I’m Patrick Day-Childs, I have over 15 years of experience in the gaming industry. I’ve worked as a Video Game Journalist, Tester, Event Manager, Video Producer, and Marketer. I’ve worked on tiny projects and AAA titles.
I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing, with a dissertation on Video Game Item Scarcity. I am currently studying for an MSc in Marketing.
As a marketer who loves to network, I find that one of the most frequent questions posed to me is “When should I hire a marketer”, “When should I think about marketing?”, or a similar variation.
When you ask this question, you probably get the response “As early as possible. Then you end up asking yourself “Why?” and reassure yourself that marketers just make pretty pictures. And if you’re a video game dev, you’ve got an artist – so why have a marketer?
A lot of people don’t actually know what marketing is. There’s an old saying that Marketing and Sales hate each other, this stems from the two sides not knowing what each other’s jobs involve. In my own experience, Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) often don’t understand what marketing covers. And, throughout my time at university, at conferences, events, and so on, I’ve met a lot of people of all calibre who thought it was all creativity.
What is Marketing?
In a very, very basic sense, marketing is the process of identifying the needs of people (Not just customers!) and trying to uncover how to meet those needs.
So, if we take that basic meaning, it suggests your marketer should be hired at the ideation stage of your product.
What’s important to understand and is often overlooked by SMEs is that marketing covers a huge range of aspects. If we take the ideation stage it can involve: Finding gaps in markets, finding similar products (Competitor analysis), and so much more.
This is also where it gets a little tricky; if you’ve made your dream product – be it a video game, biscuit, or dog toy, you probably don’t want some marketing guy telling you all the changes you should make to the product. But a good marketer can come in and make suggestions on how to help your product stand out, by taking over things like competitor analysis, market positioning, etc.
Further to this, I often argue that particularly with video games; ideation should be a continuous process. Market research can nudge you in a direction, but when you dive deeper, and your product begins to take shape it is often important to take a step back and put considerations to what makes your product good, what makes it unique, or in a less than great scenario, is it still a viable product?
You may even find that the vacuum your marketer spotted has been taken up by a similar product, and now you have to begin to look at if your product can adapt slightly into a smaller more niche market.
An example of when it’s a little late
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been asked about marketing a product that is set to launch within a couple of months. Unless I really like the product, I’ll turn down these consultancy requests.
Because I’ve got a background in the Games Industry, it makes sense to use an Indie Game as an example:
You’ve almost finished your game
Mechanics are set
Art is pretty much finished
Some light testing for polishing
Your steam page is live
Your socials are live
You’ve got a great product, but you’ve not got the wishlists on steam you were hoping for, and your socials aren’t gaining much traction. But your nephew who thinks it’s cool you make video games keeps reacting to what you post.
You figure the best thing to do is hire a marketer. This means the marketer has to:
Examine your game
Find it’s position in the market
Potentially reposition it into a different market
Find similar games on Steam so they can link together via the Store suggestion page
Create an IMC on the selling points of the game, targeted to the market you have chosen
Potentially change your social media account to better suit your target market
Reassure you that it isn’t something that you can just throw money at to fix
Propose an advertising strategy
Test the game from a UX point of view
Generate realistic KPIs
Read any and all data you have on your potential customers
Create copy for social media, press contacts
Create, or co-create assets
All this, while you want to launch in a couple of months. Added to this is the fact they’re not a founding member of your team.
The result is that everyone ends up stressed and (probably) some strategic drift, where the team changes direction a few times to try and hit their target market faster. Now, it’s not impossible at this stage for a marketer to turn things around, but you’re probably going to have a less stressful time if you just launch the game and get a marketer to look at it and either give suggestions, or create a campaign to better target your audience, or reposition your product.
It’s never too late or too early!
Hiring a marketer early in the company setup can be really beneficial. Even if you’re out to create your dream product, they can help you identify slight tweaks to be made to help ensure the product stands out against similar products, or if there’s a gap in the market and even what kind of size that market is.
If your product has already gone to market, it is likely going to be more difficult for a marketer to do their job. But, through repositioning strategies, or a change in company messaging, marketers can often make a product profitable.
Marketers can help formulate a long-term strategy based on expected growth in certain market environments. Or, they can be placed in the short term to help you realign your company to a more suitable market.
What questions should I ask when I look at hiring?
Because marketing is such a broad spectrum of different aspects, they often feed into each other. Any marketer should have at least a basic understanding of advertising, PR and communication.
I can’t tell you exactly who to hire, but when you are going through the hiring process you should be as clear with the marketer as you can. And make sure they are happy to ask questions too; I know my weaker areas in marketing and will often turn away from projects that involve high levels of creative content creation.
So when you hire a marketer, ask yourself these questions:
Is this more of an advertising job?
What objectives do we have as a company
Do we want them to analyze data?
Can we work out where our product sits in the market landscape?
Realistically, how difficult will it be to reposition this product if we have to?
Of course, I’ve totally avoided any HR questions there. And, of course there are a lot of questions I didn’t cover.
If you take one thing away from this, it should be that: Marketing isn’t just making things look pretty, it is very often an analytical process and should be implemented into a long-term plan for a growing company, not brought in for a single product.
Did you learn anything from this? Or do you disagree? I would love to hear your thoughts, after all Marketing is a social science and changes rapidly!