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Week 4 – Sales

January 27th was the day picked for us to sell our products. It was a new experience for me and it ended up revealing many things that I had not considered before but showed up during the sales period.

Our product, Amore Due, was available for pre-order only, with two prototypes on display for people to see and a poster advertising the product. Not having the physical product for sale at the moment was a disadvantage for us, since we had to expect costumers to rely on our prototypes and words only. I think many people were a little intimidated to approach us since we didn’t have much on display, and many were probably also intimidated by the idea of signing a list for pre-order sales, probably not ready for such commitment. Still, people approached our table and asked about the product, some of them showing genuine interest.

If we were to repeat the experience, I’d like to have a better plan of action that focused more on attracting customers, and maybe a few physical products all ready and available to be bought on real time. I think we could also have used more intensive marketing techniques, and, overal, acquainted people with our product better, since it’s a bit of a innovative idea and some people might be confused or hesitating towards it. It would be also interesting to consider approaching people on our own rather than expecting them to approach us.

An example of a successful business in the Maker Economy that comes to mind is Bullseye Beads shop on Etsy. This shop is specialized in selling hand-crafted accessories and jewellery that are incredibly aesthetically appealing and also have a very unique identity to themselves, such as glass acorn pendants, delicate necklaces and many others. Some might consider the products pricey, but the costs are directly proportional to the amount of time and work spent to craft each item. The amount of sales and positive reviews is enough to show this business is successful and effective on its sales strategy.

 

 

Week 3 – Writing & Reviewing

On Friday’s class of Week 3, we were prompted to analyze our own basic drafts of our final business report and, later on, form pairs to give each other feedback on our drafts. During class (and with the help of previous class), I learned that there were actually really useful methods to identify issues and qualities of each project (for example, the SWOT method, or the PESTLE analysis) and they could be really helpful in organizing our business reports.

Receiving feedback not only helped me to notice some flaws I wasn’t fully aware of, but also made me aware of what I was doing right, which is just as important as correcting mistakes. Through feedback, I was informed that certain parts of my draft (namely the industry analysis and company overview) were too detailed and meticulous, while other parts, such as the finances section (which is pretty important in a business report for obvious reasons) was kind of lacking specific information and shorter in size than many other sections, and how it would be better to have all sections have more or less the same amount of depth to them. I also found it extremely rewarding to have someone comment on my writing and how adequate it was to the report, helping me to identify that I was actually doing right by writing in third person and using a direct language approach.

When it was my turn to give feedback, I was able to notice the differences between my own draft and the others, and how what they were doing right could be added to my own report. It was also weirdly comforting to know I wasn’t the only one a little lost about what to write in certain sections, and interacting with other people helped me to see what I could write in these specific areas. It was also interesting to actually exchange our ideas and concerns regarding the report instead of simply hearing one person pour suggestions.

I’d classify IndieGoGo as a successful business in the Maker Economy. They provide a safe solution for many developers’ biggest problem, which is budget and can hardly be obtained easily and quickly. Many developers already have the skills and some of the tools necessary to create their product, but still in dire need of money that allows them to gain access to more tools and spend their time focused on a specific project. IndieGoGo allows people interested in said project to donate money for its production and be rewarded for it accordingly, which ends up as a win-win situation for both the developers and the donators. Of course, not every project achieves their budget goals and might end up in failure, but donators are able to reclaim their money safely. I think IndieGoGo has become fundamental to many indie developers in several areas of entertainment and is partly responsible for the ‘boom’ of indie projects coming to life we have seen in the last years, allowing fans to contribute to the production of what they love for the first time.

Week 3 – User and Product Testing

Tuesday’s class was about the many user/product testing methods and their importance to the final product – through testing, it is possible to identify flaws and minor inconsistencies that might go overlooked by the developers.

There are two ways to collect data for these testings: the developers of the product might opt to collect the data themselves, or use secondary fonts of information already collected to assist in their research. The first method is very useful to gain data specific to the project, but requires time and money that aren’t always available for everyone involved into developing a project. It also requires the people involved not to let themselves be biased towards their product in the questionnaire and its answers. Examples of this method are surveys, online research and experimentation. The second method allows access to a myriad of information already collected and organized, in most cases for free, but it’s important to notice if the information is outdated or is even relevant to your project at all, and, if it costs money, maybe it’s wiser to spend money on the first method.

Survey

Our class survey was very helpful in gathering opinions besides our own about our product. Loretta also gave us valuable tips concerning some pieces that could be replaced for cheaper components and help us reduce both our final price and product size. Through the survey, we were able to get a real feedback about the interest in our product and its price, and the different opinions will help us to come with terms with the product’s final price and other minor changes regarding functional design. Personally, I believe both methods of data gathering explored by us are equally useful in their own manner – through the survey, we were able to get a more personal, detailed feedback on people’s views of our project and how engaged they are about it, but it’s also fundamental to use secondary fonts of research, especially to help us get used with this market and product design, since both are quite new to us.

 

Bad UI/UX example

The most blatant example that comes to mind is Lord of the Rings Online (LoTRO). It can be argued it’s an old game since it dates back to 2007, but there is something truly atrocious about the amount of information at times displayed on screen, how clunky the user interface can be, and, worst of all, how hard it can be to simply control the player character on screen since the controls might occasionally bug and invert themselves out of the blue. The game is dear to many fans around the world and, despite the outdated graphics and terrible UI/UX mechanics, it’s still played by many, but I actually find it nearly impossible to enjoy given how hard it is to get around the menus at certain points. Everything becomes a hundred times harder since the game barely takes its time to explain where everything can be found in the menus and users are forced to stumble their way through the crowded user interface. Some users have even developed alternative UIs to the game’s original buggy one to make things a bit easier.

Week 2 – Business Plans and Reports

Friday’s class was about business plans. We learned that business plans are documents prepared by a firms management that compile financial and operational goals of a business, and the methods employed in order to fulfill them. These documents need to be constantly updated depending on the current situation and eventual changes. The advantages of creating business plans are many – it allows a rapid response to any possible problems and identifying where these problems might have come from, bigger awareness of current trends and potential competitors, having a plan of action with very clear goals that can be followed more easily, and adopting an overall professional attitude.

Many business plans, however, end up in failure due to their own companies’ arrogance, according to Salhman. Some entrepreneurs can become too focused on the business potential and ignore or purposefully diminish its risks and flaws. It’s very important to be aware of how risky your business is and how far it can really go, otherwise the business plan won’t even have a chance to be followed since the business will fail. Another risk lies on how some business plans are made for situations too far in the future, setting unrealistic expectations and ignoring the foreseeable future in favor of very far away possibilities.

I think Salhman and Pirouz’s statements are very useful for anyone intending to work with a business plan in mind, and will certainly help us to better develop our final report. They’re very good in detailing crucial elements to be analyzed in a business and how to take note on the business’ strengths and weaknesses, something that can help us see quickly where we might be going wrong, and also how to explain our goals and methods used to achieve them. Overall, it’ll make it easier to organize information. It’s also useful to take a look at those readings and identify techniques mentioned there that we might already have applied and others that can be added.

 

The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is a good example of a successful indie game. Made by a eight-people independent game studio in Poland (The Astronauts), it was immensely praised by the critics and players equally, and I think the main reason for this game’s success was how very polished and innovative (yet simple) this game is, focusing on exploration and narrative with a touch of horror and suspense. For delivering such a quality product that excels in various aspects of gameplay, graphics display, storytelling and general mechanics, I think the development team definitely used a business plan to establish what they were seeking to achieve with this game and what was possible to do with their limited funds and manpower. This is a reality that must be faced by all indie companies, I think, so a business plan must be essential to prevent failures and waste of resources. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is very clear in its purpose and does not feel rushed or confusing, which leads me to believe there was a goal being strictly and successfully followed during development; the fact that the game itself is also very simple and was never advertised in an overly ambitious fashion shows that the team was well aware of their own limitations and managed to deliver a great product within their own capacity.

 

 

Week 2 – Business Structures and Functions

In this class, we revisited the three Industrial Revolutions to learn more about business structures, functions and how they changed and evolved over time. The first industrial revolution started with the development and use of mechanised machines, which allowed a big rise in levels of production. The second industrial revolution brought improvements to the existing machines, and many of these became a lot more independent from human control, allowing mass-production of several products. The third industrial revolution, or “New Industrial Revolution”, is happening right now, and is deeply tied to our current web culture and how each and every person can become their own producer and seller through the innovation of technologies like the internet.

Through the history of business in the Maker Economy, it is possible for individuals aspiring to become entrepreneurs to observe the market, learn its trends, weaknesses, opportunities and potential competitors. This helps to establish a business inside the market place and make it more successful. This is essential for entrepreneurs in the actual economic scenery, given that the facilities of every person creating their own business means the market is a lot more crowded and diverse.

It’s equally important to keep track of finances of your business – by knowing how much and where money is being spent and how much is going in, you can get a more accurate sense of your capacities and prevent potential wastes or excessively risky investments, consequently allowing you to have a better control of your budget.

The four P’s consists of a business tool used to determine the value of a product or brand. The P’s are product, price, place and promotion. This method is very good to determine the real value of your product and how it might translate into marketing, potential consumers and people’s understanding of what you’re offering. Through this tool, it’s possible to establish a proper scope of the product and even decide for certain marketing approaches.

There are diverse marketing techniques (advertising, tele-marketing, branding, and many others), and each one reaches a certain amount of people and organizations. To ensure that your business reaches as many circles as possible, it’s wise to use as many marketing techniques as possible, even those who might reach people out of your circle of potential consumers; through them, your business might reach other circles of interest away from reach. These techniques are also a very good method to reach to large amounts of people quickly and at once.

 

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For me, the Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn team is a good example of an organization using a  successful marketing technique. Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn is a pay-to-play (players have to pay monthly to play the game and use its services) MMORPG. To attract more players, the game has a “trial mode” that allows non-players to download the game and play it for free until they reach a certain level in-game, and, if the player decides to buy the game, they are awarded with very unique in-game benefits. The game also has monthly bonuses tied to the number of months the player has been playing/paying for services. Once in a while, there are also free-to-play weekends, in which the game becomes entirely free-to-play with no limitations for all the weekend. The game is constantly releasing new patches and quality content for the players, which justifies the monthly payments. To me, this is a very effective technique to attract new players – and maintain the current ones – because there are several “rewards” that increase in quality with time aside from the constantly released new batches of content, prompting the player to feel their money is making a real difference, and non-players get to experience the game for free for a while, allowing them to decide if it’s worth to pay for the game before buying it.

 

Week 1: Business and Idea Development

The starting stages of idea developing can be easy and fun, but once the main theme is settled and things start to get a more detailed, it can get quite complicated to see how well that idea might translate into the ‘real world’. Because of that, many great ideas might need to be put aside for the sheer fact of being too complex for what is really necessary (and this becomes even more real when time and budget constrictions are playing a big part). This sort of puts a limitation to how wild you can go on your brainstorming sessions, and, for me, it’s what makes idea developing so delicate – it’s necessary to find a balance between innovation and limitation, and this isn’t always easy.

From a business perspective, ideas are good when they’re both economically successful and unique (although unique might be part of the whole ‘economically successful’ thing). This sense of exclusivity is achieved not necessarily by how original said idea is – it can also result from a very well-kept secret, like companies who keep their formulas and business models to themselves. That’s why idea differentiation is so important – no brand already starts big and successful, they need to show that they are, in fact, a brand and not just a name, and have something that puts them apart from other similar companies.

One of the ways to find a place for your idea to be successful is through market research. It’s a very important part of solidifying an idea into a real product, allowing you to know how interested your potential public might be in your (also potential) product, or if there’s even really a potential public at all, or even if there’s any available spot on market that could be explored favorably. In my view, it’s the most important step of turning an idea into reality, since it basically helps to determine how successful that idea actually is, and can highlight what needs to change in order to achieve a respectable position in the market. It also allows you to become aware of how great your future competitors might be, or what they’re really selling and how that translates into actual numbers. A product doesn’t depend solely on people’s interest in it – people might be highly interested and still go for what’s cheaper, or more popular, or having any sort of appeal that your product might not have. That’s why it’s important to keep track of those who are selling products that are like yours.

 

Innovative business concept

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In the last years, a lot of online stores – also known as product houses – have been the source of a small income for diverse artists. Before the advent of redbubble, society6 and many others, there weren’t many places for a starting artist – or even a professional one who happened to be unemployed – to sell their art. Art prints are in itself already not exactly a product on high demand, but having the same art printed on mugs, tote bags and shirts changes the situation, using a piece of work to create products that are much more on demand from the masses. With the ascension of internet popularity, this demand only increases.

Most of these stores work on a print-on-demand basis (meaning that shirts are only stamped with a certain piece of art when someone actually places an order for it), and artists are rewarded with a percentage of the price (in many companies, they don’t have a say in the percentage, but they can choose a minimum amount, which may increase the price of products and result in a not-so-successful business). While this isn’t the cup of tea of every artists and might not be an extremely profitable idea for many, it’s certainly advantageous for companies; it’s a smart idea based on the actual demand for a new market that could sell art in a much more profitable manner than art prints alone.

I don’t have much experience with other shops aside from society6, which, from my experience, is a comfortable place for artists to sell their art in a safe and profitable way.

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