EDITORIAL: "Advice for Kickstarter Project Runners"

Kickstarter, from what I have seen, is a strange sort of game written large, and played with real money. It is a game of skill, and strategy, and quite a bit of luck. There are elements of resource management mixed in with heavy strokes of good old-fashioned chance. With all the uncertainty, how can a project ever hope to succeed in the ever-swelling seas of other projects?

That's easy... take my advice!

The following snippets of advice are applicable to a wide variety of projects, and many of them may seem like common sense. Based on my experience however, there appear to be many that don't follow this simple advice.

1) KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE! That's right. Right off the bat, I'm going to say something that might sound vaguely insulting. Unfortunately, this is the number one thing that I've seen projects that fail, failing to recognize. You create a project, you need to know what audience you are trying to market toward. Be supremely aware of the audience you are marketing toward, and focus your project on that group. If you are making a comic, then focus in on the comic shops. Show up at a local comic shop or two every Wednesday, and talk to the customers! Engage the audience. If you are working on a board game, get to the Friendly Local Game Store, and demo the hell out of your game. If you have friends across the country, get them print and play versions to demo at their local game stores. Word of mouth, and an engaged audience will enhance your reach with minimal expenditure. 

2) HIT THOSE CONVENTIONS! Currently, by my calculations, there are roughly 15 conventions of a geeky nature happening every weekend in America. Around the world, I'm not sure. But, if you are here in the States, find those local conventions and hit them! Every convention I have been to there is a table, full of fliers, business cards and promotional knick-knacks. Get to these conventions and add your promotional items to the table. Hell, some of these tables are outside the convention halls themselves, and you can likely even get to them without paying for admission! I recommend paying for admission, though... get in there and mingle. As with number 1... ENGAGE YOUR AUDIENCE!

3) DON'T PAY FOR EXPENSIVE ADS! Sure, putting up a banner ad on BGG, or Bleeding Cool, or even Facebook might sound like a great way to get people into the fold, it is wasted money. Establish a presence on Facebook, and Twitter. Get out there and harness the power of Reddit. Why pay for ads when you can advertise for free? Get friends, and relatives to help. Spread your message like the plague, and work on direct marketing. If you have friends that frequent gaming conventions, get them some fliers, and ask them to hand them out at the convention. Offer them recognition in the final product as being part of the marketing team. They recognize that you can't necessarily pay them, but you can show your appreciation in a very large way without severely affecting the cost to you!

4) COMMUNICATION! Once that campaign starts up, communicate with your fan base. Commit yourself to regular updates. During the campaign itself, there should be at least 3 updates per week, MINIMUM! Don't spam them, but keep them updated on the status of things. Did you just bring on a new artist? TELL THE BACKERS! New writer? TELL THE BACKERS! Did your prototype just get reviewed? ...You get the idea. If the backers feel neglected or uninformed, they will back away. We backers are a fickle lot, we like to feel as if we are a part of the project, rather than just money bags with legs. Once the project is over and until the project ships, commit initially to weekly updates, and eventually bi-weekly or monthly. Inform the backers if there has been a delay. Leak a little bit of new art. Constantly show them what their backing is paying for! I guarantee if you give them transparency, and good updates, you won't have a 1000 people clamoring for refunds.

5) THE PRICE IS RIGHT! This is a tricky one. I know you are a small start-up, with minimal capital in your hands. Keep in mind, the average consumer is in a very similar boat. Make sure there are pledge tiers to include EVERYONE! There should never be a project that doesn't have a $1 pledge level. For a buck, give those backers a special thanks on your website. It costs nothing, and shows you appreciate their involvement. If you're selling non-physical products (PDFs of comics, or PNP games) Don't price them as if the backers are getting a physical item. You're not paying a dime for shipping, and you can get a lot more interest if you offer a cheap PDF of your comic. Also, always remember, bulk discounts are a great way to sell more of your product. Sell on PDF for 6 bucks, or sell 3 for 15. You have just given your backers a reason to back for a larger pledge level. You see grocery stores do it all the time, it can work for you, too.

6) KEEP IT SIMPLE! It may seem like a grand idea to have 37 different pledge levels for a very small project, but in reality it dilutes the message. Keep it basic, keep it easy  to understand. You would not believe how many people will not back a project due to a confusing tier structure. Remember the language is important. Flowery verbiage may be great for a blog post, simple language will make sure everyone can understand your project.

7) VISUALS! If you're doing a video project, include a video as part of your project. If you are doing a comic project, include art related to the actual comic. If you are doing a music project, once again, include a video. People are very visual creatures. You can sell a product by applying the proper visual. Make it short, sweet and to the point. Edit that video so you aren't stuttering constantly. If you have a comic you are working on, and you have that first issue done, post a page or two as a backers-only update! Give people a taste of what is to come.

8) EARLY REVIEWS! If you are working on a project, and you have an early prototype, send it out to reviewers. Do this BEFORE you launch your project. This way, you can address the reviewers concerns, and possibly send it out for a second round of reviews. Perfection is not necessary, but if you can improve your product, by all means do! Your audience will enjoy getting a better final product, rather than getting something that is half-assed, and does not even begin to justify the money they spent on it. This step is the difference between a one-time backer, and a customer for life.

9) PROOFREAD! Before you click that button, and bring that project live, make sure that the language you are speaking on the page is actually discernible as English, (or whatever the preferred language of your target audience is.) While the project is going on the internet, punctuation and spelling are important, and help to portray a more professional air. Do not write "ur" or "u", spell those words out! Also, remember grammatical constructs and word usage. There, their, and they're are NOT interchangeable. Get a second set of eyes on that page before it goes live.... advice I should really take with my blog, if you know what I mean.

That's a lot to swallow, isn't it? These are the steps that will lead to better returns, and more satisfied consumers. They do not guarantee success, but they will help you to take steps toward success. This project is in your hands. Take your dreams, and make them a reality! And, if you ever need a hand.... Feel free to contact me!