In 2015, I began what would become a two year saga, building my first tabletop game for my business, HGC. In that time, I learned many critical takeaways and had both a slew of defeats and victories. The greatest victory, to me, was ultimately launching a kickstarter that brought in over 1,200 customers in a single month, from over 15 different countries around the world.
To gain that following and base, from a starting point of nothing, was a learning experience and I would love to share some of what I learned.
#1 Start by building credibility: One of the largest barriers that new businesses need to break down is the legitimacy barrier. Is the product/service high quality? Unique? I strongly advocate getting your product/service in front of as many review channels as possible and gathering as much objective feedback as you can. To me, this is a critical step to segwaying into the other steps below.
#2 Get involved with your niche-specific communities: Community involvement is not something that you can game, or just sign up for a Facebook group two weeks before a product launch and expect results. If you genuinely have a passion for your product area, you need to immerse yourself in those communities and share your love for that industry with other enthusiasts. Do this at a minimum of 6 months before you launch anything and DON’T even mention your product for at least the first few months. After that, you can drop an occasional comment to solicit feedback or ask for opinions but treat the community with respect and don’t be salesy. Remember, that in the early stages of a business, YOU are the brand. If there are fights or things turn negative, especially in relation to your product, never get into a lengthy debate. Be kind and brief and turn the conversation elsewhere. Even if you are in the right, people get spooked by brands that they have negative associations with.
#3 Build a story/narrative around your brand: People want to get excited and energized by your brand. Create compelling content that has people coming back for more and anticipating news from the company. A huge step for a new brand is producing relevant and interesting content that speaks to their base. For my business, I stumbled upon a big breakthrough when it came to boosting posts and storytelling. Initially, when I wanted to build a larger following on my FB page, I would use the “Promote my Page”, give a short pitch on why Arkon was unique/great, and then paid anywhere from 60 cents to a dollar per page follow/like. These leads were almost always inactive. Recently, I switched to posting narrative pieces around the lore of my game, just a beautiful picture of a creature or character and then the narrative storyline. These new posts would get hundreds of likes for 1 or 2 cents per engagement, and I could then invite those people to like my page (which they would at usually ~20% conversion).
#4 Build your brand by networking with other players in yours space: One element that really helped our brand develop was to put together a blog, where we did written interviews with some of the biggest players in the game space. Now, to start off, we weren’t able to connect with very many prominent designers, but we built it over time and we didn’t go public with the blog until we had a line-up of notable names. What’s great about written interviews is its a substantially lower time and effort commitment than video interviews and you can send that template to dozens of potential good fits. To improve your chances of a response, make sure you are engaging with and commenting on these influencers social media channels. This is not only to get a response but also because these people are thought leaders in your space! Their insights will very likely help you in your business so it’s a win-win. Then, as you build relationships, you might find that one of the smaller designers you meet knows one of the bigger designers and then connections can be made to get a big feature (which happened for us several times).
#5 Post content relative to your community that isn’t just based on your product/service: You want to make your forums, groups and social media handles the go to place for your customers. To make this happen, you need to think about what type of content your consumers want to read about and then make sure they get that, whether it is a post from you or a re-share or re-tweet from another relevant article. Plus, this is related to fostering good relationships with other companies in your space.