Friday, February 13

Marketing

Marketing is really one of my weakest areas - I have no idea what I could or should be doing in this arena. There are a few different levels of marketing, to the different customers in the supply chain:

Marketing to Distributors

Distributors are my main customers, the vast majority of my sales are to distributors, who then sell to shops/online stores and then on to the final customers. I've put the most effort into this form of marketing, though very little money. I've been sending emails and making phone calls to potential distributors and I've had some degree of success. I've picked up 17 distributors for my games, ranging from the US, to lots of Europe and Taiwan and New Zealand. The big weaknesses in my coverage are: Australia, Eastern/Southern Europe and Canada. Eastern and Southern Europe has the added problem that my games aren't available in the languages of those regions. Shipping to the US is very expensive unless I send a lot of games via sea freight, so I'm considering a flooring deal in the US. The same goes for Australia, which also has a fairly small population, so the market is smaller as a result. My best chance of picking up Asutralian distribution might be to wait until I have more titles and then try to get an Australian distributor interested in a mixed pallet.

Marketing to Shops

This is the area I'm weakest at. I've emailed a bunch of UK shops to tell them my games are available, and had replies from just over half of them. My coverage of UK shops seems to be pretty good. Not knowing the companies elsewhere I've not done any of this abroad. I'm hoping that the distributors will do some of this themselves (they've got stock to shift after all), but I'm wondering what more I can do to help the distributors (and hence myself).

Marketing to Customers

This is where I've spent the most money. I've run ads on BoardGameGeek and Boardgame News. I figure if the customers want it, they'll ask their favourite stockist, who will ask their distributor of choice, who will ask me. This has already happened in the US (it's how I picked up Brown Box, Inc. as a distributor). The problem is while Carpe Astra is definitely a geek's game, It's Alive! has broader appeal. Advertising where I do is never going to reach those other people. Also, while BGG is the larger market of the two, lots of people on BGG pay money to hide the adverts.

How can I improve?

I asked this question in BGG a while ago, and received lots of advice. One of the suggestions was a BGG competition. This has several advantages over straight advertising:

  • You're offering something for free, so people are more interested
  • You can make the competition require knowledge of the game, hence driving people to your website
  • BGG AdBlock doesn't cover competitions - so you reach all the BGG users
  • Competitions get pride of place in the 'News' section at the top of the front page

As a result they are more expensive! But, I'm going to suck it up and run one shortly.

Another thing that came out of the thread was a former Marketing Assistant for Fantasy Flight offered to help. In exchange for a free copy of Carpe Astra and It's Alive! he offered to ring around the big shops in the US, bringing my games to their attention. The games are relatively cheap for me, so I took him up on his offer. Hopefully, this will help US availability and awareness, if it does I'll try to make more use of him (for more recompense).

I still don't know the best things to do to help build my company, but I'm learning all the time so hopefully in a few years time I'll be good at this (or I'll have hired someone who is!). In the meantime, any advice you've got is gratefully appreciated. And if you want to support me, ask your local shop to carry my games. Unless you run a shop, in which case ask your distributor of choice to carry my games. Alternatively, you can just buy a couple of thousand games from me directly!

3 comments:

Tao - Starlit Citadel said...

Personally, I think you're doing well with regard to pushing the games to customers - that drives demand for us, which means we're more likely to purchase the games for the stores.

For covering Canada - if you've got Alliance, you're fine. Because DOW is exclusive with them, most Canadian retail stores have an account with them anyway, so we'll be covered mostly. Obviously, there are still distributors stocking DOW stuff which other retailers might be going with but you're mostly covered.

I'd add another avenue and tactic to this too - Conventions. Seriously consider working with Gaming conventions to run and sponsor your games. It's a great way to get people to buy them.

A good example is Red Dragon Inn at V-Con last year - we were running constant games of it because after 1 play, everyone was into it. We sold over 15 copies over 2 days for a convention with 300 people. And probably have introduced it to a lot more who will eventually buy it.

Best ways to do that is obviously promotional copies if you can at all afford it. DOW sells promotional copies at cost, some others give them away. Your call.

Jack said...

Hiya Tao,

The cons are a good idea. Obviously I can't afford to ship me and a bunch of games over to lots of little US/Canadian cons (or even the big ones yet), but if I could get some promo copies over there, along with some willing volunteers that would be great.

Cheers,

Jack

Tao - Starlit Citadel said...

Try BGG - I'm sure some of those guys would be happy to do that for you for a free copy (of the game or a newer game).

We've got 3 this year that we intend to drop by, depending on timing of when Carpe Astra / It's Alive is available, we probably can try for 2 ourselves. Obviously, manpower available - I'll have to lean on some friends. As usual. :)