The Pillar Approach: Turning a Live Twitch Show Into Months of Content
by Felix Thea Podcasts Mar 26, 2019 34 minute read Leave a comment Email Pinterest Facebook Twitter LinkedIn
One of the most common moves in the content marketing playbook is to create pillar content that you can cut up into dozens of pieces of “micro content”.
Events, in particular, can be leveraged to turn a single day into a month’s worth of creative assets.
In this episode of Shopify Masters, you’ll learn from two entrepreneurs who hosted an online festival that they then used to generate endless content for all their social media channels.
Maxx Burman and Banks Boutté are the founders of Kitbash3D: a company that designs premium 3D model kits with everything you need to create immersive digital environments.
From that 1-month of production, creating this live show, we then were able to create months of content—all bite-sized, snackable, and ready to go for any platform.
Tune in to learn
What is pillar content and how it can allow you to create content specific for each social media platformHow to put on an online festival for your businessHow focusing on B2B customers can improve your product for all types of customersDon’t miss an episode! Subscribe to Shopify Masters.
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Felix: Today I’m joined by Max and Banks from KitBash 3D. KitBash 3D designs, premium 3D model kits with everything you need to create immersive digital environments. And was started in 2017 and based out of Los Angeles, California. Welcome guys.
Banks: Hey Felix, thanks for having us.
Maxx: Hey Felix.
Felix: Hey what’s going on? So obviously a unique product, based on the very short description I gave so far. Can you explain a little bit more about the particular problem that you are solving with your products.
Banks: Sure for us we come from a long career in the film industry and the video game industry. And what we’ve seen is more and more virtual worlds being created, not just by large studios but also from an amazing kind of growing group of digital artists around the world. As 3D tools become more and more accessible one of the pain points is just how much you have to build and how long it takes before you actually get to see an immersive world or get to play around in a level of a game.
Banks: So for us one of the big things was just creating this ever-expanding library of amazing 3D assets so that you could build any world in your imagination and to do it quickly and to be able to do it at the quality of the top studios in the world.
Maxx: So essentially just to add to that, what that is if you’re not familiar with visual effects are virtual legos that you could then create an environment in a movie or video game.
Felix: Got it. So how long does a typical customer of yours, how long does it take them normally, how much can you fast track it with your products?
Maxx: Sure I mean to create something from scratch in 3D, to create a final image could take anywhere from two weeks to several months and with our products, you can do it in a day.
Felix: That’s amazing. I think this is not the exact kind of parallel but the only one that comes to my mind that’s similar is kind of like stock footage for filmmakers that are building or kind of buying basically footage to help build out their film and kind of hoping to build the framework around that. I think yours is obviously a lot more involved and much harder to accomplish but that’s the only way I can kind of conceptualize it in my mind.
Felix: So are there existing competitors in this space already?
Banks: Well Felix you’re absolutely right in the stock footage kind of business model for us, that’s very similar to what we’re trying to accomplish. In the movie industry, it’s very often that they’ll build in virtual space a back lot of New York or a black hawk helicopter or something like that. And then for that particular project and then they’ll archive that and then they won’t be able to access that, those assets again so than on the very next project when they inevitably have to build that same environment they have to do it all the way over again from scratch.
Banks: So we aim to give access to those kinds of sets over and over again. And as far as competitors for us there are other market places for 3D assets. Generally, what they are though are open market places. What we are is a very closed and premium level of market space.
Maxx: Right now in the Oak market places anyone can build something in 3D and upload it and sell it on that store similar to something like an app store. For us the big differentiator in what we wanted to do was get the best artists in the world to build our assets, to build them to specifications that you would need for a giant film and to make sure that we have a very high level of quality control, knowing that if you’re using it on a Batman film, the same assets that you’re using on that film is also it’s available to a hobbyist digital artist.
Felix: So are you creating the platform or are you also, I guess, like a publisher or both. How would you kind of place yourself in this market?
Maxx: Sure so all of our products are actually built internally by our team. So we’re not an open platform. For us, it was very important to differentiate ourselves that way and understand that every product that we put out is something that we’ve created and that we’ve art directed and that we’ve checked and QC’d and built to a very, very high level of specifications.
Banks: We’ve never used this analogy before but as we’re talking about this and thinking about your audience, it might be simple to think of it more like HBO as opposed to YouTube.
Felix: Got it. What was an important approach for you guys going with a premium closed approach rather than the open market where anyone can upload whatever they want? What made you go with this route?
Banks: Well Max’s background is a decade in special effects movies. He was working on Iron Man at 18 and has worked on Far Cry and Halo and the video game worlds, Game of Thrones, just about everything that you can imagine and as a what’s called a digital matte painter where he’s painting backgrounds, he found that this was the kind of product that was missing in his workflow that on these open platforms there was no quality standard. There was no consistency of the actual quality of the models and we could talk a lot about technical specs with the models but there wasn’t anything that fit into that premium level of things that could work on the highest profile AAA games and movies.
Felix: Got it, so it’s closed and you guys are all working on this internally but it sounds like a pretty labor-intensive process to create these kits, can you talk a little more about that? What goes through the design approach towards a new project that you guys want to work on?
Maxx: Sure so press we release a new kit every month and so it’s pretty much a whole new world that we’re designing and building. And for that we have an amazing team of designers so we come up with the concept of saying, hey we want to do something like utopia and when we’re designing the utopian world we put together a mood board of what we think that world should look like or what we want people to be able to create with this kit. And that’s kind of a goal.
Maxx: And then we give that to a designer who usually quickly sketches a bunch of designs of different buildings and parts and pieces that you might need to create those worlds. From there we give it to a 3D modeler who takes those designs and translates them into 3D space. Almost like a sculptor, really sculpts those things into these beautiful 3D models and then from there we have the back and forth technical process of making sure that in terms of specifications, a lot of the more nitty-gritty things are taken care of, of making sure that the scale of every building is the same.
Maxx: So if you were to put an actor next to one building and next to another, the doors are all the same height, or the glass has the thickness to get the nice reflections out of it. All those little things and that’s a pretty intensive process of QCing and making sure that these models are ready to go for a large studio.
Felix: So you mention a team of designers that work on this and designers aren’t cheap and a team is, I can imagine gets expensive quickly, can you say more about how someone out there that might be in a similar situation or wants to go down the same path, where they need a bunch of creative and technical help, how can they get started? How can they structure their business to get started and then scale up like that way that you guys have been able to do.
Maxx: Sure you know it’s a very unique thing for our product, we have a long history in this industry and in this community. So for us, I feel like, it’s a very difficult thing to be able to reach those types of artists and we work with artists all over the world, in many, many different countries because we are always hunting to find the best artists and that’s really paramount to our business model.
Maxx: For us, there is no quick solution to recruiting, for us it really is a lot of brute force of going to different countries, of going to different art events to go meet different artists from everywhere. And starting to test and do small projects with them and then give them more and more work once we find someone who really hits that excellence bar.
Banks: And I think to add to that, probably for a lot of your audience here Felix, they’re not in the visual effects space but they’re entrepreneurs who are starting out and trying to get people to help them on their product side.
Banks: And a huge part of our model is using remote freelancers as Max was just talking about. And I think there’s a wonderful time today that there are many, many job forums online, you can have video chats with your employees. We have full time employees who don’t work in the office with us and we just have regular video meetings. We go most of our days now are video chat to video chat.
Banks: It’s a really incredible time in technological history to get to have a global business from a laptop. So I think for a lot of people out there who are just getting into the space, hiring remote freelancers, one part that’s very specific to our model is we look for people similar to us who had had a decade long or more careers in their space, working for a big company who have then shot out on their own. So we look for very highly skilled remote freelancers, rather than paying a huge company where you’re paying for a lot of their business infrastructure and advertising and then you usually get sold by a senior player there who then passes you off to a junior account manager.
Banks: We look for the senior players who have left and a now out on their own.
Felix: I’m assuming a big part of your ability to attract this kind of talent that they believe in the vision, where you guys are going. How do you kind of explain yourselves to the people that you are looking to recruit?
Maxx: Well we have a very, very strong mission and we’re all pretty dedicated to this idea of the mission of KitBash is to enable and inspire artists. And with a company with that mission to bring on the best artists, it’s really this idea of the contribution you’ve had your career as an artist and we want to continue to grow as artists but we also want to contribute to the artist community and help people be able to create these amazing things.
Maxx: And I think a lot of that comes down to branding and the amount of effort that we put into our brand of making sure that our mission is understood by the community at large.
Banks: And I think it’s felt by the community, this is a specifically tight-knit community. So often times when we reach out to people they’re quite familiar with our product or we have some of the top artists reaching out to us because they want to as Max was saying be part of contributing to a larger message. You can spend a year, sometimes three or four years on a singular project or working on a KitBash 3D asset. You might get to influence hundreds of projects in that same time period.
Felix: Can you give us an idea of the scale of the production for like … you mention that you release a kit every month, how many people are working on a given kit that you’re releasing monthly?
Maxx: Usually we have between five and 10 kits in production at a time. These kits take up a variable amount of time because we do work with a lot of remote freelancers, and some of them are doing this part-time, where they’re working on actual games and films that are being released as well.
Maxx: For us the idea of having enough in production to allow the flexibility of someone who is a top player in this space and wants to do this. It’s really important for us to be able to give that type of flexibility.
Maxx: On a given kit, we have probably four people touching it, and the average amount of time to create a kit is about four months.
Felix: When you are hiring someone to build essentially intellectual property, what do you need to be aware of, either from the legal side or how you write up a contract when you’re working with these freelancers, what sort of things do you tend to make sure to focus on when you are engaging a new hire?
Maxx: You mean beyond their artistic prowess?
Felix: Well just like if you are to hire someone to work on these kits and they’re working part-time, they’re doing something else in their “day job”. Do you need to structure like some kind of contract or something? What do you need to be aware of legally when you’re hiring someone to work on this type of product for you?
Maxx: For certain, contracts and our product is license based as well so we work very closely with our legal team. We’ve worked with three or four different groups and finally found the ones that we really connected with who spoke the same language as us and thought about the legal aspects of it like a business.
Maxx: I think it’s very common to find people who are very, very good at what they do but have a struggle seeing the larger picture and how things can fit in. They can do exactly what you tell them to do while failing to see how that fits in or how they could have performed it better knowing what they know.
Maxx: And so for us finding the right partners on operations side is often about that because we use so many freelancers and remote teammates, having someone who is thinking about the business first and then how their particular department fits into that was very important in teaming up with our legal team.
Maxx: That being said we’ve done many drafts of all of our contracts and we have some pretty lengthy discussions about what the ins and outs are, to make work for our higher contracts to fit into our particular business model.
Maxx: I think when you’re dealing with artists and you get into contracts and legal stuff it can be really intimidating for both ends and uncomfortable almost and for us I think being transparent and being easy to understand is the most important thing for us when we go down these journeys.
Maxx: We try to take care of all the business stuff first so then we can have fun and jump into the creative stuff knowing that we’ve dotted all our I’s and crossed our T’s. But also not sending over a 50-page contract that’s all in legal jargon, it’s not going to help anyone understand what that actually means and it’s almost counterproductive.
Banks: For an example of that, for our artists’ contracts our lawyers have done something that we thought was awesome. We didn’t ask them to do this but for the contracts that are going specifically to artists, not to the business sides of movie studios. They write after each point they write a paragraph and translate it, essentially to help the artists understand exactly what the thing above is saying.
Felix: Got it. So you mentioned that there are a bunch of people working on 10 kits at one time. How do you guys decide what kit you should be working on for a given month?
Maxx: Yeah I think for us, one of our big missions is to build the universe. We want to build everything and anything anyone needs. So a big part of it is making sure that we have a variety. Another big part of it is things that get us excited to create because we’re serving artists we need to create products that get them excited to go and build something.
Maxx: So a lot of it is coming up with variety, a lot of it is things that excite us and the other part of it is really looking at, what are the genre trends happening right now. Is this a big sci-fi year, is this a big fantasy year? What are the things that are missing in this marketplace and for us we feel like we have unlimited ideas of kits and it’s really just about the timing and releases of when we feel it’s a good appropriate window for that?
Banks: Release programming and product programming is one of the most fun meetings I think we have because it’s where we get to imagine so much. And we’re very specific about having weekly meetings with each of our departments, and we put our product meeting first thing on Monday.
Banks: Doing that every week is a really exciting fun time for us to get to begin the week in our purest creative places. And as Max was saying listening to the market place is of paramount importance. It’s one thing to make a product, but we can make a product that no one wants, you haven’t found yourself in a great place.
Banks: So we do a lot of surveying to our audience, we also have a live show where we interact with our audiences. We’ve done that almost 70 weeks in a row where the audience members can come on and tell us what they want. We also do a lot of customer experience calls where we connect directly with our B to C clients and then we, of course, do a lot of B to B lunches and coffees and try to really understand where demand is heading. So that we can stay on top of it and bring the most value to those that we serve.
Felix: When you are doing a survey, what exactly are you asking? What are you looking to get answers, what kind of answers are you looking for?
Maxx: Sure, so customer experience is one of the most important departments for us. The biggest thing for customer experience in our mind is not necessarily knowing demographics of our customers, it’s more about knowing the philosophy, the wants and desires and who they are as a person, what their goal are as a person. Do they have goals as a professional in their career or do they have goals as a hobbyist in their own pure artistic pursuits.
Maxx: So we do phone calls every day with different customers that we have or users and also being able to chat with them live and develop relationships with them on our Twitch show. Things like that it’s almost not about, hey here are the 10 questions that we’ve sent to them, it’s more about really developing a one on one relationship with as many users as possible. And from that, we can start to make some really educated guesses and assumptions as to what kind of products they might want in the future. Or what other kinds of resources can we provide them that aren’t our products? What kind of education, or training or shows or contests or anything else that we can do for the actual community that isn’t part of our product, but further goes to support the wants and desires of our users.
Banks: I think that is so, so important for what we’ve found and what we believe in here. We are mission first entirely and the product is third, in our daily focus. We want to serve our customer first and knowing them and being part of that community which we’ve come up through is why we’re doing this. We just happen to make these kinds of products this way and that will continue to evolve. But the people and the community that we are engaged with and so fortunate to be a part of is the real enthusiastic joy of this.
Felix: So you said that you want to serve the customer first, I think that what I’m getting at or what I’m hearing is that that means that could be creating free content, like your show which we’ll get into in a bit and that always around creating the latest products.
Maxx: Completely, we really believe, give more than you ask. And for us, the product and us putting our products and our users buying those products support us to be able to do everything else that we want to do.
Maxx: But education and training and inspiration and all of these different other aspects that we can provide are things that we do for free, as a way to support the community.
Felix: Now you mention that there are these B to B customers and also your B to C customers, can you talk about their needs and how they’re different?
Banks: Totally, we segment our customers into several different buckets and those are evolving as we grow. But we have a lot of hobbyists, people who understand 3D software who might work in an industrial side of things who in their free time want to build a castle with a dragon flying around it.
Banks: We have a lot of freelance artists who will work from home or on their own and freelance with a studio on particular types of projects and they can be art directors, or motion graphic designers, or concept artists.
Banks: And then we have a large group of students that we look to serve in different ways and helping them get into the space. And we do a lot of free content like you were talking about, we give away a lot of sample kits and we do different programs. We have some new exciting educational programs coming up this year. We work very closely with a lot of the schools.
Banks: And then there are the big studio clients, that are making the biggest movies and games out there and we work very closely with them. Largely because we’ve serviced their needs first and foremost but also, it’s the world that we’ve come from and it’s those kinds of projects that really gravitate towards faster workloads.
Banks: And the same way hobby’s do as well.
Maxx: I think one of the big things for us is it really is serving two very different types of things when you go B to B versus B to C.
Maxx: For our B2B clients, they have a lot more specific requirements of how our products are going to fit within their overall business structure. And for us we know if we get that right and we work closely with them to make sure that we’re fulfilling all of their needs then when we turn around and give that product to a B2C customer they’re now on the same playing field. That they know what the large studios are using and they now have access to the same tools as a major studio.
Maxx: So both are very important. Also, large studios are made up of individual artists and so by serving B2C and really getting in the hands of individual artists, those artists are going to go to work one day and say, hey this project that just came up, I know the perfect tool for this. And then we’re going to get connected into that B2B realm, just like when we do a big project with a B2B studio that gets advertised, a bunch of individual users are going to say, “I want the same thing that they used for that film.”
Maxx: So it’s really cyclical, it’s a giant circle that we need to be hitting both of them, they both have different wants and desires but they both feed into each other.
Felix: Right, it sounds like if you can focus on the big studios, the B2B customers, they’re the ones that it sounds like what you’re saying, they’re most in tune with the direction that the market is going because they’re such giant players in the space and they are helping you determine which direction to go and also almost like the quality that they require which then, of course, the B2C customers also benefit from because the standard is that much higher because again it’s something that a big studio demands.
Felix: Now you mention that a lot of what you’re doing is creating context. Talk to us some more about that. What are some of the key focuses for your business? What are certain things that you guys always wanted to be doing in terms of content creation?
Maxx: I think user generated content, it’s a terrifically exciting time in visual effects and then technology in general, where individuals can start making things that resemble the things you go to the movie theater for.
Maxx: And there’s such an exciting explosion of digital distribution in all kinds of media. And social media the biggest driver of that, I think. So what we’ve done, I guess a number of different things where we created a festival which we can talk about after, that was servicing … creating a stage for the top visual effect artists out there.
Maxx: In conjunction with that we created what’s called the hashtag KB3D contest. And with that, we give out a free sample kit every quarter. And anyone who uses that sample kit or the full kit from that piece can then make and publish to their own page using the hashtag. And then we do a big celebration of that on our live show, where we make a trailer highlighting all the artists who worked on it and then we give out awards to the top 10 and we usually have artists from our festival be our blue-ribbon panel to vote on that. And today we’ve had thousands of entries and artists in nearly 100 countries.
Banks: Yeah so with that we’ve created this amazing loop of, here’s the sample kit we’re going to do a contest around this theme. Artists all over the world are posting to their own Instagram’s but they’re using our hashtag. The amount of user-generated content that creates, feeds our social media. It gives us the ability to be able to spotlight all these different artists, either on our social media or our live show. And it fills up social media with images that are really engaging and then when people look at those images, they can see that they were made with KitBash.
Felix: What platform has been the most successful for you in terms of social media platforms?
Banks: Well I think you’ve got to think Instagram because we are such a visual medium and product. But YouTube and Facebook and Twitch and then Art Station is also one of them or is the king of our space.
Banks: Using all those platforms as much as we can have been a massive driver for us syndicating across platforms and creating content that’s native to each platform I think is really important for us.
Felix: Yeah, so more about this. You mentioned syndication versus native content. How do you decide which one you should be focusing on? Should you be creating content that’s kind of general enough that can be spread across all these platforms or creating, again, native content. So how do you decide which one to focus on?
Banks: I think it’s a really great question Felix, I also think it’s a really exciting time to be having this conversation. I think it first has to depend upon, what kind of in house production capabilities do you have. If you have one person doing your social media whose also cutting your videos who also happens to be running your company, then you want to be thinking about syndication and spreading content and making the best thing for that one platform that works for you.
Banks: A huge part of our business model because we come from production is we’ve created an in house agency and production company. And so we create content, what we call a pillar piece that is usually a long-form piece spotlighting something in particular and then from that we cut smaller pieces from it that can go to all the different platforms. So for our blog for our YouTube we put hour long 90 minute pieces on there but then for Facebook we’re cutting one to three minute videos that can run natively to that platform and then on Instagram we’re cutting 15 second videos which also have a different aspect ratio, sometimes we cut nine by 16 tall videos for Instagram stories.
Banks: So we’re looking to take one piece of production, being production the most time intensive thing for the largest amount of people. And then utilize a lot of the tools that are in post and distribution now to take that one piece and stretch it into a bunch of different ways that feels native to each platform.
Felix: I see so rather than just going on YouTube and then creating a specific video for YouTube or specific video for Facebook, you’re creating this pillar content that’s actually going to be used as the raw materials to produce the more native content for each of these platforms. So for someone that is thinking about taking this approach, do you have to go into the creation of the pillar content with anything in mind to make sure that you can ultimately craft a native content piece for each of these platforms?
Maxx: Completely. We did a commercial last year with our good friend [inaudible] who’s a director on the Destiny cinematics and he created this beautiful three minute piece for us but one of the things that piece was making sure that it was told in a way that could be split up into minute-long pieces, 30 second pieces, 15 second pieces.
Maxx: And it’s a pretty difficult requirement and it requires quite a lot of skill to be able to craft a narrative that is told in chunks that can be split out. On top of that when you were filming something especially in 3D, making sure that all of your shots and compositions work for 16 by nine if you were going to watch it on YouTube, one to one for Facebook post or reversing that and creating a vertical piece for Instagram. It requires quite a bit of design creativity to be able to make a single piece that can work in every different aspect ratio.
Maxx: And then taking it even further, last fall we partnered with Amazon and Twitch and did a festival which was 12 episodes of some of the best top art directors. The art director of Star Wars, art director of Titan Fall, all of these big films and games. And we would do a live stream on Twitch where we’d interview them, they’d build a world with these kits and we did a two hour show twice a week and then from that cut, we have the full length one, that became our pillar, each episode became our pillar and then we would cut three minute videos. We would cut 15-second videos, one-minute videos and in every aspect ratio. So from that one month of production of creating this live show, we then were able to create months worth of content all bit sized and snackable and ready to go for every platform.
Banks: And Felix we … so Max’s point we’re creating a lot of different types of content, but that comes from collective several decades of doing that. And so that’s a massive part of our specialty, is that we can make a lot of different things but we do a ton of testing.
Banks: When you’re asking me, what do we go into these types of things thinking about, it’s firstly what does the audience want and what kind of things will bring value to these peoples lives and where are the things that they need to know? And finding as many access points to that, helps us segment our shows. And then we do a ton of feedback. We do a lot of AB testing and try to understand exactly what kind of content plays to our audiences.
Felix: Can you give an example of something that you guys have worked on recently. And walk us through the decision making behind those questions that you just asked about, what do they want, what would bring them value. Do you have an example of something recently that you can walk through?
Maxx: Sure, because we take customer experience or CX as we call it so seriously and we’re jumping on calls all the time. We get a lot of feedback really fast and over the last two months a big part of this has been talking about, on our show do you like when you get a demo of how to build something, do you like when you get an interview, do you like something more inspirational or more educational. What types of that type of content are you enjoying or do you want more of from us.
Maxx: And we have that conversation daily with different people and that’s some of the most important feedback we get so that every time we do a show or release a new piece of content we can kind of tailor that around what we’re hearing. And so every time we release a product we get a great artist to do the cover. They’re the first ones who get to touch the kit. We make a big event out of it, we let it spotlight that artist.
Maxx: So last week we released a, no this week, we released a new kit, Ancient Temples. And from what we heard, we brought in the cover artist was the art director from Assassins Creed. He came on and did an hour-long show with us and what we heard was people really want to know how these artists got into the industry or how they got their start. That was something that we heard continuously.
Maxx: So a big focus of our show right away after hearing that feedback was really going into, what is the process of how to get your start and show some of older work that isn’t as pretty. Doing the interview side of that before jumping into the actual breakdown in the making of, how did you make this cover and what’s the educational part of this of you really explaining your workflow and process.
Banks: And I think there’s, probably for a lot of your listeners out there too, Felix they may have a product or an audience base that may not know what kind of content they want. That’s not so baked in like our segment is.
Banks: I like to think of it this way and we talk a lot internally about who do each of our buckets want to be, and what do they aspire to do and what are their goals. And being incredibly goal oriented as a team and as individuals here, the foundational part of our principle is we like to try and do goal workshops for our buckets and think about if you are a student at this point and your learning career and you want to go and work on Star Wars. What are the steps in between that? And then we try and help them along the way and if we can’t do it we try to find the people who can and generate content around that. So that when the audience member sees it they think, oh this is the kind of thing I needed. And perhaps they don’t even know before they see it that this was the thing that will help them put the key in the lock for the next step of their career.
Banks: And so driving our mission around our content is usually to help bring value to that person, product shots or product videos play well especially in a retarget kind of land. But that’s not at the core mission of what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to help people grow as artists and we’re trying to help people to fulfill their dreams and we just so happen to make products to help them do that. But at the base level we’re looking for how do we ignite that special passion, that makes you want to do this sort of thing. And how do we help you progress along that path.
Felix: Right I think one important thing that you’re also saying here is that you yourself you don’t need to know all the answers but as a company as maybe a brand that’s out there you probably have way more connections and access to the information than your customers, and you don’t yourself have to know the answers but you can certainly bring on people, like in your example, interview them and have them share their knowledge.
Felix: Which is very similar to the model we have with the podcast, that you guys have come on sharing your knowledge from different industries, so I think that it’s important thing to note that when you come to content creation you don’t have to be the sole person in your head creating all the content, you can kind of be a conduit and be an organizer essentially offering information that will bring value to your customers.
Banks: I just want to add to your point there Felix that this is one of the first things of our age, is minimum viable products and I think we in the past you had to bring a fully baked idea to market. But nowadays especially with the way content distribution is on your Instagram you can post to if you have a business profile on Instagram you can post and get real-time or darn near real-time analytics on how that post performed. And you can compare it to the rest of the content that you put out and it costs you virtually nothing, to get that kind of feedback, in a way that 15 years ago you would have had to pay a ton of money for.
Banks: So we’re in this great time in this innovative world it’s very hard to predict disruption and I think that being in the space and having consistent placement in a space and bringing value in different ways has proven over time that when disruption cracks you’ll be there for it. And there’s a very … it’s almost impossible to predict what those moments are. An example of that is when we put out our first batch of kits we all took a guess at what we thought would be the top-selling kit and none of us picked the one that is overwhelmingly the best.
Felix: Now I want to talk a little about this festival so you mentioned earlier the KitBash 3D festival. Was this like an in-person festival or was it online. Explain a little more about this festival.
Banks: Sure yeah we’ve done this now twice and there something incredibly exciting happening in traditionally the video game space, which is live streaming. Where we’ve come from this decade of YouTube where is you’re a kid who’s 17 years old today you grew up watching YouTube. And now we’re into a live streaming era, where its not edited content it’s just straight to the source, and the audience is there interacting in real time with the actual piece.
Banks: So we’ve found live streaming to be one of the most exciting platforms for us because of how fast we can get that kind of feedback that we were just talking about but also how intimate we can … how fast we can iterate content, so that we can make something in real time without having to edit it and be with the audience and then we can then take it and edit it for other platforms that appreciate shorter form edited content.
Banks: So our festival is live streamed on Twitch. We worked in the past also with Mixer. We think there’s some really exciting things happening in that space. So we build a studio set and then we bring on our guests each night and then we do a live two-hour show where we have a technical director, live switching between our multiple cameras, and we have a great team around that in a real sort of mini live TV show atmosphere.
Maxx: Almost like Sports Center, it’s like Sports Center for art.
Banks: Sports Center with a piece of like actually building the world, of playing the game. And you get to see a live piece that often times the audience gets to interact with. And this particular festival that we just did, we partnered as Max was saying with Amazon and Twitch for their Bob Ross festival, which is to date one of the most watched live stream festivals that they do every year around Bob Ross’s birthday in November.
Banks: And so we … oh sorry I lost my train of thought, we had Max was painting a painting and the audience wanted to throw in, in real time Bob Ross references and so a little tree or a hidden tree is there, cabins or you know essential to that platform and people got super excited about influencing Max’s painting as he was doing it in real time.
Maxx: As they would call things out I would paint them live so in the chat you could say, add a little happy tree over there and I’d paint a little happy tree over there and it was a really cool interactive way to get people excited about art and KitBash and everything in this space.
Felix: How do you promote something like this? If you want to put on an online festival, I think one thing to know too is that it obviously sounds like yours was pretty elaborate you guys have a lot of work you put into it but I’m sure someone else out there can put on something in their own industry that doesn’t have to be as involved but once you do want to go down that path of putting on a festival and you’ll live stream it, how do you promote it?
Maxx: I think there’s a couple of things here. First of all, when it comes to live streaming I highly recommended it to just about anyone who’s building a brand. To be able to connect with your customers regardless of the industry that you’re in. In some sort of live way for us it started out as doing product launches, every time we’d launch a product we would go on Twitch and we [inaudible] our thing with our community and say hey, we just released this we’re going to show it off, we’re going to talk to you guys about this and being able to do that just make you so connected with them and gives them a place to be able to give their feedback to you and to actually start to build a relationship with a human being behind a brand, not just a logo.
Maxx: From there to build on doing something larger like a festival, for us one of the big things with our first festival was going and getting the best artists in the world to be a part of it. To get people that made it exciting and once we had a great roster of people, really spreading that through social media and them spreading it through their channels, was more than enough to really get that off the ground for our first festival.
Banks: And I think its key to think about where your audience is. For us a large portion of our audience in on Twitch, loves video games. So for us that was a very natural platform. But just about every social platform has live streaming feature so that you can livestream on Facebook or YouTube or even Instagram. And I think knowing where your audience already is and then going to them and then serving content to them in that kind of way is the key.
Banks: And then if you’re just getting started and you don’t have marketing budgets, social media is free if you hustle. You can reach anyone you want on any of those platforms, you can engage with them, you can follow hashtags, you can comment, you can find the right targeted people for your specific product if you have the hustle. It just takes a lot of time and it takes a lot of thumb grease. If you do that you’ve got it. If you have the budgets you know Facebook ads. Facebook ads are one of the most undervalued things in the market place.
Banks: And then finding other collaborative partnerships is a massive part of what we’re doing is teaming up with people like Twitch, who have the same goal in mind, where we both just derive different value from creating a product together.
Felix: So when you are pushing out a festival, what do people value? What are people looking for that makes them want to come into another … How do you advertise it? What kind of benefits do you advertise to your audience?
Banks: Our specific product is about access and we make a product that is for the best at what they do in the world. And so finding the best at what they do in the world and getting them on our show is integral to that. And with these guys I think there’s a really interesting part of visual effects that in the credits of a movie they’re often credited far down at the bottom if credited at all. And credits are a huge issue in the industry. So creating a stage for the best world builders out there to be seen and to be recognized and celebrated for the great work they’re doing, was something that we thought we could take our particular skills and provide that value to our guests on the show. And so we’ve found, how do we help the best at what they do, do it more, do it better, be celebrated or connect and give back and reach a younger audience and help other people who are trying to get into the space and may not know how, how do we give them that stage or platform.
Banks: So we first thought okay, how do we bring value to the guests and then now that we have the guests how do we bring value with the guests to the audience?
Felix: What’s coordination like for something like this? Because you bring on lots of very important people that I’m sure they’re super busy, and getting them all to come on at a very short time window. How did you guys coordinate this?
Maxx: I think for us infrastructure is really important to our business in just about every way. The same sort of coordination it takes to have artists in 10 different countries working on the same product, is the same sort of infrastructure you need to get a bunch of different artists sitting in the same place at the same time.
Maxx: And so for us I think a lot of that comes down to our production experience but also just being very communicative, very organized, using tools like a Sonarr and Discord. All these different third party platforms that allow us to streamline our communications and streamline our organization to be able to do a lot of very complex things with a lot of different people in a very coordinated way.
Felix: You mention a Sonarr and Discord. What other kind of apps or services do you guys use to help run the business?
Maxx: Discord is a really important one for us, we use that for communication, we use it for a lot of things but we use it for communication within our internal team, we also use it for communication with our community. Our community actually set up a Discord and it’s community run for KitBash and we pop in there to see what’s going on and be able to talk to people directly. And then we have our own private channel of everything that we’re working on and coordinating with different artists or different events or marketing or customer experience and all of that.
Maxx: We use a Sonarr for product management, that really helps us organize all the tasks and the calendar and the timeline especially when you’re talking about this much content because we’re releasing 20 pieces of content per week on five different platforms. So the amount of organization that it just takes to manage that a Sonarr is pretty key to that.
Maxx: We use HubSpot as our CRM to be able to make sure that we know what’s going on with our customers and that as we develop these relationships we’re permanently creating a database of knowing, when is it someones birthday and we can send them a free kit. Or also being able to segment and understand like hey, this group of our users are students so being able to plan things around that.
Maxx: We use Emma for our email newsletters which are a very important thing for us to be able to let our community know what’s going on with KitBash. And of course Shopify, Shopify is really key to so much of what we’re doing, being able to manage our store in such an easy way but also being to get all the data of understanding how kits are doing. How products are doing. And what’s our traffic, what are people looking at, what is of interest or maybe there’s a kit that everyone’s going to visit but they’re not pulling the trigger on it. And maybe that’s something that we discount. So all of those tools from Shopify are super helpful for us to make decisions.
Felix: Are there any specific tools that you use or apps that you use on Shopify that you recommend?
Maxx: Yeah we use quite a bit. We use Blog Studio for our blog. We use Bulk Discount Code Generator, we use Order Printer. We use quite a bit of little apps and plug ins in Shopify just usually they’re for a very, very specific thing that we want that functionality. Those are kind of the main ones that I’d recommend.
Felix: Awesome. So thank you so much, Max and Banks. Kitbash3d.com is the website. What’s your big goal for this year?
Banks: Of we love that question Felix. You know for us at the end of the year Max and I kind of hole up and get a real good look at our strategy and go through what our mission to metrics are and we have some pretty specific goals. A huge part of our model is having a lean team enhanced by technology and using third party platforms like Shopify and trying to automate everything. Or automate at least as much as we can so that we can do more with less time.
Banks: And the key to this thing I think was finding a mission that evoked our passion. That made us want to get up and work because undoubtedly no matter how much automation you have the key ingredient is time in and hard work and all of these things keep us up at night but it’s up at night in a way that we really love.
Banks: And so living passion and mission forward is sort of the key focus on how do we drive this ship this year and beyond.
Maxx: Yeah I think for us we’ve chosen some large goals that are going to take a lot longer than a year to achieve, every day is just putting a step forward. For this year I think one of our big focuses is continuing to grow KitBash, to improve KitBash, to improve the community to find more and more ways that we can enable and inspire artists. Find ways to automate what we’re already doing so that we can take on even more, and to grow in that way. And for us and our team to be happy and healthy.
Banks: So we break down our processing to what we call mission-to-metric alignment and with our stated mission to enable and inspire artists. We then think what are the strategies and tactics we want to do in between that and what are the metrics that will allow us to know if we’ve succeeded. Our tactics are to build the universe and to remove friction and to create the stage, while fostering the community and bringing education. So if we can hit those five points in as many of the things that we do, then we finally have a really good strategy that fits.
Felix: Awesome. Thanks again so much for coming on and sharing your experience guys.
Banks: Thank you so much Felix. Thanks for having us.
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About the author
Felix Thea is the host of the Shopify Masters podcast, the ecommerce marketing podcast for ambitious entrepreneurs. Got something to share with Shopify Masters listeners? You can submit your story for consideration.