I must see it after all this praise. Now this is word of mouth marketing in action!

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Rya Nitely wrote:

I just checked out a customer on MP and noticed she bought from me 4 times from 2011 to 2013 - this is the closest I get to a regular customer. But maybe she has also shopped inworld, I don't know.

 

LOL, I just checked today's inworld sales and she was there today with a friend buying a few items. So there's my answer.

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Many thanks for the kind words, Czari, Dresden & Pamela, I really appreciate them :)

The business arrangement that I'm involved in may be of interest to others with regard to operating a profitable business.  As I mentioned before, I operate in a niche market and though my retail business is soley my responsibility I am also fortunate to have two partners in the larger enterprise of the historical land that we live in.

This provides me with the best of both worlds as I have complete control over my little store (I'm a control freak) but I also reap the rewards of a partnership with other talented & hard working people.  In this case it has proved that "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts".

Business partnerships can be complicated and shouldn't be entered into lightly but if you can build good ones they can be extremely beneficial for all concerned.

 

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Rya Nitely wrote:

 

[2013/06/05 01:30] Rya Nitely: Thank you for your purchase. Please let me know if you have any problems with it
:)

[2013/06/05 01:31] Customer: Awesome. A creator that's actually helpful to his customers. :smileyvery-happy:But alright, I'll let you know if I have any problems.
:)

[2013/06/05 01:32] Rya Nitely: cool, good feedback there
:)

So, this customer was actually surprised I spoke to him. This tells me it mustn't happen to him often.

 

That's gonna happen a lot. I don't do it all the time but I try at least a few times a week to send my "thank you' notecard to my MP customers when they order something. I don't get everyone but I go back maybe a day or two and send to them. The messages I get back are always full of surprise that I would even bother to contact them. I've met some awesome people and made some great friends just by saying thank you.

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Rya Nitely wrote:

 

I'm marking your sim down on my 'To  do' list. I must see it after all this praise. Now
this
is word of mouth marketing in action!

Please do drop by when you get a chance, Rya.  If you have the time and would like to see the sights,  I might suggest that you take a carriage ride around the sims as it's a great way to sit back & relax while getting an idea of what's out there.

We do our best to provide an enjoyable, immersive SL experience that is also profitable (and hence sustainable).  It's a tricky balancing act. especially since, as many have already pointed out in this thread, there's only so much time in a day.

I would love to hear what you think.

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TatianaDokuchic Varriale wrote:


Rya Nitely wrote:

 

I'm marking your sim down on my 'To  do' list. I must see it after all this praise. Now
this
is word of mouth marketing in action!

Please do drop by when you get a chance, Rya.  If you have the time and would like to see the sights,  I might suggest that you take a carriage ride around the sims as it's a great way to sit back & relax while getting an idea of what's out there.

We do our best to provide an enjoyable, immersive SL experience that is also profitable (and hence sustainable).  It's a tricky balancing act. especially since, as many have already pointed out in this thread, there's only so much time in a day.

I would love to hear what you think.

Oooooo...carriage ride!!!!!  Definitely returning soon!!

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TatianaDokuchic Varriale wrote:

 

The business arrangement that I'm involved in may be of interest to others with regard to operating a profitable business.  As I mentioned before, I operate in a niche market and though my retail business is soley my responsibility I am also fortunate to have two partners in the larger enterprise of the historical land that we live in.

This provides me with the best of both worlds as I have complete control over my little store (I'm a control freak) but I also reap the rewards of a partnership with other talented & hard working people.  In this case it has proved that "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts".

Business partnerships can be complicated and shouldn't be entered into lightly but if you can build good ones they can be extremely beneficial for all concerned.

 

I'm interested to hear a bit more about the partnership you are involved in. I agree with you that working with partners can be an important factor for a profitable business.

 

When I was new in SL is was curious about all possibilities and wanted to learn all there is to learn. I took  for example a course in scripting, but I gave up on it. When they start to talk about 'integer' and such things, it just doesn't find a place in my imagination, and I loose the fun in learning. While for others the fun is just starting when 'integers' and 'boleans' come in.

I'm fascinated about what scripts can do, while textures give things a touch of realism, scripts can bring things to life.

Since I gave up on learning how to script, I have been looking for a cooperations with a talented scripter. Joining talents really adds value to products. There are only very few lucky ones amoung us who are really good at everthing. Ofcourse you can find or buys scripts that will do the job or that you can adjust to your needs. But working with a scripter ads another value, he brings in his on views and ideas, things you might nog have thought about at all, or didn't know about the possibility.

Apart from that it brings a better end products when several talents come together, it is also enjoyable that it makes the job less lonely.

My experiences with cooperations have always been very pleasant. At cYo we were with 3 people for a long time. But so far it is always the same song: one day real life comes in, people make new choices driven by rl circumstances, and sooner or later you loose them as your SL buddies. For cYo it are mainly economic rl conditions that forced my partners to spend less and less time in SL.

It's not that I'm completely lost and I still enjoy creating very much, but I really do miss them a lot. We still have mail contact, and sometimes they even dare to enter SL, but it is not the same anymore. What I miss is that we are no longer sharing in a creative proces where we challenge each others talents. That is what makes the whole greater then the sum of the parts, and that is mirrored in the final products.

So far I did not plan to let rl grab me, maybe one day they will be back, or I will meet new people to share talents with. It has happened often enough since I started in SL that trust grows en and you end up with working on something and find the joy of sharing talents.

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Oh that is sad, Madeliefste, and I hope you do find new partners.  This can indeed be a very solitary job and it is exciting to see what two or more brains can come up with that one alone would not. I have a mentor who helped me learn mesh and this has made my work so much more enjoyable. 

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Madeliefste, I understand how you feel. My partner is spending less time in SL as well. Fortunately for me he is a scripter and I have all the scripts full perm so I can carry on - and I'm learning to look at a script and change things. But I do sometimes have to drag him in kicking and screaming. Luckily we still have a bond, but I work alone most of the time too, and I miss what we once had in SL - all the things you mentioned - the support, company and getting someone else's opinion.

He has so much talent. Not only scripting - he just knew how to make things work. If I needed anything he would work out how to do it. So, although I do almost all the work these days I still give him half the profit because I wouldn't have most of these creations without his talent.

But then, who can blame someone after 5 years of doing this? He may come back when he gets a second wind.

But for those of us who love it and are well and truly addicted, it's hard to imagine giving it up.

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I've had this happen many times. I've stopped taking on partners because of it. About 4 or 5 years ago I was partnered with someone in my store and after awhile he was just gone, so I ended up dropping him. it got so confusing for people I had to change the name of my business. People probably don't remember, but I used to be called Bleeding Heart way back when I started in 2007. But Elegant Goth didn't come around til 2008. But I digress.

I do all my own designs, except mesh and sculpting. I just haven't had a chance to do that yet but it's on my list. But I typically do my own textures, definitely do all my own scripting (I'm a programmer in RL so it helps). I do work with a custom animator who is awesome and gets me all my requests within 1-3 days in most cases. She rocks my socks! What I would really like is a custom mesh maker, but of course I'd want someone who created strictly for my store and not selling them FP on the MP. We already have such an issue with everyone's items looking the same because we all shop the same FP creators. It would be nice to mix in some unique build stuff. But I don't think Ill ever find that. boohoo

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Rya Nitely wrote:

Madeliefste, I understand how you feel. My partner is spending less time in SL as well. Fortunately for me he is a scripter and I have all the scripts full perm so I can carry on - and I'm learning to look at a script and change things. But I do sometimes have to drag him in kicking and screaming. Luckily we still have a bond, but I work alone most of the time too, and I miss what we once had in SL - all the things you mentioned - the support, company and getting someone else's opinion.

He has so much talent. Not only scripting - he just knew how to make things work. If I needed anything he would work out how to do it. So, although I do almost all the work these days I still give him half the profit because I wouldn't have most of these creations without his talent.


With my first scripter I had the curtain store with, we worked on the same base 50/50. When he left we kept it like this, but at that time I was no longer developping new content for the store. Though the work of customer support still came to my plate, it still felt good to keep sharing 50/50. Once in a while he came in to pay half of the rent, and it was good that way. About three years after he left SL, the business was still profitable (without any new releases or any form of marketing). Then one day he announced that he wanted to pull back completely, not from the friendship, but from the business. He wanted me to be his heir. First I did not want to accept, but he insisted and after some discussion I still did accept, and since then I'm the single owner.

With cYo we have a different share model, because it all started with me as founder and I had set up a product line and such already before the others got involved. At cYo we work at product base. We look per product what work goes in for each of us, and split profit accordingly. When you make something on your own that does not involve contributions from the others you get 100% of the profit.

When it feels good to you Rya, to keep sharing till the end of times, while you do all the work, you must keep it that way. But I think it is both more honest and profitable when you start to work with a different split model for the products you develop on your own. You could think of something like, the work you made together during the last five years you keep splitting 50/50, but the products you make after partner has left could have a different split model, like 75/25 or 90/10.

I'm all for doing business in a honest way, and people who invested their time and their talent should be paid,whatever happens. But when you are the only one left to do all the work you should be awarded accordingly. Give it a think.

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Deja Letov wrote:

 

I do all my own designs, except mesh and sculpting. I just haven't had a chance to do that yet but it's on my list. But I typically do my own textures, definitely do all my own scripting (I'm a programmer in RL so it helps). I do work with a custom animator who is awesome and gets me all my requests within 1-3 days in most cases. She rocks my socks! What I would really like is a custom mesh maker, but of course I'd want someone who created strictly for my store and not selling them FP on the MP. We already have such an issue with everyone's items looking the same because we all shop the same FP creators. It would be nice to mix in some unique build stuff. But I don't think Ill ever find that. boohoo

I don't think it is impossible to find such a person. But you should not try to find him under the full perms sellers. Those were able to set up a profitable business for themselves already. The chance that they will give up that to support one single creator is almost nihil, indeed. But during the years I have met many people who have a great talent in one field or the other, but who have not the slighest clue about how reap the benefits of this talent commercially. It is in that group that you must look for a mesh partner... The point is though, they don't group together somewhere, where you can reach them, you just must have the luck to walk into such person.

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Oh no I didn't figure I would find one already in the biz. I'm always hoping to run into one though...of course as antisocial as I am in SL that's not very likely. 

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Deja, why don't you learn mesh? If you can do scripting then....well, mesh is so much easier. But then, I think scripting might use a different part of the brain.

3D modelling and texturing fit together. I learnt how to use mesh and UV mapping by watching YouTube tutorials. It just takes time, but that time pays off.

My advice is to make this your goal. Get yourself a mentor or use the mesh forum for questions - those guys are just so keen to help. And if you do decide to start learning mesh then IM me inworld if you need any advice at all :smileyhappy:. I'm not an expert but I'm picking it up quickly and my mesh products are selling well.

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Madeliefste Oh wrote:

But when you are the only one left to do all the work you should be awarded accordingly. Give it a think.


There is the emotional bond. If it was purely business then I would be keeping what's mine for sure.

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