Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Residents Speak: Kim Anubis

It's been a busy fall for books about Second Life.

I was at a book store in San Francisco yesterday--ostensibly to attend a book signing by celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain, but while there I just "happened" to go and notice that they had mine on an outward-facing display--and it turned out they had a whole shelf of Second Life books.

One of them was Creating Your World: The Official Guide to Advanced Content Creation for Second Life, by Aimee Weber, Kim Rufer-Bach and Richard Platel.

For those that don't know, Rufer-Bach is known in Second Life as Kim Anubis, the owner of The Magicians, an important designer of in-world building projects for real-world institutions.

Well, Kim is also featured in my book, The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life, and in it, she shares her thoughts about how someone getting started out in the SL construction business who's not sure of what kind of prefab builds to sell can decide which way to go.

She explained to me that her approach would be to "employ some traditional market research" methods:

- Give a gift to people who fill out a questionnaire about what sort of prefab they would want.
- Start a thread about it on a message board or forum.
- Talk to lots of people about it.
- Put a number of things on sale and see what sells, and what doesn't.

For some people, there may be no question about what to build. They already know exactly what they want. Many others, however, have the building skills and interest to go into the business but may not be familiar enough with what's out there to know what would sell well.

In addition to Kim's suggestions, I would add another piece of advice, and one that applies to any segment of Second Life business: Check out what the competition is selling. That will ensure that you don't try to sell the same thing that a dozen others are already saturating the market with. Or, if you do decide to go that way, that you can identify a way to make your prefabs stand out from the competition.

But Kim is touching on a very sound principle of business, both for SL and the real-world: Building a product line based on what customers want.

It may not be the simplest endeavor. It will take time, and you'll have to be willing to sift through a lot of ideas--many of them less than valuable. But, after all, Second Life residents are going to be the ones buying your prefabs, so shouldn't you give them what they want?

To be sure, your own ideas may be even better than what the residents come up with, but don't discount their collective wisdom. They are the people who are out there, frequenting the existing prefab builders, and they know what's available. If there are people who have something they want and can't find on the market, and they tell you about it, you may strike upon a great business opportunity.

Ultimately, a successful approach will likely be to mix Kim's market-research methods with some creative thinking of your own. Don't discount the value in what the residents say they want.