Marketing Tips: Get your app or game noticed
With so many apps and games on the market today, journalists just don’t have time to play them all, causing a number of great independent apps and games to remain under the radar. However, there are some simple things you can do to raise awareness and increase the chances of securing reviews for your creation. The tips below are tried and true tactics that successful developers and PR professionals use all the time when trying to secure reviews.
- Make a website. Even if it's just a blog, you need a web presence. Not only does this help build credibility, but it makes it easier for journalists to find out more about you and your apps or game. Make sure your contact information is easily discoverable and include screenshots, trailers and other information that will help readers quickly and easily get a sense for what your apps or game is all about. And when you're sending out press releases or other information, don't forget to link back to your site!
- Don't overlook your product's name. It pays to be creative and memorable, but don't forget about all the free tools at your disposal to help ensure you stand out. For example, before you name your app or game, run an internet search to see how many results appear with your potential title. The fewer the better.
- Polish your press release like you polish your product. Media tell us one of the most common reasons they delete a release is because it is poorly written or dull. Once you've written (and then rewritten) your release, have someone else proofread it. Ideally, you'll have another developer read it to make sure it's spot-on technically, but it's also a great idea to have a non-gamer/non-developer read it just to make sure it's digestible, compelling and likely to appeal to a broader audience (assuming that's what you want!). Don't have someone readily available to proofread? Ask the #XNA or #WP7Dev community on Twitter – there's always someone ready and willing to help.
- Judge a book by its cover. We hear from journalists that they often base what they download and try on the look and feel of a app or game — its tile/box art and description — so it's critical to ensure these are as polished as possible. Don't forget the spellcheck and have another person help you with editing. It also pays to do some research on cinematography before creating your cover art – developers we hear from say the angle of the shot means more than you think.
- Polished (and short) trailers reign supreme. A flashy promotional video is a great way to get the attention of media and gamers alike. But, it's important to keep a couple things in mind: keep it short (under two minutes is ideal) and make sure it's "incredibly polished" (as one developer in the XNA community says).
PR Tips for Promoting Your App or Game
Once you've established your web presence, finalized your art and queued up the press release, what's next? Below are more tips that are essential to ensuring your product gets the attention it deserves – at the right time and from the right people.
- Find the right publication. While there are a number of print publications that do reviews, online publications and blogs post reviews more frequently and cover a wider range of apps and games, making them a great place to start.
Read each publication carefully to ensure that it is absolutely relevant.
- To find online publications that review video games, try searching Technorati, Bing News, Blogpulse or IceRocket for reviews of game titles that are comparable to yours.
- To find online publications that review mobile applications, try searching Gizmodo, Engadget, or Pocket-lint for reviews of apps that are comparable to yours.
- Identify the right person to contact. Once you find the right publications to pursue, identify the most appropriate journalist to contact. Search for journalists who have reviewed products similar to yours in the past. Read what they have written recently and search their archives to find out what they are interested in. Become familiar with the tone, content and length of their reviews. There is a wealth of indie gaming journalists on Twitter and, as we heard during our #DevChat, many are willing and eager to have information sent to them directly. Some developers take a more direct approach, Tweeting out their email and asking interested journalists to let them know they'd like to be added to their press lists.
- Find their contact information. Look to see if the journalist has posted information on how (or if) they prefer to be contacted. Many publications allow you to contact a journalist either by emailing them directly or using a submission form on the site. If you can't find a way to contact a specific journalist, you can send an email to the main publication and ask them to introduce you to the appropriate contact (explain why). Look at the publication's "contact us" page for more information.
- Write a custom introductory note. Be upfront about who you are, why you chose to reach out to them and why their readers would be interested in reading the review of your game. Clearly and succinctly describe your game and provide a link to Xbox.com where the journalists can find more information and download the trial of your game to their Xbox 360. Provide a little background on yourself – as an independent developer, you have a unique and interesting story. Prepare screenshots of your game in advance and let them know you have those available (don't attach them to the email initially). Keep it brief – no longer than a few paragraphs.
- Secure interest before sending tokens (Xbox LIVE only). Send the journalist your token code only after they have expressed interest in reviewing your game. Do not spam multiple journalists with your codes. Not only is that a bad policy for contacting media, it will be difficult for you to track if or when your tokens will be used. You can send additional background information on your game when you send the token code. Provide your email address and phone number in case the journalist has questions as they are playing your game.
- Cast a wider net. Once you've sent your release directly to a handful of media, post it on sites such as:
Services such as these can help get your release out to a much wider audience of thousands, if not millions, of gamers.
- Wait to follow up. Journalists don't appreciate being pestered with constant emails or phone calls. If you haven't heard from them in a week you can send a follow up email – keep it short and polite. Re-emphasize why they might be interested in reviewing your product.
- Allow time for the review. A journalist may not have time to review your product right away. Be patient; wait a week before following up to see what their experience was with your product. Ask when they expect their review to post online or be published in the print edition, as that can take additional time as well.
- Monitor the publication. Don't expect the journalist to contact you when the review publishes. It's up to you to keep an eye out for the review. Do a search on the site for the title of your product and browse the reviews around the time you expect it to publish. If you don't already have news alerts established for your product, set one up. This will help you to find who and what is being said about your product online.
- Send a thank-you note. After the review has published send a thank-you email (an actual card is even better) to the journalist for taking the time to review your game.
- Don't burn bridges. If a review of your product is negative, don't take it personally. Recognize that product reviews are very subjective. You do not want to ruin your relationship with the journalist by being rude or too defensive. You never know when you'll need to contact them for a review of a new product of yours in the future. If the journalist included any factual errors in their review, inform them of the inaccuracies, but do not try to change their mind or expect them to post additional information.
- Maintain the relationship. Start to follow the reviewer on Twitter, regularly read their articles or subscribe to their RSS feed to stay up-to-date on what they are working on. Inform them of any new products you are working on that they may be interested in reviewing in the future. Let them know you are willing to be interviewed at any time if they need an independent developer's perspective for an article.
Direct From Developers:
Here are some top tips that came up most often during the #DevChat:
"Naming a game is important. Search the potential name and see how many pages have that exact name."
"Make a website! Even if it is just blogger, you need a web presence and make sure all your photos, videos and other assets link back to it!"
"Don't be afraid to be creative with your press release – a funny press release can go a long way in helping you stand out. And make sure you spellcheck!"
"Choose your screen shots carefully and leave your official shots unbranded."
"Nice box art draws me to games on Xbox LIVE Indie Games. A picture of a cat and the use of Arial doesn't."
"Go to professionals for sound and music. Get an indie rate which is essentially cost and build a relationship."
"Don't be afraid to throw stuff out. If you haven't scrapped at least half of your work by the end, you're not done."