Wednesday, September 9

Demo Days In America

As I mentioned last time, I've been doing a few demo days, where I go and spend the day in a games shop with demo copies of each of my games teaching them to regulars and random punters. The idea is that I introduce my games to a bunch of people who haven't played them, raising awareness of the games and hopefully boosting sales (both for me and the shop). In addition, I get to improve my relationship with the shop owners.

I've recently done demo days at Inner Sanctum Collectibles in Cambridge and Eclectic Games in Reading. I've also lined up two more: Patriot Games in Sheffield on 31st October and Spirit Games in Burton-on-Trent on 7th November. There are a couple more in the pipeline that I hope to arrange before the end of the year.

In the comments to the last post Todd suggested that I could get some reps to do demo days for me further afield, e.g. the US. It's an interesting idea, but one with some logistical issues.

Stock

When I do a demo day in the UK I take a bunch of stock along with me. If the demo day goes well and the shops sells a lot of games they can get those from me on the day, rather than having to order a lot in from a distributor in advance and having to pay for them whether they sell or not. Any stock they don't want I take home with me, so they are not left out of pocket.

Presentation

In addition, I know that when I turn up I'm presentable, reliable, on-time, I know the rules to each game correctly and I can demo the games enthusiastically.

Geography

I can also cover pretty much the whole of the UK by myself. Ok, Northern Scotland or Northern Ireland is a bit of a trek, but it's possible.

Recompense

This is my job, if I want it to continue to be my job I need to do everything in my power to make the company work. I'm perfectly willing to give up my weekends to achieve that.

America is the biggest market for my games, it has five times the population of UK, is an English-speaking country and as a result 50% of all my sales to distributors have gone to the US. Plus, some to Canada too.

Once the games arrive in the US, things get a little more difficult. My games arrive on the shelves of the store, but my 'small box, big game' strategy hurts me, because by comparison to the other games my games look very expensive (of course shipping the games to the US makes my games more expensive too!). A small, expensive-looking game tucked away on a shelf is unlikely to sell particularly well, especially when no-one locally has played it.

Demo days would really help me here. If I could do a demo day in the biggest store in every state (52 stores), that would significantly boost the sales of my games. I know that there are at least 2,500 hobby stores in the US, so I could really boost my sales if I got my games into a reasonable proportion of those, and then introduced the games to the clientele.

Stock

The aim of a demo day is two-fold, to raise awareness of my games and to sell some games. What would be ideal for the store is that on a demo day the store can get some games on sale-or-return. They can get plenty of stock in to ensure that they don't run out and hence miss sales due to running out of stock, but they don't have to invest a chunk of their capital on games that might take months to sell. How would I get around this in the US? I've got stock here, but it would be expensive to ship to the US. My US distributors have stock in the US, but won't lend it back to me.

Presentation

Reps demoing my games in a store are representing my company (hence 'rep'). When I do it, I know that I'll do a good job, because it's my livelihood that's on the line. I know I'm presentable: smart, polite, knowledgeable about the games and fragrant (in a good way!). How do I pick people that will do a good job and represent my company in a way I'd be delighted with, when those people live at least 3,500 miles away and I've never met them?

Georgraphy

America is huge. Really huge. There's no way someone could cover the whole of it unless it was their job (and possibly their life!). Which means multiple reps. Which means multiplying the presentation and recompense problems by the number of reps.

Recompense

It's still early days for Reiver Games. It seems to be going ok, but I don't have much cash on hand and when I do I want to invest that in more games. How do I make it worth a rep's while to give up their time demoing my games? Do I give them free games? Free T-shirts? Travel expenses? A wage? What are reasonable amounts for each of those things? What about US employment law? How do I prove that I got return on investment?

While it's a nice idea, I don't know how I'd go about solving these problems well enough to make it work for all involved. Any suggestions?

21 comments:

Jason said...

"If I could do a demo day in the biggest store in every state (52 stores), that would significantly boost the sales of my games." - 52 stores? There is only 50 states, are you including Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia?

Jack said...

Hiya Jason,

So, you spotted my intentional error to see if you were paying attention!*

Cheers,

Jack

*Damn. I meant 50. Plus DC.

Todd said...

I'm sure many of us would do it for free.

Jack said...

Hiya Todd,

A very generous offer - thanks! I'm still not sure what to do about the stocking issues though.

Cheers,

Jack

David said...

It'll be difficult to match you showing up with extra product to pick up the slack at no risk. However, an alternative that would still provide added exposure (perhaps even more than an in-store demo) is making sure your games are played at conventions.Find individuals who are willing to commit to playing your games in open gaming rooms. I don't expect you'd have to give them much. Also, donate a couple of games to convention game libraries, while, even better, arranging for people you know to introduce the games to strangers.

Jack said...

Hiya David,

Good idea (suggested by a few other people via email too). I've already sponsored BGG.Con, providing games for the games library and prize table. I think Yehuda is going to BGG.Con too, so I guess he'll be able to demo It's Alive! there if people are interested.

I've had some offers for demoing at Origins/GenCon too, perhaps I should chase them up (though I don't know the people involved).

Cheers,

Jack

Anonymous said...

I think there are tons of us who would be eager to demo your games in our provice (state). If you sent a bunch of product, we could use one of them for a demo and take it home with us. Sounds like a great trade to me. The bigger problem would be shipping back any stock that did not sell.

Otherwise, you could do demos at stores that stock your product, and just do the demo as a means of getting more exposure rather than direct sales. That way you have no extra cost.

I already have been asked by my local gamestore to host a game night where I pick a game and demo it. There's no reason it coudnt be one of yours, except that as of yet he doesnt stock them. maybe we can work on that.

Jugg

Jack said...

Hiya Jugg,

Again, kind offers, much appreciated.

My concerns with that are:

Cost to me to send a copy of each game to a rep in the US (including cost of the games and shipping):
£35
If I send a copy to a rep in each state that's 1.5-2.5% of the print run given away.
It's very difficult to work out the return on investment: did rep A do the demo? Did they make me more than £35 (the shop would need to buy five copies of each game to make it worthwhile)? Did they do a good job of representing the games and my company?

It's hard for me to corroberate the reps claims.

Cheers,

Jack

Todd said...

Good points about conventions. I'll be bringing my copy of "Sumeria" to Rincon, in Tucson AZ next month.

Jack said...

Hiya Todd,

Cool - thanks!

Cheers,

Jack

Tao - Starlit Citadel said...

Well, why don't you do a test run? Pick a state (or person!) from that state. Perhaps Yehuda could help with that since he'll be meeting some people at BGG.Con.

Ship your games to that one location 5 - 10(?) games. Or maybe talk to your distributor and have them send the games to them (with you paying out of your pocket for what they would - but potentially reducing your total shipping cost).

For re-compensation, put the individual on a % basis sold(to the store or to customers). That way, you know what he's sold and the individual has a good reason to be as presentable as possible.

If it works out in one state, you can always flow it out from there.

Jack said...

Hiya Tao,

Interesting idea. I'll think about how best to do that.

Cheers,

Jack

Philip said...

Steve Jackson Games has a vast network of volunteer demo guys across the U.S. I think they use some kind of point system where volunteers log hours for points. Then they get something at the end of the year/quarter/month/whatever. Also, they are volunteers, so no employment hassles. This is the halfway point between people doing for free and you having to give them an expensive game right up front.

Jack said...

Hiya Philip,

That's an interesting idea. I would need to work out some way of checking that they worked the hours they claimed though.

Cheers,

Jack

Sound Strategy said...

Tao's idea of testing the waters is a good one. You're still a little fish in big waters (especially in the US), and without an actual employee or two over here it would be tough to deal with shipping logistics and trusting reps.

Nonetheless, getting exposure in the US would be a huge boon for your business. I say only test the waters for now, but in the meantime work on increasing your presence in the US in easier and more reliable ways. That way you'll be in a better position to do an all-out rep effort later.

Maybe work with the goal of doing a full rep program roughly coinciding with your next release. Then you'll be killing two birds with one stone, and that should give you some time to build your presence, work out logistics, and create a trustworthy team to work with you across the pond.

Perhaps a better target than each state would be to have a rep in the 50 municipalities with the greatest population (and any other areas that you or a trusted associate has a good feeling about).

Jack said...

Hiya,

That's good advice. Now I just need to work out what my goals are for US demo days, and how I should go about recruiting a trusted rep.

Cheers,

Jack

Anonymous said...

The BGG'ers know the stores, and most often their owners. I'm sure you'll find lots of geeks with good reputations to help. Put out the call on the BGG boards. If they respond, you can figure out which locations you want coverage in. An application would be a good idea for keeping track of contact info, etc. You'll know from their reputation on the site, if they are the kind of person you want representing you.

Make the rep keep records of stores visited (with their owners names and numbers) so you call and follow up. That will help your name be remembered by the store owner, and let you verify your rep's work.

Jugg

Jack said...

Hiya Jugg,

Good advice, I was beginning to think along those lines myself :)

Cheers,

Jack

Jack said...

Hiya all,

I've just followed Jugg's advice, the BGG thread is up, asking for volunteers/advice: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/3934154

Cheers,

Jack

Mal said...

Any news on how the Grand Rapids demo went?

Jack said...

Hiya Mal,

A bit disappointing - it was arranged fairly last minute, and the shop were unable to get stock in time, the people who played it enjoyed it though.

Marc is setting up a few more demos though, so hopefully with a little more warning they can go better.

Cheers,

Jack