Everything I Needed To Know About Marketing I Learned Playing Dungeons and Dragons – #BWCBend Keynote 4

October 14th, 2013

Our keynote speaker Ian Lurie, @portentint, has bundled a number links for this presentation here: portent.co/dndmktg.

What is this D&D of which you speak? What if no one in the audience knew Dungeons and Dragons? This presentation might totally flop. So quick background. A group (2 but usually more) get together. One is the dungeon master, and she is the storyteller. The rest of the group are players, characters participating in the story.

JSYK, D&D is a gateway drug into far nerdier stuff. He started playing D&D in middle school after he aunt gave him the game and he invited friends over to play. Those friends went back to school and told people about the game and this solidified Ian’s nerdhood.

Lesson: There is no normal. People are weird.

When he started high school he moved from New Jersey to California where he was immediately invited into a weekly Friday D&D game day. He realized that everyone is weird. Read “We Are All Weird” by Seth Godin. As an example, when he met his wife he figured he better tell her he’s into games and told her about D&D and she was like, “OK.”

Ian Lurie used data to calculate his best target with the ladies.

Ian Lurie used data to calculate his best target with the ladies.

There are ways to figure this out related to your website. For example:

    • Look at your on-site search data. What are people searching for when they’re on your site.
    • on-site search venn diagram

      Site-search data tells you what people are searching for on your site.

    • You can look for other related precise interests in Facebook. If you search Facebook for “#Dungeons & Dragons” you can see suggested likes and interests. Then you can market to the specific group.
    • You can do product searches on Amazon and see the products that customers who “bought this also bought”.
    • Use Followerwonk to see what people are listing as their interests when they also list the one you enter.

Lesson: Sometimes things go sideways.

There’s randomness in marketing. People do crazy things. They aren’t a 20 sided die but a trillion sided die. You can’t prepare for that, but you can prepare for the failures by measuring everything you do. When you do that, when stuff goes wrong you know why.

If you don’t know lifetime value, use something! Average sale, ad sales, average client value… It’s as important to track teh change in that number as it is to know the exact number.

Lesson: Fear nothing.

If you’re playing in a good group and you make a mistake, it’s okay. It’s all part of a story. You’ll probably end up telling that story years later. There are some things you should fear. You should fear making people feel cheated. Feel leaving people feeling like they got screwed. Don’t fear the Reddit brigade, people telling you that you suck because that’s fear of the mob mentality, people who say you’re outside the group.

Lesson: Do something.

Don’t be the one standing there and says “and then what happens?” If you’re still acting, you’re not dead. If you adapt you’ll probably flourish. He uses webpagetest.org to compare a client to a competitor because almost always a goal of a business is to outperform a competitor. Look for easy wins. Speak in the same language as your staff. Bribe with lunch, baseball tickets, scotch.

Lesson: Provide return on time investment.

He calculated that all the wealth he made in D&D over the years, and if stacked it’d be taller than the Empire State Building. This currency is imaginary and yet is still makes him happy. Understand that content is your first product. Your communication with your customer requires time on their part and if they give you their time they want to feel it wasn’t wasted. Write well. Spell check. Make the site fast.

Lesson: No one cares about the cows.

A D&D playing friend tracked a lot of game metrics, including some things about the cows in the game. But it’s unlikely that the cows will be in negotiations, still he wanted to tell their buddies about the cows. Don’t let the fact that you have data bias you toward its importance. Don’t let the means cloud your vision of the ends.

Lesson: You can be right or you can play.

There are people in D&D that are sticklers for rules and while they know the rules inside and out, they’re the least fun to play with and may not be invited to play. Don’t assume that the language you use is the language your customers use. It often comes down to ego: “The way I talk about it is the way everyone should and they’re gonna learn.” Put ego aside and then when you draw them in by speaking the same language you can then educate them if you want.

Lesson: Everything has a story arc.

If you win in a heroic way every time, winning loses luster. Read and play into the story arc.

story arc slide

People discover when they’re not in need. They research when they’re in need. They buy when after they’ve researched. When they get what they buy and they solve their problem they feel like they’ve won.

Lesson: Great communications can save the world.

A lot of players like to be villians, but when you do that all the other players and powers in the game are trying to cut you down. But there’s other more serious evil. People selling links by the thousands are sending businesses straight into the woodchipper. Marketing is one of the most powerful forms of communication and it’s only going to become more influential and prevalent. He invites marketers to do chaotic good.


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