22 December 2014 | 13 Comments
Last year I reflected on the Kickstarter projects I had backed and studied in 2013 to compile a list of the top 10 things I learned from other projects.
I continue to learn so much from my fellow creators–in fact, a few months ago I started a monthly series to future a few projects that were doing unique things that inspired or intrigued me.
This is likely my last blog post of 2014, so I wanted to look back today to examine the top 10 lessons I learned from other projects this year.
Please keep in mind that the 2013 list contains the biggest lessons for any year since it was the only list of its kind I had written up until that point–the list below is much more specific.
10. Momentum Is King (Lanterns): There are lots of projects I could have used as an example of this. The key, as I’ve learned from watching other projects this year, is that a project that doesn’t start strong out of the gate–even if it looks awesome and has a lot of good things about it–is in trouble. It reinforces the idea that building up a crowd of excited people before launching on Kickstarter is so important. A project with a strong trajectory gives each potential backer the impression that it’s worth their attention and maybe their pledge.
9. Reviewers Can Make or Break a Project (Forge War, Funemployed): On the day that Isaac Childress launched his first Kickstarter project Forge War, a reviewer who goes by Rahdo (Richard Ham) released a video review proclaiming the game to be “easily the best game of the year.” As a direct result, Isaac raised nearly $40k in just 2 days. Similarly, a recent project called Funemployed got a huge boost when review site Shut Up & Sit Down wrote about it (they had previously reviewed the first edition). Third-party reviewers really matter. If they have a big platform, that’s awesome, but even reviewers with smaller audiences can have a big impact on your project. Make a great product, produce a nice prototype, and send it to some influential reviewers with plenty of time before your project.
8. My Way Is Not the Only Way (Zombicide 3): When I offer advice on this blog, my intent is to make Kickstarter a better place for creators (to increase their chances of success) and for backers (to offer them a number of well-informed projects from creators who read this blog). However, I see successful projects all the time that have very different philosophies than what I recommend here. I think the key for any creator is to read all sorts of advice and research all different kinds of projects, big and small, and figure out what’s right for you and your backers.
7. Packaging Matters (Good Cop Bad Cop): As Brian Henk demonstrated with his pocket-size Kickstarter game, a product that small may not stand out on the shelf when it reaches retailers. Perception is everything when people (whether they’re shopping at a store or browsing Kickstarter), so make sure you design the packaging in a way that compels people to pick up the product.
6. Uniqueness Matters More Than Ever Before (Allegiance: A Realm Divided): Kickstarter is big. Really big. At any time, there are at least 100 other projects in your niche category. So now, more than ever,it’s really important to clearly convey what makes your project unique. There should be a great hook early on the project page, and you should have a section devoted to explaining the unique features. A big part of this means that you need to really know your category–you shouldn’t say that you make the only cat-shaped donuts if there are other places that already offer cat-shaped donuts. You’ll just look silly if you do that.
5. If at First You Fail, Try Again…but Don’t Assume All Previous Backers Will Return (Stones of Fate): Jeff Cornelius revealed this very important lesson during an interview with me earlier this year. Midway through the project, only 38% of backers from the original campaign returned for the reboot. 38% is actually quite good, and it should still be an encouraging number to creators looking to relaunch, but it’s a good reminder that you should temper your expectations for a relaunch. Jeff went on to contact previous backers to talk about what he had improved, and he saw an increase in backers after that.
4. New Creators Are in a Very Different Position Than Repeat Creators: This isn’t related to any specific project; it’s more of a general observation about first-time creators. It’s tough, isn’t it? The first time isn’t easy–not only are you learning on the fly, but you’re working hard for every backer (even if you built up hype before the launch). I just wanted to let you know that I feel for you, and I’m going to try better to make sure my blog is as useful for you in 2015 as it is for repeat creators.
3. Under Promise and Over Deliver on the Delivery Date (Lift Off!): When Eduardo Baraf was planning his project, I recommended that he revise his estimated delivery date from June 2015 to March 2015 (it was a July project). I thought that backers would perceive a year as “we’re never getting this game.” Well, I think I was wrong. I think that most backers consider a year to be just fine. Over a year, not so much, but a year is okay. Ed wisely pointed out to me that if he had kept his delivery date at June 2015, he could have delivered early, which would have been received really well among his backers. It’s definitely better to delivery earlier than the estimated delivery date than after that date.
2. Time of Year Matters for Some Projects (The Coolest): This list wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the most successful Kickstarter project in 2014 (and ever), The Coolest. The Coolest is largely a seasonal product–the idea of keeping drinks cold is most on our minds in the summer. It originally launched in the winter with the idea that it would be delivered by the summer, but the project failed to fund. People didn’t care about keeping things cold in the December frost. However, when Ryan launched in the summer, the product took off. Not only did it address an immediate need on people’s minds, but it also was perfect fodder for the press–media outlets look for topical stories. The season doesn’t matter for all projects, but consider what’s best for yours.
1. Backing Other Projects Significantly Increases Your Chances of Success as a Creator (John Coveyou): This is more of a lesson learned from a fellow creator than a specific project. John Coveyou does statistical analyses on Kickstarter projects, and one of the most profound revelations he discovered was that creators who backed many projects before launching have a significantly greater chance of successfully funding their projects than those who don’t. There are two big jumps: Between those who back 1 project (16.9% success rate) and 2-5 projects (35.2%), and then between those who back 2-5 projects (35.2%) and 25-50 projects (66%). Backing other projects lets you learn so much about other projects, and now there’s data to prove that idea.
I just want to give a shout out to all of my fellow creators from 2014. You inspire me and teach me new things every day, and I’m extremely grateful for all the hard work you put into your projects. Let’s keep finding new ways to make crowdfunding exciting and engaging for our backers.
What’s the biggest lesson you learned from someone else’s Kickstarter campaign in 2014? Which of the above lessons resonates the most with you?