How to Build a Marketing Campaign for your Indie Game

Oct 13, 2019 | Social Media Marketing | 0 comments

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This is a long post! I’d recommend setting aside some time to read it thoroughly and get out a notebook to jot down some notes on the things you want to implement.

I am building a list of indie game marketing campaign ideas and I want to to lay down some fundamentals before diving in to campaign content. In this article I’ll give you the structure of how to prepare, launch, maintain, and track any game marketing campaign. These initial steps will help you track whether or not your efforts are successful, and give you solid data on what will work for your next campaign.

Do an audit

Before you start anything it’s good to do an audit of all of your different digital outlets. This will be your baseline data set that you can compare against as your marketing effort progress. It will also help you determine the best platform for each campaign, and track your most engaged followers.

Start a spreadsheet to track all of your data. Log any of the following data every month to track your growth. Only include it if it is applicable to you. I know a lot of this data is already tracked in the analytics section of each platform – but sometimes it’s nice to have it all in one spot so you can see the clear before, during, and after of the campaign.

  • All social media accounts (Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, Facebook)
    • Number of followers
    • The most popular post you have each month
    • The names & profiles of the top 1-2 engaged engaged members/followers for each platform
  • Game statistics (if game is launched or near launch)
    • Purchases, wishlists, downloads, in-game purchases, follows, revenue
    • Comments, reviews, uninstalls, ratings
  • Funding platforms
    • Revenue from Kickstarter, Patreon, Ko-fi, Merch stores
  • Email list
    • Subscribers, opens, clicks, unsubscribes
  • Website analytics
    • Page views, avg. session duration, user-flow, unique visits

If you can think of any other information that would be useful to track, feel free to leave it in the comments below for others to see.

Determine your goal

You’ll never know if a campaign is successful if you don’t set a goal before you run it. What is it you want to accomplish? What is your definition of success? Here are some examples. They can be big or small goals!

  • Reach 5,000 twitter followers
  • Build email list to 50 subscribers
  • Get 30% more game downloads
  • Get 40 retweets over entire campaign
  • Earn $100 from in-game dlc sales
  • Get noticed by an influencer
  • Sell 1 game
  • Successful kickstarter funding
  • Get 30 new Patrons
  • Sell 30 T-shirts
  • Get game wishlisted 100 times

When setting your goal, make sure it’s reasonable based on where you’re at. Check your baseline data first to see what’s in your radius of ability. Better to set a small goal and achieve it than to set a big goal that you can’t reach. You want small successes to stay motivated because marketing is a continuous (perhaps never ending) iterative process.

Set up your goal tracking

This part is simple but it needs to be said. You want one specific “call to action” for your campaign. For maximum engagement, don’t send people multiple places at once. If you want to build a twitter following, only send people to twitter. if you want to build an email list, only send them to the email list.

Put together whatever you need to in order to funnel users into your one goal. Maybe if you’re working on an e-mail list, have a landing page dedicated to it where you’ll send everyone. If you’re trying to sell T-shirts, link people to the T-shirt page. Again, it’s kind of obvious but can often get overlooked when in the midst of planning a campaign. It’s easy to get lots of new ideas to pull us in different directions. Write them down for later and do your best to stick to one call to action for one specific goal.

Briefly survey the analytics built into whichever platform supports your goal. Make sure everything you are interested in tracking is being tracked. There are a lot of platform integrations out there that I am not going to go into in this post, but chances are that if it’s a digital service, it has an analytics portion. And if it’s a big platform, it will likely integrate with others (IE twitter, facebook, google analytics, mixpanel, mailchimp, if this then that, etc)

Put together a plan

It might be nice to have a little Google Doc outlining your plan. This is where you can keep your goal, mention your baseline data, your hypothesis, your schedule and content. If you like to nerd out about this kind of scientific method, by all means. The more information you track the more helpful it will be for your retrospective. This kind of information shapes the trajectory of not only your marketing, but your game and your company as a whole.

Here are some sections/subsections on how to structure your plan:

  • Goal
  • Campaign dates and duration
  • Platforms
  • Outline of the schedule
  • Content (See below)
  • Retrospective (See below)

Create the content

Next part of your plan is to actually create the content for the campaign. You can do this all in one go before-hand, or you can do ad-hoc/on the fly content posts. Ad-hoc is especially beneficial for those still in the development process, as game updates, features, levels, etc can be shared as they are created. Ad-hoc is also good for longer term marketing campaigns. Or you can create all of your content for each week in one go, and schedule it to post throughout the week. There are lots of options here based on your own scheduling and asset availability.

Here are the main points for creating content for your campaign:

  • Try not to use a “markety” voice. It may take some time to establish your/your businesses tone but you’ll find it and it will suit your genre. [You can check out this post I made on how to figure out your unique genre and brand]
  • Include media with every post, if you can. Gifs, screenshots, videos. You can use Canva (it’s free) to create more generic marketing images, or colourful pictures with text, etc. Super good media tool for marketing. I use Canva to make my blog post cover images and my youtube channel thumbnails, to give you an example.
  • Outline the posting schedule beforehand, even if you plan on doing ad-hoc posts. This will keep your rear in gear and make sure your audience doesn’t get cold.

There are infinite ways to write content/develop the bulk of your game marketing campaign. Look out for my content ideas masterpost coming soon to give you a bit of inspiration if you’re feeling unsure of where to start. [You can subscribe to my game dev friends club mailing list to be notified when that’s available!]

Test it

Now you have to make sure your call to action links are all groovy. Click through it to test the user flow you’re looking for, make sure that everything is being tracked properly. For example, if you’re building a blog post that leads to a mailing list, make sure that the sign up form works, that the user data is stored, and if there is an auto sent email then make sure it gets sent to that user when they sign up. Again, this all goes without saying but I gotta say it. Test your user flows, make sure they are intuitive, and make sure it’s easy for your users to go from your desired A to B to C.

Launch the campaign

Now we’re finally ready to go! Start the campaign and follow your schedule. Respond to inquiries. Talk to people. People are the people who are going to be subscribing/buying/following your thing so get to know them! Show the world that you’re a human being just like them. Relatability is an underrated asset.

Feel free to do some meta-adjustments to your campaign content as you go. You can observe which content pieces get good response and double down on them. Don’t go too far off the rails that you set for this campaign but also don’t be too rigid in your structure.

As the campaign gains momentum, check in on your data. Re-confirm that everything is being logged appropriately. If it’s a long campaign, feel free to record some intermittent data in your spreadsheet (IE if it’s a month long campaign you can track the progress week by week.)

Follow up

Once the campaign wraps up, keep the momentum going with some follow up. Depending on the campaign content, you can let your audience know how it went. For example, a Kickstarter campaign or a game launch date – people who participate will want to know how successful you were.

After that, it’s time to re-integrate. This is especially important if you just launched a new service or game or platform. Re-integrate the call to action for this campaign into your ongoing marketing or media efforts.

Here’s an example:

When I created my free asset pack I had a lot of posts leading up to it, then I launched it, then I followed up. Nowadays I’ll plug in my asset pack a once or twice a month in my social media posts to occasionally drive new people there. It’s beneficial for me because in order to get the asset pack the person has to sign up for my email list. This kind of content is called evergreen content, which means people can always come and enjoy it. That’s how I’ve successfully created, launched, followed up, then re-integrated my asset pack campaign into my ongoing social media posts.

Retrospective

Finally, the scientific method instructs us to look back on our game marketing campaign and determine what worked and what didn’t. This is optional of course, depending how data-driven you are as a person/company. But it’s useful to write some follow up notes on what seemed to work for you and what didn’t. That way, when you make your next game marketing campaign you’ll have a good idea of where to start. Here are some things to check over:

  • Which platform performed the best?
  • Who were your most engaged users?
  • What media generated the most engagements?
  • Was there a narrative/voice that people resonated with most?
  • What are the final numbers?
  • Was it a successful campaign?
  • What would you change next time?

And that’s it! You’re done your campaign. Seems like a lot of work but it’s not that much. I find this stuff really fun. I’ve always appreciated the social aspects of games and game dev so to me this falls under that.

If you treat marketing as a nice way to make friends and meet like-minded people, then it becomes not only fun, but really rewarding. Forming relationships with people will give you so much feedback, information, and course-correction for your continuous marketing efforts. And ultimately, that leads to big success.

More info

I hope this fricking essay of a post was helpful for you. A lot of people have been requesting marketing content so I am happy to oblige. There is lots more to come, including my aforementioned marketing idea masterpost.

If you want to be notified of these upcoming game marketing campaign materials, and further helpful game dev resources, you can sign up for my e-mail list and you’ll be the first to know. In that link is also a link to my discord server, where you’ll also get notified. You choose your preferred platform ?

Thank you so much for being here and for reading and for being in this amazing industry. Together we can build awesome stuff! Remember, the success of one game developer opens the door to the success of many more.

Until next time, much love & happy devving!

— Julia

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