Smart Gamification: 3 Hot Tips for driving engagement

Here’s a question I get a LOT.

I’m into gamification, and I want to stay on the cutting edge. What does Game Thinking offer an enthusiast like me?”

I’ve got good news: If you’re into Gamification, there’s a lot to love about Game Thinking. We all share the same goal: engage customers by harnessing the power of games.

Let’s start with the Wikipedia definition:

Gamification: the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts… to improve user engagement and organizational productivity

Sounds good right? When you dig in, you’ll find that the skillset & background of gamification practitioners varies widely — and everyone has their own unque approach.

For many people, gamification has become a codeword for “give me a silver bullet for engagement.” And that translates into taking a mechanics-first approach to designing the customer’s experience.

That’s what leads to gamification platforms that promise to make it EASY to add game mechanics to your app — as if that solved the engagement problem.

And people with no background in game design or product design who promise to make your app engaging.

Here’s the thing: the power of game design isn’t in the mechanics. It’s in the journey you take your customer on — the journey to becoming a better version of themselves.

Design Tip #1: Take a journey-first approach to designing engagement

When the mechanics support the journey, you can deliver a compelling experience or game. And that’s what Game Thinking is all about — giving you the tools to design a compelling customer journey from the ground up.

Now, I’m not gonna lie — this approach to product design requires more upfront effort. You have to put in the work to get the results. And when you do… it pays off BIGTIME in long-term retention and product/market fit.

Design Tip #2: Take the time to find your hot-core customers upfront

When you decide to understand your customer’s habits and needs upfront, and sketch out a compelling journey BEFORE thinking about mechanics, you embed you product with a backbone of intrinsic motivation that pulls people back because they feel empowered — rather than manipulated.

If you take the time to identify a handful of high-need early customers to validate your ideas and help you iterate — you’ll be positioned to innovate faster and smarter.

Now, you might be wondering

if this is such a great idea, why doesn’t everyone do this?

The biggest barrier I’ve seen is that people don’t simply don’t know how to do this efficiently. They think it’ll take months of time — and require special research skills.

That’s why we’ve focused on making this crucial step easier to execute. Our clients solve this problem in a few short weeks with our Superfan Funnel — a set of design activities that reveal your ideal early customers.

Now… In the interest of full disclosure… here’s something you should know: I’m a recovering mechanics enthusiast.

When I first got my hands on game mechanics as a design tool, and saw what they did to my clients’ stats, I thought they were magic. But over time, I saw how extrinsic rewards backfire and cripple people’s motivation. And I saw — again and again — how a silver-bullet gamification approach can actually prevent you from achieving true liftoff.

Design Tip #3: Give your customers something to get better at

If you want to drive game-like engagement, you need to start with the basics, and give your customers something pleasurable and repeatable to do — along with feedback that helps them reap increasing value over time from that activity.

That’s a journey your customers will stick around for.

The good news is that MANY smart gamification practitioners already embrace and practice a journey-first Game Thinking-style approach. They know — & I know — and now YOU know that there’s no magic pixie dust in game mechanics, or viral tricks, or 72 VIP levels. These scaffolding systems can SUPPORT growth & engagement — but they never create it.

Without a compelling activity at the juicy center, it’s just icing without the cake. And as we all know… you can’t make a meal outta that.

Recap: 3 Hot Tips for Driving Engagement

Let’s review what you’ve learned about the RiGHT way to drive engagement from the ground up.

  1. Don’t start with mechanics, instead take a journey-first approach to designing your customer experience.
  2. To make sure you’re building the right product, take the time to find your hot-core customers upfront
  3. Once you’ve found those early customers, keep them engaged by giving them an activity they can get better at.

Want . more? Engage with me personally & get your questions answered TONIGHT Tue Aug 20 at 8 PM PST for the PREMIERE of our Smart gamification video. I’ll be on Youtube, watching along with you & answering question. Click the video to learn more & set a reminder.

Hope to see you there!

Game designer, startup coach, author, entrepreneur