Kickstarter has made several great improvements to their systems over the last year. From being able to ask for a shipping amount to a specific country, to providing more useful survey options, to a new post-campaign landing page, to being able to refund backers from within Kickstarter. There has also been a massive growth in 3rd party service sites popping up attempting to milk what they can from wishful thinking project creators (most of which are just scams). Some of the more useful 3rd party services are pre-launch services and more campaign managers.
My company (Minion Games) will be running several more campaigns this year, so we wanted to know if any of these new features or services change the way we should approach our campaigns. Are the best practices from last year still the best this year? How do the backers feel about these things and which would they prefer you use? So we decided to ask 703 backers and below are the results of that survey.
Kickstarter started allowing campaigns to charge a different shipping amount based on the country the backer is from. As such, it shifted the question of shipping from the reward levels listed on the campaign to the actual payment page. This is fine as long as the project creator is up front about the amount of shipping BEFORE they get hit with extra payment. It is important though, that your shipping cost isn’t more than 50% of the cost of your reward or it will be a huge turn off to the backers and many will give up at the payment page.
So, I wanted to gauge the manner in which to best handle shipping on a campaign these days. I asked 3 questions about listing the shipping on the main reward or allowing it to be collected after the reward was selected. Here are the responses we got:
As you can see above, most people still prefer to see the shipping included in the reward level. In fact a very large amount prefer that for cheap games, while with more expensive games they don’t mind so much if the shipping is separated out. For small projects it appears people are more interested in a quick checkout with an up front shipping cost bundled in. This feeds the impulse buy mentality and thus a good idea. While expensive and large/heavy products (like a box game with minis) it appears that people are more willing to see a true cost for the game listed separately from their overall cost. This may be due to people telling themselves (rationalizing) they are spending less on a very expensive game than they might otherwise feel if it was all bundled in the reward amount.
There are now services that allow you to set up your campaign ahead of time on their site and claim to help promote your project. We’ve seen an increase in pre-marketing and email acquisition and that’s a great thing, people are starting to understand you need to bring your own backers to the party. One such site, Prefundia, has gotten a good amount of attention and some blog writers have stated it worked great for them. I was uncertain if I could believe that as I think the publisher’s own pre-marketing was the main reason for the pull through of that site. So, we asked this in the survey:
This is more or less what I would have expected though the number of people wanting to only use the remind me button on the preview page was higher than I expected. I’ve been telling people not to funnel their potential backers to a 3rd party tool which the above results strongly support. It’s fine to use these tools to attempt to garner any backers organically from them, but you should not be marketing your page on their site – you should be pointing people to the preview page on Kickstarter or your own website for e-mail collection. It is clear that people do not like leaving their info with 3rd parties as there is no trust there of privacy.
A campaign manager is a 3rd party tool/site that helps you manage your backers post campaign choices, but equally important, helps you sell additional products to them. I’ve listed a few of them in this blog post. They usually have a setup charge of $0-300 and take a percentage of each purchase (3-5%). But at the end of the day, they almost always pay for themselves if you have decent add-on items (or older games) to sell though them. Some people dislike handing over their personal data to a 3rd party service like this and we usually got a few people who refused to do so. So, has the tide changed over the last year?
As shown above, campaign managers are pretty well accepted these days. What worries me is the large amount of people who said NOT to use them. I think that has gone up over the last year. I have not used a campaign manager in over a year because we have been opting for clear and easy reward levels and no add-ons with our campaigns. The data above would seem to support that as a good idea, until you look at this survey question:
Clearly people want to give us more money for products we offer. While I still believe it’s important not to spam the add-on menu with everything including the kitchen sink, a well thought out menu can have a big impact on your bottom line. Stick with complementary products like metal coin upgrades, linen bags, or similar games from your portfolio. It seems we’ve been leaving money on the table for our last couple campaigns. I’m alright with that, as we are a more mature company and our goal was to streamline the shipping process (since we do it in-house). However if you are a small company with only a couple products, you should seriously think about what add-on items you can put on your campaign to help your bottom line. Note that these items don’t have to be part of your original campaign – in fact too many add-ons there make you look like a used car salesman. So add a few to the main campaign and more in the menu on the campaign manager where people can add more money to support you.
For a few years, Kickstarter creators have used Early Bird reward levels, which has created quite a bit of discussion and is generally recommended against by experienced creators. These, in my wise opinion, are not good for your campaign. They are especially toxic to the campaign if you offer more than a small $5 discount. The people who come to your campaign the first day or two are already sold on backing you – so why give them an extra discount? People who come late to your campaign are turned off by the fact that they missed something (anything). Jamey Stegmaier covers EB well in some blog posts on his site and I also cover them in my DMTNT blog.
During a discussion on the topic in our Facebook forum, someone mentioned that companies like Reaper are using early shipping as a sort of Early Bird reward. I thought this was a great solution. You’re not providing any significant physical or economic reason for a late backer to get upset about missing. Best of both worlds, right? So what do the backers think?
This one surprised me… While I thought it was a great idea, apparently it’s still a turn off for many backers. So even with something so mild and intangible as this, it would push backers away. Just think how much damage you’re doing to your campaign by offering EB rewards that give large discounts! Don’t do Early Birds!
My last question on the survey was just a way to gauge the current environment for marketing purposes. No big surprises here and Kickstarter browsing is still a very strong method for people finding campaigns. While you can’t just post your campaign and expect it to fund, it is fair to give KS credit for it’s significant help in organically funding your project. This is why it’s not a good idea to use any competitor of KS as they will not have the same “shopping mall” effect on your campaign.
UPDATE: June 12 2017: BGG Front Page Takeover feedback…
Currently, on BoardGameGeek you are “sharing” that front page space with 1 other publisher so it’s not you exclusive – but pretty much should hit most everyone. You pay $250 for the front page. We did this for Sunday (which wasn’t ideal but the only day they had open). Usually, this is run in concert with some banners, we spent $500 on banners for the last 3 days, so $166 was also spent on banners Sunday. So total ad spend for Sunday was $416.
Well, we earned about $830 (probably a bit more given errors in tracking and could have been more on a Monday) from the front page ads and banners on BGG for Sunday. Got about 550 visitors from it. Goggle Analytics show 13 backers and KS dashboard says 11 (most appear to have backed from the USA as the average spend was $63). Given each game will cost us about $15 landed cost and about $15 in shipping, that’s a hard cost to us of about $390. So total Sunday spend is actually $806.
Total revenue generated was $829 so one might say that we roughly broke even. Which seems to be the typical state of things with BGG ads the last year or two of my using them. The upside though is that I was able to pay this bill with promo cards which actually cost me much less (like 10 cents on the dollar) – thus, in the end, the marketing was a very good deal. If you had to pay cash though, it’s a harder choice.
UPDATE: March 2018; More and more BGG ads are just a break-even proposition if you are looking to earn your money back. There is value in branding especially if you’re newer to the industry. Typically we see about a 2-3% increase in funding if we spend money on ads at BoardGameGeek (using data from my last 7 campaigns). So roughly unless I have a campaign I’m sure will do more than $50,000 I usually don’t spend money on BGG ads since they have like a $1000 min buy (which still only gets you low amounts of exposure).
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Written by: James Mathe