Kickstarter Lesson #250: What Motivates People to Subscribe to an E-Newsletter?

5 July 2018 | 11 Comments

Near the end of the Stonemaier event at Mox Boarding House in Seattle, I was chatting with my co-designer for Scythe: The Rise of Fenris, Ryan. He was talking about his history with Stonemaier Games, especially as related to Scythe.

At a certain point, Ryan paused, searching his memory. “You know,” he said, “I just realized that I didn’t even sign up for your e-newsletter until at least a year after I started closely following Stonemaier Games.”

I found this fascinating. Here we had a huge Scythe fan–someone who loved the game enough to create a homemade expansion that would provide the early foundations for The Rise of Fenris–yet for quite some time it didn’t occur to him to to subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter.

This was a wake-up call to me that I need to do a better job of encouraging people to take that step, as I believe the e-newsletter is the most powerful way of delivering important information to fans (or potential fans). Stonemaier Games’s monthly e-newsletter, for example, currently has 34,362 subscribers, and the average open rate is 54.4%.

Here are a few ways people are motivated to take that final step and actually subscribe:

  • They can easily find the subscription box on your website: If people can’t find where to subscribe, they’re not going to subscribe. On our website, I have a “News” link at the top of the page and a one-click e-newsletter subscription box in the footer of every page.
  • They learn on social media that the e-newsletter exists (and that they’re missing out): I often see questions on social media like, “Does anyone know when X reprint will be available?” When I respond, I answer question, and I mention that we update people about that topic on a regular basis via our e-newsletter. I include a link to the News page, which shows the current status update image, links to archived e-newsletters, and a subscribe link.
  • They see how it benefits them now: In the distant past, I offered an immediate incentive to sign up for our e-newsletter (“Get $5 off your next purchase from the Stonemaier Games webstore.”) I think this is a legitimate way to encourage people to subscribe, though I’m always hesitant about incentives that aren’t necessarily in line with the intended benefit of the e-newsletter. Also, I feel like since I haven’t offered that perk for a while, if I started offering it again, it may not sit well with everyone who subscribed since I removed the discount.
  • They see how it benefits them later: I really like the idea of e-newsletter signups that answer the question, “What’s in it for me?” It’s hard to fully convey this in a short sentence, so keep in mind that subscribers are motivated by (a) deals and special offers, (b) important, time-sensitive updates, and (c) content that relates directly to them (see stats on this article).
  • They want a very specific prompt: Whenever I announce a new product, I always include a “Tell Me When It’s Available” button on the product page that directs to the e-newsletter. My perception is that there’s a significant number of people who learn about a specific product and only want to know about it. Some of them may later unsubscribe, which is fine, but others might find value in the e-newsletter and stick around.
  • They’re prompted by a pop-up window: This article claims that pop-up forms obtain 1,375% more subscribers than traditional forms like the one I have in my footer. So why don’t I add a pop-up form? Maybe I will someday, but I find them annoying, and I don’t want to annoy people.
  • They have an altruistic reason to act now: I talked about this a few months ago in reference to Thundergryph Games’ signup for Tang Garden. They offered to plant a tree for each subscriber. This was paired with images of a beautiful game, compelling me to want to learn more.
  • They see it on your products: I doubt I get many new subscribers from this, but I put a link to our e-newsletter on the back page of our rulebooks. I like the idea that someone who has the game in their hands–hopefully a game they enjoy–has a reminder about how they can stay in touch and learn more.
e-newsletter notice on the back page of one of our rulebooks

Last, what if you’re preparing for your first Kickstarter and you feel like no one even knows who you are? I’d highly recommend reading this: 10 Daily Actions to Build Your Crowd

What motivates you to subscribe to an e-newsletter? Can you think of any brands you’re passionate about that you don’t subscribe to? Why not?

Also read about Post-Campaign Communication and GDPR: What It Means for Crowdfunders.

If you gain value from the 100 articles Jamey publishes on his blog each year, please consider championing this content!

Leave a Comment

11 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #250: What Motivates People to Subscribe to an E-Newsletter?

  1. Jamey,

    I’m a long-time fan of your designs, but moreover your forthright approach to an industry which remained shrouded in mystery for a long time until the advent of the internet, and by extension KS. I can only speak to my own journey as someone who assisted other designers over on the Board Game Design Forum and then slowly made a name for myself working with other published designers and part of the connective tissue is the monthly (or whatever interval) newsletter which keeps the dialogue channels open.


  2. I had bought and played quite a few of your games before I signed up for the email newsletter. I am a middle school teacher who started an after school board game club. As the club grew I began to actively seek out games that might appeal to different kids and that is what finally brought me to your site and then signing up for your newsletter.

    I will say that as I became more involved in the hobby and actually paying attention to who designed the games I liked (and my students liked) it surprised me how many games I owned by the same designer. For instance I had bought Euphoria and Scythe before I realized you had designed both of them. This happened again and again as I went through my collection. I love reading your newsletter and I love how you are not afraid to point me at other games you love.

  3. Thank you for not having popups asking me to subscribe. People I really like (with websites I enjoy) have those, and honestly it annoys me EVERY SINGLE TIME. I’m already subscribed, please stop asking me with a POPUP.

  4. “What motivates you to subscribe to an e-newsletter?”
    Stonemaier Games: Most of the time I learn something to do with the board game industry, and your articles are written interestingly. Plus I believe you are a considerate, fair, and an unselfish human being, which is the way people should be but this is actually rare (despite lots of nice funny people).

    For my newsletter I planning on offering a 20% discount to newsletter subscribers that are also kickstarter backers. That offer would be turned-off to new subscribers on launch day. Do you think that is a good idea? Refund them 20% through paypal. Can you see any problems with that?

    P.S. I also find pop up subscriptions annoying. I’ve never signed up to one of those, and probably never will.

    1. Gerald: Thank you! I appreciate that.

      I think that’s a compelling idea, and I like that it’s tied to a specific event. As for the refund, PayPal does allow mass refunds, though I would be VERY clear up front that PayPal is the only option for the 20% refund. Otherwise you will absolutely get people who request the refund in a variety of other forms that will require considerably more time from you than just uploading a spreadsheet of e-mails to PayPal’s mass payment system.

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