Kickstarter Lesson #36: For Better or for Worse

7 May 2013 | 10 Comments

The second your project ends, one of two things will happen:

  1. Your project will reach or exceed the funding goal.
  2. Your project will not reach the funding goal.

Obviously the hope is that your project will fall into the first category. But it might not. So let’s first look at what you should do if you don’t reach that goal.

Note that I’m avoiding using the word “fail.” The word isn’t entirely inaccurate; after all, one of your goals was to fund the project, and you did not achieve that goal, so you failed.

But that’s just one of many goals you might have. In fact, if you go into a Kickstarter project with “making money” as your one and only goal, there’s a decent chance you will fail. Consider these additional goals:

  1. Connect and interact with strangers who have never heard of you or your product.
  2. Learn how to market and promote yourself and your product.
  3. Learn what works and doesn’t work on Kickstarter.
  4. Establish yourself as a competent, communicative, trustworthy project creator.

You might have other goals–add them to the list. The point is that even though you may not reach your funding goal, Kickstarter is a learning experience if you’re open to the possibility that you don’t know everything about everything.

So if you don’t reach your funding goal, make sure that you follow through on your other goals post-campaign. I know one project creator who reached 50% funding on her young-adult novel project. When her project ended, she sent individual e-mails to each of the 100+ people who backed her project to thank them one by one for being a part of her dream. She pledged to keep writing and to stay in touch.

Failing sucks, but people can relate to it. We’ve all failed at something. If your project fails, send out a big update a few days later to reflect on what you learned. Share your gratitude for your backer support and show them what you gained from the experience. There might be future project creators among those backers–tell them where you stumbled so they don’t have to.

Also, the great thing about Kickstarter is that you can continue to update backers of failed projects. So if you re-launch a similar project in the future, you can tell all of your previous backers to check out version 2.0.

Of course, all of this still applies if you reach your funding goal. Don’t make it all about the money. The money is good–it means you can follow through on your dream and your promises–but let backers know that you’re going to continue to treat them as individuals, not numbers.

This means you’re going to be human with them. You’re going to share your passion, excitement, and successes as you go down the path of production, but it also means that you’re going to share your failures, mistakes, and unforeseen barriers. Bad news is better than no news.

Don’t be incessant with your project updates–go with one every week or so after the project, and then move to one every 4-5 weeks. Keep a notepad of non-urgent news, and when you have really big news, put that at the top of a longer update. If you have an update for a specific subset of backers, e-mail those backers, not everyone. Backers will tune you out if you fill their inbox with news that doesn’t apply to them.

Finally, don’t tell backers the product will ship. Tell them when it has already shipped. Like most of my Kickstarter Lessons, I learned this the hard way many times. The point is that as much as you can speculate about future progress, the only real progress is that which has already happened. Don’t give your backers false hope. Keep them in the loop, but don’t tell them to expect anything until you know for sure.

Next: Conventions and Face Time

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10 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #36: For Better or for Worse

  1. It is my understanding that before you launch a kickstarter, you have two options to get your game into the market,

    Option A: Plow forward. Launch the kickstarter and found the business, a la every article on this blog (for which I cannot thank you enough).

    Option B: Hand your game off to a publisher and let them take it from here (assuming you’ve got a decent, thoroughly playtested game).

    Is it true that these options are mutually exclusive? Obviously, I can’t kickstart a game I just signed with a publisher, but what if I choose A and fail to fund? I’ve heard failing to fund is basically a kiss of death and no publisher will touch your game at that point. Does the moment I choose option A mean option B is no longer available to me?

    1. Kevin: For the most part, I think what you say here is true. There are a few instances of failed and successful Kickstarter projects being picked up by publishers, but it’s pretty rare.

  2. […] For me, the Theo Chocolate tour was a great reminder of the impact of sharing behind-the-scenes information about the design, development, and production processes. Sure, this information typically only reaches people who have already opted in to consume it, but I think the transparency reinforces their loyalty and trust, especially if I’m open about both good and bad news. […]

  3. […] The backers responded really, really well to the news. Obviously a few were disappointed, but as a whole they were completely understanding. My perception is that the vast majority of backers who weren’t even affected by the miscalculation still appreciated knowing about it in the project update–it’s that type of communication that reinforces the trust that I’m going to keep them in the loop, for better or for worse. […]

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