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Kickstarter Lessons: Building an audience is one of the most crucial steps (and how to get this right)

As I wrap up the manufacturing and fulfillment of my game, Relics of Rajavihara, and also inspired by Jamey Stegmaier’s Kickstarter Lessons Blog, I wanted to share with you the lessons I learned from running and delivering my first successful Kickstarter campaign. Over the next few months, I will discuss things I learned from this campaign. Much of this will be real-time or close to real-time, as I move towards getting all the copies into the hands of my backers.

I’ll walk you through what I did to build momentum for my campaign, the unexpected things I learned as I was running my campaign, and the hurdles that I had to manage in order to ensure everything kept running smoothly.

This series will start by answering the question “why is building an audience so important?”

So, let’s dive right in.

Why Building an Audience is so Important

Kickstarter has greatly reduced the barrier for new creators. You no longer have to find the right publisher. You can simply put your game on display and ask for support. Anyone can do this.

However, it’s not enough to create a Kickstarter page and hit the launch button. People have to know about your game and be excited to get a copy. Otherwise, your chances of success are dramatically reduced. It’s definitely not a case of “if you build it, they will come.”

Kickstarter likes to promote products that are doing well and have the potential to do even better. They take 5% of all sales, but only for successful campaigns, so they would rather focus customers on games that are selling well than those that are not likely to fund.

People also like to back a winner. If they come to your campaign page and see it is only 20% funded after 2 days, they know it’s not likely going to make it. However, if they discover that your game has already funded, they know it will be created, and if it is something that appeals to them, they may just jump on board.

It’s crucial to fund your game as quickly as possible. Those projects that fund within 24 or even 48 hours have a much better trajectory and continue to pick up backers throughout the campaign.

So, there are 2 things you need to ensure before you launch:

  1. Your funding goal is reasonable and easily attainable
  2. You put a good effort into building an audience

If you have enough people just waiting to back your game when you launch, you will hit that funding goal quickly, and the result is more people will see your campaign. The more people that see your campaign, the more potential backers you will get.

That’s why building an audience is so critical.

Who is Your Audience?

Something you always want to be asking yourself as you’re developing your game and planning to self-publish is exactly who your game is meant for. You want to get as specific as you can here.

Don’t make the mistake of saying that your game is for everyone.

Will it really appeal to children, casual gamers, and hardcore hobbyists all at the same time? Is this even possible?

The truth is that if you try to make a game for everyone, you’ll be making a game for no one. It will become too complex for kids and casual gamers, while being too watered down for hardcore gamers.

So, figure out who your game would really appeal to and double-down on this. You’re much better off finding a small segment of people who will be ravenous fans of your game than making a game that everyone thinks is just ok. How many people are going to reach into their purses and wallets for a game that is merely “meh?”

So, who simply loves your game?

Families?

Solo gamers?

Couples?

People who like a good laugh?

People who are science nerds?

Rather than just considering age or sex, think about who would honestly love your game. What other games do they play? Who do they play with? What are their interests and hobbies?

The more you know about your audience and what they like, the easier it will be to make your game appeal to them and get it in front of them to play or at least learn about it and get excited.

Where Does Your Audience Hang Out?

Now that you know who your audience is and what they’re into, you need to find out where they are.

Do they attend gaming conventions?

Do they play board games online?

Are they part of a group (either in-person or on social media)?

If your game is about Greek Gods, look to see if there are any forums or groups dedicated to the topic. If it is a solo game (or a game with a solid solo mode), you’d better get active in the solo Facebook groups.

But don’t just join a group and start spamming about your game. A much better approach is to become part of the group by commenting on posts, asking questions, and generally showing interest in what other people are talking about.

After you’ve gotten involved in some conversations, then you can make mention of your game. You can just slip it in casually by saying something like “oh, I’m actually working on a game about that right now.” Then people will start asking questions and you’ll get some interest.

You can run polls, ask questions, share what you’ve been working on, and ask for thoughts and feedback.

But make sure to be genuine about it. Rather than posting notification links and asking people to sign up to your email list (which you absolutely should have set up!), you can let others ask you where they can find out more and you can share this with them by replying to their question. Only after you’ve started to see a good amount of interest should you post any direct links, saying that people here have been asking about this, so you thought you’d share.

Also, if you ask questions about art or different card styles, make sure to thank anyone who responds and take their feedback into account. Don’t simply be doing this for promotion. You want to generate conversations and get people engaged. Taking someone’s idea, implementing it, and letting them know how their suggestion made it into the game and made the game better as a result is a sure way to create a new fan.

You can even share your Kickstarter page and ask for feedback. This can increase the interest in your game, while allowing potential backers to give you some specific pointers on where your page can be improved.

For Relics of Rajavihara, I was active in multiple solo gaming Facebook groups (and I still am), I had an email list, an engaged Facebook Group, ran ads, and made sure people knew about my game well before it launched. This build-up definitely helped the campaign overfund.

Did everyone who saw something about my game back it? Of course not. Like any game (or any product for that matter), it won’t appeal to everyone. And that’s totally ok. Those who were interested were excited to be part of the campaign and it funded in just 4 hours. This was better than I had expected and I was quite happy that I had put the effort into building an audience well before I ever launched. This definitely paid off.

What methods have you seen creators effectively use to build their audience?

Please share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

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    Thanks again Joe, for this information. It’s like gold for all who want to run a Kickstarter. It is not my intention yet do start such a campaign, but I can tell from your story it is a huge experience! And when successsful gives a very satisfying feeling. Who knows….. 🙂

    My pleasure, Jan! There is a lot to learn and get right for your Kickstarter campaign, so I’m glad to share what I know.