9 July 2020 | 13 Comments
I recently stumbled upon a thought-provoking post by AJ Porfirio of Van Ryder Games in a retailer-focused Facebook group. I asked AJ if I could reference and quote it here for a broader discussion, and he gave me permission to do so.
The core principles of AJ’s post are as follows:
- Consider the source: When you get advice from someone whose business is related to or impacted by yours, the advice is almost certainly from the perspective of what benefits them. That doesn’t mean it necessarily contradicts what’s best for you, but it’s important to remember who is giving the advice.
- Business sense: Every decision needs to make business sense for you. Every decision. That doesn’t mean to ignore customers, retailers, distributors, partners, the good of the world, etc–far from it–but you need your company to survive and thrive if you are to serve anyone.
I’m going to jump back and forth between quotes from AJ and thoughts from me.
“You SHOULD listen and care about what the retailers are saying and what they like. It is ONE of many data points and factors that should go into your decisions. They FOR SURE know what works for THEMSELVES. They can’t make your game an evergreen, the market does that, but they can be a catalyst and are still the best way to achieve scale. It would be foolish not to listen to them and understand what is important to them.”
This applies to everyone, not just retailers. You know your life and your business better than anyone. That doesn’t mean you don’t have blind spots–in fact, I would almost guarantee that every creator has large and small blind spots, including myself. That’s why I seek feedback from a variety of sources, always considering the source.
Just the other day, in fact, I sent my monthly e-newsletter to distributors with a focused question about Tapestry. I genuinely wanted their feedback, and I’m grateful that 31 out of the 865 retailers on our mailing list responded to the short survey.
“Retailers are important, but you must always understand that advice comes from the perspective of what benefits them most as a retailer (not always what benefits you as a publisher) and I don’t blame them, but they don’t know your business, your goals, or your strategy, so the assumption is a one size fits all “this is what publishers should do”.”
Consider the source. This is something I try to remind myself of whenever I seek or consume feedback. And I honestly think there are some sources that are not worth considering at all. For me, I don’t want to make personal or business decisions based on people who spend their time posting on social media about what they hate. It doesn’t matter if I agree with you or not–the people I seek to steer Stonemaier Games are those who seek to include, uplift, and improve, not those who exclude, hate, and destroy.
“So how much weight should you put into retailer’s advice on pricing or otherwise when the most likely scenario is your game sells in distribution for a couple months and then more or less dies and gets dropped by all the retailers (including those that advised you what to do). Who cares if a customer compares the price to your KS if the retailer most times isn’t really going to stock past a handful of copies anyway?”
This delves into what I recently discussed in my What’s Up with Reward Prices on Kickstarter article. In it I suggest that creators determine reward prices from the bottom up (starting with manufacturing and sunk costs), not from the top down (starting with hypothetical MSRP). Of course, even that proposal isn’t a good fit for all creators–there are some publishers that make most of their sales on Kickstarter, while others (like Stonemaier) make the vast majority of our sales to distributors.
Every Decision Must Make Business Sense for You
“It has to make business sense. What has to? Everything has to. For you, for the retailer, or both, but there won’t (or shouldn’t) be any business deals if it doesn’t make business sense for someone. Depending on your goals it might make sense to do something that doesn’t make sense for them but makes a ton of sense for you. Or maybe doing something that makes sense for them more than you might be ok if it drives growth of your brand or benefits you some other way. Not all business benefits are about $$$ but don’t lose sight of how much profit, and cash flow especially, matters to a successful publisher. And of course arrangements that benefit BOTH is something publishers that want to succeed in retail should be striving for.”
I love this, and I completely agree. That’s really the entire intent of my blog–I want to present you with a variety of options and questions so you can figure out what’s best for you. And it’s often on a case-by-case basis: What’s right for one product, situation, or company may be very different than another.
I also like that AJ talks about profit and cash flow. Yes, they’re important for a sustainable business. But there are a lot of other factors in play too. Just yesterday I was listening to Justin Gary (Ascension, Shards of Infinity) talk to Gabe Barrett, and Justin said that one of the main motivators for making a pirate-themed expansion to Ascension is because he loves pirates. It’s hard to sustain any form of content creation for an extended period of time if you don’t do some things–many things–simply out of passion, love, excitement, or fun.
I really appreciate AJ for posting this and for letting me share parts of it. How do you consider the source when considering feedback, and have you had to make some interesting/difficult business decisions when considering feedback from multiple perspectives?
- How to Give and Take Tough-Love Feedback
- Your Target Audience Is Not “Everyone”
- The Current State of Retailers and Kickstarter (2019)
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