How to Work in a Team in the Board Game Industry

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I’ve talked about the benefits and challenges of working alone in the board game industry. That’s how I do things. Yet I’m a bit of an odd beast in the board game development world since most people prefer to work in teams.

To give you a sense of what it’s like to work on a team, I’ve reached out to the three members of Undine Studios – Ben Haskett, Sarah Reed, and Will Reed. They made Oaxaca: Crafts of a Culture – one of the prettiest and most promising board game Kickstarters I’ve seen this year.

 

 

I initially reached out to Sarah, who I know through Twitter. After a little Twitter-fu, I got all members of the team in my Discord to have a group chat about team dynamics in the board game industry.

What follows is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation over DMs in Discord. This interview is a long one, but I’ve left it mostly verbatim because I find it insightful. I’ve split it into five sections for your convenience:

  1. How Ben, Sarah, and Will Got Started
  2. How Working in a Team Feels
  3. The Downsides of Teamwork
  4. Communication in a Team
  5. Advice for New Game Devs

 


 

How Ben, Sarah, and Will Got Started

 

Brandon: Sarah, Ben, thank you both for agreeing to help me out on this post!

Ben: Yeah, thanks for having us!

Sarah: Looking forward to it! I’ll also be writing responses for Will. So you’ll be getting three perspectives. :smiley:

Brandon: Excellent! Good to have you on as well, Will!

Brandon: If you please, go ahead and tell me a little about yourself and your company. How long have you been making games? What games have you worked on?

Sarah: We started off our board game life as role-players and Magic the Gathering players in college. I had been playing RPGs since high school and introduced them to Will when we met. We played mainly those and a few board games until spring of 2012 when we decided it was time to take a break from RPGs. We checked out a new local game store where we discovered Dominion.

Sarah: It was summer of 2012 that Will had the idea to make a board game for my birthday, but didn’t know how to go about it. We started designing games together. Early in 2013, our local game store owner mentioned that there were other designers in the area. We had our first game design meetings, which I continued to organize and have been running since.

Sarah: It was also in 2013 that we met Ben and were playtesters for his game Tower, which he launched on Kickstarter early in 2014. Will was also lead story writer for Tower. We worked on a few designs during this time, but ended up shelving them. It wasn’t until Project Dreamscape that we had a solid game and Ben liked it so much he became our business partner and ran a Kickstarter for it in early 2015. After that, we designed Oaxaca: Crafts of a Culture, for which Ben continued to be our business partner and ran a Kickstarter for it in June of 2017. Along with handling all the business, Ben has playtested and helped develop our designs. Will is the lead designer. I’m a designer, and I do development and social media outreach. Our next game is Haven’s Vault, which will hopefully be on Kickstarter early in 2018.

Ben: I think I was about 26 the first time I played a board game that wasn’t MonopolySorry, or some other super ubiquitous game. It was Catan at a friend’s house, followed up by Carcassonne, and the two games really surprised me and got me interested in the hobby. I was, and still am today, mystified that you can take a box crammed full of little cardboard bits, sit down, look at a sheet of rules, spread out the pieces, interact with them, and not only have it make sense, but have it be fun, too. I was hooked.

 

 

Ben: It wasn’t long before I designed a small dungeon crawler of my own and pitched it to a small (now defunct) publisher. As Sarah and Will said, next up for me was Tower, which I self-published. Afterwards, I sort of naturally transitioned into the publishing side for three reasons. The first was that I really couldn’t get another design together that I liked. The second was that I really enjoyed the Kickstarter/publishing process. The third was that Sarah and Will were designing games that were compelling and fun to play. These days, as my young daughters get older and I have less time, I’m transitioning more and more of the fun to Sarah and Will–they’re going to help with a lot of the fulfillment for Oaxaca, and may even play the primary role in the next Kickstarter campaign.

Brandon: MTG, Dominion, Catan, Carcassonne…these are all really good intros into modern board games and I can totally see how they ignited your passion and curiosity.

Brandon: I’m particularly glad to see Oaxaca take off because you all ran a really good campaign.

Brandon: So is Undine Studios just the three of you?

Ben: Correct–in fact, Undine has been around for over ten years to represent whatever I’m doing. It used to be the name I used for Flash web design, if you can believe that. When I got into publishing, it was a natural transition for the name. Last year, I even self-published a book with the Undine name on it. With the setup that Sarah described, Undine is indeed just the three of us. :smiley:

Brandon: Ah, so the organization has grown organically as you have!

 

How Working in a Team Feels

 

Brandon: Here’s a question for all of you.

Brandon: One of the odd things about my blog is that it’s written from the perspective of someone working alone. This is unusual for most game devs, I think. How would you characterize the experience of working as part of a team, compared to working alone?

 

Brandon: How I imagine teams as a solo dev.

 

Will: I know for me personally, projects are a big concept. A lot of skills are necessary to complete a project. I’m only interested in a portion of those. I know being interested in only one small portion and being good in that small portion is a strength, but it does mean the rest of the project will feel weaker if I’m not good at all aspects. Working with Sarah and Ben really eases my mind because they have strengths in areas I don’t.

Will: I trust and respect their opinions so much that it has allowed me to more easily take their feedback in and make any game I work on better for it. To give a good example, I suck at writing rules and they don’t really interest me. However, Sarah’s attention to details and Ben’s graphic design and formatting not only creates a really slick looking ruleset, but a highly functional one as well.

Sarah: Stuff actually gets done as a team. If it were up to me alone, it’d never get done. I am a terrible procrastinator and I have a high fear of failure, so much so that I sabotage myself. By working in a team, I feel a responsibility to Will and Ben to get my portion done and not drag things down. I like organizing and, as Will said, I pay attention to the details. So I can keep us moving forward in a way that I can’t do if it’s just me. So I prefer working on teams and really enjoy the collaborative process of everyone coming together with their strengths and overcoming individual weaknesses.

Ben: What I love about working as a team is that the result is everyone’s best ideas. Not only do we bring our best ideas to the table, but we also brainstorm and challenge each other to make things as nice as possible. When I start working on graphic design, I always swear to myself that my first attempt is the best I can do–but Sarah and Will always have suggestions, and the final design is usually after a dozen revisions. Similarly, even though Will is the primary designer, he’s always open revisions and the the final game design is always better for it. Every aspect of each game we get together on has input from all three of us, and the game is always better for it.

Brandon: Will, it makes a lot of sense to me that one of the big benefits of working in a team is that everybody can specialize in something they like or at least tolerate. You help balance out each others’ weaknesses.

Brandon: Sarah, it sounds like you see working in a team as a good way to stay motivated. Either through being accountable to or inspired by others, you find ways to stay productive.

Brandon: Ben, you make a keen point about everybody’s best ideas being able to surface when working in a team. More people, more ideas, more chances to get it right.

 

The Downsides of Teamwork

 

Brandon: What sort of challenges do you face working in a team? How do you overcome those?

Will: The biggest challenge for me is when I feel a little too strongly about a particular aspect of a game design because I’m dead set that that’s where the most interesting and fun part of the game is. It can be a bit hard when either Sarah or Ben tell me that it needs to be streamlined or taken out completely. Through working together, I’ve learned it’s really bad for me to throw my weight around and reject them outright, even in my area of expertise. But after mulling their suggestions over, I can see they’re right. Oaxaca was a very different game at the beginning and it changed drastically when Ben and Sarah pointed out certain aspects of it.

 

Brandon: Teamwork isn’t always sunshine and roses.

 

Will: I now tell myself that designing as a team means all of our opinions need to be reflected rather than just having a game that I’m personally happy with. It’s no surprise that the outcome often is much better than anything I could envision myself. Other than that, I’m pretty flexible on most other aspects of game design. I can’t really see so well, so art and graphic layout don’t bother me. I’m perfectly fine retheming anything I work on. I’ve learned to make their opinions as valuable as my own.

Sarah: I think one of the biggest challenges I’ve seen in our team is that everyone works at a different speed due to a variety of reasons. Will is the fastest at getting things done, partially because he hates procrastinating and he has more time. Ben and I switch off as to who’s the slowest depending on the phase we’re in. For me, I have a lot of health challenges and so I’m often too drained to work on game design when I get home.

Sarah: I’m the one who makes the early prototypes and I’m in charge of the playtesting. Ben has a full family life that leaves him little time except at night to get anything done. He takes care of the end product in terms of graphic design, working with manufacturers and shippers and running the Kickstarters. Will’s often told me how frustrated he’s been when I’m slow to get things done and, admittedly, I get frustrated when Ben is slow and doesn’t get things done. Heck, I get frustrated with myself for not getting things done!

Sarah: Will has already learned to let go. When he gets his part done, he just sits back and is patient with us. I can’t say I’ve overcome this challenge yet, but I’m working on it. I need to remind myself that we have no true deadlines. We’re doing this as a hobby, for fun. I shouldn’t be stressing about how quickly we do or don’t do something. It’ll happen when it happens.

Ben: A big challenge for me usually occurs early on in the design – I’m reminded when I talk to Sarah and Will sometimes that I have really thin skin, haha. I mentioned that we go through a lot a revisions, but I still expect each design revision I bring to them to not only be the final revision, but that it will literally blow their socks off. When it doesn’t work out that way, I have an embarrassing tendency to pout about it for a little while before getting my head back in the game. Thankfully, Sarah and Will are always constructive. 🙂

Ben: Then, as Sarah said, time is a big issue, especially lately. I got a new job late last year and it’s severely cut down on my free time. Further, and again echoing what Sarah said, my two daughters are getting older–it’s no longer a rush to get them home, fed baby food, and in bed. My oldest is starting school soon, meaning there will be homework, etc., and we’ll have to consider the time it takes to get her to and from school. Finding time not only to work on games, but work on games cheerily, can be a challenge.

Brandon: As for the challenges, it sounds like for all of you, it mostly centers around passions running high and scheduling. The former being something you deal with as you get to know each other in a working relationship. A lot of it comes down, as you pointed out, to knowing when to hold you ground and knowing when to let go.

 

Communication in a Team

 

Brandon: How do you coordinate your efforts?

 

Phone

 

Will: For the most part, we use Facebook Messenger to communicate. As for the game’s development, Sarah does most of the early playtesting coordination and then it switches to Ben for final production and running of the Kickstarter.

Sarah: In addition to Facebook Messenger, we call each sometimes so we actually can all meet at the same time. Some of our coordination is made easier since Will and I, well, live together. Two-thirds of the operation is in constant coordination. The good news is the way the process flows, this works pretty well. I personally use lists a lot to keep myself organized so I don’t forget anything. This often includes notes on who needs to be contacted about what. That’s about as complicated as our scheduling efforts get. Living together certainly helps!

Ben: I’ve pushed for Facebook Messenger a lot, because it’s just so dang convenient. There’s no programs to install on a computer to use it, and it came pre-installed on my phone. It’s like text-messaging, but for lengthy messages, you can sit down to a keyboard. On top of that, it’s super easy to send pictures, you can make calls, and even send videos.

Brandon: Sounds like you don’t plan too extensively, but rather work in the moment based on what needs to be done. Short phone calls and text-based messaging to keep in touch and check in with each other, then.

 

Advice for New Game Devs

 

Brandon: One last question. Is there anything you’d like to go back and time and tell yourselves before starting your projects?

Will: Yes. When designing the game itself, it’s more important to marry yourself to the experience than it is the mechanics of the game. Don’t be afraid to drop entire portions of the game if they don’t lead to the experience you want for players. So many times, I was dead set on having a mechanism in a game because I liked the idea of the mechanism, but it always made the experience suffer by making it too complex, too rigid, or just not fun at all.

Sarah: When making early prototypes, focus on function over form and don’t waste a lot of money printing it on high quality materials or through a professional service unless you need to see samples of products to know whether it’s what you want to design with. This also applies to not spending a lot of time on the art or graphic design. An early stage game needs to look the way it plays – unpolished. The time to do quality printing, like with The Game Crafter, is for late stage prototypes that need to look as good as the game finally is.

Ben: I mostly echo Sarah’s sentiment on focusing on function alone early on. Some prototypes I prepared (at The Game Crafter) were actually so nice that it worked against us. People sat down and felt like they were playing a finished game, and when “bugs in the programming” revealed themselves, play-testers had really adverse reactions. On the other side, when people sit down and play a game with cards that were printed out at someone’s home and painstakingly cut out, they know 100% that they’re playing a prototype.

Brandon: Will, I agree with that so much. Focusing on the experience over specific mechanics is really, really important.

Brandon: Sarah, Ben, I agree with this as well. In fact, the cost of early prototyping is why I push Tabletop Simulator so much.

Brandon: Thank you all for sharing your experiences! I look forward to sharing this online!

 


 

Do you work in a team? Would you like to? Please leave a comment below to share your experiences or ask questions 🙂

How to Work Alone in the Board Game Industry

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In order to self-publish a board game, you will have a lot of responsibilities. These responsibilities include marketing, sales, fulfillment, accounting, and…oh yeah…designing the game. It is a lot to organize and do no matter how many people are involved. Some people find it most effective to work in teams and some people prefer working alone. Famously, I fall into the latter category.

I’ll be making a post about dealing with team dynamics in the near future, but for the time being, let’s just talk about what it’s like to work alone in the board game industry. I want to give you a feeling for what’s it’s like to manage a company of one from firsthand experience.

 

#ForeverAlone

 

There are a lot of advantages that come with working alone. You get complete creative control. On contentious decisions, you always get to make the final call. You can be completely agile in your decision-making – quitting something old or starting something new whenever you feel like it. There is no need to negotiate or ask for permission. When it comes to money, you walk away with all the profits if you work alone.

Of course, working alone comes with its fair share of downfalls, many of which are absolutely devastating if you are not ready for them. The immense solitude of working alone can degrade very easily into loneliness. There is no one to run your ideas by. There is no one to call you out on your character flaws or errors in judgment. There is no one to proofread your work. There is no one to hold you accountable. There is no one to lean on for emotional support. On top of all this, there are so many demands.

It’s a real mixed bag. I’ve learned a lot about maximizing the good and minimizing the bad over the last couple of years. I’ve got lots of little pieces of advice for you if you choose to go the solo developer route. If you don’t, you’ll probably still find them insightful.

 


 

Make wise use of your creative control. Working alone lets you pursue passion projects that other people wouldn’t care about as much. This can be good and bad since unchecked passion may or may not appeal to customers, depending on how you present it. If you ground yourself in pragmatic concern for what gamers like, though, you’re free to do what you want and make money doing it. If you have a clear sense of what you’re trying to accomplish, there is nothing stopping you from going in that direction. You just have to make sure you are using your creative control wisely to achieve those objectives.

Use your ability to make clean, quick decisions to your advantage. This is by far the biggest advantage that any solo developer can have. There is no groupthink. There are no meetings eternally dragged out by hemming and hawing over possibilities. There is no analysis paralysis, except by your own hand. A solo developer can think fast and turn their business strategy on a dime if needed. If you have a good sense of judgment, valuable data, and the readiness to make a quick decision, this can be beneficial. If you have problems making clean, quick decisions, then you will lose one of the primary advantages of working alone.

Learn about business accounting and personal finance since you’ll be handling all the money. I’ve talked about how it’s expensive to create games. Since you’ll be shouldering that burden alone, I strongly recommend you get good at business accounting so you don’t make reckless decisions with your own money. I also recommend you take care of your personal finances so that you can make good use of the sales money, if you get it, when it comes in. There is hardly a distinction between company profits and personal revenue when you work alone, so it’s really important that you be rigorous about accounting.

Find people to run ideas by. Want to know a hard truth? You cannot realistically evaluate the feasibility of your own board game ideas. You can’t evaluate the logistics and you can’t evaluate the economics alone. Sure, you can get a bunch of data and compile into a spreadsheet, but you risk codifying your own mental biases into a formula that looks nice and has a sheen of truthiness. That means having others you can rely on – friends, family, play-testers, social media followers – is critical. You may function well as a solo developer, but you will not function well as an island. Our brains were made to make snap emotional judgments that helped us find food and safe places to sleep way back in the hunter-gatherer days. That’s why you need someone who doesn’t have a strong emotional stake in your success to mitigate your passions. This problem can still hit teams, but it doesn’t hit them quite as hard.

 

“Alright, so it’s a roll, spin, and move game with push-your-luck mechanics and it’s about the Ottoman Empire…wait, where are you going?”

 

Find people who will check your work and give you honest negative feedback. A crowd at large may help you vet ideas in the earliest, most high-level stages, but they won’t help you refine them. You need good play-testers and good friends of your business who are willing to look at the details and help you. That means you need to meet people online or at cons. One of the great sorrows of working alone as a game developer is that your ability to play-test and refine is limited by the lack of different opinions.

Make yourself accountable to somebody or something. I have the hardest time getting out of bed when the alarm goes off at 6:30, but I don’t have the same trouble running 4-5 times per week or publishing 2 blog posts per week. What gives? If I stumble on my blog post schedule, somebody’s going to notice. Somebody will call me out on social media because they know my schedule. Likewise, while nobody cares about my workout routine, I log all these runs in Runkeeper. I’ll feel like a doofus if I open up the app one day and see a big drop off in my weekly mileage. Waking up when the alarm goes off, though, is low stakes because nobody’s watching, nothing is being tracked, and nobody would call me out unless I showed up to work after 8:00.

If you work on a team, you have deadlines that you have to meet. If you work alone, you’re the only person you have to answer to. Because we all suffer from internal biases, we like to imagine ourselves as being more consistent than we are so we let ourselves off easy when we don’t meet the deadline. My advice to you, should you go into solo game development, is to either track your progress or attract a crowd. Either one will keep you on your toes.

Delegate to freelancers. Even if you do everything yourself, you don’t want to do everything yourself. When it comes to art, certain types of marketing, and other specialty jobs, you should feel comfortable hiring some help if you need it and you’ve got the cash. Your most limited resources as a solo game developer are time and energy. You can come into more money, but you’ll never have more than 24 hours in a day. As far as energy goes, even wise lifestyle choices regarding sleep, exercise, a healthy diet, and good time management will only buy you so much time before you slip into tired mode.

Use automation where it makes sense. Lastly, if you work alone, computers become your friend. You can pay $10/month for Buffer to schedule your social media. You can make a spreadsheet to identify weaknesses in your business so decision-making isn’t so time-consuming. If you’re really tech-savvy, you can write batch jobs and Python scripts to do repetitive digital tasks. If you can save time without cutting corners through wise use of technology, you should do it. Always remain open to learning new computer tricks.

 


 

Personally, I feel like working alone is a blast if you have the right mindset going in. It’s not for everyone, though, and I hope this article has given you a clearer idea of what to expect if you’ve considered working alone.

As always, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. Particularly, I’m interested to see if you have an interesting anecdote about working alone.

A Crash Course on Selling Board Games

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Selling is one of the most nerve-wracking and technical parts of getting a small business off the ground. You must absolutely master it to achieve the financial success you desire when self-publishing a game. When you’ve put in the hard work, it’s only natural to want to reap the benefits.

 

 

This crash course is broken into six parts:

  1. The Fundamentals
  2. Your Emotions
  3. Targeting the Right People
  4. Keeping Momentum After Launch
  5. Sales Techniques
  6. Tracking & Optimizing

 

The Fundamentals

 

Let’s get a few basic things out the way first. Selling is hard to learn even in the best conditions. Yet so many people end up making it harder on themselves by making a few simple mistakes. These mistakes are dead simple, but easy-to-miss: creating a sales system that doesn’t work, having a fulfillment network that can’t ship on time, or even making a product that’s not that good.

First things first: make sure your game is great. If your game is brilliant, it’ll be way easier to sell than if it’s so-so. The reviews will be better. The play-throughs with customers will be better. More people will talk about it. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll be more confident when you’re selling something. That psychological boost is huge – you won’t feel like a huckster if you completely believe in your game.

Whether you sell your game online through your site, online through another site, offline through distributors, or face-to-face at conventions, your process needs to be seamless. If I go on your website, I need to be able to find and read all the relevant information, put the game in my cart, enter my information, and check out without a hassle. Whether you use something like Celery or create your own shopping cart from scratch, the selling system needs to be flawlessly executed from both a technical and a user experience standpoint. Use your own system to make purchases! Double check, triple check, if you must!

As soon as those orders come in, you need to centralize the notifications to go to one inbox. You need to then either manually or automatically field those orders to your fulfillment companies in a timely manner. If you’re fulfilling the orders yourself, you need to be able to get the package in the mail today or the day after. You need to have a well-defined process to get your game to anyone who’s able to buy it as fast as possible without exorbitant costs or damages. You need to be able to work refunds into this process, too. (To learn more about setting up a fulfillment network, see A Crash Course on Board Game Fulfillment.)

I know this reads like four paragraphs of obvious advice, but the simple truth is that there are more ways to screw up sales than there are to get it right. Screw up any one of these three things and you’re going to have an awfully tough time with sales. Likewise, if you get it right, you’ll be able to benefit because you’ll have better control over…

 

 

Your Emotions

 

 

Let’s not sugarcoat it. Selling puts us in a vulnerable position that, for many people, can drudge up fears of rejection, social anxieties, insecurities, and memories of being cheated by shady salespeople. You need to have a good frame of mind when you’re going in. Sometimes it’s not the lack of knowledge or poor technique that costs us the sale but rather some fear of getting started rationalized away as something else – procrastination shrouded in the dressing of logic. With this in mind, I want you to remember 3 things:

  1. There is nothing wrong with selling a good product. People buy, sell, and trade things all the time. It is the bedrock upon which our economy is built.
  2. There is nothing wrong with asking for money. If someone buys your product, they are making a choice. There is no reason to feel guilt about asking for money. If you do not deceive them or misrepresent your game, you are not taking away anybody’s agency.
  3. You will be rejected far more than accepted. Most people just won’t want what you’re selling, but you will still come out okay. You have to be mentally tough when you’re selling something, because even for the best salesperson, you’ll get like 80 no to 20 yes.

 

Targeting the Right People

 

If you’re self-publishing, you probably don’t have a whole lot of resources to work with. That means that even more so than established companies, you’ll need a clear sense of target market. Each game you make will have a different target audience and you need to know how to find them and speak to them. Find the right crowd, create the right message, and selling will be a lot easier.

To give you a sense of what your game is like and who it will attract, imagine your game’s location on this graph. You want to find people whose tastes align with where your game falls on the graph.

 

 

If your game is thematic, you also want to make sure your theme is a good match for the audience you’re targeting. If you take the exact same game and give it a zombie theme, you might scare off people who would have preferred a more family-friendly theme. It works the opposite way around, too.

You need to make sure you have strong, targeted ways of reaching out to the audience who like games like yours. When growing your social media following, make sure you’re catering people who like games like yours. This makes it way easier to spread the word because 10 super-fans count for more than 1,000 people who are barely paying attention.

 

Keeping Momentum After Launch

 

It’s one thing to be able to hype up your game during a Kickstarter campaign. Those are inherently exciting events that put a lot of eyes on new game developers in a short amount of time. Yet even in the midst of launching your game – whether you do so through Kickstarter or another means – you need to be considering “the after.” What happens once that campaign is over? How do you keep the hype going when you don’t have a flashy call-to-action in the form of a Kickstarter campaign?

There are two methods to bring in sales without direct selling. In order for them to work, you need to get the fundamentals I listed above right and you need to have a well-defined target audience.

The first method involves building a community. Make a place for people to hang out – a mailing list, a Facebook group, a Discord server…you get the idea. Ideally, the community should be related to your game but not pigeonholed exclusively to the discussion of your game because people would get bored quickly if it were. Having an active community keeps momentum in a passive, unobtrusive way.

The second method involves perfecting your distribution model. This can mean getting your game in local gaming stores, online stores, subscription boxes, or convention booths. Find people who sell games like yours in high quantities and start asking them if they are willing to carry your game. They’ll pay you a significantly reduced price since they’ll be marking up the price to take some of the profit themselves, but that is not necessarily bad for you. Choose distributors on a case-by-case basis. Make sure that a) they can sell your game to your well-defined target audience, and b) you’re getting good money from the deal.

 

 

Sales Techniques

 

It’s all well and good to make a great product, focus on the right people, and get a community and/or distributor to carry some of the weight for you. Yet you would be remiss if you thought you could make it without some amount of direct selling. Selling is an unavoidable part of doing business. Fortunately, the two basic forms of selling in the board game industry are dead simple: play the game with as many people as you can and ask people directly if they want to buy it.

Playing your game with somebody is a great way to get them to buy it. In-person is the best way to do this, but you can also use online tools such as Tabletop Simulator to sell board games to people far away from you. A lot of people just don’t see the value in buying yet another board game until they play it and see that they enjoy it.

Sadly, playing your game isn’t the most scale-able sales tactic. If you want to succeed in the long run with sales, you need to create a robust sales funnel. A sales funnel goes something like this:

  • Leads – these are new people who you have not talked to yet
  • Prospects – these are people who you’ve talked to and who might care about your game
  • Opportunities – these are people who are interested in your game
  • Customers  – these are people who have bought your game

With a sales funnel, you have four objectives: generate new leads, qualify leads by interest to make them prospects, talk to prospects until they become interested – opportunities, and hard sell to the opportunities. You’ll notice that only one of these actually involves asking people to buy directly. You’ll hard sell a lot, asking directly “would you like to buy X”, but only after you have a conversation and figure out what they like.

Here is where sales gets really hard. There is no one-size-fits-all methodology for generating leads, qualifying leads, or getting people interested. The part that most people think is the hard part – asking people “would you like to buy X” and giving them a link – is actually pretty easy. It just makes you tense up like the idea of jumping into cold water. By the time you get to the opportunity stage, you should be getting at least a third of people to open their wallets by asking questions.

To give you a sense of what my sales funnel looks like, I use Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to generate leads. If they follow me, I consider them a prospect. I reach out to them and if they reply with an interested response, I consider them opportunities. Then I ask them to either buy my game or join my mailing list.

Rejection in sales doesn’t often look like a “no.” Oftentimes, rejection is when a lead never responds to your “hello” message. Rejection looks like prospects hearing more about your game and not being interested after all. Rejection looks like opportunities who disappear when you ask them the “buy” question. To this, all I can say is keep selling even as you get rejected a ton.

Before I conclude this section, I’d like to point out one thing you didn’t see: dropping prices or running sales. While these methods can be great for converting stubborn opportunities into customers, I don’t recommend slashing prices as your modus operandi. Dropping prices is like eating a whole funnel cake – only very occasionally a good idea. The simple fact is that board gamers are not all that price sensitive – just look at the tags on the most well-liked board games.

 

 

 

Tracking & Optimizing

 

I can give you a full course on theory and technique all day long. I could open up my business notes and tell you everything I do. Yet because your situation is undoubtedly distinct from mine, it might not do you that much good. You need to write down your methods and track your successes and failures. Get in the habit of making notes about your own behaviors and techniques and how they relate to financial data.

Every once in a while – whether it be every week, every month, or every quarter – you need to review your notes. You need to do so dispassionately so you can see the whole truth without your emotions clouding it. If you notice that one day your pitch message is different than the others and it succeeded, you should start using the more successful pitch message and seeing if it’s not just a fluke. Mindfully responding to your unique environment could be the difference in breaking even and being wildly successful.

 


 

Selling is hard to master. I’m still learning something new everyday and I’ll share with you as I know more. It is through rigor, emotional stability, thoughtful messaging, responsiveness to our environments, a high rejection tolerance, and a good old work ethic that we can all become proficient in selling. You don’t have to be Mr. or Ms. Charisma.

If you have any questions or comments, I encourage you to comment below 🙂