Kickstarter Lesson #228: Incentives and Strategies to Boost Day 1 Backers

19 June 2017

You’re a first-time Kickstarter creator, and one of your biggest concerns is how to make a splash on Day 1. You’re not alone–we’ve all been there.

I believe that the first few days of a campaign are hugely important. If a project starts off strong, the perception from subsequent backers is that the project is worth their attention. The opposite can happen if the project starts off slowly.

There are lots of ways to increase the chances of an early boost. However, one thing I’d recommend that you keep in mind is that your campaign is longer than 1-2 days. Does your Day 1 strategy discourage potential backers who discover the project after that day?

Here’s a list of strategies and incentives, ranging from most organic to most likely to turn off “late” backers. Some of these can be used in combination with each other.

  1. Build a community of eager backers in advance and present them with an appealing product/project. No gimmicks, tactics, or tricks. Just good old fashioned hard work, careful planning, and solid execution. A recent example of this is Lucidity.
  2. Send individual invitations to each of your friends and family members. This is how I spent the first two days of my first board game project, Viticulture. I didn’t send a mass e-mail; rather, I wrote a special e-mail to everyone I knew who might find something interesting in the project.
  3. Add a free bonus to every copy of the game if the project funds within a set amount of time. On Trickerion, if the project was successfully funded in the first week, every copy of the game would get 4 new roles (twice the number as the original). This provided a huge incentive for people to back now instead of later and to share the project with friends. It fostered a sense of community among all backers instead of separating some backers from the others.
  4. Offer a soft benefit to early backers. A “soft benefit” is something intangible (i.e., not an item or a discount). An example of this would be a backer toast for the Day 1 backers or, as Clans of Caledonia did, a higher money-back guarantee for those early backers.
  5. Give a special component to early backers for free; offer it as an add-on later. Two current projects, Lords of Hellas and Human Interface, offered a miniature to Day 1 backers that other backers could add on later (unfortunately they made it a KS exclusive, which runs into issues post-campaign, but that’s a separate topic). Lords of Hellas has a good answer in their FAQ about how Day 1 backers know who they are: “We have exported all 24,5 hour backers and we can confirm that all backers with number 6442 or lower qualify for free Leonidas.”
  6. Create an early-bird pricing tier. An example of this is a project who offers Day 1 backers or the first 100 backers a lower price than all other backers. Based on a survey I ran a few months ago, 49% of people who discover a project after they’ve missed out on an early-bird price are significantly less likely to back it.

Which of these options appeals to you the most as a creator or a backer? Are there other strategies or examples I missed?


Also, thanks to Peter S. for suggesting this topic.


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13 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #228: Incentives and Strategies to Boost Day 1 Backers

  1. I am not a fan of early birds myself, but yes as a 1st time creator I used them to secure funding. Maybe an option without EB would result in higher funding, but I didn’t have retail or mass production in mind then. Building community slow with modest campaigns, proving that promise-and-deliver is a certainty and having satisfied backers rather that a long list of potential backers who happened to like my FB or BGG page, seems better to me.

    That said, 2, 4 and 6 are easier, whereas I give my all to 1.

    How about a “funding bird” option? Some creators offer a pledge level till funding goal is reached, then lock it and create another one higher.

    I’ve seen also pledges that offer exactly the same things, only at later date. Those campaigns are not necessarily tabletop related, mostly gadgets that have a limit per month availability from factory, thus the separate pledges (eg shipped October 2017, then shipped November 2017)

  2. Always worth reading these lessons!
    I try to do my homeworks and read as many sources I can, but for our first campaign we preferred to avoid any kind of early-bird bonus to not discourage any late backer. This backfired in a very weak launch day (and launching the same day of Lord of Hellas and Rise of Tribes was definitely the final nail), and we ended canceling it.

    I’m not myself a fan of early-bird tiers, but I see how they can really help, especially first-time creators. The biggest problem I have with them as a creator is the cost for even simple stuff that has to be produced in a very small quantity (especially for a low-price game like our, ~12€) and the nightmares-inducing fulfillment, especially with add-ons and stuff like that. That said, I’ll make sure to explore this option for the relaunch!

    The other problem I see with number 3 is that if the bonus goal isn’t met in time, that could discourage even the people that already backed the game, and therefore have a lot of cancelled pledges during the course of the campaign.

  3. Thanks for your comment, Ennio, and I’m sorry your campaign didn’t get off to a strong start. Do you think the lack of a Day 1 incentive was the only factor?

    That’s a fair point about #3. I think that’s one of the reasons the Trickerion guys chose a 1-week timeframe. If you haven’t reached your funding goal (or are very close) within 1 week, you’re probably in trouble regardless. :)

    1. I see it as a relevant factor, but there were definitely other problems, probably even more important.
      Above all, we’ve tried to gather some visibility through ads, giveaways and previews in the weeks/months before the campaign, but couldn’t really build any kind of community. And this was most certainly a fatal flaw. As I said we launched in a day with an extremely strong competition, but a solid fanbase might have saved us.

      That’s true, it’s all in the chosen timeframe as one week is pretty safe.

  4. Another interesting, although very limited one, is the Strategist Tier that Chip Theory Games offers. On their current campaign for Triplock, only 10 were offered at $500 (though, strangely, for a while it was showing 11 backers at that level). This Tier gets you a free copy (plus shipping) of the base version of all following CTG kickstarters.

    I believe this tier sold out within minutes of their campaign launching.

    On one hand, it feels like a very exclusive EB offer – I’ve seen posts from some backers who’ve been trying to nab one for several campaigns now. But also, lets a few fans of your brand pre-commit (as it were) to future campaigns, by pre-paying during the current campaign.

    1. Tyler: Thanks for sharing! In a broader way, this applies to any limited rewards–they can provide an early incentive for eager backers. I wonder why CTG limits it to 10 rewards. Surely they wouldn’t mind having more backers who are willing to invest in their future. Perhaps it’s a scarcity play.

  5. Strategies 1 and 2, as other have said, are great ways to get off on the right foot from Day 1. Of course, building a base of followers takes a lot time and effort….but the payoff is worth the extra energy. We’re launching Kingdoms Lawn Game in two weeks on July 6th. After speaking with our fan base, we’re entertaining the idea doing a strategy similar to # 5 by offering a “special edition” numbered bag for the first 200 backers (we need 2,000 backers). So backer 1 would get a bag with a number “1” stitched on the side. Likewise, backer 200 would get a number “200” stitched on the side. I would also sign and document the bag number in the rule-book. The only difference between the 200 special number bags vs the other backer bags is the stitched number….though the value, to me and the backers is priceless. If we end up selling thousands, you can official prove you have number 7 or number 55 or whatever. Thoughts?

    – Denny

    1. Denny: That’s a nice touch! In the past I’ve seen creators do stuff like that as limited reward levels, but since you’re looking to number the bags 1-200, it makes sense that backers 1-200 would get it. It’s possible that some of those backers will support the project at less money than they need to spend to get the game, but probably (hopefully) most will get the full game.

  6. These are all great ideas. Another idea that I have seen in the past that I thought was very interesting is offering a contest for day 1 backers. Basically anyone who backs your project on day 1 is entered to win some prize.

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