Don't Fear the Reaper — Learn from Him!
[For the majority of my industry friends, my apologies for belaboring a point that is practically self-evident to those of us in the know. But I’ve got a lot of friends and family from OUTSIDE the industry who read this blog, and yesterday’s post really was for THEM. I don’t profess to have any profound insights that those of you who already are aware of Kickstarter and of the Reaper fund drive can’t draw on your own. If that sort of basic-level rambling bugs you, it’s probably best if you skip today’s post, too.]
Yesterday, I was talking in a general way about Kickstarter.com, the crowd-funding phenomenon. Today, I want to discuss what is, from my perspective, not only the third most successful Kickstarter campaign ever, but also a master class on how to plan, execute, and manage one of your own. I’m referring, of course, to the recently completed Reaper Miniatures Bones fund drive.
A few quick facts to begin with: Reaper Miniatures is a successful hobby game company. They were already an industry leader in metal and plastic miniatures. They had a great reputation, a tremendous existing fanbase, and years worth of knowledge about how to design, manufacture, and sell miniatures profitably.
In late July, Reaper kicked off (if you’ll pardon the pun) a fund drive designed to raise $30,000 to create sculpts and molds for 30 new miniatures in their Bones line. The rewards they offered, not surprisingly, were some of the minis themselves. By Day 2, they reached their initial goal. Over the course of the next month, the fund drive raised $3.4 million (more than 11,000% of their original target number).
That’s right. $3.4 million in less than 30 days.
How did they do it? Well, by having a quality product that people wanted. (Let’s never forget that important part of the equation.) But beyond that, the answer is with “stretch goals.” Those are expansions to the original project tied to new funding goals. For example, if Reaper promised 10 miniatures for their funders if they raised a total of $30k, a stretch goal might be increasing that to 15 miniatures per funder if their overall total reached $50k.
What stretch goals do is incentivize your backers to get more backers, because if the new goals are met then everyone’s individual package gets better.
At the start of the fund drive, someone who pledged $100 was promised 30 miniatures. Over the course of the month, Reaper set a series of stretch goals, and when each one was met, some number of additional minis were added to that package, so when the whole thing wrapped up, every person who pledged $100 was promised a grand total of 240 miniatures (paid for by the incredible growth in money raised).
Of course, it wasn’t as simple as just setting goals and waiting for money to roll in. Reaper did an amazing job of communicating with their fans and backers, spreading word to the broader fanbase, and making the whole project feel like a game itself. They used videos, photos, drawings, email, blog posts, online ads, and just about anything else you can think of. In sort, they ran a practically flawless marketing campaign.
So, what can the rest of us learn from Reaper’s Kickstarter campaign? While there are many lessons that could be gleaned from going back through the updates they posted over the course of the month (all of which can still be seen on the Kickstarter site), there really is one big take-away that everyone planning to do this kind of crowd-sourcing should use as the centerpiece of their efforts, no matter what platform they use:
Incentivize your backers to evangelize.
The key thing about Reaper’s stretch goals were that they always made the existing backers’ rewards more valuable. It was in the existing backers’ best interest to go out and get other people excited about the project. The more people they got to join in, the more rewards they reaped (pun intended).
Whether that improvement is additional items (as Reaper offered) or just improved quality (a color book instead of a black-and-white one, or a hardcover instead of a paperback), a good stretch goal makes a backer’s existing reward more valuable.
Of course, a GREAT stretch goal ALSO incentivizes the original backers to spend more money.
Reaper did THAT well, too, by adding in optional bonus figures that backers could order for a small additional fee. So while most stretch goals automatically added figures to the base reward, others presented special, oversized (mostly) figures that were previously not available anywhere. And a backer could choose to add those to his or her reward package by paying a little more money (which, in turn, bumped the whole fund drive closer to the NEXT stretch goal).
Truly, it was a masterful display of marketing, salesmanship, and customer relations. Over the course of a month, Reaper got people who rarely spend a dime on miniatures, to give them $100 apiece … and then MORE. I was engrossed the whole month, but especially the final few days when the total raised soared from $1.8 million to the final $3.4 as people from all over decided to jump on the bandwagon, and those already on decided to buy just one or two extra add-ons.
I’m sure I’ll be pondering this for months, and that’s okay. But more immediately, I’m trying to figure out how to make practical use of the information in my own Kickstarter.
Oh, did I mention that I’m planning to have a Kickstarter sometime soon? No? Well then, you’d better come back tomorrow so I can tell you all about it.