Given my recent gripe about RPG companies’ Web sites, I thought I’d do the community a public service by talking a little about the ‘standard’ concept of a sales and marketing funnel and what you need to do to attract customers.
Now, even if you’re giving your game away for free, you have customers. You may or may not be less motivated to do work to get them, but if you have something that you’d like other people to get, for whatever reason, you’re looking at sales and marketing.
And though people can make it complicated, it’s not. Use the analogy of a store in the mall that wants to sell items to people in the mall. You need to help people move through a pretty simple sequence of steps. Attention, interest, desire, action, and satisfaction. Skipping any of these steps causes people to get derailed.
You don’t really need to worry about the technical terms here, unless you want to Google for more. But for the record, you want to get “leads,” “qualify” them into “prospects,” and then “convert” them down each step in the “funnel” until you “close” the “sale” and get “moolah.” Often they break up the process into “marketing,” which is the process of attracting and initially informing the customer, and “sales,” which focuses more on taking a prospect through to closing, but that’s for megacorps not your one-man thing.
Let me file the serial numbers of a certain billion-dollar company’s funnel as an example.
It should go without saying. But unfortunately sometimes it goes without doing as well. You need a product, ideally a quality, compelling product. You don’t have to wait till you have one to start generating interest, but you need one. Sure, we’ve all seen people that get some success by combining extensive sophistry and marketing with a crap product or vaporware, but a) those are bad people and b) it’s not sustainable, unless being a scam artist is your stock in trade. The better the products, and if you have complementary products/product lines, the better. Even good-hearted people get into this one with lighting up the marketing machine (or even taking preorders) before the product is done, and they aren’t so good with the deadlines.
2. Awareness and Interest
How do people find out about you and your product? There are a couple things that go into this, from traditional advertising to social networks to search engine optimization to reputation development. People often hear about and interact with you/your company/your game/your previous games a good bit before they decide to buy, so reputation development is key. What’s your plan here? Talking it up on forums? Pushing it at cons? Getting it sold on a lot of download sites and hoping that people will just run across it and decide to shell out $30 sight unseen? Signing on to a license to slap a logo on it? People cold searching on “I want to buy a Wild West RPG today?” An open beta? A free demo download? Trying to get comped reviews on rpg.net or similar? Paying for standups at gaming stores across America? There are better and worse plans here, but having a plan besides “Uhhhhhh…” is the key.