25 August 2013
James Mathe has a fantastic blog entry about how to pull your Kickstarter project out of a slump. The second half of the post is all about what to do if you can’t pull out of the slump and you need to reboot–that’s something I’m going to explore in a blog post later this week.
For now I’m going to talk about what happens between a slump and a reboot: The decision you have as a project creator to either cancel your struggling project or keep the project live until the end date.
This is a key decision for quite a few Kickstarter projects, as 56% of projects fail. Kickstarter makes it an important choice because you can relaunch your project later at any time. Regardless of whether you cancel or ride out your project to the dismal end, your project will remain on Kickstarter forever. Also, either way you will still be able to post updates and message backers en masse through Kickstarter.
How to Determine Your Project Won’t Reach Its Funding Goal
The first step in evaluating the decision to end a struggling project is to figure out if your project is highly likely to not reach its funding goal (I’m avoiding the word “fail” here because very few projects on Kickstarter are actually failures. If you engaged an audience and shared your passion project with the world, you didn’t fail. I write about this here.)
Here are a few statistics to consider thanks to a recent comment by James Mathe on the Kickstarter Best Practices Facebook group:
- 99.5% of projects reached 10% by day 7
- 91% of projects made more than 25% of their goal by day 7
- Average 7-day percentage for projects is 67% of goal earned
- 81% of projects do not reach 10% by day 7
- 93% of projects made less than 25% of their goal by day 7
Day 7 is a good time to start thinking about your project’s chances of success. Have you made less than 25% of your goal by Day 7? If so, your chances of succeeding are very low. Typically projects that break the mold on that statistic are those that get a ringing endorsement from a very influential person or website after that point, or they attract one or two big spenders. Don’t count on either of those happening unless you make them happen.
Also, by Day 7 you should be getting a flood of feedback from your backers on how to improve your project (you should be asking for this feedback, but some of it will come unsolicited). If the feedback is about things you can easily fix within the next week, definitely fix them. If they’re things that can’t be fixed within short notice (like a complete revamp of the art and design), then you should start thinking about canceling and rebooting.
One other resource to look at is Kicktraq, which I talk about in detail here. Kicktraq charts the expected trajectory of your project’s funding. You’ll want to look at Kicktraq’s projections for your project on Day 9 or 10. If it projects you coming up far short of your goal at that point, you’re running out of time to set your project on the right course.
I still think Day 10 is a little too early to make a final decision about canceling your project, so here’s my official stance: Regardless of the length of your project, if you have not reached 33% funding by the end of Day 14, that’s when you should draw the line and do what I’ll propose in the section below.
To Cancel or to Finish?
Until recently, I ascribed to the philosophy that there was no harm in riding out your project to the end. After all, there is the slightest chance you’ll overcome the odds, and along the way you’ll learn how to improve your project and engage with backers. Plus, you might get a few more backers who can help you get a strong Day 1 when you reboot.
While I think those points are true, I don’t think it is good idea to finish a project that has not reached 33% funding by the end of Day 14. If that’s where you are on Day 14, it’s a sign of one of two things:
- You’re doing something wrong. You might have a great product that people want, but you’re doing something wrong in the way you’ve put it on Kickstarter. Maybe your art and design look terrible or your project page is a confusing mess. Maybe your reward levels aren’t set up properly and people don’t think the prices are fair (including shipping prices). Maybe you didn’t do enough blogger outreach before the project, or maybe you didn’t reach out individually to friends and family on launch day. You can go through the Kickstarter Lessons one by one to see what you might be missing.
- There isn’t enough demand for your product. This is a harsh reality to face, but you need to consider it. Bryan Fischer of Nevermore Games sagely pointed this out on a recent podcast with Happy Mitten Games: Sometimes we forget that Kickstarter is a platform for gauging demand for products and ideas. Your product might look great, it might be priced fairly, and you might have shared it with the world, but if not enough people actually want it, nothing you can do is going to result in a successfully funded project.
Regardless of which of those two categories your project falls into, you have some big changes to make if you want your project to be a success. And those changes need to be made from Day 1, not Day 15. So it’s my recommendation that you cancel your project at that point and give yourself the opportunity to have a new Day 1 in the future.
[UPDATE Dec. 2015: The following paragraph is no longer true.] Also, if you cancel your project, when people search for your project on Kickstarter, they won’t be able to find it. That’s in stark contrast to if you let your project go the duration and not fund–if you do, whenever people search for the project, they’ll find it. The project still exists on Kickstarter either way, but canceling it gives you more of a clean slate when you attract a whole new batch of backers upon relaunching it.
There is one other possibility that would lead you to cancel your project even if you’re doing better than 33% after 14 days. That is if backers suggestions during the project have fundamentally changed it to the point that your project is completely different than what it was on Day 1. For example, if your project wasn’t a miniatures game, but a number of backers thought it would be considerably better as a miniatures game, that will fundamentally change your project. You can try to tweak it during the campaign, but generally you want to use that information to start over from scratch.
How to Cancel
I actually don’t know exactly where the cancel button is. I never looked for it during my active projects because I was afraid I would accidentally press it and then accidentally confirm the cancellation. You never know when your computer mouse will go haywire.
But I’m sure you can find it. In the meantime, before you press that button, you need to do a few things:
- Post an update telling your backers what you’re going to do. Be honest and transparent about the decision, and show them (either in this update or in a retrospective update in a few days) what you could have done better. Ask for their thoughts and ideas. This is the best time for you to get feedback from them.
- Update the top of your project page so people can easily find you. People will continue to discover your project after it’s canceled, and you need to give them a quick and easy way to learn more about the reboot. Make a compelling case for them, something like: “We will reboot this project soon! Click here to be the first to know when we do.” Link “click here” to your Facebook page, blog, or Twitter.
Then take a swig of whiskey, vow to return, and press the Cancel button.
Later this week: How to successfully reboot your project.