There are many aspects to Marketing that don’t apply, or translate well when trying to get the word out about your LARP. Most Marketing information is geared toward the sale of a product, which isn’t exactly what we’re trying to do. Or is it?
Actually it’s very much like selling a product, only in this case you are selling yourself, your game, and your players. Celebrities, movies and theaters do this all the time. You know who Lady GaGa is. You may not like her, or her music but you know who she is and could probably point her out of a group. While Lady GaGa is selling her music, more than that she is selling herself, and not just to you as a listener, but to agencies and talent scouts as well. Without endorsements and agents, she wouldn’t make a whole lot of money.
When approaching the sale of your game, you have to think of it as a product, and the currency being spent is time. Participating in a LARP isn’t something you do once or twice. As a GM or ST of a game you’re looking for people who are interested in playing the game for the long haul. While casual players are welcome and encouraged, you can’t sustain a game on them alone.
I will have a list toward the end that will give you some ideas on where to start your Marketing campaigns and how. But it is vital that you take notice of the rest of the text as well. Getting people to your game is much easier than keeping them there. First impressions are everything, and you need to go in to this assuming you only have one chance to sell your game to a potential player. Make the most of it.
I realize that LARPing or playing RPGs in general is considered nerdy. There is a lot of stigma of residing in basements and living with our moms. While this may be true of a handful of players, it is not generally the norm across the board. Most LARPers are employed and self sufficient people who are capable of participating in society at large. Just recently Jake Rush, Florida Republican was in the news as running for office. He was a LARPer and avid gamer.
When you have a potential new player, treat them as a client or customer. Be polite and respectful. Most importantly do not say negative things about LARPing, even in jest. Remember you are selling a product. Don’t give a consumer reasons to avoid buying.
Address the new player personally. Eye contact and a handshake certainly won’t hurt. Learn their name. Repeat their name to them in your greeting. “Nice to meet you Joyce!” If possible, stand up when greeting them, or have them sit with you. Being on the same approximate level as them helps make the encounter more personal.
They will have questions, most of the time they will not even know where to start. Try having some information prepared ahead of time to share with them. Keep it simple. Don’t delve deeply in to combat mechanics or how to min/max and power game. If you were selling Photoshop you wouldn’t spend time teaching your potential customer how to use the software, you would tell them why they SHOULD use the software. You would highlight all the benefits of using Photoshop. Do the same with your game. Obviously you see benefit in participating in your game, or you wouldn’t still be doing it.
Explain briefly what the world is like, the type of characters, how challenges are resolved (boffer or roshambo etc.). Is your game set in the real world or a fantasy post apocalyptic zombie world? Ideally you want to give a little bit of information on a variety of topics. But always keep it simple! The primary flaw I have found is people giving too much information to a new person.
Have a primary person or group whose job it is to explain the game and assist new players. Make it very clear to your other players that while their information is appreciated, they need to leave first contact to those who are assigned to the job. The more people who crowd a new player to ‘teach’ them, is often very overwhelming and leads to the person feeling uncomfortable and confused. I will say again because it’s so completely important, KEEP IT SIMPLE!
Never forget that we are not in competition with other LARPs or games. LARPers and Gamers in general are a very select group. Do not make the mistake of alienating people by badmouthing another game, or trying to actively take players from another game. In the LARP world it is extremely common for players to participate in multiple games. Don’t make someone feel like they need to defend their hobby or other group of friends to you. Positivity can take you and your game much further than any other form of Marketing.
In your ads you will need to have a way for your potential players to contact you or your staff. Have multiple methods that can be used. Telephone numbers, Email, Facebook, Website, etc.. The more methods you have the better the chances that one of those methods will be comfortable to a potential player.
I don’t recommend putting your personal telephone number, email or game’s email on public spaces for new players. Google Voice allows you to create a free unique telephone number that will ring to any telephone you choose. You can also have it ring to multiple lines at once if you have a team of people assigned to help new players. When selecting a number, try to make it something local, and simple. It will take several tries to find an available number that meets those requirements, but it is worth the extra effort. Gmail will allow you to create a free email address, or group that potential players can use to contact you. Make it simple and easy to remember and be sure you check it often so you don’t leave someone hanging. Professionalism! Always return calls, or emails within 24 hours if possible.
Flyers are a fantastic way to reach new players. There are tons of tutorials and bits of advice for making an effective flyer. I have a found a few things that seem to always work well. Choose an easy to read font. Its tempting to be creative and artsy, but verbiage is not the place to exert your artistic prowess. Keep it simple. (Seeing a trend?)
Have your contact information readily available on the flyer. Ideally if it’s a flyer that will be posted somewhere, you can include all your contact information on easily tearable strips so that potential players can take your information with them. But, have the information available on the flyer itself as well, if all the strips are gone you want people to still have access to contact you.
Also make sure to include your location. Town or city is usually enough. Your product requires a player to travel to you, they will want to know where they will need to travel to. If you play at a club, university or other location that is well known to locals, include that in place of town or city. The more specific you can be without taking up too much space is great.
Limit text to what is necessary. Have a large eye catching title or catch phrase. A very brief bit of information on what you are, Vampire, Mid-evil, or Post-Apocalyptic LARP. If you have an age limit, that is important information to include. If you charge a site fee to players, instead of saying so on your flyer, say something catchy like “Admission free to new players!”. Make it seem like you are offering them a deal. Its more exciting to go in to something with the feeling that you are getting a deal.
Perhaps one of the most important things to keep in mind when creating your flyer is where this flyer is going. You should ideally have multiple flyers. Its more work, but the work will pay off. Keep the populace in mind when making a flyer so it will be sure to entice the people who will see it.
Having a website these days is Marketing 101. However, it can be just as useful to have a Facebook page. Groups on Facebook are a wonderful way to provide information to your existing players, and new players. If you do have a website, do some research and find out what goes in to making a viewer friendly page, and make it mobile friendly as well. Many people have little time for sitting at a PC and will view your information on a cell phone.
An average page viewer has an extremely limited attention span. You will want to give them the pertinent information right off the bat. If they have to dig or scroll for too long they will leave your page and disregard any interest they may have had previously. On your very first page, or landing page, you want to have a ‘Who are we’ section where you give brief information. Keeping it simple! Too much information, a wall of text or blocky unreadable chunks will dissuade a reader. You can go in to more detail on sub pages, once you have their attention, they are more likely to click links.
Proofread! Do not use Marketing material of any kind without ensuring that everything is correct. Mistakes happen, don’t beat yourself over them. Do what you can to keep everything correct and mistakes won’t hurt you nearly as much.
What do you do with those awesome new flyers? You plaster them everywhere!
- Public Libraries often have an advertisement board. They also have clubs and gatherings. Not to mention the large variation of patrons. You might be surprised at the amount of things that happen at your local library. A flyer referring to a specific book series or popular show that goes along the lines of your game is a great eye catching tag line.
- Game Stores seem like an obvious choice. Keep in mind that most people who frequent game stores are in to CCGs and Table Top games. Target them using that, find a way to make your game sound like a natural extension of a card or table top game.
- Universities have extremely diverse groups of people. Check with the social activities or student union office if there is one. Ask if there is an RPG club or a game club of any kind. Usually to post a flyer you have to be a student, sometimes there are exceptions. If you already have a player who is a student, use that avenue to get a few flyers posted.
- Book stores, especially used books, sometimes have a bulletin board. They also have a diverse consumer base. Call around and see if any of the stores in the area will let you post a flyer. Use the same methods as with a Library and liken your game to a popular book series or tv show.
- Having a digital copy of your flyers can also be beneficial. You can use that ad all over the web. Social Marketing has swept through the entire world of Advertising. Its amazing the power a few well placed internet ads can have. It can also be done for free.
- Facebook RPG or LARP enthusiast pages. Ask the moderators if you would be allowed to post an invitation to try out your game.
- Blogs of writters who talk about LARP and RPGs. Ask them if you can write a guest blog on a topic that might interest their readers, or perhaps if they would write a blog about your game. They could do an interview or if they are local actually visit your game.
- Classified Pages are a wonderful place to post your ad. You can include more information in the text portions, but you should still use your targeted flyer for the primary ad. Local news stations and newspapers usually have a free classified section for web users.
- CraigsList might seem like a weird place, but it’s wonderful. Post in their ‘Event’ section for your next game. Toss your flyer in there. In the text section make sure to include the time and dates of your next game. Mention its free to check out.
In all your Marketing craze, don’t neglect your most valuable resource, your current players. Word of mouth is a great draw. Offer your players benefits for bringing new players like free site fee, free weapons or XP. Anything your game is able, be creative. Have some of your players write testimonials or reviews of the game that you can use in your advertising material.
Keep your game fun and your players happy. Happy players generate more players, and more fun for everyone.
Written by Holly Race, Marketing Coordinator – One World by Night