Editor's Note: The following comes to us from James Mathe of Minion Games. Mathe has run seven crowdfunding campaigns and recently published a list of tips and lessons learned throughout. While Mathe is writing specifically about card or board games, his insights can help out all entrepreneurs thinking about crowdfunding their next product. This list originally appeared on Mathe's blog, and we are re-posting a slightly edited version here with the author's permission. Make sure to follow Mathe's company on Twitter @MinionGames.
This guide was created to help people avoid the pitfalls of, and run of, a successful campaign for a card or board game through Kickstarter. Kickstarter is like a mall, the worlds biggest; it brings customers to your “store”. You must concentrate on selling them a game while they are visiting, and get them to help share it with others. Using your own website or even a competing crowdfunding site will not be nearly as effective.
As of the writing of this, I have run seven successful Kickstarter campaigns. Very few people or companies can say that. So, let’s just get right to the bullet points:
BEFORE YOU START
- Find out what ALL your real costs before you start. Get a quote from a manufacturer. Make sure you’re not going to promise to make something that is very costly.
- Set your campaign funding goal amount to the actual cost to make and ship the game. Do not set it to just a pie in the sky number.
- Plan out your stretch goals to reach that pie in the sky. Make the first couple easy and have them completed (designed) before the launch. You can add more later if needed but think about them now.
- If you think your campaign is going to go big ($50,000+), consider setup an off-site Paypal shopping cart to allow alternate forms of payment and post-campaign pre-orders.
- Most campaigns include free shipping in the U.S. Priority mail is the most common method used. Prices for these can be found online.
- Make your shipping options and up-charges very clear in your campaign description area.
- Try to find an E.U. company to help ship so you can do $15-20 USD shipping there. This will also help avoid the customers paying VAT which can be as much as shipping. Have your printer drop a pallet load of the games to the E.U.
- Avoid sending multiple shipments, send it all at once when done. Otherwise, you’ll probably have to eat the shipping costs and lose many hours of your life.
- Establish your brand before you start. I cannot stress this enough.
- Be a part of your community and gain followers now. Post on relevant topics and discussions.
- Make a Facebook page now and give it a friendly URL with http://www.facebook.com/username
- Choose your campaign name carefully.
- Setup business banking account or at least a separate personal one. Don’t use your personal account as temptation is too great to mix your money.
- Apply for Amazon payments as soon as you can. This can take up to a week.
- Create detailed bio entry for the creator of the Kickstarter campaign (you). Include relevant experience to help people trust you can follow through on your promises.
- Back some projects on Kickstarter. Show you are part of the community and not just trying to run to the bank.
- Good days to start a campaign are Sunday or Monday
- Good days to end a campaign are Friday Night or Monday or End of Month (think paydays)
- Holidays and season don’t appear to have that much effect on a campaign
- Set your duration from 30-45 days. Common wisdom and Kickstarter have stated that 30 days is the optimal duration for a campaign. I have, however, found that most of our campaigns continue to gain revenue every day until the very end.
- Based on the time you were told by your print for how long to make and ship the game to you, add at least another 1 or 2 months and set that to your Ship Date. No one ever complains about a project being early, but they do if you’re late.
- Name your reward levels as they will be easier to find and cross reference.
- Early bird rewards? No. Do not offer any special intensives to pledge right away. Most of your early pledgers will be the fans that already follow you. These kinds of reward levels also make it psychologically hard for someone to change pledge levels later.
- Deep discounts? No. $5 off and free shipping is the most you should offer non-retailers.
- Most pledged level will be in the $25-50 range which should get a basic copy of your game.
- Fewer reward levels to start your campaign are better. Add more later to re-energize upping pledges.
- Make a video! If possible, be in your video: a personal touch goes a long way in building up the trust level.
- Your project video should be under 3 minutes long. Do not include any text longer then a phrase on any one page. Ad some music in the background.
- List all of components so people can get a sense of the value of the game. Show pictures.
- Use pictures for your headers and menus and stretch goal status. It helps break up the text.
- Make a gameplay demo to show the game in action. This is very important to many backers. You should add this after the initial rush to your game to give you a reason for an update message.
- Add an About section for your company and designer. Your goal is to gain the backer’s trust & confidence. You want them to have no doubts that you can make this project a reality.
- Explain what the money raised is needed for. Don’t detail every dollar, just explain why you chose Kickstarter.
- I personally don’t feel it matters if you revealing only a couple stretch goals or all of them at one time. If you’re having a hard time figuring out more, you can delay it by revealing them later.
- Be careful not to over promise or include too many things that will make your profit disappear.
- Your stretch goals should mainly consist of upgraded bits, bonus promo cards, or a mini expansion.
- Generally a stretch goal should not require an extra payment of any kind and should be free to all backers when it’s met.
- Interweave exciting in demand goals with smaller token reward goals.
- The first couple days are very important don’t rush into this. Set aside enough time to monitor your campaign constantly. Take a day off your real job!
- If you don’t have a built-in fan base or a large social following, don’t get discouraged by a slow start.
The Long Haul
- Monitor and add to your comments several times a day. Prevent any flame wars. Provide accurate and honest information.
- Start updating the campaign FAQ as you get repeat or important questions. Especially about reward levels that have been taken already as you can’t edit them at that point.
- After the initial buzz dies down about your campaign, start to post review links, videos, and your designer blog. One a day at most, spread them out. These give you a great reason to get mentioned in site news and other blogs and promote your campaign.
- Expect a cancelation rate of about 3-6%.
- A typical successful graph will have a spike in the beginning, then pledges will continue to come in stead till the last 2 days spike again.
- You want 30-50% Project Video plays completed. If you are getting a very low number (under 20%) consider shortening your video.
- You will get about 90% of your pledge money to your Amazon account usually within a 1 day (not weeks). It’ll take a couple days to get to your bank. But within a week you should have your money.
- When you do post or share, make the content is engaging, and use a picture.
- Hopefully, in the months leading up to this campaign or from a previous campaign, you have collected a mailing list to send to. Send them a mail with a reason to check the campaign out.
- Post daily or at least several times a week on Facebook. Not everyone sees every post.
- Twitter posts multiple times a day. Send out review links. Status updates. Everything.
- Post a link to relevant pages on Reddit.
- Google+, LinkedIn, etc.: post important updates or review links.
- Get mentioned on blogs and post those links everywhere.
- Attempt to get reviews and interviews in videos and podcasts.
- This is the time you’re allowed to be a bit annoying and post often on all social media.
- Update your story to include links at the top of the page to your website and post sale page as you will not be able to edit your page after your campaign ends. Remember people still find your page after your campaign is over.
- Use Kickstater to send a customized message to each reward level about things they miss out on. Ask them to use their social networking to spread the word.
- It’s possible to cancel your campaign right before it ends, but I’m not sure that’s a good or bad thing.
- You can start a new campaign at any time to attempt this all again. I’ve done it and it works. Use what you learned to improve things the second time around. Wait a couple weeks to build more followers before relaunch.
- You can (if you’re willing) ask for less the second time around.
- Make sure you have a way for people who missed the Kickstarter to per-order the game from your website.
- Export reports about a week after the campaign ends. Kickstarter will move the failed payment transactions to their own section and it makes it hard to know where they original pledged.
- Surveys are allowed once per group so do them as late as possible so you don’t have to track address changes.
- Ship to your backers before you sell at a conventions.
To read the full list, click here.