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Old August 29th, 2020, 03:01 PM   #1
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Have I made a giant mistake?

So, I have a bit of a story to tell here. Stick with me...

After college, I managed to land what, at the time, was my dream job- A career in broadcast television news. I stayed on this path for nearly 10 years, managed to be on the front line of some major news stories of the time, and even won multiple awards from the likes of the SPJ and Associated Press for my work.

This career, however, completely consumed me. News doesn't take time off for holidays or family events. I grew to miss being a part of big family gatherings and having a life outside of broadcasting. So, it became a goal of mine to move into a position where I could maintain some kind of work/life balance. Even if it meant leaving broadcast journalism behind.

Before I could make any such career move, however, my parents got divorced. My old childhood home was liquidated as part of the divorce settlement, and my desire to have the kind of old-fashioned family holiday get-togethers we once had was no longer possible. For far too long I had put my career ahead of everything else, and now I had lost that.

Eventually, I did manage to leave the corporate world of broadcast television and go into business for myself as a full-time freelancer. And I managed to do alright on this path, but it was of course too late for there to be any more big family holidays.

Luckily, I had all my old family videos and photos from when I was young. These allowed me to, in some small way, relive those family holidays. I wasn't working with analog or VHS gear, so I sought to have all this old media transferred to digital. Despite looking into various options for transferring all this stuff to digital, I wasn't happy with any of the options I found for various reasons- They were expensive, the transfer quality was horrible, you had to wait a long time, and most of them just dubbed straight to DVD, but who even has a DVD player anymore?

So, I saw a business opportunity here. I could build a supperior home video digitizing business. One that would be able to accept customers around the country by providing a shipping box and prepaid shipping lable. I would use custom TBC and comb filter electronics to stabilize and convert old video signals for modern displays, and even deploy a real time neural network AI for uprezzing material. Instead of putting videos on DVDs, I developed a proprietary cloud platform where customers could view their digitized items any time they wanted, on any device. And, via automation and custom robotics I would do all this faster and cheaper than competing companies. It was everything I wanted in a transfer company, but couldn't find.

I spent over three and a half years building this business, developing the custom electronics, the robitics, the software, all of it. And, it is finally done and ready to go.

But, here is the problem- I have no idea how to get customers. When I became a freelancer I had no problem finding work via word of mouth. I already had an established reputation and people were eager to work with me. Now, with this business, it is something different. Customers don't just appear. I'm willing to spend some money on advertising, but I'm not sure what will work and what will be throwing my money away.

And I'm afraid there might not be the kind of demand I imaged for this kind of service. Did I waste over three years of my life building a solution for a non-existent problem?

My website for this transfer business is www.MagicMemoriesBox.com

Any useful advice is welcome.
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Old August 29th, 2020, 04:00 PM   #2
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Re: Have I made a giant mistake?

Interesting. Many of your your potential clients are likely to be the older generation. So to make it easier to understand right off the bat, I’d put your ‘How it works’ as a bigger button on the home page.

Make it more personal, ‘Contact Jim or Jenny.’ Get some friends to write reviews, everybody does it. :)

Also look to advertising to corporate companies to preserve their analogue files on line. You’ll need a different approach, advertise in on line biz. magazines. And you’ll need a more personal contact, instant follow up etc. For big outfits, you could do contract work, so many hours ‘preserving’ a month.

If you do this right, word will get around, but do some research first, study your competition.

This seems to be a good source of work here.

Cheers.
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Old August 29th, 2020, 04:07 PM   #3
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Re: Have I made a giant mistake?

1. Work personal life balance is import. Sounds like you made a good decision.

2. Your business.

- There is a demand for the services you provide ie digitizing family photos and videos. But at what price point. Most people don't want to pay a lot and will go to big box stores that provide these services or someone local. Then there are more high end places in New York.

- So you have to be competitive on price and market your services. How? Where? I don't know but if you aren't good at marketing maybe you should hire sales person to work on commission.

Your demographic should be older people preferably with disposable income. Good luck, let us know if you make progress.
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Old August 29th, 2020, 04:29 PM   #4
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Re: Have I made a giant mistake?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Grunseth View Post
Did I waste over three years of my life building a solution for a non-existent problem?.
It's not a non-existent problem. I think there is an excellent market for your service and I really like your website. First class and well-done. The problem that is going to eat you alive is the cost of customer acquisition (CAC). You can build a better mousetrap but nobody is going to buy it if they don't know it exists. If you ever watch Shark Tank you'd know that CAC is the hump that is going to kill most new businesses. Plus you have chosen a business that won't see a lot of repeat business, so that is also a problem. It's one thing to spend $20-$30 on acquiring a customer if they will return again and again, but I don't see that is likely for this service.

Did you have a marketing plan when you started? What was your marketing budget? What was your estimated CAC when you decided to proceed? How did you expect to find customers, or expect customers to find you? You must have had some kind of plan, right?

Have you opened a Google Adwords account and put it into action? I'm sure it won't be cheap to compete for the keywords you need, but you should have known that when you started out, right?

You could try running an ad in AARP magazine and see what happens. I think that is close to your demographic.

Good luck.
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Old August 30th, 2020, 12:59 AM   #5
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Re: Have I made a giant mistake?

Taking the emotion out of the subject, you offer a decent service but the big problem is that it's like being an undertaker. It's a one shot service with no repeat business, and good reviews that only work for a small circle of people. You pick an undertaker at random when you need one, and that's where you enter the value for money market. The customers need the service but can only do it once. They search, they like your web offering compared to others and commission you. Done. The end. If they mention it to a friend, they might do it too but it runs dry.

For this I suspect the Internet is not the right medium. Real magazines, the ones the target audience read. Perhaps magazines from large societies. Diabetes, heart, arthritis that kind of thing with member's magazines. Advertise there. VHS and beta mean over 50's, probably over 60's.

I have taken on a few tape jobs and it's a time consuming pain. Real time copying is a pita. You cannot do it automatically. The number of times I have watched a picture come and go and eventually decided to press stop wears you out. If you have three 30 hour projects parallel processing takes three systems, you can't speed up so if you got really busy you have to buy more gear and at some point it stops.

It's also the most boring job in the world. Compared to your old job, this is glue drying stuff, even if it makes a good margin.
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Old August 30th, 2020, 06:13 AM   #6
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Re: Have I made a giant mistake?

Paul gave me idea for doing something more interesting and unique but still related to your business and your past (I actually might take this idea for myself).

Create a movie about a family member who passed away, telling their life story. Especially now people can't gather together. Interview friends and family members outdoors, then use your current equipment to scan/copy all their old photos and video to use as broll. This movie could be streamed for a virtual service.

Then who knows, you could expand out into the undertaking business. ;-)
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Old August 30th, 2020, 11:44 AM   #7
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Re: Have I made a giant mistake?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug Jensen View Post
It's not a non-existent problem. I think there is an excellent market for your service and I really like your website. First class and well-done. The problem that is going to eat you alive is the cost of customer acquisition (CAC). You can build a better mousetrap but nobody is going to buy it if they don't know it exists. If you ever watch Shark Tank you'd know that CAC is the hump that is going to kill most new businesses. Plus you have chosen a business that won't see a lot of repeat business, so that is also a problem. It's one thing to spend $20-$30 on acquiring a customer if they will return again and again, but I don't see that is likely for this service.

Did you have a marketing plan when you started? What was your marketing budget? What was your estimated CAC when you decided to proceed? How did you expect to find customers, or expect customers to find you? You must have had some kind of plan, right?

Have you opened a Google Adwords account and put it into action? I'm sure it won't be cheap to compete for the keywords you need, but you should have known that when you started out, right?

You could try running an ad in AARP magazine and see what happens. I think that is close to your demographic.

Good luck.
Thank you for your in-depth reply Doug, I appreciate it.

Along the way, as I developed this business, I kept encountering people telling me what a brilliant idea it was. How they, themselves, were sitting on boxes of old tapes and photos and how they would eagerly be among my first customers. I believed that once I launched, it would be enough to simply let people know that the service existed.

My original plan was to first just announce the service via social media, taking advantage of Facebook groups. I had figured this would give me a few customers, and allow me to get some practice going through the whole process.

After that, my plan was to do a small advertising push online. Mainly Google and Facebook advertising, the primary goal here would be to determine what that CAC would be and run some A/B tests to see how much I could improve the effectiveness of such ads.

Next, I was going to do a big media push, sending out press kits to various media outlets in my area. Developing press kits was something I did quite successfully when I went into freelancing, so I felt this would likely generate results. However, a successful press campaign is something you typically only have one shot at, so I didn't want to undertake this until I was absolutely ready for it.

This would be followed by expanding my advertising into radio, print, and possible television ads.

Simultaneous to these various promotional and advertising efforts, I was going to be building a social media presence, including a youtube channel dedicated to subjects relating to tape digitizing and video archival.

Anyway, this is what I had in mind originally. But, when I got to the first part, just announcing on Social media, the response was absolutely nothing. I did launch a small google ad campaing, and I've been A/B testing some different adds there, and this has resulted in a few customers, but so far the CAC hasn't been great.

I'm also considering trying radio advertising, as the cost per exposure is way better than any other form of advertising, and I can target what I believe to be my key demographic with it, which is 40 to 60 year old affluent women.
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Old August 30th, 2020, 01:38 PM   #8
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Re: Have I made a giant mistake?

Adam, I think one niche is with those who do family history projects, either personally or professionally. I have been involved in a related area of personal history (written and video autobiography type projects) since about 2007 and served on the board of the Association of Personal Historians until its demise a couple of years ago. There are lots of folks working on genealogy projects and those always have associated media. Like you, my focus on media restoration is extracting a better derivative than the original, but to date I have mainly encountered requests for photo restoration. However it makes sense that this will change since home movies and video started becoming more popular in the 1960s as the technology became more accessible and those now starting to retire would have family archives of that era. There is a large convention of family history folks called RootsTech that would be worth having a presence, and any other conventions associated with genealogy as well.

You mentioned your technology briefly and that all sounds great. The burning question in terms of the business side is how scalable is your tech? Self-service automation, video restoration as a service, etc. could lead to wide adoption. I would love to discuss that aspect with you sometime.

Hopefully you have your IP protected. Could be something of interest to companies like Adobe, Pond5, Google, etc.
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Old August 30th, 2020, 02:51 PM   #9
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Re: Have I made a giant mistake?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Grunseth View Post
So, I have a bit of a story to tell here. Stick with me...

After college, I managed to land what, at the time, was my dream job- A career in broadcast television news. I stayed on this path for nearly 10 years, managed to be on the front line of some major news stories of the time, and even won multiple awards from the likes of the SPJ and Associated Press for my work.

This career, however, completely consumed me. News doesn't take time off for holidays or family events. I grew to miss being a part of big family gatherings and having a life outside of broadcasting. So, it became a goal of mine to move into a position where I could maintain some kind of work/life balance. Even if it meant leaving broadcast journalism behind.

Before I could make any such career move, however, my parents got divorced. My old childhood home was liquidated as part of the divorce settlement, and my desire to have the kind of old-fashioned family holiday get-togethers we once had was no longer possible. For far too long I had put my career ahead of everything else, and now I had lost that.

Eventually, I did manage to leave the corporate world of broadcast television and go into business for myself as a full-time freelancer. And I managed to do alright on this path, but it was of course too late for there to be any more big family holidays.

Luckily, I had all my old family videos and photos from when I was young. These allowed me to, in some small way, relive those family holidays. I wasn't working with analog or VHS gear, so I sought to have all this old media transferred to digital. Despite looking into various options for transferring all this stuff to digital, I wasn't happy with any of the options I found for various reasons- They were expensive, the transfer quality was horrible, you had to wait a long time, and most of them just dubbed straight to DVD, but who even has a DVD player anymore?

So, I saw a business opportunity here. I could build a supperior home video digitizing business. One that would be able to accept customers around the country by providing a shipping box and prepaid shipping lable. I would use custom TBC and comb filter electronics to stabilize and convert old video signals for modern displays, and even deploy a real time neural network AI for uprezzing material. Instead of putting videos on DVDs, I developed a proprietary cloud platform where customers could view their digitized items any time they wanted, on any device. And, via automation and custom robotics I would do all this faster and cheaper than competing companies. It was everything I wanted in a transfer company, but couldn't find.

And I'm afraid there might not be the kind of demand I imaged for this kind of service. Did I waste over three years of my life building a solution for a non-existent problem?

My website for this transfer business is www.MagicMemoriesBox.com

Any useful advice is welcome.
There must be a demand for this service. This company www.legacybox.com has recently been doing a lot of radio/tv advertising in my area. They offer services similar to what you offer.
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Old August 30th, 2020, 05:23 PM   #10
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Re: Have I made a giant mistake?

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Originally Posted by W. Bill Magac View Post
There must be a demand for this service. This company www.legacybox.com has recently been doing a lot of radio/tv advertising in my area. They offer services similar to what you offer.
A few months back I was researching for my parents, where and how much to digitize their old films. I came to realize that many places offer this service. Most traditional big box stores like Walmart obviously don't perform the work they send it off to a large facility. The other obstacle to this type of work is the trust needed to hand over or ship your one of kind family photos and videos.
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Old August 31st, 2020, 08:36 AM   #11
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Re: Have I made a giant mistake?

Adam, I can tell you one thing, I just spent the better part of two and a half weeks converting well over 100 old miniDV tapes to DVD. A real pain in the butt, literally. First I had to fast forward through the tape to look for major glitches that could stop the transfer, and also stuff I didn't care to copy, things like endless minutes of flowers I videoed in 1989, or filming a bird feeder on old Hi8 that was then converted to miniDV and then to DVD. To tell you the truth I wish I could have sent them out, but I didn't want just a straight duplication from tape to DVD. Have you thought about the real time involved? I wish you luck, Bob
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Old August 31st, 2020, 02:50 PM   #12
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Re: Have I made a giant mistake?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Michael View Post
Adam, I think one niche is with those who do family history projects, either personally or professionally. I have been involved in a related area of personal history (written and video autobiography type projects) since about 2007 and served on the board of the Association of Personal Historians until its demise a couple of years ago. There are lots of folks working on genealogy projects and those always have associated media. Like you, my focus on media restoration is extracting a better derivative than the original, but to date I have mainly encountered requests for photo restoration. However it makes sense that this will change since home movies and video started becoming more popular in the 1960s as the technology became more accessible and those now starting to retire would have family archives of that era. There is a large convention of family history folks called RootsTech that would be worth having a presence, and any other conventions associated with genealogy as well.

You mentioned your technology briefly and that all sounds great. The burning question in terms of the business side is how scalable is your tech? Self-service automation, video restoration as a service, etc. could lead to wide adoption. I would love to discuss that aspect with you sometime.

Hopefully you have your IP protected. Could be something of interest to companies like Adobe, Pond5, Google, etc.
I have three separate patents I've filed related to the tech I developed for this project. As far as I can tell, my approach to de-interlacing the video is fairly unique, as is my approach to scaling the video via a real time neural network powered AI.

Quote:
Originally Posted by W. Bill Magac View Post
There must be a demand for this service. This company www.legacybox.com has recently been doing a lot of radio/tv advertising in my area. They offer services similar to what you offer.
Legacy Box was one of the companies I discovered when I first looked into digitzing my tapes. Like all the other options I looked into, however, I wasn't happy with what they had to offer. First, their listed prices only include digitization- If you actually want to watch your media, on DVD or on a thumb drive, then there is an additional cost. It is also expensive, and the wait times can be significant. They also don't do anything to convert the NTSC signal, so if you do get a thumb drive you are just getting a stretched out interlaced video without so much as corrected levels or color space.

I also wasn't super into the idea of just replacing a box of tapes with a box of discs, or thumb drives. This was one of the big inspirations in building Magic Memories Box with its cloud platform built in. All you would pay is the price given, and that includes never-ending cloud storage with ability to access your media any time you want.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete Cofrancesco View Post
A few months back I was researching for my parents, where and how much to digitize their old films. I came to realize that many places offer this service. Most traditional big box stores like Walmart obviously don't perform the work they send it off to a large facility. The other obstacle to this type of work is the trust needed to hand over or ship your one of kind family photos and videos.
It is definitely true that many places offer this service. I just felt like most every place offering this was doing it rather poorly. Almost all these services are built around dubbing straight to DVD, so you are just replacing tapes with discs, and the ones that do offer other forms of media are still slow, expensive, and don't do any kind of signal processing or conversion.

This is why with Magic Memories Box I wanted to offer the built-in cloud platform, it isn't just digitizing people's memories, but providing storage and access on any device. And signal processing is included, so the videos should at least look somewhat decent.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Safay View Post
Adam, I can tell you one thing, I just spent the better part of two and a half weeks converting well over 100 old miniDV tapes to DVD. A real pain in the butt, literally. First I had to fast forward through the tape to look for major glitches that could stop the transfer, and also stuff I didn't care to copy, things like endless minutes of flowers I videoed in 1989, or filming a bird feeder on old Hi8 that was then converted to miniDV and then to DVD. To tell you the truth I wish I could have sent them out, but I didn't want just a straight duplication from tape to DVD. Have you thought about the real time involved? I wish you luck, Bob
Thanks Bob! From the very beginning of this process the amount of time spent on the labor of processing material has been at the forefront of my mind. This is a big part of why it has taken me over three and a half years to get to this point. I'm not just manually loading tapes into decks and dubbing to a computer or other recorder- Instead I'm loading tapes into custom tape loaders, where robotics will handle the deck loading, custom electronics will control the tape playback and capture, and custom software will remove any breaks or holes in the video.

All the video tapes have barcode stockers on them which the robotics use to track the tapes through the process, and this makes sure the software is correclty digitizing each tape and assigning it to the correct cloud account. Beyond unpacking the tapes and placing them in the loaders, the process that point is fairly hands off. Even when I go home at night, the robotics are able to work 24/7.
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Old August 31st, 2020, 07:52 PM   #13
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Re: Have I made a giant mistake?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Grunseth View Post

I also wasn't super into the idea of just replacing a box of tapes with a box of discs, or thumb drives. This was one of the big inspirations in building Magic Memories Box with its cloud platform built in. All you would pay is the price given, and that includes never-ending cloud storage with ability to access your media any time you want.

It is definitely true that many places offer this service. I just felt like most every place offering this was doing it rather poorly. Almost all these services are built around dubbing straight to DVD, so you are just replacing tapes with discs, and the ones that do offer other forms of media are still slow, expensive, and don't do any kind of signal processing or conversion.

This is why with Magic Memories Box I wanted to offer the built-in cloud platform, it isn't just digitizing people's memories, but providing storage and access on any device. And signal processing is included, so the videos should at least look somewhat decent.
I can see why places separate the digitizing from the delivery that way the customer can pick what they want.

The problem you are going to run into is if you say cloud to anyone over 50 they're going to look up at the sky. That's why DVDs are popular with older folks. But even younger people (including myself) despite the convenience of the cloud people want something physical like a usb drive. In addition you say it will be available on the cloud "never ending" that's a laugh. All it takes is your hosting company to go out of business, raise the hosting cost, or who knows what. Ever heard of AOL or MySpace and bunch of other popular services go bye bye? Things come a go including yourself. If you get hit by a car God for bid do you have a trust fund setup to keep paying the hosting and person to watch over it in perpetuity? I get the cloud makes things easy for you but don't confuse what you want with what the customer wants.
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Old September 2nd, 2020, 04:44 PM   #14
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Re: Have I made a giant mistake?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete Cofrancesco View Post
I can see why places separate the digitizing from the delivery that way the customer can pick what they want.

The problem you are going to run into is if you say cloud to anyone over 50 they're going to look up at the sky. That's why DVDs are popular with older folks. But even younger people (including myself) despite the convenience of the cloud people want something physical like a usb drive. In addition you say it will be available on the cloud "never ending" that's a laugh. All it takes is your hosting company to go out of business, raise the hosting cost, or who knows what. Ever heard of AOL or MySpace and bunch of other popular services go bye bye? Things come a go including yourself. If you get hit by a car God for bid do you have a trust fund setup to keep paying the hosting and person to watch over it in perpetuity? I get the cloud makes things easy for you but don't confuse what you want with what the customer wants.
Well, I do still offer conversion to DVD and USB for those who want it. But, I also figure that if they are able to use the internet well enough to log in to the site and buy a Magic Memories Box that they are likely tech-savvy enough to watch their media online. Even people over 50 are frequently using Youtube, various online forums, and posting on Facebook. With the cloud platform we have developed for Magic Memories Box the goal was to keep it simple, carrying forward the analogy of organizing items in boxes, just as those items likely would have been stored in our customers' closets.

In regards to the promise of never-ending cloud storage, I am not relying on a third-party hosting company. I actually run my own hosting company, with my own servers. When I started offering live stream production as a freelancer, I found streaming server leasing to be horribly expensive. It became much more lucrative to set up my own streaming servers at my office. From there I started selling web hosting services and started to grow a little hosting business. Currently, I am operating about 40 of my own servers and providing co-location services for another 18 servers. This hosting enterprise has been a limited liability partnership and is set up so as to survive the death of any of the partners.

Still, I do recognize things happen. Our terms of service explicitly spell out the limitations of the cloud service, and users are encouraged to download and keep their own copies of their digitized material. We also do have a bankruptcy/disaster plan should continued hosting prove to be impossible. This plan involves contacting all users to give them warning before any planned shutdown, as well as ways to deliver them physical media copies of all their material.
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Old September 4th, 2020, 09:10 AM   #15
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Re: Have I made a giant mistake?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Adam Grunseth View Post
Well, I do still offer conversion to DVD and USB for those who want it. But, I also figure that if they are able to use the internet well enough to log in to the site and buy a Magic Memories Box that they are likely tech-savvy enough to watch their media online. Even people over 50 are frequently using Youtube, various online forums, and posting on Facebook.
If you want more customers, I would do more non tech advertising, use physical delivery (dvd/usb), and traditional means of communication. Many old people would respond to print or tv ad, a simple paper order form, phone communication, pre paid shipping, or personal pickup. These are things that are a pain, more work, and something you might not want to do, but personal communication and low tech approach will increase your customers. People who go to your web site no doubt will be more savvy but there is probably a large potential customer base who aren't techie enough to visit your website.
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