Sunday, 16 June 2013

The Big Unveil

Drumroll Please!
Well my secret project that I've been teasing about for the last few weeks is......Profession Kits!

Okay I never said it was an exciting project.

Anyway while browsing through The Consortium I came across an old post outlining the concept and a good few of the intricacies behind making, marketing and selling profession kits.  The post immediately intrigued me as I'd toyed with a similar idea beforehand considering I always hear people wanting to change professions, or finish levelling an alt characters professions, but don't want to put the time and effort in to farm the materials or keep an eye on the auction house for days at a time to find rarer materials.

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, a profession kit is essentially a bulk package of all the materials needed to level from 1-600 in a profession, or any other level range if you want to tailor it to the individual customer.  When I decided I'd try my hand at it I noticed something; in my extensive (5 minutes on Google) research into the kits the most recent post with more than a passing comment on the topic was either almost a year old or had only been modified for MoP.  Now that is in no way taking a shot at the great post on The Consortium or any of the other posts, most of them are great and have wonderful amounts of detail, however after setting it up myself I feel I could add a few more notes and techniques, as well as outline how I set up my kits.  Let's take it from the top in a 5 step process:

Step 1: Storage
This is by no means a small undertaking.  I have 3 bank guilds at my disposal, all 11 of my alts have a minimum of four 20 slot bags, and 2 of my bank characters have full 28 slot Royal Satchels (which is a great investment for any selling character that requires lots of bag space), of those three banks 2 of them are designated towards my profession kits.  The level 25 guild I bought a few weeks back was entirely intended for this project and consists of 6 tabs dedicated to Jewelcrafting, Alchemy, Enchanting, Tailoring, Blacksmithing and Inscription kits, with the seventh tab used as overflow for kits that exceed 84 stacks of items (my enchanting kit takes 97 slots).  The second guild I use in the kits stores backup stock of all the materials needed, as I like to be able to restock within a day if need be.

Step 2: The Horrifying Logistics
I spent over two weeks gathering enough materials to start selling my Enchanting, Alchemy and Jewelcrafting kits in anticipation that they would have the highest demand, and I'm still gathering materials to complete the other three kits.  As a simple example most people can recognize the difficulty of, each enchanting kit requires 325 hypnotic dust, not the easiest thing to gather a stock of almost a thousand of.  The tailoring kit requires 1200+ Frostweave and almost 1000 Embersilk, thus be prepared to get your hands dirty and go out to farm materials.  Now here comes the most appealing part of selling the kits:  When you go out to farm scarce materials you can farm tons at once;  Purple Lotus shows up only a few at a time on my auction house, rarely more than 10 at a time and usually only every week or two.  The lotus only spawns in 4 spots in Felwood and only a stack is used in levelling any individual profession.  This means that the only influx of the herb is from those that want to make peanuts farming and selling it (hint: these people are far and few between) and those that go gather the bare minimum amount they need to get through levelling their professions before tossing the few extra on the AH.
I spent 20 minutes making 3 loops around Felwood and gathered almost 6 stacks of Lotus, enough for 5 alchemy / enchanting kits while at at the same time gathering almost 2 stacks of Gromsblood, another uncommon herb that I use in my alchemy kit.

Step 3: Only 5000 crafting recipes to choose from? Let's go with....um....
I'm a patient man, but I'd rather use a ghost pepper as a suppository than spend the time going through WoWHead looking at all the different crafting recipes, their materials, and what level those recipes go yellow/green/grey.  Thus I skipped over to WoW-Professions to get a rough outline of what to use.  A massive thank you to those that put the time into those lists, but I'll give the same advice about them that I give to people who defer to Noxxic, Icy Veins and AskMrRobot - DO NOT take the information at face value, what works in theory is not always right for you.  My strategy for preparing my shopping list of materials I'd need was to open up a word document and type along the lines of the following:

"2-70: Enchant Bracer - Minor Health   68 strange dust"

I then did this for the entirety of the guide, however as I said, what works in the guide was not necessarily the path of least resistance for myself.  In producing the bulk materials needed for a kit you may find yourself with large amount of materials that are ordinarily considered too expensive or rare to use for levelling, thus my next step was to modify my list.  The kits are meant to get you from 1-600, with little input on my end besides handing them instructions and all the materials needed, this means the less volatility in the process the better, which doesn't bode well when you have 20 levels where the item is cheapest to make overall, but only has around a 50% chance to give you a level.  To amend the problem of volatility I went down the list and picked out each area where I noticed 10 levels - 13 crafts, I then searched the materials relevant to the profession / level and sorted the "Reagent for" tab by level, if the item had a suitable replacement I substituted that, if not I added an extra stack of materials to help get past RNG.  It took me a good few hours to put together all my lists, so be prepared to do your research.

Step 4: Infrastructure
Now that you have your kits prepared what next? Walk up to random people and offer to get them quickly from 1-600 in a profession?  Well a dozen instances of being misidentified as a gold seller or shady dealer later and you'll decide maybe it's time to make it so people know your product.  Personally I've set up 8 different macros for selling my kits:

Sales pitch macro: All I say is that they will get 1-600 in 15 minutes (a blatant lie I admit, it takes more than 15 minutes just to craft everything, but catches interest), that instructions are included, and to whisper me for pricing / info.

Transaction:  Outline the details of how the transaction works.

Technical 1/2: Detail all of the finer points of how to use the package and offer them to mail the instructions in game or e-mail it to them if they consent to give me their address.

Assurances 1/2: I tell them that I 100% cover any issues with the kit free of charge, assure them that all their character names and email are confidential, and tell them that I only take payments up front in full.

Tidbits: I outline that I buy back any excess materials included and many of the items they craft in the process if they wish to resell them to me, and mention that I'd appreciate if they'd consent to me using them as a reference if they're pleased with the results.

Bags: I offer to include four 16 slot bags free of charge, four 20 slot bags at 1/2 of market price and four 28 slot bags at 2/3 of market price.

Step 5: Customer Server
Now that they've agreed to the sale make sure that you take good care of them.  I offer my battletag and tell them to let me know if there's any problems and that I'll take care of them ASAP.  If they want to immediately use the kit I will go and take care of my other sales while I wait for any questions / problems they may have and check in with them once in a while to make sure everything's going okay. If they happen to accidentally make the wrong item I assure them it's no problem and give them the materials they need to get back on track.  This is the important part where you build reputation,  it's a massive transaction by most peoples standards and you can't offer them anything in the way of assurance except for your good word, this is where you make your word count.


Pricing:
Now we get on to the details, we'll start off with pricing.  After I have my shopping list of all the materials that I need I price them at either market price or slightly under market price if I produce the materials for significantly cheaper.  When I have my total material cost I tack on a 50%+ markup for services.  If I come up with a price of say, 18k I'll take it down to 17.5k, it's a small amount and makes the price seem lower and less intimidating.  Remember that usually almost half of the sale price is your markup, so feel free to tack on extra materials, give people deals, or play with your profit margins.

The Sale:
For the sale I have them join my kit selling guild on an unguilded alt.  When they join the guild they are unable to view any of the tabs, and then are quickly promoted to an appropriate rank (labeled Alchemy, Enchanting, etc) that allows them to see the all the relevant tabs.  I insist on 100% of sales price deposited in the guild bank up front, which people may be wary of initially but will be more comfortable with as you build reputation and gather a list of references.  The second they've deposited the full amount I modify rank permissions to give them full access to all the relevant tabs and begin the customer service step of my process.

Sweeten the Deal
I took the advice of the original Consortium post and offer a 10% discount to repeat buyers and even larger discounts for package deals (though I haven't sold more than 2 kits at once yet),  as well as offering a 10% commission to anyone that brings me a paying customer.  When I think the buyer is seriously interested about purchasing I give them my bag macro offering to toss in 16 slots for free or larger bags for a good deal below market price.  I also offer to buy back many of the items produced through levelling:  JC items can be repurchased to disenchant for enchanting kit materials, alchemy potions can be purchased if they just want to get rid of all the items and then resold for 100% profit.
Most of your buyers will not be experience sellers, think of the position they're now in after hitting 600: They're happy that the kit worked out, pleased with the results, but also just dropped a large amount of money and find themselves with a large amount of materials that they're going to have to either vendor or sell over the course of days if not weeks.  It may sound a little shady but they're at a vulnerable point now, and if you offer to buy back everything (even if you're just going to vendor it yourself) they'll be happy to jump on the deal and make back some of their money.  Generally I offer 1/3-1/2 of the price I estimate that I can get for the useful pieces plus some to cover the vendor trash, and so far all my customers have readily accepted.

Closing Up
Ask people if they mind being used as a reference, I suggest telling them you'll tell people to only mail them and not to bug them with whispers, and keep your word.  Remind them of your deals and offerings, such as the discounts and commissions, you don't want to come across as "I've got your gold, now get out." so be friendly and reassuring until one of you has to run.

Control EVERYTHING
To take things a step further you can control the prices of all the items in your kits.  Buy up excess materials even if you're just going to toss them and fix prices at 50-100% above what you're getting the items for, though make sure to only resell on a different character.  This way if a wise customer takes time to look at the market prices your kit will seem all the more appealing, but make no mistake, this takes a lot of effort to keep on top of.



Anyway without making this into a book I'll sum it up here:  Customer service above all else.  Your main goal here is to build a reputation where people unquestionably get their monies worth, do that and be firm with your prices (if you give someone a lower price, make sure you express it as a special deal).
Good luck to anyone else that decides to undertake this project, so far I've sold at least one of every kit and have a waiting list for the enchanting kit.  It's a fun project to undertake but make sure you know what you're getting in to before you start buying out the auction house.


-Thairus

8 comments:

  1. Just curious, did you take into consideration the guild perk Working Overtime for these?

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  2. I don't know if you realize that Blizzard is working to make leveling all professions like they did blacksmithing, where you can use current materials to fully power level your profession. It might be in patch 5.4.

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  3. Respectively:
    To Darrel - Yes I specifically looked for a level 24-25 guild to increase the efficiency

    To lasagna - I'm aware they're trying to make it easier for the high levels but most of these are exorbitantly expensive compared to the traditional method. Blacksmithing for instance requires around 5200 ghost iron bars to level 1-600, and on my server costs about 250% more than levelling the traditional way.

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    1. So for a BS kit are you using Ghost Iron bars for some of the tight spots? Or are you using all Old World mats until 525 (or 500, not sure)?

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  4. Wow (no pun intended), what a great idea
    I have done this same thing for friends/family but hadn't thought to do it for a part time job.

    Have you sold any kits yet?
    How much time do you spend in trade chat?
    Do you think the market is hurt by the fact that less people are in the main cities than they used to be?
    Do you go to other zones and advertise? Valley of Four Winds for example

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    1. I've sold at least one of each kit that I offer so far. I usually spam every 15-20 minutes when I'm doing something else and just wait for the whisper noise. I'd imagine more of the people that are able to afford my kits are in the major cities or will pop in on occasion so generally I just sit in shrine/sw.

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  5. For the amount of work the margin is too small. A lot easier ways to make 6k on sales of 18k.

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    1. Well it's best not give away too many secrets so I won't get in to detail, but done well it's a lot less work than you may think....initial setup not withstanding.

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