Over the last year or so I've managed to pick up twenty distributors for my games. This is obviously a Good Thing(tm), since I can now get my games in more shops and hence more exposure and hopefully more sales to actual customers.
So far, when I bring out a new game I get initial stocking orders from my distributors, and often a restock of the others. Occasionally I get a restock order for one or more of my games out of the blue.
Over the Christmas and New Year period, with no new games released, I've not had many restock orders - most of my distributors still have stock of my games on hand. In an effort to help them sell their stock and encourage them to re-order, I've been contacting shops in the US introducing myself, my company and my games.
I've managed to build a database (read spreadsheet!) of 611 stores in the US, including their location and contact details. That's great - if I could sell two copies of each game to all those stores I'd have sold a huge percentage of my print runs in one fell swoop. Now obviously, lots of those won't want to carry my games because they're not that heavily into board games and they only want to carry the really big names. However, a few of them would want to carry my games, only they've not heard of them - they've slipped under the radar as they receive a welter of information about hundreds of new games.
I think my email marketing campaign has been remarkably successful. I've got to assume a lot of my emails will end up in a spam filter and in many cases won't even be read. However, of the stores I have contacted before today (the ones I contacted today haven't had much of a chance to respond!), 10% have responded to me via email.
That 10% includes 4% who already stock my games, and another 2.5% who have placed orders with their distributors as a result of my emails. Where I've been copied on the emails to their sales contact at the distributor they have usually picked up two or three copies of each game.
What surprised me the most though was the number of stores with no website (not even a Facebook or MySpace page) and the number who don't provide an email address on their website. I can see why they wouldn't want to expose an email address to the world (I get enough spam on mine), but there are ways around it (online email forms, possibly with captchas, obscured email addresses (e.g. jack (at) reivergames (dot) co (dot) uk). I would have thought as a store you would want to make it as easy as possible for your customers to contact you. In total, I couldn't find an email address or form for 113 of the 611 (that's 18%!).
I think this has been a pretty successful effort, I'm just kicking myself that I didn't do it sooner - especially when I had a new game coming out. I'm going to extend my efforts to Canada and then Europe, and possibly other countries where I already have a distributor.