Kickstarter Lesson #26: Paid Advertising and How Backers Find Your Project

31 March 2013 | 34 Comments

Way back in October 2012 when the Viticulture Kickstarter campaign ended, I send out a Google survey to backers to collect various information from them, including the question: How did you hear about the Viticulture Kickstarter project? I posted the first week of results on this blog entry, but I now have the full data to share with you. I think other project creators–especially board game creators–when determining the value of paid advertising.


We spent a total of about $1,300 on advertising out of pocket–those weren’t expenses that we were going to use Kickstarter funds for (and unless you explicitly say so on your project page, I recommend the same to you). $1,000 went to Board Game Geek for about a month of banner ads, $150 went to The Dice Tower for a preview of the game, and $150 went towards Facebook ads.

Was the paid advertising worth it? See below for the specific totals:


Based on the funds we put into each area of advertising, we made more than we spent. But it was pretty close with Facebook and The Dice Tower, while it wasn’t close at all with Board Game Geek.

I must admit that I don’t think all that highly of banner ads. I rarely even notice them anymore. But as someone who visits Board Game Geek on a daily basis, I often click on Kickstarter board game ads, if not just to see how those campaigns are doing. So I would recommend BGG to tabletop game projects, but if your product is in a different category, make sure you find a site where people actually click on banner ads. A good test of this is to see if you pay attention to and occasionally click banner ads on the website in question.

The Tipping Point

For Facebook and The Dice Tower, at first glance you might think that it’s too risky. It may not be worth it. But each person who backs your project (regardless of where they come from) is another person who might share it with their friends, so the result could be exponential even though it doesn’t should up in the data. Similarly, having sites like The Dice Tower review your game or having blog interviews may not result in backers immediately clicking over to Kickstarter to back your project, but they might contribute to individuals reaching a tipping point of information about your project.

I’ll use a non-Kickstarter game as an example. There was a board game called Tzolk’n that came out last fall. It caught my eye right away as an innovative worker-placement game. But I didn’t buy it right away. Nor did I buy it after I watched some preview videos and read some reviews. Nor did I buy it a few months later when I read more reviews and saw it make some “best of 2012” lists. But then I read one more positive review in January, and suddenly for some reason I reached my tipping point. There wasn’t anything special about that particular blog entry. I simply had reached a critical mass of information, and I pulled the trigger to buy the game.

The same applies to Kickstarter. However, looking at the data, you might wonder if you can just forgo the paid advertising and focus on other forms of outreach to help people reach that critical mass. My answer to that: Absolutely. If you’re willing to spend the time reaching out to bloggers and backers, you don’t need paid advertising. In fact, you might even do better without it because of the personal touch of the other forms of outreach compared to paid advertising.

Prototype Quality Matters

I will say this: If video bloggers preview your product (whether they’re paid or unpaid), make sure you have a really nice prototype. I’m a little embarrassed of the Viticulture preview on The Dice Tower video. 2,000 people have watched that video, and it’s never going away, even though the final game looks a million times better than that. Remember that: The internet is forever.

The Lure of Kickstarter

One of the deceptive elements of the above pie chart and data is Kickstarter itself. Looking at this, you might think that you can put a project on Kickstarter, and you’ll be flooded with backers. Please, please do not think that. Kickstarter is not magic. For you to attract backers on Kickstarter, you need to have a great project page (video, copywriting, etc) , a compelling rewards and stretch goals, high engagement with backers, and much more. Remember, 56% of Kickstarter projects fail.

You Are Your Best Advocate

Between the two of us, Alan and I directly raised 13% of our total pledges. That’s about $9,000, or 36% of our original goal of $25,000 (the vast majority of backers we directly solicited–friends, family, blog readers, networks, etc–backed the project before we hit our funding goal). That’s really important. When you’re starting from scratch, you need people who believe in you to help get your project on track so it will look more compelling to strangers. Make sure you read my launch day Kickstarter lesson about outreach to friends and family.


You don’t need paid advertising to have a successful Kickstarter project, but you do need a tremendous amount of outreach before, during, and after your project.

If you want more information about referrers, another fantastic post on this topic that you should check out is Minion Games’ James Mathe’s post on Kickstarter myths. You can also read a guest post by an online advertising expert at Google.

Next: Bloggers, Podcasters, and Reviewers

Leave a Comment

34 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #26: Paid Advertising and How Backers Find Your Project

  1. I just stumbled on Board Game Capital ( and they seem to be a newcomer to the tabletop game arena although they’ve been around for 10+ years and boast impressive page view stats. They are very inexpensive and also offer game reviews at no charge. I’m looking into using them for my next campaign and I’ll update you on how it goes.

  2. We would like to say that this article has been very useful for us in setting up our kickstarter and hopefully used your advice successful so that backers can find our project. This is our first campaign and directing traffic to a web page is a new challenge for us. If you are interested the project is a card game called It’s Just a Theory and is a storytelling game where players create conspiracy theories. The link is ( if you have any advice on how to improve our page we would appreciate it.

  3. Dear Jamey,

    I was at Nuke-con the other day and someone asked if I read your blog and I said, “yeah, of course, the guy’s indispensable” and basically everyone in the immediate area heartily replied with what a great person you are. Anyways, I was reading this one again today and I was wondering if it was better to get a banner ad on board game geek or to run a contest on board game geek. Optimally I’d like to do both of course but realistically speaking I only have the funds for one.

    with the utmost respect,


    PS: I know there’s a space for my name but I always liked the closing remark portion of a letter, it’s kind of like a final text based tone setter before emojis entered into our textual lexicon isn’t it?

    1. That’s really neat to hear, Daniel! Thank you for sharing. It’s interesting that people associate my blog with me being a good person–I’m good and bad at times, just like everyone else. :)

      I haven’t run a contest on BGG, so I’m not really sure. I’m generally against giving away free stuff, as I think it puts people in a different mentality than when you don’t give away free stuff (read here: But I do like that contests require people to research the game, resulting in them possibly wanting it more than when they started (and being much better informed).

  4. Hi Jamey,

    My KS game is in it’s final week. So far I only have posted in two forums in BGG – the “news release” and “Kickstarter” forum, is there any other forums I can tell people about my project without being intrusive?

  5. Hi Jamey,

    Thanks for this great article. I was wondering if anything has changed for you since? Where did you choose to advertise scythe? Have you found better ways of spending money at the websites you already used?

    Thanks again

    1. Hi Steve, thanks for your question. I just reread the post to see if my stance has changed, and it’s the same. I think very limited, targeted paid advertising can be effective. For Scythe, the only paid advertising I did was for a few banner ads on BGG. It’s hard to tell exactly how many of them resulted in sales compared to other click-throughs from BGG, but in total, BGG direct referrals resulted in $34,607 in Kickstarter pledges on Scythe.

  6. Just a comment about the BGG ads – If I support BGG with a donation of a certain amount (I think it is $25), it turns off the ads. I would think that a BGG member who supports BGG would be a big part of your target audience – they would (IMHO) be more of the ‘hard core’ gamers. If a good percentage of your target audience is turning off ads, then it seems like a contradicting situation.

    1. James: That’s a fair point. Although it didn’t stop us from getting a 0.72% click-through rate from BGG ads for Euphoria that resulted in $20,924 raised from backers coming directly from BGG to support Euphoria. I’m sure it varies a lot from project to project, but that might be the best $250 I’ve ever spent.

  7. Do you typically do any pre-Kickstarter campaign advertising, or do you primarily advertise during the campaign? It’s easy to recognize the value of blogs, reviews and paid advertising during the campaign, but I’m curious what avenues we can take pre-campaign to bring in early adopters.


    1. Jeremy–I wouldn’t recommend spending money on advertising before the campaign. People might see the ads, but without something to buy, the ROI is too low at that point to justify the cost.

  8. Thanks Peter! I’m glad you found it useful. The nice thing about Kickstarter and Indiegogo is that you can always try again. :)

  9. Thanks for the speedy response Jamey, that makes a lot of sense! Time to re-group and plan the next project better!

    And thanks again for your great articles – this is the most comprehensive, practical crowd-funding resource that I’ve found online.


  10. Hi Peter, congrats on launching a project of your own. If I may be blunt here, I think part of your issue may be in this sentence: “I have some PR guys trying to get us onto blogs.” No PR guy is going to be anywhere near as compelling to a blogger as you are. This is your passion project, right? So it needs to be you getting out there, contacting every blogger and offering them something of value (interview, insights, humor, a free sample, consultation, giveaway, etc), not you reaching out and asking them to give you something.

    I write about this extensively on several of the Kickstarter lessons involving blogger outreach–some of which needs to happen well before a project begins.

    Good luck!

  11. Hi Jamey and thank you for the brilliant information on this site + congrads on your latest project! Unfortunately my project was not allowed on KS as it is fitness based so we put it up on Indiegogo which has NO organic trafic. I have some PR guys trying to get us onto blogs etc. but with no luck. I’m starting to get the crowdfunding sweats!
    Any ideas?
    Thanks, Peter

  12. Jamey and Alan – I would imagine that you could get Ryan Metzler to re-review Viticulture once it comes it is in full production. (Tom Vasel did it with Eminent Domain)

    1. Definitely! I’m actually going to have Tom review it, but Ryan will get to see the final version as well.

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