So Your Project Blew Up. Now What? (Part One)

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Many successful projects follow a pattern: first, there's an initial burst of excitement from backers in the few days surrounding the start of the project. After that, momentum slows down a bit, and the pledges steadily rise through the middle weeks of the project. Then, 48 hours before the end of the funding period, there's another burst of pledges as the people who opted to be reminded of the project's end return to the page.

But sometimes projects blow up quickly, reaching their goals many times over — often in no time at all. What should a creator do when the interest in their project is significantly larger than anticipated? How do they adjust their expectations on the fly?

Some of the projects below had pretty big goals, while some were smaller — but all of the creators reached at least 400% of their funding goals. We asked them to share what it was like and what (if anything) they needed to do to adjust.

Maurice Ribble, Electric Eel Wheel 

The Electric Eel Wheel, an electric spinning wheel that twists fiber into yarn
The Electric Eel Wheel, an electric spinning wheel that twists fiber into yarn

Early on we had to decide whether to succumb to the requests to add stretch goals. While very tempting, we knew if we started doing it, it would add risks to our schedule and pricing model. In the end, we decided the most important thing was to try and get our project done on time, and so we didn't add stretch goals. We were already more successful than we expected, so our priority was keeping our project expectations under control. 

To us, our reputation was more important than trying to get the most backers we could. There will always be the option to do future projects, and having a good reputation from past projects is a valuable asset for that future work. Trading off a few extra backers to manage expectations and make it more possible for us to deliver on time was worth it to us. We realize this is project specific, though: if we were assembling our products in a large factory that could handle larger volumes without delays, we probably would make different decisions, but we had decided early on to assemble this project locally.

Matt Fanale, Caustic

Industrial Music, an album by the band Caustic
Industrial Music, an album by the band Caustic

Although I thought my campaign could hit its goal fairly quickly (as this was my fourth Kickstarter), I didn't expect it to hit as fast or hard as it actually did. That sort of support means everything to underground artists, so I feel nothing but incredibly lucky that my hard work has paid off. As for what I had to adjust, I had to come up with what I always call "bonus levels": if I hit a stretch goal, I add more stuff to people's pledge levels. Since I didn't expect to hit as many of the bonus levels as fast as I did, I had to brainstorm a bit faster, but there are much worse problems to have. I'm grateful it went as well as it did and am looking forward to getting the album out and all the backer rewards out to the awesome people that supported the campaign.

Travis Peterson, Joker Greeting 

Joker Greeting, a birthday card that doesn't stop playing its annoying birthday song
Joker Greeting, a birthday card that doesn't stop playing its annoying birthday song

I would say we hoped for this response but did not anticipate it. My brother and I knew the project was a great idea, but we really weren’t sure how many people would agree with us. And really we knew from the beginning that Kickstarter would be the best place to test the market and gain the capital if it were successful.

We had to shoot some extra videos to support all the questions we were receiving. Those helped a lot. And then because we were so successful, we decided to make a company logo and do all the legal work to make it a real company during the campaign. We also launched a second product line. We started with the birthday card and only that, but ten days in we decided to test out a Christmas card and see the reaction to that. We didn’t sell nearly as many but it was good to get feedback in the moment rather than after the Kickstarter campaign.

Ray Chou, Skies of Fire

Skies of Fire, a limited comic series by Vincenzo Ferriero and Ray Chou
Skies of Fire, a limited comic series by Vincenzo Ferriero and Ray Chou

We thought we would do worse than our first Kickstarter so our final numbers were a pleasant surprise! This time around we came flying out of the gates with many of our previous backers supporting us. We incentivized them with a "72-hour special" where those same returning backers could receive a copy of our latest issue at-cost. That brought a lot of them back, but also lowered our margins. The average amount pledged for the first three days sat at $9 as opposed to the previous campaign's average of $26.

We were worried that the knock-on effect would last the entire campaign, and had to resist the urge to panic. When planning, we thought something like this might happen; we reasoned that the early number/low margin momentum would even out as the campaign progressed forward and the "early bird special" tiers closed, and the last day's bump would be significant because of the overall number of backers. Still, it's one thing to plan and another to see it happen, agonizingly pressing refresh, hoping that some generous backer would be the one to end the stall!

Our last week was massive. We made a significant amount more than we did the first three days, and our momentum actually started building five days out. In the end, we had an unusual campaign for our category (Comics), with $20,841 raised and spread over 907 backers. A comics campaign that ends with that many backers probably has a good chance to raise more, but our model was designed as low cost/high volume to attract new viewers. Since we're still at the beginning of the series we're looking to grow our audience as fast as possible, so we kept that in mind while designing our campaign and reward tiers!

Annabel de Vetten-Peterson, Death in Chocolate 

Specially cast and hand-painted chocolate bird skulls
Specially cast and hand-painted chocolate bird skulls

I have to admit, I had no idea what to expect from my Kickstarter project! I had no idea if people would even back me at all. I would have been happy to just reach my goal, but when that was reached within hours I was shocked! Happy, but shocked. And that's putting it mildly! I even opened a bottle of Prosecco to celebrate. 

Once the goal had been reached I didn't know whether to change anything, but as this was my first project, I didn't really know what the best thing to do was. So I just left it. As the amount went higher I considered adding extra rewards but I decided not to confuse myself! Then, when it went higher still, I was a little worried I wouldn't be able to deliver the rewards on time. Fortunately, I had set the delivery date a little further out than was entirely necessary — I had figured I would prefer to send them sooner than stated, rather than making people wait. That was the only thing I was worried about, but I know I will manage. The larger amount means a bigger tempering machine and more moulds. Being able to cope with the higher than expected number of chocolates to make for the rewards is exactly why I started the campaign in the first place! Perfect. In the end, I am glad I took my time creating the project and getting a few opinions from friends before publishing it, as I really didn't need to change anything. 

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    1. Karolina Domagala on

      This article was great. Case studies are the best to learn how to improve Kickstarter campaign.

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