14 February 2013
Important to also read: The Current State of Stretch Goals (2016)
I don’t know if the first Kickstarter project that had stretch goals, but in the last year or so they’ve pretty much become a standard addition to most successful Kickstarter projects. In addition to providing better value for your backers, having visible stretch goals can actually increase the chances of your project funding in the first place.
The Purpose of Stretch Goals
Stretch goals are things that you’ll add to most of the reward levels at no additional cost if you overfund your project. If you set out to raise $10,000 and you raise $15,000, you might give everyone an extra marshmallow, a bonus short story, or promo cards for your game.
Stretch goals are closely tied to your funding goal. Your funding goal should be the bare minimum you need to create a minimal viable product. Thus your stretch goals are ways to expand upon and improve that core product, but if you don’t reach them, you can still deliver your passion project to your backers.
The reason stretch goals work so well is (a) they encourage backers to pledge more (especially when they check in on the project at the very end to see that they’re $X pledge gets them much more than they originally thought), and (b) they encourage backers to share your project with other people. The more stretch goals you meet, the more everyone wins.
The Pitfalls of Stretch Goals
I can sum these up in a few points:
- Make sure your stretch goals add real value to your product.
- Make sure your stretch goals don’t cause you to lose money or delay the project.
- Make sure your stretch goals are given to every backer who receives your product (it’s confusing and insulting to backers if you have a few reward levels where they get the game, but they have to pledge even more to get the game and the stretch goals).
The Golden Goose
I would highly suggest that your project have at least one “golden goose” stretch goal at 400 or 500% funding. This stretch goal is something that adds a huge amount of value to every backer. This goal really whets the appetites of backers and gives them something to strive for as a group–not only does it help your funding up to that point (even if you don’t reach the goal), but it creates a sense of community around the project.
A good example is TMG’s Ground Floor Kickstarter campaign. At $75,000 in funding (500%), TMG gave every backer an extra game called Skyline. That’s a huge reward–two well-designed games for the price of one. Not only did it help Ground Floor raise $75,000, but every backer who checked out the project after that level was reached knew for sure that they were getting two games, so an additional $38,000 was raised after that goal was reached.
A word of caution that ties into Pitfall #2: Make sure you aren’t losing money per unit if you reach your golden goose stretch goal (taking shipping, art and design, and manufacturing into consideration). Calculate costs based on the assumption that you will meet that goal. And then do everything you can to actually meet it!
Theories on the Visibility of Stretch Goals
There are a few different theories on how you should reveal–or unveil–your stretch goals. The two overarching keys are to know exactly what your stretch goals can be before you launch the project, and remain flexible during the project to add more stretch goals or change the dollar amounts if you can afford it.
- Only share one stretch goal at a time: This is a strategy employed extremely well by Dice Hate Me games, which currently has the game Compounded on Kickstarter. Backers have a very concrete goal to focus on, and no one is the wiser if they don’t reach the stretch goals that they haven’t revealed.
- Share multiple stretch goals, but not their funding amounts: This strategy, which I believe I’ve seen Greater Than Games employ for Sentinels of the Multiverse, whets backer appetites for future stretch goals, but allows the creator to remain flexible in adjusting the funding amounts as needed.
- Share all stretch goals and funding amounts: This is what I did with Viticulture (as seen by the image on this post), except that the goals changed over time as I reduced thresholds and added new goals in between. I think this method can make backers really excited about future goals, and as long as you remain flexible to reduce the funding amounts needed for the stretch goals, there’s no harm in sharing those numbers.
If I did it again, I might do a mix of those three strategies. Leave some things a mystery, but let backers know up front how greener the grass can be on the other side of the original funding goal.
As you can see by the image to the right, we did something a little different with Viticulture. Our stretch goals were more like milestones, as some weren’t connected to funding. I incorporated milestones based on Facebook Likes to encourage people to spread the world on the largest social network, and I had milestones based on the number of backers to show that the project was more than about raising money for a game–it was about building a community around a game. I get excited when I see a lot of stretch goals on a project, and I think many of my backers shared the same enthusiasm.
I did learn a few things from the Facebook Like milestones, though. First, there was some discussion on Reddit about whether those milestones encouraged people to Like something that they didn’t even know if they actually liked it or not. I think that’s somewhat fair. In the future I might make it clearer that people should only Like the project if they actually like it. It’s a little nitpicky, but that’s what Reddit is for.
Second, my original Like milestones (which unlocked hidden reward levels) were counterproductive. There’s no good reason to hide reward levels. Plus, I set the Like goals so low that we met them all the first day, which took the fun out of anticipating the next goal. In the future if I have Facebook Like milestones, I’ll probably use them to reveal art from the game, with maybe 1,000 Likes adding something of real value.
What are some of the most exciting stretch goals you’ve seen on Kickstarter?
Matthew at Designing Cardboard wrote a great data-mining post about stretch goals here. Worth a read.
Up Next: Kickstarter Lesson #12: Shipping