Kickstarter Lesson #46: Your Target Audience Is Not “Everyone”

15 August 2013 | 11 Comments

When I was preparing to launch Viticulture last year, I viewed my target audience as the following:

  • friends and family
  • readers of my personal blog
  • wine lovers
  • gamers
  • random Kickstarter browsers

It wasn’t the “everyone” I mention in the title of the blog post, but that’s still a big net to cast. Was I wrong to “target” so many different demographics? Fortunately I have the data from my backers survey:



This is really revealing. Nearly 80% of backers were gamers. Which, in hindsight, should have been obvious–clearly the type of people who want to buy a board game are gamers. And yes, many of those gamers were also wine lovers, but that’s the order of operations there–given the 3% of people who were purely wine lovers, I think it’s safe to say that the majority of backers in the “gamer and wine lover” category were gamers who happened to love wine.

My point is that it’s easy to trick yourself into thinking that everyone will want to support your project. And even if they don’t, what’s the harm in trying to reach everyone? Here are a few reasons why it’s not a good mentality:

  1. There are a lot of people in the world.
  2. 99.99% of them don’t care.
  3. If you use your time on that 99.99%, you won’t have time to reach out to the sliver of a fraction of a percentage who do.
  4. You’ll also end up alienating or annoying those who do care.

I’ll give you an example from a project I consulted on recently: A well-intentioned creator sent me a link to his failed Kickstarter project. There were a lot of factors that contributed to him not reaching his funding goal, but one thing in particular stood out.

The project was for a very small subset of people–people who like a specific RPG. Granted, some random RPGers who had never heard of the specific RPG may have been interested in the project, but the main target was–or should have been–people who loved that specific RPG platform and universe.

However, the project creator–again, a nice, well-intentioned guy–spent a lot of time on the project page explaining some terminology that all RPGers know. Not only is the project page precious real estate, but by including information that his target audience already knew, he diluted the more important info on the page.

It’s our tendency as creators to try to include everyone, and there are certainly ways to do that without alienating your target audience (e.g., use the FAQ section). But by trying to include everyone, you lose focus on those who care the most–those are the people who give you the best chance of succeeding.

This applies not just to the content on the project page, but perhaps more importantly, to your marketing efforts and blogger outreach. You might think that a million people want your game, but who are the 1,000 most likely people to actually back it during the campaign? Figure out who those people are and focus on them.

Would Team Peeta play Euphoria?
Would Team Peeta play Euphoria?

And sure, there are tons of blogs out there in every industry that you could reach out to. But your time is limited, and many of those blogs may not be interested in your specific product. Focus on your favorite blogs whose writers and audiences will get excited to get the inside scoop from you.

I’ll end this post by sharing the revised strategy I employed when I launched Euphoria a few months ago. I had a critical choice with Euphoria: Do I only focus on gamers, or do I also try to tap into the massive audience of dystopian literature lovers?

I ended up focusing solely on gamers. I plugged the dystopian angle among those gamers, but I didn’t try to convert any non-gamer dystopian lit readers into gamers. My reason: It isn’t the right game. Euphoria isn’t a gateway game. If it were a lighter game that might appeal to the average reader of The Hunger Games, absolutely, I would have been tweeting Suzanne Collins all over the place. But rather than spend my time selling a complex game to non-gamers, I decided to spend that time connecting with my existing backers.

What do you think? Was that the right strategy?

Good luck finding your target audience!

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11 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #46: Your Target Audience Is Not “Everyone”

  1. I’m curious what the long perspective on this looks like. With the tremendous growth of new games/game makers over the past couple of years, would your strategy be the same, or might you use the dystopian aspect as a differentiator in the market?

    1. I’m still on the same page as this post. I like the idea of using inclusive language to bring new people into the hobby (i.e., say BoardGameGeek instead of BGG), but beyond that I think a creator’s time, energy, and marketing budget is spent on their core audience, not all people in the world. :)

  2. Another great article Jamey and interesting comments on niche marketing.

    Personally I think about the target audience at an initial game ideas conception and a lot after that. Knowing your audience gives you a compass for many design decisions, art and graphic design decisions and eventually marketing decisions too.

    I’m sure this was a major factor in the wildly successful Cards Against Humanity guys $12 million + sales success. their model was make an outrageous party game (fun and buzz generating), vanilla (low cost of production), cheap (at a good gift price point), and sell it ONLY through 1 universal channel (amazon – which probably 95% of their target audience was comfortable using).


    1. Kim–Thanks for your thoughts. That’s a great point that the target audience can be factored into pretty much every decision you make when deciding a product. Cards Against Humanity is a perfect example of that. Their booth at Gen Con was hilarious. They bought a small booth and dressed it as if they had sold out of the game, and they left a note a table saying, “Go buy it on Amazon.”

    1. Oh I see how it is. You’d rather talk to all those female stormtroopers than to us, your adoring fans. Go on, then. And I hope you have a beer with a wookie (hint, don’t share a glass … you’ll be picking hair out all night …).

    2. Hope you had a great time, Jamey. Our first cons opened our eyes to how friendly and welcoming a community it is. Wish I could get to the states for GenCon. The UK’s biggest games con has 3-5k visitors which is actually really nice as you get to see everything (just about) and meet other traders/ publishers.

      Thanks for the TED talk link, I’ll go check it out. Middleton’s book is a kind of workshop for the concept of niche marketing. (which funnily enough feels more natural and instinctive). We read ‘Purple Cow’ and ‘Lovemarks’ on Middleton’s recommendation and haven’t looked back creatively. I hope you enjoy it.

  3. Thanks for a great article, Jamey.

    Seth Godin and others (Gladwell, Middleton) talk about niche marketing and it makes complete sense, especially for an Indie publisher who doesn’t have the resources to reach everyone – not that one should try to do that anyway.

    Godin’s ‘Tribes’ book covers this focussed approach well and was very timely for us after our first foray into the games market fizzled out. The temptation back then was to do the traditional thing and seemed like good business sense (and maybe it was, given the lack of a Kickstarter then) and reach as broad a market as possible by having as broad an appeal as possible and selling to a strong market. But this just watered down our original vision (that’s not the only reason for the fizzle but a part nonetheless) and made us a drop of water in the ocean like any other.

    But in hindsight it is obvious that finding and sticking with a niche is way more important. By being bold and distinctive, yes, a game won’t appeal to everyone but these days you don’t even need to, thanks to Kickstarter in part which brings making games for a niche into the realms of possibility. If one does the math it should be possible to satisfy a smaller group of gamers and stay in business. Which is an exciting development. The only real challenge, after finding a name for your game that satisfies this (!), is in reaching your niche.

    Anyhow. i guess the proof is in the pudding and we’ll see on that one but I’d like to see how many Indie publishers already follow the new model of niche marketing. I fear too many still try and ‘compete’ as in the old industrial model. For ourselves, once we saw the niche model it was a relief and actually a validation for trying to do things a little differently, which is what our fans had been saying, basically.

    So for anyone looking at bravely going the niche route, I can recommend the following books: Seth Godin ‘Tribes’ and ‘Purple Cow’, Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘Tipping Point’ and Simon Middleton’s ‘Build a Brand in 30 Days’.

    Can you suggest any other essential reading on this point?

    JT – interesting point on how to target multiple audiences while staying focussed. Not sure where my agreement begins and ends on that one. I suppose Lego prove what you’re saying rather well by embracing other brands.

  4. I think the results speak for themselves. I also think that there’s a large portion of the gamer community that enjoys sci-fi (and dystopian is a well-attended theme, in and out of sci-fi) so you had plenty of potential interest to begin with.

    Your overall point is excellent marketing advice: choose your audience, appeal to your audience, keep it focused, and do it exceedingly well. This is why one company will release multiple brands of the same product. Though they compete with one another in some segments, the gains where they don’t overlap – where one brand can appeal where the other brand did not – more than makes up for it.

    One more thought – there’s this really cool relationship between Kickstarter (and IndieGogo) and the gaming communities such as on I wonder if anyone has looked at success rate of projects by genre, mechanic, etc, on the crowdsourcing and compared them with rankings of existing games on bgg. Curious to see how representative those who fund are of the larger community.

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