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GDC BizDev Diaries: Managing 150+ Meetings for Twelve Companies Without Losing My Mind (Part 2 of 3)

The second in a series of posts outlining how our consulting firm handled business development and marketing meetings for twelve very different companies simultaneously at GDC 2015.

Jay realized he wasn't going to be the best "employee" after leading his first start up for three years so he decided to do it again.  He founded The Powell Group in 2010 and the team has grown steadily since.  He's been building relationships and negotiating contracts in the game industry for 17 years now and if it pertains to expanding business networks or promoting games and projects his team can probably help you at www.powellgroupconsulting.com 

Previously (As in here), I had discussed the lead up to GDC, how we identified and prepped our clients, and what we did to get ready for meeting outreach.  The story continues below but feel free to go back and read the first entry as well.

January 2015 (60 days to GDC)

While our clients were busy working on their projects and preparing for GDC, we needed to find out what the publishing community at large was looking for at the show. In my agent days this wasn't difficult to deduce based on their size, the market they operated in, and their previously published games. Besides, there were only about 75 to 100 publishers globally you would be meeting with. Times have changed dramatically; with the growth of digital distribution on PC, mobile, and console there has been an explosion of developers. We crafted a simple survey that had only four questions, and sent it to over 250 publishers around the world. Though only 25% of the companies responded, we instantly had insight into what nearly 70 publishers would be looking for. Additionally these companies were now qualified as both going to GDC and interested in acquiring products or services. We knew which platforms were interesting, at what stage they wanted to see the games, and which partners were interested in hearing from our non-developer clients. Never satisfied, we also began a three-week campaign to do a large-scale search for new publishers we hadn't worked with before. Through industry news, conference guides, and a variety of other resources we added nearly another 350 companies to our list. A little over half of those companies were publishers, so we had a large target group for outreach.

We also started our search in January for a great venue for our client's annual networking dinner, which takes place on the Tuesday of the conference. We looked back at our experience over the last two years and reviewed what went right and what went wrong. The 2013 and 2014 dinners were very good but neither venue allowed for a truly social time to mingle before dinner was served. We needed to factor layout into the equation along with price, quality, and convenience to the the show location. Even with a two-month lead time, we missed out on our first choice for a venue. Having said that, it was for the best, as the restaurant we chose provided us with the best experience we have had to date and we will most certainly be going there again in 2016.

February 2015 (28 days to GDC... a zombie reference would be appropriate at this point)

With the show only a few short weeks away non-GDC work at The Powell Group was slowed to a trickle.  We continued to follow up on products and discussions that were on-going but there was little point in sending out new games or introducing new discussions would be of little benefit with the conference bearing down on us. All hands on deck were now focused on making GDC the best possible experience for each of our clients. We moved one team member to full time scheduling duty.  For the next few weeks she would be doing nothing but scheduling meetings with publishers and coordinating meeting schedules with ten clients.  As each of these clients had their own meetings they would be booking, sessions they wanted to see, and events they would attend, we needed to keep the schedules live and always updated. We used Google calendars and a master spreadsheet to track all of this. All meeting invitations were sent from a "GDC2015" email address and our clients were asked to include that address on any meetings they booked themselves so there would be no confusion or double booking. We were able to quickly manage multiple schedules and minimize initial issues at a glance. The spreadsheet was there for redundancy (because I'm crazy like that) but also so we can quickly look at each client and see how their show was filling out.  Each client could only see their calendar, and the spreadsheet was for internal use only.

There is a certain expectation that must be met when you are doing work like this for a variety of clients. No one wants to hire a firm that is just going to book them a few meetings with companies they met the last year or already knew. For that reason we tracked the meetings we had booked and whether or not that company met with the client in 2014.

February 9, 2015 (21 days to GDC)

This is the three-week mark leading into the show and traditionally is when we begin the process of actually recommending and booking the meetings. Using what we knew from our survey, experience, and industry news from the previous months we began to approach the decision makers at the publishers we had targeted for the show. We built a landing page exclusively for GDC on our website and included a bit about each company, what they were interested in discussing at GDC, and links to their sites as well as slide decks and videos that were pertinent to the show. We didn't want to hit all of the executives on our list with giant emails full of walls of text so we kept the emails simple: We outlined who we recommended they meet with, why, and directed them to the site to learn more about the companies. The partners could then either come back to us directly or click a link on that site to request a meeting with a team they were interested in.

Three weeks is a good lead time into a conference. Though not all parties will be scheduling meetings yet, some will, and you'll be on the radar for the others in the coming weeks. We began booking times and locations for the companies that responded, and we created our first draft of the target list for dinner guests here as well and sent those invitations out via EventBrite.

February 16, 2015 (14 days to GDC)

At this point my life consisted of 10-hour work days that focused on nearly nothing unrelated to GDC. To further complicate matters our area was hit with a mid-sized ice storm that left schools closed and roads unsafe for the better part of the week. During a time when I needed to be putting all focus on this show, I also needed to keep a toddler happy so my wife could work remotely as well (which wasn't all bad since "we're sledding" is a pretty good reason for being away from my desk). This week we focused on finalizing the scheduling for companies that had already responded and following up with those companies that have not. The latter is always tricky; if you come across as too aggressive, you'll lose any opportunity to set up a meeting. I learned business development in this industry during the times of international phone calls and fax machines, and I'm well versed in the "cold call" if needed to schedule a meeting. Today's corporate world doesn't allow for that tactic as much anymore and there is entirely new art form around crafting emails that will actually get opened. I have been careful over the last four years to build an internal technology suite (Nutshell and Contactually are two of my favorites) that lets us send these targeted and personal emails in a fairly expedited and organized manner.

At this point, our delegates were receiving meeting updates instantly as they were booked, and many had questions:

  • "Who is this?"
  • "Why am I meeting with this company?"
  • "Why am I not meeting with that company?"

I set aside time to address them with each company. We would also see new requests based on news some of the companies had recently read or a new idea that arose from an internal discussion. These have to be accounted for, as some of these companies don't have the budget to travel all year and this could easily be the one chance they have during the year for a face-to-face meeting. As the new objectives came in we would revisit potential meeting partners for each request and reach out to them for a time at GDC.

As time was getting short we began to send updates every 48 hours to our client on how many meetings each delegate had, with whom, and why they were matched up. A few of our initial invitations were turned down due to scheduling conflicts so we needed to reevaluate the list and make adjustments on the fly.

Next time we'll look at the week before the show, how we managed everything at the show, and what to do on follow ups.  In the meantime:

Key Takeaways

  • Know what your partners (publishers) want before reaching out to them with meetings.  Showing you understand their needs and objectives goes a long way to getting that meeting.
  • Dedicate one person as the primary point of contact for all scheduling.  It prevents two people from cross booking.
  • Schedule meetings with a clear purpose.  Be ready to explain to your client WHY they are or are not meeting with someone and make a very simple and clear message to the partner on why they should meet this client.

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