Knowing Your Audience

Posted on Posted in Know-How

If there’s one piece of business advice I’d like to shout to the heavens, it would be “know your audience!” There are three parts to this: knowing your target audience, knowing your actual audience, and being able to tell where the two are different.

Need help on your board game?
Looking for more resources to help you on your board game design journey?

Spend any amount of time with a marketing expert talking about your business, and you’ll find that one of the first questions they ask – if not the first – is “what’s your target audience?” You must know the answer to that. You need to be able to rattle it off the top of your head without thought.

Your audience is not 18-35 year-old males. Sure, your audience may fit that description, but “18-35 year-old males” is a vague enough description to fit AXE body spray buyers or Bernie Sanders voters. Detail is crucial.

Though they attract a wider audience, Axe body spray doesn't smell as nice as fresh board games.
Though they attract a wider audience, Axe body spray doesn’t smell as nice as fresh board games.

This blog, for example, is aimed at first-time indie board game developer-publishers in their 20s who are looking for “food for thought” and not just tactical advice. That gives me a nice niche to fill – I know who I’m speaking to, how to alter my language to cultural norms, what to say, and what not to say. I talk about the Motivation, Know-How, Philosophy, and Game Breakdowns as if I’m speaking to a first-time indie dev. I use the language that I’d use to talk to someone around my age. I don’t give out really gritty tactical advice like the Kickstarter Lessons blog, I’m going for something different.

As a bonus, general gamers and entrepreneurs can enjoy the blog, too, even if not everything is right up their alley. That’s the magic of a target audience: they’re like an idealized and simplified version of your more diverse actual audience. You can imagine your target audience like one person, and then speak to that person.

Your target isn't the dartboard, but rather the bulls-eye. Though you may score in nearby regions, still aim for your target.
Your target isn’t the dartboard, but rather the bulls-eye. Though you may score in nearby regions, still aim for your target.

Yet even with this understanding, realize that your audience is made of individuals. For example, the folks backing War Co. are primarily big-time board gamers, but there’s a lot of Twitch streamers and a handful of sci-fi fans that fell in love with the game, too. I know this because I take the time to talk to a lot of them and see what makes them tick.

You might find that your actual audience doesn’t match your original expectations. That’s totally normal! Jamey Stegmaier found that the theme of his wine-making board game, Viticulture, attracted a small contingent of wine aficionados. And me? Well, I never really expected to enter the “board game industry” at all! I thought I’d just attract Magic: the Gathering and Yu-Gi-Oh! fans! Jamey amended his beliefs, as did I, and as will you as you learn more.

There’s no substitute for socializing with your audience. You’ll make some friends, and along the way, you’ll get the clarity of purpose and understanding of nuance that you need to succeed.

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