I was at the airport yesterday, with an hour or so available plus another hour for the flight back to Oakland. I decided to pick up a business book. These are almost universally disappointing, with only a couple that have made real impressions on me (E-Myth, 4-Hour Work Week). My options came down to the ethereal and the practical. The ethereal book was by Peter Drucker and discussed how my innovative business could survive in a post-capitalist world. The practical book was called Alpha Dogs, how a handful of small businesses thought differently to achieve success. My brain likes the Drucker type books while the practical books have instant application. It's like the difference between learning how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and learning the theory of why the body prefers protein derived from nuts and simple sugars. Of course you want to read the second book, but what value does it have?
Alpha Dogs turns out to be written by an Inc. Magazine writer. It's basically a really good article stretched out into a book. It's no E-Myth, but it had some interesting ideas. The one that had me thinking non-stop since reading it was about marketing. Marketing is a large expense for a small business. It's an expense that's self-imposed and as the business grows, the expense grows with it. The general consensus is that it should be about 3% of gross income, so for most game stores it's somewhere between $7,000-14,000 each year. Well, actually, most game stores don't do any advertising, but that's another post about business competency. For my business, we're approaching the top end of that range and honestly, there is very little perceived return on investment. We primarily do yellow pages ads and commercials on local cable, both of which we've done for the last three years. Everyone knows advertising is important, everybody does it, but very few people feel like they're getting their moneys worth. Sometimes I look at that number and think, how much better off would I be if I just put that money in my pocket?
You can't dump marketing, but you can change the focus. One company in Alpha Dogs only did cause-based advertising. You might focus on charity events, well publicized donations to non-profits, or other "indirect" marketing efforts that don't involve ads and commercials. One company turned inward. Imagine if we spend all that money on our existing customers, providing free snacks during organized play, generous prize support, or even a free coffee bar. The theory for both of these approaches is you create a situation where word of mouth does the actual advertising for you, while spending money on those who support you. My advertising contracts are up in October, so I have some time to think more about this.
I would think that a combination of word of mouth (i.e. prizes and other giveaways for events) and targeting school auctions to get new gamers (or their parents) would be best. I have never seen the commercials since we have Comcast but I tend to tune out commercials as noise anyway.ReplyDelete
What do you advertise your commercials on? I guess, not cable, right?ReplyDelete
Comcast and Astound.ReplyDelete
I have never seen one. I live in Oakley.ReplyDelete
saw one ad back in 2005, very late at night.ReplyDelete
Just to continue the informal survey, the only time I ever saw your television ad was when it was linked to your site.ReplyDelete
Television was an awesome medium for advertising back when there was three networks and a dozen channels. I question its worth for the average local business in today's environment, but it's hard to say what to replace it with.
The best way to reach me today with advertising is a properly targeted google ad.
The best ways to reach the muggles are probably your yellow page ad and radio.
I think radio would be a bit of a waste. A good web presence and then figuring out a way to reach kids and their parents to try and grow the hobby is the best bet. The avid gamers in the area already know Gary and he reaches them through Paladin club card mailings.ReplyDelete
I've tried radio and it worked poorly, as did movie theater slide ads.ReplyDelete
How about making donations to local independent radio stations (90.5 the edge in your area for example) as doing so often results in a free radio ad thanking the donating business. I believe the amount you donate can be very low and in most cases the target audiance is your main demographic - college and HS range. Something to consider.ReplyDelete
I think you need to decide wWmain target of the ads? Your core demographic may best be served by the kind of "alternative" methods discussed in the book combined with a few carefully targeted traditional ads.ReplyDelete
Reaching the muggles is the tricky bit, and I don't know how much it's worth to target them beyond the yellow pages ad.
Wow, the first line of my last post is really screwed up. I'm not sure if that was my fault or Blogger's, but barring proof to the contrary, I'm blaming Blogger! ;-)ReplyDelete
It should have said "Who is the main target of your ads?"
I believe that you should spend most of your marketing dollars on the following three areas:ReplyDelete
1)Making your store the damnedest bestest most shweetest store in a 100 mile radius. You've got strong competition in that dept from Endgame, but pretty much no other.
2)The Web - you are doing good there. You may want to pay a slight pittance so that if someone types in D&D and Concord CA at teh same time, you get popped up. But that might happen naturally anyway.
3)Direct consumer marketing to your mailing list. With offers - good offers. It's no joke that it's 80% easier to get your already existing customers to spend more with you than it is to get new customers. Hand in hand with this, just about every person in your store should sign up for your Paladin club. And then you can send out even more targeted mailings to different segments based on sales - which you would pull out of your POS. Send GW mailings to your GW customers. MTG Mailings to your MTG customers.