Welcome to the fourth entry to Indie Marketing For N00bs. This week, we’re going to talk about some things that most developers fail to really follow through on: Marketing Plans. These are both fundamental additions to any successful game on the market. We’re going to take the time here to really explain the importance of these tools, what they’re used for, and how to create them yourself.
PLAN? I Don’t Need No Stinkin’ PLAN!
You’ve designed a game. Go you. What is the first thing most developers do before they make the game, though? They create a game design document, which entails the plan for what’s going into the game, how it’ll be implemented, and something that can be followed through or be utilized by a publisher that wants to take your game under their wing. In theory, you already know how to do exactly this, so why aren’t you designating time to do the same thing for other aspects of the process?
A marketing plan is your personal guideline to what needs to be done early on, as well as in post-development when it comes to marketing, public relations, social media, and community management. It’s big, generally. But, it helps developers know when they need to make a post or a blog, or when they need to make an announcement due to hitting a target. This includes when you should do “Dev Diaries” or how often you should tweet. Make a plan and stick to it.
I Love It When A Marketing Plan Comes Together!
Everyone has a different method for their own versions of a marketing plan. Some people do a simple outline with key points and some people go above and beyond for a true precision strike outward (For instance: My plans tend to be between 9 and 11 pages, including a title page).
I mentioned earlier that the plan can be for a publisher. If you ever plan to get picked up by a publisher (even the indie publishers), they want you to be as impactful as you can be autonomously. It’s less work and hassle for them if you come equipped with your own knowledge and tactics.
But, maybe I don’t want a publisher. Why do I need a plan? Making a plan for yourself keeps you on a strict regimen to get your game out there. Will it ensure a 100% success story? Of course not. But, it will ensure that you are following my rule from previous entries to this series: “Every eye possible”.
Know Your Audience And They Will Know You
A plan should include two major sections, split into explanations for each one: Information and Marketing Tools.
In the Information section, include a quick description of your game, maybe one or two paragraphs. This is to guide anyone other than yourself that may read this document. If you have any current statistics or analytics about your game or company, include a section for them. Set your goal here, as well. Make an attainable goal based on similar games on market. Knowing what you’re up against and adjusting your expectations to adhere to logic is a perfect way to set yourself up for a win.
Additionally, do some research and figure out your demographic. Come up with a range of people that you believe your game is targeting. Include:
- Is your game more mature themed? Would it appeal more to a nostalgic retro audience? Is it cartoony and kid-friendly? These aspects matter.
- With women taking to the industry in recent years, more women are likely to play your game. Take this into account here.
- For instance, if you game is only in English and you have no plans to localize the game to Chinese, China might not be your demographic.
- Is your game only on PC? Probably shouldn’t focus on console gamers too much then and vice versa. Is your game mobile? Why are you contacting people that only play PC games?
Know your audience and it’ll help with future endeavors and needs.
List Out All The Tools You’ll Use
Marketing Tools should include Social Media, Video platforms, Game’s Website, Community Presence, Press, Paid Advertisements, and Software and Services you plan to use. This section is a lot bigger than the other, but it’s where the majority of the plan is laid out.
What social media are you going to use? List them out here. We’ve discussed social media in a prior lesson, so add in any that are going to be linked to this game, no matter how small. Think of this as your reminder to post on Google+ or Instagram. How often will you be posting to each platform? Do you plan to tweet daily? Are you hitting other platforms often? Make sure to include even game developer specific platforms here as well. Any presence needs to be noted and should have a guide for how you handle each one.
Do you plan to make videos for your game? Have you made a trailer? Will you be streaming the game during development or post-development for people to see progress or features? Make sure to include if you’re using YouTube, Twitch, or any other video platforms. How will you post these videos and how often? Will you be live for most of it on Twitch and then upload it to YouTube after? What’s the plan?
Most indie developers don’t utilize their own website for promotion, but it’s a powerful tool to have a simple domain to send potential eyes to. This looks great on business cards, promotional materials, or any shout outs you make need. Some people even go a step further and implement a dev blog into their site. This can tie to the videos, as well, showing off aspects of the game that may not have been apparent. Dev Diaries, which can be shown on your site, are one of the easiest ways to keep community involvement during the creation of your game.
Utilization of the forum structure is always a good way to keep community involvement, in both the traditional sense and the more modern takes. Reddit is ridiculously popular to show off progress and several sub-Reddits (specific sections dedicated to particular topics) are designed specifically for indie developers. Additionally, the use of Discord could be considered a “modern take” to the forum structure. Taking on an old-school IRC style mixed with vocal capabilities like Teamspeak or Ventrillo, Discord is designed for gamers and widely utilized as a community tool for the game industry.
Media Shower: Wishing Among The Stars
As we’ve discussed in an earlier lesson, the press and media are your friends. List out your plan to contact them and how you plan to keep them notified in your plan. This includes a guideline of when you plan to write press releases to get out to the media and press sites. Figure out what kinds of streamers and “Let’s Players” you want to try to contact and set a target.
Include a full plan for a customized “press kit” in your marketing plan. I’m going to be setting “press kits” aside as its own lesson at a later date, but expect a much more substantial detailing of what should be in a standard press kit.
Software, Services, and Ads
As with any other game-related step out there, tools can and should be used when marketing. This can be a number of things, from minor social media tools like Hootsuite or Buffer, all the way to full analytics reporting programs like Google analytics. A popular free tool to use is Google Alerts, which can set keywords and have Google email you when something comes up in the search engine. If you intend to have people play the game in Let’s Plays, websites like Gamesight can be very helpful in tracking your game. After the game has been published, it’s important to try to get your game on such aggregates as Metacritic, not for any other reason than Twitch and other websites pull from that site for their content.
This section should also include any paid advertising you, your publisher (if applicable), or third party will intend to use. Be concise. Since this uses real money, you can utilize the demographics designed in the first section of the marketing plan to focus the impressions and clicks. Ads can be Google, Facebook, Twitter, or a number of other platforms.
Understand the difference between sponsored advertisements and "like" purchasing, though. It's the difference between having real eyes see your product and having some company in a click farm boost your numbers in a fake way. Fake followers and "bots"can completely mess up any intended reporting and realistic charts. You'll never know if you're actually doing good.
Don’t forget to think out of the box, though. Marketing is only limited to your own mind. Be creative and sometimes it will pay off. Some people get a proper Wikipedia article put up for their game. If you intend to make a commercial, YouTube and Twitter can be tapped for a video-based ad. Heading to small events in your area can help get more eyes. Just make sure you have it all in your Plan.