Coming up with a Business Concept for a TTRPG Publishing company

To help my pals in the indie TTRPG scene, I want to go over every step I take as I work on my small publishing company right from the start. Which brings me to this post about the Business Concept I landed on.

This information will be valuable to folks that are looking to operate solo or with a skeleton crew. That’s how I’ll be operating myself, as a one person crew that hires out talent as needed.

In this post I will be covering the importance of establishing a concept from the outset, and how to do it.

To make a business concept, we need to create a positioning statement out of three key ingredients. A product statement, which is what you do and who you do it for. A target market, which is the broad group you expect will find interest in your product. Then, the value proposition, which is what value you provide to your customers to set yourself apart.

So, let’s take a look at what I came up with for Scraps Burgers and how I got there.

Product Statement
“Scraps Burgers publishes limited edition print runs of TTRPGs for and by marginalized voices.”

Target Market
TTRPG players that want games outside of the established topics and settings in the mainstream.

Value Proposition
We pay our contributors above industry standard rates so customers can feel proud about where their dollars go. We operate with transparency to benefit customers, independent designers and business owners.

Positioning Statement
For those who want to buy print TTRPG products outside the mainstream, Scraps Burgers delivers. Focused on amplifying marginalized voices, fair pay, and transparency sets Scraps Burgers apart.

Annnnnnd done!

With this information we have our Business Concept! Look at all that jargon, isn’t it beautiful? 

Okay that's probably a lot, let me expand on those individual bits in more detail.

JARGON PARTY!!

The Product Statement is the most basic bit. It's describing your product or service and the customers you're aiming for.

If you are self-publishing, find what sets your products apart from those already seen. It can be an innovation. Or exploring themes and topics not covered in the mainstream. Maybe it's all short, one-off adventures for people with limited play time. This may change as you learn what works for you. Then, think about who your product is for. I find it useful to think of a group that wants certain products, but can't easily find them. 

For your Target Market, consider who will be the most excited about your products. Plenty of people outside your target market will still buy your work, but it will help you simplify down the line. Your marketing, strategy and sales efforts will thank you.

The Target Market is an expansion of who your products are for from the Product Statement. For now, this can be broad, but later we're going to really focus in. A good size to consider is 1000 people. What 1000 people are going to *love* your work and tell their friends?

The Value Proposition is where things get tough. If you want to see how tough, look up some Value Propositions from giant corporations. Many are hilariously lacking in self-awareness.

Think about this as the reason why people keep coming back to you.

It helps to think about the businesses you keep going back to in your life. Why do you always eat at that one place, or buy that one brand of clothing? What is it about your favourite author that leads you to buy every book no matter what? What do they do to create value in your life that leads to your loyalty? Think beyond the things you buy, and more towards the entire experience.

If you struggle with this part like I do, find someone you admire putting out similar products to you that you get value from. Then, work that same thing into your own business.

In my case, that product is Swordsfall. There are others for sure, but this is my North Star guiding me through the night.

What draws me to Swordsfall is how they conduct themselves in pretty much every way. Transparency in process is a huge feature of their work that provides more value to me than I can quantify with dollars. 

And so, I took that aspect and wove it into my own idea.

When you do it this way, just be sure to take inspiration from and not straight up pillage. I've tried to carbon copy methods in the past and it doesn't work, it really needs to be custom to you and your products. 

JARGON PARTY OVER!

Now, let's move on to the Business Concept, which is the foundation for the next 3 steps we need to take before we can put together a proper Business Plan.

It all looks like this:

  • Business Concept, we’re done!
  • Business Model
  • Business Strategy
  • Launch Plan
  • Finally, a Business Plan

 

Seems like a lot, right? It is. And this just scratches the surface. It gets a lot crunchier, and for some, it might get pretty boring. 

The process goes like this. You make your Concept, you pick a Model, you devise a strategy, put together a plan to launch, then BAM! Launch your business, test, tweak, get feedback from customers. Identify bottlenecks and pain points in the process. Then, if it’s working out, you can move forward and construct a more detailed Business Plan.

But, if it’s not working out, you need to go back to the start and rework things for the first 4 steps. You may need to seek mentors for problems you couldn’t resolve on your own. Do more research on how to improve your processes. Apply everything you learned to your next round of trying to validate your Business Model.

So, that's the process. Next time I’ll cover my process for selecting a Business Model.

If you want to follow what I am doing for your own thing, do a little preparation before the next step. Check out the Business Model Navigator. Read about the different Models, and start thinking about which of them might work for your business. I already picked mine, but, don’t stress about it too much because it can and likely will change.