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Rare Roses Kickstarter Lessons

So, the things I learned over this two campaign process. The first pass at this was my first KS ever as a creator. It was a learning journey and I learned that it’s not my strong point. Mostly because it requires a LOT of attention getting the word our and growing a crowd requires constant care and feeding. This means time. I work a full time job and try to maintain a bit of a family life. So time was scarce for me.

Funding Structure

That first time around, I went in with a very small crowd, and I spent a decent amount of money on Online marketing through reviewers, and contests (my own and Board Game Revolution etc) but it wasn’t enough. The reason it wasn’t enough was because I set a genuinely realistic funding goal. I factored in a standard minimum print run, shipping, GST/VAT etc. and came to a funding goal that would have paid for the project. My pledge levels included all shipping. This lowered my margins, but I thought it would mean more backers. Who doesn’t like what is apparently free shipping? … Backers…. That’s who.

I then based my base game pledge level on games of similar weight, play time, component level, and target audience, which I feel is reasonable. That gave me a target backer count… and hence a crowd count, and for a first time creator it was way too high. Part of the circular problem was that the realistic $20K funding goal scared off some backers. People don’t like to see that kind of number from a first time creator unless you’re Issac Childers.

I let the original campaign run to 19 of 21 days even though I knew it wasn’t going to fund. I did this to help build a backer list that I could carry forward. This gave me a base to work with. Then, after I hit Cancel, I folded the whole thing up and walked away. I needed some headspace.

Take a break and rethink…make changes

I literally zipped up all the files, copied the archive off and deleted everything. I didn’t look at it for two weeks. But it wouldn’t go away. So… I started playing with the numbers again. After a reality check on a reasonable audience size, I contacted all dozen or so manufacturers I got quotes from. I asked them if they’d be willing to go below standard MOQ and do a run of only 500.  Several of them agreed… So I did more numbers.  I had lots of conversations with retailers (Thanks Mark) other creators (Thanks all of you)… and I did more numbers.

First obvious thing was to rework for the MoQ of 500 so the funding goal was much less. Yes, it’s more cost effective to make 1000 or 1500 games, but 500 games even at a higher per unit price is still cheaper than 1000, or 1500. 

Common advice was to split out the shipping. So I subsidized it and broke it out into a table to be charged later. Clear shipping costs to backers. That took some of the burden out of the funding goal as well.

I brought down the pledge levels to standard MSRP for the game.

But, one of the biggest content changes was to add a Kickstarter Exclusive Order Card, and sweeten the deal for retailers. Kickstarter exclusives play on peoples’ FOMO. It may be a cheap psychological trick, but it works. I also made sure that retailers would be getting the same stuff that KS backers did. This was a big deal for them. And assured them that they’d be getting their copies before I released it to distribution. That was kind of easy to promise actually since I don’t have distributors kicking down the door yet. I’m sure they’ll come after I win the Spiel des Jahres. 😊

No extra Advertising

One of the things I did NOT do for the relaunch was advertise. Sure I wanted to, but I’d blown through my advertising budget the first time around. I discovered that some of our friends in the board game media world, are very nice people. Several of them without my prompting bumped their original posts or reposted their videos etc when they discovered that the campaign had relaunched.

Well, having said that I did boost some FB posts and did a specific FB add on the last 2 days targeting florists, and the M/F demographic that most of the pledges had been coming from. But, that only resulted in about 5 backers. The FB add was about $190 for two days, reached 1,201,000 people, and was clicked 344 times. This is probably more an indication that I need to create better ads than anything. The demographics were interesting.

My target audience was from age 20-45. I specified all on other demographics except I did focus on English speaking countries and German speaking ones.

Carry Over

Starting from a base of my original backers meant that on day 2 we funded with a funding goal that was about 30% of the original number. With the first round I ended it with 186 backers that had pledged $9,914 AUD.  The relaunch ended with 219 backers and $11,128. Pretty much the same trajectory. What worried me though was the number of cancellations.

I heard that 5% was normal, but I ended up with a 13% cancellation rate. Why? Well, consider the timing. This campaign launched in November and went through Black Friday. People want to buy things and take them home for Christmas during this time. They needed their money to buy gifts that would arrive before Christmas. One person did tell me that he had just backed for $1 to follow the campaign, which was fine. But he cancelled because there were too many updates. Also fine, but interesting. I certainly hope people were cancelling because they decided they just didn’t like the game. I’m sure competing Kickstarters, and holiday spending timing played in to most of it.

Honestly, given the trajectory the original campaign was on, and the way the relaunch ended, bring down the funding goal was the trick. Had I left the original one up for two more days, we probably would have ended at the same place. The difference is that in the original campaign, that’s about $9K short, and in this one, it’s about $5K over the goal.

So you have to consider your position. If there was a list that comes to mind…

  • First time creators should start conservatively unless you have a Hype train and something like Gloomhaven.
  • Get a few runs on the board before you go to Kickstarter with your Mangum Opus.
  • Spread the word far and wide, and above all, get your game to high profile reviewers.
  • Do NOT forget about BGG. Do your updates there, stay on their Crowdfunding lists.
  • Call your friends, family, and shoestring relatives and have them pledge. During your mid-campaign slump, is when they need to do it.
  • Keep moving up even by a little each day.
  • Be kind to your backers, even the ones you lose.
  • Communicate, regularly. It doesn’t have to be over the top for number of updates, but be consistent.
  • Thank the backers.
  • Include them in interesting decisions and get them to comment. Kickstarter features campaigns with high activity in the comments section and comments to updates.
  • Set reasonable goals.

These are the things that come to mind as a first time creator. Will I do another one… maybe, but I’d want help. Good luck.

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