The other 9 of the 19 cheap, easy, and effective ways to market your board game – Part 2, stuff you can pay for

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There are many ways to market your board game, and a lot of them cost money. For examples of free ways you can market your board game, see Part 1! Here are the other 9 still pretty cheap, easy, and effective ways board game designers can market their games.

Content Marketing

This marketing strategy is one of the least expensive, but most time consuming, ways to gain customers. Content Marketing involves creating meaningful articles, videos, images, or anything else that provide value to your ideal customers. Content Marketing is what I’m doing right now with this blog!

It takes a long time to gain a following. I started from scratch creating this blog with no followers to speak of and no real guarantee that I will ever gain a meaningful following. Content Marketing works best for people who are looking to gain more than one type of value. For me, I want to practice writing for others to personally grow.

The best content consists of something nobody else has that many people can use. Your game is already a collection of this kind of content! Creating a landing page or social media page that customers can visit that shows off your game mechanics, art, and story is a simple way to share unique content with others. To give you a specific example, we developed this website for less than $150 (this year only), doing all the work ourselves, and by taking advantage of a promotional student discount. There are cheaper and more expensive ways to do it, so find a method that fits your budget!

Consider also using Tabletop Simulator or developing print-and-play versions of your games that can be easily accessed by others. These are just a few ways board game designers can leverage the content we are already perfecting!

Engineering as Marketing

As engineers ourselves, we may be biased, but we think engineering is pretty awesome. The cost of bringing engineering into your marketing campaign van vary significantly, so consider what you can do most easily and affordably. Two highly effective strategies we have seen include unique board development and the integration of app technology. If you can include in your design a unique feature, that feature can become unique content for you to discuss with followers.

For a wonderful example of how designers can creatively use box components, check out the stacking three layer board of Holi Festival of Colors. For examples of app integration, check out One Night Werewolf, and many escape room themed games.

To pull off some engineering ideas you may have, consider partnering with someone who has the expertise you are looking for. We have worked with freelancers on platforms like Fiverr and students at universities. Both are affordable options for small designers on a budget.

Unconventional Publicity

Are you a wild card on a budget? This strategy is for you. Unconventional publicity can mean a lot of things. You can wear a costume outside of a convention hyping your game to attendees or offer a contest on your social media page to followers for a free copy of your game. Unconventional publicity is a catch all for the odd ball.

Unconventional publicity needs to be cheap because it is a game of chance. Like viral marketing, it is hard to predict what will work. The most reliable strategies are the ones that care for your customers and early adopters. The first people to join you on your design journey are the ones who are most likely to be enchanted by your unconventional antics. Consider handwritten cards to crowdfunding campaign backers, even for campaigns that are not successful. Hand out balloons at a party with business cards tied to the string with directions to your game’s landing page. The opportunities are endless!

Search Engine Marketing

Search engine marketing is not the ideal marketing strategy for most board game designers. SEM involves developing paid advertisements targeted at specific keywords that people search. There are two main keyword types to target – Fat Head and Long Tail. An example of a Fat Head keyword is “Board Game”. It is a highly competitive keyword, and the more competitive, the more costly. Just type it into google and you will see just how many search results pop up. A Long Tail keyword would be “Board Game about trains”. For that longer search term, there are far fewer competitors. Ranking high for Fat Head keywords is way out of the budget for most game designers. Long Tail keywords are less expensive, but fewer searches with those terms will be made.

The success of your SEM strategy will rely on the metric Click Through Rate. The CTR is the number of times a person who viewed your ad engaged with it, usually clicking a link. An advertisement with a high CTR is likely more successful than one with a low CTR. However, it is important to track how many of the people who click your advertisement actually convert to customers. You pay for the people who click on the ad, not for the number who actually buy something.

Social Ads

Social Ads are paid advertisements that are posted on websites or social media platforms. As with SEM, the cost to run the advertisement is going to vary depending upon where you intend to run it. Approaching smaller sites with specific audiences you want to target is the most cost-effective way to run social ads.

Social Ads for board game designers are best used to gain general awareness for your game, not to immediately convert customers. Create shareable content (think infographic rather than blog article) in which your call to action is to join a social media group or sign up for a newsletter. You will not get customers immediately using this method, but you will net interested people who are then agreeing to let you continue selling your game to them. It will be easier to convert these individuals into customers later.

Offline Ads

Offline Ads include any advertisement you see in the real world (for example, billboards, posters on telephone poles, and printed ads in magazines). Offline ads can be affordable and yet are often underutilized by board game designers. Make sure you create fliers or business cards you can pass out at the conventions you visit so playtesters and publishers can have something to remember your game by. Post launch announcements in local board game shops, coffee shops, or any other establishment that collects community information.

If you want to purchase space in a newspaper or magazine, choose a time and location that will help you get noticed. Purchasing ad space in a local newspaper the week before a major board game convention is a good choice. Reach out to the newspaper or magazine and ask about remnant ad space. This is leftover ad space which was not filled, but the paper does not want to leave blank. You can advertise in this space for a discount.

Tracking the effectiveness of offline ads can be a challenge. Always create unique codes or landing pages for each advertisement so you can identify which of your ads best resonates with your potential customers.

Affiliate Programs

Affiliate Programs are partnerships in which Party A pays Party B a commission of each sale for each person Party B sends to Party A. Party A does not need to pay Party B anything if no sale is made. The terms of the agreements can vary, so read any contracts you have carefully.

The benefit to Board Game designers on small budgets is that no money must be paid to an affiliate unless a real sale has been made. Unlike with SEM or Social Ads, use of Affiliate Programs means you are paying for actual sales, not just brief visits to your website. The best way to find potential affiliates is by asking your community for referrals! Try to find out who else your customers read about or follow to identify the affiliate who best suits your target customers.


We highly recommend attending conventions! There are global conventions that draw thousands of customers as well as small meet ups in your local community. Pick a convention that is within your budget and that has a goal that aligns with yours. If you are still prototyping your game, there are conventions targeted just for that. There are other conventions designed just for selling to publishers, and still others designed to entertain customers. Do not waste your money attending one that doesn’t align with your goals.

Once you do pick one, see what it offers! Consider play testing your game, selling copies of your game, giving a speech on a gaming topic you have expertise in, or just finding where publishers hang out and introducing yourself. Conventions are also great spots for offline ads and unconventional publicity.

Offline Events

Offline Events for board game designers usually entail hanging out with some friends and playtesting some games. Consider making your event a bit bigger than that. Stage your hangouts for better photographs and take notes of your playtesting experience. Post about what you are doing on social media or send an update about your game in an email campaign.

Throw a party and invite your friends over. Do not be a game that tries to launch on Kickstarter with no photographic or video evidence that anyone has ever enjoyed playing your game. A picture is worth a thousand words. There is your excuse, go throw a party! 

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Design Theory
Carla Kopp

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