Marketing Mini Series Part 8: Online Marketing 101: The Four Pillars

When I started working on MMOs for the first time, I saw the world of marketing rapidly change. Once the tidal wave began, I knew pretty quickly that boxed games, print ads, and store/channel marketing were going to be a thing of the past — or at least a much smaller part of the overall marketing equation. I started shifting the PR and marketing work I was doing towards online, because the writing was on the wall: more and more people were living on the internet, and mobile smart devices were becoming more accessible at an incredible pace.

I remember when I was working at Cryptic, we had a meeting with our publisher at the time, Atari. We suggested not selling standard boxed copies of the game we were working on, Champions Online, and instead doing Steam and subscription versions — we could just make a collector’s edition box, I suggested, and spend the rest of the marketing money online. They thought I was out of my mind!

With online marketing, it’s so much easier to get reliable metrics and data out of your campaigns, so you can tweak them instantly. There are a bunch of different ways to exploit online marketing, and here are four disciplines that I’ve used for the campaigns I’ve worked on.

  1. Search Engine Optimization or SEO, to help connect your website or product with new users through search engine results. If you have good SEO, your website will appear in the first page of a Google or Bing search. SEO requires both creative and technical elements to improve your rankings in a search engine organically. It’s all about a search engine’s algorithm, so promoting key words and images is important, but links to your website can also help generate better hits. SEO is “free” — you don’t pay for it, but you do have to spend a considerable amount of time optimizing your web pages. You can also go the route of Search Engine Marketing or SEM, which is the paid alternative, using services like Google AdWords or Bing Ads. There are also SEM agencies that can help if you have the budget and not the people power to take care of internal SEO implementations or SEM executions.

  2. Newsletter campaigns are helpful for retaining customers and communicating news or information directly to them. A few ways I got good “open rates” with my past email campaigns were: to-the-point messaging with good visuals, great offers for tech or support help, sending it out after 8pm, and including info about relevant meetups/user group meetings in targeted areas. It’s also important to design responsive campaigns: I found the highest open rates were actually on mobile devices. I don’t bombard my communities with a ton of newsletters, but rather send out clean, clear emails with a regular cadence of every other week, and occasionally a special newsletter about a single news item like new pricing or something that we announced.

  3. Social media is of course another essential way to gain awareness for your product/company. I typically build accounts for Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat at very minimum, but there are others you can seize upon, depending on your strategy and regions (WeChat and QQ are huge in China, for instance). I’ll also put together a Subreddit page, LinkedIn, Twitch, YouTube, and Google+ if needed. As you probably know, these sites/apps all function differently; you can have the same messaging, but perhaps not 100% of the same content. I like the use of social media because it’s free, provided you have the time (or people) to update them daily. You can also purchase content ad buys to promote your posts, if you have the budget for it.

  4. Media buys are the most costly, because you need to produce the creative (graphic and/or wordsmithing), and buy ads to place that content. You’re basically buying real estate online for advertisement. It’s important to find websites that you associate with your company/product; areas your targeted customer frequents. I like media buying because the metrics are extremely trackable, and you can parse out the data to strengthen your campaigns. You can also do campaigns like retargeting, which tracks visitors from your site and then targets an ad to them about your product when they’re on another site. The downside to this type of online marketing is that it requires a sizeable budget for the creative and ad placements in order get a good ROI. In the past, I’ve typically only used external agencies to help execute my strategies — I have never had an internal media buyer.

So that’s a quick, down-and-dirty online marketing approach, with four different ways you can use the internet to your advantage. If you have any specific questions, feel free to email me at [email protected].