This is an old entry from 05-15-2012 originally posted on coolminiornot.com. It’s still relevant at time of writing, even with Kickstarter’s enormous growth.
Coming off our Zombicide Kickstarter campaign, I’ve been asked how it was quite a bit, so in order to save time (and for the sake of my memory), here are my thoughts. We raised $781,597 of a $20,000 funding goal, and were funded 3900%. For a brief time we were the #1 funded Boardgame ever, and #9 most funded project on Kickstarter (before being knocked off and out by another boardgame, Ogre and soon by the Pebble Smartwatch).
Before you begin
Kickstarter is not a replacement for your own marketing and network. It amplifies it considerably, but if you have no voice to begin with, it’s not likely to do anything for you. If you don’t have an existing network to reach out to, it’s important to build it first before launching your project on Kickstarter. An excellent example of this is Amanda Palmer’s Kickstarter album: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/…-book-and-tour, wildly successful, she’s raised over $600k as of time of writing out of a $100k goal, with 17 days to go; she’s described her Kickstarter as merely the culmination of networking for over 3 years with fans and anyone who would talk to her, and not the beginning of her fundraising campaign. Kickstarter’s guide talks a lot about building trust, and that’s incredibly important.
Make sure you have a good product, and you’re working with a great team. The team at Guillotine Games threw their support behind the campaign 100%, and internally we had great guys on notice to churn out graphic headers and do voice over work (Kris and Bryan). We were extremely ready because of this, even when our initial funding was exceeded and our stretch goals broken again and again. While the campaign is running, you have very little time to make decisions, so the more team members you can rely on for anything from graphics, to sourcing, to marketing deals, the better.
No one cares about your dream, you need to get their attention quickly. Be honest, do you care about my dreams? (You’re sweet if you do, call me if you’re cute). Unless you’re a celebrity or otherwise integral to the project (e.g. the comedian on a comedy album), telling the camera that your life dream is this project probably won’t be very moving or effective, and likely to lose you a pledge. Kickstarter has moved on from its early days and you’re competing against other projects for attention. In many ways it is like a classic elevator pitch to a venture capitalist for funding, you need to express your idea in a very catchy and concise way within 30 seconds or less. Once you have their attention, you can go on and do your whole pitch, describe your fictional universe, your electronics project, whatever. Remember, the hard part was getting people to click to your Kickstarter page to begin with, if you can’t make them sit through your video you’ve wasted a lot of marketing effort.
Voice is very important. I’ve noticed that videos need to have some kind of recorded voice, either in the form of talking into the camera, or as a voiceover in order to succeed. Slideshows, even with fancy animations, won’t cut it. It makes sense, I don’t recall ever seeing a commercial that was all sound effects, color graphics, text and no voice. Not even the really cheap late night premium rate phone ads.
Highlight your project in a flattering way. Not much more to say there, I think it’s good to assume that your audience has no understanding of what the project is, so here’s your chance to put your best foot forward. If it’s a product, then a highlight reel of its best and most important features etc. Don’t get longwinded, the Kickstarter page is fairly similar to an Internet sales letter in that it can be as long as you want. The important part is that you grab your potential Backer’s attention, and then explain the rest either in text, or in follow up videos in the “Story” part of your campaign.
Everything else can be a little shaky or silly, so don’t sweat having a grand production. We spent very little money on our Kickstarter video, and nothing on the follow up gameplay video (I hacked it together in iMovie, and Bryan Steele did the voice over on a cheap mp3 recorder).
During the campaign
If possible, get in the real world. For us, demonstrating the game at conventions was extremely helpful in terms of building trust that the product was real and fun. While our own network got us to our funding goal relatively quickly, it was this event that increased visibility to an audience who didn’t know us, and were also willing to vouch for in forums and in our own Kickstarter comments thread.
Be responsive and prompt. Answer your personal messages within the hour if possible. The folk with questions are almost certainly 70% of the way to making a decision to back your project, and just need their one or two concerns addressed. I got very little sleep in the 30 days of the campaign, and answered almost every single PM, except for those answered by Percy (who kinda gave up and left me to it) and the really strange ones (story for another day).
Listen to your Backers….. I’m not the pioneer of optional items added to Kickstarter campaigns, but for Zombicide it added significantly to increase an average pledge to $140 for a $90 game. Giving Backers what they wanted, in this case, components usable in the game, rather than swag, helped us out significantly; more so, I think, than selling more swag like mousepads, caps, etc.…
Until you don’t. One of my most controversial decisions was to seek the Penny Arcade license 5 days before our KS was scheduled to close. The French team at GG thought I was nuts, but trusted me enough to support the decision. Almost none of our Backers asked for the Cardboard Tube Samurai as a stretch goal, and some were very vocally displeased indeed when he was announced. However, at this late stage in the campaign, any further growth would have to come from folks who hadn’t already heard of us (there would be no amount of stretch goal or freebie I could throw at someone who simply didn’t think the project was interesting). Penny Arcade is one of the most visited sites in USA geekdom, and the CTS helped us reach a whole new audience. I think this additional exposure greatly assisted in doubling our total fundraising between the 3rd of May at the time of the announcement ($370k), to when we closed on the 6th of May ($781k).
Had I polled existing Backers on what they wanted, Zombicide wouldn’t have gotten the Penny Arcade sourced backers. Everyone got a nice reward in the end though, in the form of a square-jawed Troy promo figure.
Be aware, and seize opportunities. I had no idea Penny Arcade would talk about Zombicide, and once I found out I immediately asked for the CTS license. The team at GG was working on the art even before we knew if the deal was closed. Our window of opportunity was very small, and we took it.
Be careful. If you aren’t already prepared in terms of the ability to quickly source and get quotes for additional rewards etc, make sure you don’t go out of pocket in the rush to keep up with your Backers in terms of stretch goals or optional items.
After the campaign
I’ll be upfront, I found Kickstarter’s survey system only marginally useful for a project that grew to this size because the surveys aren’t currently editable after they’ve been sent (they can only be sent once), and Backers can’t change their answers after 10 minutes. I’ve suggested that Backers be able to change their answers until a set time by the Project Owner (which everyone knows in advance), because we’re all human and mistakes will be made. We’re actually coding something right now to handle the survey results, collect errored payments, additional optional items and shipping. Hopefully this will change at Kickstarter in future.
Of course, now we have the problem of shipping out over 5500 games, which is a nice problem to have. Since our roots are as a mail order company handling thousands of orders a month, this isn’t a huge problem for us. For someone who’s never handled mass retail shipping before, it’d be a considerable challenge and is worth planning properly before the campaign starts.
Also, hopefully the games will arrive early, it’s always nice to overdeliver on expectations, especially on the expectations on the nice people that let us hold their money for a couple of months! We intend to do other stuff on Kickstarter, so a great reputation of reliability is something we intend to cultivate.
So, that’s pretty much it from me, if you have any questions feel free to comment.