Wednesday, March 27, 2013

What makes hobbyists so cool?

I found this excellent PDF from the Hobby Manufacturers Association, "Opening a Hobby Store". I haven't read the whole thing yet (though it looks really good), but in the introduction the authors talk about the expertise level needed to successfully own and operate a hobby store. And this hits one of the characteristics that define a hobby market in general.

What is a hobby market, and how is that different from a mass market? And more importantly, how should I market in a hobby industry?

1. Hobby Consumers are knowledgeable about the industry. They research purchases thoroughly. If you give them information about your product, they will use it, and hopefully forward it to their friends.

2. Hobby Consumers are enthusiastic. You're talking about things they love to do with their spare time. Hobbyists are engaged because they love it. You aren't going to have to convince them to spend money. The trick is to convince them to spend money on your product instead of the other guy's.

3. Price isn't always an issue. The traditional marketing axiom is that hobbyists aren't price sensitive, meaning they aren't shopping on price alone. I think online purchasing has changed this mindframe somewhat. However, I do think there are large number of hobbyists who could care less about price. There are some who will spend some time to find a better deal, but at a certain point will buy what they want to buy, regardless of price.

4. Hobby Consumers are natural evangelists. These folks want to influence others. Word of mouth is always the best promotion, and capturing a base of rabid fans who will tell all kinds of folks about your great product is a winning strategy.

So to recap - we're marketing to a bunch of people who are super-psyched about our product, have mounds of cash laying around, and who sit behind their computer all day Facebooking about how amazing our product is, and that everyone should also have one!

It's not quite that easy.

Remember, these people are super-stoked but they are going to research the hell out of your product. They are going to talk with other people about it, they are going to read reviews, and probably even try it out before they buy it.

So if your product doesn't match their expectations, then forget it. You're going to have a helluva time getting traction.

In my first post I talked about the front-end planning and decisions that need to be made. One of those was in the product category. Hopefully during the product phase you took all this into account, and developed a product that was super-cool and different (enough) from all the other stuff out there, so that when your super-knowledgeable and enthusiastic hobby customers saw it, they would immediately "get it" and send those credit card numbers flying your way at the speed of light.

If not, well, that's for a different post. I'm going to assume your product is properly differentiated.

There are tons of ways to market a great product to an enthused audience. Here's some things to think about:

1. Master your product pitch (AKA messaging) and make it meaningful, relevant, and easy to remember. Make sure you tell them why you're different. Tell this story every chance you get, and tell it in the same basic way.

2. Make researching your product easy. Leverage reviews and early adopters.

3. Help your customers spread the word. Be easy to find.

4. Arm your sales channel with plenty of incentives and information. Remember, they want to sell your product - that's how they get paid. Tap into this and make it easy for them to get paid. They will love you.

5. Listen to early feedback from the channel, customers, and reviewers. Adjust as necessary. This is where you will get your ideas for future products or ways to improve the process.

Well, there it is. What do you think? I would love your feedback and stories from the trenches, both good and bad.

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