3 Red Herrings I Experienced While Planning My First Kickstarter (guest post)

21 September 2017 | 11 Comments

For my first Kickstarter–heck, even for my last Kickstarter–I pursued dozens of red herrings before I realized there was a better way. For example, for Viticulture there was a time when I thought I’d ship everything by hand…then I discovered fulfillment centers.

I was recently talking about these false leads and lessons learned to fellow creator and blog reader Rob Radke, who was wrapping up the details for his Kickstarter project (which has now launched). I asked Rob if he’d be willing to share some of his red herrings, and he wrote the following guest post. I’ve added some notes and thoughts at the end of the first and third sections.

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Double Eagle Games recently launched Bulletproof, our first game on Kickstarter.

As a first time creator launching a project on Kickstarter can be formidable. Luckily we have Jamey’s page as a resource and hopefully we can share a few of the mistakes that we made during development to help other creators succeed.

There’s More Than One Manufacturer

One of the first major issues for a creator to tackle is the manufacturing of a product. When we first started thinking about the step of the process it was intimidating. I had never manufactured anything before and it felt a little strange to ask someone to give me a quote for a project that was many months away from even funding.

Like most creators I wanted a top quality project, so I requested a quote from one of the most well-known companies in my field. I received the quote back, did some quick math, and realized that I would have to set my goal rather high just to make the minimum order quantity. This seemed like a huge hurdle to the success of my campaign, especially as a first time creator.

Nevertheless I kept on working with my artist and planning out my tasks assuming that the quote I received was going to be similar to that of the other factories (maybe just a little higher for better quality). It wasn’t until I spoke with some other creators who recommended different manufacturers that I decided to get more quotes.

I thought that I could possibly get a great quality product at a lower unit cost. While I did find better costs, the real epiphany that I had was that each factory had a variety of options and minimum order quantities. This is so obvious in hindsight but it totally changed my mindset about my project. Because I had quotes from so many different factories I was able to accomplish two things:

  • Set my goal as low as possible – at the end of the day this is a passion project so I would be happy just to see it produced (Bulletproof’s goal is $5,499)
  • Include lots of component upgrade stretch goals – per my comment above, I want to see my game produced, hopefully via stretch goals it will be the best quality game possible

I am glad that I took other creators’ advice to get more manufacturing quotes. As a first time creator having a more realistic goal and also many stretch goals to enhance the product was something that I wanted for my campaign.

[Jamey’s note: I agree that this is a prudent approach for your first product. However, once you’ve worked with the same manufacturer for a while and establish a relationship with them, I’d recommend moving away from the “shop around for quotes” approach. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t keep an eye on costs and quality, but at a certain point the relationship itself becomes a focal point, and you can damage it if you’re constantly saying that you need to shop around before making a decision. It’s like if you remain active on an online dating site even after you’ve been with your significant other for several years–it weakens the relationship you have.]

Freelancers Aren’t Free, but They’re Worth the Expense

One of the pieces of the project that was a real challenge for us was the production of the Kickstarter video. The importance of the video along with our total lack of experience with video production and its potential high cost really made it seem like a daunting task.

Fellow creators we had spoken with estimated that the cost for the video could be anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 for a good quality video. For our project that just was not going to work. We needed to find a way to get it done for less while also being good quality. We even contemplated dedicating one person on our team full time for a month to learning Adobe Premier. Thankfully we quickly abandoned this approach!

After speaking with a few video producers and continuing to get quotes in the same range that other creators had mentioned we decided to try something different, listing our video on a freelancer website. Freelancer sites allow people to list jobs and then they receive proposals and prices to get those jobs completed. A member of our team was familiar with a website called Upwork, so we decided to give it a try.

One of the main benefits of Upwork is its large scale. We received a wide variety of proposals from people across the global so we had a large pool of different creators to choose to work with. We ended up working with a college student who was able to easily complete our project well ahead of schedule. He was an expert in video editing and also charged a very reasonable rate, presumably because he is trying to build out his portfolio.

We are glad that we used a freelancer for this aspect of the project. It saved us money that we could redeploy elsewhere and potentially more importantly it saved us the frustration of trying to do it ourselves.

Quality Followers > Quantity Followers

We’ve all read the blog posts about building a following of passionate supporters. We knew it was something that we needed to do focus on before our launch so we did lots of research on ways that other creators build a following.

One recurring strategy that we saw was using contests to gain Facebook followers. Essentially your group or page offers a prize in return for some action from the individual such as liking a page, sharing a post or responding to a question. It seems like an easy way to get followers and guess what, it is!

We had four different contests and at launch day we had over 500 Facebook followers. We varied our contests to try and attract different types of people within our sub segment and overall our contests were successful in getting people to take actions.

Unfortunately though when our game launched only 1 person who had liked our Facebook page showed up on launch day. This clearly showed us that we didn’t do a good job engaging with our followers. We focused too much on the numbers (followers) and too little on showing our own passion and generating excitement with our fans for our game Bulletproof.

[Jamey’s note: Rob’s example illustrates the exact point I’ve talked about several times regarding social media. If you use a contest or giveaway to entice people to like your Facebook page or sign up for your e-newsletter, you’re going to end up with a bunch of subscribers who are there for free stuff, not because they’re passionate or curious about what you’re making. I’d much rather have 50 genuine followers than 500 people who Liked my page because they might win a game.]

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Thanks for taking the time to share these lessons you learned along the way to launching Bulletproof, Rob!

What red herrings have you learned from as a creator?

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11 Comments on “3 Red Herrings I Experienced While Planning My First Kickstarter (guest post)

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience Rob! I know the temptation to get one quote and go with it. I’ve done that too many times, from a big car mechanic job, to a book printing. It is so important to get quotes! But I agree with Jamey – once I’ve established a good relationship with someone, it is worth investing in the relationship, even if here and there it costs a few dollars extra.

    Rob, I’m sorry to see that you had to pull the kickstarter. Do you have a time you are planning/hoping to relaunch? It would be great to hear about how you made the decision, and what your plans are going forward!

    One thought I had from viewing the kickstarter page – the components are all cards, right?
    Was the price a deterrent for potential backers?

    Thanks again for sharing your insight. Best wishes for your future campaign!

  2. Always a great read. Thanks for Sharing Jamey & Rob!

    I agree with all of your points from my experience running one kickstarter.

    Manufacturing – I contacted a dozen companies before settling on one. Make sure you understand where the game is being produced, what the shipping cost will be, the cost for a prototype and time line once your order is in.

    Free lancers – Unless your a jack of all traits do it your self wizard, find an expert (or more knowledgeable) person who is.

    Social Media – Great point here Rob! I expected more traffic from these sources. They still proved valuable but at more like a 5-10% return rate. All I can say is spend the time talking about your project with people who might be interested and get those people to follow your project. This won’t happen over night. I spent almost a year building my 300 followers.

    Publicity/ PR – A big one at the beginning of my campaign was PR. I had read many articles on PR and followed Jamey’s advice and reached out to dozens of people in the gaming community. I tried to build rapport and see what I could do for them. It’s a lot of work to get just one response.

    When I clicked the launch button, immediately I was flooded by emails saying “Let’s us do PR for you, we will increase your traffic”. Do you have any idea how tempting it sounds to spend $500 and boost my projects traffic? Needless to say I spent countless hours researching these companies and trying to get feed back on user experience. I found hundreds of KS creators asking the same question and spending the money. However I also found little information to suggest the investment would be worth it.

    There’s no magic bullet and there’s no substation for putting in all the hard work and growing organically. Launching a KS is the first step. If your game is good, people will ask for more and the word will spread.

    That’s my 2 cents of a red herring.

    Good luck on the KS Rob! I’ll share your KS with my community as I know a few peeps that might support it.

    -Joe Ryan

  3. re: Kickstarter videos, Jamey do you have any data on how many people view them, or any survey responses on how many backers view them as key? I’m really curious, because I’ve seen so many people talk about how important they are, and yet……they aren’t to me.

    I’ve backed over two dozen Kickstarters and looked into at least a couple hundred, and I almost *never* watch the top video. Maybe it’s because when I started checking out Kickstarters years ago they were often crappy. Maybe it’s because I find them too often to be filled with hype and not substance. Maybe it’s because, in general, I find it much much quicker to scan the written materials than sit through a video.

    I’ll watch specific videos later in the Kickstarter pitch, such as gameplay or mechanics videos. Those can be extremely useful to understand what’s being pitched.

    It’s just fascinating to me that it’s so accepted that the video is important that people can spend thousands of dollars on it when I’ve probably never watched the result.

    1. I hear the something Matt! I think you might be in the minority. The video is the first thing I click on. Here are some stats from my KS.

      I raised $8,891 with 166 backers. My video was played 1,076 times with 35% of those views completed.

      I hired a college student to make my video for $600. Was it worth it? I’ve seen many KS with crappy videos not get funded. More important to me, I didn’t have to spend the countless hours trying to figure out how to do it myself.

    2. Matt, as creators working towards our first Kickstarter campaign, we have asked ourselves the same question, as some of us don’t usually watch the video.

      We have come to the conclusion, though, that it IS extremely important. Maybe not everyone will watch it, “screeners” like yourself will just ignore it. But many people DO watch it, ESPECIALLY the ones that come to Kickstarter SPECIFICALLY for your game, because they follow you on social media or because they have been led to the campaign directly. Those are your most important potential clients, they come to your campaign page with a purpose.

      Now a good video will not be decisive in their purchase/backing decision. But a bad video WILL. Its quality, its wit and the care that you have put into making it good is like a business card. If you can’t even make a professional looking video, you lose credibility. And credibility is immensely important, especially for first-timers.

    3. Matt,

      Your question about the video is the same exact question we had. The value isnt obvious at first especially if it isnt something you personally use to evaluate projects. The study that Jamey points is an important point to consider. We have seen hundreds of video plays with 40% of the videos being played through completely.

      I’ve also read that a major factor in becoming a ‘project we love’ is in part based on a project’s video. There is deinitely benefit to being a project we love so I definitely think a quality video is important.

      Thanks Matt!

      1. I am in a similar situation to Matt, I almost never watch the videos, of the 50+ KS’s I have backed I have probably watched a handful of videos.
        I would however say I have probably watched more videos on projects I haven’t backed, these tend to be things I have ‘fallen over’ and I am a bit confused about what is being offered, so video is clicked and then usually confirms I don’t have any interest in the project. This for me is a good enough reason to have the video.

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