Pretty much every company has a “sign-up for more information!” button on their site these days that leads to a Gravity Forms or Ninja Forms repository that nobody remembers to check or, even better, a free MailChimp account that nobody remembers to check.
And then pretty much every company neglects to actually email people who opt in for more information. People have come to the site, said “please give me more information!” and then never received any follow-up.
Then when the company actually needs to send out a message (maybe they’re ready to announce a new game or new product line), there’s no process in place. No emails have been sent before to replicate, lists haven’t been segmented so there’s no telling who you’re actually emailing, or the email is sent and everyone either ignores it or marks the message as spam because they’ve forgotten about signing up in the first place.
Here are a few tips to get your company to send emails on a regular basis, even if you’re on the fence about doing so, so that when you need to email people they’re a) used to getting messages from you and b) you’ve already got a system in place to get your message out to people who want to hear it.
Segment your subscribers from the get-go
Segmenting means creating lists of your subscribers and being descriptive as to who is in what segment or list.
Regardless of what tool you’re using or if you’re just getting people’s sign-up information from one or two forms on your site, be as descriptive as possible. You don’t have to go nuts with custom fields or anything but try to get an idea of where the sign-ups have come from – did these people sign-up on the site? Or did those other people sign-up in-person at an event? Are these people who are just fans but might never buy anything? Or people from another friendly game company? What about the list that includes your mom, your grandmother and your best friend?
MailChimp isn’t your best tool for this. It’s free, but their Lists can be unwieldy. But if you’ve been lured in by the sweet, sweet price of free – try to use their Segments feature instead to create groupings of people early on. Some Lists may be worth being separate, for example, if you’re talking with publishers regularly or you have press connections – keep ‘em off that main General Interest list.
Some segments you might want to consider could include:
- General Interest
- Online/website sign-up
- By game or contact page, if your system is nuanced enough (it might be useful to know if someone has signed up for interest in a specific game, for example, versus just wanting information about the company as a whole)
- In-person event sign-up
- (If you’re primarily attending events in the Southeast, for example, people in California probably aren’t going to care)
- Online/website sign-up
- Friends & Family
- Other Game Companies
- People who’ve purchased from your store
- Then potentially segmenting by the types of items and merch you’re offering, depending on how crazy you’d like to/want to get here
Segmenting in a descriptive and useful manner helps you remember who’s on what list and what kind of information may be most useful for them. You wouldn’t necessarily want to send all of the emails you’d send to your general interest list to your press list, for example. That’s a good way to get the press very annoyed with you very quickly….
And be mindful of whatever tool you’re using and how its segmenting features work. They’re all a bit different and have their own, different rules. Especially in regards to billing.
Set a cadence and stick with it
Monthly or bimonthly is a good cadence to start with if you’re a small company and you have no idea what you want to do with your emails yet. Monthly and bimonthly is still good if you’re larger and you do know what you’re doing/want to do, but don’t want to feel spammy.
People have a greater tolerance for emails than you think and if they’ve opted in willingly for information, remember: you’re not spamming them. They asked to be kept in the loop. This is a win-win for both of you to keep them in the know with exclusive, direct updates.
Why do you need direct access to your supporters? Because Facebook may go down or change. You may lose access to those hundreds or thousands of followers someday, or Facebook may change its rules. Think about what happened with Vine, for example. You want to try to focus first on the marketing assets you own, like your website and your emails.
To stick with a cadence, use whatever system you use to remind yourself of deadlines. Set Google Calendar notifications. Make Post-It notes. Ask someone else to hold you accountable. Give yourself deadlines.
And if other people are involved, remember to give yourself some buffer room. You’ll want to draft an email a day or two in advance so you can have others read it and sign off on it.
Marketing automation is an increasingly available feature from email service providers (ESPs) and this can help take some of the stress off of sending an email more than once a month to your list. Automate things like follow-ups to your forms, especially if you’ve got specific forms across your site (for example, a different sign-up form for different types of games).
If you’re in business-to-business (B2B) in the gaming space, automation becomes more important. Same thing for e-commerce. Automation helps you do the things you’ve always wanted to do but never had time for – for example, asking for feedback from people after they’ve downloaded a game or signed up for an ebook. Some gaming companies dabble in all of these spaces and it’s worth thinking through what’s genuinely useful for your fans and customers. For example, if you do have a merch section on your site, automated email messages can be a godsend. You can automate things like cart abandonment campaigns, review requests, post-purchase follow-ups, etc.
But more importantly, one of the simplest examples of automation would be an onboarding campaign that can supplement your game tutorial. You can provide FAQs, ask for a review from them or for more feedback, guide them to notable spots in your community if you’ve got a forum or a subreddit, all that good stuff. You’re not going to have time to do this personally for every single user but…automation.
Think on what you’d want to know as a gamer
If you’re really stumped with topics to email your fans and friends about, what would you want to know as a gamer following your company? Put yourself in their shoes. What would be interesting to you?
This isn’t always a great tactic for approaching marketing since you may or may not be your target audience. But chances are if you’re in gaming, you’re a gamer, and you’ve followed companies before or become a fan in your own right. If you want to do some sly (and free) market research, you might even go sign up for the email lists of your favorite companies and see what they do.
Only the bigger companies will have marketing automation in place so far, which is an incredible shame to me since there are tons of capabilities out there in the more reasonably priced ESPs. Gaming companies just seem to lag behind the curve of marketing trends, for whatever reason, and people still worry emails are spam. They’re not. If they are, your fans will tell you that.
Some good ideas to consider if you’re not sure what to send out:
- Upcoming game announcements
- Events you or your team will attend
- New merch in your store
- Notable updates for existing games
- Other similar games your fans might enjoy that you all have liked/may be similar to yours
- A contest
- (note that there are legal repercussions here and you will want to talk with your lawyer before holding any contest online, ever.)
- Special announcements, images, or behind-the-scenes stories only for your fans who have opted in for emails
- A promotional code for your game(s) or your merch
- Shiny new press mentions
- Shiny new reviews (get permission first before you use people’s words in your own marketing)
- Fan art, fan crafts or anything else your community has made
I could go on and on. But a lot of this depends on what kind of a business you’re running, what games you have, what your relationship is with your existing community, all that jazz.
If you’re worried about the legality of sending email messages, check out this overview on CAN-SPAM compliance in the US.
Moral of the story: sending emails doesn’t have to be overly complex. If you do one a month, that’s committing to twelve every year (math. Much wow). Then when you do suddenly need to send out a message to everyone who’s ever had any interest in your game or company, you’ll have a healthy list and people will know that emails come from you on a regular basis.