I originally wrote this article early in 2016 and at the time, it was pretty thorough. But the times are changing so it seems like now would be a good time to update and reevaluate our strategy for the coming new year.
The first thing I want to point out is that the essential principle behind this strategy still holds true.
Consistency is key.
Marketing your business with Facebook, Twitter, and email is a long-term strategy. You don’t have to always have something groundbreaking to say or share, you just need to consistently be putting your content out there.
That was true in 2016 and 2017, and it will still be true going forward into 2018.
With that said let’s talk about the future.
Just being open for business is not enough
Every business needs customers. As a game store owner, your business lives and dies on the strength of your community and whether or not you can get people through the door and put some butts in your seats. Marketing is how you get the job done.
You know you need to get more traffic. I mean, what’s the point of all those awesome games sitting unplayed on the shelf?
Perhaps when you started, you thought of the old adage “If you build it, they will come.” Maybe that works for ghosts dying to play baseball but that’s not the way the real world works. Best selling author Seth Godin calls that “Hope Marketing”, and that’s a rookie mistake.
So maybe you’ve tried a few things before. Some tweets here and there. A few posts on your Facebook page. Maybe something old school like a radio ad or flyer. You’ve probably noticed that your efforts don’t seem to be moving the needle for your business.
I’m going to show you a simple strategy you can use that won’t require you to throw a pile of money at people who don’t care, and you won’t have to spend hours every day posting on social media either.
Who’s this for?
This strategy will work for you if your game store is brand new or a 20-year veteran. It’s geared towards stores that don’t have a huge marketing budget to promote posts and advertise with, but it can definitely work alongside an aggressive ad plan too. It’s also for those entrepreneurs who want to protect their most precious resource, their time.
Part of the beauty of this strategy is that you front-load the work. You put in the effort at the beginning and then reap the benefits of your hard work for months afterward.
Sounds good? Cool. But first…
What’s wrong with what I’m doing right now?
Slow and steady is the way we’re going to play this. You’re going to set up a basic system that will generate customers for your shop continuously and it will allow you to actually save money doing it. Before we get into the strategy itself though, you need to know why what you’re doing right now isn’t getting you the results you want.
The first thing is old school marketing doesn’t work very well. Well, it doesn’t work for game stores anyways. The reason it doesn’t work is because of a concept known as targeting.
Game stores cater to a very niche set of customers. Unless your particular shop is trying to appeal to the broadest, mainstream market, putting ads in the newspaper or on the radio is a huge waste of money. The average consumer has no idea what Magic is or what the difference between Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder is, let alone the subtle nuances of each genre. You have to get granular and understand who your target customer is.
Identifying your avatar
This “ideal customer” is also known as an avatar. It’s more than a set of demographics, it can also entail beliefs, values, job, education, and most importantly for your purpose, hobbies. It can be as detailed as you want to make it, but understanding your avatar is the first step to building a marketing campaign. After all, you need to know how to talk to your customers if you want them to know, like, trust, and ultimately buy from you.
Take a moment to draw up a rough sketch of your avatar in your head, and now let’s think why something like a radio ad probably isn’t the way you want to go.
It’s obvious, isn’t it? Your average radio listener isn’t going to be your average customer. It won’t match the avatar in your head.
You may see some results from a radio ad campaign, but I guarantee you could get more bang for your buck with better targeting. The best marketing does two things at the same time. It draws in the exact customers you want to your business and repels everyone else. You don’t want to waste money and effort on people who aren’t interested in what you’re selling.
So that’s the first thing killing your results, the second is a common misconception I’ve heard from a lot of game store owners over the past year.
And it’s that a Facebook page is all you really need for your LGS.
And frankly, that’s absurd.
I think that perspective either completely undervalues the power of the internet to grow your business or totally overestimates how much effort it takes to take advantage of it. Both of which are wrong.
Having a Facebook page is the bare minimum, it’s the cost of entry. The trouble with relying solely on your Facebook page to drive traffic for your business is two-fold. First, only roughly a quarter of the people who like your page will see anything you post. Organic reach is at an all-time low on Facebook and unless you want to pay to boost all your posts, it’s not going to do as much as you’d like.
The second is that Facebook owns your traffic and you don’t. They can change their algorithms on a whim, just like Google. It’s much better to have control over your traffic and as you’ll see, that’s all part of the plan.
The Game Plan
Our bulletproof marketing strategy for game stores has four major components. We’re going to dive into each one in turn.
- Your business’s website
- Building your email list
- Facebook (Yes, Facebook is important)
- Content creation
Each piece works in tandem with the others to create a synergy effect, together they are a great way to drive traffic and customers directly to your cash register.
Having a website for your business is the absolute first step. It’s how your customers will find you if they Google game stores in your city, it’s where your going to direct the traffic you get from other sources and turn it into your own, and it’s your HQ. Having your own .com is a sign of social proof that you exist and you mean business.
Only a few short years ago, building a website meant hiring a web designer to do all the work for you. It meant HTML and CSS that was beyond the capabilities of most people to create on their own. Back then, I wouldn’t fault you for skipping this step. But today, in 2016 there is literally no excuse for not having your own business website.
All the barriers have been removed. You can build a great looking website with no tech skills and very little money in about 10 minutes. Seriously.
My personal recommendation is to use a service like Bluehost. It’s the route I took for this site and my experience working with them has been excellent. Compared to other companies, Bluehost makes creating a website very easy. You can get a domain and hosting set up for your site in less than 3 minutes with Bluehost, and with a one click WordPress install you can have your site up and ready to go.
Don’t skip this step. Not having a website in today’s market is ridiculous. Chances are, your customers have looked for you using Google or another search engine. Without a website, all those people who would have ended up as your customers either went to your competitor and just shopped online. Don’t leave money on the table.
If you want your store’s website to be ranked on the first page of Google, and really, why wouldn’t you? Check out the Game Store Owner’s Guide To SEO and Ranking.
I hope at this point you’re convinced you need a website for your game store, but if you’re still on the fence and feel you could use a little help, scroll down to the bottom of this post. Enter your info in the form below and I’ll be happy to send you a quote.
On to the next piece of the puzzle…
When it comes to your marketing strategy, it’s all about your list. The reason we’re going to drive traffic to your website is to build your email list, possibly the most important tool in your marketing arsenal. Capturing your traffic and getting them on your email list is the most effective way to reach your customers directly.
For some reason, virtually every game store I’ve analyzed skips this step. Maybe we’re just a bit of a tech-phobic group, we do prefer table top games to digital ones after all.
Why spend money on ads to send people to your website if you’re just going to let them disappear after they leave. Being at the top of your local search results is great for traffic, but if Google changes its algorithm you’re toast. Ads and SEO, while great, are examples of traffic you don’t own. You don’t control the way customers experience your business.
Having an opt-in form of some kind on your site is critical to capturing a visitor’s email address and turning them into traffic you own. Once you start building your list, you can send traffic to your site or shop on a repeatable basis whenever you want.
You can you use email in a lot of different ways to create a connection with your customer. Some possible examples:
- A newsletter about new games or product you received that week
- Special offers you have in store or online
- Content or articles you think your customers would be interested in
- Progress updates on a project you are working on
- Reminders for events coming up in your store
- Promotions and discounts for email subscribers only
The tools of the email list building trade
Having a customer on your email list allows you too push a button and get people to come to your store and buy from you. You won’t have to spend money on ads constantly to keep the traffic coming.
So how do you go about building a list? I’m glad you asked.
The first step is to sign up for a Mailchimp or Aweber account. Both of these are free and make it easy to manage a list and send emails out. Designing an email is simple with their visual editors so you won’t have to worry about coding anything complicated.
I wrote this section over two years ago, and since then Sumo has grown considerably more useful and user friendly. It has become one of the easiest ways to compete with major players in the space and makes building your email list super simple.
Email is the #1 marketing channel. It has been for over 10 years…
But before you can reap the benefits of email marketing, you need to grow your email list.
In this guide, the people at Sumo show you how to do just that.
Learn EXACTLY how to grow your email list from scratch using 14 super-effective tactics and give you everything you need to hit over 1,000 subscribers in 30 days.
The second step is to create an opt-in form with your email service provider and paste it into your website, preferably the home page and anywhere else that makes sense. Alternatively, you can use a service like SumoMe, a simple app that you can install on any website. SumoMe lets you display boxes that prompt your visitors to join your list. You may have seen them in use on this site. SumoMe is great because it integrates with every major email service provider, it’s easy to install, and the best part, it’s free. They do offer premium features but you can get a lot done without paying anything.
Once you have these two things set up, your email list will organically begin to grow as traffic comes to your site.
As much as I’m sure you would love to hear that social media is unnecessary, that’s not the case. Being active on social media is crucial to building a passionate following and growing your business online. Game stores are built on the strength of their community and being on the various social media platforms is the best way to stay connected with them.
The good news is our approach will make the process very simple. The trouble with using social media effectively is it’s very easy to either:
- Get distracted and waste a boatload of time lost within your news feed.
- Feel like you have to be on and keep up with every platform at once and become overwhelmed, the end result is you do nothing.
Our plan will make it easy because we’re going to focus on just one platform, Facebook, and we’re going to systematize the process. The reason we want to do this is we want to make it easy for you but we also want to develop a habit in order to make it nearly automatic. The easiest way to build a habit is small steps and consistency which is exactly how we’re going to use Facebook.
The first step is to create a page for your LGS. The second step is to create a group for your LGS. Each of which is you can find on the left-hand sidebar of your Facebook profile.
Your Facebook page will be the place where you will share the content you create as well as the rest of your posts.
Your Facebook group will be the place for your local community to discuss and coordinate with each other. Other than promoting your group to your customers and encouraging them to join, the group will be mostly hands off. We want to keep things simple after all. It will be a useful tool for you however because it will give you a better understanding of what your community is talking about and more importantly, want’s to know about.
You won’t have to participate in the group very often but if you feel like jumping in, go for it. The trick is to not feel obligated about it.
Facebook is the force multiplier
The reason we using Facebook as opposed to Twitter or any of the other social media platforms is the 80/20 rule. In virtually everything we do as humans, we get roughly 80% of the results we want from 20% of the activities we do. The 80/20 rule applies almost everywhere.
80% of your business’s revenue comes from 20% of your customers.
80% of your problems come from 20% of your customers.
Chances are, 80% of your happiness comes from only 20% of the things you do.
Facebook is the 20% part of the equation that brings in 80% of the results.
The Facebook system
The bulletproof marketing plan uses Facebook in a very simple way. Our goal is to post twice a day and that’s it. The types of post largely don’t matter that much. You can:
- share relevant links,
- talk about what’s going on in the shop at the moment,
- post a Facebook event promoting an event coming up in your store like Wayne has,
- share content you’ve created on your website,
- post a funny cat video (don’t go nuts with these, you want to keep your posts relevant most of the time)
The key here is consistency. You won’t build a habit of posting if you’re not consistent with it. Another good reason to post multiple times a day is the organic reach on a Facebook page is somewhere around 25% and that number only goes down when you have more likes on your page. So that means, any given post you put up will only appear in the news feed of 1 out of 4 of your followers. Add that to the fact that only a fraction of those people will be online at the time you post and you’re not reaching many followers at all.
By posting multiple times a day, you’re going to take advantage of the law of averages without having to pay Facebook to promote your posts and increase your reach. You will increase your reach and your engagement, which will also naturally increase the number of people who will share and talk about whatever you’re posting. Choose two times during the day, morning, and late afternoon are probably fine and then stick with the schedule.
A great way to simplify the whole process is to batch everything together. Tools like Buffer allow you to schedule your posts well in advance so you don’t have to keep logging in to your social media every few hours. Not only does it integrate with Facebook, it also works with Twitter and many other popular social networks. Pick a day of the week, let’s say Monday, and that day you will schedule your whole week ahead of time.
Since the target is two times a day, on Monday find seven pieces of content; links, videos, articles, whatever you want to share and schedule them each day for the upcoming week at 4 pm. That way you can post at least once a day in the morning with whatever is going on at the moment while also taking advantage of having a reservoir of posts that will go up without any extra effort on your part.
Tell Your Story
If you’re having trouble coming up with content to share with your followers, look for inspiration within your own life.
As humans, we love stories. Our brains are narrative creation machines. We are constantly telling ourselves the story of our own lives.
We crave narratives and look for the story in the events that unfold around us. Especially on social media platforms like Facebook which were originally intended for people to connect to one another.
As a way for us to tell each other the stories of our lives.
So before you start telling your audience why the latest product you got it in is something they should buy, tell them a story about it first. Show them the motivations of your employees, talk about your interactions with the publishers and distributors, use emotion and storytelling to give people a reason to care and tune in.
Stories are extremely powerful. And telling good stories is one of the most powerful ways to sell your products.
If you take away one thing from this post, keep this in mind.
We make purchase decisions emotionally. All of your most loyal customers choose to do business with you because they have connected with you and your business on an emotional level. So ditch the corporate facade and be human, the more authentic you tell your story, the stronger your connection will be with your local community.
You would be surprised how much your customers would love to learn about the day to day operations of their favourite local game store!
The last component of the plan is content creation. Content can mean a lot of things. In this case, we’re talking about:
- Articles like this one
- An infinite variety of combinations of the above
Creating content is an excellent way for you to share and talk about not only what’s important to you but also to your customer. Derium’s CCG’s does this very well with their popular YouTube channel. Your content doesn’t need to be fancy, with some basic computer equipment and a camera Derium’s has built a passionate following online and a successful LGS in real life.
Derium’s CCGs has since moved on to other content. For a great example of a newer game store absolutely killing with their content, check out the Facebook page of Mind Sculpt Games.
Once you’ve done that, give Darcy’s interview on the Manaverse Podcast a listen too.
Create what you know. If board games are your major focus, then create board game reviews. If Magic: the Gathering cards are your core product line then create set reviews or tournament reports. If Games Workshop products are your bread and butter then create battle reports or talk about the new model releases or rules changes. You can even just talk about the reality of running a local game store.
Creating content is a badass strategy for multiple reasons:
- You build a rapport with your customers. They get to know, like, and trust you.
- You can talk about the products you sell without sounding “salesy” or pushy. Your natural enthusiasm for the hobby will help sell the product for you.
- It keeps your website fresh which helps it rank in the search engines. This is very important if you want to be found online instead of your local competitor.
- It creates a conversation between you and your customers.
- It can be a lot of fun.
Content creation can be time-consuming, but content marketing is fast becoming one of the most effective ways to reach new customers and build relationships with them. The good news is unlike posting on Facebook, you only need to create content every once in a while to see results. Every couple of weeks is sufficient.
Pro Tip: Not everyone is a writer or comfortable in front of a microphone. If that’s you, don’t despair. Think about your current customers or employees and see if one of them would be interested in creating content for your site. Store credit can go a long way here.
Putting it all together
Now that you know the four components of the bulletproof marketing strategy for game stores it’s time to figure out how it all works together. Check out the beautiful infographic below.
Your customers and visitors arrive at either your website or your Facebook page. We’re not a hundred percent sure how they got there because they’re traffic we don’t own yet.
When they land on your Facebook page, the engaging posts that you’ve been regularly creating as well as the detailed store info will convince them to check out your website. A certain percentage of these visitors may also just end up visiting your store which is gravy.
Once visitors arrive at your site, the compelling content you’ve been making will draw them in and keep them interested.
Your site will do the hard work and a certain percentage of these visitors will opt in to join your email list. Once on the list, this semi random traffic goes from traffic you don’t control to traffic you own. Now you can create email broadcasts that will drive traffic back to your site if you are selling your products online, or directly to your store. It’s your choice.
The more qualified, interested people you add to your email list the more effective your email campaigns and ultimately, your marketing efforts will be.
And that’s the plan in a nutshell. Facebook advertising and promoting your posts isn’t necessary to see results from this strategy, but when done right, they can be added in to accelerate your store’s growth.
One more thing…
Everything about this strategy comes back to building your email list, but you can’t begin building your list without a solid website first. It’s the first component of the strategy for a reason, it’s the foundation everything else is standing on.
Now I know you’re fully capable of creating an excellent website for your game store yourself but if you want to save some time and hassle, I’ll be happy to send you a quote for implementing the bulletproof marketing strategy for your business. I can build your site, set up your accounts and get you started on the path of growing your traffic and sales. Check out the Services page for more details.
If you want an in-depth look at what it takes to get your website to the top of the rankings in Google, check out A Game Store Owner’s Guide To SEO And Ranking.