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8 Indie Dev Marketing Mistakes (with Free Action Guide).

While you’re making your indie game, at some point you’ll need to market it. You’ll also need to decide if you should self publish or partner with a publisher.

This is an important decision you’ll need to make, and approaching it without much thought can really limit your long term success.

What devs don’t realize is when they’re ready to tackle the subject, they have already made several core mistakes. These mistakes can leave them unprepared, overwhelmed and having limited control over their project. It’s not just first-time devs that have this problem either.

Being prepared can mean a lot of things though. How I like to view it is having a holistic mindset that allows you to be open-minded, adaptable and confident in the actions you take.

Developing this mindset is important because without it things can easily become overwhelming and leave you with limited control.

Leveraging marketing strategies or tactics other indie devs use can be helpful, but sometimes they can be anecdotal. Unfortunately, data doesn’t always tell the full story and more often than not, feelings and emotions can preside.

“Everything we hear is an opinion, not fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not truth.”
– Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor and philosopher

More importantly, if strategies are applied without addressing goals or keeping a holistic mindset, they’re often not going to be as effective as they can be.

Like a car that has a problem, you don’t want to just throw parts at it. You want to get to the root cause of the issue and address it.

That’s why identifying these core mistakes is essential. Doing so can help you eliminate frustration, develop a healthy mindset, and gain control while building confidence as you make your game.

Below are the core marketing mistakes some indie devs make during development and how to correct them, allowing you to be prepared to make confident business and marketing decisions.

Some may surprise you.

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1. Not Defining Your Vision or Purpose.

What Devs Do
Focus only on the game and not on their brand.

The Solution
Create a mission script

Knowing your purpose and having a vision is probably the most important thing you need to know. Why this matters is because most devs don’t want to make only one game, yet they represent themselves as they do. Defining what your purpose is provides direction and differentiates you from others. It ultimately shows you’re serious, motivated and passionate about your brand and you plan to stick around for more than one game.

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision”
– Helen Keller, A deaf-blind American author, activist, and lecturer.

Outside of providing you with a direction and positioning your brand, a mission script can also help instill confidence in others such as team members and prospective partners or publishers. If others see you care about your purpose and can clearly define it, you will have an impact on them.

All of this aside, there’s something that drives you to create. Don’t fool yourself in thinking that defining your purpose isn’t important. If you’re devoting so much time to make your game…then it’s important.

Photo by Christina Morillo from Pexels

2. Not Having a Marketing Plan.

What Devs Do
Focus on marketing when the game is finished.

The Solution
Create a marketing plan.

You know at some point you’ll be marketing your game, so it would make sense to have a marketing plan. Unfortunately, this isn’t something that is prioritized. Sometimes it’s forgotten about completely.

Having an indie game marketing plan provides you with significantly more clarity and direction. It can help you set goals and plan campaigns that can provide valuable insight. Being able to outline things such as market research, number of units needed to recoup costs, localization plans, and more allows you to be that much more prepared.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
– Benjamin Franklin

A marketing plan can help you develop strategies to identify mechanisms to create predictable results. You may not be able to do everything in your plan, but whatever it entails, just be aware of it. As long as you don’t wait too long before launch to create your plan, you can take advantage of a thought out community development strategy or other great opportunities.

3. Not Knowing Your Audience.

What Devs Do
Target an audience based on genres or relative game titles alone.

What’s the solution?
Research and get to know your audience more.

It makes sense that you’ll want to target people based on popular games they already like. However, the reality is people are made up of much more than the games they like. Demographics can provide greater insight, but that information only scratches the surface.

“Doing market research mitigates the risk that’s often associated with indie game development and allows you to identify the needs of your audience – so that you can deliver the kickass game that they crave.”
 – Damien Yoccoz, Level Up Translation

Researching and understanding more about your audience can provide countless opportunities to connect with them. More importantly, it shows you care about them. There are lots of ways to do this, from using tools like Google Analytics to creating player personas based on their lifestyle and player types.

Bartle's Type Diagram

Courtesy of interaction-design.org

Once you start learning more about your audience’s interests and behaviors, you’ll know how to better engage with them. The process can take some work but once you get into your audience’s head, you’ll have a much easier time understanding and interacting with them.

4. Not Building a Community.

What Devs Do
Don’t know where to start or are too passive.

The Solution
Build and keep your community’s attention.

Building your community is essential on so many levels, and starting to build one later in game development is a huge missed opportunity. The main concern people have is not having something to show for their game, so they don’t start building their community until they do.

A good way to determine when to start is once you have media assets available to share. Assets could be screenshots, music, concept art, trailers, or even videos of you making the game. Once assets are available, you can select a few of those assets as incentives for people to sign up.

“You can never go wrong by investing in communities and the human beings within them.”
– Pam Moore, CEO of Marketing Nutz

With your list, you also want to make sure you keep them engaged. Mini updates with your progress and other content they can’t get outside of the community is a great way to do this. Last but not least, make sure you leverage awareness strategies to keep it growing.

Photo from Pexels

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5. Not Trying New Things.

What Devs Do
Stick with what they know or are comfortable with

The Solution
Be open-minded and willing to experiment and fail.

We can all get comfortable with what we do, and sometimes making a change can be a hard challenge. Fear of failure plays a big part in this and the thought of it can be overwhelming and limiting. The only way to overcome this is to experiment with new things and embrace failure.

“If you take a risk and it doesn’t go as planned, welcome to the club.”
– Fran Hauser, Startup Investor, Advisor, & Author

Game jams or taking on side development projects are a great way to tackle this head-on. For marketing, thinking of ways to stand out and observing what others aren’t doing can really teach valuable lessons. You will fail at trying new things, but if they work, they can be very rewarding and possibly repeatable. Regardless of the outcome, you’re gaining valuable first-hand experience that no online course or article can provide.

Trying new things, even if it’s just relating to marketing will get you out of your comfort zone. And the more you’re used to failing at new things, you’ll learn more and gain more confidence. Those two attributes alone are going to help you gain further insight into your marketing efforts, business, and most importantly, you as an individual.

 

6. Not Saying “No” to Things.

What Devs Do
Handle anything and everything, especially in a small team.

The Solution
Be more focused by learning on what things to say no to.

This is a tough one to overcome because when you’re making a game, there are a lot of things you’re saying yes to. The reason why saying “no” is important is it can help you become more focused by maximizing your time and being more productive.

“If you want more time, freedom, and energy, start saying no.”
– Anonymous

While it’s important to have different marketing strategies and to try new things, you also don’t want to overwhelm yourself. That’s why knowing what to say “no” to is just as important as what you say “yes” to.

There’s always going to be moments where you have to do a lot, so learning how to say “no” is going to help you prioritize tasks, and reach your goal while maintaining progress.

Photo by Lukas from Pexels

7. Not Being Involved.

What Devs Do
Have a limited understanding of marketing or bottom-line numbers.

The Solution
Know what you don’t know

Sometimes, knowing what you don’t know can make all the difference in determining what you need to help reach goals and objectives. However, just because you need to focus your attention elsewhere, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be involved. You don’t need to be an expert, but you need to be involved to a point where you can collaborate and make effective decisions. Not taking the initiative to understand what marketing requires can break down communication and make reaching goals a challenge. The more people that are on the same page, the easier everyone can do their job.

“Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.”
– David Packard, co-founder of HP

Likewise, knowing bottom-line numbers like resources your game requires is essential. Determining how much time and money the project costs can present opportunities that establish systems and processes to be more efficient. Doing so can also increase your profit margin.

Being involved and knowing what you don’t know is another way to be prepared. When working with team members or partners, they can be assured that you have developed processes and a clear understanding of situations that promote effective communication.

 

8. Not Letting Go.

What Devs Do
Wanting to take as much control of things as possible.

The Solution
Delegate your responsibility so you can focus on what matters.

It’s completely normal to want to keep control of what you created. After all, this game is like your baby. Despite this, there are going to be times that you have to let go and delegate some of that responsibility if you want to continue to grow.

“You don’t need strength to let go of something. What you really need is understanding.
– Guy Finley, American writer

Letting go isn’t easy, but learning how to do so helps you establish trust and the ability to focus on tasks that demand your attention the most. This is also why learning to say “no” and being involved is important because it makes the transition of letting go much easier.

As you grow your community, increase your marketing efforts and release your game, delegating responsibility is just part of the process.

Whether you decide to self publish or work with a publisher, correcting these areas will allow will help you adapt, be prepared and help you make key decisions you’re business needs when you release your game.

 

Correct These Marketing Mistakes with The Action Guide

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Moving Foward and Setting Your Foundation.

Following these core concepts and applying them to your studio will take time, but taking action and starting now is the only way to lay the foundation for your future success.

Whether you decide to self publish or work with a publisher, correcting these areas will allow will help you adapt, be prepared and help you make key decisions you’re business needs when you release your game.

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