Some thoughts on finding potential, future customers.
If you're selling something, you have a sales pipeline. This pipeline is a metaphoric representation of the stages your customers go through up to the point at which they make the decision to buy. It's a commonly used metaphor as it's easy to understand and measure. Pour something (potentials) in one end (funnel), plug as many leaks as possible (eliminate friction), and see what comes out the other end (conversions). But we so often neglect this process choosing instead to focus on the fun bit that is the end product.
When you focus solely on your product and ignore the pipeline, you're severely limiting your chances of success. Subconsciously hoping you can turn on the tap at launch and expect conversions to come magically pouring out. Sadly, the best product in the world won't be a success if nobody knows about it and whether you're a struggling indie or a well funded AAA, it pays to consider where your audience is coming from.
Consider the following typical pipeline, give some thought as to how each step might apply to your customers:
- OMFGWOW this is amazing!
Your "funnel" is the first part of your sales pipeline (awareness). As with any pipeline, the more you put in, the more you'll get out. I'll write about each of these steps at some point but for now, I want to focus on the funnel and some actions you might take to increase your volume of input.
Networking is an extremely effective way to add some really strong connections to your funnel. What networking can lack in volume (there's only so many people you can physically meet), in my experience it more than makes up for in quality. Once you have met someone you have a real-world connection with them, a face to recognise and the opportunity to impress upon them your personality and the best representation of your project. It's important to have a good strategy for networking, always have some business cards on you and always record who you meet and where.
Maintaining a contact list is a great way to measure the effectiveness of your networking. Record each person you meet along with their contact details, where you met them and any notes that will help you remember who they are.
These days, social media IS the web for a lot of people. We carry it around with us in our pockets and crave the dopamine hits we get from RTs, favs, upvotes and Likes. Using social media can be a very effective way to increase the size of your audience. The beauty of social platforms like Twitter and Reddit is that you can curate a targeted audience that suits you and your project. It's not as easy as signing up and spamming a few posts out there, but again a simple social media strategy and the investment of time can work wonders.
Social media tools are packed with stats. We love vanity metrics so keep an eye on your follower count, but also look a little deeper at your engagement, content velocity and which of your posts are most popular to help shape your future efforts.
Writing a blog of your project can be helpful beyond building an audience. It's a great way to keep a record of your progress and note any useful material and learning for future reference. But it can certainly help with growing an audience too. It gives you good fodder for your social media activity and will generate organic search traffic. You will likely need some form of web presence for your project anyway so setting up a news/blog mechanic for it is a sensible addition. With appropriate analytics, you can get a useful measure of your current reach and you could add a newsletter sign up which will give you a direct channel to communicating with that audience when the time is right. Another benefit is that you can gain early insight into popular themes and topics that your audience responds well to.
Be sure to make use of some form of analytics on your website/blog. Page views is a simple enough measure but also look at things such as bounce rates and keep an eye on your most popular content.
Probably the oldest trick in the book for building an audience but certainly not something to be overlooked. There are many viable options for advertising, even for the smallest of businesses. Platforms such as Google and Facebook Ads have very low barriers to entry, can be dabbled with for very low cost and offer extremely specific targeting options (what privacy?). Whilst advertising offers the opportunity to reach huge numbers, it can also be very effective for experimenting. Trialling different content with different audiences can reveal a lot of useful behaviour information to test your assumptions and glean insight. Content advertising on Google ads coupled with website analytics can reveal things such as search terms and subsequent visitor behaviour offers insight as to the relevance and interest of your content.
Whilst not viable for all, traditional advertising is still highly relevant for building an audience. You only have to look at the correlation between the ads we see on TV, billboards, in mass media publications etc and the top selling games to realise there is still a large dependency. These platforms might not be accessible to many but even if not, you can still learn from the behaviours of the AAA publishers making use of them. How do they position their products, what is their approach to copy, how do they communicate their proposition and so on.
Online advertising offers extremely granular tools to monitor effectiveness so be sure to be familiarise yourself with them. Traditional advertising is less accurate so it's advised to keep track of which campaigns are running when and correlate this to fluctuations in other measures such as website analytics and social engagement.
Video and live streaming have become hugely popular in the past few years. The biggest online video personalities have become celebrities in their own right with strong influence over vast audiences. Leveraging video platforms such as YouTube and Twitch can offer a new audience and opportunities for interaction. The tooling for producing your own content is readily available and easy to use or you can try to leverage others' existing channels to feature you or your project. Producing video content isn't for everyone and takes time and discipline to become proficient and find your personality "fit" but can yield significant reward. The number of online video channels is growing exponentially, so there is likely to be a good fit for every level of coverage, whether that's with a popular celebrity or niche specialist with a limited but targeted audience.
The availability of faster, more ubiquitous Internet to the home and on mobile means more opportunities for video moments as is being embraced by social platforms such as Snapchat and Facebook Live. These are comparatively new opportunities that still offer lots of potential to find your audience.
Again, the nature of the platforms offer accurate measures to monitor effectiveness. Subs, Views and likes are great indicators of performance but as with everything, don't sacrifice quality and relevance in exchange for volume.
Giving it a go
These are only a handful of options for finding your audience and not all approaches will suit all people. The important takeaways from this are:
- Be mindful (and realistic) about the size of your current audience. Don't wait until you've launched to find out.
- Try. Experiment with the above and see what works for you.
- Measure, measure and measure. You will only know the effectiveness of your efforts if you can convert them into meaningful data.
Have other ideas? Got questions? Let me know on Twitter: @dannyt
- Finding your feet in social media
- If you build it, they won't come
- My guide to networking
- Think of your eyeballs
- Sales and marketing