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What I learned so far in TTRPG Marketing

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Marketing is a highly complex topic. However I quickly learned that it is a key differentiator to achieve financial success in the TTRPG business. So even though I wasn’t too fond with the topic, I started to learn tricks here and there. I’d like to share some of these with you. I’ll do so explaining the topic from my experience and perspective. 

Why Marketing?

The first and basic premise of all is providing quality service, content or products. However, that alone isn’t enough as people need to know about all the greatness you offer. If you’re good at marketing but you offer bad quality stuff, your marketing won’t be effective. If you provide great stuff but you’re bad at marketing, you could potentially struggle to spread the word about you. So you need the basic, in addition to marketing.

The good news is that you can do many things without needing a Bachelor degree or without needing to invest that many hours on the topic. While the latter wouldn’t be a bad idea, we often struggle to find time to do so when we’re so busy producing. 

Where Do I Market

To avoid being too lengthy, I’ll only comment on my current marketing strategies. Before I do so, let me set up a quick context. With these strategies, I’ve managed to achieve a few things thus far in 18 months of publishing:
  • I have 20 book original products, 80% (very close to 85%) are Best-Sellers
  • I have 10 Encounter products, all Best-Sellers. All but one have reached the Top 10 of any of the Most Popular Banners
  • All my products under $ 5, but one, have reached the #1 position of the Most Popular Under $ 5 Banner
  • My latest release reached Copper in 3 days 
Ok now let’s go.
Twitter

I joined Twitter in February 2020 and built my main audience there. I’m at 1500 followers. I struggle finding time to interact there and hence I’m not growing too much. I usually schedule tweets about my catalog and other stuff. Truth be told, in terms of business, the platform is not the greatest. I’ve seen it countless times: highly engaged tweets about a product, but such tweets barely generate any action or sale. Even when D&D official Twitter accounts tweets about a DMsGuild product, it brings very little actual results. I know this because I have contact with many content creators and I’ve asked them about the impact D&D tweet had.

Still, it’s a free platform, good to interact with follow TTRPGers if you have time, so I’m not planning on abandoning the platform. I just don’t invest huge efforts there. 

Facebook

I usually post on topic-specific groups when relevant, like posting on Sages of Forgotten Realms when I have something related to that setting. Sometimes, I post in the big 5e group but I never see any engagement there.

I see better results on focused groups. So if you’re planning on releasing an Eberron supplement and you’re still not in any FB Eberron group, make sure to get in.

Something else I haven’t had time to come up with is a fixed FB Ads strategy. I should be running daily ads, but I can’t find the time to do so. I’ll write an update on this post next year to tell you how this went once I finally get there.

I see moderate engagement from FB, it’s relatively low effort so I’ll continue using the platform.

Reddit

This one is tricky. The big groups are usually very averse to marketing, self-promotion and sales. I barely get engagement on those. But as FB, the topic-specific groups can be of great potentially. Join all you think you may produce content for. I deal with Reddit in a similar way I do with FB. I’ll explain the specifics right in about a bit.

Email Marketing

The gold mine. This is THE platform in terms of reach and sales. Yes, it’s a tool from the last millennia. But it WORKS:

  • Social media followings belong to the platform, not to us
  • The platform decides what to show, to whom, when to show it, if they’ll actually show it
  • Emails are yours, and yours only. It’s a direct access to an audience with a few caveats like spam, Promotions tab and people not actually opening the emails
  • Twitter doesn’t even have 400M users, while FB has over 2B. But nearly 4B people have emails

You can read more about the topic in this article.

How Do I Market

In practical terms, when I have a release, I try to apply the Sales Funnel strategy. I don’t always manage to execute it well, but sometimes it works beautifully. Basically, there are 4 levels of this funnel:
  • Awareness: this is where social media comes in. It’s there that you let people know that you exist and you do great stuff. It’s where I “fish” for emails.
  • Interest: you now need to catch their interest. This is best done via email. 
  • Desire: you now need to make them WANT your greatness. 
  • Action:  It’s basically a sale. 

A quick and real example on my funnel which I used for Queen’s Hoard Expanded (QHE), and which I’m currently running for the upcoming Encounters in the Feywild (EitF).

  1. Extracted an actionable piece of content from the product. Usually it’s a map, a stat block or a whole encounter. In QHE’s case, it was the latter. In EitF’s case, I’ve previewed a map and a stat block. It could also be a trap, an NPC, a magic item, a piece of lore,  art, etc.
  2. Now that the actionable content is ready, I use it to attract emails. In longer marketing campaigns, I’d repeat this process more than once to generate interest, and hopefully turn it into desire. I go to social media and post the content, telling people about the upcoming product and promising them a discount if they join the list. Here I also state the other benefits of my list (more on that later).
  3. On email day (usually Friday) comes, I send out the same piece of content to everyone on the list. 
  4. When the product is out, I send an email with the discount I promised.

During the week before QHE’s release, I got 18 new emails. Not a whole lot, but good enough. 

One of my recent posts on Reddit took me by surprise. I decided to create a new rooftop map for my lead magnet (see below), and I also revamped and enhanced all lead magnet maps adding lightning, shading and better trees. All this took me 10 to 14h. A lot of time!

I then posted this everywhere and the this Reddit post brought me more than 900 emails very quickly. A growth of 100%. So those were well invested hours.

How I Run My Email List

I use the teachings of Chris Zukowski and Wes McDowell. A great resource to get you started is this awesome video from Chris.
In short, I offer a lead magnet, something the person gets right away when they join my list. In my case it’s the Urban Action Map Pack, which consists of 57 map versions for urban maps. 
In addition, once a month, I offer exclusive free content with a map, creature and encounter. I occasionally give more freebies, show behind the scenes stuff and provide discounts. 
I also have automated emails set up to onboard every email subscriber, which helps them get to know me better and attempts to engage with them as well. It’s so nice to receive replies to those automations! I reply to them as soon as I see them 🙂
Finally, I send one email a week, with a resend in 2 days to those who haven’t open the original email. 

Is It Worth It?

Since I sell mostly on OBS platforms, tracking isn’t glorious. I recently started to try to track things myself. Estimations are as follows.
DTRPG
Email sales represent 10% of total sales (including free downloads) from June to August. Also, I checked the same period, from Fridays to Mondays which is the timeframe for my emails, and in June, nearly 60% of the sales occurred during this period. In August, 72%. 
You may think that this is a coincidence but it isn’t. On DMsGuild, I get sales every day. There isn’t a better day for sales. I’ve seen situations in which I was a few days with zero sales on DTRPG, I sent an email and dozens of sales came. This happened today. No sales in September. Sent an email today, Sep 3rd, which drove $ 25 in sales. 
DMsGuild
I have a XLS file in which I try to estimate how much it brought me and my peers who have collaborated with me. This isn’t very accurate but the estimate is that it brought me roughly $ 70 to me and a total of $ 240 to my collaborators. So in total the list has brought me roughly $ 500 (all OBS platform), in addition to the money it brought to my peers. 
This isn’t a whole lot if you consider 9 months of email marketing, but the list is growing, and so does its potential. 
I started this whole thing about emails back around Dec 10th, 2020. Currently, Sep 3rd, 2021, I’m at 1740 emails, plus 1000 emails on DTRPG. 

One More Thing

One additional factor which contributes greatly to marketing is presenting your content well. If you publish books, make sure to get the most badass cover you can (more on the topic here). 

Get a nice layout, with nice art, which can be achieved with stock.  Show the bits on social media to catch eyes. This, paired with a good marketing strategy and the basics (quality), should help you get more financial success (no guarantees!).

I love the topic so feel free to reach out to discuss it 🙂