You’re probably already familiar with the old saw, “Advertising doesn’t cost; it pays.” Lots of businesses, in SL and in RL, drop insane amounts of money for promotion right from the get-go, figuring that the sooner they get their name out there, the sooner they’ll get lots of customers to come through their doors to buy their products.
What the pat little saying doesn’t mention is that advertising can indeed be very costly, especially when your business is brand new. This blog at A VC talks about marketing in RL business, and it provides some important insight as to what works and what doesn’t when you’re trying to get “heard of”. Many, if not all, of the tips mentioned in the linked article can be translated into practical use for your business in Second Life.
Before dropping thousands of lindens on that magazine spread, TreetTV spot, banner ad at the Marketplace, or even classified, you need to make full use of what is available for free. Numerous tools are available for your use to get people to hear about and spread the word about your virtual business for free and cheap. Are you getting the most out of them?
- LMs to your shop. These are the virtual equivalent of business cards; they should be given out freely, and often. Put an up-to-date LM to your shop in with every single item you sell. At your club, have a LM giver that will hit people with a LM (once!) when they come in. Whenever you send an announcement to your group (more on that shortly), put a LM. Don’t assume your group knows where the place is.
- A Shop Group. I can’t harp on this enough. It’s 100L to start up. Worried nobody will join within 48 hours? That’s what alts are for. Have a prim people can click to easily join your group. Make it open membership. And send announcements regularly (weekly, if it’s a shop; half an hour before each event at a club).
- Marketplace listings. This is especially crucial if your business is brand new, or if it’s moving around and hasn’t settled down on a main store location. If you’re new and only have a few products, or you can’t quite swing shop rent yet, this is an absolute must for you. You may even want to shorten the URL to your Marketplace shop and include it in your group’s description. And if you have a club, have some sort of a nice goodie at the Marketplace with a lm to your club. In fact, as we go through this list, consider how to link these list items to call attention to one another.
- Your business name and location in your Picks. Maybe number your Picks, so that your business is the very first thing listed. Have it in the Picks of your alts and (if they will) your friends too. You never know who will be looking at your profile and when.
- Your business name in the name of your parcel if you own your own parcel. It can be forgotten when you’re trying to remember everything else.
- Events. And not just for clubs! Almost every month of the year has a holiday or two that would make a great occasion for a sale, in-store hunt, or event. Use the Events listing to make the most of the occasion. Just make sure you’re honest about what the event is; customers don’t respond well to a bait-and-switch.
- Twitter and/or Facebook and/or Tumblr. Link to your store by way of them; link to them by way of your store.
- A blog for your business. More on that here.
All of these tools can be used to build something that really can’t be bought: community.
So suppose you’ve been at the game for a while, you’ve grown a bit, and you’re ready to try your hand at advertising. What are some things you should know?
- Advertising doesn’t guarantee revenue. It really doesn’t. In many ways it can be a gamble. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done; just be prepared to spend money that you may not see again.
- Find a community geared to your target audience. See what podcasts, publications, etc. are available within this community that may suit your business.
- As in all things, start small. Don’t do more than you can reasonably afford. Coca-Cola grossed $50 in sales in its first year of existence; its creator had spent $70 in its creation. It didn’t become the giant it is now overnight, and neither will you.
- Keep track. Make a note of when the ad run started, how much it cost, and what your sales were during it. There’s nothing quite like a graph to quickly show you if the ad was successful or not.
What are your own experiences with advertising, and what did you learn from them?
This article is listed in the SL Business section of the Know-it-All Pages, where you can find even more useful information. Go now, and see for yourself!