Friday, June 21, 2013

Stay on target.... the importance of a target market

The other day a paid ad showed up on my Facebook news feed.

It was from McDonald's, and it showed a big picture of a burger. The ad was a 2 for 1 quarter pounder promotion.

I chuckled, shook my head, and typed a comment:

"That &$^% is poison. Have fun with that."

And what's funnier is that my post was one of the NICER ones. There were over 1,500 comments. Not sure how many were positive vs negative, but a quick scroll revealed several with a similar message as mine.

Ahem.

On my Facebook profile I have photos of myself and my wife running obstacle course races, jumping over fire, sweating, and having a great time. I 'like' and follow crossfit gyms and competitions, fitness companies, and check out nutrition and workout ideas.

I can't remember the last time I ate fast food of any sort. I am betting it hasn't happened more than once this decade. No lie.

So obviously, someone in charge of their advertising didn't really target very well, did they?

My point is not to pontificate on the merits and joys of fitness and eating right - although it's tempting - my point is that any Facebook or marketing newb should have had no problems realizing I wasn't in their target market.

McDonald's is actually not alone. How often do you hear stuff like this:

This product is for EVERYONE
This product is for ANYONE who likes sci-fi
If you like ice cream, you'll love this

And to make it more personal:

This game is for FAMILIES
This game is for EUROGAMERS
This game is for people who LOVE ZOMBIES

What's wrong with those examples?

They're too broad. That would be like McDonald's targeting an ad and saying, "we want to target people who eat meat." Okay, well, that's a start, but just this little example proves that this type of logic just doesn't work. I eat meat, quite a bit of it, actually. But I have no interest in fast food, and this isn't secret information, either.

Why? What's the big deal?

In the grand scheme, I could care less if McDonald's throws its money away.

However:

1. My Facebook news feed had an inappropriate ad in it. We all know how annoying that type of thing is. Compare this to getting spam, watching a TV ad, or just any other type of marketing noise we deal with on a daily basis. Creating more noise doesn't help anyone, it just makes all consumers angry and irritated. Give me something valuable.

2. McDonald's generated tons of bad comments. I'm pretty sure that didn't make them happy.

3. I have worked with and worked for large, global companies with millions of dollars to throw at marketing. Trust me, it doesn't matter how much money you have - you always have to spend it wisely. Big or small - setting a thousand dollars on fire every day isn't going to provide a positive return on investment. There's no such thing as too big to fail.

How do you target?

Targeting is complicated but easy if you're really listening and take some time to know the market.

You need to know the real reasons people buy and use your product. (And please don't say "because it's the cheapest").

You need to know how they buy and their decision criteria.

And then you have to know what makes these people tick, and be ready to categorize them and put them into buckets of people.

Then you have to make sweeping generalizations about each group, test these generalizations, and hone them down as much as you can.

This method will definitely get you started on the right track.

Now, a couple of things to keep in mind when performing this type of research:

1. People often don't know really why they buy things. It sounds funny, but consumers have been trained by marketing messages their whole lives, and will rattle off the first feature that comes to mind.

2. Just like with anything else, never get stuck in your echo chamber. People who know you and like you may not give you the real scoop because they don't want to give you the wrong answer. Or hurt your feelings. Or, they don't want to look like they don't know the answer.

3. Keep an open mind. One of the biggest drawbacks with someone who has been in an industry for several years is that they often already "know the answer". These folks have a wealth of knowledge, but be careful - these folks are also the first to jump to conclusions and will be skeptical of anything that challenges their "world view". Doing research and learning is shut down quickly by someone who already thinks they have all the answers. We live in a world of change. What you knew 3 years ago is probably obsolete by now, or it will be soon.

Market research is amorphous and involves speculation, guesswork, industry and product knowledge, and intuition.

As you can see, market segmentation and targeting is a big thing. But it's actually one of the things about marketing I enjoy quite a bit, and if done well, it will make the rest of your marketing a lot easier.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Reviewapalooza!

By Erik A. Dewey

It should come as no surprise I love game reviews, both doing them and reading/watching/listening to them. I wrote my first paid review back in 1997 and have been doing a steady stream of it ever since. There are few things more satisfying than discovering a really great game and telling others about it. Occasionally, I get an email from someone who bought a game based on one of my reviews and they thank me for bringing it to their attention. That is a fun email to read.

                When it comes to submitting a game for review, there are definitely some things to be aware of. Each copy of your game costs you money to produce and then shipping it out to someone for review probably will cost more than the game itself. If you are a smaller company, these costs add up quickly, so you want to make sure that first, the reviews happen, and second that they drive customers to purchase your game.

                Here are some recommendations I would make to companies sending out copies of their game for review.

Know the reviewer

                Every reviewer has their preferences, especially about what kind of games they enjoy. This is typically easy to discover, you just need to listen to some of their reviews to get a feel for what they like. Donald Dennis isn’t a huge fan of deck building games. Tom Vasel doesn’t play a lot of wargames. Cyrus from Father Geek isn’t going to review Cards Against Humanity on his website. It costs money to send out review copies, so make sure they go to the people that would enjoy them the most, not just the people with the broadest reach.

                Donald and I can always tell when we are part of a mass mailing looking for interest in reviewing a game. The email reads like they entered in “Board Game Reviewers” in Google and our name came up fourth or fifth on the list. The company has never listened to our show and there is no personalization in their communication with us at all. When we receive those emails, we often decline, after all, if the manufacturer doesn’t want to take the time to know us, should we do the same?

If you have a deadline, let the reviewer know

                When I’m asked to review a game, I always point out that it is neither a guarantee that I will review the game nor a promise as to when it will be reviewed. The main reason for this is there are times when I’m swamped and a to-be reviewed game will sit on the pile for a while as others got there first. That being said, if a company has a timeline for when they would like a review to come out, I can usually accommodate that.

                This is especially true for reviews of games that are about to be Kickstarted. If I know ahead of time that you’d like the episode with the game review to drop while your Kickstarter is running, be sure to let me know.

Make sure your game is ready

                Once you mail that game off for review, you open yourself up to an internet full of criticism. Therefore, you want to make as certain as possible that your game is ready for it. If your rulebook is terrible, the component quality is off, the art is poor, or the game box is lackluster, you better have a great game in there, because these things will all be brought out in the review.

                It will require being honest with yourself and your game. If there is a nagging in the back of your head that your rulebook layout could use some work, think twice about shipping it out without at least a revised PDF version ready.

Don’t argue with a review, but do correct

                Sometimes the reviews don’t go your way. For whatever reason, the reviewer didn’t like the game. When that happens it is painful, but you have to take it as a learning experience. The last thing you want to do is get into an argument, especially a public one, with them about how they’ve missed the merits of the game. All this does is upset everyone.

                That being said, sometimes reviewers miss something or get something wrong. If that is the case, a polite email or comment about what was missed can easily change a bad review into a good one. Truthfully, this isn’t too big of a problem in the board game industry, but it does happen on occasion.

Sometimes no review is kinder than a bad one

                I’ve gotten some games in the mail that were truly awful. They had little to offer, were not fun, or just plain badly done. When this happens, I find I have a choice to make. I could review it on the podcast and have a rare Red Light review to give, or I can just ignore it and say nothing. Many times if the game comes from a small company I just don’t do the review. Instead, I email the company and let them know the issues I had with the game and why I won’t be reviewing it. I do this firstly to make sure I didn’t miss something in the game, but also to give them a chance to fix the game and try again before it becomes branded as a bad game.

                It takes multiple impressions (typically 6 to 7) for something to attract a consumer’s attention. Reviews are one of the best ways to make an impression to a wide audience and should be integral to your game’s marketing plan. Just make sure to give yourself the best chance you can when you send your box of fun out into the wilds.

Erik Dewey is an author, game reviewer, and co-presenter on the popular podcast On Board Games. One of Erik's driving goals is to see families strengthened and have a sense of identity. He is a big proponent of game play to help in these goals. You can visit his piece of the internet at erikdewey.com.