Reaching out to stores in order to find a place to play or host tournaments is a lot like online dating.
When we (in New York City) began to prepare for the relaunch of A Game of Thrones, the part that I was most nervous about was reaching out to stores in the metro area with which we did not have a pre-existing, or strong, relationship. Now, at the beginning of the store championship season, I believe I have a bit of advice for others trying to navigate these somewhat treacherous waters.
You’re going to have to reach out to a lot of stores when you’re first starting. Not every game store in your area is going to have the space to host game nights or, especially, tournaments like store championships and regionals. Thrones may be the only game that matters – to us at least – but it is far from that to many game stores. Many stores do not have much experience running competitive games beyond the traditional money-spinners like Magic: The Gathering – all of which is just a long way of saying that many stores will not be willing nor able to host your events; they may not even reply to your inquiries at all. When reaching out to stores when 2.0 launched, I only received replies from about a third.
Once you’ve gotten in touch with a store and received a positive reply, you need to be flexible with scheduling. The type of stores that can host tournaments often have busy schedules. Regular Magic and other big-ticket collectable card game events are what underwrite many stores. There is no way your Thrones event(s), particularly, at first, are going to be able to compete with these sorts of events – at least in the minds of most store owners. That is to say, you’re going to need to have several different dates in mind when trying to set up your first event and not get your heart set on one particular date.
Once everything is set with the store and the day of your event arrives, you’ve got to make sure you show up a bit early. Before any other players show up, you need to make sure you’ve checked in with the staff and gotten your space sent up. It is particularly important that throughout the event you try to be as courteous as possible to the store’s staff and one should try and get your players to act the same way. In my experience, you’d be surprised at how oblivious many people can be to this. Developing a positive relationship with both the store owner/manager and the staff is a great way to be able to host future events and get a store to support Thrones – as both a competitive game and as a product. After your event, within the first day or two, make sure you send a thank you e-mail to the store owner. Gratitude goes a long way to smoothing the way to future events.
Put simply, you’re going to have to patient and respectful if you want to build positive, long-lasting relationships with your local stores. In a tough economic climate, like ours at present, store owners and managers have a lot on their plates. The more you can do, as a meta-leader, to make running Thrones events easier for them the better. Most importantly, be patient with slow replies and/or scheduling hiccups.
As always, please leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments.