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.

Rise and Shine

Recently my friend Nick sent me this video, during a discussion about staying motivated through the hard parts of building our dream projects. I’d forgotten how much I loved it when it first came out ahead of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Such an amazing motivational piece. I’ve bookmarked it; it now lives right between my 2015 Roadmap, my Catch Sheet, and all my bookmarklets for this site. Thanks Nick!

Watch it whenever you need a little extra push to finish that next task, or to get after it first thing in the morning.

Yearly Goals 2015 Edition

The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score.

—Bill Copeland

I know a lot of folks who poo-poo “New Years resolutions”, and with good reason. Firstly, New Years itself is fairly arbitrary: there’s nothing intrinsically special about one spot in the Earth’s trip around the Sun compared to another (well, there are technically two unique places, but New Years is neither of them) and secondly, and more importantly, they don’t actually work.

But what to do, then? Continue reading

The Hazard of Scheduled Posts

After jotting a note in my Catch Sheet to write a blog post about the Five Thirty Eight/Twilight Struggle article, it took a while to get it put together, which, as already noted in my post, gave time for the WSJ to drop the Green Bay Packers/Catan bombshell before it was even completely written.

And then I dropped it into the posting calendar[1]… which gave time for internet superhero The Oatmeal to drive his kitten-shaped juggernaut through not only Kickstarter, but the table top game community, and the internet at large. So yeah, there’s that. 120,000 Oatmeal fans who will now own a card game that isn’t traditional playing cards, and who are now in the Kickstarter ecosystem and may well go looking for other games and projects to back. Kinda makes my post yesterday feel almost quaint in scope.

Damn. Pretty exciting time for table top games when an article can feel timely one week and like ancient history the next.

[1] Why schedule it, you ask? I wanted to make sure the play-testing tips post made it up before the Feb. 2 Valour update went out so I could include it.[2]

[2] Valour update, you ask?? Don’t miss out on the next one: http://woodar.dj/boardgame ;)

“Golden Era of Board Gaming” — 538

At the end of last year, this morsel came across my radar several times… (shout-outs to Andy Stone, Eric Budd, and Mitch Hulse for passing it along! I love that so many of you thought of me when you saw this). You should go take a moment to read it now.

Designing The Best Board Game On The Planet | FiveThirtyEight

While there may be a few somewhat spurious claims made throughout, [1] this article’s mere existence signals something larger to me. This hobby is going mainstream. Continue reading

Tips for running an effective board game play-test

The Invasion begins…As I find myself deeper and deeper in the design process for Valour, the more I’ve come to appreciate how tight so many commercially-available board games are. In that vein, I’ve been doubling down on the play test schedule, because (to my mind), there is no better way to smooth the experience than to have group after group of insanely smart people take on the design, find the weaknesses, exploit the loopholes, and identify the “fiddly” parts which should be unceremoniously ripped out.

After dozens of person-hours spent around the table beating up on my design, I’ve started trying to systematize the process so I can get the most out of every opportunity, and be as efficient as possible with my volunteer play-testers’ time. Continue reading

30 Day Mobility Challenge

Hot on the heels of the release of our first card deck, I’m excited to announce the Mobility on Demand “30 Day Mobility Challenge”!

It’s a 30-day email series delivering a new mobility exercise directly to your inbox every morning. We even link to an online timer so you can start your mobilizing right from your smartphone when you check your email, wherever you are!

Here’s the sign up: http://www.mobilityondemand.cards/30-days-of-mobility

We’ve got hundreds of people on the challenge, and they are loving it so far! So go get signed up, and forward the link to your friends — everyone could use a little more mobility!

The Importance of a Catch Sheet

One of my most valued characteristics is both a blessing and a curse. I have a creative mind and am constantly coming up with ideas for projects, gadgets, games, apps, solutions, etc.

This is awesome, and I love it, except that it never takes a vacation, including and especially when the time comes around to actually execute on anything. As anyone who has ever tried to build something knows, it’s really hard, and requires a huge investment of time, work, and emotional effort. This is difficult enough on its own, but when ‘focus time’ becomes beset by every shiny cleverness vying for attention, it becomes demoralizing.

In an effort to quiet this noise, I’ve implemented a process using a tool I call the “Catch Sheet”. I’m not sure where that name came from, and there may be some ‘more official’ term, but, whatever.

The process works as follows: Continue reading

Ignite Ticket Swap Postmortem: Ignite 24

Another Ignite Boulder sell-out can only mean one thing: A busy December for Ignite Ticket Swap! If you’ve never heard of Ticket Swap, you can read a bit about it here.

Yule Ball Ticket Swapping by the numbers:

# of people asking for a ticket: 75
# of people who posted extra tickets: 13
# of swaps brokered: 15

I definitely attribute these larger-than-ever numbers to some great marketing help from the Ignite Boulder crew; as soon as tickets sold out, they were sending people my way. This boon didn’t come without challenges, however. Continue reading