Game Marketing Tips, Analysis, and News

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Con Game

Specialty conventions can be a cost-effective way to reach certain demographics. There are many types of specialty conventions, from Star Trek to comics, anime to science fiction, boardgaming to electronic gaming... and many with elements of more than one type. (And don't ignore business-oriented , technical, medical, or scientific conventions if your product has some connection to them; being an unusual product is a big plus when the demographic of the convention-goer is predisposed to be interested in that sort of thing.) How do you market your product at such a convention? Here's some ideas:

  • The Booth. Most larger conventions have some sort of exhibit floor, and you can buy yourself a presence there. This can run into some serious dollars, though, as well as requiring that you have the booth staffed at all times, and have put together a good booth presentation. You may recoup some of the expenses if you can sell product there, but don't count on breaking even unless you have experience with this. If you haven't done this before, go to some shows first and figure out what booths you like (and what you don't) and try to emulate a successful, low-cost presence.
  • The Demo. Many shows have an area where you can demonstrate your game, and sometimes for free. Have some signage, some good game demo'ers, and a way to convert people who tried it into customers ("If you go into the dealer room and buy a copy, bring it back and I'll give you a free widget!"). Again, if you haven't done this before, go to a few shows and see what makes an effective demo.
  • The Sell Sheet. Colorful fliers presenting your product can usually be put out at such shows on tables reserved for information. Often you can put them up around the show, but you need to make sure this is OK before you do it (your flier should make it easy to track you down, otherwise it isn't doing a very good job marketing... which means if you post it illegally they can find you). Best bet: Put in some sort of show special, directing people to your website (or show booth) with a special redemption code for an extra of some sort.
  • The Speaker. If you've got some personal brand awareness in the industry, see about giving a seminar or joining a panel. Work in your new product as elegantly as you can, along with a web address. But don't sound like an infomercial huckster.
  • The Event. Stage some sort of event at the show in order to generate interest in your product, publicity, and sales. What sort of event? Something creative connected with the game's content... At least a couple of people in costume handing out sell sheets. Better, have them stage a scene that gets people talking ("What the heck was that?") and hopefully putting something on YouTube. Do something dramatic; perhaps connect it to charitable giving. Just make sure you don't do something so dramatic it could cause calls to the police!
For extra credit, do more than one at a show... or try the Full Monty and do them all!

But before you begin, make sure you adequately estimate the time and the cost involved with your plan, and how many more products you'd have to sell to make it worthwhile. Make sure you can track the results, and afterward see how close your estimates came. To me, the ideal show is one where you can go and have fun, sell enough product to cover all your costs and make a profit, and generate a lot of positive publicity, good consumer buzz, and make valuable industry contacts and business deals.

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