Indie developers face many complex questions when they take on a new project. While many of those quandaries deal with the actual creation of the product, some are geared toward the endgame — including the marketing strategy. Without an effective strategy, a new game will be dead in the water — but what’s the best method of getting the word out? While there are various options available to indie developers, a grassroots marketing strategy is a deliberate and targeted campaign that could inspire others to do the work for you.
As we dive a little deeper into the concept of grassroots marketing, here are the points we’ll be touching on:
- Competitive advantages of a grassroots marketing strategy
- Creative yet practical examples of grassroots video game marketing
- What developers should aim for or avoid when crafting a grassroots marketing campaign
The competitive advantages of a grassroots marketing strategy
Before we get too far into the advantages of grassroots marketing, we should probably start with answering, “What is grassroots marketing?” —
Let’s say you’re looking to market your latest first-person shooter but want to avoid mass media marketing and possibly even save a little money. So, you select a small group of unpaid players that then spread the word through the gaming community. This is sometimes also referred to as guerilla marketing.
Grassroots marketing basically means setting yourself up to make the most of word-of-mouth traveling fast across niche communities.
Now that you have a basic understanding, let’s talk about why you would want to consider grassroots marketing for your indie game.
Reduce your video game marketing costs
Maybe most importantly with a grassroots marketing strategy, you’ll see your marketing costs plummet. The point of grassroots is that you don’t pay to advertise your game. Instead, you shell out a few access codes, interact with the community a bit, create a video log, and let the Internet work its magic.
Make your marketing content more authentic
One of the big dilemmas with paid marketing endeavors is losing that personal touch that players love about indie gaming. With grassroots marketing, you can put an authentic feel on the message you deliver. The marketing won’t have that overly polished, generic look or feel to it and will better speak to the experience you’re selling. With more authenticity, you’re likely to garner a better response.
Highly targeted approach for your gaming niche
Are you tired of your advertising reaching an audience that will never buy your game? It’s a given with most forms of video game marketing. However, grassroots allows you to define your audience better, so you’re homing in on prospective buyers and players more likely to share their experiences with your title.
Creative grassroots marketing examples
On paper, the concept of a grassroots marketing strategy may sound great, but it may also come across as a little vague.
What does it mean to reach a core, defined audience? How does one reach out to an audience and get them to play and talk about their game?
To help clear up some of the common questions that arise with grassroots marketing, we’ve pooled together a few examples.
Engage with your local gaming communities
Take advantage of conventions and expos as much as possible. It’s at these events that you’ll be able to build a local audience that will kickstart your grassroots marketing strategy.
Local communities allow you to make a more personal connection, so they will be more inclined to share their experiences with others. PAX AUS, LVL UP EXPO in Las Vegas, EVO Sports Expo, and so many more present opportunities to hobnob with your future customers.
Engage with Reddit communities
Reddit is a surprising goldmine when it comes to video game communities. The number of subreddits in existence is astronomical, which can make it difficult to pinpoint the one that fits your needs.
The trick is to join long before you’re planning on launching your grassroots campaign and become an active member. When you do start posting about your title, try to blend in with the more popular posts on a particular subreddit. See what’s succeeded in the past, then emulate it with your unique content. If the community catches on, they’ll share it via word of mouth.
Integrate grassroots marketing tactics into your game’s mechanics
If you can make your game work for you, that would definitely save you quite a bit of hassle. Look at Fortnite as a prime – and very successful – example. It was as simple as adding a customization feature to appeal to individual communities.
Suppose you can incorporate mechanics that specifically appeal to your intended target audience. In that case, you’re going to draw their attention immediately and, more than likely, find that they’re encouraged to share the game with their friends and other community members.
Recognize your top creators and players
Players love to know that their presence in a community is seen and acknowledged. So, if you want to kick off a successful grassroots marketing strategy, make sure to throw out recognition to some of your top contributors.
Maybe there’s a cosplay that’s too good to ignore or a player that accomplished a speed run record. By sharing their appreciation for your game, you’re encouraging them to continue boasting the community and create new content, which, in turn, increases your exposure.
Create a vlog or blog for your game
Some audiences want to know what happens behind the scenes. Give them that glimpse behind the curtain with a developer’s blog. Don’t give away too much, but just enough to entice them to want to know more.
A video blog can make players feel like they’re part of the development process or that they’re part of a special community privy to exclusive content.
Things to keep in mind when crafting a grassroots video game marketing strategy
We’d love to tell you going the grassroots route is a breeze, and you’ll have to put in little effort, but when is that ever the case? If you are going to go the way of grassroots or local marketing, there are a few things you should know and keep in mind:
Don’t be disappointed after your first try
You’re going to think your first pitch is the best one, but as you start to implement it, you may find room for improvement. Just keep working on it, experimenting with different channels to see what fits and what doesn’t. You may find that your first five ideas don’t work before landing on a viable and potentially viral option.
Grassroots video game marketing is still a ton of work
To piggyback off the last point, you will still need to put in a lot of work. In fact, you’re likely to put in more work than if you went a traditional marketing route. But keep those benefits in mind because they’re worth the extra effort. You may find yourself cold calling or cold emailing content creators and streamers to see who will be the core audience for your grassroots marketing. Expect to spend a lot of time on subreddits, message boards, and social media trying to find the right group to start with.
Production costs can rise
Yes, you’ll definitely save money in marketing, but you do risk higher production costs. It all depends on how guerilla you get with your marketing strategy, but if you start adding in video creation, street teams, and paid talent, you can easily match the cost of mass media marketing dollar for dollar.
The point is, be careful how you spend—spending more than you have to is avoidable if you play your cards correctly.
Marketing continues long after release
So long as you want to sell copies of your title and it is your primary revenue stream, marketing your release will be ongoing. When you start your grassroots marketing, expect to be in it for the long haul, especially if you notice you’re gaining momentum.
You never want to find a community, then set it aside so you can work on something else. Support your release, encourage your audience to keep talking, and find new ways to present a fresh or updated experience.
Go grassroots or go home?
At the end of the day, it’s all about the sales. A grassroots marketing strategy is an effective, affordable, and direct way of getting the word out about your title. While it does have its pitfalls, more specifically that there is no guarantee it could work, grassroots marketing is a viable means of sharing your new gaming experience.
Should you decide to move forward with a grassroots campaign, be sure to contact Loopr. At Loopr, we work with any budget to create effective grassroots video game marketing strategies using social media platforms and local gaming communities.
Can’t get enough of this stuff? Check out our video game PR case studies to learn how we’ve helped indie game developers and esports brands just like you.