The Internet has changed the world in a lot of ways. There was a time when, if you wanted to sell something, and you didn’t have a store, your options were limited. Yard sales, flea markets, and want ads. Now anyone who has an idea can turn it into cash almost immediately. The entire chain of retail is has become free, open, and global for anyone with the time and inclination to pursue it. Unfortunately, very few people have much success with it, because the average individual doesn’t realize that finding a way to sell it was never the hard part. The hard part was, and is, getting people to realize it exists, and making them want to buy it. Business types call this marketing, and we’re going toke a look at it. Stick around until the end, and you’ll get to see my own feeble attempts at it, won’t that be fun?
It is sort of ironic that, when utilizing a world spanning data network that makes information instantly available to a wide audience, people have trouble getting the word out. There are a number of reasons for this. The primary one is that, well, EVERYONE is on the Internet. It is a very crowded place. Imagine a mall that is infinitely large and has no directory. Now imagine you opened a shoe store somewhere in the middle. That’s pretty much the Internet experience except, unlike in a mall, people probably aren’t even going to accidentally walk by on their way to the Orange Julius. Thanks to search engines, the Orange Julius (or whatever other store they’re looking for) is right at the front door. That means that it doesn’t matter how flashy your sign or window display is, no one is going to see it unless they know to look for it. In the past you could have just bought some ad space, but a few years of flashing banners, pop-ups, pop-overs, pop-unders, and other irritating ad practices have led people to employ an impressive arsenal of tools to block ads out. Mental screening filters out the rest. That means you now have two goals.
The first is to get people to start spreading the word themselves. People trust their friends and family infinitely more than they trust salespeople, so word of mouth is exceptionally effective and utterly necessary. Get people to talk about your product and it will sell.) (Even if they are talking about how BAD it is. See Deadly Premonition.) It is easy to do this if your product is interesting and unique, but that’s not essential. What IS essential is that the ADVERTISING be interesting and unique. Look at the what Old Spice has achieved. Now look at me. Now back at Old Spice. Now back at me. Sadly, I am not Old Spice. If you come up with an ad that people want to see, they will show it to other people, who will show it to other people, and your product awareness will spread like a disease. Hence “viral video”. Important, though, is that you are straightforward, rather than trying to be sneaky. Sony tried to do this once by secretly hiring a guy to sing a song in worship of the PSP and pretending that it was legitimate. They learned that treating your would be customers like idiots and flat out lying to them, while quite effective in politics, is seldom a good idea in retail.
Okay, so now the word is out. People know where your stuff is, what your stuff is, and how to buy it. All you have to do now is convince them why they SHOULD buy it. I love this part, because so many people try so many different methods. Since this is primarily a gaming site, we’ll focus on attempts in that area. XBox Live Arcade titles were long overlooked by the hardcore gamer. Yes, they were capable of being truly exceptional, but no one expected them to be, so no one bought them. Then came the Summer of Arcade. Microsoft realized, “Hey, if we pick some of the best games in the pipeline and actually let people know how good they are, people might buy them.” That was back in 2008, and Castle Crashers was part of the promo. That game has recently broken the 2 million unique player mark, and I don’t think it has left the top 20 in sales. Now Microsoft is running promotions multiple times a year, with Games for the Holidays just finished and House Party coming up.
“But Decoychunk, I don’t have a multi-billion dollar company to give me a marketing push,” you say. That’s fine, you just have to be a little more creative. I’ve spoken in the past about the “magic price,” the price at which someone will buy something just because it seems like such a good value, or because it is so cheap that it hardly seems like a purchase at all. Finding the magic price will boost your sales incredibly, but since it varies from person to person, nailing it down can be tricky. Enter the Humble Indie Bundle. Here was a situation where a group of indie developers decided, if everyone has their own idea of the magic price, let’s let them pay their OWN magic price. The Bundle, aside from being composed of some really excellent games, could be purchased for whatever you thought it was worth, AND a portion of the price you pay (you set the portion) went to charity! It was a perfect storm of greed, charity, frugality, and impulse. And it worked like a charm. SO well, in fact, that they just ran a second one, and it did even better.
As a matter of fact, Indie folks banding together to have their voice heard is starting to gain a track record of success. For a long time, XBox Live Indie Games were the red headed stepchildren of XBox Live. “If people thought XBLA was crap, what chance has XBLIG got?” As a result they didn’t make any attempt to market the games, at one point moving the marketplace into the Specialty Shops section, rather than the Games section. Finally, the cream of the XBLIG crop had enough and decided to form the Indie Games Uprising, doing their own Summer of Arcade-style promotion. We’ve been covering it, as you should know, and the last installment is forthcoming. So how has it worked out? Well, check this out…
Yep, they managed to get Microsoft to acknowledge them. Good show people. Good show.
Now that we’ve got a firm understanding of marketing, what is my favorite approach? Well, personally, I’m just beginning to dip my toe in the waters of sales, but I had to ask myself, who are some of the most successful salesmen in the world? Drug dealers. They may not be the most scrupulous bunch, but they sure do move a lot of product. This is particularly impressive, since the product they are selling kills you. So when I started looking for ways to sell a couple of books I wrote, I decided it was time to make like a heroin pusher. The first taste is free. Thus, you can find my book right here, free of charge for the foreseeable future. It is a fantasy novel called The Book of Deacon, part one of a trilogy of the same name. If that sounds like something you might like, go ahead and download it. Like most products marketed in this way, it might be bad for you and is (hopefully) potentially addictive, but at look at the bright side, at least my book won’t give you collapsed veins or blood poisoning… probably. Whether or not my marketing strategy will work is anyone’s guess, but on the plus side, it doesn’t cost me a dime, and doesn’t cost YOU a dime, so at the very least, no harm done.
Well, so ends my thinly veiled excuse to advertise my own crap. I look forward to your outrage!