Market Research Part 1.5

We interrupt our regularly scheduled posts to bring an interview with Zambumon! you may know him from his successful keyset designs, or from his dashing good looks. Here we cover some points of discussion relating to product viability, and will pick up our scheduled topic next week.

What do you think is the most common reason for keysets failing to hit moq, or get off the ground?

Usually a combination of several factors: rushing ICs, high expectations from the designer(s) leading to too many kits, pricing, a poor marketing strategy and poor planning and the lack of commitment:

  • Rushing ICs: meaning you start an IC for a set that is already scheduled: vendors, date… almost everything is ready. We don’t know yet if there is any interest for this set but we are going to run it anyway. Now, when I say rushing ICs I’m (in most cases) talking about brand new sets, not reruns of popular sets. Designers started to become more overconfident and vendors allowed it. Anyways, a case of this would be some of Kono’s sets (like GMK High Voltage).
  • Overconfidence: “if GMK Handarbeit can make MOQ so can I”. I get it, it’s your design, you have expectations for it, you truly believe that it will be awesome and lots of people will join the GB and you have proxies and they will buy extras to help yada yada yada. Overconfidence leads to lots of kits, expensive kits and each of them has an MOQ. And if you have a set with just 2 kits and an MOQ of 250 and 100 respectively you might be fine, but when you have 6 kits? Good luck if things don’t go as great as planned. Everyone has been overconfident at some point, and vendors and the factory can help a little bit but they won’t do miracles.
  • Pricing: this is due to the lack of perspective from the designer: Most people on this planet are broke, students, in high school and don’t have that much money. I will limit this example to core kits, but you can’t expect that most people will pay $170 or $150 for a base kit. And yep, even a $5 price difference matters. If you can make your set $110 instead of $115 it will have a noticeable impact. Fuck, consider that with huge kits getting extras is even harder for the vendors. That being said, and from my own experience: TKL Core kits are only ideal with high (500) or very high (1000) MOQs since the price would be around $100 and $90 respectively.
  • Poor marketing strategy: a fancy way of pointing out issues about anything from the IC to the group buy page, lack of proper kit mockups (looking at you GMK High Voltage), lack of assets so the vendors can share the product on social media, poor planning (you can’t have a set in the IC stage for a year and expect the hype to be the same). Good planning helps a lot. People should know very well when a set is running and as a vendor you are also responsible of hyping that set.
  • Overestimating the commitment of all the stakeholders: don’t expect vendors to buyout your set, specially if you make lots of kits. Don’t expect that your customers to get multiple extra kits if the set is having issues hitting MOQ.
  • Lack of commitment from the designer: If you are a designer, assume your part as the designer of the set and how much you can afford to spend if things don’t go as well as you expected. Care about the shit you make and don’t yeet your project, you are the responsible of making things happen.

It seems that keysets from major makers/designers pretty much always do well, you think the people in the hobby are just afraid of buying from no-namers?

Not really, most people don’t care who designs the set but rather where they can get it. That being said, veteran designers have a track record which is incredibly useful when we are talking about color matching or kit issues. What matters is hard work and the commitment to the project, a great example of a newcomer smashing it would be pikku-allu.

Do you think ideas like these apply to the custom keyboard kit/case market?

In some ways yes, but I still think that keyset designers (as well as the group buy runners) need to learn more from customs than the other way around. For instance, I don’t like the idea of someone reaching the GB stage for the first time and already running a second or third IC for new sets. Specially because after the pre-order window some of the most critical tasks happen and there’s definitely work to do. And I get it, GMK will do their job and the vendors will ship the sets, but I think it’s a part of proving that you (as a designer) are capable of doing things right. Obviously, running a keyboard group buy is way more scary, complicated and it’s definitely not as easy as working with GMK BUT an experienced keyboard group buy runner is similar to an experienced keyset designer as they both understand what they can and cannot promise (color finishes and options vs kits), they are both more cautious with timelines and quality of what they sell and usually they both have some pride they want to maintain.

We will be back next week where we’ll finish off the main points for market viability, so stay tuned for more content. Big thanks to Zambumon for taking his time to give us some perspective into viability for keyset designs, you can find more info about Zambumon here.