So you want to launch a board game and hear that you have to do this whole marketing thing. From what I’ve seen, the vast majority of game designers aren’t marketers by trade and they’re learning marketing as they go.
That’s why I wanted to dig into the basics of marketing today. I’m a firm believer that a strong foundation makes for incredible results. Here’s what we’ll be covering today:
- Create A Good Product By Being Open To Feedback
- Dig Deep Into Your Niche
- Know Your Audience Inside Out
- Build A Relationship With Your Audience
- Remember That Marketing Is Attention
Create A Good Product By Being Open To Feedback
This one is a biggie so I’m putting it first.
The best way to create a good product? Listen to your audience.
This feedback loop between your product and your audience is so important that there’s even a title for this job in most companies; they’re called Product Marketing Managers.
What these people are tasked with is to make sure that an audience loves what a company is creating and the company is building something the audience will love.
That’s what you’re tasked with too, as a game designer.
I recently spoke to Ammon Anderson on the podcast about his game, T.A.C.O.
One of the key things we talked about on the podcast was about being open to feedback. Here’s his story in a nutshell:
Ammon attended PROTOCON with the prototype of TACO. He was getting a lot of great feedback but things still weren’t clicking with how to track points for the game. Someone showed up to playtest, loved the game, but recommended him entirely removing the scoresheet system he had and instead putting taco miniatures into the center of gameplay instead. This way, people would see who had what points throughout the entire gameplay and things would naturally ramp up as the pile of mini tacos in the middle continued to dwindle.
This was an AHA! Moment for the game and proceeded to have HUGE ramifications for the marketing.
Now, Ammon had physical pieces he could use to photograph and market with.
He was able to get input from his audience about the game pieces.
There was even more content to use for marketing and the audience loved the physical taco pieces.
The trick to creating a good product is to be open to feedback.
Everyone who plays your game and takes time to leave feedback wants you to succeed and is trying to help you create the best game possible.
Feedback, and the changes you make from it, is also amazing content to market your game.
By the way, this topic is part of the Marketing Tips that I roll out each Monday in the private Facebook Group. Be sure to join if you want more of these tips!
Dig Deep Into Your Niche
With a crowdfunding campaign, success comes from the crowd itself.
It’s truly not what you think will work, but rather what the crowd (aka the market) wants. One of the best ways to find what the market wants is to literally learn from what has worked in the past.
The best way to do this? You guessed it: market research.
By doing the research, you’ll learn more about the market and your competitors. You’ll also find commonalities between projects within your niche.
Knowing what’s out there is the foundation for making well-informed decisions and developing effective strategies. That way, you’ll easily be able to pinpoint winning strategies and tactics for your own project.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”Sun Tzu
As a game designer, it’s your job to see what others have done that is successful and what others have done that has not been so successful. Look through everything in your niche and I guarantee that you will see patterns emerge.
Know Your Audience Inside Out
Every product on the market will have lovers and haters.
Don’t believe me?
Check out reviews of your favorite book on Goodreads.
What did you find? You probably saw that there are people who absolutely love the book and others who couldn’t care less about it. It truly is incredible how polarizing each piece of content is to different groups of people.
So what’s the takeaway from this exercise?
Whenever you are working on something new, remember that “people who play board games” is not one singular entity; they’re rather composed of many smaller communities with unique interests.
As a new game designer, you probably do not have the budget to broadcast your game to the entire tabletop space. At this stage, however, you can look into these smaller communities and become laser focused on who you need to talk to that is most likely to back your game.
As such, your job as designer-turned-marketer is to find that group of people who absolutely adore your game. The considerations that go into making a game makes each one incredibly unique and vastly appealing to a very specific type of audience.
Let’s look at an example. The team behind Token Terrors created the game from a need they themselves saw in the market as they were playing Magic The Gathering. This meant they were very clearly able to communicate their message and were laser focused about who their key audience was.
The focus allowed them to build up a highly engaged fanbase in their Facebook group leading up to launch and throughout the campaign.
Finding an audience is the core to most marketing successes and mishaps. At the end of the day, it’s incredibly beneficial to know who will love the game before you start marketing.
Build A Relationship With Your Audience
For generations, mankind has formed relationships through stories.
Another way to look at this is that we’ve all been woven together through engaging pieces of content.
As a game designer, content is incredibly important for the launch of your game.
Because you want to create that familiarity with you, your publishing business and your game. No one wants to buy from someone they don’t know, a company they’ve never heard of, or a game they have never seen.
While this is true, a lot of game designers have trouble trying to figure out what content they need to start building trust with their audience.
I break this down into three different sections.
Your audience must first trust and like you as a person – who you are and what you believe in. This type of content is about you and your life; the ups and downs and everything in between.
Then, your audience needs to trust that the publishing company is competent – will this company actually create and deliver my game? This type of content puts your company at a position of authority in the tabletop space and speaks through experience.
Lastly, your audience needs to know exactly what the game is before they’ll want it – how does it play and what mechanics are present.
The only way to get people to buy is to fully form that connection with an audience and get them truly sold on who you are and what you’re building.
Remember That Marketing Is Attention
When you think about marketing in this way, you open the door to a lot of possibilities. Getting attention from the right people at the right time will mean people knocking on your door, ready to contribute funds for your project.
The more attention you can get for your project the better it is for the potential success of your game.
So how do you get attention?
The way I see it, people naturally self-segregate into groups of like-minded people. To get attention, you’ll need to know your audience (see point 3 above) and you need to know where they like to congregate.
For example, the team behind Reckless Sloths knew that their audience are people who are interested in sloths. That’s why they made sure to create fun and engaging posts in sloth-related groups to draw attention to their game. The team even created a sloth quiz to drum up attention; people take the quiz to discover which sloth (from the game) they are and end up sharing their results with other sloth lovers.
A month from their launch, they’re at almost 1,000 very engaged members in their community.
At the end of the day, marketing isn’t too difficult to learn. It’s one of those skills that you can pick up without even having to get a degree in it. If you want to continue working on your fundamentals, you might also like the Game Designer Marketing Toolkit.
It’s the marketing strategies and tactics you need for a Kickstarter launch all in one place. Inside, we cover topics like how to create a converting landing page, how to build Facebook and Instagram ads that actually work, how to outreach for reviews and other topics you’ve probably always been wondering about. Check it out here.
Nalin is a tabletop gamer and marketer. She’s here to give you the tools, training, and resources to market your game. In her free time, you can find her playing games, reading books or running around the soccer field.