If you have spent several weeks, months or even years developing a game, poured your heart, soul, and hard-earned money into an amazing player experience and coming closer to the launch of the game you might start to get an uncomfortable feeling. What if. What if nobody plays my game. The internet is full of doomsayers talking about the indie apocalypse and the flooding of distribution channels.
If that's the case, then you should feel uncomfortable. Without a proper marketing strategy, the chance of the success of your game is slim. But with proper marketing, you will be able to get your game into the hands of your target market without spending millions.
Marketing is not the same thing as exposure
The mistake most game developers make is that if they get featured in some online magazine or have someone play it on Twitch or Youtube, that's marketing. That's not what marketing is. Press and advertisement are forms of marketing but marketing is much more and an umbrella in which all sales based promotion fall under.
Marketing is not just only promotion or exposure, it's focused exposure with the intention to monetize. It's important that you know this otherwise it's easy to fall into a trap where you are just trying to shout louder than everyone else.
People finding you is your responsibility
The movie Field of Dreams taught us "If you build it, they will come". But as many game developers have found out, without a proper marketing strategy your hard work will get lost in the void of the internet.
Like a sailboat in the middle of the ocean, nobody knows how to find you or that you are even there. You only have one option. Get out there and show them that you exist.
Selling is not evil
Indie developers that are just getting started with their marketing efforts often describe it as feeling like a sleazy old car salesman.
This is something you have to get over, selling is not evil. If you have problems selling your game it's probably one of two reasons.
Your product does actually suck, then you are actually a sleazy bastard and should stop.
The other reason is that your confidence is so low that even though you have created something awesome, you think it's not good enough. If this is the case, it's a hurdle you must overcome.
The key idea in marketing is to find a group of people with a common problem or desire and then offer them a solution. Your job as a marketer is to help these people find the proper solution.
Imagine if you were a hardcore tower defense fan and someone emailed you a link to their new awesome tower defense game. Would you call them a scumbag or thank them?
Developers are not your target market
Whatever kind of game you are making, there's a group out there enjoying this particular genre. If you can find this group of people and market to them directly, you will have much more success than if you promote to just anyone.
A common mistake is to assume that other game developers are your target market. A lot of developers play games, but so do a lot of soccer moms. Very rarely those markets do overlap but don't make the assumption that your peer group is your target market, it's highly unlikely. If you market directly to your target market, your conversion rate between visits and sales will be much higher.
For example, if you are making an RPG it's smarter to go on an RPG forum and promote your game there than it's to go to an indie game developers Facebook group and promote to other game developers.
Your marketing has a user experience
Whatever campaign you trying, methods, traffic sources or social media accounts you are using your marketing has a UX. If you don't design this experience intentionally, it's going to suck.
You need to map the way a player takes, all the way from discovery to purchase. If they, for example, see your post on Facebook and they click taking them to your landing page. Then they click to buy, see a checkout button and click confirm. Then every action has a purpose, moving the user to next step deeper in the funnel. In this example, you are not selling anything in your Facebook post, its only purpose is to get them to your landing page. And the only purpose is to get them to click the buy button.
You have to keep in mind the UX of the marketing, every single step of the road is a point that can be measured and improved over time. Like designing games, marketing is an iterative process.