5 October 2014 | 22 Comments
Today I have a special guest post for you from fellow Kickstarter creator Eduardo Baraf. These days I rarely give one-on-one advice for Kickstarter projects, as I’d prefer to spend my limited time writing blog entries that reach more than one person.
However, as you’ll see below, Ed presented a special case, and as a result, he has some interesting lessons to share about the advice I gave him. Just like anyone, sometimes I was right, and sometimes I was wrong–there are insights in both sets of examples. (Naturally, I was more interested in having Ed share the things I got wrong, but he was gracious to share good stuff too.)
One overall takeaway I’d like to point out from this entry is that there is a lot of Kickstarter advice out there. Some of it is outright incorrect or completely misleading, and a lot of the rest is highly subjective (like this blog). I try to call people out when they spread misinformation that could impact other creators, but it’s a big internet.
The point is, be judicious about the advice you read. Look for data, not just opinions. Question people–dig deeper if something feels wrong to you. In the end, it’s your project on the line, so it’s up to you to make decisions that are best for your project and your backers.
Recently, I was talking on Skype with Jamey and giving him feedback on the advice he gave me on my campaign–the things he got right and the things he got wrong. Being the consummate learner he is, he asked me to write a blog about it.
I received more than your average amount of help from Jamey because, as I discovered after chatting with him on Twitter about my project preview page a few months ago, we actually attended the same study abroad program in Japan many years ago.
This serendipitous reconnection reinforces the idea that the key to preparing for a Kickstarter is about reaching out to bloggers, content creators, and potential backers well before the campaign begins. Each and every connection can lead to another, and sometimes you hit pay dirt!
What Jamey Got Right!
Jamey made many detailed recommendations, but here is a summary of the things I believe he fundamentally nailed.
- Your Video and Header Blurb Are Critical
The first thing that Jamey dug into on my site was the video and header blurb. Fortunately, my video was in pretty good shape (Keep it personal – they are backing YOU!) but my header blurb needed lots of refinement. I don’t believe he said it at the time, but as my campaign went on it was clear that KS on Mobile is THE growing segment of their market. Guess what!? Mobile shows video, blurb, and tiers up front. Everything else is buried. Don’t consider yourself done with your KS until you review on a phone.
- Have a $1 Tier
When Jamey first previewed my project, I had a $5 tier but he pushed me hard to go with the cheap $1 in. I understand the basis for doing a $5 tier instead, but really, as your campaign goes on, you learn that all you care about is reach, sharing, and word of mouth. Having as low a friction as possible goes along way (as does being able to say “Well, if you don’t want to back the game why not come in for $1?). Honestly, if you could offer a reward directly to a user for just spreading the word, I’d do that. I believe Jamey did it for Treasure Chest. I bet there is a blog about it.
- Streamline Your Content
The bulk of the remaining feedback from Jamey had to do with streamlining the content on my page. Condense this, remove that, streamline this, etc. He was 100% right. Focus on your product and getting the person viewing your product to bite. Be vicious about this. Some people need oodles of information, most just need a few tidbits to get them engaged and hooked. Once someone is HOOKED more information is just and opportunity to LOSE THEM! Whenever I give others feedback about this I’m vicious. Recently I saw Randy Hoyts’s Lanterns page, which was way too long. He refined it down and now I envy how tight it is!
- Remove Reward Tiers
As part of streamlining, Jamey pushed me to remove reward tiers (which I still think is uncommon—the average games project in 2013 had 18 reward levels!) and even removing them from the left body. I most say I loved not having them in. Take a leap of faith and remove them. Your page will instantly feel better without that redundant information!
- Streamlined Tiers
This one is critical. Jamey convinced me to move to a $1 support, next tier is the game model. He got me to remove all the extra crap and get to the point (namely, a $25 reward level for special stickers and a full PnP). He also made sure I used CLEAR language for each tier I did have. As the campaign moved along I strongly believe this was one of the most impactful changes I made.
- Remove Reward Tiers
- Price Point
Jamey also beat me up over my $45 price point, which I dropped to $39 and my international shipping price $25, which I dropped to $20 (oh, and he wanted me to go even further!). These changes made me extremely uncomfortable because I couldn’t afford keep $10K in my pocket to make up for shortfalls.
Ultimately, I went with his recommendation but change my funding goal from $25K to $35K. $35K is a DEADLY number. It took a herculean effort to hit the gigantic goal with a lightweight game, but it felt good to offer such a compelling proposition to backers. I also like having that $5 space to do a $45 pre-order before $50 MSRP. Have you pre-ordered yet? :P
What Jamey Got Wrong!
Jamey’s positive advice FAR OUTWEIGHED the negative advice. However, there were three recommendations I strongly believe were incorrect, or otherwise unhelpful. The first of which is the only one I didn’t take.
- Murder of Crows
Jamey and I had quite a few email exchanges (dare I say heated) about my inclusion of my first published game, Murder of Crows, in the campaign. Simple put, he thought I should remove it. It didn’t fit the “streamline” approach, was distracting and potentially confusing, as it had no thematic connection to Life Off!, and he felt it added little value to the project.
On my side I felt strongly that (a) it validated me as professional game maker, (b) provided a nice upsell for a backer (I almost always tier up for a cheap second game), and (c) gave me the ability to leverage my relationship with Atlas Games and their networks. Looking at the numbers, how many units of Murder of Crows I moved, and the overall positive attitude to it, I’m confident I made the right decision to include it. I moved ~1100 copies of Lift Off! and ~300 copies of Murder of Crows.
I will concede that Jamey’s pressure made me severely limited and clarify the language around the title and drop it to the very bottom of the page. Those changes were worthwhile and what I believe is the way to handle it.
- Pushing in My Dates
Originally, my dates for delivery were June 2015. Jamey felt these were too far out and thought I should pull them in especially because the game was essentially done. I think he might have even suggested January, but I cut the difference to March (which was what I was targeting internally). While I’m still confident I am going to deliver against this date, I think this change was of zero value and has only introduced risk and stress to me on my first KS campaign.
First and foremost, I don’t believe backers care about the exact delivery date (unless you are shooting for holiday). As long as it isn’t over a year out, I don’t believe anyone is going to say “You know this game is great, but I can’t wait 2 more months.” Moreover, I don’t believe there is an advantage to a quick turnaround. The faster the turnaround, the easier it is for a backer to say – “Oh, it is going to be out soon, I’ll just get it from shelves.”
Here is the second part: I don’t think missing my window by a month (say April) is death as long as I continue to over communicate, but I believe that beating my delivery date by two months would have been worth a king’s ransom to my second Kickstarter campaign. I could have been a hero and delivered a head of schedule, but now I’m a stressed mess and will just deliver on time.
- Custom Dice
In his first email to me, Jamey felt that I was missing something truly sexy in my campaign and what I should do was add custom dice. People absolutely LOVE custom dice and they will climb over mountains to reach it.So, look, the first part of this is right. You do need something sexy in your stretch goals. However, what’s sexy to one project isn’t as sexy on another and fundamentally Lift Off! didn’t need custom dice. So rather than my old 50K stretch goal (more Lift Off points) which was minimal work, minimal risk, and minimal additional cost, I had a reward that didn’t really fit my design, I had never made before, and has both a large upfront cost and a incremental cost. This addition killed much of the extra buffer I built up exceeding my funding goal.
To be clear – people DO love custom dice, I likely hit 50K because of the dice, and the game will sell better at retail with them. In the haste to add this I didn’t really get the funding target right for this stretch goal. Had I kept the LO points at $50K and put Custom Dice at $60K or even $65K, I wouldn’t be complaining about this here. Still, a few weeks before my campaign this (combined with the date crunch) has caused me more greys than I intended to have at this age.
FWIW – Now that the Dice are designed (and while I have yet to see the final final cost), I do love them and they do add nice flair to the game.
My Biggest Takeaway
Let me close by saying this: More than the blogs, more than the forgotten past, more than all of the recommendations (good or otherwise), the thing I’ve learned the most from Jamey is that there are good guys out there, who care about what they are doing, want to find success, but also want to find success for all of those around them. Jamey has inspired me to be an open book with my campaign, to help anyone doing a Kickstarter (or designing a game in general), and even part of my reasoning for doing a video review series to share my passion for board games with others.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given by someone who took a close look at your Kickstarter project? What about the worst advice? How did you figure out the difference?