How to Sell Your Board Game Outside of Kickstarter

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It’s been over a year in the making, and we’ve finally arrived: this is the last article in the Start to Finish: Publish and Sell Your First Board Game series. You’ve learned how to design and develop a game, build an audience, and market your game. You’ve learned how to run a Kickstarter campaign, fulfill your promises, and even recover from failure.

After you have completely finished your game, settling all responsibilities associated with the Kickstarter campaign, that leaves one massive question: “what next?” With a successful project behind you and a head full of useful experiences, your options are wide open. You can make new games, start a business, or even simply make your game a one-off to bring in passive income.

Let’s talk about wrapping up your project. In this, I’ll briefly go over some ways you can sell your game outside of Kickstarter. This is no exhaustive guide. It’s just enough to get your wheels turning.

 

 

As I see it, there are ten broad ways you can sell your game outside of Kickstarter. There are probably a lot more that I’ve not even thought of, so I encourage you to chime in if you see something missing in the comments below!

 

1. Take pre-orders.

About a month ago, I published an article called How to Take Pre-Orders when Your Board Game Kickstarter Ends. That will give you an idea of how you implement a pre-order system. The benefit of taking pre-orders is pretty clear: you can continue earning money while your inventory is being manufactured and shipped to your warehouse. It helps keep the hype train going too.

 

2. Sell your game on your own site.

This is almost identical to taking pre-orders, except you sell your game after it’s being shipped to your warehouse. With a few quick edits, you can turn your pre-order system into an instant sales system. All you have to do is tweak the wording and connect your shopping site with your fulfillment company’s systems. The specific way you do that depends on your shopping site software and your fulfillment company’s software. The important thing is that you know you’re able to automate this process!

 

3. Sell your game on Amazon and other online shopping sites.

You can sell your game on Amazon just about as easily as you can sell your game on your own website. Even though Amazon and other shopping sites take a significant chunk of your sales as part of their commission, they can bring you lots of customers.

 

4. Sell your game at conventions.

A lot of board game companies make substantial sales at conventions such as Gen Con and Essen. Even smaller conventions are a viable option. You’ll need to research each convention you plan to attend to ensure that they are appropriate forums for selling your game. If they are, a nice-looking booth can draw quite the crowd!

 

5. Get on the shelves of your local game store.

Your friendly local game store can be another way to sell your game offline. You may be able to get management to pick up a few copies and carry it in their store. Many game stores are happy to help locals get their businesses started, provided you bring a quality game to the table!

 

6. Create events and sell your game there.

Building a community is a great way to build an audience. One especially effective way to build a community through scheduling events that excite or intrigue people. You can give away games, host game nights, or do live-streams. There are so many possibilities here. Whether you make events online or offline, it helps raise brand awareness. That can go a long way!

 

7. Get on the shelves of a mass-market retailer.

I’ll be honest. I do not yet know exactly what you need to do to get your game in Target, Barnes & Noble, or other large stores that sell board games. Getting stocked in a mass-market retailer is not something you do on a whim, so you’ll need to plan this out well in advance. Just be aware that mass-market sales are another avenue by which you can sell your game.

 

8. Build a backlog of games.

Sometimes the best way to sell your game is start a new one. Building new games brings attention to you and keeps your name in people’s minds.

 

9. Release expansions to your game.

If your game has substantial brand power, you might be able to release expansions and make some good money that way! This isn’t for everyone – releasing expansions and making money doing so requires a pretty strong game in the first place. If you’ve got an engaged fanbase, ask them for their ideas and see if you can make something they’d like.

 

10. Sell merchandise.

You don’t have to stick to selling games. You can sell posters, art books, or even e-books/novels of lore (for more story-heavy games). Think about a world bigger than just a single game.

 


 

Once you’ve completed your first game, possibilities begin to open up. This article is not a detailed guide like many of my posts. Rather, my intention here is to make you think about how many directions you can go in after you publish your first game.

Don’t be singularly focused on a single game or even the board game industry at large. Step back, survey your accomplishments, and appreciate the bigger picture. Most of the skills covered in Start to Finish: Publish and Sell Your First Board Game are transferable to other industries, and even life in general.

Pursuit of passion doesn’t always lead to success, but it does lead to a better understanding of yourself and the world around you. After fully creating a game and managing the various processes that go into doing that, you’re equipped to take on bigger challenges than you’ve faced before.

Think about what comes next. How you choose to sell your game from here on out sets you up for your next adventure.

Good luck and stay tuned for an entirely new series of blog posts starting next week 🙂

How to Advertise Board Games Online

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“I love advertising!” That’s not a sentence you hear spoken out loud often. Advertising has a reputation for annoying people with messages that aren’t relevant to them, relentlessly wearing them down with half-truths broadcasted over TV networks and on billboards.

Thankfully, that’s not the whole truth. The relieving truth is that advertising is one tool in the marketing toolbox that small businesses can benefit from. Like any tool, it must be used correctly and judiciously, with an understanding of its purpose and its limitations. Whether you’re just spreading the word about one game or whether you’re building a whole long-lasting business from scratch, you should consider advertising as part of a larger marketing plan.

 

 

Advertising is the fastest way I know to bootstrap a company. Think about it. There are three ways you can build your audience for the first time. You can reach out to people individually, you can create content for them to consume and come to you passively, or you can advertise on an existing platform. The first one is great – you’ll make a lot of contacts, and even a lot of friends. It’s also slow and it doesn’t scale well. Making your own content is good, but doing so with no outreach will make you feel like you’re screaming into a void. Advertising is much faster, though it does cost money.

If you want to get your feet wet in advertising, the best way I know to do that is through Facebook. Once you’ve built up a Facebook page, you’ll gain access to Facebook’s incredibly robust Ad Manager. That will let you target your ads to really specific audiences, tailoring messages specifically around people’s tastes. What’s more, you’re provided with tons of metrics that help you optimize your ads so you get what you’re paying for.

Let’s assume for the sake of discussion that you use Facebook for advertising. You’ll want to think of your objectives before you start any ad campaigns. Do you want to get web traffic, social media engagement, or emails? Don’t think in terms of “getting the word out there.” Build a system that pushes people where you want them to go – a sales funnel. Then use your advertising to get people into the sales funnel.

The most important part of any advertising campaign is the audience. Think about the age, gender, geographic location, and interests of the people you’d like in your sales funnel. You only want to attract people who would ultimately be interested in your product. For example, if you’re creating a fantasy area control game, you could target people in countries that speak the language used in the game and target people whose interests include both “board games” and “fantasy books.”

Most online advertisements have three parts to them: the copy, the image, and a call to action. The copy is simply the text on the advertisement. The image is exactly what it sounds like. The call to action can be a button, a link, a sign-up form, or something else like that. You take out the advertisement with intention of getting people to heed the call to action.

Making great marketing copy takes a lot of trial and error. I often have to try three or four different variations of my copy on simultaneous ad campaigns to see which one performs best. After a couple of dollars in each simultaneous campaign, I go with what performs the best. Some general rules of thumb to follow:

  • Keep it short.
  • Make it clear.
  • Make it exciting, intriguing, or otherwise cool.
  • Experiment until you get it right. Use that data!

Images also take a lot of experimentation to get right. Here are some rules of thumb you can follow when choosing an image:

  • Make sure it is the right size for the ad.
  • Use a high-quality image.
  • Have a clear object in focus.
  • Use contrasting colors.
  • Match the copy to the image.
  • Experiment until you get it right.

The call to action is pretty simple. It needs to be clear like “click here,” “sign-up here,” or it needs to simply be a link. Don’t be overly clever with your call to action.

I must reiterate how much advertising involves testing. Gather data and keep experimenting until you make the most effective ads you can. If an ad is clearly not performing well, pull it and don’t spend any more money. On Facebook, the direction of an ad is usually clear enough after $5 are spent.

You’ll notice that all this testing has a side benefit. Advertising provides an empirical way to analyze how good your ideas will perform in the market. Advertisements that perform well tend to go alongside games that will perform well. If something inspires people enough to click, it’s more likely to inspire people to buy (provided your game is a good value). This is such an underrated quality in advertising. You can use it to gauge product-market fit as well as build an audience.

Naturally, advertising is no replacement for real human interaction. While it can bootstrap your company quickly, it doesn’t pay to be friendless. You want to get to know people, make some connections, and make some people’s days better. Genuine human connection is a much sought after quality in a noisy digital world. Advertising will help your game sell, but connecting with others will help your game be remembered. The importance of the latter cannot be overstated.

 


 

Advertising can be a great way to draw some attention to your game quickly. Used wisely, advertising allows you to spread ideas faster than you can on your own. It can also help you test your ideas with an audience, refining them until you find something that fits with both your vision and others’ willingness to buy.

Have you ever taken out ads for your game or games? How’d it go? Let me know in the comments below 🙂

How to Keep the Hype Train Going After a Board Game Kickstarter

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Kickstarter is big, flashy, and exciting. New creators tend to see it as the one big goal to achieve before reaching success. Everything would be just right if you could just hit that goal…

That’s just not the case. The truth is that unless a Kickstarter is a total blockbuster, you won’t raise enough to print the game, pay your living expenses, and buy plane tickets to Hawaii. Kickstarter is merely the beginning of a long journey to establish yourself. After it, you can hope to passively sell your game and reap the rewards in the form of sales. You could also use your success to launch multiple games, building a company in the process. Alternatively, you could dedicate yourself to game design, picking up 5-10% on every game you design for different companies.

The point is, Kickstarter is just the beginning. No matter what your intention afterward, if you want to maintain your success, you need to keep the hype train moving!

 

All aboard the HYPE TRAIN!

 

For this article, I’ll be sharing eight ways that I know of which you can use to keep the hype train going for your game, your game design portfolio, or your publishing company. This list isn’t all-inclusive, so if you’ve got more ideas, share them in the comments!

 

For a primer on marketing, check out the Marketing & Promoting Your Game section about halfway down the page on Start to Finish: Publish and Sell Your First Board Game. Lots of useful context there!

 

1. Keep updating your Kickstarter campaign.

It’s an established best practice to continue updating your Kickstarter campaign after its completion. You naturally want to keep backers – essentially investors – informed about your activities and how things are coming along. The primary purpose of these updates is informational, but they have the side benefit of keeping your name and your game’s name high up in people’s email inboxes. It helps them remember who you are.

Now there are limits to that. If you overdo it, you’ll annoy people and they’ll unsubscribe from your updates. In small doses, though, this can be an effective way to keep people informed about your future projects.

 

2. Use your mailing list.

It’s another established best practice that you should use your mailing list wisely. In fact, you probably built one up as part of your Kickstarter campaign. Let’s assume, for the sake of simple discussion, that you did.

Once you’ve got people’s emails, as long as you can write interesting ones, 25-30% of your list members will open them up. (These numbers steeply climb if you keep your contact list clean and/or write exceptionally good emails.) On top of that, a good amount of them will click on links you include in the emails as well. That makes your mailing list an effective way to share future projects or game updates. Like Kickstarter udpates, this is a simple way to keep in touch with people you’ve already reached out to.

 

3. Build a community.

One of the best things you can do to keep hype going is build a community. If you can get people to show up somewhere – online or offline – and talk about common interests, that will keep people coming back over and over again. There is a lot of nuance that goes into community management and it can be time-consuming, but it’s also a good way to keep fans engaged. Unlike the previous two suggestions, a community can bring in new people too.

 

4. Advertise.

New creators often have mixed feelings about advertising, but the simple fact is that it’s fast, easy, and – if you do it right – effective at reaching out to new people. I recommend you start with Facebook because of the low cost of entry and the great data they provide you with. That will allow you to tweak and learn as you go.

If you’re interested in this subject, you will likely enjoy the advertising section of this article: How to Build up a Facebook Page as a Board Game Dev.

 

5. Take pre-orders.

I did a whole separate article on this recently called How to Take Pre-Orders when Your Board Game Kickstarter Ends. Nothing quite says “hype” quite like actual sales coming in while your inventory is being manufactured or shipped to your warehouse. Pre-orders are good because they allow people to get involved even after missing the Kickstarter, they bring in money, and because they act as an effective call to action for other marketing initiatives you take on.

 

6. Tell stories or build lore.

Many games come with complex worlds. If your game does, you have a big opportunity! You can build that world a little bit every day or every week through a mailing list, a blog, or social media. You can use stories to pique people’s interest in your game even after the Kickstarter campaign is complete. This might even pull in some pre-orders!

 

7. Keep marketing – online and offline.

For more information on this, you can see A Crash Course in Board Game Marketing & Promotion. Long story short, whatever you did to build up your audience for the Kickstarter campaign, you can do more of that to build a larger audience and keep your existing one engaged. If you succeeded in funding, then you know for a fact that you have a working marketing system, so use it to your advantage.

 

8. Make more games.

If you want to stay active in the board game community and get your name out there, it’s a good idea to get involved in more game projects. Whether you lead the project, design, or collaborate, there is a good chance that people will find your old games through your new games.

 


 

With a successful Kickstarter campaign behind you, you’re in a uniquely powerful position. The extra attention can help you start a business, build a portfolio of game designs, or simply create a passive income stream. It’s wise to think about what comes after a Kickstarter campaign so you can take advantage of new opportunities.

Let me know other ways to keep hype going for your game in the comments below – I’d love to hear your input 🙂