What did you do to get through your project's "plateau"?
I think most creators would say that this is the hardest part of the project — when you're a week or two into the project and activity begins to dwindle.
This is consistent phenomenon on projects, and web content in particular. (Go to this old Kickstarter blog post I wrote and search for "the trough" to find a graph that illustrates the effect.)
So what did you do to get through your plateau period? Were you able to take actions that drove more activity than might have been expected? Inquiring minds want to know!
I'm seven-for-seven with regards to successfully funded Kickstarters, now, and I've developed a routine.
- Announce the project at least a month beforehand. I sometimes start promo six months to a year beforehand! Let Twitter, tumblr, Facebook, Instagram- wherever you have an established audience- know you're planning this.
- I maintain a mailing list of ~5,000 folks who already know and like my stuff. I incentivize subscribing to the list by making sure everyone knows I'll be announcing the exact launch date of the KS there, so folks who want limited edition backer levels can get first dibs. (This also helps create the important first-day push for the project.)
- I launch the KS, tell the mailing list, and then inform social media. The first-day push commences.
- The initial excitement for the project has cooled by day three or four, in my experience. That's when I send out the press releases. I target blogs and reviewers who are already interested in my project's theme, or my general output. For the next week or so, I rely on promo from those outlets for bumps in interest, along with occasional social media reminders. I try to tweet about any Kickstarter I'm running at least once a day, preferably with images. I find reasons to talk about it. "We're just one pledge away from $1,000!" "Eek, who wants to be backer 666!?!" "Look, we're at $45,000! what a nice, round number." etc.
- Day three or four is also when I announce/decide on stretch goals. How fast the project is funding is a big deciding factor in those; I've been caught out before making stretch goal graphics for goals the KS hit while I was playing around in Photoshop! Announcing the stretch goals give people reasons to keep promoting/pledging to the project, and i favor goals that would benefit everyone involved for that reason.
- This will hold me until the halfway point of the project. If I think the project needs it, I do another round of promotion. If things are humming along smoothly, I hold back. It's important not to cross the line into annoying people.
- After all this, when the KS enters its final week? I play it by ear. Does it need more attention? Does it need more aggressive promotion? Should I bother the mailing list again? Should I post an update about my new project in past Kickstarters? It varies from project to project, but when the countdown clock tics over into hours instead of days, that's always the beginning of the final big push from me. if I'm lucky, I've calculated a final stretch goal that can be feasibly reached on the last or second-to-last day; that keeps excitement high.
If I do everything correctly, the project gets a respectable number of pledges every day. And while they'll always drop off after the first few initial days, I still experience promo-related bumps all throughout the campaign's slow, plodding middle.
For my own small-scale project, the plateau was certainly expected, but nonetheless worrisome. As a first-time project creator, I went through all of the classic feelings of rejection:
- Is it me?
- What am I doing wrong?
- Why doesn't anyone like me?
Once I recovered from my plateau-induced depression, I took a long look at my project. I had several mid-season interviews and Q&As lined up beforehand (John Rap gives great advice here, folks!), but I was still worried about the lack of activity on my project. After considering my options, I reached out to my manufacturer Jason Witten, and he gave me some advice that turned everything around...
Tell the Germans!
My project was a niche role playing game, and I was marketing it as such. I reached out to table-top players, braved the depths of role playing blogs, and lurked about in the darkest corridors of every pen-and-paper forum I could find. What my manufacturer's advice did for me was open my eyes to an aspect of my own project I hadn't even considered: The Dice.
While I had been feverishly pounding the pavement looking for people who loved role playing games, I hadn't considered the surprisingly massive crowd of collectors out there who simply love to find random, strange, or unique dice. Number one on that list was Dice Maniacs' Club, a German-based dice collecting group. As soon as I introduced myself and my project's custom dice to them, my project went from +/-60% funded to +/-85% funded in a matter of hours. Over half of my mid-range pledge backers are dice fanatics who probably wouldn't give a strudel about the game itself!
Now while the above example is very specific to RPGs and custom-made dice, I see it as a lesson in marketing - one I won't forget any time soon. Sometimes when you're in a slump, you need to Tell the Germans - in other words, you should take a good long look at your project, and try to figure out if there might be some part of it which possesses appeal beyond your intended market.
This applies to pretty much everything you might put on Kickstarter, from food to crafts to works of fiction and technology - someone, somewhere out there is going to look at your project quite differently than you, and see treasure in the places you might not have thought to tell them about. See your project from their eyes, and you might just discover a whole new market for your product - one that gets you over your own plateau period.
Fight. And fight hard. - As there is no 1, magic answer, Yancy, here are a few good ideas.
Engage your current backers. They're your best workforce of lovesharing. Ask them, poignantly and respectfully, to share the campaign word of mouth with friends with the same interest, on facebook, on twitter, instagram, and any specific forums you know they're probably members of.
Then hit the pavement. ...err, keyboard. Email blogs, (again), email news agencies that specialize in your genre or product, post on those forums yourself, and find new ways to spread the word. Stumped? Google something, anything, and put the word "blog" or "forum" after it. You'll find something. No one place is going to get you out of the plateu, only hard work and continuing relentlessly every few days to find new places to contact and spread the word to. Some will ignore you, some will say no, some will say sure, some will be excited! Great. Take each response as a sign that you're doing something right (or wrong) and adjust accordingly for the next round of emails.
We also support cross-promotion with other like minded projects. Careful though, some are meany-heads and will report you as spam for asking honest questions. - Some people are silly. Brush them off, assuming their dog died earlier today and they're really upset and took it out on you, forgive them, and walk on. : )
I for one, don't believe in the "mid campaign slump". I'm yet to see it, because I fight against it.
Best to you all, and Happy & Blessed Easter!
p.s. Amazing backing stats, Yancy!
I have a radically simple answer. Shorter campaigns!
My first was 30 days. It did well, but chugged in the middle. I found it agonisingly long, but then I ran it full time.
My second was 21 days and still had a bit of plateau in the middle. Again, I worked it full time.
I think my third will be shorter, something between 14 & 21 days. In theory, 14 days should work great. We'll see if I'm brave enough to cut it down to 14 next time.
The other thing you can do is make sure you have worthwhile things to say and put out an update from time to time. I've seen some first class updates on KS campaigns and strive for mine to be works of art.
I also think it's worth doing the best you can to log and track your campaign. Things like KickTraq are OK, but they only give you one data point per day, which is hopeless. I wrote my own tracker, which gives me data at 5-minute intervals, so i know the exact impact of each "activity" from the graphed output. With the internet, you have this capability, so you should try to use it where possible.
Days 11-14 were slow. The campaign was moving, but after making funding in the first 3.5 hours, those days seemed positively pedestrian. :)
Update July 2016: I finally struck up the courage to do a 7-day campaign and I hit it really hard with everything I had on day 1. It worked well and I think I'll be doing it again at some point. It's not right for every campaign, but for this particular project it worked really well.
My experience has been that you have to create a reason for people to take action during those weeks. My first campaign was in 2012, and yet, the "matching funds" promotion we did then continues to hold as a very effective "get up off the couch" solution for getting people to take action after the initial buzz wears off and before the urgency of the last week kicks in. We had lots of people who said they would back our campaign, but they hadn't done it yet. So we approached a few that we thought would donate at a higher reward level and asked them to put their donations up as "matching funds" for a 48 hour period. Not only did it get those people who said they would help us to take action, but it created urgency in the middle of the campaign, inspiring others to "get up off the couch" and back the campaign right then rather than waiting until the end or not at all. This technique won't work for all campaigns, but the basic concept of creating a reason for action mid-campaign is the key. The more creative and relevant to your campaign the better. -Kathleen
Plateaus are certainly normal... and happen for ~3 basic reasons:
1) You've exhausted your friends & family contacts (everyone who would pledge already has)
2) You've exhausted the 'regulars' who frequent your category
3) Your project is 'aging'... getting pressure from new daily arrivals with fresh friends & family pledges, getting pushed down the list on the 'recently launched' page
We learned (on 6 projects) that the only answer is to bring in new 'outsiders' that you drive to your project page either by the 'free' route by hitting the tip lines on blogs on a daily basis (many here have detailed that) or by paying a PR firm with experience in your product area to do the work for you. Agencies can sometimes be more effective since they have close relationships with the blogs you might need and can assure placement.
Stats: it takes us about 200 friends (or about 400 'impressions') to yield 1 pledge - you need to get in front of a lot of people!
I was thinking the same thing just this morning. I consider the middle interview season. Kickstarter will give you a bounce at the beginning and the end of the project. In the middle it's time to hit the blogs. At least that's the best idea I've come up with. I'm going to watch this thread for more ideas.
My current strategy is this:
Beginning: Get feedback and support from Kickstarter regulars
Middle: Hunt and peck for niche groups outside of Kickstarter that might be interested in the project
72 Hours Left: Offer reward upgrades to the folks already on board
The plateau was a terrible time period to endure. It is necessary to remain very active even if you do not see an immediate return. I worked to galvanize my existing supporters to urge their own friends to support the project. I also took steps at the very beginning to enlist blogs to cover the project during this middle, dry time which helped during the final week.
We came in to our project knowing about the dreaded plateau, so came up with a couple of options
- We set up a faux deadline 3/4 of the way through : We asked backers at a specific reward level to submit ideas for a Kickstarter specific theme for our card game, and made the deadline the first week. During the second and third week anyone that had backed the Kickstarter could vote on the suggestions that were made. We did it this way so people could get their friends to back and vote as well. It was interesting because there was a LOT of shuffling around of rewards once it was announced. That also meant that we were in contact constantly explaining where the voting was going.
-We also did podcasts in the meantime
- Locally we have a very robust board game community, so we tried to hit as many board game nights as we could
- I made faux deadlines with percentage of complete; I'd tweet or update if we were close to something and see if we could hit the deadline by the end of the day. It worked most of the time, but I don't have data if it was me or if it was just people backing :)
All in all, the key is to stay SUPER ACTIVE during the plateau so people remember it's still around. Definitely schedule specific events during it so you can get a new spike of people aware of the project.
I am in the midst of a mid-project trough myself. I lined up conventions and pound the pavement. I also try to line up a form of outreach (radio ad, news article, convention, etc.) every day to keep momentum. Also, project updates are nice!
I appear to have multiple plateaus in my Burnt Weapons Rubber Band Guns project. To get over the first, I landed an interview on a local news talk radio. To get over the second, I used a paid backer group service, BackersHub. Both gave me significant boosts (8-15% each) but now I have just reached another plateau.
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