14 September 2014 | 20 Comments
If you’ve written a brilliant, engaging Kickstarter project update or group e-mail but no one reads it, does it even exist?
Last month at Gen Con, I attended a Kickstarter panel where backers were the panelists and creators like me comprised the audience. One of the key takeaways for me was that repeat backers get so many project updates in their inbox that sometimes they only read the subject line. That was a great lesson to me: If I have something really important and urgent to say, I need to convey it in the title of the update.
Title aside, you have a limited amount of real estate at the top of an update or e-mail to convince a backer to continue reading. In searching for the best way to address this topic here, I stumbled upon an Inc Magazine article by John Brandon called “10 Opening Phrases to Use in Your Next Email.” A number of these phrases apply directly to Kickstarter, so I thought I’d list the best ones here.
- “Hi!” This is actually the one item on the list that wasn’t mentioned in the article above. The key isn’t the word itself, but rather that it’s singular. Contrast it, for example, with, “Hey everybody!” As Michael Domeny pointed out in his brilliant article, when a backer reads an e-mail, they’re not huddled around the computer with 500 other backers. It’s just one person. Really, the key here is empathy. Put yourself in a backer’s shoes when writing an update or e-mail and address them as one individual, not a group of people. This should continue throughout the update. It’s not “I’m so thankful for all of your support”; it’s “I’m so thankful for your support.”
- “Good news:” How could someone not read what comes after the colon? I must know what the good news is!
- “I have an answer for you.” Again, this is kind of a tease, but a tease with an immediate payoff. It also shows that the creator listed to backer questions and is now following up.
- “Urgent:” Obviously this should be used sparingly or backers will stop trusting you when you say “urgent,” but if you have something urgent to say, let the backers know right away. Don’t save it for the third paragraph.
- “I’m really excited about this photo:” What’s easier than reading? Looking at pictures! If you have a cool photo in your update, let backers know about it right away so they scroll down to see it. If they’re excited by the photo, there’s a good chance they’ll read the text around it to see what it’s all about. Also, note that you’re the one who is excited about the photo in that opening line, opposed to, “Here’s an exciting photo.” Don’t tell backers how they should feel about something–that’s like someone telling you, “Here’s a funny story.” People don’t need–or want–cue cards.
- “The most important thing you need to know is…” I’ve tried to use a variation of this phrase in my monthly e-newsletters. I’m telling people up front that there is something important (that it isn’t just a generic update), and here’s the information they need in case it’s all they have time to read.
Here’s one last trick to use instead of referencing this list every time you post a project update: After you write the update, preview it and then decide what the most important information is. Then add a new first paragraph that highlights that information in exactly 2 lines, ending with “details below.”
I’m sure I’ve missed some very effective opening lines here. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to see them in the comments!