Kickstarter Lesson #74: Help Them First

19 December 2013 | 24 Comments

In my various correspondences with fledgling Kickstarter creators, I’m often asked how I get playtesters, proofreaders, bloggers, etc to support Stonemaier Games in various way. Some of those topics are covered extensively on other Kickstarter Lessons, but I wanted to offer the overarching question here: How do you get strangers to help you?

The answer is very simple: Help them first.

This statement means more than just helping people before you ask them to help you. Rather, it means helping people without any expectation that they’ll help you. Not everything is a 1:1 trade, as we know from Settlers of Catan.

Some examples:

  • Playtesters: Before you start looking for playtesters for your game, put the word out on BGG that you’re looking to playtest games for other people. Not only will people see that you’re being generous with your time, but you’ll learn a lot about what you’ll eventually ask of your playtesters.
  • Proofreaders: Before you start looking for proofreaders, download a few rulesets or manuals on active Kickstarter projects and send the marked up files to the project creators. Most of the time you don’t need to ask to do this–just do it.
  • Promoters: Before you ask people to promote your project, spend some time promoting something else you believe in. If you’re not currently backing a project on Kickstarter that you’re passionate about, you need to go find one. Promote it in a few different, creative ways, and report your findings to the creator.
  • Bloggers: Before you ask a blogger to interview you about your project, be a daily reader of the blog for a while, share your favorite entries, and comment when you’re compelled to. (And even then, usually if they want to interview you, they’ll contact you, not the other way around). Here’s a Funding the Dream podcast about The Art of the Comment.

Especially in this age of social media, it’s easy to think that you can ask for help via Twitter or Facebook blasts. Cast a wide enough net and hopefully someone will answer, right?

Sure. Maybe. But in doing so, you’ll probably turn off a lot of other people who will see you more and more as a taker, not a giver. It’s like that one friend who always asks you to help him move apartments, but he never does the same for you. Pretty soon he’s on his own.

Rather than be that guy, be the person who helps others first. Put your generosity out there and show that you’re not making this all about you. People respond really well to generosity–not only are they more willing to initiate reciprocation in the future, but the experience will also prepare you for running a backer-focused project.

So here’s my recommendation for you if you’re planning a Kickstarter project for 2014. Right now, pick one of those categories I mention above, think of a project, designer, person, company, etc that you really believe in, and go help them first. Do something that will benefit them, and do it well. Start there, even just once, so you can see the impact it has.

If you do this or if you ever have done this, I’d love to hear about it below.

Leave a Comment

24 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #74: Help Them First

  1. Hi Jamey,

    Thank you for the great post. My husband and I are launching on Kickstarter in June and are struggling a little bit with getting people to subscribe to our newsletter, getting Facebook and Instagram likes, etc. We are really trying to engage with people/target audience via our Facebook and Instagram page, LinkedIn, Twitter, and other bloggers out there and have a goal to respond to (or comment) on at least one post or blog a day, while having that “give first” mindset. We are also trying to share interesting content at least 3-4 times per week. Do you have any recommendations on getting more engagement or converting people to be our potential backer?

    1. Ashley: I think it’s great that you’re working on the relationship-driven model I’ve outlined here and in my “10 Daily Steps” article to build your crowd. It takes time.

      I think part of the key is to post something publicly that people get really excited about, probably something visual. Something people can’t help but to like or share. What type of product are you launching?

      1. Jamey, Thank you for getting back to me! I have read a lot of your blogs and there is great content. I have posted our product with pictures and have received great feedback. I know apps are not a big hit on Kickstarter, but we are launching an all-in-one wellness app that is individualized for mamahood and connects mama and mini wellness. Here is our Kickstarter preview page.

        1. Thanks Ashley! I think if you can get even just one popular mama blogger to pick this up, you’ll instantly have the audience you’re looking for. So I would recommend making that your primary goal moving forward.

  2. So far all of my social media profiles in regards to my games are under our brand. In your opinion, is it better to have these under a brand or under your personal name? I ask this because sometimes I feel that me commenting on posts and blogs under my brand makes me look like a company just trying to get attention.

    1. Michael: This is a debate I still have with myself to this day. I can see both sides. I think the key, in my opinion, is that if you use accounts under your name, make sure it’s clear and searchable that you are also the company. If you use accounts under your company name, find ways to make it clear that you are the person behind it (possibly through the avatar).

      1. Yeah I am now thinking to possibly set the accounts using my personal name but use the brand logo as the avatar.

  3. I recently joined a play testing Facebook group and one of the members shared a Geeklist from BGG called Fresh Cut Games. It is a relatively new vlog that will take a Print and Play version of a board game and play it, the do like a mini review at the end. I checked them out last night and I think this would be another excellent opportunity to get a 3rd party review and play testing feedback. Depending on the result might be worth while sharing on your Kickstarter page.

  4. Great post, as always. I do find the difficulty for me is in following all of the blogs all of the time! It’s of course easier if I get updates from the wordpress subscription, but otherwise I don’t always know if they’ve done a new update.
    Even so, it’s a great way to go about “marketing” because you’re no longer really “selling” people, you’re just being a creative and constructive part of the community. I’ve really learnt a lot from you about this Jamey, so thank you!

    1. Thanks Oliver! I recommend Feedly for subscribing to blogs (and many podcasts). You can pretty much just check it once a day, scroll through to see what catches your eye, and then move on.

      1. Awesome Jamey! I’ll do that. I’ve gotta say… your ability to keep up with your workload and respond so promptly to comments is… impressive (even with Feedly!).

  5. This is normally called “The Golden Rule”, “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you.” It is a universal rule and I think a good one to point out here.

  6. This is definitely true of The Game Crafter. Small place with lots of games coming to light. This of course if the best place to offer help with art, design, rulebook reviews, especially since many are first time designers.

    This is a really good rule of thumb (especially for myself) for any creator’s out there, in a way it has the spirit of B4B but goes so much further by showing a personal involvement.

    Thanks for the great read and the food for thought Jason.

    1. JP: That’s a great point about the community over at The Game Crafter.

      Joe: Well said. I try to follow that rule as much as possible. It goes a long way.

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