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 🙂

How to Price Your Board Game

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Cardboard costs a lot of money! Board gamers are accustomed to handing over hundreds of dollars at a time on board game shopping sprees. If you look on /r/boardgames or Board Game Geek, you can find no shortage of “shelfies” where people have hundreds of board games. You might even get the impression that board gamers are not price-sensitive at all…

 

 

Price matters. The amount you choose to charge for your board game says a lot about your game. Naturally, as the price goes up, fewer people will be interested in purchasing. But how does that explain $150 monsters like Gloomhaven?

Before you set out to apply a price to your board game, ask yourself these questions:

  • How complex is my game?
  • What components does it come with?
  • How long does it take to play?
  • How physically large is the box?

Price isn’t merely the amount of money that someone has to pay to get a copy of your work. It’s one of the most useful pieces of information about your game available to a board gamer. It is shorthand for the above questions. Along with your box, the theme and mechanics of your game, and the reviews you receive, board gamers will make a decision to buy or not to buy.

Different price points have different psychological effects on people. A $19 game is an impulse buy – people usually don’t think too much about spending that amount of money. For that price, they expect a small game without a whole lot of parts. On the flip-side, people are perfectly okay shelling out $100 or more for a giant game like Gloomhaven or Food Chain Magnate. Those games come with lots of parts and are complex, long-lasting games. There’s a lot going on there!

When choosing a price for your game, you’ll need to do something I often advise: look at similar games on Kickstarter and Amazon. Make sure you take into account the complexity of your game, the components included, the length, and its physical size. I even recommend you go to a local gaming store to look at the boxes, still shrink wrapped, and compare them to their prices. That can tell you a lot about how board gamers value games.

Naturally, any price you come up with will need to cover your manufacturing costs. A general rule of thumb to follow is “five times your landed cost.” That is to say, your game should cost gamers five times as much as it costs to print and ship the game to your warehouse. For Kickstarter campaigns, you might be able to push this down to “four times your landed cost.” As always, though, run the numbers and don’t rely on rules of thumb without closer analysis.

Still, I must reiterate: don’t merely think of price in terms of monetary exchange. It’s an important part of signaling the kind of game you have created and how much is in the box. The value of a game is not just its parts, its art, or the amount of hours you can play it before getting bored. The value is in the eye of board gamers and their expectations.

Here are a few examples:

 

Santorini – $25.98 on Amazon

 

 

Santorini is a sharp game. It’s a very intelligent abstract strategy game in which you competitively build towers in an effort to be the first person to stand atop one. It’s a really simple concept that has all sorts of profound strategic implications. From its simplicity comes its complexity.

It has great plastic components – these neat towers that stack and give the game a great physicality. For goodness sake, the box is linen! Yet here stands for a mere $25.98 despite having really good components. What gives? Are they trying to be competitive with pricing? Is the manufacturing cost deceptively low?

I don’t know the answer for sure, but my belief is that they keep this game under $30 to attract the right audience. It’s considered a light game, and while it can accommodate 3 or 4 players, it’s really best for 2. The game doesn’t have the sheer grittiness or complexity that more hardcore gamers crave, but it has a light, poppy appeal that makes it a great gateway game. That’s why they price it under $30 – to keep it in gateway game territory.

 

Twilight Imperium – $109.99 on Amazon

 

 

Twilight Imperium is notoriously complex. It’s for 3-6 players and games routinely exceed 4 hours in length. The sheer amount of components can easily fill a large table. I lifted the box once in a gaming store, and I can swear its heavier than the stones I used to build the retaining wall outside my house. This game is a monster!

This game is huge – game length, player count, component count, and box size. The price tag merely reflects what the game is. Now, yes, Fantasy Flight does have to charge a lot of money to break even on all those parts. That’s true. This game, however, scratches a very specific itch for board gamers who love heavy games. That’s why they’re willing to drop a fat hundred bucks on it. Buyers perceive a great value in the game which justifies the three-digit price tag.

 

Ticket to Ride – $44.99 on Amazon

 

 

Ticket to Ride is an old classic. If you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably played it. It’s a great game. It’s what many gamers would describe as a “medium-sized game.” Appropriately, it is priced at a middle of the road price: $44.99. Anything $40-50 generally implies that a game takes about an hour to play, can entertain 2-4 people, and doesn’t skimp on components. All of these things are true for Ticket to Ride, and the price justifies this.

 


 

Pricing board games is about far more than simply breaking even on manufacturing costs. It’s yet another way to signal values to prospective customers. Board gamers are accustomed to looking at games, and have internalized an intuition about what to expect out of games priced in a certain way.

Have you ever bought a game because of the price tag? Have you ever walked away from a game because of the price tag? Share your thoughts, experiences, and questions below!