Double Fine, the game developer, raised $3.3 million for its adventure game, Double Fine Adventures. InXile, a game development company, made $500,000 in 17 hours for its role-playing game, Wasteland 2. Both did it on Kickstarter, the world’s largest funding platform for creative projects. Naturally, it would be easy to think of Kickstarter as a virtual Gold Rush. That would be a mistake.
Kickstarter has its challenges. Even as a successful participant, I’ve hit some bumps along the way. The lessons I’ve learned from this experience are worth observing. If you’re looking to get funded on Kickstarter, here are ten tips to help you succeed.
1. Do Your Research
Not every project will work on Kickstarter, and even fewer will create a feeding frenzy. So do your research. Observe, for example, what has worked and what hasn’t for other project creators. To find successful examples, look at sections of the site such as “Staff Picks” or “Popular.” To find projects that have not hit their goals, look at some of those under “Ending Soon.” Obviously, projects succeed and fail for different reasons, but researching examples of each will help you get a feel for what to do and what to avoid.
2. Define Your Goal
Decide exactly what you want to accomplish and how much money you need to do that. Remember, if you don’t meet your goal, you get nothing. Better to ask a reasonable amount and then work hard to exceed that goal. Double Fine initially asked for $400,000, but blew that out of the water. If possible, have at least a group of friends who will support you with pledges from the get-go. That will help you build momentum. And remember, you cannot change the amount after you launch.
Also, think about how long your project should run. Kickstarter recommends a maximum of 30 days, but some people have succeeded with longer cycles. Consider your audience and how long it will take to get the word out when making this decision. As with the funding amount, you can’t change your project length once it’s set.
3. Consider Your Rewards and Costs
You’ll quickly learn that people want something in exchange for their pledges. Create rewards, gifts to backers based on the amount they pledge, starting at low values, like $5. That way you can reward even small-time backers. Double Fine is a good example of a project that created great rewards tailored to their audience. Their lowest reward was a digital copy of the game for $15. The highest was a private party with the developers for $10,000.
Another critical factor to consider when creating rewards are related costs. For example, if you’re going to send your backers something by mail, calculate the postage and packaging you’ll need. Don’t get blindsided and discover that your costs will cancel out a part of your funding.
4. Prepare Your Pitch
How you introduce your project can make a huge difference. On your project page you’ll describe your project, goals, and rewards. Be specific and include engaging images of your work. Kickstarter recommends that you also create a video. Make it fun, natural, and compelling by including key elements like people talking about how great or important the project is. Remember, your pitch should pump people up about your project and show both your enthusiasm and your ability to follow through.
5. Market the Hell Out of It
Once you’ve pulled the trigger and published your project, it’s time to promote via social media, friends, family, even strangers. Any updates you post will automatically be sent to your current backers, but urge them to re-post and re-tweet. If you can find a way to make your work newsworthy, pitch popular websites and newspapers.
6. Keep It Alive
Your initial marketing may bring you some early success, but you need to keep feeding the fire. Find ways to update the project. Add new and fun rewards as you go. Keep people informed about your progress, and definitely share any good news or milestones like “We’re halfway there!”
7. Listen to Your Backers
Many of your backers will offer advice. Listen. Some of them have backed many projects and know what works. Others just have an opinion, and even if you don’t agree, consider how many other people — potential investors — may think the same way.
8. Be Patient
There will be times when pledges seem to flow in steadily, and times when it seems that nobody cares. When this happens, you’ll need to stay positive and re-engage those who got you this far. Start by letting your biggest supporters know it’s time to step up and spread the word. If they’ve backed the project, then they also want it to succeed.
9. Be Flexible and Creative
Be prepared to do things you never anticipated doing. You hadn’t considered a special T-shirt as a reward? Maybe you should. A supporter offers to create limited-edition rewards to help your project? Why not? Bottom line: Be open and flexible.
10. Have Fun
This is going to be a crazy ride so enjoy it. And remember, if at first you don’t succeed….