Weekly Store Update 27 June
Wow, is it just us, or are things just screaming along this year? Hot this week, we're running a Game Giveaway! We also had new items, restock, and preorders arrive; lots of the amazing Zombicide 2E! There's also shop news that might interest you, click to check it all out!
Hello there, it's Eric. I own/operate Stone Valley Games with Wendy, my mate and partner in everything. I'm usually the one penning the newsletter and for those new to this, the top portion is our shop news. However, if you want to skip the prose you can jump down to the bottom of the post and see the restocks, new items, and preorders we laid in last week. Though...you may want to hang on for the next piece to find out about the Game Giveaway.
JUNE/JULY GAME GIVEAWAY
Top News this week is our Game Giveaway! CLICK HERE to be whisked to the sign-in page and find out more about it. There's the extremely solo friendly 1-2 player Hoplomachus: Origins strategy board game from Chip Theory Games and a copy of Under Falling Skies Jigsaw Puzzle (the puzzle is not available in stores...what a fantastic collectable!) The giveaway closes 9 July, so make sure you sign up, and Good Luck!
THE REVENGE OF DUNGEON CRUSADE
So, there's this game called Dungeon Crusade, and if you haven't heard of it you can click the link to jump to Board Game Geek real quick. Bottom Line, it's an immense sandbox dungeon crawl and there's nothing like it. It took a long, long time to see the light of day and we've been following the project for years. It was conceived and developed by the nicest, most amazing man, Rodger Deering. While brilliant, Rodger is what we in the industry call...long winded. So, in developing his game he wrote the rulebook much like how he speaks, and even with extensive edits it was pared down to...70 pages. That kind of put the players in two polar opposite pools, those who consumed it all and eventually got to playing the amazing game, and those who just stared dumbfounded at the thing. Well, we heard from Rodger that not only have they developed a quick reference guide, which really helps, but they are also working on getting more copies of the game ready for release. That's awesome news! I can tell you we're cheering Rodger on, as he's another fine example of someone with a dream and the doggedness to turn it into reality.
POSTAGE PRICES MOVING ON UP
It's all but a done deal, so it looks like postage rates are going up by 6.9% on August 29, 2021. This is on top of the rate increases we went through in January. Now, it's important to remember that the Post Office has some of the most affordable rates in the world. If you don't think so, just compare those small package rates between UPS, Fed Ex, and USPS. However, this is just the very first step of their 10-year "Delivering for America" plan which is supposed to get them to financial sustainability. This first step is supposed to counter the steady decline in first class mail. First class mail covers letters under 3.5 oz. and parcels under 13 oz. Makes sense, as email has become the mail of choice for a few decades now. In any case, we're keeping an eye on it. I'm not too worried yet. However, as a significant portion of our income is based on e-commerce and customers generally hate the current postage rates it could get interesting. One important tip, postage rates are always cheaper the closer you are to where you are shopping from!
SPREADING THE WORD
In our peak behind the curtain this week I'd like to talk a bit about Marketing. This may seem long winded, but trust me, I'm going to keep it to the hardest hitting things. First of all, I am in no way an expert and am still learning what works for us. It may save you too, as we have spent (wasted) a lot of money finding out what works.
We do pay for Facebook ads, but to date I don't think we've sold a single thing thru Facebook. We haven't recouped the costs for using Facebook even once, and for our first few years we just dumped so, so much money into it for negligible returns - expecting the magic bullet. Don't. Do. It. Through trial and error we learned that boosting for absolute minimum pushes things higher in general searches which draws folks to us. This is the only way Facebook ads becomes a viable option. Funny, because it is a residual effect and not even what Facebook is supposed to be doing.
Which takes me to how ads work. We try our hardest to maintain the least annoying ads possible and use a lot of organic posts and messaging instead. We don't have pop-ups or ads on our website. We do not use Messenger, YouTube, or Google. It may be slower, but in our opinion it's more aligned with our quality standards. Hey, we're consumers too, and very few things are more annoying than those ads!
Mailchimp is what we use for email marketing. It's a good resource, fairly easy to figure out, and relatively inexpensive compared to some other solutions. It is what turns this post into a newsletter, and it is also what we use to run our giveaways too. Useful. As we are part of the community we love, it really helps us reach our audience. Also, we take care not to spam folks. The most we'll ever send is two emails a week, and that only happens on super rare occasions. Actually...I think we've only done it once this year.
We also work with content creators. This is the most expensive marketing we currently do. However, we consider this more than marketing, but also community service. We initially signed up with Solosaurus, and they have been nothing but fantastic. We kept things going as it transitioned and Martin, Michael and I communicate behind the scenes all of the time. I just love how we approach the gaming universe, and if I had more time I would probably ask for a speaking part on the pod. Along those lines, things have become so busy I needed another content creator to pick up the slack as I was unable to provide my board game reviews anymore. That relief came in the form of Jason from Meeple, Myself and I who had been providing written reviews for years. Well, he's just now transitioning to a solo board game podcast. If his first episode is any indication, it's going to be a long, wonderful relationship.
The absolute best is word of mouth. To facilitate some of those conversations we add a little something Stone Valley Games related to all of our orders. If folks like what we're doing they can use or give away those things to help spread the word. I believe the key here is being a community advocate and providing the best customer service possible. I can say that a lot of our store rules and processes were based on things we did not like about the industry and what standard retailers did to us. I digress. When customers provide reviews it encourages others to try us out too. After all, with so many...dare I say shady retailers out there, who do you trust? That's why we have our reviews right there on the front page and we encourage folks to talk about their shopping experience with us every time.
Bottom line is marketing remains a convoluted, messy, expensive endeavor, and know that how much you put into it should be funding you can live without. Results are never guaranteed, and it's an area where quite a lot of money can be flushed very quickly. As always, we hope our specific approach gives you some insight into the retail side, or gives you ideas for your own business.
THE WRAP UP
Okay, enough news for this week! Below are the Restocks, New Items, and Preorders added to the shop last week. You can click on the item to learn more, and many of the products have review and gameplay videos so you can see the game in action. If you're visiting our page and you'd like to keep up with our giveaways, sales, new products, and articles like this one just create an account here. Once created you will be subscribed to our newsletter and become enrolled in our loyalty system, instantly earning 50 Stones that you can use on your very first order. A Stone? One Stone is equivalent to One Cent. That doesn't sound like much, but you earn 2 Stones for every dollar spent and 5 for each product review, so though it may seem small, those savings add up fast! Redeem your Stones upon checkout, and they can save you up to 10% off your cart total. Loyalty Matters!