At LevelUp’s last Main Event meetup on June 2nd 2014, Clive Gorman came to talk to us about marketing for start-ups. Clive is a very experienced multi-disciplined video-games marketing and product management professional with more than 17 years working in the technology and video-games industry. He is currently the product marketing manager responsible for marketing strategy, implementation and product management at TinyMob Games.
Based on Clive’s talk, we’ve compiled these handy tips to assist with marketing your own games both before and after launch.
The core metrics for any release are:
- Acquisition – how many users are you acquiring and how quickly?
- Retention – how long do those users stick around?
- Monetization – how much money are you making per user?
To achieve your goals in each of those metrics, research is key. Know your audience, know your competitors. Appeal to your audience and differentiate your game & company from your competitors. There are many free sources of data that can help you out, for example NewZoo and Quora.
The next step is to apply your research to your branding.
- Discovery and differentiation – how do people find out about you, and what makes you different?
- Brand interrogation – ask yourself the tough questions about your brand – does it express what you want it to?
- Positioning – where does your company fit?
- Vision, mission, values – how does your brand show these off?
- Logo and identity – your logo needs to fit with what your brand is trying to express
- Sound – an often underrated part of branding
- Personality – all the parts of your brand need to express a coherent personality.
Part of what your branding needs to do is give journalists a reason to talk about your game.
- Test your game name and icon. These need to grab attention as soon as you see them in the app store.
- Crowd-source options for metric based optimization, include AdMob and CrowdPicker.
- Optimize text length for a very small space. App Store description shown ‘above the fold’ is very short, you need to use it effectively.
- Have screenshots with a consumer proposition.
- First screenshot is key feature – on the iPhone you only see one by default so it *must* be good.
- Needs to be responsive on mobile – lots of traffic comes in that way
- Talk about features in-depth – for example, TinyMob uses the website to explain their Warbands feature in-depth
- Optimize loading times – don’t frustrate potential users
- Gifs! Use sparingly but use them if motion will help explain a concept
- Have a press page with assets – don’t make busy journalists hunt for these
- Search engine optimization
- If you can, hire an expert
- Use your keywords in your website copy in a narrative way
- Do press-releases/announcements for milestones in your project – beginning of project, alpha, beta, full release, etc.
- Focus on key media – If your game is a Pocket Gamer style game, don’t go to Engadget for coverage.
- Use Twitter to generate leads – get to know people on Twitter in an organic way long before you have something to sell them. Then when you have a game to tell them about, you already have a relationship that gives them a reason to care about your game.
- Leverage new media: YouTube, Twitch
- Direct submission or games PR news-wire – many websites let you submit news directly.
- Games Press – you can use the service for free but with no guarantee of getting on the page, or for around £90 a month (depending on this size of your company and the number of assets you want to submit) you can add your assets directly to their site and have a link to them in the daily digest email
- Create a press kit – use Dropbox or Google Drive
- Use Hootsuite or similar service to schedule tweets, g+ posts, Facebook posts.
- Tweet every 20 minutes or so at most.
- No more than 3 Facebook posts a day.
- Images work better than text or video.
- Use hash-tags to help people discover you – if you’re tweeting about Clash of Clans, use their hash-tag!
- Blog on tumblr too
- Free marketing – MailChimp is free for up to 2000 subscribers.
- Great way to build a community.
- Monetizes really well – if someone has bothered to give you their email address, they’re really interested in your game.
F2P vs premium
- For small projects, premium is probably better. Many journalists and publications are turned off by free-to-play. Have a small upfront cost and potentially some DLC later.
- Virtual product still needs to be appealing even it’s not a physical product. Think about how you’d present your game or service as if it were in a store.
Sales and promotions
- More value for same price does better than discounts
- Tie sales to your game’s theme – for example, tell players the trade caravans arrived early instead of a bland ‘bonus 50 widgets’ message.
Q & A
Q: Are trade shows worth it?
A: They can be pricey, be careful about how many you go to and how much you spend to get there.
Q: Do gifs or embedded YouTube videos perform better on a website?
A: Haven’t analyzed that, but it is hard to get views on your own video. If possible, get on a YouTube show that’s already popular.
Q: Is there anything similar to NewZoo that you recommend?
A: Google caches lots of research studies and papers, Gamasutra can also be helpful. Take any ARPDAU (average revenue per daily active user) and ARPPU (average revenue per paying user) numbers you find online and in news stories with a grain of salt. Clive has never worked for a company that gave away that data.
Q: What should you budget for marketing?
A: At EA, marketing was about 12% of the total production cost for a small project. You should really set aside 25%, but you need to spend that in a very targeted way to be efficient.
Q: How can you advertise a game for kids?
A: Can’t track people who are under 13 – you can advertise to them ‘above the line’ with things like online banner ads or TV media, but you can’t collect data on children for ‘below the line’ marketing such as emails. Try to partner with educational game publications. Kids TV is a great Trojan horse to get around restrictions on advertising to kids. Kids Google a lot – parents will say not to click a banner so they’ll Google it instead.
Q: Should we suck it up and spend 20% of our time doing our own marketing or just pay a reputable firm?
A: I wouldn’t recommend spending unless you have investors or significant revenue coming in. A lot of the time you can manage campaigns using automation.
Q: What are your thoughts on Vine?
A: Vine is a great way to limit how much you show if you’re early in development. TinyMob used it to show off their Warpath feature. Instagram videos may be too long depending on how much you have to show.
Thanks again to Clive for coming to speak with us. If you have any followup questions, Clive can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.