Last week I
reported on Toy Fair, and I mentioned that there were a surprising
number of little companies not unlike our own at the show. Many
of the neat new products I described in last week's report were
from companies like these... little mom-and-pop publishers with
a solitary game (or if they'd had some success with their first
such product, a small handful of games). And all of these companies
are struggling with the same challenges we do: gaining exposure
when you're a small fish in a big pond.
We spent a lot of time at Toy Fair talking to our fellow dreamers,
and one of the main things we noticed was that most of these
other companies have little or no capability for selling their
games over the internet. Many do have websites, and some even
accept credit card orders, but as anyone who's ever built a website
knows, the trick isn't building the site, it's getting people
to visit it. As a company with a successful online gift
shop, we were frequently asked how were managing to get traffic.
And since Toy Fair is where publishers try to get retailers to
carry their products, we were also frequently asked if we'd like
to carry other people's products in our online gift shop.
So after wandering the floors of Toy Fair for a couple of
days, we had a moment of clarity. Readers who've been following
this site for a while know that Kristin and I have quit our day
jobs to try to make Looney
Labs profitable, but that our sales volume needs to increase
significantly in order to make us self sufficient. So it suddenly
became obvious: We should expand our online gift shop!
And thus was born ContagiousDreams.com,
a new online retailer specializing in really cool games (and
other stuff), created by really small companies (like ours).
We realized that we have everything we needed already in place:
we've got a smoothly operating e-commerce site to which we can
add any number of new products, and we've built a shipping area
in our basement which will allow us to handle significantly more
sales than we currently get. All we need is more traffic, and
more products, and we met dozens of companies with neat new products
at Toy Fair who would be delighted to have us selling their goods
in our online store.
So what we've decided to do is to launch a new site which
will showcase cool new products from little companies like ours.
This will allow us to make money retailing other products just
like a regular store, while helping our fellow small-timers get
their products to market via the internet. Hopefully, many of
these companies will promote ContagiousDreams.com
as the preferred way of purchasing their products online, which
will bring together the word of mouth (and link) support of the
friends and families of the dreamers behind all these independent
game companies and in so doing increase everyone's visibility
many times over.
But wait, there's more. ContagiousDreams won't carry just
any dreamer's product. In a field as crowded as this one, there
are many new products that just don't measure up, and we'll need
a process for weeding out the junk and only showcasing the good
stuff. So we came up with the idea of getting the WTS
involved. We hang out playing games all the time anyway, and
everyone has different types of games and products that they
prefer. So, we'll collect feedback from our friends, our in-house
focus group if you will, and in this way we can be sure that
there's at least someone we know who genuinely likes and recommends
any product we carry. One thing we've learned from our experience
with the Looney Labs site is that testimonials make a big difference
in persuading people to buy a new game, and we've already got
a regular gaming community that can test out new games and offer
up honest opinions.
So that's this week's idea. We've already registered the new
domain and have started building the structure of the site; the
next step will be to start signing up manufacturers and writing
reviews. (For any of my readers who may represent small companies
looking to get more retailers carrying their products, please
contact us for instructions on sending in review copies.) As
always, tune in next week to see how we are progressing.