“… (by Brandon Klassen) … I would be interested as you to hear more from Ken about what courses of advertisement Sierra took in the early years.
Sierra’s success was largely attributed to our product, which is certainly true. But, equally important was our marketing. We had a very unusual approach to marketing, which might not work today, but was very successful at the time.
Prior to starting Sierra, I spent some time in the direct mail business. I thought of our business as a classic “cost of acquisition and customer retention” business. I invested heavily in building great product, and heavily in customer support. We also invested heavily in direct mail. InterAction magazine was VERY expensive to produce, and was only mailed to repeat customers.
During my time, word of mouth in the industry was everything. You couldn’t spend enough money to make a bad title sell, and by the time we released a new title, everyone knew about it (because of InterAction magazine).
I have a LOT more to say on this topic, but we have to run out now. I’ll try to come back here and post again sometime in the next few days.
Here’s the key concept:
If you burn a customer, they will never buy from you again. Because of our reputation, we didn’t have to do anything to get get potential customers to try at least one of our products. Once the customer was “in the family” we tried to “love them to death.” We always had an 800 number for support. I answered my email, as did all of our designers. If someone didn’t like a game, we gave them their money back NO QUESTIONS ASKED. We couldn’t promise that we would never make a mistake, but we did promise that no customer would ever spend a dime having a bad experience with a Sierra product (because of our refund policy).
We NEVER had booths at the trade shows (well .. actually I was dragged kicking and screaming into a couple of them, but hated the experience. Why spend money to show your competitors your products?) We almost never advertised (Customers bought from word of mouth, not ads. We had a large enough circulation for InterAction to get plenty of word of mouth.