25 February 2019 | 29 Comments
One year ago, I started a little experiment called “Stonemaier Champion.” The idea was to give people the opportunity to contribute $12 annually to support the 100+ blog posts and 100+ YouTube videos (now 150+) I create each year for the benefit of creators, entrepreneurs, and game designers.
As an added perk, the original concept was that Champions would receive a year of free US shipping on all orders from our webstore and advance delivery on preorders. So, kind of like Amazon Prime, but just for Stonemaier Games.
I initiated the program thinking that it might attract a few hundred people at most. That’s how it started, but every time we launched a new product in the last year, membership jumped. In the other months, membership climbed steadily, which I attribute at least partially to the Champion reminder at the bottom of each blog post and YouTube video.
The membership totals by month are noted below, with the current total is 3,291 Champions:
I’m extremely grateful that so many people have chosen to support the content we create–it really means a lot to me, as I spend a lot of time each week writing the blog posts, planning and filming the YouTube videos, and replying to comments on both platforms. Of course, I understand that not everyone can contribute financially–if not, I appreciate that you take the time to read, comment, and/or share.
While the focus of the program is on supporting the blog and videos, it has become increasingly clear to me that the sustainability of Stonemaier Games depends on selling a small percentage of products directly to consumers. The vast majority of units we sell (99%) are sold to distributors and localization partners, and my business relies heavily on the many benefits provided by selling through distribution, but the margins on those sales aren’t enough for us to both make reprints of those products and pay the bills.
So the increased margin on direct sales–many of which are Champions–makes a huge difference for Stonemaier Games, even with the shipping reduction. For example, 2058 Champions preordered Wingspan (out of around 5100 preorders). Even though the majority of Wingspan’s lifetime sales will come from distribution and localization, that little boost at the beginning enables us to get the product off the ground running.
The Evolution of Stonemaier Champion
The program has evolved in several subtle ways over the last year:
- For the first few preorders, we had a separate link for Champions. This proved cumbersome, though, as it was easy for new Champions to miss the link. So all customers now order though the same link, and Champions enter a promo code at checkout for shipping (it only works for Champions).
- Originally we only offered free US shipping, but we have such a great international audience that I soon added a shipping discount for non-US Champions. I’ve also added more international fulfillment centers for preorders.
- On several preorders I offered a special discount for Champions, but I’ve moved away from that practice and instead have started offering a preorder discount to all customers. I think that makes sense for any product ordered in advance, as there’s an element of uncertainty and patience that the discount helps to reward.
- I use a recurring memberships Shopify app called Bold, which has been very useful. Up until recently, though, it had a key flaw: When you signed up as a Champion, you didn’t get a confirmation e-mail. Fortunately, Bold has been very accommodating, and as of a few weeks ago, it sends new members a customizable confirmation message after they sign up.
What’s Ahead for the Program
The biggest thing I’d like to improve is the renewal notification system, which currently doesn’t exist. Basically, I want each Champion to know when their 12-month membership is about to be renewed so they can easily and discretely cancel if they wish. However, no such notification currently exists in the Bold recurring memberships app; fortunately, they’re in the process of adding one.
In terms of content, I expect to continue to write 2 entrepreneurship/crowdfunding blog posts and to film 3 game design videos each week.
As for new product releases over the next 12 months, there’s the Euphoria expansion preorder coming up this week, the Scythe modular board preorder later this spring, a new game designed by me later in the year, at least 1 other expansion for an existing game, and most likely another new game preorder next January/February. Those are a lot of shipping fees to save for just $12!
I’m sure I’ll continue to experiment with various perks for specific products when I think of them in the future, while still maintaining our core philosophy of no exclusives.
I’m always open to feedback from current and potential Champions, so I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions in the comments.
Also read: Why We Launched Stonemaier Champion
If you gain value from the 100 articles Jamey publishes on his blog each year, please consider championing this content!