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The top 3 ways to market your game

Last week we discussed the top 5 ways to tick off your Kickstarter backers (and potential backers). Today, we’re going to continue with the Kickstarter theme by discussing the top 3 ways to market your game.

Creating a game is one thing. Publishing your own game is something completely different and requires other skills. Successfully marketing that game you created and are planning on publishing is something that many creators find daunting.

So, I’m going to show you some ways that you can market your game effectively right now. I’m also going to list these unconventionally, starting with the #1 method and working my way through other helpful but possibly less effective methods.

#1 Market your game organically

Organic marketing basically means that you are naturally growing your audience. Rather than spending money on ads and promotions, you are connecting with people, often one-on-one. This is a grassroots approach that will take some time, but it is well worth it.

There are many ways you can market your game organically, and it’s best to take a multi-pronged approach rather than sticking to just one approach. If one or more methods work better for you than others, you should absolutely focus more attention there, but keep your eyes open for other opportunities as well.

Here are just a few ways you can market your game organically:

  • Playtest your game at lots of events
  • Demo your games at conventions and other events
  • Get a table or booth at a convention or event (this one will be more costly, but might be reasonable at smaller local events)
  • Work with the Indie Game Alliance for playtesting and demoing your game
  • Find out where your audience hangs out and become part of that community
  • Join Facebook groups related to games, game design, and the interests of your audience

Whichever methods you choose, make sure to collect email addresses! This can be on signup sheets when you’re meeting people live or via a landing page online. You’ve put so much effort into getting your game out in front of people, if they are interested, you must give them an easy way to keep updated!

Also, when you join a new online community, makes sure to contribute and become part of this community before talking about your game.

Organic marketing has the absolute best return on investment when done right. It might cost you a few bucks here or there for food, drinks, attendance fees, and possibly travel (this could add up though), depending on where you go, but it can create rabid fans. People listen to their friends and peers and will trust them over you. If you end up with fans talking about your game with others and posting about it online, this is the best advertising you can get!

#2 Run Facebook ads to market your game

When it comes to marketing your game and building an audience, you’re likely going to have to spend a reasonable amount of time or money (or both). While organic marketing will take a lot of your time, ads can eat up a lot of money, so you have to decide how much time and money you want to dedicate to marketing your game.

If you’re going to spend money to market your game, Facebook ads are known to be the most effective method of paid advertising. I’m going to give you a primer on how to test and run your Facebook ads effectively.

You’re likely going to want to spend at least $10 per day on these ads for 1-2 months leading up to your campaign.

Facebook ads let you narrow down who sees your ad, allowing you to choose what regions, languages, ages, and sex of people see your ads.

You’ll want to define your audience as [Kickstarter + Board Games + a relevant interest to your audience] in order to attract the right potential people.

You want to include “Kickstarter” since most of your backers will come from Kickstarter (unless you’re doing something very niche or have a non-Kickstarter audience already). I made the mistake of leaving this out in previous ads and my results weren’t as good as they could have been. Don’t make this mistake!

Including board games is a no-brainer. But it’s also critical to include a keyword that is relevant to your game and audience. Otherwise, you’ll be looking too broadly and won’t focus on your potential fans. If it uses Tarot cards, you probably want to include “tarot.” If it has miniatures, you might want to use “miniatures” or something similar.

See what keywords can be used and how big that audience is. Too big and you may not reach the people you want to find you. Too small and few will see your ads or they may be less active and interested.

It’s important to test your ads to optimize them. Give them 2 days or so each to see how they are performing.

You can first try running the same ad to multiple audiences to see which ones get the best results (look for cost per lead – the cost to get one person to sign up for your mailing list). Then, using the audience that gives you the best results, you can try versions of your ads with different images until you find the best performing image. Do the same for your headline and then again for your copy (the text of your ad), and pretty soon you’ll have the winning ad. Pause all other ads every time you find the best one in a group until you just have your one killer ad running.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can spend a ton of money on ads to save a failing campaign. You’re much better off spending this money pre-launch to build your email list to give you the highest chance of funding quickly. You really want to fund on day one or at least by the end of day two. This helps to boost your campaign and get it in front of more eyes. Plus, people prefer to back a winner.

You can certainly continue to advertise and may even want to bump up your ad spend for the first two days of your campaign to give you momentum. Make sure to change your ads to direct people to your campaign once it launches and use a Kickstarter referral link rather than just your campaign URL so that you can track the results for ad spend on Facebook vs. backers on Kickstarter, as you cannot track this in Facebook alone.

After the first 2 days of your campaign, it’s up to you whether you want to continue running your ads. If you’re getting a good return on investment (ROI), you may want to continue but probably at a smaller scale than pre-launch. But if your ads are not bringing you more backers, don’t be afraid to pull the plug and focus more on community outreach and sharing cool things about your game.

#3 Other

There are plenty of other people willing to take your money to advertise your upcoming game, however, they will not likely be as effective as Facebook ads.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t experiment and get your game in front of other audiences, just know that your results may vary.

Here is just a small list of other potential places you could advertise your game:

  • Board Game Geek
  • Kicktraq
  • Backerkit
  • Banner ads in board game Facebook groups
  • Online board game magazines and sites
  • Google ads
  • Youtube ads
  • Reddit
  • Other companies that are related to your audience

Some of the above methods will allow you to advertise for a small fee or at a certain cost per click, whereas others will have packages that you must pay to generate a certain amount of exposure or duration of your ad. Read the details carefully to understand how much you’re paying and what you’re getting for your money.

Also, recognize that putting a Board Game Geek ad up for a party game or family game, for example, won’t give you great results. This is a mismatch with their core audience.

I highly recommend you check out this great Crowdfunding Nerds podcast, in which Andrew Lowen, designer and publisher of Deliverance, breaks down the types of paid advertising he used for his campaign. He also runs a marketing agency with a specific focus on board games, so he knows what he’s talking about! Make sure to listen until the end when he ranks the effectiveness of each of the types of marketing he used. It’s absolute gold!

I also reached out to Andrew to ask him what he would do if he had $1K or $2K to spend on advertising. He emphasized pre-campaign marketing and said, “I think you could put $2k into FB ads and get a good ROI as long as you were able to use email signups as the metric for the campaign.” So, there you have it. Facebook ads pre-launch for the win.

Wrapping it up

If you plan to market your game, it’s a solid idea to get out to events and get your game in front of people, online and in-person, to generate interest and build a following.

Facebook ads can help build your audience but are best used to supplement your organic marketing approach.

Other advertisements can work well, but you need to ensure you’re putting your game in front of the right audience and that you can track an ad’s effectiveness. You need this information in order to determine whether to keep using this approach or cut your losses.

Which of these approaches do you feel is the most challenging and why?

Please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

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6 comments

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    hi, I found this information very helpful and interesting. I am hopefully launching my new game fairly soon. I am going to promote it organically as I published a boardgame in 2012 and went down the route of putting it in the shops. I encountered a lot of problems with different shops undercutting each other and then I got an earful as to why they were selling below a certain price. A big learning curve. I have a question for you. Would you recommend going on radio talk shows to promote a new game? all the best kieran

    Thanks, Kieran! I’m not sure how effective going on a radio talk show would be. It would depend on how many listeners are into board games or might be interested in giving your game a try. It’s not a visual platform, so you wouldn’t be able to showcase the art and gameplay. However, if it was a party game where the gameplay is very verbal and answers can cause a lot of laughter, this could be effective. At the same time, getting the word out in any manner is always a good thing, so I wouldn’t discount radio interviews if you get the opportunity.

    I’m old school and I enjoy self advertisement the most and I can handle that because it’s free. Free as in,”Word of Mouth Advertisement.”

    I update on Bgdf, BGG, Instagram and Facebook.

    Financially, I can’t afford to pay for ads. It will be a total waste of time and money for me.

    For advertising, I help other game designers from beginning designers to professional ideas.

    Jesse

    Thanks for your comment, Jesse!
    You’re right. Not everyone can afford ads or wants to go that route. Word of mouth and other organic advertising is often best. Paid ads are better as supplements to this organic advertising. But if you can run effective ads, they could be worth the investment. You’re going to have to put some money into your game if you are self-publishing, so ads is just one more approach you can use.
    However, getting your game in front of people, talking about it, and getting others naturally excited is the best way to go (and the most fun!).

    Thank you very much…this information/411 is helpful in me building my brand “G2G- Christian games” audience!

    Lora V Brooks
    Creator of
    “Glory 2 God Games of Faith & Fun”
    Playing cards & Board games