A couple months ago, Holly and I launched a Kickstarter campaign for our board game, Salem. We had an initial goal to make $6,000 but we were shocked and thrilled to raise $103,000!
After our campaign ended, many friends, new and old, asked me what we did to be successful. Short answer: I have no idea. Long answer: I have some hunches. Hopefully these hunches and observations from our experience will help you find similar or greater success in your next crowdfunding campaign.
Here’s what it comes down to. About 85% of our money came from internal Kickstarter traffic. This is the traffic highlighted in green on the table to the right. This traffic came in large part because our project stayed at the top of the Kickstarter search pages. Our project stayed at the top of these pages because the Kickstarter algorithm liked us.
Why did it like us? I think it’s because we got a lot of orders right off the bat, we got over a thousand social shares (use linktally.com to track shares), and very importantly, within the first hour of our campaign we were selected as a Kickstarter Staff Pick.
The way I see it, for these things to happen and for your project to be successful:
You can do every single thing right and be the greatest marketer in the world, but if you have a lame product then you aren’t going to succeed. Sorry. First and foremost, make sure that your creation is something that people will love. If you have an hour to spend on your project tonight, spend most of it on your project, not on your Kickstarter page.
Make Sure Your Product Has a Distinguishing feature.
Why should I get your game or gadget if it’s just like the other thousands of projects that are currently on Kickstarter right next to yours? Even if your project isn’t that different from the others, make sure that you have something very distinguishable about your project. This will help get you that coveted Kickstarter Staff Pick, and will make it easier for people to tell their friends about your project.
For us, it was the use of a faux book as our game box. During interviews about the game, people always brought this up first thing. It made us different, and it made it easy to talk about.
You may have the coolest new gadget in the world, but if your video is garbage and your photographs are fuzzy, nobody is going to care. Our society has an all-time low attention span. If you don’t have high-quality, crisp photographs, and an attention-getting video, most people won’t give you a second thought. It’s worth the extra time & money to hire a photographer or video-maker to do a good job.
We were lucky enough to have a talented friend with a great camera do our pictures. I have a little experience in film, and so I wrote the script and did the editing myself. I actually just filmed it all using my Samsung Galaxy S4. We hired a guy on Fiverr.com to do the epic voice-over for $5. We filmed in a cool old bookstore in our neighborhood for free.
Plan Out Your Day 1 Blitz.
The most important day in your campaign by far is day 1. This is the day that Kickstarter decides if they’re going to put you at the top of their page, or if they’re going to send your project into a black hole. If you hit 30% of our goal within that first day, then you’re almost guaranteed to get some love from Kickstarter and to get your campaign to succeed. It’s very important to prepare for this first day.
I created a large list of action items to form my “Day 1 Plan of Attack.” This plan included pre-written facebook posts for my profile and several different group pages, pre-written emails to be sent to pre-made email lists of friends, families, and groups, photos downloaded and ready to be pushed to pinterest and instagram, pre-written posts to put on a pre-determined subreddit on Reddit, a simultaneous posting of the Kickstarter page link on all of my social channels and websites, and a special email to all of the people who had played Salem during the past year and expressed interest.
In all of these posts I tried to be humble in the way I asked for either backers of the project, donations of $1 to the project (to help the algorithm), or for help in spreading the word to their boardgame-loving friends.
Be Cheerful & Positive in All of Your Communications.
I’ve heard it said that people don’t back projects, they back people. We tried to portray ourselves as likable, positive, cheerful. We tried to stay humble and to show that we had a legitimate need for backers’ support. By answering comments and messages quickly, and always with a “customer-first” attitude, we helped to show that we are good people who really appreciate the support.
We also tried to stay enthusiastic and excited in the updates that we’d send out. People notice these things. If they like you, many of your backers will become your biggest advocates, supporting you in the comments section when someone posts something negative, or by actively recruiting more backers for your project.
Give confidence that you can deliver.
When people “back” a project on Kickstarter, there is zero guarantee that they’ll actually get something in return. Several people told me that a big reason they backed our project was that it looked like we would definitely be able to deliver.
We had video of us using the exact box, cards, and hourglass that we promised them. We told them specifically who we are working with for manufacturing, and had data to back up our delivery dates. These things gave people much more confidence than they would have had with a project that had vague manufacturing goals, a 3-D rendering of the final design, and lack of details.
“Tips & Tricks”
There are many articles like this one that offer up simple tips and tricks to improve your chances of success. Here are a few that I read about, and then implemented in my campaign.
-Launch your campaign on Wednesday. That’s when Kickstarter brings in the most money. People are busy on the weekend, and too depressed to buy stuff on Mondays and Tuesdays. Since a big Day 1 is so important, give yourself the best chance by launching on Wedneday. We launched at 6:00pm Eastern Time, to get people right after they left work for the day.
-Have high reward levels (because who knows, maybe some really rich person loves you), low reward levels (because even if someone gives $1, it’ll help your project’s algorithm), and a standard reward level ($25 is the most successful level, and is where we made the vast majority of our money).
-Set a good goal. Figure out how much you’d need to raise for you to manufacture at your lowest level. That way, if you just barely hit your goal, you’ll still be able to deliver without pulling from your personal funds. And if you don’t hit your goal, them you don’t get stuck needing to spend a lot on manufacturing to deliver to only a few.
In the end, we got lucky. Like I mentioned at the beginning, the things written here are hunches. I don’t know the almighty Kickstarter algorithm that kept us at the top of the page so long. Maybe if one tiny thing had been done differently, or one person had decided to not back us during the first few hours, it would have set a much lower trajectory. Many better campaigns than ours have failed. Many worse projects than ours have succeeded. In the end, a lot of your “success” or “failure” is out of your hands.
That being said, though, there sure is a LOT you can do to tip the scale in your favor. Hopefully points 1 through 7 will help you to hit your goal and make your next dream a reality!