Failing at Kickstarter

How Lack of Momentum can Kill Your Project

June 23, 2018

When I launched my Kickstarter campaign for the Hidden Dreams Tarot, I thought that I had a good 20 people I knew who were interested, and that I'd be getting a review on a popular tarot site. I only needed 50 backers at $50 each - it seemed possible. Unfortunately, the review never happened, and I had overestimated the interest I had from people I knew.

Cancelled Kickstarter Campaign

The First 3 Days are the Most Crucial

Other Campaigns will show that Kickstarter Projects rely heavily on momentum - if you don't get a ton of activity right away, your project will languish. In fact, you should be ready to see 50% of your goal met in the first 2 days. Why?

  • Getting listed on the Kickstarter site itself. New projects with a lot of activity float to the top, so that those looking for projects to back can find the really popular ones, since algorithms assume that popular = what people want.
  • Being a 'Staff Pick' on the Kickstarter site can give you even better traffic - these are the projects that those who work at Kickstarter and see what works have decided is awesome. You only really have a chance at this if your project looks like it'll be a success.
  • Backer Psychology: user behaviour indicates that low numbers can be enough to prevent someone from pledging when they otherwise would have. If you don't start seeing high numbers early on, future potential backers will see a failed project, and move on.
This essentially means that you need to have half your goal basically met before you ever launch your project, and you have to make certain that your backers are ready to pledge the moment you launch (or as close to that as possible).

What I did Wrong

  • I overestimated my real world backers. It turns out lots of people will say they are interested, because they want to be polite, or whatever. Not everyone who shows interest will actually pledge.
  • I failed to stress the importance of pledging right away. The few real supporters I had kind of trickled in over the course of a week. Only one of them even shared a link in the first few days. The impact of a pledge or share plummeted each day.
  • Maybe my video must was terrible (lol) or my rewards weren't that great. I had an ad up, and it brought in a fair bit of traffic, but no bites. At this point, I'm actually at a loss as to what exactly I did wrong on the actual campaign page, only know that people came, looked, and left.
  • I wasn't as prepared as I thought I was to do the marketing. I had a lot of pictures ready to share on social media, and stuff to write, and I had ideas for advertising (I figured I'd do a little bit of advertising, but probably wouldn't need a lot). I'm not an advertiser, though, and I didn't look into that ahead of time. Facebook has very specific guidelines about ads that I didn't know about until the last minute - they don't like seeing text at all, and I had planned to use a fair amount of text.

To be fair, I largely used the Kickstarter to find out how much interest there would be - if I had fallen just a little short of funding, I would have done the print run anyway, confident that people would be willing to spend money on decks. As it is, I won't waste my money printing something I won't be able to sell. Either the product isn't something people want, or I don't have any reach towards the people who would buy it.

I definitely appreciate the experience of having done this - it forced me to get organized and really think about marketing and promotional material. I think the scariest part of the whole thing was making that video - I am not at all comfortable performing, hearing my voice, or seeing myself on camera. I practiced a lot, did a lot of takes, and edited other imagery in there to take the edge off a bit, but I was really eager to be done with it once I started shooting.

Next time I or someone I know wants to run a crowdfunding campaign, I'll be far more prepared - and hopefully you will, too, after reading this :)