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TIGSource ForumsDeveloperBusinessKickstarting a Kickstarter: Crowdfucnding Campaign Strategies
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dvnctech
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« on: August 19, 2020, 02:47:21 PM »

Hello, all! It's been a good while since we've posted, but we here at DVNC have been hard at work for Monochrome. Specifically: preparing for Monochrome RPG's very own Kickstarter campaign! In these last five months, we've been researching, strategizing, hiring, onboarding, updating, and every other -ing you could think of to put our best foot forward on this!

That being said, we noticed during our research a very big problem: the available information for "how to make a Kickstarter" is scattered, very rarely specific to games, and sometimes even inaccessible for devs with no background in sales or marketing. As such, we're making a series of posts to document our process going through our Kickstarter: from prep to publish! The best way to read the full article is from here, at our official monochrome website! https://www.monochromerpg.com/kickstarting-a-kickstarter-crowdfunding-campaign-strategies/ However, for now, here's the tl;dr and a short-form summary of what we talk about in our first installment in the Kickstarter series:

TL;DR
  • Validate the idea or use of language through forms, social media, etc.
  • Build a community (at least 250, preferably 500+) through marketing
  • Start engaging with Kickstarter campaigns on social media 2+ months ahead of your campaign
  • Create a demo/prototype product (MVP or Vertical Slice would be great)Make sure your page is designed like a million dollar campaign (best foot forward)

Quick List of Tips/Tricks (better than TL;DR for closer to campaign or Kickstarter emergencies)

This list of quick tips and tricks will be updated with the distilled strategies that work prior to our campaign in late September.

  • Go on Kickstarter and find relevant projects. Highlight the full campaign title (to get specific search results) then go through the first 5 pages of google and learn: what social medias they used and how they used them, what their website looks like, what news/blog websites they were features in, and who helped promote their campaign (streamers, journalists, developers, employees, etc)
  • On Twitter (or any other social media of choice with Kickstarter projects), search “kickstarter” and then your type of project such as “videogame” or “indiegame”. Once you find relevant Kickstarters, you should: Add them to a list, Engage and comment on their profile (3-5 times), and Find their latest posts mentioning the Kickstarter and start engaging with people who engaged with their posts (comment/like on profile’s that retweeted the Kickstarter’s tweet)
  • If you have a budget (even a small budget) we’d recommend starting to test paid advertising as early as possible. Use follower campaigns to build an audience while also learning what messaging and visuals resonate with that audience.
Once again, we highly recommend visiting our official website page for the full article here: https://www.monochromerpg.com/kickstarting-a-kickstarter-crowdfunding-campaign-strategies/ ! Also, please consider checking out our Kickstarter preview! If you like what you see, you can even follow the project to be notified when our official Kickstarter campaign opens. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dvnc/monochrome-rpg
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Ramos
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« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2020, 03:22:03 PM »

Thank you dvnctech for sharing these tips with us!

May I ask if you have any case studies, for 250 community built from marketing what is the worst-case scenario sum to be successfully funded?
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LobsterSundew
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« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2020, 12:24:30 AM »

In my forum signature is a link you might find a useful resource. I've been regularly posting data there about video game Kickstarter campaigns since 2013. How many social media followers a campaign has at launch is something I record. I also include bold green notes on the graphs when events like reaching the front page of Reddit created a surge in new backers for a campaign.

Below are some typed notes after reading over the Kickstarting A Kickstarter post.

Validation

Using a successful Kickstarter campaign to generate social proof (to then show publishers) is common, especially for famous developers coming to Kickstarter that need far more than they are asking for. I want to note many unsuccessful campaigns were still able to find publishers later (so failure does is not so bad), but a successful campaign can help. A failed campaign does not automatically doom a game. Regardless of success or failure, a campaign can generate useful data to show potential publishers like conversion rates or how many new followers were gained. It is also a way to accumulate positive and negative feedback on a game.

When attempting to use Kickstarter to validate if a game has a market to exist in, a potential problem with the test is when a game is a bad fit for Kickstarter's built-in community of frequent backers for the video games category. Some types of games like math education games for children or hyper-casual endless runners can fit poorly. Sometimes the audience for a game are not easy to deliver news to and they need the game shoved in front of them to learn it exists. I should also note that when a goal is over $50,000 a project generally needs press coverage because the portion of the built-in frequent backer community that plays a specific type of games might not be a big enough presence. There are many adventure game, JPRG and strategy game fans, but fewer American football fans among frequent backers.

Another potential problem with using Kickstarter to validate an idea is potential backers who like the game can become apathetic and not bother to pledge when a campaign is obviously doomed to miss its goal. A big portion of frequent backers only pledge to campaigns they know will be successful. Some do not want failed campaigns displayed on their backer profiles. Others do this for budgeting reasons because they do not want to be surprised by a pledge they thought would not go through. Even I have found myself occasionally not bothering to put in the extra effort to pledge to a good-looking game doomed to fail on Kickstarter. Good campaign momentum is very important to avoid such apathy.

Kickstarter can bury good projects that lack enough marketing. Immediately buried campaigns can end after 30 days with less than 500 to 1,000 total pitch video views (and often less than 50 backers). Potential backers can be unaware the game exists. Just like Steam or app stores, new releases without marketing get buried easily under the many other new releases. Kickstarter does not have a fee like Steam Direct to slow down shovelware-quality games launching. Do not expect Kickstarter to be a marketing boost for your game unless you bring a following to help establish early momentum. What rises to the top of the rankings benefits from the platform. Occasionally a developer with a failed buried campaign will post a rant about how little traffic they received.

Community

With a large community, a campaign is much less vulnerable to bad scheduling, less dependent on visibility within Kickstarter and is less dependent on needing press coverage to reach 100% funded.

Marketing textbooks can talk about a "funnel". It is described as a funnel because each step loses potential customers due to conversion rates lower than 100% for each step in the funnel.

Impressions --> followers --> backers
or
Impressions --> project page visitors --> backers

A useful planning process works upwards through the funnel. At the bottom of the funnel is the number of backers needed. There can be multiple targets corresponding to different levels of funding progress like 15%, 30%, 50% and 100% funded. For pre-launch planning, waiting until having enough followers to reach 15% or 30% funded at launch is a common strategy. Waiting until you have enough for 100% is another option if risk averse.

A helpful observation for making estimates is the average pledge per backer metric is often within a range of 1.3X to 3X the price of the price of the game (easily 40% to 80% of backers just want a copy of the game). You can divide a funding goal by an estimated average pledge per backer to get a target number of backers. An even cruder estimate is to divide the funding goal by the price of the game to get a target number of backers.

In the middle of the funnel is the converting of traffic. What complicates things is how variable conversion rates are between different places and with projects of different quality. Pre-launch page followers who clicked the "Notify me on launch button", Discord members and e-newsletter subscribers often convert very well into backers (over 10%) making them a priority for measuring if their are enough followers yet. Social media conversions is a big topic. A paid ad may have less than 1% of people clicking. Try to find out what rates other developer measured when they tried to convert people into backers. Try to find recent numbers because rates on platforms like Facebook can shift over time due to changes to the platform. When in doubt, be pessimistic and stick with low rates like 1%. An example could be an average of 2% of people who see a blog article about the project clicking the link to the project page and an average of 8% decide to become backers after visiting the project page. Working backwards from the target number of backers eventually results in an estimated number of impressions.

One you have an estimated number of impression, you go out and get enough impressions to satisfy your objectives. Impressions could be from press coverage, social media (very important for some campaigns), influencers and other ways to generate exposure for a game. Look for places with good reach. Traffic can be measured with analytics. Part of the marketing process can be to re-adjust estimates based on actual conversion data that gets observed. It is often easier said than done when just starting. It can be harder to go from 0 to 500 followers on Twitter than it is to go from 500 to 1,000. Some developers lose motivation too soon.

Another way to generate impressions is paying for them. Paid advertising can be worth doing in the pre-launch phase because early backers can be argued to be more valuable than later backers for campaign momentum. Ad campaigns can be used to refine the messaging used to promote a game. Metrics help find what potential players react better to. Paid advertising can also boost already successful campaigns even further. What paid advertising is not expect to do is save campaigns with stalled momentum. Stalling is at least 3 days in a row with no progress. I regularly watch project creators effectively burn money starting mid-campaign trying to advertise themselves out-of-a-hole. A tip is the Ad Library on Facebook can be used to look up active Instagram and Facebook ads for active campaigns using those platforms.

Strategies

I will ignore strategies around rewards in this post (a giant topic) with the exception of saying digital-only rewards can help keep a minimum funding goal smaller, but adding physical rewards to a project can help potentially raise more funding total. There are pros and cons. In economics is the concept of "economies of scale" and being able to get discounts on bulk orders and bulk shipping. Small campaigns often do not get enough orders to benefit from bulk rates and with T-shirts a project creator may even cover the costs of adding more T-shirts to an order to hit a bulk discount (and hope to use the extra T-shirts at conventions).

Post-Kickstarter a good general communication strategy is avoid going radio-silent for more than 3 months. Some developers struggle to establish a sustainable pace for post-Kickstarter project updates. Instead of refined project updates, making the process more transparent like livestreaming work or being present daily in a Discord to interact can also help prevent radio silence and accusations of having fled with the money.

Another post-Kickstarter strategy is to immediately setup "slacker backer" options to allow people to continue to upgrade pledges and to continue to sell pre-orders. Many international backers lack credit cards, so there is the option to educate them on how to use prepaid digital cards or to wait for slacker backer options or for a campaign to launch on another crowdfunding platform.

The Dark Souls board game on Kickstarter is an example of successfully doing a post-Kickstarter shipping charges strategy. This is complex. Shipping is charged after. Backers need to be well-informed to avoid angry confused backers. It may even be against Kickstarter's rules in the future because it skips their cut of the shipping amounts. There is debate about if backers prefer it or dislike it. The main advantage is backers can significantly save on shipping costs by getting an exact cost instead of having to pay a vague blob for shipping during the campaign. It is something tabletop projects on Kickstarter have been exploring in recent years.

An option to reduce minimum funding goals is being transparent the plan is to raise just enough to get the game ready for Steam Early Access. Another is making a story-heavy game episodic with stretch goals for more episodes. Plans can involve getting the game ready enough to start earning revenue sooner rather than later in the post-Kickstarter phase. This can be useful with second attempts on Kickstarter.

Sometimes multiple project creators launch campaigns together in a waves strategy as a sort of diver buddy system. This is deeper than just exchanging shout-outs. Sometimes they exchanged character cameos. On the more extreme end of the collaboration spectrum, if someone backed both campaigns the backer received an extra reward. I do not see much of this anymore. It requires trust. This type of collaboration would be established in non-public Slack groups, private Discord severs, hidden sub-forums or other non-public gamedev groups. The different development teams often personally know each other for awhile.

Timing

Timing strategies can get extremely complicated, but many developers seem to be oblivious about basic ones. My post with be oversimplifying things. There are well-established patterns about better and worse times to launch a video game on Kickstarter like December being a terrible month. I will skip a week-by-week explanation of the annual pattern on Kickstarter. I will focus on 2 important parts related to campaign deadlines that many many project creators do poorly at.

Part 1: A good end date is important (especially if a campaign is struggling in the middle). I keep seeing developers blindly pick to run 30 days and end up on terrible ending dates. Simplified advice is target a duration of 30 to 34 days, but try to be closer to 30 days than 34 days. Extra days beyond a duration of 30 are added to avoid ending on a bad day. There are severe disadvantages to launching on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday. There are severe disadvantages to ending on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday. Holidays like Christmas and The Fourth Of July can be terrible to launch or end on. Video games also need to try to avoid events like E3 or Gamescom (unless featured at those events). Video game projects on Kickstarter struggle to compete against the most-hyped AAA releases or historic AAA news like a major console launch, so trying to avoid ending around the biggest AAA news events of the year. Below is a list of major upcoming AAA releases to try avoid ending on.
October 2nd Star Wars: Squadrons and Crash Bandicoot 4
October 27th World of Warcraft: Shadowlands
October 29th Watch Dogs: Legion and the HD remaster of Nocturne
November 6th Dirt 5
November 10th a new Xbox console, Assassin's Creed Valhalla and Destiny 2's new expansion
November 13th COD Black Ops Cold War and Yakuza: Like A Dragon
November 19th Cyberpunk 2077

Part 2: A good ending hour is important. By default Kickstarter schedules campaigns in increments of 24-hours. Launching at 8am in the morning means ending at 8am in the morning on the final day. I keep seeing developers self-sabotaging their campaigns by launching extremely early trying to make their first day stronger and damaging their final surge on the last day. The amount of potential funds lost can be significant even if fully funded. For many campaigns most of the pledging activity is concentrate at the launch and near the end. Project creators outside of North America also have a tendency to end at terrible hours due to time zone differences. Catering to the Eastern Time Zone is important on Kickstarter to avoid harming last-minute backings, last-minute social media shout-outs and pledge upgrading. Ending around 3am in the morning for New York means most potential last-minute backers are expected to be asleep. Kickstarter added the feature to specify a different ending hour, but sadly many developers do not take advantage of this. As a backer, I have participated in many final surges since 2011. On many past campaigns it felt obvious a campaign is being nerfed by a bad ending hour and also ending at 3am means fewer people around to celebrate during the final hour's countdown.
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