Editor's Note: The following guest post comes to us from Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games. Stegmaier offers some valuable thoughts on how to run a successful crowdfunding campaign. For more tips, check out our interviews with crowdfunding consultants Lucas McNelly and Rose Spinelli.
My name is Jamey Stegmaier, and I’m the owner of a board game startup called Stonemaier Games. I launched and successful funded our first game, Viticulture, on Kickstarter in the fall of 2012. Since then, while designing other games and coordinating the manufacturing and distribution logistics for Viticulture, I’ve written a series of Kickstarter Lessons so that other project creators can benefit from what I learned from running a Kickstarter project, backing many other projects, and researching what works and doesn’t work.
Today I’m going to share 12 specific insights about running a successful Kickstarter campaign, broken down into three chronological sections.
- Back Other Projects. Even if it’s just for $1. Back mostly projects similar to yours, but branch out to a few others as well. Backing a project subscribes you to the e-mail updates for that project, so you can see what type and frequency of updates engage you opposed to disengaging you.
- Have Professionals Create Some Art and Design. The look of your project is really important. Some projects begin with complete art and design, but all you really need is enough to show backers what the full art and design will look like. This applies to the concept as well as the project page. Pay for the art and design. Your friend who knows Microsoft Paint really well and is willing to do it for free will hurt the project in the long run, not help it.
- Connect with Bloggers. Your project will not be funded if you rely solely on friends, family, and the “magic” of Kickstarter. You need strangers to find your project from other websites, and blogs are the best option. However, do not wait until you need blogger support to reach out to bloggers. Instead, start connecting to bloggers today. Subscribe to a lot of blogs in fields related to your project and comment on a semi-regular basis. Don’t make your comments about you. Just be a part of the conversation.
- Create Appealing Reward Levels. Kickstarter is not a charity, nor are you. Give your backers something of value at a price that matches that value. Ask yourself, “Would I pay $X for this?” If the answer is, “No, but people will support me by overpaying,” then you just made yourself a charity instead of a creator. Also, make your rewards relevant to the project—give backers a piece of the experience or product you’re creating. Don’t offer a t-shirt as a reward level unless your project is about making t-shirts. People are not actively seeking more t-shirts with random brands plastered on them.
- Designate a Lot of Time for Kickstarter. If you run an effective Kickstarter campaign, it will take upwards of 40 hours a week, easily. Strategically, take days off from your job, especially launch day and the final two days of the project. Clear your schedule so that all of your free time can be devoted to Kickstarter. Make sure to come up for air and bathroom breaks every now and then, but your priority for that month or so is to create the best experience for your backers.
- Interact with Backers. Your backers are the greatest asset you have. Connect with them as often as possible in comments, updates, and messages on Kickstarter, and give them a forum (Facebook and/or blog) to interact with them off of Kickstarter as well. Treat their ideas with respect—the fact that they’re giving you feedback means that they care.
- Create Stretch Goals. Projects reach their funding goal for a variety of reasons, but the number one reason they overfund is stretch goals. Stretch goals make every version of your product better for the backers, so it gives them a very compelling reason to continue to share and promote your project after it’s funded. Stay flexible with your stretch goals throughout the project and use them as little ways to nudge your backers to share it. Instead of sending out a backer update that says, “Hey! Share my project!”, send an update that says, “If we raise $2,000 more and reach $10,000 overall, I’ll add a new special thing to every copy of the product.” That’s compelling. Just make sure you calculate your costs in advance.
- Share Your Project with Grace and Passion. You know that friend of yours who posted the same link to his Kickstarter project twice a day for the last month? Remember how you removed him from your Facebook feed? Don’t be that guy. You can share your project, but do it in ways that add value to other people’s day. Be funny, insightful, passionate, and appreciative.
- Be Honest and Transparent. No matter how well organized and prepared you are, you’re going to run into at least a few issues after your Kickstarter project. Something you had counted on will fall through. And that’s okay. Really. You’ll figure it out. The key is not to withhold that information from your backers. Tell them what you’re learning as you’re learning it, and tell them your solution. Don’t wait for backers to come to you to ask how things are going.
- Deliver on Your Promises. The common perception among repeat Kickstarter backers is that they expect for projects to be delivered late. Think about that for a second. It has become such a common practice for Kickstarter creators to deliver late that it is widely excused. That means that you can exceed expectations simply by delivering on time! In the meantime, make sure to deliver on the other promises you made, especially in terms of quality. Don’t cut corners.
- Shipping. Shipping is the detriment of many Kickstarter projects. There are better ways to spend your time than hand-packing and labeling 500 widgets. Let a fulfillment company do that for you—some can actually do it more cost-effectively than you can because they get bulk shipping and packing rates (do not forget about the cost of packaging if you insist up on shipping yourself). Also, make sure that you know the cost of international shipping up front. Charge the true cost to international backers—you don’t want to bankrupt yourself on shipping.
- Give Back. You are going to learn SO much by running your Kickstarter campaign, creating your rewards, and getting them to your backers. Share that knowledge with the world. One of the best ways you can continue to build a community after your project is over is to create a conversation around the insights you now have.
To dig deeper into these tips and to see many more, check out the 30+ Kickstarter Lessons on our blog. Good luck with your project!