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.
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.]
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?