How to be a succesful merchant in Second Life

How to be a succesful merchant in Second Life (or How to make money in Second Life)

It starts with attitude.

[Note: This *is* a rant. And as a rant it may paint some vendors with a wide brush. Those of you who feel targeted might consider that this feedback from a potential customer is useful. Those who are in fact excellent vendors may agree, and see what they are doing well. For another side of the story, see How to complain effectively.]

The other day, I met some lovely people. A vendor who sells oddball animations. They are well done and funny. They were selling dollarbie poses, entertaining enough that I’d be happy to send someone to take a look it and and decide if they wanted to spend L$1 per anim. So I blogged it.

Later, having met her and a couple of her friends, I enjoyed their good company, I also blogged a very funny pose. I blogged it because it was funny. One of the friends asked me if I would blog their freebie. “Is it notable? Is it worthy of blogging? Is it extraordinary in some sense?” “Oh! It is! It’s quite the thing!”.

So I went and looked. And this person who was very nice, once we got there said “Well, OK, I was kidding about it’s being extraordinarily good”. And he was right, it was good, but not extraordinarily. It was competent, but not noteworthy. But I blogged it because I didn’t want to offend. Yet, I felt offended at the tactic. I’m not willing to attribute ill-will, only the individual’s eagerness to promote his own product. I can understand it. But I was lied to, and I felt used.

I am not a marketing tool for vendors.

I, like most people, am a natural promoter of that which I love. I’ll blog you because you are positive citizens bringing something valuable to the world. I’ll blog you because you created something unique, thoughtful, insightful. I’ll blog you for because I think that others could benefit of knowing about you, or what you do. I’ll blog you because something amuses me. I’ll talk about and promote you for no other reason than the fact that you are nice and I feel like it.

But I’m not a marketing tool. Don’t treat me like one.

Don’t “handle” me. Don’t schmooze me. Don’t sell me. Do not manipulate me, it’ll only make me turn on you. DO show me something wonderful, creative, inspiring, uplifting, clever, masterful, functional, helpful, positive, funny, beautiful. I’ll appreciate it for what it is. And if it sticks with me, I’ll talk about it.

A reminder to vendors in Second Life (and in the real world!). We know who creates for joy, and who creates for money. We recognize quality, innovation, originality, craftsmanship, skill and pride of work. And we recognize people who are just in it “fer da $$$”. We recognize how you treat us. We instinctivly feel whether you respect us or not. And that will have a big influence on whether we purchase from you, or quietly steer people away to your competitors.

If it’s not free, it’s not a freebie! How many times have you gone to a board and seen the world “FREEBIE!”, only to find out that they are L$1?

That is a meaningful and deliberate lie. If it’s L$1 call it a dollarbie. Advertize it as only L$1. We’re not stupid. We might be happy to pay the L$1, but in mis-naming your product, we recognize the lie, and that one simple act taints your reputation.

We recognize the doubletalk of marketing. We recognize the tactics of handing out your stuff as freebies because they don’t cut the grade with your clientel as a paid product. And that’s OK, but please don’t act as if you are doing us a favour for which we are obliged to reciprocate or offer something in return. We know that you are giving away your B inventory in order to get us to sign up to a group so that you can market to us even more. For those who do such things understand: it lessens you as a person, and it cheapens your brand.

And we all recognize it.

Here is a wonderful counter example. Thanks to Ariel Erlanger of Ariel Erlanger Designs for offering super-cheap cool stuff and for the refreshing honesty in advertising!

Ariel Enlarger offers us a refreshing bit of truth in advertising. Vendors such as these deserve to be rewarded with our patronage.

Ariel Enlarger offers us a refreshing bit of truth in advertising. Vendors such as these deserve to be rewarded with our patronage.

Way to go Ariel! May many more follow you in performing a simple act of integrity that creates trust, goodwill and strengthens your brand.

Negative marketing and bad vibes.

Screenshot of a popup upon entering a vendor's premises

Screenshot of a popup upon entering a vendor's premises

The above is an example of what I consider to be negative marketing. Upon entering this vendor’s store, it’s apparent to me that they are willing to spin fear to try to boost sales. It’s also apparent that they have no problem sharing anger and fear. Their choice. And it’s my choice as to whether I want to do business with such an individual. My first gut respsonse to this was to feel insulted. How would you feel if you walked into your corner store to buy a snack, and the owner of the store yelled this at you as you entered? And as for telling me whether I can take a snapshot or not? Please! Instead of trying to contstrain the customer, how about making it so that your potential customers simply cannot resist buying it? Why not make a reputation for yourself as one of the leading builders in SL? THAT sells. Fear and greed repels sales.

Joy, and fun attracts people.

Salmaru's store. A wonderful example of a creator who comes from a place of joy.

Salmaru Masala's store. A wonderful example of a creator who comes from a place of joy.

Contrast this with someone, say, Salmaru Masala. Salmaru gives away the bizzarest, most unusual, strangest, dumbest, funniest, the most bent stuff I’ve ever seen. (C’mon, who doesn’t love a eating an eel down to it’s skeleton?) He’s someone who obviously creates from joy. And he gives it away. Why? I have no idea. I should interview him and blog him. HE is an individual that is noteworthy insofar as what be brings to Second Life. If he were to sell stuff, I’d most likely buy it because a) I’ve seen the good quality and nature of his stuff, and b) he’s brought me so much fun over time that I’d do it just to thank him! (PS: He doesn’t even have a tip jar. I’m *looking* for ways to thank him).

Free mention. Free slurl. Never even met the guy. In fact, regardless of this article, it’s hard not to enthuse about him. That is how ALL word-of-mouth works.

Don’t spam the freebie chat groups: While you’re at it, if you are a merchant who has signed up for freebie groups, such as The Freebie Telegraph, please take a moment to consider the actual purpose of such a group. It is NOT a spam group for you to self-promote. It is not a marketing medium. It is a group where enthusiatic Second Life residents can share their discoveries of excellent freebies with other users. The fact that, as a by-product that it serves your needs as well is not lisence to spam the same junk every three seconds. Anything more than once per hour is excessive. We *get* it. You want to increase your traffic to bring in more prospect and potentially tempt someone into a sale. But do you know what? If your offering is really good, worthy enough to actually draw people and make them talk about it, you don’t need to hammer on the lists, screamingly trying to attract prospects. Nothing turns a potential client off like being bludgeoned with pleas for attention veiled as ” a gift”. And if it’s not, no flailing about like a Tourettes seized marketer on crack will create sales. And if you product is not good enough to have people trample on down to you until your sim is so laggy that it almost crashes–improve your product! Marketing is the bridge between client and manufacturer, and every marketer lives by two rules: 1) always collect feedback and measure, and 2) adapt all products at all times to meet with the prospect’s needs until end of life-cycle. If you fail to do this, no amount of gaving will cause the client to buy, it may even cause them to prematurely regurgitate.

Just be a cool person. Put out good stuff that people actually want and can use. Make good stuff. Sell it at a reasonable price, or give it away and your enthusiastic supporters will take care of it for you.

Spammy greeters: This one I really don’t get. I’m at your door step. Why is your script offering me an LM? If I’m interested, I’m perfectly capable of pulling down a menu. World -> Create Landmark here. You know that guy that hangs around the door of peepshow houses and hands out pamplets? Don’t be that guy.

Scripted greeters: I have one word for you: llInstantMessage(). Do we really need to hear the same greeings for every name that come though the door? Conversely, know what works really well? I met a vendor the other day who had a helper. She greeted me, asked me if I needed help, when I thanked her but no, she simply said “Let me know if there is, I’ll be here”, then scampered off. That was gracious.

Group signups: why force someone to sign up to a group that they’ll unsubscribe from the moment they collected the offering? You’ve already collected their name as soon as they passed the greeter, and if your stuff is good, they’ll sign up automatically, if it matches what they are interested in. If you’re giving a freebie, just give it. Don’t make someone “pay” for it by trading it for a marketing opportunity. You have no idea how far good will goes in a vendor’s favour.

“Anti-copy bot” spammers: Folks !quit it! “low spam” scripts are actually HIGH spam. And they don’t work. They might have worked for about 48 hours three years ago. Now they are dead, and they only make you look like you don’t know any better, or are paranoid. Do you think the various copy-bot creators would be bamboozled by a word in text chat? No. If they’re out to rip you off, spamming 10 lines of chat to every person entering will not stop them. It’s amazing the amount of energy these people will put into saving 2 dollars.

But Quite! You’re basically taking away all of our marketing tools!

No. I’m letting you know that these things, that you may *think* serve you, actually annoys customers. Enough so that by the time we see your product, we are so jaded at your sucking at our attention teat that we assume that your product is not good enough.

This is what sells product in Second Life: Excellent product. Excellent posters with good photography, an excellent description of your product, excellent merchandising, demo stops with visible models that we can look at or try, good store layouts, an excellent and unique product is what brings us back.

Consider stores such as ED Eclipse. I own half their stock. I pay a premium price on it too, and I’m happy to do so, because the quality is outstanding. Another example: Redgraves skins. I pretty much only buy Redgraves these days. No popups. No fake freebie give-aways. No desperate plea to sign up to a group. That place is alway (and I mean at all hours of every day) crammed. And to boot, the average skin is L$995. High end quality at a reasonable price. Good merchandising, floor layout. She exposes her excellent product, she does not shove it down our throats.

Quality is what sells: Somebody sees me with a Redgraves skin on, or some cool AV that uses only the best stuff I can make or buy, and people ask me “Where did you get that?”. I always share the LM. (I swear that Redgraves should pay me on commission!)

And one more thing, and this is merely a note: Some vendors sell demos for L$1, some give them away for free. I’m totally cool with both, there’s no contract that says a demo has to be free, and L$1 is reasonable, and maybe it even helps pay tiere. So that’s not an issue. I will say, though, that when I do find demos for L$0, that I tend to collected them all, then try them ALL on. And sometimes the skin, hair, clothing, shoe, whatever I thought wasn’t what I wanted ends up being perfect in another context. I could not have known that if I didn’t keep the demo. And when you give a demo, THAT is the time to include a landmark and a notecard. I’ve reached for your product. I’m intersted. NOW is the time to make me an offer.

While I’m all for commerce in the real world and in second life, there is also a sickness of greed and a tunnel-vision focus on making money at all costs that turns me off. People are treated like money machines to be milked by vendors. When you treat us like consumers, and not people, you demean us. And in doing so, you lower yourselves to the level of users, and people recognize when they are being used. They may not put their finger on the exact words or concepts, but we all know that subtle sinking feeling. All humans have a sense of what is innately fair.

And we act on it.

I have some vendors who I am absolutely committed to. I send people their way all the time because they create wonderful product, give great customer support and are genuinely nice people.I consider Abramelin Wolf of Abraminations, an excellent second life animation and AO vendor to be such a person. I brag them up all the time. But I’m not their marketing tool, I’m a real person who is enthusiastic about supporting someone who is a giver.

Image of a sign for the Second Life animation vendor at Abramination. Compare this to the previously mentioned greeting. Which of the two would YOU rather do business with?

Image of a sign for the Second Life animation vendor at Abramination. Compare this to the previously mentioned greeting. Which of the two would YOU rather do business with?

We recognize integrity. We recognize honest good will. We recognize the truth.

And we act on it.

It’s been my experience that you will enrich yourself far more quickly, and profoundly by being a giver, rather than a taker. In short, I think this whole message can boil down to a simple human truth: to increase your sucess, rather than getting greedy, fearful and manipulative, genuinely share your joy and serve the people you want to attract in your space.

And that’s something I’d like to remind vendors of.


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