So your store is up and running. We can find your store from search and from your profile. Now it’s time to get the word out.
In-World Marketing Groups: I am a group-a-phobe and have no real expertise on in-world groups for marketing, but that’s okay. Harper Beresford is. She did a great summary on in-world groups for the Fashion Forum at Second Life Community Forums. Store owners should join marketing groups that connect designers with customers, but remember to be considerate and follow the posting guidelines for the group. Sasy points out that not all of these groups are for marketing, some are for advice and chat. MenStuff and WomenStuff are two from her list that are for marketing. There’s also What’s New SL and Fashion Consolidated or FashCon. Please post more suggestions in the comments.
Group Notices: Whether you form an in-world group or use a group subscriber system, I think the key to group notices is that they must be effective and popular representatives of your store. The notice should include PICTURES as well as a landmark. The notice should get to the point. What you are releasing and where and when. Actually, if you are releasing tomorrow, don’t send the notice today. We are lazy and forgetful and will have forgotten and deleted that notecard already. You can build your notecard up a bit by keeping the pictures and info from the last three or four releases. That way, if I ignored your prior notecards but you have caught me at a good time, I can see more than just the one outfit. Don’t include your last 3 months – just the last few releases. If you are releasing multiples, include a picture of each and sort the pictures into labeled groups: Dresses/Shoes/Hair. Limit yourself to sending out notecards once a week. If you do it twice as week, I won’t hate you, but I will roll my eyes at you.
- In-World Groups: They are cheaper than subscriber management systems. They give you the option for group chat while giving your subscribers the option of turning off chat and notices and checking notices at their convenience. I think that if you are store owner that needs to communicate with your customers every single day, you must choose this form of group that gives me the option of ignoring you. Rather than send a notecard everyday, you can open up the chat window and indulge yourself with some friendly chat and truly, you can build a following of loyal, loving customers who appreciate that personal connection.
- Group Management Systems: They can be expensive, but they don’t use any precious in-world group slots. I think they are a great option in the hands of judicious and considerate store owners. In the hands of some people they are capable of creating ill will and costing you customers. Do not add people on your end, whether they have bought in your store or not, they must opt in or you will cause ill will. Control yourself and don’t send everytime you get a whim. If I get one notice per day, I will not read any of them, but click discard as they come in. If I get multiple notices per day, I will hunt down that unsubscribe box you thought you hid so cleverly in the wall and get off your list. I will also no longer be a customer.
Marketplace: I am no expert on Marketplace and I hear tales of woe about how confusing it is, but seriously, dude, get your stuff on Marketplace. If your landlord and sim disappear, you will have a Marketplace storefront while you find a new spot. If you’re closed for remodeling, you will have a Marketplace storefront. It lets people buy gifts!!! Whatever grief and frustration it may cost you, get your stuff on Marketplace. Sometimes I search on Marketplace and find what I want and buy it in-world anyway. It’s like a catalog for your store.
Second Life has lots of information about setting up your Marketplace storefront, learn how to do it and open your real satellite store. The Knowledge Base is full of helpful advice. Check out:
- Selling in the MarketPlace
- Managing your MarketPlace store
- How to Market your Products
- Guidelines for Creating Search Listings
Store Blogs: If you can create clothing worth selling, you have all the skills you need to publish a blog that promotes your store. You can have a free blog at WordPress, Tumblr, Blogspot or even at SLUniverse. A blog is free publicity for your store. Even if you don’t want to post your releases (Why?) you can at the very least have a business card blog with the store name, a link to your SL profile, to your Marketplace storefront and a SLURL to the main store. If you don’t put a link to your SL profile or your Marketplace storefront, you are losing customers. The address for your SL profile is http://my.secondlife.com/firstname.lastname. You can find it on your Marketplace storefront when you get the URL for that.
If you have a great store and want to show it off and are willing to spend a little money on your blog, you can order a SLPano URL. The service is free and lets you combine your URL map page with a banner ad. If you wish to add a panorama showing off your beautiful store you would have to purchase the panorama shoot.
You should update the store blog every time you send out a notice to your group. Seriously, if you’re willing to spend the time to send a Notecard that will possibly annoy me, take five minutes to copy and paste into a blog post that I will actively seek out on the feeds. I know other people are not annoyed by lots of notecards – and they might not look at blogs and feeds, but for a few minutes time spent copying and pasting, you serve both kinds of customers preferred way to finding out about your store.
What’s New SL: What’s New SL is much more than an in-world group for you to send your notecards to group members. You also are allowed to post your info to their blog. So after you write your notecard, you can also open up your blog in your browser and What’s New SL in another tab and copy and paste the text from your notecard to your blog, to the What’s New Blog and then upload the pics to the blog posts and have at least four separate communications to potential customers in little more than time it takes to reach one. What’s more, they reach different people. What’s New is not on any blog aggregators so it won’t show up as a repeat of your blog post. That means you can reach 1) potential customers who signed up to see the newest releases at What’s New SL, 2) your loyal customers who signed up for your specific in-world or external group system, 3) your blog readers and 4) the What’s New SL blog readers and then if you are on feeds, the people that read those feeds. The thing is, people who prefer blogs for finding fashion newness are not always the same people who like notecards and group notices – so you are reaching different people with each method of communicating. Of course, there will be some overlap, but it’s overlap the customer expects as a result of looking at various media.
Feeds: There are several syndicated feeds that aggregate Second Life blogs. You should join at least one or two. Make the effort to join one or more of the feeds serving other languages so you can tap into that market. I did not list personal feeds as you cannot apply for inclusion anyway.
- Chic Critique – Submit your blog
- Fashion Feed of SL – Submit your blog
- Fashion in Pixels – Submit your blog
- Glance International Fashion Feed – Submit your blog
- HeartBeat Shopping Feed – Submit Your Blog
- I Heart SL – Submit your blog
- Second Life Blog Feed Portal – Submit your blog
- SL Bloggers R Us – Submit Your Blog No longer accepting applications
- SL Fun Feed – Submit your blog
- SL Gorean Community Feed – Submit your blog
- SLU Feed.Me – Submit your blog
- Style Academy – Submit your blog
- Virtual Fashion Feed –Submit your blog
Bloggers: A good blog post can send customers to your store. But how do you go about getting blogged when you are undiscovered? Bloggers, can, if well managed have a positive impact on your business – particularly new businesses.
- Know Your Bloggers: The first thing, I think, to being smart and effective about getting blogged is deciding who you want to blog your merchandise. Scan the feeds and find bloggers who look and dress like the woman who is going to buy your clothes, your customers. If your style is fantasy with elves and fairies, find the bloggers who wear that kind of clothing. If your style is Gorean, check out the Gorean bloggers. Some people wear lots of casual clothes, others wear more formal gowns, some like historical and vintage, some love tattoos and some have never worn a tattoo in their SLife. Even if you can persuade some blogger who never wears fantasy to dress like a mermaid because your outfit is that amazing, most of her readers won’t be in the fantasy market anyway.
- Pay Attention to New Bloggers. Don’t be afraid to approach new bloggers. Sure, they may have a smaller readership, but so long as they are syndicated on one or more feeds, it doesn’t matter that much. Yes, established bloggers probably have higher traffic on their blogs, but many people read feeds. The feed does not care that my blog began in 2008 and Suzy FirstDay began in 2011. The feed does not care about the number of unique visitors or my Technorati rating. On the feed, we are all equal, so reach out to the new bloggers. They are less likely to have stores sending them items as they have not been building relationships for very long. If they are new and you are new, they may develop a vested interest in your success and really work hard to highlight your work.
- Blog Quality Matters. Do take the blog quality and reputation into account. You can see the pictures and can tell whether or not the blogger will take the time to fit your prims to make the outfit appear as it should. If they merely toss it one without fitting, people might think you made it that way. I don’t think picture quality is the be all and end all of blogging. All you really need is competent photos that show the clothes as they should be shown – and fitted as they should be fitted. For your purposes, the most important thing is that they fit the clothing. That is far more important than fancy photo effects. Me, I love fancy photo effects, but they cannot hide bad fitting clothes.
- Repetition is good. It doesn’t hurt to have multiple bloggers showing off your creations. Repetition is good for you in this context because not every blogger is seen by every reader on every feed. Not only that, the more your outfit is blogged, the more likely it is that someone will see it styled in a way that speaks to them. Bloggers all style differently and seeing the same outfit shown 6 different ways tells me that’s an outfit that is a wardrobe foundation piece. Having one or two dozen bloggers who can be counted on to blog your stuff fairly often is a great way to keep your store on the feeds everyday. However, if you give your stuff to every blogger, you are losing some of your customer base. Bloggers are among the more avid clothing purchasers, so be thoughtful in deciding who to send your stuff to.
- It’s great when bloggers blog older items, too. A store owner once invited me to come to her store and choose an outfit to blog. I immediately saw one I liked and requested it. In my head, she smiled as she replied, “Oh no, not that one. It was in a magazine last month so it’s already been seen.” My jaw dropped, but hey, I can adapt, so I chose another and she said, “Not that one, that was blogged by Sheila BloggedItFirst.” She was operating under two very wrong-headed ideas. One was that I could read her mind. The other was that every blog readers sees every blog and every magazine and retains it all as well. Repetition does not hurt! If Sheila BloggedItFirst showed of your blue floral sundress there’s no reason that Suzy FirstDay can’t show it off, too. They are likely to have different readers and catch different people’s eyes.
- Bloggers can get overwhelmed so pretend they are lazy and don’t make them work to hard to choose your items. These are my preferences. Others may feel differently. I love getting folders rather than boxes, but it it is just a box, that’s fine. Boxes inside boxes get tedious. I love getting a picture in the folder. Of course you don’t want to send your entire store, but make it easy for me to choose. If you want me to choose from a group of items, why not send a folder of textures or notecard with textures instead of asking me to come to the store. Some designers provide gift cards or have hidden blogger skyboxes to pick up items when there is a big release. If you are sending me something for the first time and send a box, send a notecard with it so I don’t think it’s one of the rez and eat your money boxes.
- Approaching a new blogger. A notecard or IM is a nice way to approach a new blogger – send some pictures though. Most bloggers will be pleased and flattered by your approach and happy to check out your clothing and your store, though that does not always mean they will end up blogging. I never promise to blog anything that is unsolicited, but if I ask for a specific item, you deserve to have it blogged within the week. Don’t expect me or anyone to respond immediately. Sometimes we are busy, sometimes we are AFK. Sometimes the party typing on that keyboard is a cat. If you think it’s scary to approach a blogger, imagine how scary it is for a blogger to approach a designer.
- Now everyone wants to be your blogger. I think it is a good idea to decide ahead of time who you want to blog and approach them. They aren’t going to bite. Then decide how many bloggers you need for optimum exposure on the feeds. Perhaps it’s 10, 20 or 70. It’s up to you and what gets you exposure that gets you customers. If someone approaches you and asks you for promotional copies, don’t say yes until you look at their blog and ensure the fit the clothing properly and shoot competent photos and if they are critical, are critical in a constructive way. It’s valuable to have your stuff blogged by people who will be critical, their praise is more valued. Don’t hesitate to say no, you can merely say you have already decided on who you want to give promotional items.
Freebies: I am not going to wade into the dangerous waters of the freebie debate. I think stores should have at least one freebie, but don’t think you should be expected to give monthly freebies. I think the freebie should represent your best work and be something equivalent to one of your more expensive items – perhaps a recolor. It will show exactly how well you can conquer the challenges of matching seams and fitting prims. When your skills make a major advance and your current work surpasses the example from your freebie, then you should make a new freebie. Your freebie is how I evaluate your work when you are new to me.