Bart-Simpson-Saw-Game-2Have you ever stopped to think about what makes gaming so addicting? Even if you aren’t an avid gamer, you may have experienced the situation of sitting down to play a round or two of Candy Crush or Angry Birds, only to find yourself still sitting there, iPhone in hand, hours later.

Games, by their very nature, work because they entice you with progress. With just five more points you will reach the next level or your next goal, so you keep playing in hopes of reaching that reward. This sense of progress keeps you motivated to play.

Several successful marketers have capitalized on this by using game-like structures in their marketing efforts. Adding gaming features to your marketing is called gamification.

How Gamification Works

Gamification offers your target audience some sort of currency. Currencies are the rewards they complete by performing a certain task. This can be something as simple as a badge to post to your user profile and something more rewarding, such as a coupon. When used properly, they can improve the yield of your marketing efforts.

The deal-a-day sites, like Groupon, know how to do this quite well. Groupon offers an incentive, the deal of the hour or day, and then puts out a progress bar to show how many people have purchased. Users have to reach a certain level of purchases before the deal goes “live.” The currency, in this case, is the deal itself, while the game aspects are the reliance on other users and the progress bar showing the progress.

How to Incorporate Gamification into Your Marketing Plan

Gamification can work well, but only if it’s carefully incorporated into your marketing plan. Before we get caught up in “Shiny Object Syndrome,” let’s take a look at some ways to use this effectively.project management

1.     Have a Goal

First and foremost, make sure you have a goal. Any time you add a marketing idea simply because others are having success with it, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Set a goal, and then determine if gamification strategies will help you achieve it with your specific target audience.

2.     Choose Meaningful Rewards

Gamification works because it rewards the user. Those rewards have to be meaningful. If the users don’t want the reward, they aren’t going to perform the action, and your efforts will be wasted. Know your audience and what motivates them, and offer that as the reward.

3.     Create Your Funnel

Your gamification strategies need to funnel your users to a specific behavior. Your goal will determine what that behavior is, then your game mechanics need to create a clear path toward that behavior.

4.     Create Something Simple

You don’t need to turn your page into the next World of Warcraft. Gamification and gaming are similar, but not the same. Simple strategies like challenges, levels, leader boards, points and badges can all work well to motivate, and these are all considered gamification. Keep it simple, easy to use and rewarding, and your users will play.

When done well, gamification can be a great addition to your marketing plan. Take the time to think through your goals, and see if it will work for you. Start rewarding your customers, and see how quickly you can see a return on your investment.