We feel that we have a pretty unique product, with lots of value for multiple audiences. But what we feel doesn’t matter for ramping up sales from zero to sustainability. These multiple audiences need to discover our product. And they need to see the value in it for themselves. Building awareness and simply reaching audiences to be able to communicate the value propositions is the first hurdle every startup faces after product launch.
LUPO is a card game with some properties, which distinguish it from other card games:
- It is cooperative rather than competitive. In most games, there is one winner and the losers will either feel bad or want revenge. LUPO is just positive, leaving no bad feelings. At Worldcon75, the first question many visitors asked was, how do you win? Hearing that this game is not about winning, we initially got questioning looks, but many soon said that on second thought this is exactly what they have been looking for.
- Rather than fighting aliens, you need to practice empathy to design and build a ridiculously awesome habitat for them and us in weird worlds. You need to think out-of-the-box about their needs as well as ours, overcoming challenges.
- And of course, it is about creativity with the world-building aspect, including problem-solving, with a focus on communication of your ideas to other players using various means.
- It costs the same as any deck of cards of its size, €20 or $25, but with that money you can play with 3-25 players, i.e. a whole classroom or a party crowd at home, while most card games are good for just for 3-5 people. Exceptional value for money.
- And you can play it over and over, even for extended times depending in how much effort you want to invest into your creations. Besides the huge number of card and player combinations, which make every game experience different, we have a built-in a promise of future add-on decks for all gamers introducing new game experiences and story themes, as well as complementary pedagogical packages for teachers. It is more than a card game.
- It has Vegan T-Rexes! You’d be surprised at the number of people who made the pre-order at Worldcon75 just for that one mind blowing character. LUPO has lots of assets like the Vegan T-Rexes which could be showcased in packaging and ads. Its price point is about the same as a book and less than two movie tickets, so people looking for some entertainment e.g. in a bookstore or game store could buy it just for the these characters. Our challenge is to get the product in front of people in places, where they can make these selections.
These properties may mean different things to different people, so it is hard for us to communicate all different meanings to different people in a single landing page, or even two landing pages. Design professionals call these different values attached to a product by different people “affordances“. We are now experimenting, how to reach and communicate with the different kinds of audiences, who have different use cases for our product.
Up to now, most of our sales leads have come from face-to-face encounters with people during play tests, school pilots, educational events, and lately also consumer events. Even the online sales have been primarily to people whom we have met somewhere before. Obviously, this doesn’t scale, so we need to make the people we meet and who get to try our game to talk about it to other people like them in person or online. We did try amplifying our social media during Worldcon75 with a small number of promoted messages, but we do not think those ads converted to any meaningful sales. We need to formulate new experiments for scaling our reach.
Our next experiment is already in the coming weekend at the free Lautapalaamaan.fi event September 15-17 at the Cable Factory in Helsinki. This is the biggest annual board gaming event in Finland, where we expect to meet active board gamers, talk to them and play with them. If you are one, welcome to play with us. We are going to have a small stand, so can sell some games right there, but more important for us is to be able to show LUPO to active board gamers, get their feedback, and – this is what we need most right now – get them to post reviews online.
We have reached out to some professional board game reviewers and hope to get some reviews into their web sites and possibly YouTube channels as well in the coming weeks. We have learned that many of these sites have as their business model marketing services, i.e. you get more exposure and faster exposure, if you pay them. We have not paid any of them yet, but will need to evaluate also this option in the future. First, we try to find professional reviewers, who like our game for what it is and may have the audience that appreciates finding our game from their site. If you have such a site, please contact us and let’s create an interesting story for your audience.
Paid reviews are a problem, which has risen recently from news stories of Amazon cracking down on apparent professional reviewers producing 5-star reviews for listed products in industrial scale, operating like the fake news industry. The market for these has been created indirectly by Amazon’s policy of requiring a certain amount of positive reviews for enabling discoverability on their marketplace. There should be a way to distinguish an honest review from a paid review on Amazon. We are trying to get our Amazon reviews organically without monetary incentives.
Which brings us to the questions of incentives in general, monetary or not. Obviously, if you like a product, you may want to recommend it to your friends just because you want to share the goodness. Our net promoter score from questionnaires after our pilots was 97% so probably some of the online sales we have achieved without advertising have come from this kind of word-of-mouth. But why would you make a recommendation online, even if you like a product?
Not everyone wants to broadcast their life and personal likings on online media sites. Some marketplaces themselves offer incentives to good reviewers to write more reviews, but accessing these reviewers may be a marketing service offered by the marketplace to its vendors. So instead of being a direct payment by vendor to reviewer, the vendor pays the marketplace, which pays the reviewer and there may be some amount of trust in the marketplace selecting honest reviewers to these programs. This is not very different from paying a placement fee to a game review site, where the review site is responsible for the credibility of the reviews. This is one form of paid marketing services that we can consider, though limited by our tiny marketing budget.
I will not dive deeper into advertising options in this blog post. Instead, we could address the other half of our current audience, school teachers. We have done a limited amount of school pilots and will continue doing them in the coming months in English speaking markets. This way, we get the personal feedback necessary for us to validate and fine tune our offering to the new markets. But this feedback is typically private. We would like the participating educators to tell about their experiences in online media, so that the word can spread to a wider audience. If you are this kind if influencer in the education space in the English-speaking markets, we would be very interested in talking to you about a pilot. We can offer a limited number of free pilots, which include a day’s training and a set of LUPO cards to each participant. We are also planning to create an online version of this training. Please, contact us as soon as possible if interested.
From our past pilots, one of the insights we have gained is that time is the most critical resource that a teacher has. We think that our product along with the complementary lesson plans can save hours of lesson planning time on a regular basis for millions of teachers. In fact, one of the scaling options we are working on is to build a community of education professionals for co-creating and sharing educational applications. We are aware that there already exist some community platforms, where teachers can share and even sell lesson plans and related materials, but probably none operating on a worldwide scale which apply a game frame, which is our goal. Let us know, what you think of this idea. What would it take to make you interested in contributing to such a platform and in using the material available in such a platform?
Hope to hear from you soon. Until next time, hope to see some of you in Helsinki this weekend!
Author: Nouri Mikko Werdi