The second game we ever crowd-funded was New Salem, which ended up raising $19,492 USD from 630 backers. Not bad. 4 years later, we launched a Kickstarter campaign for an expansion to it called New Salem: The Constable Expansion, which raised almost that same amount, coming in at just over $18,436 from 397 backers, which was 92% of our goal — so it did not fund. Then we made quite a few changes and relaunched it as New Salem 2nd Edition and it ended up raising over $58,000 with 982 backers. We’re going to use these campaigns as a case study to provide some suggestions to other re-launchers based on what worked for us.
In that dark and smelly time after our failed campaign ended, we sadly contemplated some possible next steps, which are probably the same ones you are considering if your campaign recently failed:
Give up on the game. Move on to something else. Maybe the world doesn’t want or need this as much as we thought they did.
Re-launch immediately with effectively no changes, maybe we’ll lower the funding goal a bit.
Make some major modifications and re-launch when we’re ready.
What’s right for you depends on you, your products, and your goals, but we ended up going with the latter option. The rest of this article takes you through top 5 tips that we learned that may help you through that process if you choose that option too. These aren’t in order of most important, but more in a loose order of when you would probably end up tackling them.
1. Ask for feedback from EVERYONE. After your campaign ends in failure, send your backers a survey to figure out what they wish was different about the campaign or product. They ended up backing, so there were no deal-breakers for them, but I guarantee there are things they wish you did differently that were deal-breakers for others who did not back. You need to find those.
Not only will your failed campaign backers be more likely to come back when you listen to them and improve your offering, but you’ll get a bunch of backers who decided not to back previously join the new campaign because you resolved their deal-breaker issues. Your outreach will also raise awareness for the re-launch, which can’t hurt either. Here’s the survey we used, selling it as a 1-question, anonymous survey:
After you get initial feedback from backers, expand your surveys to those who did not back. This could be friends or others in the industry who will give you critical and constructive feedback — or even more general circles like social media followers or your newsletter subscribers. For example, we got some big help from the Double Exposure Heralds we work with, some industry friends, and we also received some great advice from some board game Facebook groups.
Also, make sure you share your progress with your backers as you go so they know you’re working on it and that you care. Here’s a link to the update where we laid out all the feedback we got and what we were going to do about it. They really appreciated being kept in the loop and seeing how seriously we were taking their suggestions. This chart puts the feedback we received into general categories to help visualize what we needed to improve:
2. Look at the data. As helpful as getting verbal and written feedback is, it’s not as telling as cold, hard numbers. Those who mean well will often tell you how they think they or others would behave, but it often doesn’t match their actual behavior, so you need look at the numbers to find the truth.
Our favorite places to get data are Kicktraq, the Kickstarter dashboard, and most importantly, Google Analytics. Note: you must include your Google Analytics ID on your campaign page before you launch to get useful data.
The table below is an export of some crucial data we got from those sites. As a reminder when you’re looking at it, the 3 campaigns you see are:
Barker’s Row – One of our previously successful campaigns (1,362 backers) for a comparable product with the same artist.
New Salem: Constable – Our failed campaign.
New Salem: 2nd Edition – Our successful re-launch of the failed campaign.
The “Unique Pageviews” we got from Google Analytics to tell us how many people visited the campaign page. The most telling part here is that you can see that the failed campaign only had 16,189 people land on the page to consider backing it but it had a higher conversion rate than a previous campaign that got 1,362 backers. Ding ding ding! The key to our problem is that we just needed to get more people to the page!
As you can see in the re-launched campaign on the last row, we successfully got roughly the same amount of people to the page as our previously successful campaign. Now our conversion rate (the number of visitors who became backers) dropped significantly, which is why we had a lower number of backers in the re-launched campaign than on Barker’s Row, but it still allowed us to greatly over-fund.
3. Re-think your marketing strategy. Another common cause of a campaign not succeeding is that your marketing was not effective for one reason or another. Are people telling you they didn’t even know your campaign was live? Are they saying they didn’t see anything about your game in a certain place? They probably won’t be able to articulate exactly what the solution is for this, but if you listen closely, they’ll give you some clues you can pull together to improve your marketing plan.
You can see in the previous section that our biggest opportunity was to just get more people to the campaign page for the re-launched campaign and we knew they’d back us. That was another clue we needed to improve our marketing so we invested more heavily in ads, particularly on Facebook and Board Game Geek, which ended up doing the job.
It’s worth noting that our conversion percentage (the percentage of people who backed after visiting the page) dropped significantly in the re-launched campaign, which is likely because the Facebook ads were not bringing traffic of the same quality as our grassroots marketing from the failed campaign. Ummm… maybe “quality” isn’t the right word… they weren’t as ready-to-back as those already in the Kickstarter or board gaming community.
4. Consider re-positioning your product. If your campaign didn’t fund, there’s a good chance your value proposition wasn’t quite hitting home for those who visited your page. If the feedback you’re getting is telling you that the product you’re offering isn’t the one your potential customers want, you’re probably going to want to either change it, or at least change how you are presenting it.
In our example, we realized that some people didn’t even click on the campaign because it was for an “expansion” and they didn’t have the base game so it didn’t really interest them. In the re-launch, we stopped talking about it as an expansion and started talking about it as a 2nd Edition of the game. Now people who don’t have New Salem will take a serious look at the campaign because it’s a “new” product rather than an extension of a product they do not own and probably haven’t played. We then offered an upgrade kit rather than an expansion so our 1st Edition owners could upgrade their copy to 2nd Edition to avoid alienating them and giving them a reason to join the party.
5. Do not lose your shirt. Failure doesn’t taste very good, and when it’s lining the inside of your mouth for the hours, days, and weeks after your campaign ends unsuccessfully, you may feel like you’ll do anything to wash it all away with a quick success. Things you may be tempted to do:
reduce your funding goal below what you really need
reduce the cost of your rewards below what they will cost to make
reduce the shipping price below what it will cost to ship
direct a large sum of money straight into the black hole of marketing
Doing these things may lead to a successful campaign on paper, but it could mean you lose a lot of money by the time all the bills show up in your inbox.
If you take time to do it right by asking for help, figuring out what’s wrong, fixing it, and building a tribe that will be there on re-launch day, you can realize true success. You got this.
Do any of you other re-launchers out there have tips that worked for you?
We give you our top 5 tips for advertising your board game and how to learn which sources are best for you and your game. This is a little more focused on ads for a Kickstarter campaign, but is applicable to any type of advertising for a board game.
When you’re trying to build up a crowd for your game before Kickstarter or to build your resume for selling your game to a publisher, there are a lot of places to put your time and money, but some are better than others.
5. Create a Facebook page or group
4. Build/support your local gaming community
3. Use other’s crowds by getting your game to reviewers and other influencers
2. Send infrequent newsletters
1.Create a landing page and funnel people to it through flyers, ads, social media, and everywhere
Jeremy and Brian cover the top 5 things that are most commonly wrong with a pitch a game designer gives to a publisher. If you’re a designer, you’ll probably find something in here that you can use to improve your next pitch.
Thanks to Mark Edwards for editing this and adding the intro/outro!