Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Marketing Methods: Volunteering to raise awareness of your name

I was looking back this morning over the interview I did with building queen Aimee Weber (whose own book, Creating Your World: The Official Guide to Advanced Content Creation for Second Life, is coming out next week), and I was struck by one of the suggestions she made for how to become better known in the Second Life community--and thus to boost awareness of your business.

Here's what she said: "Volunteer for work, especially charity work. This will get your name associated with a reputable and respectable cause."

She went on to talk about how the American Cancer Society puts a lot of energy into its Second Life Relay For Life and how that organization would need builders to help with its efforts. Thus, Aimee said, any builders who helped out would "not only be working for a good cause, but they will have a good reference and their name will likely appear in press."

This is an interesting theory. I have no doubt, of course, that Aimee's right. She, after all, knows more about Second Life and marketing in SL, than most. But I'm acutely aware that some might look at such a comment and think it's cynical: Volunteer for personal benefit. Is this really something you want your name associated with?

Well, that's one way of thinking about it. Then again, look at the real world. Aren't athletes always volunteering for organizations like the American Way, and in the process getting a little positive press? Don't we always see corporate names attached with charity work?

I guess the message is this: If you can find a charitable cause to help out with, and you aren't crass about the way you leverage it, there's some clear advantage. It feels a little weird, but it obviously does offer some marketing benefit.

I might have wondered if such a method would be frowned upon in SL, but to hear Aimee Weber of all people list it among her top five suggestions for how to build a business was noteworthy to me.

Perhaps, however, I would offer a slight caveat, based purely on my own reasoning and not on any direct experience. Which is this: Go ahead and follow Aimee's advice, if you're so inclined. But maybe not at first. In other words, do volunteer. Do help out where you can, especially when you're getting started--if you have the time and inclination. But maybe don't try to leverage that help for marketing purposes right away. It might be more seemly to help out for purely altruistic reasons for awhile before you look to gain from it.

Over time, however, I think the community will see that you have helped out where you could and will likely not begrudge you a little recognition for what you've put in. And then everyone benefits.

1 comment:

Aimee Weber said...

Well the problem I was addressing was how to land a contract or job when you don't have professional references. The content creator basically has three options:

1. Get the job without professional references. That's pretty difficult! If you stick with it long enough, somebody may take a chance on you which will give you the reference you need for the next job. But waiting and hoping is not a proactive move.

2. Work for free for a corporation. This will not only give you your reference but also provides you an "in" with a company that could lead to more lucrative corporate work and contracts.

3. Work for free for a charity. This gives you your reference while doing something good for others.

There are reasons why one would prefer to donate time to a corporation instead of a charity, but morality wouldn't be one of them.

People routinely write off charitable donations from their taxes, but that doesn't mean they donate their money FOR those write-offs. The truth is, charities really need our help and are happy to tell others when/if you have proven yourself to be conscientious and hard-working.