Artist Turns Authentic Exclusivity Into Special Offer Success

Meet Marshall Short, PrintableHeroes

What started out as a hobby on Tumblr turned into a full-time job for Marshall Short, the creative mastermind behind the popular Patreon membership, PrintableHeroes. Since August 2018, Marshall’s income arrives directly from his patrons, to whom he provides print-ready miniatures for table-top role-playing games for free. Yes, FREE.

“I love table-top role playing games, but gathering up all of the materials you need to play can be a pretty daunting task, so I just wanted to make that part a bit easier for people and create some fun art in the process.”

How does his Patreon membership business work? He has multiple tiers, all with unique names (a great driver for identification and connection among your patrons!), and each level unlocks more versions and iterations of Marshall’s amazing and free products.

“By becoming a Patron you can gain access to bonus material: back view art for the minis, art and colour variations, cutfiles, vote on what I create next, and other neat perks each month.”

Special Offers: Finding an Authentic Way to Offer Exclusivity

Marshall is committed to keeping the core focus of his work free for anyone who wants his artwork, and had been shying away from the idea of exclusive content. But the special offer feature piqued his interest and he realised that for his niche, he could offer seasonal content, which is exclusive by nature.

“I didn’t want to go against my mission statement, I really enjoy creating and sharing my art for free. But, seasonality is a thing in my world, so it made sense that I could do a seasonal series, for example, offer Halloween and harvest time themed artwork, retire it after the holiday or season has ended, and bring it back again to celebrate next year.”

Playing To His Strengths (his Passionate Superfans)

The only downside? Marshall was super busy. At first he almost passed on the whole notion because he had a bunch of ideas but not even the bandwidth to crank out the marketing let alone the content he thought he needed. The solution? Marshall looked at what he already had in his Patreon toolkit: his relationship with passionate patrons and superfans.

Marshall decided to engage his patron base and and empower them to influence his seasonal creations. On September 17th, he announced this new opportunity to his audience and invited all of his patrons (regardless of being at the $1 or $10 tier) to comment on a Patreon post with their seasonal miniature suggestions. Guess what? Fans signed up to be patrons in order to make suggestions. A week later, he posted his favourites and let his patrons vote. More fans signed up to be able to vote. Then, he started creating the miniatures and released them to his audience as he normally did, promoting the new art to his greater audience on his social feeds and networks. Because this new and exciting seasonal content was exclusive for patrons, and more fans signed up for his membership program.

“I looked at this as an opportunity to create content I normally wouldn’t tackle, like jack-o-lanterns or snow monsters , things like that. It was a fun way for my fans to get involved in my decision making, and it was interesting for me to create something new.”

What Happened

A lot of people jumped at the chance to make suggestions, vote, and get access to the seasonal content. PrintableHeroes saw a 6% increase of patrons, plus some patrons decided to join a higher-tier to get access to more versions of the free artwork. All tolled, PrintableHeroes earned $648 more dollars a month thanks to the special offer campaign, which is awesome growth! Plus, it gave Marshal the proof he needed that he was onto something, and that his audience would support him.

“I was worried about creating something exclusive, since my business is built on the fact that I keep a massive library that’s always accessible. But I feel okay retiring the Halloween art on November 2nd, and my audience can look forward to it returning again next year. ”

Pro Tip #1: Your audience knows, loves, and wants to support you; if you’re not sure what to give them as a special offer, just ask. Have an idea? Toss it out there: “hey, I’m thinking of making new art, some merchandise, hosting a live Q&A… what do you think?” There’s no rule that says you have to come up with every marketing idea on your own, and vetting your idea could bolster your motivation and confidence to get going on it.

Pro Tip #2: When you do have a new ideas or two, it’s okay to experiment and try it out. Not everything you do will be a hit, but if you’re choosing projects that are authentic for you and your work, and if you’re asking for feedback along the way, you’ll likely have more hits than misses.

“This program really solidified the idea, for me, that it’s okay to evolve as I go. My patrons are signing on to support and be a part of the journey with me, as much as they are to get the art.”

What’s Next

Marshall is looking ahead, thinking about all the possible holidays and cultural events for which he could create content. He’s planning to follow his same model as before, making the suggesting and voting period part of the offer, as well as the actual artwork. He’s excited to get feedback from his audience and find out what they want, so he can create it for them, and with them. And we can’t wait to see it PrintableHeroes succeed even more.