I had intended to do a post kickstarter examination of SSO but never got around to it, at least partly due to a feeling that I didn’t really know well enough what I did right and wrong to comment. Now that I have at least two projects to look at, running through and examining the campaigns I hope will be helpful for people. Usually these seem to come as post-mortem examinations of Kickstarters, but since ours both funded I'm calling them post-partum examinations. First off the basic stats for the two campaigns. The images below are screen grabs of the campaign stats that Kickstarter provide creators:
So side by side, Moonflight first each time.
Money Raised - £14,474 - £8,919
Percentage raised – 180% - 148%
Number of backers – 401 – 508
Average Pledge - £36.09 - £17.56
Aside from the numbers its worth noting the graphs, day one of SSO hit almost 50%, while Moonflight only just made it to 33%. End of day two and SSO was on 66% funded while Moonflight was on 48%. This would cause most people to assume that SSO was going to be by far the more successful project, which was clearly untrue, just look at the rest of the graphs. Moonflight had a clear and constant upward trajectory while SSO not only flatlined at several points but had actual dips. So why are each of those true?
Firstly, there was a huge difference between the standard level for SSO and its highest premium level. So the base level for SSO was £10 for UK backers, while its premium level for the original prototype was £300. The big dip around the 9th of June for SSO was that £300 level being cancelled. There were semi-premium levels at £50 and a level for the hand made original prototype at £100, these all sold out at the end of the campaign, but all had backers cancel and hop back on throughout the campaign. SSO had a steady stream of backers, but when someone would hop off a £50 level it could flatline the whole day, even when others came on to back.
Conversely, Moonflight had a base pledge level of £23 with levels rising through £27, £40, £43, £80 and topping out at £100. Not only did those £100 levels not actually get cancelled, but the more reasonable stepping meant that when the premium levels did suffer cancellations the day was still able to come out with a significant percentage raise. My best advice from this would be try to avoid having a top tier with a value more than four times or so of your basic tier, it just makes you too much a hostage of fortune.
On the subject of cancellations, SSO had roughly 100 cancellations from 600 backs, while Moonflight had around 70 from 500 backs. Not a huge difference percentage wise, though a better percentage for Moonflight overall, but I think that can probably be explained by the slightly higher price for Moonflight (slightly being £10, but equally that’s a doubling of the cost, so relatively quite major) meaning that people were a little more careful with their choice when backing it rather than the possibly more casual nature of SSO’s backing. What I do find significant is that of those 70 Moonflight cancellations 20 of them related to a single premium level, which was an initially limited pledge level for the game with a playmat. The premium level in question accounted for less than one eighth of all pledges but almost a third of all cancellations. I think this is because it was a limited pledge level and there are some backers who will claim a limited pledge in the first 24 hours, just to make sure they have the option available, then return to the project over the following days of the campaign to actually make their mind up. Now this is fine, every one of the cancellations were picked back up by other backers within a few hours, but it is phenomena to be aware of, for a few reasons. First of all, it’s a much better way of providing the initial boost that some people value from an early bird pledge level without creating artificial winners and losers between your own backers. Second of all, make sure that any mid-range premium pledges, particularly those that you set at relatively high levels of availability, have a price level that won’t mess too much with your percentages when cancelled. Lastly, try not to get too upset when they do get cancelled, if the campaign is going at least reasonably well they will get picked back up in moments, and the backer who manages to nab the last of the level will feel really chuffed that they got it. Its kind of nice that with cancellations multiple backers can feel like they nabbed the last of a set, so that’s a good way to look at those cancellations.
Other things to notice, on the day that Moonflight funded it got a 12% bump, which is a significant jump for the middle of a campaign, not to mention representing £960. On the day that SSO funded you’ll see the dial hardly shifted. I suspect that has to do with our social media presence, which I’ll get on to later. Both campaigns had strong responses over the last three days, but at different rates, both did well with 3 days remaining but Moonflight did better over 2 days left while SSO did better on the last day. Presumably the last day bump is from projects rising up the ‘time remaining’ page on Kickstarter, just as the first day is about being top of the ‘newest’ page. What I suspect then is that the better performance of SSO on the last day maps to its better performance on day one. For whatever reason SSO was better able to convert casual foot traffic on Kickstarter, while it looks like Moonflight was pulling in its own crowd.
On to the follower and video stats, again, Moonflight first:
Firstly, the SSO screen cap was taken a few days ago, over six months after the end of the campaign. I don’t think a huge number of video plays have gone on over those six months, but it is in theory possible. The SSO video was a live video of me talking about the game, filmed professionally at a cost of £500 and came in at 1 min 35 seconds. The Moonflight video was a basic animation with images from the game and written explanations of the basic elements, it cost about £10 and ran to 1 min exactly. The completed plays percentages are about the same, I’m not sure how relevant that percentage is, I assume people click off in the last second of most videos rather than letting it play out. I think the only way to really raise that percentage would be to make a video that cancels out without warning. The significantly greater number of plays for SSO does suggest that more people were passing through the SSO page, which goes towards the previous statement about its better first and last days, SSO was presumably better at pulling people in and converting them, while Moonflight had more people go directly to it and back. The followers and their conversion rates seem to follow this idea, so Moonflight had more followers because SSO just had people converting without becoming followers. Meanwhile Moonflight had a lower conversion rate but more people converting. In short, there aren’t many clear answers there, which given that one video cost £490 more than the other I’ll probably stick with the cheaper option. In the end the SSO video was fully one 12th of its goal.
Some things not visible on the list of stats. Firstly, the advertising for each of the campaigns was pretty minimal, for SSO it was a three-month run in a popular UK tabletop print magazine, for Moonflight it was a single online advert. The SSO ad was more than anything to make me more serious about my own deadline, and the Moonflight advert was simply a very reasonable price. The main thing I’ve concluded about advertising is that it’s a skill in itself and one which is both tricky and potentially very expensive to master. My best advice is that you do not need any traditional advertising to have a successful Kickstarter, our advertising contributed very little to our final success. Money poured into advertising certainly doesn’t translate automatically to end funding and unless you already know what you’re doing in this area either take real time to educate yourself (I haven’t) or leave it generally alone (I more or less have).
Secondly, the mailing list. This is something that some Kickstarter creators obsess over, and I understand why. In the years of development leading up to a Kickstarter picking up e-mails makes you feel like you’re working towards something and making progress. SSO had a mailing list of three names, Moonflight had a list of between 200 and 300. Which suggests a couple of things, firstly that you can fund with no mailing list, since SSO did. Secondly, the worth of a mailing list is not exponential, since Moonflight did sadly not do 100 times better than SSO. My current rule for mailing lists is, there’s no reason not to collect one, they’re generally free and if you’re at cons and such anyway (you should be) you may as well ask for e-mails from interested people, but do not spend time that you should be working on something else during or delay a launch in favour of a mailing list, they are not a magic bullet.
Thirdly, our social media presence. This is a big difference, for SSO we had our website, a boardgame geek page and a facebook group, all of which we were active on, but sporadically. For Moonflight we had all of that plus Instagram and Twitter, but importantly we were active on each of them constantly and consistently. Through the SSO campaign we were active on social media, but with Moonflight we had a specific campaign, a series of riddles connected to the game which would lead backers to a webpage that unlocked a stretch goal if it clocked up enough visits. By having that available for a series of updates and posts we were able to give a more connected series of posts at regular intervals. In the future I will, and would suggest to any other creators to have at least some form of pre-planned series of social media posts and updates. Fundamentally, social media is a free way of connecting to and interacting with potential backers which has a higher conversion rate than paid advertising. By keeping up a regular flow of posts including images and interactions we were able to significantly increase the overall trajectory of Moonflight's funding.
In conclusion, as always it is not necessary to have a high cost or complex campaign in order to successfully fund your Kickstarter. Striking illustrations, a clear game play hook and a solid community following on social media are all far more effective for bringing in backers. With time and effort a Kickstarter can fund with little or no specific budget for the campaign itself, even to a higher final total than for a page and campaign with money spent on it.