Last week, we sent out our backer surveys to confirm shipping addresses with backers and get some other information from them. Part of these surveys included a quick marketing-related question: How did backers hear about Imperial Harvest and/or the Kickstarter page. We had about a dozen answers, ranging from simple word-of-mouth to demoing the game at a convention. At this point, about 80% of backers have responded, so we don't have a complete census, but we thought it would be interesting to look at a sample of the results we do have and see where our efforts paid off the best.
The Power of Kickstarter
One of the most striking statistics was how many backers came from Kickstarter itself. This isn't a huge surprise, as the point of Kickstarter is to attract backers you wouldn't otherwise be able to reach, but the sheer number was rather astounding. Of the 250 responses we samples, 136 came from "Browsing Kickstarter", roughly 54% of all backers. Add to that another 4% who reached our page from "Friends on Kickstarter who backed" and that's almost 3/5 of our audience.
The number was so large, actually, I double-checked that it wasn't simply a default answer that people were skipping over. It wasn't. People were actively choosing it. A lot of people were.
The takeaways from this are tricky. Putting yourself in front of Kickstarter browsers is about having a successful campaign that appears in search results. It's kind of a cyclical thing: If your campaign does well, you get views from backers. If you want to get seen by backers, you need your campaign to do well. It's also something you can't really buy or build a strategy around in and of itself. Because it dwarfed everything else in our backer results, however, I'm going to ignore it for the sake of the other tactics we used.
The Best Exposure Money Can't Buy
After the Kickstarter browsing, the next two biggest sources of backers were both grassroots efforts. The first was word-of-mouth, and next was messages the creators sent to their networks of friends, colleagues and other likely backers. These two combined made up 40% of the remaining backers. For those keeping score, that means that about 80% of all the backers came from unpaid sources: Kickstarter, word-of-mouth, direct sales and social media posts.
Money Well Spent
Now we get into the actual paid efforts. This is where more of the analytics comes in: if you're going to spend money on tactics, you want to know that you're getting a return on your investment. The two best returns on our investments were BoardGameGeek advertising and demoing the game at conventions. About 1 in 6 of our remaining backers came to our page from a BGG web banner. 1 in 8 had actually demoed the game.
Reviews didn't drive as much direct traffic. Only 7% of backers said that a review, preview or podcast influenced them to purchase the game. However, the legitimacy that comes with having a handful of reviews from known names in the board game community certainly added to backer confidence. As such, I don't discount the value of sending out review copies of games for a second.
There were a couple avenues we took that didn't pay off. BoardGameGeek wasn't the only advertising channel we used, but it was the only one that backers reported (even though we included others on our survey). Perhaps only BGG has enough traffic to convert impressions to sales, but advertising outside of BGG on smaller sites didn't show a return on investment.
Speaking of BoardGameGeek, the other major marketing investment we made was to sponsor a BoardGameGeek Contest. This was a substantial cost on our campaign's part, we invested more on it than most other marketing efforts combined. However, the contest was only responsible for about 3% of backers, plus another 6% who saw the game on the BGG Hotness. Assuming these numbers hold true for all backers and that these backers backed at the average amount, the contest only drew in about half its cost in funding.
Of course, we've heard of success stories with BGG Contests as well. Many sources recommended them, and perhaps our campaign was set up in a way that something unexpected happened. In our experience, however, the investment did not pay off.
Utlimately, we've learned that most of our backer support came from intangibles, that "viral" quality that makes things blow up overnight. After that, it comes down to getting the game in front of people or getting ads in front of a lot of people. All campaigns are different, of course, and your mileage may vary, but that's where we saw backers coming from for Imperial Harvest.