Surprise Marketing Tips for Small Businesses

Friday, March 29, 2019, 6:00 AM | Leave Comment

I got my start in the business world making and selling games. It’s a very specific niche with specific needs, but I quickly learned that many of what applies in game development and marketing also applies elsewhere, whether you’re marketing business eBooks, digital marketing services or a retail company.

Over the years, I’ve spent a fortune on marketing many different games and in that time I have become somewhat of an expert, but to get to that point I spent a lot of money, made a lot of mistakes, and learnt a lot of valuable lessons, including:

  • Twitter is Useless

    An author friend of mine told me to signup to Twitter, insisting that it was a great platform to market my game. “It’s easy to get followers” he insisted, “and no one will stop you if you want to endlessly spam about your game”.

    In the years since, I have learned that while Twitter can be a good idea for big brands looking to engage with their customers, it’s terrible for anyone (authors included) looking to sell a product. There are a few issues with this. Firstly, while it is easy to get followers, it’s only done on a “follow-for-follow” basis.

    None of those followers will pay any attention to what you say, because not only are they probably not your targeted market, but even if they are, it’s unlikely that they’ll see your messages amongst the thousands of other messages posted by the thousands of other people they’re following.

    Secondly, the average Twitter user doesn’t click links and rarely makes a purchase. They are there to read a few jokes, look at some memes, and then leave a message of their own. They don’t care that you made a game, and they’re definitely not going to follow your links and consider purchasing it.

    Finally, Twitter Ads is ineffective. I resorted to this to promote a client’s game and we saw incredibly low conversions. We were paying around $2 per follow, even though many of those followers were very low quality, and in the end, after a spend of over $10,000, we were able to attribute just 8 sales to the platform at $20 a piece. Sure, we got “exposure” and they had a big enough budget not to care, but that brings me to the next issue.

  • Exposure Means Nothing

    I’ve used paid advertising a lot in my life, as a game developer, a marketer, and a consultant. I have seen a lot of big changes in this field, but some things remain the same and one of those constants is the excuse of “exposure”. As a person with a product to sell, the only thing you’re interested in is sales, clicks and engagement, but there are PR companies and ad platforms out there that will try to convince you otherwise.

    They will insist that while they didn’t get you sales, they did get your ad seen and that on some subconscious level, they helped to boost your brand identity, which in turn could improve sales in the future. But unless you’re Coca Cola and you can afford to follow that campaign with many more, dropping millions of dollars a year, none of that exposure is helpful.

    As an example, I once paid a PR firm $3,000 for a campaign that essentially amounted to a full page feature in a glossy magazine. I didn’t see an increase in sales, social media following, or anything else, and when I noted this, they insisted that several thousand people had seen the ad and that “exposure was invaluable”. But how many times do you see ads like that every day, and how many of them do you still remember a minute or two later, let alone days or weeks later?

    We’re bombarded with hundreds of ads a day—if something doesn’t stick immediately and lead us into action, there’s a very slim chance it will lead to anything down the line. Exposure is good for billion dollar companies, but in today’s ad-centric world, it’s an excuse for everyone else.

  • No Two Ads are the Same

    Game trailers are a good way to get your product out there and there are many avenues you can use to ensure they are seen. When I created my first trailer I was told that Facebook was the cheapest and most effective way, and after launching my video on Facebook Ads I was delighted to see tens of thousands of views come in.

    But when I checked the analytics, I noted that very few of those views resulted in website clicks, page likes, or game purchases. And as my spend went from $100 to $5,000, and my views went from the hundreds to the tens of thousands, I still wasn’t seeing the results I expected.

    I then noted that a “view” in the eyes of Facebook is when a user watches the video for 5 seconds, and their idea of “watch” can mean when they are scrolling through their timeline, the video starts, and they continue onwards, completely ignoring it. On the flip side, a view on Youtube really is a view. In fact, if memory serves, it is a 30 second fully engaged view.

    The price difference between these two platforms is not that significant, but the results they generate are. I spent the same on Facebook that I spent on YouTube and used the same trailer. But I saw over 20x as many sales on YouTube and considerably more engagements. Sure, there were no Facebook likes or comments to supplement the sales, but there hadn’t even been that many of those in the first place!

    The final straw for me was when I launched a small campaign for $100 advertising a post with a picture, some text, and a website link. It was well written and engaging, and as a result we recorded over 300 likes/comments/shares. People really did like it, they really were engaging, and it seemed that I had finally cracked the code. But when I checked the analytics, only 12 people had clicked through to the website, and none of them did anything of note.

    This is an issue with Facebook on the whole as opposed to just Facebook Ads, because as with Twitter, people are there to browse, laugh, read and write, not to click links, go off-site, or do anything else that might distract them from their social media bubble.

  • The Old Ways are the Best

    One of the most important lessons I learned in my time is that the old methods can be the most effective, if done properly. Sure, social media pages are okay if you know how to operate them, can squeeze some free publicity out of them and don’t have high expectations, but social media paid advertising is overvalued and overused, and the same goes of many other form of online ads.

    Conversely, TV ads are cheaper than ever. I was shocked when I first contacted a TV network and discovered that a 30 second prime time ad would cost me less than some of my recent (failed) Facebook Ad campaigns. After managing a number of ads for a big budget client, we also discovered that one of the most effective was an advertorial placed in a gaming magazine and a small TV ad on an eSports channel.

    Those placements had been made simply because it seemed like a sensible thing to do and because there was money in the budget for it, but we didn’t really expect them to outperform a major video campaign on social media or a sponsored campaign on a leading viral website.

    Freebies also work better than anything. I know there are people who refuse to give anything away, thinking it devalues their product, but in my experience, one of the cheapest and most effective forms of advertising is to run a major giveaway for a few days. The hype it generates is huge, and you also get a boost in search engines and review sites.

    Of course, you still need to advertise that giveaway, but it’s always easier to advertise something that’s free.

Author BIO

Born to a doctor and an injury attorney, Joseph Moore was pressured to take an academic path in life but quickly opted for a detour, spending his time playing and then making video games, before switching to a more supervisory role.

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