John Pleasants, former CEO of Playdom, once said, “successful [Facebook] games’ marketing budgets are upwards of 50% of their production costs and can skyrocket into the millions as the game grows.” While it’s clear Pleasants understands the importance of marketing, it’s also clear he wasn’t addressing an indie audience. Allocating 50% of production costs toward marketing is a luxury most indies don’t have, making Pleasants’ calculation method less than ideal. Knowing how to calculate a marketing budget isn’t about estimating off a percentage of another cost. It’s about understanding your game’s unique marketing needs and pricing accordingly. Here are three steps that should help.
How to Calculate a Marketing Budget for Your Game
List Your Marketing Needs
An accurate marketing budget starts with a solid communication plan, i.e., a schedule of when you’re launching what initiatives (e.g., advertising, press outreach, etc.) to promote your game. Without a communication plan, or with a half-baked one, accurately estimating a marketing budget is impossible.
With your communication plan in hand, begin listing out everything you’ll need for each initiative. Include both physical assets and manpower needs. For example, if you have “distribute press release” on your communication plan, your list might include: press release, screen shots, trailer video, email template to send to writers/bloggers, list of writers’/bloggers’ email addresses, person to send emails. The more thorough and detailed the list, the better.
DIY vs. Contracting vs. Consulting
Now that you have your list in place, go through it to determine which items you can and can’t execute yourself given your skill set and/or time constraints. Remember, the best way to keep your costs down is to do things yourself, but never at the cost of quality. If you don’t have the skill set or time, consider contracting or consulting. To better guide you:
- Contract when you (1) don’t have the time to execute marketing tasks or (2) don’t have the skill set to make them look professional.
- Consult when you have the skill set and/or time, but need some professional guidance.
- Estimate Your Costs
Estimating your costs is by far the most time intensive part of the process, but don’t be discouraged. Your hard work and diligence here translate to an accurate marketing budget. Take comfort in that.
Using the list of contracting/consulting needs you put together in Step 2, start sourcing vendors. Simple Google searches or friend referrals are a great place to start. When you discover reputable vendors, contact them for a quote, keeping in mind quotes are estimates that can be negotiated. Try to contact multiple vendors who provide similar services to ensure you’re getting the best deal. Once satisfied with your results, tally up your quotes and you have your marketing budget!
Feature image above was taken by Mario Sanchez.