Maybe you’re thinking about running a crowdfunding campaign – where do you start? There are a hundred websites and guides which count down the steps to successful crowdfunding, but what about the abstracts, such as building community and engaging with them?
We sat down with veteran crowdfunder Jamey Stegmaier, head of Stonemaier Games and author of A Crowdfunder’s Strategy Guide: Build a Better Business by Building Community, to talk a little bit about his new book, social strategies and approaches and how communication – and community – is king.
Sure! My name is Jamey Stegmaier, and I’m the co-founder and president of Stonemaier Games. We make strategy games like Viticulture, Euphoria, and Between Two Cities. I also write a blog about crowdfunding—I’ve used Kickstarter to fund the first print run of all of our productions—at www.kickstarterlessons.com, and I wrote a book to help other creators called A Crowdfunder’s Strategy Guide: Build a Better Business by Building Community.
My crowdfunding blog—which I’ve written since funding Viticulture on Kickstarter in 2012—focused on tabletop game projects for a while, and most creators in that space are aware of it. But there are so many other things that people can create via crowdfunding! I was contacted by an agent who saw the potential for a book to reach a much wider audience and help more people than the blog, so I decided to write such a book.
Really, I just want to help other creators—those who are actively creating and those who want to create something, but need a little nudge. Also, I think the core principle in the book of putting other people first (which has a hugely positive impact on the long-term business) is a message worth sharing.
It was different. While I try to write the blog in an accessible way, it’s very mechanical and step by step. I wanted the book to read more like a story. So at first I focused on my story, and over time I added more and more stories from other creators. I still borrowed a lot of my lessons learned for the book, though—they’re just expressed in a different way. And yes, it was tough to write the book and run the company at the same time! I can’t imagine doing that right now.
I think crowdfunding has had a significant hand in the booming board game industry. It’s put games in front of millions of people who didn’t realize how popular games are. I think popularity gives us permission to do something we’ve always wanted to do, and most people like to play games (in some form—not necessarily board games). A Kickstarter page clearly conveys popularity—or lack thereof—to people who otherwise have no idea how a product sells.
Exactly, you summed that up really well. Let’s see, 3 most important avenues:
That’s very true. In the board game space, there’s an amazing website called BoardGameGeek. I love board games, and I should have been involved on that site for a long time. But I wasn’t. However, those with whom I did communicate were bloggers, and that made a big difference on my first campaign.
This is a tricky question. I know the answer, but I don’t want to assume that the creators are purely in it for the “wrong” reasons. Basically, if your pledge levels aren’t compellingly and fairly priced, that’s a little bit of a red flag to me. Every creator has the right to make a profit, but there’s a fine line between profit and greed. So it’s not really about perception in this case—it’s about pricing.
Sure, plenty of successful campaigns have implemented strategies. That doesn’t make those strategies good, though. 🙂
Here’s the deal: A crowdfunding campaign is an early-bird reward. It’s a condensed amount of time during which a backer gets the best version of the thing at the best price. Imagine if there’s a campaign for an awesome thing that you really want, and you discover it the day after the campaign ends. It sucks, but the campaign was live for 30 days, and you missed it. So maybe you go to their website and pre-order the product at an extra expense. But imagine that you discover a campaign while it’s still live on Kickstarter, and it’s only the second day, but you already missed the best price? That really sucks. You’re just as much a part of the success of the project as someone who discovered it a few hours earlier, but you’re already paying more for it than they are. As a creator, I would never treat my backers that way. Instead of treating some backers better than others, I’d rather compel people to back the project on day one by creating something awesome, presenting it in an awesome way, and building a crowd in advance so we have a big launch day.
I think this goes back to what I was saying about crowdfunding being a way to show non-gamers that a lot of people are actually buying and playing games. If you discover a project that’s raised $200,000 from 5,000 people, it’s going to catch your eye a lot more than a project that is 7% funded with 52 people. As for urgency, I think the limited timeframe of a project plays a role in inspiring people to support a project right away instead of waiting.
Absolutely. Building a buffer into your budget is never a bad thing, because you’ll almost always need it. As for the involving the backer community in the design process—thus building a strong, loyal fan base and a better product along the way—I think the key is to launch the project with a 95% finished product, and leverage the crowd to complete that final 5%. Just make sure you know what that 5% is, because once the crowd starts to pick away at the 95%, you’re in trouble. 🙂
If a campaign creator isn’t interested in creating content of any kind, crowdfunding is going to be really rough on them! I’d say this: We all have our preferred way to communicate. Figure out what that is and connect it to online content creation: blog, Facebook page, podcast, or YouTube channel. Once you figure out which one is best for you, the key is to create something. Don’t wait until you have a brilliant idea or inspiration or until you buy all sorts of equipment and domain names and graphic design and all that. Just turn on your microphone or webcam or free WordPress blog and create something. The biggest barrier is that first step.
Sure! That was one of the best days of my life.
The key takeaway from my book and my experiences is that you are your own gatekeeper. That’s 5 words! If you have a burning desire to create something, the tools and platforms are now available for you to do so as long as you take the first step to actually start creating. Good luck!