Happy Birthday Sergeant Schlock!
Yes, that’s me! For a brief moment in time I was a character in the immensely popular webcomic Schlock Mercenary! If you are at all a Science Fiction/Fantasy geek type, you really should read that webcomic. And today is Schlock’s 13th birthday! A teenager at that!
So, what does a webcomic have to do with Attraction Marketing anyway? In this case a lot. I’ve known the creator of Schlock Mercenary for almost 20 years now. We met in the corporate email world when he worked for WordPerfect Corporation, and later at Novell, Inc. Thirteen years ago today Howard decided to begin an online webcomic and give it away for free. And he’s never missed a day in 13 years. You can STILL read his entire webcomic for free (that link again in case you missed it – starting at day one on June 12, 2000).
So how do you make a living on FREE? Here are the things that Howard did that you should take note of if you are struggling with the idea of making a living on FREE.
Leading with Value
Now, in the early days of Schlock Mercenary, Howard was probably “mostly having fun”. He had a job that supported his family, and he also grew a following that appreciated his art. But, things change. About six or seven years ago, Howard not only had the itch but also the opportunity to chuck in the corporate job and take on Schlock as a full time venture. How was that supposed to work? He’d been giving his goods away for the better part of a decade, supported mostly by a “feed the artist” donation button on his site, and who knew if anyone would actually PAY for his work. But Howard made a tactical decision that as anyone in the Attraction Marketing world knows was the RIGHT decision. Schlock the webcomic remained free.
Build a Community
How many of you belong to online communities? Obviously many people see social media as their online community. Do you have your own “business” community that you belong to? In Howard’s case, he has a Facebook Page, and a Schlock Mercenary Facebook Group where he can engage with fans and gauge his success when attempting new things. Howard’s online community has become an extended family, stepping up to the plate to donate time and money to the cause of keeping his family fed. Build a Community – it is vital to your online success.
Engage your Audience/Customers
Probably the least effective way to build an online presence is to just thrust “information” at your customers. Ask for feedback. Encourage discourse. Request assistance. Whether your community is a Facebook Page, a YouTube Channel, Twitter, etc., get your fans involved with what you are doing. Ask leading questions. Get to know your audience.
Create or Promote Additional Content
Once people like YOU they will be willing to buy from you. If you can create your own original content, all the better, but remember you can also benefit from the work of others. For example, a group of board game developers decided to create a board game based on the Schlock Mercenary world. The very first KickStarter campaign I supported was Schlock Mercenary The Board Game. This is an example of two different businesses benefiting from each other’s content.
The result of this great “give it away for free” business model is that your customers want YOU to succeed and follow you to greater heights. This spring, Howard’s following showed just what is possible when you lead with VALUE and build a COMMUNITY. A KickStarter Campaign for Schlock Mercenary Challenge Coins began in early March, hoping to raise $1,800 to fund the manufacturing of a fun merchandise idea. Before it was over, $154,294 in pledges rolled in (yes, almost 10,000% of what they had hoped for), totally overwhelming the Taylers and showing just what can happen when you build a community. Not only did a huge outpouring of support in terms of purchasing their merchandise happen, but volunteers helped pack and ship the product once it was completed.
The lessons to be learned here are huge. Don’t overlook the importance of value, community and engagement in your business!