28 May 2018
Sending games to reviewers is a key part of the Stonemaier Games marketing plan. It’s far from the only part, but it remains an important marketing expense.
Last year I tested a new method to ensure that I’m sending games/expansions to the reviewers who want them, and not just the big, well-known reviewers. A reviewer with a small, passionate audience can have a powerful impact too.
So I sent out a survey to the 300 reviewers on my mailing list to inform them about current and upcoming products. I let them pick 1 or 2 products they were interested in reviewing, and if they were in the US, for the most part I sent them those products (more on the US location in a moment).
It worked out well, so I tried it again this year with a few tweaks:
- I opened the list to content creators of all types, not just reviewers (though I’ll continue to use the term “reviewer” in this article for simplicity’s sake).
- I made it abundantly clear that if a reviewer requests a copy of the game, they must post some form of substantial, core content about that game within 2 months of receiving it or they’ll be removed from the list. This is a time-sensitive marketing expense (a free game with free shipping), so the alternative if they’re not able to do it is to buy the game and review it whenever they want.
- I asked a few questions about reach, consistency, and audience engagement. These are the various categories I discussed in An Open Letter to New Reviewers of Board Games from a Tiny Publishing Company, an article I still reference whenever I hear from a new reviewer.
- I asked non-US reviewers if they would be willing to pay the postage cost for a review copy if sent from the US. Shipping from the US internationally is very expensive, which would normally relegate non-US reviewers to obtaining the game locally, but this presents a viable alternative.
- I asked the reviewers to state a preference for 2 games and 1 expansion. They can choose from published or upcoming products, ensuring that we continue to get exposure for older products, not just brand-new stuff.
Last, I asked all reviewers if they would consent to me sharing some of their information in a blog post. For all who filled out the form and said yes, you’ll see their responses below. If you don’t see your favorite reviewer on this list, it’s likely that they simply didn’t fill out the form in time. I recommend checking out James Mathe’s blog for a much longer list.
I delineate between reviewers to whom I send advance copies and reviewers who receive “regular” copies. I only get 10 or so advance copies from my manufacturer, so they’re a precious commodity, and I need them to go to content creators with the highest reach, consistency, and audience engagement. It’s when I receive the full freight shipment of tens of thousands of games that I can send more copies (usually a few dozen) to various types of reviewers.
In case scrolling in the list below is annoying, a full-page version is here.
If you’re a publisher, what’s your approach to reviewers and other content creators? If you’re a gamer, how do reviewers impact your decision to buy games, expansions, and other products?
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