Kickstarter Lesson #95: The Top 10 Ways to Address the Mid-Campaign Slump

11 May 2014 | 21 Comments

Kickstarter campaigns are notorious for the inverse bell-curve effect: They get a lot of backers on launch day and a lot of backers during the final 48 hours, but pledges otherwise trickle in.

It’s one thing if you’ve already funded your project when that “trickle” happens. It’s quite another if you haven’t reached your funding goal. I’m going to focus on the latter today.

I’ve been very fortunate that my last two projects funded rather quickly, but I have firsthand experience with this topic thanks to my Viticulture Kickstarter campaign. Here’s what the funding chart looked like for Viticulture:

dailypledges Viticulture

 

That little bump in the middle on days 19 and 20 was when Viticulture was a Kickstarter staff pick. A little luck like that can help a campaign, but you can’t rely on Kickstarter–or luck–to help you fund.

Before I write my list, I highly recommend that you read Tyler James’ post about this subject and the Funding the Dream podcast episode in which Richard Bliss discusses James’ post. They both offer some excellent advice, and some of my content is inspired by their wisdom.

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1. Accept the things you cannot change. Before you focus on suggestions 2-10, you need to take a good, hard look at your project and accept that it might be too late for you to turn things around. Without a time travel device, you can’t go back in time to get third-party reviews before you launch. You can’t completely revamp all of the art and reward levels. You can’t change the length of your project or create real connections with bloggers or have a good launch day…if it’s two weeks after launch day. There’s a reason I have a list of 45 Kickstarter Lessons for you to read and act on before you launch–it’s because you can’t do those things after you launch. So it’s quite possible that it’s simply too late, and that’s okay. You can reboot the project later.

2. Have the courage to change the things you can. Listen to your backers. If your existing backers believe in the project, they’ve spent the last few weeks telling you what you should do to help your project. 1% of the things they tell you are silly and will bankrupt you. The other 99% though, is actually really good advice, even if it’s advice you’re not ready to hear. Now is the time to hear that advice! Look at what you can change and change it. Are backers complaining about shipping prices? Find a better shipping solution. Are they complaining about the art? Find a better artist. Again, for some of these fixes, you’ll be better off rebooting the project. But sometimes a small pivot or two can go a long way. Also, you can actively seek specific advice from backers by posting polls during the project (you’ll have to host the poll elsewhere, as Kickstarter still doesn’t offer that option).

3. Value your #1 asset: your existing backers. Look at your project. Out of the 7 billion people in the world, a few hundred of them have decided to pledge to your project. That’s a big deal! Do not overlook at that fact. Those existing backers are extremely important. Keep them updated and engaged through comments and project updates. Show your gratitude for them–for Viticulture, I wrote personalized thank-you messages to every backer. And be very selective and non-desperate with your calls to action. If every comment and update you post has you pleading to your backers to go find more backers for you, while you may not lose many backers, you’ll definitely lose subscribers. Instead, treat backers like guests at a party you’re hosting. By simply having a good time with them and making them feel valued, you’re much more likely to inspire them to speak highly of the party than if you spend the entire time telling people to invite their friends. That’s not what a good host does.

4. Update your reward levels. It might be time to do a spring cleaning on your reward levels. The first thing to do is look for rewards that no one has backed. Remove those levels–there’s a reason no one has backed them, and they’re diluting the rest of your rewards. I’d suggest doing the same for rewards that 1-2 people have backed. Message those people and suggest a new reward level, as you can’t delete a reward if it has any backers. After that, consider lowering the price of key reward levels. Maybe people don’t want to pay $50 for your product, but they might be much more likely to pay $39. Make sure you factor in your budget when making decisions like that.

5. Update your project page. Kickstarter lets you change your project page at any time up until the end of the project, so treat this precious space as your canvas to appeal to more backers. Hone your pitch. Update your graphic design. Reorder items on the page. Make sure you have compelling and clear stretch goals. Use this Kickstarter Lesson as a checklist for all of this.

Up until this point, all of the items on this list are things you should do internally to fix your project and make it as appealing as possible before you turn your focus outward to the following recommendations. There are no shortcuts here. If you skip ahead to #6, ignoring 1-5, even if you get more people to go to your project page, you’re not going to convert many of them to backers.

6. Create and promote micro goals. People like to see and reach milestones, no matter how much they actually matter. For example, would you be happier if you were the backer that got a project to reach $9,957 or $10,000 (out of a $20,000 funding goal)? $10,000, right? As a project creator, use your preciously limited social media outreach to promote those micro goals. Give people a reason to make an immediate difference on your project, even if that difference is an irrelevant number ($ or # of backers).

7. Send personal appeals asking friends and family to back for a buck. It’s hard to ask for money from friends and family. But I guarantee that it’s a lot easier to ask for $1 versus $20 or $50. There are two keys to this: (1) You must realize that $1 is significant. Don’t downplay it to people or to yourself. The more people you can engage in your project, the better. And you’ll find that people often give more even though you only asked for $1. And (2) these appeals should be personal. Send individual messages to people asking them for that dollar. People are significantly more willing to act if it’s clear that you personally appealed to them instead of lumping them into the ubiquitous sludge of a mass e-mail.

8. Change your approach to reaching out to blogs and podcasts. I’m going to assume that you’ve been trying to reach out to blogs and podcasts. If they’re not replying, could it possibly be that you’re doing it wrong? Consider that, then read this KS Lesson about bloggers and podcasters. The key to keep in mind is that bloggers and podcasters need content. If you show a blogger that you know their audience and you can make it easy on them to provide content for that audience, you’re in. The hidden lesson in that key is that this isn’t about promoting your campaign. Reaching out to bloggers and saying, “Hey, write about my project!” isn’t going to get you anywhere. Instead, find a way to offer value to other people, and you’re golden.

9. Reddit? Despite the KS Lesson I wrote about Reddit, I still don’t really get Reddit, but it’s such a powerful platform. Maybe you don’t either. But I bet you know someone who does. Keep in mind point #8–offer value to other people–and get on Reddit somehow. Also, when reading what people say about you on Reddit, have a few beers handy.

10. Run an ad or promotional contest. If you’re on Kickstarter, you’re already working with a limited budget, so paying money out of pocket for an ad can be tough. But honestly, if you’ve taken care of steps 1-9, it’s worth it. Find your target audience (specifically, find a website that gets a LOT of traffic from your target audience), hire a graphic designer to create a visually compelling ad, and launch it 1-2 weeks into your campaign. As I mentioned here, I’ve run BGG ads for all three of my campaigns, and the return on investment has been huge.

Just because your Kickstarter campaign is slumping doesn’t mean that it’s over. This is your chance to show yourself and the world how much you believe in your project and how far you’re willing to go to make it a reality. It’s going to take a lot of work, but if you follow those 10 steps, I know that you can do this.

I’d love for some other project creators to chime in. What have you done to address your mid-campaign slumps?

21 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #95: The Top 10 Ways to Address the Mid-Campaign Slump

  1. This is incredibly helpful.

    We’re currently half way through our campaign and we’ve started to see an inverse bell curve forming. We’re still too close to the project to be able to offer any kind of objective perspective, but here’s my take on it so far:

    On the outset, we’ve been very open to suggestions from our backers (Advice #2 & #3). We’ve updated our design to aid colour-blind players and also improved general usability. We’ve also added EU-Friendly Shipping on the back of the advice given by Stonemaier’s big advocate, andvaranaut. Our backers have been very receptive to our updates and I think it has helped increase goodwill for us and the campaign.

    We’ve also found advice #6 and #7 to be really helpful. For #6, micro goals has helped keep supporters engaged. For #7, besides our friends and family’s pledges, they have been a big emotional and moral support.

    I’m not sure if veteran campaign runners still get the emotional roller coaster that first-time creators get but for me, it feels like dating for the first time. Right now we’re on our third date and anything could happen at this point!

    1. Hi, thanks for sharing your experiences from your campaign. It’s great to hear that you’re open to suggestions from the backers (the tough part is filtering the ideas, isn’t it!? :) ).

      Oh, definitely, I still feel like every campaign is a roller coaster of ups and downs, challenges and lessons, insights and mistakes. I hope you get a fourth date!

  2. I have found that running a cross-promotion with another campaign to be very helpful as well. A couple of factors need to be considered first. 1) Make sure the project you do a cross promotion with makes sense. If you have a fantasy themed worker placement, and you cross-promote with a casual party card game, you will likely turn people off. 2) Allow your backers to buy the cross-promotion and do not force them to buy both games! I did a cross-promotion for my Four Tribes KS with Eternal Dynasty. If backers backed both projects they got a couple free cards for each game, however we both allowed are own backers to buy the cross-promotion cards as an add-on if they were not interested in the other game. I think a well thought out cross-promotion is perfect for a mid-campaign slump.

    1. Absolutely…I very much appreciated how you and Nicholas coordinated that. I unfortunately wasn’t able to back both campaigns at that point, but I did partake in the additional card.

    2. Jason: Thanks for your input (and congrats on Dig Down Dwarf!) In general I’m not a fan of cross promotion, but usually that’s because it seems to stem from a self-serving place instead of making sense for the game and fans. It sounds like you’ve found some ways to truly enhance the game and make it a better experience for people through cross promotion, and I applaud that. It’s pretty rare, though, at least based on the cross-promotional requests I’ve received.

      1. Agreed. I have quite a few cross-promotion offers that I had to turn down. mainly because of the reason you describe. It worked well with Four Tribes/Eternal Dynasty because the themes worked well together and I know Nick, the designer personally. I do also help out other campaigns by mentioning them in updates. This is especially true for smaller indie designers/publishers. Oh, and congrats on all of your success. I am not quite full-time like you, but I am working towards it, and you have been an inspiration to me and many others. Keep it up and best of luck in the future!

        1. Jason: Absolutely, I think a personal connection to another designer makes perfect sense for cross-promotion. It’s the random requests from people I’ve never heard of that are auto-rejects for me (I try to be polite!)

          And thanks! Based on the trajectory of your Kickstarter campaigns, I doubt you’re far off from going full time. I look forward to seeing what you create next!

  3. Excellent advice, thanks! I particularly appreciate #6, and it’s actually one of the major points of my next blog article I’m posting tomorrow regarding lessons that can be learned from Eternal Dynasty’s(Zucchini People Games) recent Kickstarter. I think campaigns often make the mistake of spacing their stretch goals out too far. In one recent case of a campaign that was actually still successful, the first stretch goal was over double the initial funding goal…that doesn’t help the campaign, nor does it inspire people to get involved and excited. I much prefer “bite-sized” milestones, especially when they’re a mixture of funding goals and likes/follower goals. That approach not only helps the current campaign, but those like/follower goals will hopefully build a more significant backer base for the next project!

    1. That’s a really interesting point about the spacing between stretch goals. I think it depends on what the stretch goals add to the product (i.e., if a stretch goal adds $2 to every copy of the game, you have to make a LOT more copies to drive down the cost per unit to make it feasible), but overall, I agree that stretch goals need to be just the right distance apart.

  4. Great advice as always Jamey! We can really relate to #2 and #3. As we plan to release our game on KS this summer, we have been connecting and listening to the feedback of potential backers for the past 6 months. We have posted WIP updates to our game on BGG, and have received so much invaluable feedback and advice on what works and what doesn’t. This has allowed us to develop our game with our target market’s specific feedback in mind, giving us more confidence that we are on the right track. We agree that it is much better to change something that isn’t appealing while you’re still developing the game, as opposed to waiting until you put it on KS. Getting your potential buyer’s feedback is crucial, and the earlier in the development process you can get feedback the better.

    We have posted quite a few threads on the board game design forum on BGG, and there are many others as well posting their WIP and getting great feedback. As you said in #9 Jamey, it is also a good idea to have a few beers ready when putting your ideas/art/etc out there, not all feedback will be good, but most of it is honest at least. Honesty is better than false hope, and allows you to make necessary changes before it’s too late. You have to be willing to listen to people’s advice, process it all, come up with a consensus, and work hard to change something that might not be working.

    1. Hey, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. I think you make some great points about the importance about talking about your project well in advance of the Kickstarter–pt’s that type of legwork that you can’t just pull out of thin air when you’re 3 weeks into the Kickstarter campaign.

  5. Hey Jamey,

    Awesome stuff as usual, so first off, thank you. We’re 10 days into our 30 day campaign and we’re already 140% to our goal, so don’t get me wrong, we couldn’t be more thrilled with the progress thus far, but we haven’t had much luck on the PR/Advertising front yet. Our game is somewhat NSFW so that may be why, but I was wondering if you had any specific advice around the following:

    1. Since our game may turn some people off, what specific PR sites (if any) would you recommend outside of the standard ones (dynamo, crowdfunding pr, etc.)? We’ve tried to contact about 500 sites/bloggers personally and haven’t had much luck.

    2. Do you recommend using Green Inbox? We used the inbound Facebook service to message some friends which was pretty effective but we’re now exploring the Outbound target audience option. For $250, they’ll target 2,000 – 10,000 people that have already backed 10+ similar playing card games on Kickstarter. They don’t have too many reviews online and there are some scam articles, so I wanted to get your thoughts.

    For reference, here’s our page:
    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1044618506/coolcats-and-asshats

    Thanks,
    Dan

  6. Dan: Thanks for your comment. I actually don’t think I’ve ever contacted a PR website, as the methods I talk about are all about building relationships with people and essentially just hanging out with them (virtually). As I mention in point #8, bloggers and podcasters are frequently looking for content, but it needs to be relevant to their platform, and the first time they hear from you shouldn’t be you asking them to do something for you.

    I know that doesn’t particularly help you now, but I think the best you can do is find blogs, podcasts, and YouTube channels that have a history of talking about NSFW games like yours.

    I’ve never heard good things about any type of campaign boosting service. There’s nothing wrong with advertising, but if you’re going to advertise on Facebook, you might as well just use Facebook’s built-in ad system. However, if you decide to use Green Inbox, I’d love to hear the results! Make sure they set it up in such a way that you can precisely identify the customers that come from Green Inbox.

    Most important, make sure to heed the first 5 steps I discuss in this post. As much as you learn to grow the project, it’s more important to create an incredible experience for those who are already involved.

    Good luck!

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