On Marketing

A theme I see faifieldofdreamscornrly often among makers, geeks, and other tech folks (three groups to which I wholeheartedly swear allegiance), is a dismissal of “marketing” as a discipline not worth committing effort against. But everything in my personal experience as a developer, “start up guy” and product creator leads me to believe otherwise. Most loudly, for Mobility on Demand, I was extremely fortunate to have Andrea Tuttle as cofounder. Marketing is her area of expertise, so she dictates our strategy, while I try to absorb as much as possible as we execute it.

Early on, we started a goofy tradition where we would txt each other “NEW ORDER!!” when a sale came through on our website. What blew me away was when she started following these messages up with “Oh, this one came from our writeup in [whichever specific blog or online magazine]!” How did she know??? Additionally, our site has gone from non-existant to four-figures of monthly visitors in only a few months. How did she do that???

Looking ahead, I know that I’m going to be trying to Kickstart and later sell a number of the products I’m building under the Flightless banner, so I’m trying to learn as much as possible from the Mobility on Demand results. I think that the ins & outs of this process could be really useful for others aspiring to get involved with board game design and publishing in a meaningful way as well. To that end, I’m going to begin chronicling each of the steps of my marketing efforts as I try them. We’ll all be learning together! Here are the three most basic things I’ve gotten starting with, and I’m finding great success as I focus intentional effort on using them:

  1. Mailing Lists. There is literally no better way to grow an audience than by encouraging people to opt-in to receive updates. I’m learning that consistency is key, because the more regularly I send updates with interesting and valuable information, the more engagement I’m getting, either by way of subscribers responding, or forwarding to friends to sign up as well. The setup doesn’t need to be anything fancy; I use MailChimp, which is free for up to quite a few subscribers, and I’ve put together really basic landing pages to start with for letting people sign up. Check it: Valour, Short Story RPG. Could they be better? Yep! But they’ve been great for getting the ball rolling, and I can always improve them going forward.
  2. Regular, Relevant Blog Posts. Ahem… perhaps a touch meta here, but building a corpus of interesting and valuable work is a great way to build momentum and to establish your brand as something worth paying attention to. Again, consistency here is key; it’s a little bit like compound interest on a savings account. Every published post which provides value to your audience, industry, or future customers becomes a tireless member of your marketing team, available to be shared, show up in search results, and help people get to know your product and your brand.
  3. Google Analytics. Free, insanely easy to implement, and incredibly powerful as you learn and grow into its full feature set, it’s literally a no-brainer. Beyond basic metrics like monthly site visits, it can give you insights into which blog posts and mailing list updates are resonating with your audience, so you can make sure you’re continuing to create content of value. My personal favorite report is the “Behavior Flow”, which shows at a glance what paths visitors tend to take through my website. If I’m finding that many visitors are navigating through a lot of my board game development content, and then suddenly dropping off… is there something wrong with that post? Is it a dead-end? Should it be updated?

I still consider myself a relative newbie at each of these things, and I know there is a lot more that can be done with them to help attract an audience. I’ll definitely be following up on these tools as learn more about them. What I think is so exciting about the times we live in as a business owner is that the ages of force-fed “Advertising” and shovelware marketing are over; if you want to get people interested in what you’re peddling, you have to provide actual value to them, which, if you can do so, becomes a huge competitive advantage.