Imperial Harvest Kickstarter Post-Mortem, Part 1

After thirty days of advertising, demo-ing, touring, holding contests and downright panhandling, the Imperial Harvest Kickstarter drew to a close last Thursday. We closed in at $18,377, 184% of our $10,000 goal. This was a tremendous success for our first crowdfunding effort, but there were also many lessons to take away as well.

This will be the first in a series of posts we’ll do about Kickstarter, as we get more detailed information and analytics from our campaign, but here is the first set of findings from our experiences, with a look at the raw numbers from our campaign.

Finding 1: The Bookending Boosts are Real

Stats vary, but many places will tell you that you make a third of your money in the first few days on Kickstarter, a third in the last few days and the remaining third in all those days in between. Some campaigns buck this trend with a steady flow of income throughout their campaign, but many, many campaigns see this same curve. The psychology behind it is that more people are spurred to back right at the ground floor or just before the window of opportunity closes.

What had the biggest impact on me was just how strong that final curve would be. On March 16th, with 2 days and a few hours left in our campaign, we still hadn’t quite reached our $15k stretch goal, the first of two character stretch goals backers had been voting on. Here at the company, we were all just hoping to reach $16k by the end so that none of our backers would be disappointed.

What actually happened was that by the next morning we’d already hit $15,000 and then continued climbing through 3 more stretch goals in the space of 48 hours. It was the strongest 3 days of funding since our first 3 days, and we actually made half of our money in the first two days and last two days of the campaign.

$18k and how we got there.

$18k and how we got there.

Finding 2: The Doldrums are Real, but You Can Stave Them Off

Projections and crowdfunding trends try to impart some sort of predictive knowledge about your campaign. The rules of thirds above is one of those things. Another is that if you can fund in 5-7 days (or, even better, the first 48 hours), you’ll avoid a mid-campaign slump. The psychology here is that people see the early success of your campaign, combined with the confidence that it’s already funded, and a steady flow of pledges comes in.

This was not the case for Imperial Harvest. While we funded in our first week, aided by a push for an extra character in the game (a “deadline” stretch goal) and the promise of a free prototype to one backer, once we funded, the flow of pledges turned to a trickle. After making $10,000 in 7 days, the next $2,000 took 5 days, and the $2,000 after that took 12. We’ll take a more in-depth look at why this was the case in a future post.

There was one positive takeaway from this, though. We actually saw the numbers start to flatten almost immediately on day 5, and while we weren’t able to avoid the mid-Kickstarter slump entirely, we did hold it off for a few days to help reach our funding goal, using a simple tool and a simple philosophy: Updates and Transparency.

Finding 3: Updates Work, Especially When You’re Up-Front

There are three ways that you can communicate with your backers during a Kickstarter campaign: the comments page, private messages and your Updates. The first two feel a little more organic, more like a forum or email. Updates are more like a marketing blast, but you know they’re hitting every backer, and you have more space and flexibility to craft your message.

As I said above, we noticed pledges start to trail a bit on about day 5. It made sense, we were no longer on the top of the new campaigns list and the weekend was hitting, when less people were on their computers looking for projects. So, we released a couple updates to our backers.

The first talked about one of our add-ons, PennyGems, and why were were offering them as part of the game. Like magic, we saw a huge surge in people upgrading their pledges to include a PennyGem pack or two with their games. Was it a selling move? Sure. But we were excited about the product, showed it in our update, and people responded.

Likewise, right after the weekend, we reached out again. This time, we were calling our backers to action, and we were up-front with them. We told them we were close to backing (about 80% of the way there at that point), but that we needed their help to keep the momentum going. We offered up a couple incentives, a prototype giveaway and an extra character to be added. We also explained exactly why we were so eager to fund within our first week. We explained the projections and the numbers, and asked for their help in encouraging new backers and reaching our funding goal.

We bore our souls, and again, the backers acted. By the next morning, we had hit our funding goal, and that momentum probably carried us to that first stretch goal within a week as well. We could have been one of those campaigns that teeters around 80-90% for weeks on end, but instead, we blew past our funding goal thanks to the excitement and support of the community that was building around Imperial Harvest.

This was not us, fortunately.

This was not us, fortunately.

Next time, we’ll talk about some factors that went into building that community, and how it helped make Imperial Harvest a success.