Marketing Process – Make Video Games Like a Pro

Hi, I’m Paul Miller and today’s topic is marketing process. Most beginner entrepreneurs and game developers have a very warped view of marketing. Here you can learn what marketing truly is and what it isn’t and how to avoid common mistakes as a game maker. In this article we will explore fundamentals of marketing which apply to most business activities.

Young game developers are often very idealistic. They simply want to make great games. Often they want to make games which they really want to play. This kind of mindset is similar to that of an artist. Artists often create work which is highly unique and personal. Sometimes this may also work in gaming, but it very often leads to massive failure. There is a well know motive of a “starving artist” for a reason. Notice that nobody is taking about “starving salesmen”.

In order to be successful with your games in terms of sales and profits you need to have so called “marketing orientation”. This means that market concerns should drive all decisions of your little indie game studio. Initially you can’t afford to think like an artist and make simply what you like. In order to succeed you need to be fiercely oriented toward needs and wants of you current and potential customers. To achieve high levels of profits needed to fund larger games in the future you should be obsessed with marketing.

The first thing you need to understand is that marketing does not equal promotion. A lot of inexperienced people think that marketing people are all about making sales. Advertising is the most visible part of marketing to regular folks and many of them think that those ads they see everywhere is all there is to it. This is very far from the truth. In reality marketing is a process which affects all activities in a business, including initial decisions, like picking the right game to make.

One of the most prominent figures in marketing theory is Philip Kotler. He wrote several classic books about this subject. If you are just starting out learning basics of  marketing, you should check Kotler’s: “Principles of Marketing”. It’s a popular college textbook. You can find there one of the best descriptions of the base marketing process. This process has four stages and whole promotion is just a one-fourth of the third stage.

The first stage is “understanding the market and customer needs and wants”. This is the key where most game developers make their biggest mistakes. The worst kind of mistake you can make as a beginner game developer is spending years making a game which nobody wants to play. In order to prevent that at the outset you must conduct careful market research and intelligence. Research typically costs money and most indie developers can’t afford it. Fortunately you can also do marketing intelligence. It simply means that you should Google as much information as possible about the situation on the market and about your competition. You should pick a game to make based on what people want to buy and what you can build.

The second stage is designing a customer-driven marketing strategy. At first you should select customers to serve. You do that through segmentation and targeting. Next you define you so-called “value proposition” which requires you to differentiate and position you game on the market. In game development this is crucial. Correct differentiation ensures that your game stands out in the crowd, is easily noticeable and is valuable to your target customers. Good differentiation leads to solid positioning which mostly focuses on creating a certain image in the minds of your clients.

The third stage is constructing a marketing program which delivers superior value. This part of the process is centered around famous “four P’s” of marketing: product, price, place and promotion. At first you must design a game which can be very valuable and attractive to a lot of people. You need to constrain you costs according to your predicted revenues. This requires correct game design and correct game pricing. Place refers to your distribution method where you manage your supply and demand chains. Promotion is centered around communicating your value proposition.

The forth stage is building profitable relationships and creating customer delight. Notice that this final stage is all about relationships and feelings, not about your sales and profits. You must always have your customers at the forefront of your business mind. The key is creating long-lasting, profitable relationships. Some clients are not worth pursuing and some will create you a lot of problems. You should strategically build contacts with the customers which are truly valuable to you. Don’t be afraid of dropping a customer who is a drain on your resources and a source of constant problems.

You relationship with a customer can be modeled using Kotler’s “client path”. This path consists of five A’s: awareness, attraction, asking, acting and advocating. It models the process which you would like to apply every potential customer. At first people need to be aware of your company and products. This costs time and money. Then they need to be attracted to what you offer. Next the may ask some questions about your products. Acting means mostly buying your stuff. Finally, your customers may be so happy with you that they will become unpaid promoters of your company in the from of advocating it to others, for ex. on social media.

During last 10 years we have witnessed and explosion of various online social media platforms. The term “social media” was virtually unknown around year 2000 and now everybody knows what it is and almost everybody uses such services. It’s a revolution which deeply affected modern marketing practices. You should exploit social media tactics, like for ex. content marketing. Social media techniques are fully online, very powerful and very cheap, making them extremely effective for indie game developers who have limited access to classical promotion channels.

Marketing is a large field and there are countless books available. I recommend “Fundamentals of Selling” by Futrell. It will teach you relationships selling method which works for games. “Marketing 4.0” by Kotler is a great primer about latest trends and insights of internet marketing. “Branding for Dummies” is a surprisingly good volume about fundamentals of branding. Try “22 Immutable Laws of Branding” by Ries to deepen your understanding of good brands.

 I hope you enjoyed this brief overview of marketing process. If you remember only one episode from this series, it should be this one. It’s that important for your long-term success. Next topic is game industry. If you enjoyed this article: like it, comment it, share it and consider supporting me on Patreon. That’s all for today. Thank you for your time.

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