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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?