26 July 2016 | 36 Comments
From July 13-19, I ran a pre-order campaign for Tuscany Essential Edition, as slimmed-down version of the Tuscany expansion pack to Viticulture. I ran the campaign through retailers–that is, 84 different retailers handled the transactions–and we sold 3064 copies of the expansion to those retailers last week.
I previously ran a similar campaign for Moor Visitors, and I detailed the reasons for running this type of campaign here. Below are the primary benefits for each of the parties involved:
- Individual Customers can choose the retailer (online or local) that is the most convenient and cost-effective for them (especially in terms of shipping), while still ensuring that they get a first-run copy of the expansion.
- Retailers are given first priority to sell the product since they’re not competing with the publisher via Kickstarter.
- Stonemaier Games only needs to coordinate and send 84 shipments (and can still engage the greater community of individual customers).
Note that this method is specifically used for a product that (a) has no stretch goals, (b) is an expansion to an existing product that retailers want to continue to sell, and (c) is inexpensive enough that we can afford to make it without raising funds in advance.
I learned a few things while running the Moor Visitors campaign that I applied to the Tuscany Essential campaign. Here are the new elements:
- I surveyed retailers in advance to estimate the quantity. When we were about to start production of Tuscany Essential, I surveyed the 300 retailers on my mailing list to ask them if they wanted to participate in the pre-order campaign and, if so, how many copies they thought they might need. This helped me solidify the print run at 5,000 copies.
- I only offered the Tuscany Essential Edition. On the Moor Visitors campaign, I let retailers buy any of our in-stock products. However, this created a bunch of logistical issues and limitations based on the location of various inventory. Also, I learned that distributors weren’t happy about that method. So for this campaign, I I only offered Tuscany EE, and I encouraged retailers to buy complementary products from distributors.
- I used a Google Doc to organize the retailers. First, I sent a form to the retailers asking them to fill out their information as they’d like it to appear on our website (this reduced any ambiguity), their location, and whether they are a local/online/both store. Second, I sent the results spreadsheet to all retailers for them to input the exact link on their website where customers could purchase Tuscany EE.
- I limited the number of copies retailers could buy. On the Google Doc I noted the estimated quantity that retailers had previously told me they wanted (it was a range, like 21-40 copies). The upper end of that range became the maximum number of copies the retailer could order. This addressed my previous concern that the pre-ordered games would exceed the number of units I’m already producing.
- I made sure people knew that the retailer list wasn’t exclusive. There seemed to be some confusion on the Moor Visitors campaign, with some people accusing me of not selecting their favorite retailer. The truth is, we welcome ANY retailer to participate in these pre-order campaigns–this list is limited only by the retailers themselves (many of whom many not even know about it). So I tried to make it very clear this time that the list was open to any retailer, and we encouraged people to reach out to their retailers of choice.
- I offered promos. I wanted to give people a little extra reason to pre-order the expansion instead of waiting, so we included 9 promo cards. We also assured everyone that the promo cards would also be offered on the BGG store.
- Retail release: I made it clear to retailers that they could continue to accept pre-orders for Tuscany EE, but the official retail release for non-pre-order customers isn’t until November 1. That should ensure that all pre-order customers get their expansions well before anyone who didn’t pre-order it.
- I charged shipping (to retailers). On Moor Visitors, I offered retailers free shipping on orders over $100. This turned out to be a poor choice, especially for retailers in hard-to-reach locations. So we charged shipping this time–not much, but enough to cover core costs.
- I advertised on BoardGameGeek. I paid for general banner ads on BGG, as well as homepage ads the day before the campaign ended. I don’t want to assume that all Viticulture fans subscribe to our e-newsletter, so I thought that would be a good way to reach them.
Also, one of the nice things about this pre-order system is that many of the participating retailers bought enough copies of Tuscany EE to account for additional customers who discover the product after the campaign, and I continue to feature those retailers on our website.
I’m realizing now that this post is more about what I did than what I learned, though I think that’s because I didn’t really learn anything new as compared to the Moor Visitors campaign (other than the fact that all of the revised methods above seemed to work really well). This type of campaign seems to run really smoothly as compared to the tumultuous (though admittedly more exciting) ride of a Kickstarter campaign.
What are your thoughts about these methods and this type of campaign? Back when I ran the Moor Visitors campaign, I hoped I might see another company try something similar so I could learn from their methods. But I don’t think I’ve seen that, so perhaps I’m overestimating the appeal.