10 Daily Actions to Build Your Crowd

26 August 2014

DunshireOne of the key concepts that I often talk about on this blog (and that Richard Bliss often mentions on the Funding the Dream podcast) is that launching a Kickstarter project without a built-in crowd of people who are aware of you can lead to your project being dead on arrival.

So how do you get that crowd of people? I’ll tell you how below, but first I want to tell you how not to get a crowd: Don’t buy it. If you buy Facebook fans, Twitter followers, or attention of any sort, you’re simply diluting the base of people who are actually interested and invested in what you’re doing.

Building a real crowd takes time, but it doesn’t take much time every day. One of the most inspiring blog entries I’ve ever read was posted by marketing guru Seth Godin about 2 years ago. It’s called Feet on the Street, and it’s a list of daily actions you can take to grow your crowd through relationships. Most of the action points below are direct quotes from Seth’s post.

About a month ago, Richard Bliss and I took a look at that list and applied it to Kickstarter creators. You can listen to the 20-minute podcast here. Then I would recommend you print out the following list, pin it to your wall, and make sure you do at least ONE of these things ever day from now on. Your company will never be too big or too small for these action items.

Before you do any of these things, set up a Facebook page, Twitter account, and e-newsletter (I use MailChimp). People need a way to stay in touch with you after you engage them.

  1. Write a blog post not to sell, but to teach. That’s a really key distinction. Basically, when you write a blog entry (or record a video/podcast), focus on adding value to other people instead of trying to convince them to do something for you. More on that here.
  2. Comment on one other blog. This is one of the best ways to expose people to who you are. Don’t make the comment about you–again, you’re not there to sell. You’re there to engage and get your name out there. So once a day, comment on your favorite blog post or YouTube video and use your real name when you do. Richard and I have a full podcast on that here.
  3. Connect two people in your industry. This is the oldest party trick in the book. People feel important when you introduce them to one another. Not only will you add value to those two people, but you’ll increase the chances that they’ll introduce you to others in the industry too.
  4. Distribute one free sample. This is probably the best way to expose people to your product. If you believe in what you’re making, get it in peoples’ hands. It could be a promo given to convention attendees or a full product sent to a reviewer or blogger.
  5. Pay attention to people who mention you online and engage with them in a way that they prefer to be engaged. If you get a ping from Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, BGG, or the aggregate service Mention, go check it out! Someone has taken the time to link to you so that you’ll see you’re being linked to, which means they’re giving you permission to engage them on the same platform. When you do, they won’t be the only person to see it–others will see that you’re the type to participate in online engagement, and they’re more likely to link to you in the future too.
  6. Write a thank-you note to someone who doesn’t expect one. You know how it feels to be thanked by someone, especially if the thank you comes out of the blue. It feels good. This is one of the easiest ways by far to share that feeling with other people. It gives you a great opportunity to get your name in front of people who don’t otherwise know who you are (like your favorite reviewer). The key is to thank them, tell them why you’re grateful, and leave it at that.
  7. Reach out to someone who used to work with you. You know the saying, “Don’t burn bridges” (especially when you leave a job)? It’s also important to maintain those bridges or they’ll burn on their own someday. The way I do this with anyone in my life is that when something happens that reminds me of someone, I reach out to them to let them know. Maybe it’s something interesting I read online, or something triggers a fond memory of someone. Instead of pushing away that thought, I let the person know about it. It’s easier to rekindle an existing connection than to create a completely new one. (Richard has a very touching story about this at 10:30 in the podcast.)
  8. Help a stranger. This might be my favorite of all the items. The key here is that it’s not an offer to help–it’s an action you take to recognize a need and to help someone with it. I have a full blog entry about that here.
  9. Talk positively about the competition. It’s really easy to talk about yourself and your products online, and there’s nothing wrong with it–if people follow you, they’re interested in what you’re doing and making. But if you want to really keep their attention, talk about the competition too. For example, I often talk about games I’m excited about from other companies. I also try to link to blog entries from other writers that I think will interest my readers. The more you show people that you’re interested in the community, the more they’ll pay attention and engage with you. Oh, and focus on the positive! People get really turned off by negativity.
  10. Build your permission asset by 1 person. Seth Godin is all about permission assets. The idea is to incrementally make people more excited to hear from you. One of the best examples of this are project updates. You shouldn’t write a project update every day, but when you do, make sure there’s something in it that will make people more and more excited about what you’re making for them. Note that this is something you’ll do during and after your campaign–building a crowd doesn’t stop the day you launch your project.

What types of things have you done to grow your crowd, especially if it’s not on this list and might help other creators?

63 Comments on “10 Daily Actions to Build Your Crowd

  1. Great article, I’ve already been doing most of these (though not quite daily) and I’m already getting good results. I’ve never been the most social person so it’s all a bit scary to me, but it’s scary in a good way. I’m taking it as an opportunity for personal growth.

  2. printed, taped to wall. Thanks!
    I particularly was inspired by the “distribute one free sample”. I think of samples for events, but I often don’t have any on hand when I am places and the conversation turns to what do you do and all that. Having a sample would make a world of difference. Thus, from now on, will have samples in the car, on hand wherever I go.

  3. Wow Jamey, this might be one of the best posts you’ve made. I know it’s constantly a question on my mind as developing and maintaining connections doesn’t come naturally to me, I have to work on it constantly.

    I love talk positively about the competition as one of the main things. I think this is always important in all aspects of life.

    1. Thanks Dominique. I think you point out something crucial here–the idea that we have to be intentional about these things. That’s why I like to treat them as a checklist of sorts, something to keep nearby your workstation.

  4. I think one of the most important things in this is to have respect and care in all of these things. I thank many folks through my day, but how do they know that is what you mean or that it is from my heart? I will give you an example and I challenge you to do this and see the difference.

    When I go to the store or a place of business and I speak with an employee I use the name that is provided to me on their name tag. I will tell you when I say thank you Tom, instead of just thank you it makes a difference to both of us. As a customer it is like the server who runs my card and looks at my name and says Thank you for coming in to see us Mr. Washburn.

    This creates a diffrrent level of communication. I also want to always go the extra mile for someone. Not because I have too, but because I would want that from them.

    Great advice in all of what you have posted. I know I can do better. Thank you Mr. Stegmaier, you gifts to the community are awesome!

    1. Jason: I completely agree. I think we’ve all been at “networking” events where we encountered people who were simply there to network opposed to those who are there because they really care about the topic or the community. There’s a big difference.

      Also, it’s okay to call me Jamey. :)

  5. This is such a great list and one we strive to do daily (although not always accomplishing). I especially like #9. One thing I have noticed about being in the board game industry is this sense of comradery that just seems to permeate the industry. I have never met such genuine people that, while they are your competitors, honestly want to see you succeed.

    I endeavor to run my company to those high ideals which is one of the reasons I like to promote other peoples games, help answer their questions, give feedback, and even buy their games. Because the world can always use more great games!

    Anyway, thanks Jamey, for being a part of that. It was great to finally meet you at Gen Con btw.

  6. Jamey – Awesome post and I think it is inspiring. I’m not in the industry but would like to be more involved in the hobby community. Would you change any items to apply them to game hobbyists?

    1. Jimmy: I try to write these posts to apply to all types of KS project categories, but because I’m mostly involved in the tabletop game category, they definitely all apply there. Boardgamegeek.com is a great starting point!

  7. Printing this out now. Thank you for sharing your lessons and knowledge. We’re just getting going in this industry and are really striving to start doing these things and get connected with the community. We’ve been in our own little bubble for a long time, but are learning (through you and others like the Funding the Dream podcast) that we need to break out of that and build a community. Good advice!

  8. Really nice list Jamey. I’ve been going through a lot of your posts recently and there is some real gems in every post. Thanks so much for sharing what you’ve learned as you’ve gone along. I know it will make me feel all the more positive going into my next KS campaign.
    Cheers,
    Ben.

  9. Not only was this awesome for me (planning to do my first kick start next year), I also passed this on to my wife – she works for herself, running her own business.
    Great advise, thanks again!

  10. Some of this advice can apply to a marriage, help others first.

    But now I’m overwhelmed again with months more networking to do. My first Kickstarter is like deciding when to go in the middle ring in Talisman, I never feel prepared.

    Still excellent advice. Thanks!

    1. Reed: I like the idea of applying this to marriage too!

      It can feel overwhelming, but I’m hoping this post helps you break the work down into little chunks that you can ultimately have fun with. Good luck!

  11. Hey Jamey, great list! Seems like alot (if not all) of these would greatly help to build an interest in a kickstarter. Had a question about distributing a free sample. As we are starting out with our game we are realizing that a full version sample is going to be quite expensive to prototype. We were thinking of creating small sample packs that give you a feel for the game but obviously wouldn’t last as long as the full game. Do you think this is a good strategy? And what about giving it to reviewers, should we be planning to get multiple full versions of the game created to be able to give them to a reviewer?

    Appreciate any advice you have on this aspect. Thanks!

    1. Phillip: I think it depends on the game. For a reviewer, you want to give them as much of the game as possible. It’s tough for them to review it properly without a full game. Pick a few reviewers you really like and focus on them.

      As for general promotional samples, if you can replicate the essence of the game in a small pack, sure, it can’t hurt to hand out to people. I don’t know if people will necessarily play it (it’s going against every other game in their collection), but it’s possible.

    2. Hi Phillip, I’m glad you brought this up because I’m in the same boat right now. I’m about to finish my final prototype of my first game, which incorporates A LOT of components and custom pieces, so it will be quite expensive to make as well. I agree with Jamey though, in that you should try to get as much of your complete game as possible to the reviewers. I feel that the more complete and the more your prototype looks like a finished product, the better presentation it’s going to make for the reviewers. You could focus on making a really nice prototype to send to reviewers, and let that copy be mailed from one reviewer to the next (I haven’t done this yet but I’m guessing it’s a matter of providing them with a box and paid shipping label to the next destination).

      Additionally, you could put those sample packs together to hand out to people, it wouldn’t hurt. Ultimately though, if you have to wait an extra month to afford to get a really nice prototype made, I think it’s worth it. You want it to make an impact and exceed expectations.

  12. This article is wonderfully insightful. I am printing it out like you recommended and going to do my best to follow through. I look forward to reading through your other posts. Now that I have made my way through most of “Funding the Dream,” I need more Kickstarter help! Luckily, I already know from listening to you on “Funding the Dream” that this is the place to get it.

  13. I am absolutely inspired Jamey. You definitely practice what you preach. Time to bust out of my shell and start actually moving towards my goal. It’s a long walk, but I now know there are lots of places to look for support and guidance. You’re awesome.

  14. Fantastic tips. Now that’s putting your money where your mouth is, eh! You’re definitely giving back.
    It is interesting how it’s all about personal engagement… no one really cares so much about just some faceless company. They prefer to get to know people.
    Thanks again, I’ll definitely be trawling through your treasure trove of articles.

  15. Just found this website today, thank you this is a great help.

    I had a failed Kickstarter in 2013, and not having an established community around the game before diving in really hit us hard.

    I am ramping up for a new Kickstarter later this year and I have to say that building a community in anticipation of it is definitely the most challenging element for me.

  16. I’m really glad to have found this blog right at the very start of our project. Reading about how people only found this after they had a failed project really drive the point home. As this is one of the most useful sites I have found those far I’m going to make you my number 2 of the 10 daily actions “Comment on one other blog” until something better comes along any way… just kidding.

  17. Hi Jamey
    Just reading more and more of your lessons And finding gems in each one. You have really created a fantastic resource for us all.

    I’m going to print this out and do as you say!

  18. Hey Jamey,

    I have been hooked and chronically reviewing advice from this section of your website since I have discovered it, thank you for taking the time to be such a supporting figure. I’m launching a Kickstarter at the beginning of April and currently I’m scared. Three years ago I was unprepared and launched a Kickstarter that failed.

    I have a practical major that I choose not to use to work on projects of my own. I am currently the web designer artist and game designer for my game, and like you, work around 40 – 80 hours a week on top of my other job.

    My problem is that I’m not social and have deliberately severed digital communications for the past 8 years so I don’t get so distracted (I still have a flip phone and just re-activated my facebook for this game). I also moved last year, taking me away from my large support group that I had at home.

    I’m excited about my game and love my testers that have helped and supported me thus far, but I’m scared for the fact that I have absolutely zero online presence.

    There’s a ton of answers I’ve already read, but it’s slow working going thus far, I’m writing to see if there is anything in specific that you think might help my current situation?

    I have a set of around 20 regular testers, and around 20 other friends that enjoy playing the game so far and… they’re my game essentially, they’ve basically made it, through suggestions and feedback and they’re the ones that are spreading it through word of mouth currently. Things have quieted down a bit now though that testing is over and I’ve shut myself in coffee shops preparing for the launch.

  19. Simon: Thanks for your comment. This is an interesting scenario, because you have done what I talk about so much in terms of building a crowd of people who are passionate about your game. The only problem is that it sounds like they are the only people who even know the game exists (I could be reading that wrong).

    However, it’s not too late to change that. All the tools are at your disposal–it’s just up to you to plug back in and use them. Kickstarter is a web platform with a mini social network built into it, so now is a great time to prepare yourself for running a campaign by diving into BGG, Facebook, and Twitter. April is a little tight, but it’s possible if you dive in today.

  20. Hey Jamey,

    I have Facebook and BGG setup so far, I have no idea how to use twitter :D. Thanks for taking the time to get back to me, I’m going to continue to be positive and practice what I know and continue to use the new ideas from this part of the site.

    Thanks for being approachable and… wise.

    Simon

  21. Jamey,
    Thanks so much for your post. I stumbled upon it at a great time. I agree with your theory of having genuine followers and not buying likes. I have been over whelmed with the amount of PR firms that have approached me since the launch of my campaign and it is so tempting. I keep trying to stay grounded and focused and i think your list will be very helpful. Thanks again.

    Regards,

    Abigail

  22. Abigail: Thanks for your comment! I’m glad you found it at the right time. I applaud you for staying grounded and focused on building relationships instead of giving in to the lure of the PR firms. :)

  23. Thank you for the great info collected here I am starting to get organized to start up my own kickstarter campaign and I was wondering if you think that with the free sample if having rough prototypes could be constructed for free samples and reviews would be acceptable when it comes to card games. I was thinking about using some quality card stock and printing everything on my own. What are your thoughts.

    Respectfully
    Dewayne

    1. Dewayne: Thanks for your question. It’s definitely fine to put together some homemade prototypes, especially for a card game where it just involves some printing and cutting (and maybe sleeving). Have fun! :)

  24. I think the key thing is to do all these stuff on a regular basis. Every day a bit. It’s better to spend 15 minutes every day than 2 hour once per week!

    Just a great list of everyday tasks! Printed! Thanks!

  25. Hi Jamey

    Your lessons are really helpful and your podcast with Richard was so clear and thorough. Thank you very much for all your Crowdfunding advice! Been going through them a lot. I liked that you included ‘Help a stranger’. That’s such thoughtful advice that doesn’t get said enough. Thanks again :)

  26. Jamey, thanks so much for your blog! I first came across your work when I saw Scythe on Kickstarter. What a beautiful and interesting looking game! Since then, I’ve been reading your blog and really appreciate all the advice you give. But I haven’t commented to thank you yet. So taking the advice of this post, I am leaving my first comment. For myself, and all others out there who enjoy designing games and are trying to figure out how to make them great and produce them for others, thank you for sharing your experience and wisdom!

  27. Hi Jamey – Thanks once again for this website and the wonderful resource it is. This is my rebooted attempt at my own blog – check out Reality Respite Games. Hopefully it will do as these lessons suggest and become a valuable resource for people (though not in the same league as yours…). It should be a fun ride to publish my game design pain for all as well…

  28. Hi Jamey,

    First, I want to thank you for all the information you shared with us through this blog.
    I am particularly curious about this step – building a crowd and I agree with the things you mentioned above. Now the thing is since I am not from the states, how could I promote my game here? Because some of the things you wrote, do not apply, if you are not from around here.

  29. Hello. I was only recently introduced to this site by another gaming friend. I am loving the content on here and still have quite a bit of reading to do. I couldn’t find a great spot for my question, so I hope this spot is acceptable. My question is this:

    I am just finishing up putting together a PnP version of my game so I can send it to others for feedback, and hopefully, so they can enjoy playing it. Of course playing it with my friends is great, and I can take it to my local game stores, but I would really like to connect with people in other areas. So, is there a good place to find gamers who enjoy working together? Maybe who enjoy game testing and providing feedback? Or maybe just like fantasy board games and want to play another one before it’s officially released?

    I’ve been looking around quite a bit and seem to be having trouble finding people to connect with. While I continue looking, I’ll keep reading the posts here. Perhaps I just haven’t gotten to the right one yet :)

    1. Thanks Jamey. Not only do I appreciate this site you’ve set up for others, but your quick reply is equally amazing. I’ll prioritize reading that section next, skimming through it just now, it looks like it might have a couple of resources that I hadn’t found on my own yet.

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