Tuesday, March 31

Time Rich, Cash Poor

Now that the layout for Sumeria is almost done, I've got some time on my hands. What to do with it?

What I need to do most of all is bring my games to the attention of more people. I've got the BoardGameGeek competition coming up, and I'm going to advertise on Spielbox, but advertising costs money and I can't afford to do a lot of that. I need to save up some money so that I've got enough cash to pay for Sumeria when it arrives. So what can I do that's free to raise awareness?

Seth Godin does a blog on marketing which I highly recommend. He covered this topic a few weeks ago. His first point was to improve yourself. I've got some reading about marketing to do, and the German course I bought last year in preparation for Essen, both will hopefully help me in the long run, and are free (since I've already paid for the German course). His second point was to build a following or a reputation. I like to think this blog is a step in the right direction (this will be my most read month ever), but how can I improve on that? I guess I can try to be more vocal on BGG, but vocal answering questions and providing advice, not spamming the forums with continual mentions of my games - that's the sort of thing that will just piss people off.

I'm also going to visit a few local games shops to introduce my wares and explain how to play them. Maybe even get some demo games in with the staff or some customers. There's a couple of games shops within sensible driving distance, with several more a short (but expensive) train ride away in London. I'm also hoping to get to more games clubs and small conventions to demo my games - helping to raise awareness. Of course this only helps in the South-East of England, it does nothing for my international sales.

Any other ideas?


MT said...

So what can I do that's free to raise awareness?

1. Tap on Google adwords/spiders to drive traffic to this blog, and then onwards to your games?
2. Video marketing, thru short clips promoting and explaining about your games. Long writeups are fine for geeks but snappy visuals are more appealing to the casual vistor.

Jackson Pope said...

Hiya MT,

I'm not sure what you mean by point 1. The blog already has Google AdWords, but advertising the blog (or my website) would cost money - what am I missing?

As for point 2, it requires some hardware (a video camera) which I don't have an would cost money, plus I don't have the skills :-(



Mal said...

"As for point 2, it requires some hardware (a video camera) which I don't have an would cost money, plus I don't have the skills :-("

Beg, steal, borrow, practice. :)

Seriously, posting a few demo/intro vids on YouTube sounds like an awesome idea. If I were you, I'd try to put nerves to one side and have a real go at it. There are plenty of such videos on YouTube whose simple style you can copy. And don't worry about professionalism too much. You're a small outfit at the moment, so feel free to let it show and give your vid a bit of character.

Also, tap into the experiences of your friends who've put videos together before. I'm thinking Gav here; he may not have 'presented' much (e.g. his avalanche beacon demo/review), but he's got plenty of experience of putting stuff together. And he's got a video camera. And you'll probably be seeing him in a week or two's time...

Rob Bartel said...

Hi Jack,

What you need is a demo army - existing fans of your games who agree to demo them at conventions and to their local retailers in exchange for discounts, demo copies, and promotional items.

This is especially important on an international level, as they can be a million places that you can't, demo the game in languages that you can't, and reach people that your traditional advertising efforts probably won't (and in a more compelling fashion to boot).

Discounts cost you nothing up front and actually drive future sales. Like your German lessons, demo copies don't cost you anything either now that the games have already been manufactured. Provided they're used for their intended purpose, they'll drive future sales as well.

Promotional items (t-shirts, etc) do have an actual up-front cost associated with them but there are enough print-on-demand suppliers out there that you wouldn't incur bulk costs and could even subsidize demo team shirts via ancillary sales to the public (just keep the "official demo team" shirts only for the official demo teams to ensure that they retain a place of privilege).

The main hurdles with a demo team is that they take some measure of management and oversight. It can be hard to screen out people who might be poor ambassadors for your brand (how do you assess personal hygiene via email?). Likewise, it can be hard to measure returns - truly stellar ambassadors will always shine but it can be hard to distinguish between the merely mediocre and the true freeloaders who are just taking your demo copies and hiding them, still in shrink, in their basements. Despite these troubles, however, demo teams are an excellent way for smaller companies to market themselves.

Todd said...

[I agree with Rob Bartel]
Establish a network of game demonstrators for conventions outside the UK. You clearly have alot of folks who like your games. For example, I'd be happy to demo Sumeria for you at local gaming conventions, and I bet many others would do the same.

As for the viral/video stuff, have you sent your games to "Games by Scott" or the like. His videos are good and served to get me interested in several games.

Unknown said...

Demo teams are indeed very interesting.
You should at least consider it.
It's the best way to get the word out for a smaller company.

Unknown said...

Change the horrible eye-searing background on this blog from black to white. White text on a black background burns my retinas.

You may find video a stretch, but surely you can do still photos somehow. Get a Flckr account or whatever. Do a podcast. Extend your multi-media and you will reach more people, and enhance the experience of your existing fanbase.

You've put in some great insights into the trials of starting and running a global business in the UK. Write up a brief proposal and send that to book agents. Turn your blog and experience into a book.

Jason said...

TZAAR English game rules explained by the inventor Kris Burm:
Andy Looney explaining Twin Win:

These are very basic, but very helpful for learning a new game. (ok, twin win doesn't really need it, but the concept is the same.) You can pick up a webcam for less than $50. (I don't know how good they would be though. So perhaps back to beg and borrow one.)

Pinebars said...

Just some other ideas:

1.Encourage your fans to request your games from cross-market retailers such as Barnes and Nobles. I always check my local Bookstore for games and they are starting to carry some Euro-style ones including Settlers, Carcassone, Pillars of the Earth, Reiner Knezia's Penguin and Modern Art, as well as a handful Gamewright card games. Not sure about in Europe, but every town over 40,000 has a Barnes and Nobles in the US so it could be a could retailer to target.
2.I have been noticing a lot of news articles in the States about "staycations" and board games popping up as a result of the poor economic times. You could research articles and write letters to authors offering more info about Euro-style games in general as well as some specific info about your games.
3.Let me interview you for an article for my blog. I don't have much readership, but it couldn't hurt... right?

Thats all for now, I'm sure there are more ideas comin'


Jackson Pope said...

Wow! Thanks for all the ideas, guys. I love the idea of the demo teams, trips to conventions in the US are a bit beyond my budget at the moment, but if I could get the games demoed there it would definitely help - though as noted it's hard to work out who is a good ambassador and who's a freeloader.

Getting into the big stores is difficult, I've tried it in the UK to little avail. I think getting customers to request my games in shops would be great, it carries much more weight that me pimping them!

Plenty to think about there.