Friday, August 18

The Cast Are Dice: Analysis

I said yesterday that I'd post a marketing/sales analysis of my performance at TCAD, but seeing as I have no marketing training or experience, and my sales training and experience is now ten years out of date, it'll not be too deep :-)

My goals for the weekend were to play Border Reivers with as many people as possible, and hope that some of them would like it enough to buy a copy. I had three copies in my head as my target to sell on top of the two pre-orders I was hoping to fulfill. Initially I had wanted to take ten copies with me to sell, as the maximum attendance was capped at two hundred people and there was no way I could see me getting a conversion rate as high as one-in-twenty (1:20). As it was, as I headed off down to Derby, the latest tally was just under a hundred attendees, and I had six copies to sell - more than enough for my estimated conversion rate.

I'll be honest, I had no idea what my conversion rate would be, I picked one-in-twenty as an unreasonably high figure, convinced it would come in my lower than that, I just wanted to ensure I had enough copies with me - running out would have been bad.

My selling strategy was pretty simple, play the game with as many people as possible, while explaining the nature of my development and production effort to them as we played. I didn't want to give them hard-sell, or to over-hype the game with blatantly inaccurate or over-zealous comments. I wanted to let the customer decide what they thought of the game. Hopefully those of you who played with me think I managed that - I think I did fairly well, but only those on the receiving end can give an honest opinion. I knew the game wouldn't be to everyone's tastes, and also that any feedback I received would be sugar-coated - with people not wanting to hurt my feelings by slagging off my game to my face.

So how did I do in terms of conversion rate? There are two I'm going to consider:

  • Proportion of convention attendees who bought a copy, and
  • Proportion of players who bought a copy.

If the game is decent I would expect the latter to be much higher than the former, since the proportion of attendees who even noticed me will limit the former.

Nick reckoned there were around one hundred and thirty attendees, and I sold five copies, giving me a first conversion rate of 1:26. That's pretty close to my wild guess at an upper bound - so I'm pretty happy with that. I sold two copies to people I played with, but I only played with ten people (excluding people who had already bought a copy, and treating couples as a single person - since they're not going to buy two copies). That gave me a second conversion rate of 1:5, much better than the first. Why am I interested? I'm going to be attending more conventions in the future, and I need to ensure that I have enough copies with me, and I obviously want to maximise my sales. The number of people I play with will be limited by the length of the convention, and how much of that I spend playing with potential customers. Since a 2-player game with an inexperienced player takes around forty minutes and a 3- or 4-player game takes around an hour and a half, I'm best off trying to fit in lots of four player games - to maximise my exposure.

Talking of exposure, my location on the first day wasn't very good. The layout was three games rooms:

  • The entrance room, through which the other two rooms were reached. It featured the front desk, the tombola table, a handful of games tables and the bring-and-buy table, so it was a central hub.
  • The bar room, which featured the bar, games tables and a sofa area at the back. This was clearly visible from the entrance as the dividing wall was largely glazed.
  • The third room, which was up a small flight of stairs and round the corner, and featured nothing but games tables.

On the first day I was two-thirds of the way down the third room - a crap location, there was no reason for people to wander by, unless they were looking for a table to play a game on. Despite this I got pretty good trade, there were some quiet spots but I was mostly busy. On the second day I had a much better position in the entrance hall by the tombola table. However, I received much less attention, whether that was due to less people or more focused gaming, I don't know.

What I've learnt from this is that it pays to get there early and grab a good location, ideally you want somewhere where people have a reason to wander past en route to something.

On Saturday evening I decided to leave a copy in the games library, available to anyone to borrow for a game. I didn't think of it earlier, but to be honest I don't think that copy was played, people going in the library were probably looking for a particular game. So I missed maybe seven hours of game library exposure, but I don't think it lost me any sales.

One final point - why did people buy the game? I had several things against me:

  • High ticket price (£30)
  • Unknown designer
  • No pre-conference buzz

And several things in my favour:

  • Collectability of signed and numbered limited edition
  • Goodwill towards designer launching his own product
  • Well finished product

So why did people buy it? Of the five sales, two were people who played the game and liked it as I've already mentioned. Two were via word of mouth from people who had noticed me or played the game. The last one was a reader of this blog who had heard the trials and tribulations of the production. I really don't know how to benefit from that knowledge, but I find it interesting none-the-less.

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