First off, sorry about the delay here. In my next post, which will be out…uh, sometime…I’m not going to make any promises her, I’ll talk about what we did right and wrong post-Kickstarter. Spoiler: there have been some – and that’s been taking up some of my time. But, in this long-overdue post, I’ll be talking about what we did right during the Kickstarter.
The Page Itself
Part of any good game is the graphic design, and looking back over our first Kickstarter after we failed, one of the things we eventually realized was that the graphic design on the page needed a lot of work, we had too many levels which confused backers, and there we weren’t showing off enough of the game art. So, we made the graphic design more coherent by having fewer fonts that we made sure we all legible, went from 14 confusing levels to 6 clear ones, and showed off a lot of the art. A quick look at our first and second pages, I think, will tell the story better than I could.
Engagement with Backers
In addition to having a page that actually looks halfway decent and shows off our art, we also made sure that we were interacting with our backers during the campaign. In 2013, we ran the campaign when I – the public-relations half of the team – was in the final month of school. You remember high school, right? The work that teachers crammed in at the end and you felt stressed until the last week when there wasn’t much to do? That’s because your teachers were ripping their hair out grading papers, designing final exams, and then finalizing grades. REAL bad time to have anything else to do.
So, this time around, we scheduled the Kickstarter for one week after my school year ended, and I made the Kickstarter my full-time job. (I kept track of what I did each day in a series of blog posts, so those are in this blog starting here if you want to go back and see them. And if you want to see what all of this was like for my wife, she was refreshingly honest about that here.) I answered any questions pretty much immediately – except for the few days I took off to go to the beach and actually not stare at a screen for a day. Rather than the first Kickstarter, where we averaged just under one comment per day, this time around, by interacting with backers and being responsive, we had roughly 7 comments per day.
In addition, we made sure that we had plenty of update fodder so that we could average about one update every two days. In all, in 22 and a half days, we had 13 updates – then fourteenth just after the campaign ended to thank everyone. However, I think we did a good job of not spamming our backers, so what was it we put into relevant updates?
The biggest thing was voting on new patient cards from funding stretch goals and action cards from social stretch goals. Each time we unlocked one of those (and thanks to our shockingly supportive backers, we hit 16 stretch goals, 12 of which required voting!), we had something meaningful to talk to backers about – and each time there were results, we had meaningful content to share with them, too. In fact, we made some decisions to delay posting polls or results until we had more to avoid sending too much to our backers.
Beyond that, the voting and results made it clear to backers that the engagement wasn’t simply a one-way street. We gave backers a real voice in what we added to the game, and in response, they engaged with us by making the project more successful than we thought it could be.
During our first campaign, we started out with zero reviews on the page – and when we finally got some, we didn’t add them to the page. For our second campaign, we had at least five reviews up before we launched, and by the time the campaign ended, we had eight. And since backers in the early part of the campaign are so important, you need to have those reviews – from respectable reviewers rather than just BGG testimonials. It’s great that people are talking about your game, but BGG folks could be anybody.
(During Metatopia, I got a lot of questions about how to get reviewers, so I whipped up a post about that one morning when I was too excited for gaming to sleep.)
Our Stretch Goals
This is one place where, honestly, we dropped the ball just a little bit (but just a little, I think) – and I’ll have more to say about our stretch goals when I talk about what we did right and wrong after the campaign. But, one issue that started during the campaign was our stretch goals.
We were right in one respect: we didn’t put all of our stretch goals out right away. Even though we funded (until the final four days) at about the rate we expected, if we had crazy progress in the first few days, we could have spaced our stretch goals out a little bit more. The basic idea is that, at the rate you’re funding, you want that next stretch goal to be exactly that: something that you’re SO close to that, if you just stretched a little bit, you’d get it easily. So, if you’re making 5K a day, have stretch goals every thousand isn’t really going to help you much. You’ll clearly get there – so backers don’t have to do anything. On the other hand, if you’re making $200 a day and your stretch goals are 5K apart, there’s nothing backers will think they can do to make that happen. So, we were flexible in that way.
But, John and I expected that we’d hit $16,000 in the final days of the Kickstarter based on the early action, and we had pretty good plans for getting to that point. The upgraded clock was going to be a great way to get people to stretch to the 14K mark, then a bonus patient would be some sweet, sweet icing on the cake – but not a heartbreak if we didn’t hit it. And, like I said, four days from the end of our project, that looked like exactly what was going to happen.
And then there was the Weird Weekend.
I still don’t know what happened exactly, since weekends are supposed to be slower – and had been during the rest of our campaign. Instead, we jumped from around 12K to 15K – and needed new stretch goals. Luckily, we had Shari from AdMagic on speed dial and were able to work with her – despite her having a really bad flu – to figure out at least one more stretch goal that wasn’t a new patient. But, it was a tense day of trying to figure things out, which we could have avoided if we prepared better for what would happen if we succeeded more than we thought we would.