In September 2017, we ran a poll on Zoho to try to understand what kinds of models our customers would like us to make.
Preliminary results are in. MANY thanks for everyone who helped us out by responding.
How interested are you in acquiring terrain kits in these genres?
We listed 17 different genres from Ancients to Futuristic and asked you to rate them from 1 to 5 (1 meaning "Not Ever" and 5 meaning "Need it NOW!").
If we look at people who chose '4' or '5' then Medieval (Towns, Castles, Fantasy) totally dominates the poll. Well over three quarters of you are clearly hungry for more Medieval kits. Steam punk, East Asian, Vikings and Horror were all interesting.
Most people DIDN'T want American Civil War, WWI and WWII and Futuristic. (Those are popular genres for tabletop gamers in general...the poor polling probably reflects the fact that we (currently) only make 28mm kits - and they are mostly played in 15mm or below).
How interested in specific kinds of kit are you?
We listed ten different classes of model that we might consider making:
Large/Medium/Small Ships, Large/Medium/Small Buildings, Wheeled vehicles, Accessories, Spaceships and Airplanes.
When we include both '4' and '5' choices, we see a clear preference for smaller Buildings and Boats - then medium buildings and boats and then large buildings and boats...then accessories! The things that most people didn't want were Airplanes and Spaceships.
Write-in candidates were mostly things that fall into our "accessories" category. One person suggested a BIG tavern model, sold in "installments" - one floor at a time! (We've thought about doing "subscription" models, delivered in instalments before - it's an interesting idea!)
We recently stopped "pre-painting" our kits - how do you feel about that?
By FAR the most people said that they didn't care ("Am OK with unpainted kits") - a smaller number said "Actually PREFER unpainted" - and the smallest pie-slice said "Would prefer that we prepainted".
We currently make kits in 28mm (1:60th) scale (with accommodations for "heroic" scale figurines)...are there other scales you'd be interested in?
Predictably, 28mm (heroic) was the clear winner, I was pleased to see a need for 15mm kits. The BIG surprise here was people asking for model railroad-scale buildings. There were nearly as many votes for "O gauge" kits as there were for 15mm! I also asked about dollhouse scales - and 6% of you want Barbie-scale kits and 6% want Standard Dollhouse scale!
We currently do lasercut models...would you also buy:
3D printed plastic models, Paper models that you print and cut out yourself, Designs for you to lasercut yourself, Designs for you to 3D print yourself.
Nearly everyone wanted us to add 3D printed plastic parts (or perhaps entire kits) to our range...95% said so! The other categories had a weak response.
Other suggestions? (Write whatever is on your mind!)
There were too many suggestions to list here in detail - but a couple of people asked particularly for kits in the $25 to $35 price range.
Our "core business" continues to be in Medieval (ish) buildings, ships, vehicles and accessories. We always knew that the large "set piece" models were not the big sellers - so small-to-medium buildings and ships are the priority.
That's not to say we'll never make anything else - but clearly this has to be the focus of our efforts.
Since we did our first ships - the demand for ships has been off-the-charts good - and we know we need to make more of them. Unfortunately, ships are an utter pain to design and prototype! It seems unlikely we'd be able to turn out a new ship design every month - so mixing up ships and buildings with an occasional vehicle and accessory pack seems to be the way to go.
On the basis of this survey - I think we should make some 15mm models in our future MoTM mix - that's easy for us to do, and about one in five of you want them - so we'd sell enough to make it worth the effort.
The idea that people are also interested in us making model railroad and dollhouse-scale kits is interesting. Diversification is always a good thing.
Our new Model-of-the-Month business model (where we make a kit and sell it for just one month) is great for experimentation.
So I think we'll be putting out some 15mm kits - and maybe do something in "O gauge" model railroad sometime to see how it sells.
Whether we get into 3D printed plastic is a tougher call.
Thanks again to everyone who has participated so far!
That's odd. We posted a request to our Facebook page...I thought it went out in an update from here too. Sometimes Facebook doesn't tell all of your followers about everything unless you pay them to - which is definitely tiresome!
|From: Steve Baker ||Date: 2017-10-01 11:39:10 |
Anyway - I do like your idea - we do have a definite "hard core" customer group who buy practically everything we make. I think most of them did actually buy the Wizard Tower - but very few others did.
That's really the problem with marketing - it's easy enough to engage and communicate with people who are ALREADY your customers - but asking people who AREN'T is much harder. But to grow your audience, it's the people who AREN'T that are the ones you need to reach the most!
We don't generally have much of an "early design stage" - when you have gigantic laser cutters in your garage, it's much easier to prototype using them than messing around with foam or whatever.
Generally the process is to say "Let's make an 'X'!" - so I go look for real-world photos of X's - I look at what they all have in common and start with that - I'll laser cut that, glue it together - then add little bits and pieces to make it cooler and easier to build until I run into the limits of plywood size to meet our shipping cost goals.
I have generally been posting "teaser shots" of the first round of prototype - then hear reactions to guide the 'tweaking process' (so someone wanted a Viking prow design for the Elven ship - someone else wanted a mast support - and those things were added into the final kit). Someone suggested that the Wizard's tower needed support brackets under the balcony and a balcony door - and now it has them.
I don't think the problem is between "Let's build an 'X'" stage and it being good enough to ship. The problem is one step before that. "What should we build next?"...or even "What general class of things should we build more of?"
We ask that question a lot - but the results are a bit mixed. A lot of people will ask for things that are so insanely large that nobody (including the person who asked) would ever buy them - or they'll ask for things that even they themselves don't want.
Getting a good grip on what customers and POTENTIAL customers would like us to make next is hard.
I'll will chat with Renee about the idea of a focus group though...it's a good idea, and not one we've tried before. I don't think it needs to be under NDA - we could just create a "COUNCIL OF ELDERS: WHAT MODEL NEXT?" thread under the forum here. I suppose we could make it be "by invitation only" - but I don't know that I'd want to exclude anyone who really wanted to discuss it.
We certainly could divide up a large model into multiple pieces - and do it in such a way that even just the first piece, by itself, would be useful in-game. I'm quite sure we'll EVENTUALLY start doing that.
|From: Steve Baker ||Date: 2017-09-23 05:32:58 |
The reason we're not doing it YET is about marketing and growth.
The problem would be that newcomers to our site who arrive mid-way through the series would be unable to get the all-important early stage pieces. If we offer the ability to buy "back-editions" then we're back to making onsey-twosy kits on-demand or making piles of kits we may never sell...and this is both painful and unprofitable.
That might be an OK thing to do once we have a stable pool of customers at the site - but right now, we're still at the "getting the word out". Our numbers of Facebook "page follows" and Blog site signups are going up rapidly and our sales volume has almost doubled every month so far!
Suppose we did a 4 part kit over 4 months...right now...with sales volume roughly doubling each month?
By the time we reached the 4th installment: Half of our potential buyers just arrived this month and missed all three of the previous months. A quarter will have missed the first two months and an eighth will have missed the first month!
It follows that only ~15% of our customers would buy the fourth and final installment...85% would be sitting around waiting, buying nothing, not being excited about what kit is just around the corner!
The other problem is that it's hard to guess what models people want. Only 10% of the people we asked actually answered the survey (this is pretty typical for customer surveys). The Elven Longship did great - but only a trickle of people bought the Wizard's tower - yet we sold a TON of wagon packs in the same month.
We have literally no way to know what will be a hit and what won't. According to the survey, the Wizard's Tower should have been the PERFECT model for our customers (most popular genre - most popular kit type). It got more "views" and "likes" than any model we'd offered so far - but pathetic sales.
OTOH: Only a small percentage of the surveyed people wanted "wheeled vehicles" - but the wagon pack is a runaway hit!
So if we put out the first part of a multipart series and it's not popular, then we're forced to put out more unpopular kits for three more months to honor our commitments, when we could have switched gears and tried something else.
The point of this is that we want it to be always worthwhile for customers to keep subscribed to our site because they never know whether the perfect kit for them will appear next month - and if they miss it, they're screwed.
So, while I think this is a great idea (and we'll probably do something similar to it eventually - when we know our MoTM customers better and our 'growth spurt' levels out), right now, the strategy has to be to produce a wide variety of kits to convince the widest audience that we'll come up with something they desperately want sometime soon...so that they follow our monthly announcements (either on the blog site or on Facebook).
(Incidentally - a "horse stable" (of non-specific genre) *is* on our "To Do" list - and might actually have been the October MoTM if I'd had time to design it!
As it happens, we wanted to respond rapidly to the survey's suggestion that 15mm is a "thing" for us - so instead I just updated the "Wandybrine Ferry" design that I made years ago for a Kickstarter stretch goal, but never actually used.)