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Community, not customer

29th March 2022 by Frank West0

I recently wrote about finding your voice and the different ways you can present your business to set expectations.

I would now like to flip the dynamic and talk about how we publishers should view the person on the other side.

The customer

Let’s be blunt, we want to make games for a living and to be able to do that we have to sell games.

We have to spend a lot of time thinking about how we can get more customers.

Perhaps through promotions, one-time opportunities, or another marketing opportunity that might convince someone now is the time to buy.

This is standard practise for many businesses, not just board game publishers and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it.

Except… everything?

Crafting your community

I love to sell games and if someone would like to buy one of my games, I’m not going to say no.

At the same time, I don’t want to grab every customer I can, I want to get customers who are going to positively impact my community.

As a quick example, if you could choose one of the following to buy your game, which would it be?

  1. Someone who has seen a promotion and feels like they can get a bargain.
  2. Someone who sees the value in your game and is happy to pay full price.

For me the answer is option B, and not because I’ll make more money!

It’s because I don’t want to fill my community with people who will judge a Kickstarter on how many extra free things they are going to get.

Moderating buying habits

Moderation is often used to remove offensive opinions from a community, to keep a place safe, friendly, and welcome. This is fantastic as gaming should be a safe and inviting place!

I like to expand my moderation into my marketing practises, to moderate the types of people who are likely to click through and make a purchase. This doesn’t mean I’ll say no to someone and stop them buying something, but it means I use the power of information over value.

This type of moderation isn’t about safety or offensive messages, but instead it moderates the reasons behind a person’s buying decision.

The key is to change the goal, it’s no longer about the sale and you’re not trying to make a customer. Instead, you are trying to build a relationship, you’re providing information, being open, honest, and transparent. Your goal is to gain a new member in your community, someone who appreciates the information and can use it to make an informed decision.

This information may encourage them not to buy your current game, but that’s OK! Because we want to make games for a living and having a strong community means you will sell more games in the years to come.

If someone who lacks information buys your game because it was cheap, it greatly increases the chances they won’t enjoy it. This can mean negative posts on Facebook and Twitter, or perhaps a bad review on Board Game Geek or YouTube.

I’d rather have someone in my community buy 3 out of my next 10 games that they really want over someone who buys my next game because they got a free expansion.

The community

I strongly encourage you to think about growing your community rather than getting more customers. If you grow your community through the right methods, then your life is going to be easier.

When you announce a game you’ll see less people asking about price, less discussion on value and stretch goals, and much more interest in mechanisms, theme, and experience.

You’ll find people wanting to help you spread information, they’ll join in and answer questions, even if the game isn’t for them!

I believe a strong positive community provides more guarantees of success in the years to come than anything else. I will always choose to sell 20% less games today if it will help moderate the buying habits of my community and fill it with people interested in games.

It is true a business needs sales, but it’s up to you to set the foundations upon which your business will grow as once they are set, it can be hard to start over.

Frank West

Frank West is a gamer and designer based in Bristol, UK. He published his first board game, The City of Kings, in 2018 and now works on other games and organising events in the local area. His goal? To design and publish games focusing on immersive themes, fun mechanics and beautiful components. If you have any questions or would just like a chat, feel free to get in touch at any time!


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