11 May 2014 | 23 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:
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.
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?