What Your Small Business Can Learn from IndieCade

Since 2009, the best of independent game developers and gamers have convened in an international festival called IndieCade. IndieCade is also known as “the video game industry’s Sundance”. This year’s 3 day festival took place in downtown Culver City. Don’t think that your business can learn anything from the video game industry? Think again!

Video games can relate to a regular, small business in many ways. In a world of thousands of games, it’s difficult to stand out in the crowd. It’s even more difficult as an independent game developer because you probably don’t have as many resources and connections as the big players (Nintendo, PlayStation, etc.).

Nowadays, there are both free and paid platforms (like Unreal and SpriteBuilder) where pretty much anyone can make a video game, even without extensive programming experience. The barrier to entry has never been lower.  But a crudely made game can’t be marketed to be successful. And a good video game can’t succeed without effective marketing. This is also true for a small business. In the same line of thought, there are platforms (like WordPress) where pretty much anyone can create a website. But just creating a website and letting it linger can’t and won’t guarantee your success.

Sometimes, Simple Is Better

Gamers and customers alike have very little patience for things nowadays. At day 2 of IndieCade, there was a Game Slam (similar to a poetry slam) where 16 game developers took the stage and given 100 short seconds each to describe and perform the premise of their game. The successful demonstrations were short, succinct, and straight to the point. Many incorporated elements of performance and visuals to give a better idea of what their game represented.

A few presenters had no clear structure or went on past their time limit, as the audience struggled to get a grasp of the game concept. This showcase was an interesting way to market a new video game. As it relates to a small business, your ad or even website snippet serves the same purpose. To lure potential customers in with just a few words and sentences. In retrospect, the video games have it a whole lot easier with getting those 100 seconds of a potential customer’s time!

There is a Niche for Everything

As a small business, chances are that you serve a specific niche of customers. It’s unlikely that a business would be doing well without a proper grasp of their target audience! At IndieCade, there were a variety of niche games, some that you haven’t thought about in years or at all! Some niche types we saw included: educational games, physical games (old-fashioned card and figurine types), a game dealing with immigration, a risque game involving sexting, a physical game that involved a leaf blower and tumbleweed, and much much more! Basically, the lesson learned here is that their is a niche for everything and as a game developer or website owner, you can corner the market by doing that one thing and doing it well.

Give Away Memorable Swag

For many attendees, conferences mean free demos and freebies. Although most game booths had some swag to giveaway, some definitely did it better than others. For example, at the Nintendo tent, players were give tickets for each game demo they completed. Collect X amount of tickets in order to redeem your prize. This way, your target audience will have to work to get the goodies and the developers will get feedback from the reactions, comments, complaints, and glitches during the game play. Another video game academy also gave away free high-quality t-shirts when participants signed up for more information. In terms of web marketing, this can be considered a conversion and you’ll have something tangible to follow up on.

Although giving away a free sticker or button is cool, potential customers will tend to just grab it and go, without giving more. It’s a better use of your time to give away something meaningful in exchange for something that will be helpful for your business, not just giving away things for the sake of giving them away.

Feeling Like Small Fish in a Big Ocean

Marketing matters, whether it’s for the most successful of video games or of the smallest of small businesses. Because of their brand recognition and budget, it’s no surprise that Nintendo, PlayStation, Facebook Games, and Oculus had the most impressive setups. In terms of online marketing, a small business may feel the same way when the prime spots in SERPs are dominated by bigger businesses. Even with all the visibility of the giants, some of the smaller booths stood out because of the personal attention/instruction and insight given by the actual game developers. But this difference doesn’t make up for the fact that proper marketing is needed in order for a video game to be successful. Although paid venues are the most popular and effective, there are different venues (word of mouth, viral, video, social and grassroots methods) of getting your product/service out there!

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