Outside our Power

As a retailer, we have certain advantages over publishers.  For one, we generally aren’t reliant on any one product or even a single company for our existence.  Sure, some companies are more important than others (it’d suck if FFG went out of business tomorrow) but overall, we can spread our risk around a lot more.

In addition, we are the end-seller; the last business entity before the product enters the hand of the customer, which sometimes gives us a very good view of demand in the market compared to publishers or distributors.

Out of Control

Unfortunately, that also means that there’s more than a few things that are out of our control.  Stock, and stock shortage is the major one.  This year in particular has been particularly bad – it seems like 50% at least of FFG’s product line is out of stock, Pandemic and it’s expansion was out of print for a while this year, King of Tokyo and Smash Up the same.  Almost all the hot games that have been released in the last year and a half or so seem to have gone in and out of stock.  It’s incredibly frustrating and bad for business.

Worst are the constant delays in production – slipped deadlines, bad information, price increases or stock shortages.  Luckily, most customers don’t blame us for this – but it does happen.

Planning for Others

They say no plan survives contact with the enemy. Well, in business, no plan survives reality.  Like in the army, the only thing you can really do is build flexibility in  your plan and your business and keep a reserve for when things don’t go right.

Oh, and have a little Luck on your side.

Multiple Notes : Marketing Thoughts

Marketing has always seemed a bit of an art form to me.  Or perhaps a skill set – there’s definitely things that are a ‘must-do’ and there’s a process (or should be) for discerning what you should / should not be doing.  In fact, I know of a lot of tools that are available out there that can make many of the decisions fact-based.  Of course, most of those tools cost a lot of money and aren’t worth the time / resources spent unless you’re a large multi-national.  Nonetheless, they are out there.

Making Music

When making music, you generally want to have multiple notes playing to create a symphony.  Sure, you could draw an audience if you just played a single note but more often than not, you want a full composition- not a single note.  If you think of the composition as your marketing program, then each tactic is a note.  You want a variety of notes, each played at different periods for different lengths of time to generate the symphony.  A long note might be an passive marketing tactic, a short note an active marketing tactic.

Playing in Tune

If you think of the symphony though, it is always played in a specific key.  The composer sets the key beforehand, deciding how the tune should sound.  You could transpose the symphony a scale or two either way, and it’d be recognizable but it wouldn’t be the same.  It might even sound horrible…

Worst though than transposing the tune is if a note doesn’t ‘fit’.  You can tell almost immediately when someone plays a note wrong in a song, so what makes you think that you can’t recognise a wrong marketing tactic?


So, let’s say we start with a simple example.  Starlit Citadel’s ‘symphony’ is played in strains of ‘geek professional’.  Sure, we have a little fun and we pass on cool ‘geek’ related information (see geek), but all our communication is (or should be) in the ‘professional’ format.  We don’t curse, swear or otherwise step outside of the professional form of communication.  Nor do we use advertising methods that would be considered ‘unprofessional’ in tone or form – e.g. spam or overtly sexual advertising.

On the other hand, take a look at GoDaddy’s advertising.  They’ve chosen their risque advertising format, and so a professional, dry boring press release (say, try reading a bank’s press release) would seem not only odd, but probably off-putting for most of their customers.

So what’s your business tone?

Feeding the Trolls

Never Feed the Trolls…

Sometimes, though the line between feeding a troll and setting the record straight is very fine.  Case in point – the Yelp review we have.  There’s a lot of innuendo, lies and straight out store bashing by one particular reviewer there.  Frankly, the bashing I can deal with – that’s not something I care about.

Lies and innuendo (especially with regard to whether we are a ‘legit’ business and/or are tax frauds) – those are much more serious.  Those I felt I needed to answer – complete lies and fabrication should be dealt with, especially when such information is on a public forum.

However, when do you stop?

My rule is simple – set the record straight – once.  After that, you are just feeding the troll who wants attention.  You can’t ever change a person’s mind – at least not on the Internet.  In most cases, letting their very words speak for themselves, especially if you have replied in a calm, professional manner will set the record straight and harm their points.

What if you are in the wrong?

Occasionally the mistakes are real.   Sometimes, you’re the one who who is in the wrong.  In that case, own up, fix the problem (or mention how you are fixing it if it isn’t something that can be fixed easily) and take it off the public forums.  Individual mistakes shouldn’t be handled publicly – for one thing, you never know what kind of information you might need to ask for / end up divulging; so it’s better to talk privately rather than continue a conversation in public.  Sure, it might not be as satisfying but being professional is better than being publicly right.

And the anger / frustration / etc?

If you are running any kind of business, learning to deal with criticism is important.  How you deal with it is really up to you – but learning to deal with stress is important.  Personally, I mostly dismiss the trolls – they just aren’t that important. They’re not your customers, they’re just sad little people.

The irate customers, the ones who have caught you out on a mistake – those are harder to forget about.  At the end of the day, you just have to take a deep breath, deal / fix the problem and accept that you screwed up and work on ways of doing better the next time.