Today I'm talking to Matt of SkylandersCharacterList.com, who's in an interesting niche—and an interesting predicament.
(You may also remember Matt from episode 10 of The Community Experience!)
He started a business in a very focused niche: selling collectibles for Skylanders, a toys-to-life action-adventure video game series that's no longer being made. It's been going well, but Matt is worried that his market might dry up.
How much more can he ask of his audience? The hobby of collecting things is already fairly expensive, the video game is no longer in production, and eventually many hobbyists are going to complete their collections. How much more is there for Matt to explore in this niche?
Matt started one inch wide and one mile deep. So should he go wider, or deeper? That's what we discuss today.
AP 1215: Should I Expand My Brand or Stay Niche?
Pat Flynn: What's up, everybody? Pat Flynn here, and welcome to episode 1,215 of AskPat 2.0. You're about to listen to a coaching call between myself and an entrepreneur like you. And today we're talking with Matt over at Skylanderscharacterlist.com. This is a very, very niched space in the collectible industry. In fact, Skylanders doesn't even exist anymore, yet he's still managing a business there. And so the question that we're going to answer today from Matt is whether or not he should expand into other collectibles, or continue to go deeper in this space that doesn't have any new content. There's no new characters coming out. It's limited. So where do we go from here? That's what we're talking about today.
Pat Flynn: You can check out Matt and his stuff at skylanderscharacterlist.com. He also has a shop there as well, and you can see what we're talking about, these little figures. And again, I am pretty familiar with this stuff from back in the day, but never really got into it. And it's just so cool to see this subculture and that Matt has created and what he's done there. So a lot of opportunity, and you're going to see and hear an epiphany by the end of this episode, it's going to be really awesome. So here he is, Matt.
Pat Flynn: Matt, welcome to AskPat 2.0. Welcome to the show.
Matt: Thanks for having me, Pat.
Pat Flynn: I appreciate you for being here. And why don't you start off by telling us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
Matt: Well, I've been an online entrepreneur for 10 plus years now. I think I've tried a variety of things. Some have worked; some have not, obviously. That's the life of the entrepreneur.
Pat Flynn: Of course.
Matt: The biggest success, I think I've had comes from the land of Skylanders. And this is something that not a lot of people know about, but long story short is I started with them back in 2012, started a website in 2013, did that for about four years, then they decided they weren't going to make any more games. So I left for about four years, but then I was lost after that, had a few products here and there, but eventually I came back to Skylanders because my site was still bringing in money and I wasn't sure why, because there had been no new content or no new games in four years. I investigated that a little bit and found that there was still a small community, not nearly as large as it used to be, but there were still ways that I could serve them. And so I started to do that, but now I'm wondering, where do we go from here?
Pat Flynn: I'm very familiar with Skylanders, by the way. In fact, my cousin, who's a little bit older than me, met his wife through the video game and through the experience of being involved with Skylanders, which is a pretty cool story. But I also know that you've also been a guest on the CX podcast, the Community Experience podcast, to talk about what you've built here. So tell us the current state of the business now. And I know you have a community as well. Tell us all that's involved and again, paint a picture for us for what's happening currently. And then we can go from there and see where it takes us.
Matt: All right. So, the site originally was more information based. I tried to just create a checklist, that was my original thing. I had a checklist of all the characters that people could use so they can complete their collections. And I would help people as the games and figures released throughout the years, different waves of figures, let them know when they released so they could go out and get them. And so that was really my focus. And throughout that time, I always had people asking, do you actually sell Skylanders? I'm like, no, I don't do that. Do I buy Skylanders? No, I don't do that. I don't want to get into that. But as time went on, that story changed because when I left Skylanders for a while, I did start dealing in online retail and started selling things and shipping things myself. And I learned that side of things.
Matt: When I came back to Skylanders and I saw that one of the main things that people were still doing was trying to complete their collection. I noticed two things really that they were creating YouTube content and they were trying to complete their collection. First thing I did was go into the YouTube side of things, because I already had a channel there, I had some subscribers, not a lot, but some, and so I tried to rejuvenate that. Really, I was just looking for additional income streams for this site. I had some affiliate income. I turned ads back on the site and then I'm like, okay, I'll monetize my YouTube channel. It had been monetized before, but in four years, a lot of requirements change and my channel wasn't monetized anymore. So I was focusing on that.
Matt: But in the meantime I decided, well, another income stream, what can I do? I can pick up a handful of figures and see if people are interested in buying them from me. If I can earn an extra hundred, 200, $300 a month from it. Cool. It's another income stream. Well, I did that and it turns out that was something that was really, really useful for people, because everybody out there selling right now, or the majority of people, are just trying to sell off their old collections. So they're selling off large lots of things. And so what I did since I have the means and opportunity, is buy those large collections and then sell all the figures individually for people to pick up just what they needed. And that's been my business model now. And that just took off. I've only been selling since last May and I've already sold, we've processed over 2,400 orders, sold over 15,000 items in nine months.
Pat Flynn: Wow. That is insane. And from somebody who now has also a YouTube channel in a different collectible space, but in the Pokemon space, I've seen the rise of all collectibles now, and the prices of them have been going up. And a lot of people in the Pokemon space are also doing the same thing, they're selling off their collections because they want to cash in, if you will. But there's a lot of collectors who still want to, like you said, complete their collections. And luckily in the Pokemon space, there's a whole load of people who are hubs for exchanging and there's the eBay and certain personalities that do what you're doing, and you seem to be the player in the space here, which is really amazing. And that's really awesome. So if you're purchasing these large orders, what's your inventory like right now? I'm curious.
Matt: Well, that's interesting. I don't have an exact number for you right now. At any given time it's been probably between one and 3,000 pieces on hand. What I've found during the holiday season, I knew I was going to take vacation in January. And so as we moved into the holidays, I tried to bulk up my inventory and every time I bought more and more and more, I just sold more and more and more. And so my inventory could never really grow the way I wanted it to, I never got that back stock. It's just, the more I put on the shelves, the more people bought.
Pat Flynn: That's crazy. Which marketplace are you selling through, or is it on your own website?
Matt: It's on my website.
Pat Flynn: It's on your website. Okay. What's the name of the website in case people are curious?
Matt: The easiest place, if you're looking for the shop itself, you can just go to SCLcollectibles.com. The main site is Skylanderscharacterlist.com.
Pat Flynn: Nice. Okay. So business seems to be going strong with the exchange and purchase of these things and selling and whatnot, the inventory seems to be coming through. What else is there? Is there a community, is there other major streams of income coming in, or is this really the main thing right now?
Matt: In all honesty, that's 90, 95% of the income right now. So, as I mentioned, I do still have a little bit of affiliate income trickling in from eBay and Amazon affiliate stuff. I do have few ads on there yet. I try to remove most of them, because I'm not a big ads guy. And I do have a small VIP group that I started, that was originally just my entry back into the Skylanders world. It's like, hey, will people support me in what I'm doing? So originally it was just like, support me, making videos, here you go. But then when I opened the store, that gave me more opportunities. So I'm like, okay, if you become a VIP, we'll give you a 20% discount in the store.
Matt: And then I started hosting my own auctions on site. So then we got into VIP auctions where the more rare, hard to find stuff I offered to my VIPs first. That's all included in that package there. But even with that, I think I only have 30 VIPs right now paying me 10 bucks a month. It's nothing huge. The bulk of my income by far is still from the sales of the shop.
Pat Flynn: How much time are you spending per day, or per week on this business with the current model that you have?
Matt: So it fluctuates a little bit because in the early days I was doing everything myself. Back in October, I brought in Jillian to take over the shipping for me. And so that's off my plate, but I'm still completely in charge of bringing in new inventory and I have to check it all and make sure all the figures work and that type of thing before I hand them over to Jillian. I will probably be taking that off my plate sooner rather than later. But for the time being that's still, just with the shop activity, I would say could be 20 to 30 hours a week, at least.
Pat Flynn: Great. I think we have a great understanding of what it is that you do and what's entailed and where the revenue's coming from. So I'd love to ask you, where would you like to best use this time? How do you want to progress? And where might you feel some tension, or where are there growth opportunities that you want to discuss? Tell me what's on your mind.
Matt: So my original concern when I got back into this was how long can this last? And eventually I got my head wrapped around that this is not completely tied to the brand anymore, because that's what's happened in the past. When I first got started with Skylanders, then they stopped making games. And so I backed out. Then I went to a trading card game called Lightseekers. I was the number one in that business, but then they decided we're going to quit after two years. And so that business disappeared for me. And I don't want this to happen again. When I finally settled down and said, hey, people have been collecting Skylanders now for the past 10 years, even the past four years when there were no new games, or new figures coming out, I just wasn't there to see it. And so this could continue for some time.
Matt: So it is collectibles. It can go on for some time, but I'm struggling because I don't know how much more I can ask of my audience where the hobby of collecting things is already fairly expensive. There is a limited number of things that can collect. So some of them may actually complete their collections at some point. Can I really ask, okay, here's a more expensive VIP product, or here's a book I wrote about the history of Skylanders, buy this from me, or here's some merchandise, buy this from me. How much can I ask from someone with a, essentially dead franchise? What is a limit there? With no new content coming out, can I continue, is that audience going to continue to grow? Is it going to continue to shrink? I'm not sure how long I can keep doing it with just focusing on Skylanders.
Pat Flynn: Yeah. This is a very interesting predicament, if you will. The fact that the company is not releasing any new characters or any new content, you can only talk about each one so often until it starts to just become repetitive, for example, but I think that when it comes to collectibles, there are people who are into just collecting in the community that comes along with that. And that is something that will always be, because with collecting comes memories, it comes connection, it comes belonging. And that is where I feel like there's opportunity here for you to provide an opportunity for these people to meet each other. And that could be of value and yes, it's very niche, but truly you don't need a ton of people to have a tight-knit community that could be there to support each other, and especially the person who's helping to organize all of those things. I guarantee there would be a world where you could create an event for these people to come and share their collection and have discussions and talk about these things.
Pat Flynn: You had mentioned an e-book, or some publication to showcase a lot of the history of it. That actually is a really interesting idea, and to come at it, not from the angle of, and this is in the language that you used, it was very apparent to me. You're like, how much could I sell them things? It's not about that. If you created a book, for example, that provided another level of experience for people who are into this space. Well, that is a value. If you created an event that created another level of experience on this thing, that again, the company is not going to do you, but you're stepping up to do. Then you deserve to get rewarded and paid for that. And then everybody's winning.
Pat Flynn: People are winning, because they're reading about something they didn't know about, or are able to take this very unique hobby that they likely cannot talk about with anybody else around them. This is why they're coming to you in other places, because they're the nerds who are shunned when they, oh, Skylander, Skylander I heard of that once. Isn't that dead? Yes, but you don't want to have those conversations. You want to have, Skylander. Yeah, me too. Dude, let's talk forever about this. It's just such a cool thing. You could step up to create those new memories that can be created out of something that, yes, is old, but there can be all kind of new things that you could create around that. I feel like that if you approach this as what can I do to increase the experience that people have with this commonality, then that's where, sorry, my dogs are barking, somebody knocked on the door.
Pat Flynn: That's where I think you could get over that fear of, well, am I selling just because I want to make money, or am I actually making money as a byproduct of these additional experiences that are created on top of this, and we all have this beautiful thing called Skylander that only we understand about each other. And that's, geez, I know that there are people who are like, for example, fans of particular vintage cars, cars that are not made anymore, and they meet up and they hang out and they spend loads of money on those cars and they're part of clubs and they wear the merch because they want to, because it is a part of who they are, not because somebody sold them something to try and make money, but they're happy to pay those things because it makes them feel a certain way.
Pat Flynn: And that's what I imagine a lot of people in this space much like how any collectible space is. It's not about the character, it's about the feeling of the completion of the set. It's about the feeling of being able to share the similar language that other people can't. What are your thoughts based on that response in terms of anything that you sell or offer, it's not about the money, the money is the byproduct of that experience you're creating for them. How does that sit with you?
Matt: No matter how many times I've heard you say that, it makes much more sense when you're applying it directly to my situation.
Pat Flynn: So what does that open up for you?
Matt: It opens up a new mindset. And I think that's something that I definitely needed because I've had this mulling around in my head for years, honestly, what else can I do? Even before I left for the first time, what else can I do with this brand? And it was always more a sense of what else can I create, but not in the sense that you were saying like, what other experiences can I create? It was what other products can I create? That is definitely something that's going to open up where I can go with this, I think. I was definitely struggling to figure out, like I said, if I can just stick with Skylanders, because that's what I'm known for. That's what I built my community around, or do I have to expand to other collectibles to make this a viable long term thing?
Pat Flynn: I don't think so. I don't think so. I think if you did that, it might dilute the feeling, it might start dividing people. It might start, not in bad ways, it's just like, oh, man, it's moved onto this other thing that I'm not really a big fan of, MetaZoo is the big new card game that's coming out. And a lot of people who are Pokemon creators have expanded into MetaZoo. And you know what? It's actually diluted their brand a bit, because now some people like that, same thing with Pokemon creators who talk about Yu-Gi-Oh!, another TCG. Very similar era, similar group of people. It makes sense to talk about that other thing, but then now, sometimes I'm into those creators and then they come out with a Yu-Gi-Oh! thing and I don't even care to watch it. And so now my loyalty to the brand is a little bit less because of that.
Pat Flynn: So instead of going, you started one inch wide, one mile deep. You just started with Skylanders and you went one mile deep, so deep with it. Could you go two miles deep with it, and not feel like you have to expand into other things, but expand with those who are there already. There could be, I don't know much about Skylanders in the sense that how one might be able to display their collection, but are specific products that you can create to allow for people to better display their collection and have them front and center in their office, or living room, or a case of some kind? Is there a particular Skylander specific plexiglass thing that protects a package that's been unopened?
Pat Flynn: And is there a book that uncovers the rarest of rare and shares with me, either, A, stuff I didn't know about, or B, the fact that I do have some of this rare stuff and it would validate that and make it feel really special. It could be a tool that I could use to, if somebody is like, what is Skylander? Read Matt's book. This will tell you exactly why I love it so much. You could provide those tools to, again, give people a better experience when they talk about Skylander with others. I'm hoping that the gears are turning and it sounds like they are. I'm hoping this allows you to have a little bit more grace as far as creating for those who are in this space.
Matt: I definitely think it does. You were saying going two miles deep. And I think that's definitely possible. There are so many things I have wanted to do with the website as it stands now, but I just didn't know if I could justify spending that much time and effort on something that how much can I actually get out of this in return? I feel like I've put a lot into it already. And I've had people, when I came back to it, just people who became VIPs just to support me and said, this is a thank you for all the work you put in four years ago. And that is...
Pat Flynn: That's huge.
Matt: ... that is something that I will cherish forever for sure. But moving forward, I think that is my answer. I think I do need to continue just focusing on Skylanders and hunker down and just make this website the go to resource. It is in many cases already, but I know there's still Google searches out there related to Skylanders that I don't show up number one for. So I got my work cut out for me.
Pat Flynn: Still room to grow, but also in addition to becoming the number one go-to resource, you could become the number one community, the number one experience creator for anybody who's involved in this space. And again, I envision, even if it's a small meetup somewhere with people, I envision an in-person thing. I envision this book that you'd mentioned, which is really exciting. I envision other products that when people see they don't go, oh, Matt's trying to just sell me crap. They go, oh my gosh, he invented this thing that I needed for so long. Finally, somebody stepped up to do it.
Matt: You talked about the display case. And we just had that come up in my live stream today, we were unboxing a bunch of creation crystals and someone's like, was there an official display case for any of these? I'm like, not to my knowledge, but you might have something there.
Pat Flynn: Well, there you go. Prototype it out. You can even bring your audience who's there with you on that journey. Don't create something in secret and then be like, hey guys, look, what if you created it with them. Hey, if you become a part of the VIP I'll give you weekly access to this thing that we're creating together, or what have you. I think you could definitely sell more people into the VIP. Again, not because you want to make more money from them, but because you're giving them access to an experience that's beyond what they can normally get elsewhere. And that's the big difference.
Matt: I like it.
Pat Flynn: I like it too, Matt. I'm excited to hear what happens because I'm in the collectible space now as well. And maybe I'll follow your lead as far as some of this stuff, but Matt, one more time. Where can people go to get access to the store and the website?
Matt: You can find the website over at skylanderscharacterlist.com, or you can jump directly to the shop at SCLcollectibles.com.
Pat Flynn: Epic. Thank you, Matt. Good luck to you and look forward to catching up again later. All right. I hope you enjoy that with Matt. Again, very niched, but I think going miles deeper versus expanding outward would make for a better experience, and we can level up those experiences for the people who are there. These are people who likely don't want to let go of a lot of this stuff. So how can we bring them in even more? And I'll tell you, even after we hit record to finish off, and we ended the recording, he came to me and Matt was just like, you've just opened up all these doors for me now. And it's awesome. And we hear the kind of thing that we've heard a lot, where people here on the show often just need another person to validate what they originally thought perhaps was a good idea, but then started questioning. You just need permission sometimes. And I give you permission to succeed as well, you listening to this right now.
Pat Flynn: And if you want to continue to succeed, hit that subscribe button if you haven't already. Yeah, please hit subscribe. I appreciate you. And look forward to serving you in next week's episode. Got a lot more stuff coming your way. So don't miss out on it. Thanks so much. Peace out. And here's to Matt and his Skylanderscharacterlist.com website and his store and everything else he has going on there. Super cool. And I hope you check it out. Peace out, everybody. Thanks so much. And as all always, team Flynn for the win.
Pat Flynn: Thanks for listening to AskPat at AskPat.com. I'm your host Pat Flynn. Our senior producer is Sarah Jane Hess. Our series producer is David Grabowski. And our executive producer is Matt Garland. Sound editing by Duncan Brown. AskPat is a production of SPI Media. We'll catch you in the next session.