I really, really love the term, “It takes a village.” It’s an African proverb about raising children, but we can also apply it to making something — launching products, games, companies, etc. When kicking off something new, essentially, it really helps to have partners around to give you a hand. There are several ways you can ask for or apply for help, depending of course on what your product is, but let’s look at two in order to keep this post focused:
Co-marketing is great, especially if you don’t have a huge budget to reach out to potential customers, or an existing community. Teaming up with a well-established company that (importantly!) makes sense for your product/game also helps with credibility. If you successfully execute a co-branded release, you can also gain double the awareness from both your end and theirs.
In the case of Rebel Galaxy (a game I helped developer Double Damage market), we got a nice co-marketing deal with Sony by bringing the game to PS. They helped market the game by offering a place at their big trade show, Playstation Expo, and also gave us good ad placement on the storefront, promoted a blog post about the game, and helped push the game on their social media channels. Our existing fans were very PC-heavy: Double Damage founder Erich Schaefer was known for his work on Diablo, co-founder Travis Baldree was known for his work on Fate, and both were known for their work on Torchlight. The partnership with Sony helped us reach an audience that was unaware of the game with great success.
Moving over to the the tech/product side, I definitely worked that avenue when I started at Unity, making sure we did trade shows with established developer partners to give us legitimacy. We were still underdogs, and this also helped save lots money from my small marketing budget.
When teaming up with another company, make sure it makes sense. Don’t just go with whoever throws you a bone; if your product/game doesn’t seem like a good fit, it can easily hurt you in the long run. Also keep in mind that these companies want to team up with you for their own purposes as well, because you have either: a) interesting tech they want to use; b) a good game, brand; or c) interesting, well-known developers on the project. Here are a few ways to utilize co-marketing:
Peripherals: If you’re demoing your game or tech at a trade show, see if you can partner up with a peripheral company to help showcase your game. This helps significnatly lower your cost of either having to bring a ton of keyboards, speakers, headsets, mice, monitors, etc, or buying/renting them for the show.
Newsletters: Some companies have huge newsletter lists with good click rates. You can get your thing placed in these write-ups, and get it in front of lots of eyeballs.
Social Media: See how big their networks are, and how viral their posts get — and of course have them shout about your product or partnership.
Trade Shows: If you can’t afford your own space, perhaps see if there’s a way you can showcase your thing at their booth.
Speaking Engagements: If your game/product has content related to your partners, perhaps they can give someone on your team a speaking spot at their booth, sponsored session, or community event.
Ads: Some companies will even pay for ads to promote their product/tech, and use your game for art or as a case study for an ad.
Promotional placements: Of course, always try to angle for good placement on your partner’s online store, for more visibility.
PR: Ask your partners to send out a press release, or help pitch a co-branding opportunity to the press. This is especially nice if you don’t have your own PR person!
I’ve worked on some deals with games and tech companies in which we got financial help from a partner. In a couple of cases, we got it in the form of, “If you make this game for our platform, we’ll offer up X dollars for you to use in marketing.” If a platform holder is interested in what you’re working on, ask what kind of deal you can get to help get that on their platform — whether it’s in the form of marketing dollars, or money to beef up your team to develop on it.
Demos are a good example of this: Some companies will offer to help make a vertical slice of your game, or show off your tech with their own — either in the form of cash to offset budgets, or engineering help (which, to be honest, is a form of cash in the long run).
Don’t be afraid to ask for the above things when dealing with partnerships. That’s what partners are there for! Most companies have separate co-marketing budgets just for this very thing. If you’re starting out, or if you don’t have a big marketing budget, reach out to your friends in the business who work at bigger companies to see if they can help. Good ways to pitch on why they should help you: either because your game shows of their new tech in ways no one has seen before, or you’ve got user following that they want access to.
Marketing is super important for the survival of products — don’t sit out just because you don’t have the means for it! Find your village.