Just look at this year’s Essen list. Over a thousand new games, and that’s only in a small segment of a rather limited market, a market that has to compete against Old Media, New Media, and Real Life for that singular currency of human attention and time. So let’s put our information on the web and we’ll get thousands of interested parties.
There’s no way that you’ll be able to market yourself online. None, not a one, zip, zilch.
The web is a black hole of information. The information density is so large that no information actually makes it out of there. You can pour an unlimited amount of dollars into Internet marketing and still not have anything to show for it.
So how can we, as limited funds, limited time, limited scope marketeers increase our reach? Here’s how:
1) There’s no marketing that measures up to a friend’s recommendation. Failing that a recommendation from a stranger. Marketing companies have known this for years and it’s the reason that we see product giveaways and buzz marketing. But working in an enthusiast environment this is by far our strongest tool. Get fans and those fans will spread your gospel far and wide.
Some years ago, at my first Spiel, I sat down at the Australian Design Group table and started playing 7 Ages Amazon . The game caught me, really caught me, and I came back to play it again the next day. The next I started selling it.
See, the team was busy with lunch, the one remaining guy talking to a World in Flames Amazon customer. Then this guy walks up and asks what we’re playing. So I show him. I tell him what the game’s about. I tell him how it plays, what the high points are and before I know it we’re discussing tactics. Then I have to tap Harry on the arm and ask him to take over for the guy wanted to buy a copy.
I’m not a very good salesman. I’ve tried and, well, I don’t have the hard sale in me. But I loved the game, I was so full of enthusiasm about it that there was no way the game could be anything but great. And that’s what the visitors at the Messe picked up on, my enthusiasm. (I helped sell a couple more copies during the fair.)
The fan, the enthusiast, is your best bet when trying to build a rep. Find the people who love your game, let them play it over and over, even give it to them (that’s why CCG companies give away factory sets to key fans). Then watch them sell your game for you.
2) Make the customer a participant in your work. Give them the behind the stages dirt, the discussions, the design decisions. Show them your failures as well as your successes. Tell a story.
Ignacy Trzewiczek Amazon is a genius at this. Just look at his blog. He tells stories about his life, weaves it together with stories about his games, and people are interested. Trzewiczek lets his fans get to know him, and his designs, imperfections and all. He gives away business secretes (carefully screened ones I wager) in such a way that you can’t help but feeling that he’s leaning across the table and whispering to you so that the Freise fans in the next blog won’t overhear.
That’s what you want. Share the stuff that you wouldn’t want your business rivals to know. Make people feel that you’re giving them the entire scoop and they’ll stick with you, regard you as their trusted friend even though you’ve never met. The psychological mechanisms that create an online confidante are remarkable similar to the ones that create real friendships. So share, and reply.
3) Talk back, but never talk back. Replying to your fans and followers is important. That’s why most stars have people employed to blog/tweet/socialize as them. Yeah, who believes that it was actually Star-Of-The-Day(tm) who wrote that personal reply to them? But it still works.
It works even better when it really is you who talks back. That’s the one strength you’ve got when competing with the rich and famous: you don’t have a spokesperson (if you do have one you’re probably in the wrong place). Talking to you is what creates that bond with your fans. And when that bond is public there’s a hundred people who see it for ever one who shares it – you’re getting a leverage that professional investment bankers would kill for, and you’re getting it for free.
Just don’t ever talk back to people. If someone insults you, let it be. If someone calls you an idiot, shrug. Walk away. Apologize to them for not living up to their expectations. You can take it. It’s not like they came by and egged your house – it’s just words. Sticks and stones and all that. Be polite even when you’re under attack and it will pay itself back a thousandfold. Oh, and admit that you’re wrong when it’s called for. Humbleness and a willingness to face one’s shortcomings shows that you’re one of the guys and a decent chap, even if you drink your tea from a golden cup with your pinky sticking straight up in the air.