Taking the friendly local game store and having good reviews is a force to be reckoned with.
Back in the day, (my kids just ran for cover,) we used to have business cards and retailer’s association meetings. Networking happened mostly at conventions, game fairs, and almost always in person. Having friends in distribution and other parts of the industry was super useful. It’s still important, but the media have changed.
Now most of the good networking happens on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and even smaller platforms such as MeWe. Instant messaging and Zoom calls have replaced a lot of our face-to-face interactions. Conventions are still around, but are great for other things besides networking.
It used to be if you didn’t give out 10 business cards per day, it was time to hang it up.
Now I would argue if your social media isn’t putting up a post on at least one or more platforms per day, you’re not putting your name out there enough. Hits on your website count for almost as much as people coming through the door. Messages in your various social media inboxes are probably more valuable than snail mail unless they’re spam or trolls. Even email is kinda becoming a secondary or even tertiary medium of exchange.
TV, radio and newspaper advertising used to be the way to go. Word of mouth is still effective, but maybe not as much as it once was in person. Now good word of mouth spreads slower, but bad word of mouth is almost deadly at times. Being polite, loveable, and courteous online for retailers is almost as important as great real-life interactions.
User experience sites such as Yelp or even good old Google Maps can propel a business forward or drop the One Star of DOOM.
I know a lot of folx do this with product reviews. A one star rating tends to get more attention than many of the five star reviews. Why do they hate it so much? I’ve had owners of a couple of different websites BEG me to change their one star review and up their rating. One promptly got the middle finger, another was willing to come to terms and be reasonable and got their wish granted.
I look at reviews on Google maps and other sources when it comes to restaurants. Some people drop a five star as a sort of default. The people dropping a single star usually have a lot to say. The proverbial “I’m cranked off!” letters to the editor used to carry more weight in a newspaper than a good review of a local restaurant.
But here’s the catch- A lack of one and two star reviews can mean very good things. People are satisfied with the business. They want to come back. Satisfied customers/clients sometimes leave highly detailed, very kind reviews. Those can be worth their weight in gold, especially just starting out. It’s easier to get established in any marketplace when there are loyal customers/guests/clients saying good things online and presumably in person.
Once a business is firmly established online and in the real world it becomes a percentage game.
If a website has 1,000 reviews, 75% are four star and above, 15% are three stars, and the rest are below. That says quite a bit about the business. Many of the harsher reviews are usually isolated incidents and sometimes things a store can address.
“Bathrooms need cleaned/stocked during Magic Tournaments.”
“Staff didn’t take time to chat on Black Friday.”
“Shelves were dusty.”
These are all things that can be easily addressed with a chat amongst the staff. Maybe the next time that guest comes in, things look better. The review gets changed and upped by a couple of stars. Everyone comes away happy.
Sometimes, it’s a losing battle. Let’s face it. Especially in the online world, some people are rarely happy no matter what a retailer does. Some people are even so unscrupulous as to try to scam for free product or good reviews of another business. Sounds greasy and underhanded, but it happens. Sometimes if you do give a little extra attention to these folx, things improve. Sometimes, there’s just no winning. They’re going to have their opinion and that’s all there is to it.
Good things come when you reach out to people.
Personally, I have found that TTRPG Twitter and Instagram are wonderful tools for promotion and advertisement. People in the #ttrpgcommunity talk a lot sometimes. I know I’m on there running my proverbial mouth daily and I don’t even own a shop. However, if I did…
I’d keep an ear cocked toward what games people are really looking at. Is there a print copy I can order into the shop? Can I point people to my store or someone I trust?
Wait. What did I just say?
It happens IRL as often as it does online. If I know I can’t provide a particular service or product, I’ll do everything in my power to find a website link, business, or phone number for someone who can. Maybe I lose a sale/client as a result. That’s life. BUT, will that person remember I went out of my way to do them a solid even though it wasn’t under my roof? Probably. And that’s the kind of positive memory every retailer strives for.
A prime example right now of keeping an ear peeled toward the #TTRPGcommunity would be the case of Thirsty Sword Lesbians. This game recently dove into uncharted waters for an RPG and won a freakin Nebula Award. If I owned a shop, I’d order in a few copies and make a display along with the expansion Advanced Lovers & Lesbians. With enough talk, three – five copies should be a pretty easy sell. More if a group or two take interest in the game.
On a related note: If I owned my own shop, TOLERANCE would be the word of the day. If my game room crowd wasn't being particularly kind to the LGBTQIA++ gamers or discriminating based on age or race for example, they would be asked to kindly pack up and leave. Word gets around pretty fast if a Magic Tournament judge, Dungeon Master, or GW Tournament judge is being an ass. That type of crap is not acceptable in any business. I'd rather have one openly gay customer than 100 bigots. I'll take bad reviews from intolerant shmucks all day before I'll eat a review that says my store discriminates based on political preference, gender identity, race, age, etc. In short- don't be a jerk to your fellow gamers. Ever.
Next time we’ll chat more about building on social media and websites.
I’m loving this particular topic. Thank you for stopping by. There is so much more to cover. I appreciate you all.