There are only so many hours in a week, but I often find myself cramming more than seems possible into my schedule. In addition to being a work from home mom with a spirited four-year-old son, I also run a small game design company focusing on role-playing games for children. We are right in the middle of peak convention season, which means my weekends are full of running demos, pitching our product and gearing our audience up for a huge crowdfunding campaign. The similarities between manning my booth at comic convention and creating content for my clients has not escaped me. Keep reading for eight marketing takeaways from my weekend events.
Marketing Lessons From Comic Conventions
Have Your Pitch Down
You can know everything there is to know about what you’re selling, but if you can’t make it sound good to other people you won’t get very far. Take some time to sit down and figure out the highlights that you have to hit during every first impression. Then decide what you can include and expand on once you have a customer who’s interested to know more. Once you write them down, you have your talking points!
Just like stumbling over yourself and including lots of “er’s” and “um’s” can be a distraction or turnoff when someone is talking to you, poor writing can turn someone away from a genuinely interesting piece. Make sure anything you write as part of your marketing strategy (newsletters, blog posts, press releases) has been thoroughly reviewed both for spelling and grammatical errors as well as making sure your thoughts and ideas flow smoothly into each other and across the page.
Want a refresher on how to proofread effectively? Here are a few helpful tips:
- Read it out loud. Actually saying the words out loud can help you catch typos and hear the overall flow of your content.
- Come back with fresh eyes. After you’re done writing, take a break. Then, about 30 minutes later, pull it back up and read through it again with a fresh perspective.
- Print out a hard copy. Sometimes looking at the words on a physical page (rather than a computer screen) can help you notice mistakes. Of course, I always recommend using scrap paper to save the trees!
- Read it backwards. Starting at the end and working your way to the top makes you slow down and really look at the piece word by word.
- Ask a friend. If you have a trusted friend or colleague, ask them to take a look and offer their advice! They may have an idea you hadn’t considered that will make your content that much stronger.
Make Sure Everything Is Organized
When I’m running demos of my game, I need to make sure everything runs as smoothly as possible so that I don’t interrupt the flow by shuffling through papers or digging around for a business card. It took a few tries, but I finally found a way to set up the table so everything is exactly where I need it, when I need it, and there are no awkward gaps or pauses in my presentation.
Likewise, when approaching a marketing strategy, it’s important to test multiple ideas to find out which works best. Try posting content at different times of day or play around with the different sections you feature in your newsletter. Then, once you find something that works best for you, stick with it! The consistency will make your personal workflow easier and is the first step towards building a trusting long-term relationship with your customers.
A comic or board game convention tends to be an overwhelming carnival of sights, sounds and, yes, smells. It can be easy to get distracted, and passively sitting behind my table means my product is easy to overlook in favor of the next flashy thing. In order to get noticed and generate traffic, I have to put myself out there constantly!
As a company, it doesn’t matter how great your marketing message is – no one will be falling into your lap to hear it. Instead, leave room in your budget for advertising and make time to engage with individuals on social media. Research the times when social media platforms are the busiest and keep an eye on relevant trending hashtags that could help you jump into a conversation with thousands of others. Post content that encourages the people who come across it to interact with it, and you! Quizzes, surveys and questions that ask a reader for their input are a great way to strike up online conversation and build a relationship with your audience.
Give Them A Reason To Stay Engaged
The saying “out of sight, out of mind” applies to more than forgetting where you set your keys down. At a convention, it doesn’t matter how well I’ve sold myself if my intended target leaves the table without something to remember me by! Maybe I’ve managed to sell something, but it could also be something as simple as handing them a business card or getting their name and address on my mailing list. If I can come up with any way to stick in their brain after they’ve walked away, the chances of them coming back for more information are much higher than if I had simply sent them away with a smile and a wave.
Your marketing strategy should always leave your audience with something to think about that will keep their mind on your product or service. It can be an upcoming or ongoing promotion or contest, or a teaser post about new products or services that will be available in the near future. Depending on your e-mail marketing service you may be able to pre-build a series of e-mails that not only welcome a new individual and thank them for signing up, but automatically send follow-up e-mails over the next days and weeks to keep your company at the top of their mind. Make sure you keep up on your social media plan as well. If you let it languish, the platform algorithms may begin to filter your posts out of your followers’ sight – and out of their minds.
Learn To Be Flexible
Your product might not be for everyone – but it could be for someone they know! It’s a great idea to have several approaches to marketing yourself to fit different audiences. My game is for kids, but that doesn’t stop me from talking to adults without children and helping them to see how it still has a place on their shelf, or on the shelf of a niece, nephew, cousin, family friend, local library, middle school classroom, and beyond. All great products have more than one application, but it’s up to you to find them and their audience.
Help Your Audience To See Your Value
It can be frustrating, but don’t ever give up on someone who needs a little extra time to wrap their head around an idea. Promoting an idea that is new or innovative can take some extra explanation. In the same way that it’s important to find multiple applications for your product, it’s equally important to be able to approach a single application from multiple directions. Once the lightbulb goes on, your audience will notice that you took the extra time to work with them and feel appreciated as more than just another customer.
Know Your Competitors
One of the most common questions I get when promoting my game at conventions is, “Well, how does it compare to (other game for kids)?” The first few times I’ll admit I wasn’t prepared to answer, and as a result I lost a fair number of potential customers who had already purchased or were leaning towards a different product. These days, I’m fully prepared to answer questions and offer examples of why and how my own product differs.
Researching your competitors not only makes you sound better informed about your own product, but it also gives you a chance to see what else is out there. The better you know your direct competition, the better you can emphasize your own strengths and why you are the right choice for your audience. It may also give you insights into what products or services are missing from the market and help you to find a niche that was waiting to be filled.
Never Stop Learning
When I have some rare downtime at a convention, one of my favorite things to do is make the rounds and see the other exhibitors. I love to see the way they have their displays set up, what (if any) freebies they have to give to passers-by and the prices they set for their product. Other vendors are always excited to talk about their experience as well, and happy to give advice or talk about problems that they have overcome. I have used all this feedback to adjust my own practices, and to learn what works best for myself.
Just like marketing, there is always something new to learn. New technologies are emerging constantly, and best practices on your current platforms can evolve over time. Even if your current marketing plan is performing well, it’s a good idea to reevaluate from time to time and see if it could be doing better.
Have you been to a trade show and seen some of these first hand? Or maybe you’ve learned a few lessons of your own? Let me know! I would love to hear your experiences.