There comes a time when you realize your Kickstarter campaign isn’t going to make it… realizing that point and dealing with it is what this article is about. I have studied and talk to many campaigns that had failure in their first campaign but successes their second time at bat.
You may be able to save your current campaign, but honestly, it is usually just best to cancel, regroup, and try again. Luckly, Kickstarter has no penalties for canceling and launching again in the future.
A mid-campaign slump is normal. We all have it. It’s no reason to panic… Slow and steady is fine. But if you didn’t get the initial traction you needed you may be in trouble. There are two different scenarios:
1) You hit a slump but you are still tracking to be successful. The last few days you can gain 10-25% of your goal.
2) Your hit the slump and you’re not tracking to be successful. Being at less then 10% after a week is a failure.
If you have a look at your campaign at KickTraq.com you can get a general feel for your progress after the first week. By day 7 or 10 you should be able to gauge your future and attempt to change it as Kicktraq.com will have pretty accurate estimates at that point. By half way through your campaign you still are not tracking to success you should definitely considering canceling the campaign. Obviously you want to do what you can to fight the slump. It’s hard to admit defeat and I see many people dragging this on way to long.
The first part of dealing with a slump is determining if you’re in one or if your campaign just missed the mark some how. If you haven’t had any traction in the first few days (at most a week) then you’re not in a slump, your in a failure. Let me state it a bit more succinctly: if you’re a week into your campaign and still have not hit at least 10% of your funding, cancel now. Regroup, redesign, reanalyze, and restart your campaign a month or more later. Don’t kid yourself, you will not succeed if you don’t have at least a basic momentum to your campaign. Go figure out where you went wrong and try again. There is no shame in that, I’ve done it too!
Even I (having run many success campaigns and having a large fan base and good reputation) am susceptible to this mid-campaign slump. Recently I ran a campaign and had to deal with the post launch slump that threatened the campaign as a whole. I tried many things and some worked a little and most worked not at all.
Problem is many people have made up their mind about your campaign in the first few days. So even if you make changes to sweeten your deals, many never learn of it. The first few days and the momentum you generate during that time cannot be understated. This is why in most cases to “Fix” a campaign it’s going to require a cancel and reboot (see below).
One of the most important things to do though, is listen to your backers. They want to help you. They may be telling you things you don’t want to hear – but listen and react. If they are saying your art is off, then get it fixed. If they have problems with your prices, try to adjust or find another solution to make it happen.
Some hard data from 522 game campaigns tracked by KickTraq.com:
- SUCCESSFUL PROJECTS:
- 94% of successful projects reached 10% by day 3
- 99.5% of successful projects reached 10% by day 7
- 75% of successful projects made more than 25% of their goal by day 3
- 91% of successful projects made more than 25% of their goal by day 7
- Average 3-day percentage for successful projects is 45% of goal earned
- Average 7-day percentage for successful projects is 67% of goal earned
- FAILED PROJECTS
- 59% of all game projects in the last year and a half have failed.
- 87.5% of failed projects do not reach 10% by day 3
- 81% of failed projects do not reach 10% by day 7
- 98.7% of failed projects made less than 25% of their goal by day 3
- 93% of failed projects made less than 25% of their goal by day 7
- 50% of all projects make at least 10% by day 7
My tips to help you recover from a slump:
- BGG ads fail me again, post to the BGG forums all your updates.
- Reviews are one of the best ways to get people back to your campaign.
- Keep on tweeting / FB, daily if you can.
- Get podcasts to mention you and try to arrange for an interview
- Get more reviews posted on BGG
- Make a couple Reddit post. Arrange an AMA (ask me anything) on redit with the designer.
- Reach outside the hobby games sphere for support. What does your game relate to? Find sites about that. See if you can get news posts on their sites.
- Find ways to get current backers to talk about you. Give them an avatar. Add a contest/stretch goal for getting LIKES to the actual KS page.
- Reach out and collaborate with other campaigns. Mention each other in an update. Offer some cross promotion.
Alyssa Faden from the Torn Armor campaign had one of the most successful slump come-backs that I’ve seen. It was all hard fought gains through day after day of hard work. I reached out to Alyssa to ask what she did and here are some tips from her:
- Reach outside board game blog-sphere for support. What does your game relate to? Find sites about that.
- Very important this one. Know your market/audience. Find out where they post/share news/commentary (i.e. forum
s). Get a list of 12-30 of the top forums. Post in them daily – share news, updates, progress, stretch goals.
- Adding to this though, a lot of forums do not like project creators sharing ‘news’ or will relegate you to a ‘news’ forum which gets no traffic, so run competitions through your Kickstarter (make an update for the contest) to get your backers to get out there and spread the word for you.
- I (Alyssa) ran twice a week contests that often were themed around “share this Kickstarter on your favorite blog or forum, post here when you have done it! Person who shares the most wins X”
- I (Alyssa) also ran a Kickstarter-long competition that had the backers chasing a special unlock. Every week they had to perform a task that would get them closer to the goal. It encouraged community, but it developed a grassroots spreading of the word.
- Get a list of podcasts together and get interviewed. Don’t stop being interviewed. I (Alyssa) had perhaps a dozen interviews out there and several were big traffic generators
- BGG failed me too I suspect. Cost to revenue didn’t seem to play out. It’s hard to tell, but it seemed low results (beyond organic traffic)
- Get a big voice to get behind you. Think in terms of ‘marketing collaboration.’ I gave away a Reaper mini. It cost me a few thousand to get the number together, BUT Reaper then promoted me through their social channels and it became a huge buzz: “Torn Armor are giving away a reaper dragon!” It was easily the greatest traffic driver for us
- Get backers, not $ – i.e. run daily tweet/FB/G+ games to get backers and don’t ask for $. “If we can get to 110 backers today, we’ll show new artwork! Pledge anything, even a buck!” Make the goal achievable (+9 backers), the reward should always be ‘free’ or cost nothing. The point is each $1 backer just signed up for your updates and can be up-sold, each $1 backer then has the fact that he/she backed your project get sent out to their network on Kickstarter. It doesn’t share how much they backed at, just that they backed it, which gets the word out.
- Ultimately all of this comes down to social outreach – through your channels or someone else’s. So one of the biggest things for me was getting all of the backers to talk about the project (that’s 300-500 voices right there, each with their social channels) and to get them to do it REGULARLY. Daily is too much, but every other day give them a reason to talk (positively and in an excited manner) about the project.
STILL IN A SLUMP?
If all else fails, cancel in the last half of the campaign. Give it a few weeks or a month and relaunch. But don’t relaunch the same exact campaign – the point that has been clearly made by the public is that your campaign is missing something. That might be the price is too high. That might be you didn’t instill confidence. That might be your lack of early reviews. That might be a hundred reasons. Figure out 2 or 3 of the major ones and DO something about them BEFORE your relaunch.
WHEN TO CANCEL OR NOT?
I feel it’s best to cancel your campaign instead of letting it fail, cause it will appear to be more like a managed exit to regroup and come back stronger. Not having a failed campaign in your history or on searching is a bonus. The only real question is when to actually cancel. If you do it last minute it’s a bit odd. If you do it the last day, that’s ok I guess. If you do it when you know you’re not going to make the funding a week or two out, then maybe that misses you out of a few backers that could have wondered in and gotten onto your mailing list.
So in general it’s good to cancel after seeing the 48hour notice’s effect but don’t wait until the last few hours. Restarting the campaign only a month later – that’s a bit of a push. If you’re failing then you should regroup, restart your outreach, requote for a smaller funding goal, rethink a lot of things. Is relaunching only 1 or 2 months later really going to 1) allow you to do that, or 2) give the impression that you did that?
- Be Ready: Videos made. Reviews posted, Blogs contacted, Interviews scheduled, Final Art examples, Rules readable online, Contests lined up, Exclusive content
- Be Affordable: Total goal realistic, per unit price reasonable (or below MSRP), shipping solutions worked out. Stretch goals to add value. Add-ons to increase pledges.
- Be Seen: Exposure and social networking, being active on BGG before launch, interviews and reviews, pre-launch networking. You want people talking about your project BEFORE you launch. Launch party. Contests. Marketing partners.
- Be Confident: Do whatever you can to instill confidence in your company, project, and eventual delivery date. Write an honest Risk & Rewards section. Share some actual production numbers.
- Reach out to reviewers weeks before your re-launch (eg NOW)
- Make sure you have some final artwork and final card layout ready to show off on the page.
- Make sure you have a nearly complete rules manual for download right from the page
- Get a play through video made, even if it’s just you explaining it all. This video helps people understand the game flow and what to expect.
- Do not relaunch with the same mistakes. If your backers were complaining about something in your first campaign, fix it!
- Do not launch with elements that are “Coming Soon” on your page. People may never return after their first visit. Have the game play video and at least one review on the main page from the start.
- Have podcasts & interviews scheduled during the duration of your campaign. Closer to the start the better.
- Consider launching a smaller first project and coming back to your main project. This will build an existing customer base and confidence in your ability to do something at a much larger scale.
- Get the initial goal as low as possible. People like backing a campaign that looks to be a success.
- Make sure your funding goal is reachable by 500 backers. A $20,000 goal for a $20 game is too high! Chances are you will not break that number unless you’ve got a name already in the industry. There are many printers out there, get quotes from more of them. Use stretch goals to add more or upgrade bits, but start with your goal being the bear minimum. See my blog post about cutting costs of production: Board Game Diet
- Make sure your base price for your game meets industry expected norms: $10-15 for a card game, $20-30 for a family game, $40-55 for a medium heavy game, $60-95 for a game with miniatures. People will not back your $50 card game. They will not back your $75+ euro game without minis.
- Don’t leave gaps in your reward levels, let everyone pledge at levels that work for their budget.
- Don’t launch or end during events like conventions. People are not home on the computer and at the show they want something physical, not a promise of a future game. Plus money runs dry with so much else pulling at the purse strings.
- Don’t launch the week when a big name similar campaign is already drawing your backers away
- Have lots of over-funding goals close together to give momentum to the campaign.
- Exclusive, non-game changing, content has become a must for all campaigns and should be included in the base game or a very early stretch goal.
- Early Bird discounts can help drive momentum but be careful as most all of your early birds for the relaunch will be from your previous campaign. So maybe offer them a very small discount (under $5) or some special little trinket.
- Build the hype BEFORE you relaunch. Give yourself a week to two to chat it up.
- Do interviews and get reviews! Make prototypes and send them out.
- Keep the clutter down and put most popular add-ons right in as a pledge goal. Not everyone understands over-pledging and add-ons can be confusing.
- Don’t launch during a convention or on a Friday or Saturday. People need to be at their computers to back you!
- Consider some paid ads in newsletters and blog sites or even Kicktraq.com
- A quality video and great start can get you chosen by Kickstarter as a featured campaign
- Setup a preview page on Facebook under your company or on it’s own. Use it as a staging area for the relaunch and contests and post something daily that might get people to talk. Ask them questions on how to do things better.
- Run contests outside of Kickstater (as they are not allowed on your page). Try to have ones that require people to leave comments and interact.
- Team up with other campaigns or accessory companies to help spread the word of your campaign.
- Don’t rush into it (well that might have been your first mistake last time, so don’t do it again)
- Garbage in garbage out. Make sure you presentation is professional and explains the game you wish to sell, not your life dream or your future plans for world domination. Make it about the game and get the game idea across as fast and succinct as possible.
- Try to be transparent about cost as this shows you know what you’re talking about and have realistic goals.
Kickstarter Lesson #49: To Cancel or to Finish
7 Methods to Get Over the Kickstarter Slump
Tabletop Game Kickstarter Workshop:
Oops… forgot a shout out to those who helped me gather this information:
- Alyssa Faden – Torn World
- Brent Cunningham – Wishing Tree Games
- Jeff Cornelius – Cosmic Wambat
- AJ Paratore – NSB Games
- Bruno Realli – Awesome Enterprises
- Phil Walker-Harding – Pack of Heroes
- Richard Loomis – Flying Bufflo Games
- Josh Bricker – The Flux Capacity
- Adam Clark – KickTraq.com
- Sam Coates – Potluck Games
- Pete Ruth – Superfly Circus