When I first started out my Second Life shapes business back in 2008, I made 3 mistakes which I estimate are my biggest ones.
1. Pricing too low.
As a beginner in the SL business field, I wasn’t confident in the quality of the products I was offering. I had a fear I probably was not that good, at least not enough to compete with the already established shape selling brands out there. So I put to my shapes the ridiculous price of 50 L$ or a similar one.
Long story short, I made only a couple of sales for the first month. It definitely wasn’t what I expected.
But which is worse, I was attracting the wrong type of customers (which I am going to discuss later, in point #3).
For most people, low prices equals law quality. Even I have this predisposition when I compare products and services. I don’t go for the priciest, but I don’t go for the cheapest either.
On the other hand, the kind of business I chose to start is related to avatar’s appearance. People in SL pay special attention to the way they look like and often tend to spend a lot of lindens to achieve the perfect look. Almost giving away my products wasn’t the smartest decision so I made a quick prices compare with the competition and chose to charge a more reasonable price. The sales went up almost immediately.
2. Selling non-modifiable shapes.
I had a gut feeling about this one but unfortunately I chose to follow an inappropriate advice.
This is the advice I was given by my then closest SL friend and business mentor: “If you offer modifiable shapes, any unethical merchant could simply copy the numbers and duplicate your shape to sell it as their own.”
Ok, so what? Anyone who dares to post content online should be aware of the fact that his/her content could be stolen. It’s a reality we better accept and deal with in a better way.
Instead of worrying what other people might do, you’d better work on expressing your real self through your creations, honing your skills and creating genuine relationships with your customers. For example, my style is constantly evolving, my shapes are becoming better over time and practice. In the same time I have developed a signature style that can be easily recognized by my loyal clients. It’s relatively easy for the unbiased eye to see which one is the original and which one is the copy-cat. Hopefully copy-cats won’t have your determination and self-discipline to put in the hours of work required to run a business and their shops will die-off sooner or later.
The most important part is that I wasn’t happy with selling non-modifiable shapes because it was against my deepest values and beliefs. I believe in personal uniqueness. I believe in giving a choice. It’s uncool when anybody has to wear the same shape and doesn’t have the opportunity to express her individuality through her look. To tweak the shape a bit and make it her own.
The decision I made was to simply ask my clients what do they prefer – non-modifiable shapes at a ridiculously low price, or modifiable ones at a reasonable price.
They chose the latter.
3. Trying to please everyone.
Let’s face it – that’s just not possible. On a bunch of levels but I will mention two:
- the price issue.
There will always be people who think that you charge too much for your product or service. Most of them are the “freebie-hunters”, others are new residents who don’t have income yet. The way to please them is to give away lots of freebies on a regular basis (otherwise they are going to leave your group), to sell at prices affordable for the newbies who make a linden here and there through camping (is there camping anymore?), and to hope to make hundreds of sales to break even or make an insignificant profit after paying rent or land tier.
You have to decide for yourself if this is the right customer group for the product and service you provide.
On the other hand, there will also be those people (although a smaller group) who think you don’t charge enough thus your product must be worse than The-Already-Established-Brand’s one.
You have to follow your instincts and probably test some price options to see what is the price range working best for you. As I made, you could do a simple research and compare your prices with the competition’s ones, but also have in mind to ask yourself some questions:
how long have they been in the business? do they offer lots of product options that you don’t yet provide? probably they have a much bigger loyal clients base so they can afford to charge more?
- personal taste related issues
Whatever you create, there will be people who love it and people who hate it.
Especially if you have a signature style. Customers who buy from me for some time should have noticed that I create shapes with a feminine model look or comic books inspired look, that I strive to make realistic faces with smaller eyes and bigger puffy lips. There are people who are more into the manga inspired look with its big innocent eyes and obviously my shapes wouldn’t be the best fit for them. (I actually made 2 shapes with bigger anime eyes: Belle the sassy doll and Monique the ballet girl to test the anime look and one of them is selling very well, but this style is an exclusion for me, not a rule).
Trying to make everything for everyone spreads you too thin. You’d better decide which are the right type of customers who resonate best with you and your style. And then serve these clients in your best way.