High-traffic, high-visibility, top-of-the-funnel channels like TikTok and Twitter are good at getting exposure but they aren’t very good at building an engaged community member that will eventually buy your game. Once they discover you on those top-of-the-funnel platforms you need to get them to join your email list or discord which are much better at “warming them up” and turning them into a “true fan.”
Social media platforms do everything in their power to discourage external links so one trick is to run a contest. Basically, you announce that you are running a contest to those who join your email list or discord. This is called a “lead magnet” and basically a little “treat” you give people to join your higher-value marketing channels.
But you are a poor indie and don’t have money for a big contest like giving away a Switch or $1,000,000? Don’t worry you don’t need to do that! People will do a lot for the smallest incentive. Here are 6 very easy, very small rewards that you can give away.
Early access to your game
Easy, you give them a build of your games weeks before everyone else gets it. The best part is you also get early feedback.
An in person (or virtual) tour of your office
This one kind of requires a few things. 1) That you have a cool office. 2) That they live near you. 3) That a global pandemic has turned endemic.
But if you at least have a cool office you can do a virtual tour. Call it the virtual Wonka tour. Agree to mail them food from your snack counter.
Name an NPC after them or put their name in the game
This is the cheapest and easiest prize award you can offer. You just plop in a single string in your game and voila they get their name in a real game.
You can also do things like insert their name in the world art like naming a fake business after them like “Blake’s noodle shop” or “Cindy’s construction.”
Just be clear that you have the right to reject whatever name they offer so you don’t end up with “Balls420 Elementary School”
If you have run a booth you probably have some cheap merch like enamel pins, stickers, or postcards lying around unused. The good thing about small merch like this is it is pretty cheap to ship around the world.
A custom avatar created by your artist
Get your artist to do a portrait of the contest winner in the art style of your game. The winner can then use that on their own social media, or on Steam.
So few people in the world have actually had commissioned art done for them. It really is a gift that transcends a simple contest. You might turn them into a patron of the arts.
Add their pet to the game
I am not much of an animal person, but I have heard people like their pets – a lot. If your game’s theme allows it, insert a representation of their beloved.
Where to advertise this?
Remember a contest is a way to convert low-value but high-visibility traffic into high-value, personalized subscribers. So you need to pair your contest when you are doing a giant promotion. Here are some examples:
Online Virtual Festivals
Right now the highest-visibility promotion around is online steam-takeover game festivals. If you are featured in one, create a special banner image advertising your contest and add it to your Steam page “special announcements” section. Clicking the image opens your discord or mailing list signup page. Also, add a bit of text to your capsule advertising it “Enter the get your pet in the game contest.”
For your next major trailer release, create a trailer end-card that advertises the contest. “Win early access, enter now” and provide a simple bitly link or url.
Also be sure to provide a link in the trailer description.
Piggyback social media virality
If one of your tweets goes viral, append a new tweet to it announcing the contest and a link to sign up. Everyone who liked or retweeted the original tweet will be more likely to see your appended contest tweet.
Also be sure you pin the tweet about your contest to your profile.
When someone joins your mailing list, configure the auto-response to say “you are entered in the contest. By the way, if you have a friend who would be interested in entering, please send them to this link <url to contest signup>.”
Immediately engage with them
During the contest period, you should be regularly sending emails to the list. Remember the point of this contest is to turn someone who is mildly interested in your game into a dedicated fan. First, remind them when the contest drawing will be, but then also go into an explanation of your game and how it works. You should also tell them other places to follow you as well as to wishlist your game.
Confirm the winner
When the drawing occurs, reach out to the winners and confirm they want the prize and have them send you their address (if you are sending physical rewards.) Tell them they have 24 hours to respond or you will redraw a new name. You should also ask them if they would be comfortable sharing their name with the public as the winner and what name to use.
When you have confirmed winners, send an email to the whole list about the contest. If the winner didn’t consent to their name being shared, just say “A winner from <city>.”
Then give one more plug for your game and how people can follow. Remember this is about promoting your game, not giving away stuff.
Need more ideas?
If you need more ideas for marketing your game you should check out my new site where every week I upload new, simple to implement ideas for how to marketing your game. Game Marketing Ideas.