Demo Volunteer Management

They’re valuable assets. Use them well.

Volunteer-driven events are not an accident or a by-product of your store. If you have a game room, you should make leverage of that game room a high-priority duty. That these volunteers cost you no salary doesn’t mean you should be frivolous with their time and energy. Make the best of the experience for both of you and you’ll both be much happier with the results.

Demo Volunteer Rules & Guidelines

Do not promote your game at the expense of other games. If you champion Privateer, for example, don’t trash GW’s pricing policies to sell your manufacturer’s figures. It’s unprofessional, and it doesn’t help the store meet its goals. Our goal is to sell stuff, and transferring a customer from one product line to another doesn’t increase our sales. It could even be detrimental. Your company’s product might have a lower margin, or your customers might spend less annually than your rival’s customers.

Do not, under any circumstances, steer our customers elsewhere. We spend a great deal of money on rent in a high-visibility location and on advertising to attract these customers. Don’t advise them to go to another store. Do not tell them they can buy your company’s games cheaper online. If your company offers an exclusive deal only on the website or something that we can’t get, talk to us first before promoting it. We might be able to negotiate it with the company, or we might decide to end our support of that company’s products. In any case, honest and forthright communication is the best route.

On the other hand, feel free to recruit from customers in the store, as long as they aren’t actively engaged in another activity. Once you establish relationships with the customers, it might be appropriate to interrupt a game—briefly—to ask if they’d be interested in joining when they’re done. For the most part, avoid interfering with other ongoing games.

Don’t argue with customers. New players tend to accept whatever you say without question, but veteran players think they know everything. You can make a point using careful language. Point out that you might have information regarding a ruling that the customer doesn’t, because you’re on a mailing list or participate in a discussion forum or have had private e-mail communications with the company. If they don’t accept your argument, let them be right in casual play. In a tournament, they have to accept your ruling, even if they dispute it later.

We require you to dress appropriately. If the company provides you with a t-shirt, that’s the best thing to wear. If not, or if you choose to wear one of our demo team t-shirts, you may do that also. If neither option is available, dress neatly—no holes in the pants, face piercings, etc. Remember that you represent another company and must meet their expectations of your image.

Remember that your job here is to assist with sales. While you don’t have training or authority to ring up sales, we do expect you to know where the product is located in the store, be familiar with the product, and know what a player needs to get started playing.

These are the big points.

The Lesser Points

Be on time for your events. If you need setup time, arrive early enough to allow for it. If a particularly long-running event requires the store to open early that day, we might be able to arrange that.

Normally, you are responsible for any event reporting your company requires. If you need anything from us in this regard, just ask. We often send them an after-event report anyway.

If you receive news about any promotions the company is doing, ask us. We’ll almost certainly be interested in participating. Normally, we hear about special promotions through our communication network, but there’s always a chance we might miss something.

We ask that you schedule events at least a month in advance when possible. We’ll send out a notice to our customers then, and again a week before the event. If the company gives you any posters or any other POP materials, we’ll try to find a place for them. We want people to know about the event.
Have a sign-up sheet with you when you run your event. Ask for the names and e-mail addresses of participants. If they don’t want to give you any information, don’t press. Afterward, we’ll send out a notice that says something like “Thanks for your time and we hope you enjoyed the game.” Of course, we’ll also add their e-mails to our master list.

While you might represent the store in a limited capacity, you’re not an employee. We ask that you don’t give others the impression that you are.

Your Obligations to Them

Inform your staff. They have to be able to field questions about the event on the phone or in person. Keep information in a convenient and consistent place so that they know how to find out anything they need to know.

Notify customers. Your volunteers can post signs in the game room, or they can announce their event on your online forum, but only you can send out e-mails, mail postcards, or add the event to your calendar. Make at least two announcements—one 2-4 weeks in advance and another about a week before the event.

Give them their mail. Sometimes the manufacturers send materials to the volunteer. Other times they go to the store. If you receive materials, keep them in a safe place until the volunteer needs them. When they arrive, call or e-mail the volunteer; sometimes the package contains POP marketing materials that you can use in the store. Check the contents ahead of time, too, so that you don’t have to find out the day of the tournament that the kit for 12 only came with enough material for 6 players.

Make room. We had a stated priority for the game room. Store-supported events took first priority, regular weekly games had second priority, and all pickup games were on a first-come, first-serve basis. If you need to rearrange tables or anything for a large tournament, do it beforehand so that the volunteer and your players are ready to start on time.

Report to the company. Report success or failure of an event and offer a suggestion why. You might not have had enough notice, or all your interested players were in a tournament at another table. Let them know if the demo was too long, or if the tournament rules ended up in ties in every match.
Throw the best ones a bone. If a volunteer consistently goes above and beyond the call of duty, give him an extra. Their compensation varies, but it’s usually not enough to make the activity a financial win. A bonus here and there can encourage them to give your store higher priority or to continue the activity after they would otherwise quit. Keeping them happy can be cheap. Sometimes the thought really is what counts.

Lastly, say thanks. It matters.