I will continue to tell anyone who will listen that Jim Collins’ Good to Great is the best business book I’ve ever read. Or, at least I will until I read something better. And in that wonderful tome, Collins’ presents a mantra: good is the enemy of great. His meaning: by being content with simply eeking along (being good), you will never take the steps necessary to be great. I totally agree with him, but I think there’s a corollary: perfection is the enemy of productivity.
Tips for Indies
This week’s post…is hosted elsewhere. I wrote a guest post for my new friends at Black Shell Media. The post, “If You Want to Lead, Know Your Values”, is about a topic near and dear to my heart. Values matter to any organization, no matter the size. They matter from a company culture standpoint, certainly. But they also matter operationally and strategically. The most successful companies in the world have well-defined corporate values. But what are their values and, more importantly, how should you pick your own? Click this link to read on!
If you’re both the entrepreneurial type and the game developer type, then Tom Ketola is your guy. Tom and I were brothers-in-arms at Wideload Games, where we shared a love of profanity, terrible fashion sense, and a complete disregard for status quos. Tom’s career includes stints at Activision, Jaleco, Konami, and Midway. And that’s just his career in the games industry. He’s also been involved in a number of start-ups, and seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of contracts. After reading my post about conversations for studio co-founders, Tom had a, shall we say, voluminous round of comments on the nuances of shares, acceleration, and vesting. Rather than abandoning me to badly interpret his thoughts, he took pity and offered to share his experience with all of you. I leave you in his capable, knowing, manly hands. Enjoy!
In the corporate world, as a general rule, marketers and brand managers do not get involved in the creative aspects of advertising. Their job is to determine the strategy behind an ad campaign and then let the professional creatives do their thing. The job of the brand manager is to ensure that the ads are on strategy, but to leave the actual creation to the pros. Of course, as game developers, we are the creative pros. So that guiding principle just doesn’t sit right with me in the context of game development. Besides, I’d guess many or most indie studios probably can’t afford to hire professional creative agencies or trailer makers. So, to make the best use of the post, I’m going to walk through some of the important concepts behind ad creation. I’ll leave the decision as to who will craft the ad to you.
Everyone knows what advertisements are and why they are necessary to drive awareness. But making an effective ad is not as simple as just slapping some captured video into a YouTube upload and calling it a day. Your target audience is bombarded by ads all day, every-day. Your conscious mind spends much of its life practically bathing in them. So crafting a successful ad means assembling something that can cut through all of the noise and provide information that will stick. And the first step is determining a strategy for your ads.
Marketing has the same basic premise as football, judo, and hacking: find the opening and exploit it. In terms of your competition, the opening is known in marketing as the “white space”: the area of the canvas without any color. How does one identify the white space? With a simple exercise called, appropriately enough, a white space analysis.
Perception is reality, as the saying goes. Market positioning is the act of managing consumer perception of a product. This doesn’t mean misleading people or bending the facts. It means establishing and controlling the context in which you want your customers to consider your product. And effective positioning can make a world of difference between standing out from or getting lost in the crowd.
Once you’ve drilled down into your target segment and tested some of your assumptions, you now need to quantify whether that segment can be profitable. If you work for a major publisher, you have access to a professional marketing department that does this sort of thing for a living. But if you don’t, you’re not out of luck. You have an amazing tool at your disposal for free: Facebook.
Henry Ford once famously said “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” More recently, Steve Jobs said “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” What these quotes are really getting at is the danger of interview-driven design. If you ask people what they want, they’ll just say “faster, better, cheaper.” And creating new products is YOUR job, not your customers’. It’s unreasonable to expect customers to tell you what products to make. Imagining completely new products is not their in their skillset.
Once you have identified a target segment, your next step is to learn as much about that segment as you can. But how do you even know where to look? The first step is to imagine a person who embodies that segment, in the form of a buyer persona.