Within moments of launching your Kickstarter campaign, you will become inundated with spam. Marketers, third-party facilitators, printers… they all want to talk to you. But perhaps the most cringeworthy and pathetic of all of these is the request for a pledge swap.
The Big Plan
The Kickstarter Pledge Swap scheme works like this. You agree to pledge to the other person’s Kickstarter in exchange for their pledge to yours.
Kickstarter has no official stance on the Pledge Swap except to say that sending unsolicited messages through their service is against their rules. And, according to a Consumerist poll, pledge-swapping is overwhelmingly unpopular. (87% oppose it.) So, why is it still being attempted?
Some people claim that this tricks Kickstarter’s algorithm into perceiving your campaign as more popular. However, I think you’d need to exchange an awful lot of pledges to have that effect. And that would end up being awfully expensive (unless you ghosted on your swap partners at the last minute).
The truth is simple. If your strategy for pulling off a successful Kickstarter depends on pledge swaps, then you’ve failed already. Kickstarter’s greatest strength is in its function as free market research. If your Kickstarter doesn’t meet its funding, then you know that your product isn’t ready for the market (or vice versa). That’s valuable information. It’s information you should be eager to receive. And it’s information that you should be willing to act upon.
A pledge swap reeks of desperation and amateurism.
Kickstarter strategies that work
So, let’s talk about Kickstarter strategies that really work well.
THE PATREON SECRET LAUNCH
Dave Kellett shared this strategy during a recent episode of ComicLab. It’s very simple. You set up a number of Early Bird specials offering enticing rewards. For example, you might offer free shipping at these levels. These must be limited — only about 10-20 backers per reward.
And you alert your Patreon backers that you’re about to launch a Kickstarter and that you’ve set up rewards just for them. This is a bonus reward to their patronage. After giving your patrons advanced notice, you open your Kickstarter without a public announcement. Make it clear to your patrons — they have 24 hours to snap up the Early Bird specials. After that, you’re throwing open the doors.
Using this strategy, my Kickstarter earned nearly $2,000 in pledges in the first 24 hours.
And that got noticed by Kickstarter’s algorithm, placing my campaign in the Popular category, and boosting its prominence in internal Discovery mechanisms.
I can’t stress enough the importance of a good video. Two minutes — maximum. I’m a strong proponent of delivering the pitch in person. If you’re going to ask someone for money, you should have the courage to look them in the eye. But avoid posting a video that’s two minutes of talking-head blather. You should insert visuals of the product you’re Kickstarting — as well as rewards — too keep the video engaging and interesting.
And include subtitles! This is important to your potential backers who might have hearing issues — as well as those who are scrolling on their smartphones with the sound disabled.
Finally, learn how to do Kickstarter math.
The first step in running a successful Kickstarter is to correctly determine all of your costs. The rookie move is to determine the cost of the thing and set that as your goal. The seasoned Kickstarter campaigner knows that there’s a lot more than that! For example:
- Shipping all of the items from the vendor/printer/producer to you
- Shipping the individual items to your backers
- Shipping supplies — boxes, tape and padding, etc.
- storage for the merchandise
- insurance for the stored merchandise
And… if you’re smart, you’ll building a buffer for all of the little things that always come up. Whatever my rough goal is, I usually add in an additional 1-2% for incidentals.
Just remember to keep your receipts on all of those costs. Kickstarter income is taxable income. This is especially important to remember in the happy circumstances of running a campaign that goes beyond the goal.
Once you have your total costs, use this formula…
COSTS / 0.90 = GOAL
Or, simply worded, take your total costs, and divide that number by 0.90.
That will give you a final goal that is large enough to cover those total costs after 10% is deducted by Kickstarter.