The Board Game Design Course

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Kickstarter Lessons: Your pre-launch campaign can never start soon enough

Last week we talked about why building your audience is such a crucial step, which is a great segue into this week’s Kickstarter lesson: Why your pre-launch campaign can never start soon enough.

As mentioned in the last article, it is critical to have enough people not only in the know about your upcoming game but also super-excited about it – enough that they want to back your game as soon as your project goes live (and maybe even push for that coveted backer #1 spot). You want to be confident that your game will fund on day 1 (or day 2 at the latest) so that more backers will want to join in and push your campaign to the next level of success.

How you do that is by building your audience through a pre-launch campaign.

As soon as you hear the word “campaign”, you may think of thousands of dollars being thrown around and spent on ads, promotions, and giveaways, but the bulk of what you do in your pre-launch campaign will be organic, which can definitely cost you time, but may only cost you little or no money.

Sure, ads can help and can often be very effective if done right, but they are only one part of the equation.

That’s why you have to get your game out in front of as many people in your audience as you can before you launch without blowing your budget.

When Should You Start Your Pre-launch Campaign?

There’s a Chinese proverb that I’ve heard a lot and it goes like this:

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”

This relates really well to your pre-launch campaign as well. It doesn’t matter if you have all your art and gameplay finalized 100%. You need to let people start knowing about your game as early as you can.

If you’re planning on launching your game on Kickstarter at some point in the future, start promoting it now.

Realistically, you want to be talking about your game at least 3 months prior to your launch, especially if your game is relatively unknown right now. Six months for your pre-launch is better, and one year is even better than that.

It doesn’t have to be a daily thing (and shouldn’t be until about a couple of weeks before hitting launch), but you can start by posting something every week or two to start generating interest in your game.

How to Start Your Pre-launch Campaign

You want to share content with others that will get them excited about your game. Go to the places where your audience hangs out (for ideas, look back on last week’s article) and engage with them there by first becoming part of that community.

It doesn’t have to be (and really shouldn’t be) done in a spammy kind of way. Instead, try to be natural. Talk about how your game is developing, where the inspiration for your game came from, images showing how your game has evolved from an early prototype to where it is now, events where you’re demoing your game, art that has just come in, an interview you had about your game, or other similar games and how they inspired your creation.

The sky’s the limit.

As you talk more about your game and its origins, you will see which pieces resonate with people and get them talking, and which ones don’t generate as much interest. Focus more in the direction that leads to more engagement.

Build a Facebook group to discuss progress and get people talking about your game and what excites them about it.

Create a landing page and direct anyone who wants to learn more about your game to this page so that they can sign up for your newsletter. Give them some incentive to do so, such as a free print and play version of your game, an entry into a giveaway of your game, or something else that will bring more people in and get them excited.

Also, start working on your Kickstarter page. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have that much to add yet and that you’re just using placeholders for a lot of the sections.

The main thing you need is one interesting eye-catching image that shows off your game well. Use this for your Kickstarter notification page. You can start directing anyone on your email list or in your Facebook group here to click the link to be notified when you launch. Continue to direct people here, but prioritize your email list, which will allow you to connect with people easier and ask them for micro commitments like joining your Facebook group and clicking this notification button.

About 2-4 weeks before your launch date (or earlier if you have the budget), you can start running ads if you choose. Facebook is known to be the most effective place to run Kickstarter board game ads, however, other options exist, including Boardgamegeek (BGG), Kicktraq, Twitter, and other platforms.

What’s the best pre-launch campaign you’ve seen that really got you excited about an upcoming game?

Please leave a comment and let me know!

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