Sales: A Numbers Game of Rejection and Perseverance

Sales may be a game of numbers, but for some (like me), it can be an even greater test of emotional fortitude in the face of nearly certain rejection.

tumblr_oo7plv54tF1rt7qgbo1_500It’s 2017 and I’m selling paper. Seriously. It’s not exactly like The Office, but pretty damn close. I am selling a “service” that nearly all businesses still need in one minor capacity or another, despite the prevalence of digital media in today’s marketing and advertising landscape: business cards, brochures, invoices, envelopes and letterhead, but also banners, apparel, signs, even yacht sales and every door direct mailing. If you can print on it, we can do it for you. Full service, all that Jazz. Now when somebody smugly says, “Okay salesman, sell me this pen,” I respond with, “that particular pen has 1.6 miles of ink inside of it. That’s a lot of deposit slips.”

I’m no stranger to outside sales. As I child, I sold lemonade and wrapping paper to my neighbors. In middle school, I sold custom burned CDs with original artwork. In college, I lived in my best friend’s guest bedroom and sold framed artwork door-to-door. At 19, I started a record label and sold compilation CDs through a network of “street teamers” and an obsolete web storefront. In Australia, I sold Vodafone upgrades door-to-door in residential neighborhoods. I sold circus school memberships in San Francisco and cedar beehives in Portland. Now I’m selling spiral bound manuals, wedding invitations, and high school graduation tickets. But this sales job seems different somehow. Lately I’ve been thinking… is this the job I’ve been avoiding my whole life?

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Offset Press

I bound into work each morning with an absolutely unwarranted level of energy and enthusiasm, not only because you can still pick up the “new car” smell on me but also because, until just recently, I was the youngest employee by more than two decades. On top of that, I also happen to be the only homo sapiens in the office that drinks coffee at work. I had to beg the Production Manager to get us a five-cup coffee pot… and I have to provide my own coffee! (I know! Vietnam, right?) So I beeline over to my desk and sign in to the ever important “time clock.”

My daily responsibilities are predominately divided into two categories: inside sales calls (and database updating) and deliveries with a round of outside sales in the form of door knocking. I know! It keeps getting better and better, right? Totally. After the quick “work in progress” (“whip”) meeting, I settle down with my spreadsheet of “warm” contacts (specific to my territories) and I get to calling numbers. These contacts are every customer in our branch’s database, broken out by area code. I’m also given their last date of purchase, which often times is more than a decade ago.

If I’m relentless and meticulous with my notes, I can knock out around 20 calls over the course of an hour. Yep, that’s right, because most of the calls go like this…

Me: “Hi, how’s it going?
Receptionist: “Umm… good.”
Me: “May I speak with [some name], please?”
Receptionist: “Can I ask who’s calling?”
Me: “Chris from [blah, blah, blah, here’s my pitch about “winning back your business!” There’s absolutely no opportunity for them to talk.]”
Pause…
Receptionist: “I’m afraid she’s unavailable, may I transfer you to her voicemail?”
Me: “Sure, that’d be wonderful. Thank you so –
Click… BEEP.
Me: “Chris from [blah, blah, blah, here’s my pitch about “winning back your business!”

“It’s a numbers game,” they tell me. What they really mean is, “you’re going to be rejected a ton, but don’t worry, because it’s all part of the job. You can’t take it personally.” I wasn’t really sure what that meant, but as I have been dealing with varying degrees of rejection and failure a bit more lately, I figured it would be no big deal. Oh yeah… did I mention my salary is 100% commission based. So I’ve got that going for me, which is great. Enjoy!

For the sake of transparency and to alleviate boredom, I crunched the numbers on all my sales calls yesterday, and they broke down into the following categories.

Voicemails: 46
Receptionist Messages: 12
Disconnected/Closed Business: 6
Not Interested: 6
Email Follow Up: 8
Recently Deceased: 1 (Yes, you read this correctly. She was crying on the phone to me that the person I was attempting to reach had just died.)
New Clients: 3
Total: 82

tumblr_omxs677zA81rt7qgbo1_500As I mentioned earlier, an additional part of my sales job is “door knocking,” where I go to the business around one of my clients (presumably after delivering a batch of scratch and sniff door hangers) and give them some free stuff (with my business card stapled to it) while seeing if I can get an item to quote for them. No Soliciting signs don’t mean shit, apparently, because I’m offering a “free quote,” I’m not actively selling anything… per se. The owner says he’s delivering “gifts” in the form of a calendar and some other branded stuff. I’ve circled my birthday in every calendar I give out.

Lucky for me, that part doesn’t last all day (although I’m sure Corporate wishes it did). In fact, most days I’m on my way home by 3:30 PM. When I get home, I descend to my garden-level suite to catch up on the Mystery Tin brand, whether it’s my screenwriting, affiliate marketing, the email newsletter, or the Happy Hour! game development. Mystery Tin is my night sales job, the only one that really matters.
During the Kickstarter campaign for Happy Hour!, I sent out personal emails to 170 of my friends to check out the campaign and take advantage of the special deals. Sales. Unfortunately, those emails only resulted in five backers, but perhaps more impactful than that, not a single person responded to the email itself. It took me hours to draft and write an email to each one of those people individually, informing them about the fun, new project I am super passionate about, but it was met with crickets. Nada. But wait… this is par for the course, right?

last-callAllegedly “consistency is king” and it requires around seven communications in order to close a deal (blah, blah, blah), but sales is a necessary evil of business. Passion projects and business forms alike, consistency delivers results and that requires blind perseverance and consistency. I can’t spend my time stewing about the rejections, I need to keep showing up. I could (and occasionally do) go back through the MailChimp “unsubscribes” from my monthly newsletter, letting each person occupy my thinking with anger and frustration (fuck those guys!) but why spend time looking backward at the 11 who unsubscribed versus the 600+ readers who are still signed up? (No but really, why would you unsubscribe from a once-a-month email newsletter? If you don’t want to hear from somebody only once a month, you’re basically telling me to fuck off.)

Taking rejection is really hard when you’re passionate about what you’re doing, which is why I’ve always taken things so personally, because I’ve always done my best to avoid doing jobs I wasn’t particularly passionate about. Music, circus, bees. This job doesn’t feel like the others, it’s different. It’s uninspired. I’m not passionate about the product. I’m not (that) passionate about the process. But I am invested in my coworkers. So I guess the real struggle is determining if that is enough to keep me here, doing what I’m doing in this outside sales position, door knocking and cold calling?

We’ll have to wait and see.

CHE

Kickstarter Postmortem: Redefine Success

Over the course of February, I ran my fifth, creative crowdfunding campaign, this time for Happy Hour!, a sequencing card game based on the concept of bartending and making mixed drinks. The drinking game was created in partnership with Walker Cahall, a graphic artist out of Portland, Oregon, but more importantly, a longtime friend. Our goal for the campaign, only lasting 28 days, was to raise $6000 dollars. The campaign ended up raising a total of $6117, or 102% of our goal. While this looks to be a successful campaign, there was much to learn.

This is a public postmortem in hopes that others may learn from our mistakes.

Where We Excelled:

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Artwork. Walker Cahall (Waltronic) is an absolute professional, and the best thing we did for our campaign was to showcase Walker’s artwork in it’s many forms. We had a handful of Recipe cards and a few more Ingredient cards ready by the launch, but one of the best parts of our campaign came when Walker volunteered to make these tiny animations to support the campaign.

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These animations were immensely popular with our followers and on social media. When we shared these images and animations with the proper tagged (i.e. #whiskey), we started to gather the attention of distilleries and alcohol brands. Although these “likes” and “follows” would prove to be of little benefit to the Kickstarter campaign, but we do believe the future of the Happy Hour! card game lies in creating partnerships with a handful of these brands. (More on this later!)

Facebook Marketing. We decided that based on the crisp, graphic design of the game, and Walker’s amazing animations, we would run some “experiments” in targeted Facebook and Instagram advertising. We boosted posts and created campaigns. We spent approximately $75 on Facebook advertising with an average CPC of around $0.57/click.

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Not without surprise, we did run into some issues when it came to marketing the game on Facebook. First, there are regulations on the amount of text that can be in a featured image or video. A lot of the animations indicated what percentage of our goal we had achieved (25%, 50%, and cheers!) and some other cute animations, but ultimately, we were only able to run a few of them as campaigns, and a few were hobbled from the beginning.

Advertising Alcohol to Minors? Another interesting issue we ran into was the concept of the card game in relation to it’s content of alcohol. Alcohol is the theme of the game and consuming alcohol is not a requirement to play (although optional and *highly recommended*). Our goal is not to promote binge drinking, but rather, educate players on a dozen mixed drink recipes they may not have known before. One of our prime demographics for this game would be college kids, but many of those college kids are under the age of 21. There are laws that prohibit advertising alcohol to minors, but that’s now what we’re doing, we’re promoting a card game!

Is it okay for college freshmen (soon to be drinking age) to play a game that teaches them the proper portions for cocktails? 

Play Testing. We play tested this game in excess of 25 times with friends, family, strangers, and while live streaming from various drinking establishments. We had a review sheet that we asked everyone to fill out after playing, asking them to elaborate on their favorite parts of the game and the areas that need improvement.

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Thanks to these play tests, I can tell you that Happy Hour! is (without a doubt) 25x more fun now than it was when we first created the game. The more we play tested, the better the game became. While this is outwardly a good thing, it may have also been a major hinderance to our success. (More on this later, as well.)

Where We Underperformed:

We knew we were being aggressive in launching the campaign when we did. We knew that our game would be educational and beautiful, but we wanted to put the concept out into the world to see how many would be interested in getting a card game about bartending. We were hoping the Kickstarter would be both a proof-of-concept and a digital storefront all wrapped into one… because that’s the ideal outcome for a game like this.

Kickstarter Page at Launch. We looked at a handful of Kickstarter Pages of successful games similar to ours, specifically card games. (In retrospective, this part of the research may have been too thin.) There is a massive market for games on Kickstarter (over 500 live projects and millions of dollars raised). We did our best to structure the Kickstarter in a similar manner to how their pages were organized, hoping to emulate their success.

There were a few areas in particular where we fell short,

Gameplay. A majority of the successful games on Kickstarter not only have elaborate gameplay instructions and supporting images, but they also have a video of someone demonstrating the different methods of gameplay. We originally started with an infographic, but we took it down once we had changed the gameplay beyond similarity.

With Happy Hour!, we were still working out the best method of gameplay. We knew the “bartending theme” was sound and the concept of assembling ingredients was a fantastic base for a competitive card game, we just wanted to make sure that the gameplay was the perfect balance of entertainment and educational (how many recipe cards are on the counter? how many ingredients are in the bar? should we take more than one? can you play a drink a shot on the same turn? how many alcohols are required to use the “make it a double” card?), so rather than locking in on one method of gameplay, we intentionally left it vague. Ultimately, the lack of specificity in how the game is played most likely played a major role in our lackluster performance.

Rewards. An effective use of your reward tiers can help alleviate a lot of the stresses and the simple math of getting your campaign funded. I’ve experimented with these in differing degrees in my previous campaigns and Happy Hour! was no exception.

We started with just three tiers: Early Bird ($25), Happy Hour! ($30), and the Poster Pack ($65). Each one of these categories included shipping, but on face value, they seem really high, especially for a game that consists of just cards. If I could go back, I would include shipping additional, and drop all the prices by $5. $20 feels like a deal, and $25 feels like the right price for Kickstarting a game.

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We were just hoping to sell the game and maybe make a little money on top with the posters, but ultimately, we didn’t sell out of either the Early Bird or the Posters level, so we added another tier above and below. For $5, you can get some drink coasters with Happy Hour! artwork on it (may be CNC’d or printed on thick card stock), and for $125, you could become an Official Sponsor of Happy Hour! These two categories generated nearly 20% of our total revenue.

Also, in an interesting turn of events, we had three backers pull back their funding, a first in any of my campaigns. One was a backer that publicly supported the campaign, posted a highly critical note for improvement, and when I messaged him thanking him for the support but asked him to send that kind of message to me privately, he withdrew his pledge (than backed us for $1 to post that he was “withdrew his pledge” on our wall, then cancelled the $1 pledge, then claimed he still supported us). The other two, completely unknown to either myself or Walker, withdrew their pledges after the game was successfully funded. Walker thinks they are just trolls.

Email Marketing. As I’d written about in January, I used a freelancer from India for lead generation in more than a dozen categories of businesses we felt would be interested in our game, now or later. I downloaded the Google Streak extension and proceeded to draft and execute scheduled mail merge emails to each of the different categories. While it was exciting to have over 1300 seemingly relevant contacts, I ran into a number of issues, including…

Dead Email Addresses. Of the 1200 email contacts I was given, nearly 200 of them were dead or discontinued. I would also say that another 200 were sent to a mailbox that was not once checked. I mentioned this to Shah, so he sent me an additional 150 email addresses, which also contained some dead emails.

Miscommunication. Going through the email contacts, it became apparent to me that the language I used in my request was not as specific as it could have been for my freelancer in India to translate and execute on. In retrospect, I should have asked a little bit of his methodology in collecting the information: if he has a “bot” that scours web addresses for email addresses based on a series of keywords, I would know that I need to give 12 very specific keywords, but if he had a program that he wrote himself, perhaps he could choose better than me?

This inadvertently manifested itself in soliciting my drinking game to the president of a dry fraternity, reaching out to breweries and wineries (which aren’t in the game), and contacting a bunch of tabletop game conventions on the East Coast which I’d never heard of and have no desire to attend. It did generate some leads, but overall, it was probably not a super effective use of my time and $60.

Personal Contacts. We wrote emails to our friends, families, and mailing lists about the game and showed them some of the artwork. Ultimately, I don’t think we had enough in place on January 31st when everybody saw the page to excite them enough to donate. A good percentage of the early backers were Walker’s personal contacts, while my base was much slower to come around to donate. Perhaps I’ve overstayed my welcome.

Redefine Success:

Shifting Perspective. While the game did have a ton of traction, Walker and I had a very serious conversations about the campaign and playing out the scenario of failure. We had a lot of people, over 100, who believed in us enough to put their money on the line to help us make Happy Hour! come to life, how would they feel if we let the campaign fail?

As I mentioned earlier, our ultimate goal was to have Kickstarter serve not only as the proof-of-concept (“This is a good idea!”) and a marketplace (“I’ll buy that!”). Accordingly, the $6000 we were seeking to raise was in part so that we could afford to purchase the game in bulk and create a huge inventory of the game to sell ourselves. Those that missed the campaign could purchase it directly from us, and they’d receive it like everyone else. We’d also try to put these games into stores and retailers.

Unfortunately, the game proved to be a good concept, but as it was currently advertised on Kickstarter page, there was not a heavy demand for it. Thus, we sought additional financial support to ensure we met the goal. Even more unfortunately, this meant we had to completely rebudget based on our new financial obligations. While it does slightly hinder our ability to deliver the game we wanted in quantity, it was a necessary step required to succeed and we’re thankful for every penny we received from all of our backers.

A Quick Note About Chemicals. If you are considering a crowdsourcing campaign, be prepared for your body to go through a serious chemical rollercoasters throughout the course of the campaign. All Kickstarter creators should have the Kickstarter application on their phone throughout the course of the campaign. It’s your finger on the pulse.

The downside (if you allow it to be) is enabling “Push Notifications” when your campaign receives a new pledge. So not only do you have the endorphin kick of the push notification, but your phone is interrupting you to tell you that you just made money. This will start to creep into other corners of your life, including 3 AM wake ups and while you’re in the bathroom (obviously).  If your campaign is struggling, the kick is even more powerful. You’ll tap your phone in desperate hope of receiving a pledge you didn’t know about. How about now? Anything? Please beware.

(You can turn off the push notifications but I recommend it at the beginning of the campaign to get a gauge on how the campaign will likely run.)

Now What?

The Real Beta Test Begins. We play tested the game over 25 times, but it was often while Walker or I was present to answer any questions, concede to new suggestions, and make small rule changes (once a “douche card” was suggested to increase volatility between players), and more! Now, we’re creating Happy Hour! to be put out in the world to our family of backers for their turn to beta test the game.

With our backers’ feedback, we’ll be able to refine Happy Hour! one more time before we attempt to launch it into the commercial realm. Rather than flat out failing, we made the investment into our game, and our community, to expand the beta testing process beyond the borders of Portland, Oregon into your living room, bar, or around your campfire.

One Last “THANK YOU”:

Thank You! We couldn’t have done it with the support of our friends, family, and the Mystery Tin community. From everyone at Mystery Tin Games and Waltronic, thank you for backing our game and we can’t wait for you to help us make it something really special

Cheers!

 

How to Run a Successful Crowdsourcing Campaign

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If you want to be successful in crowdfunding, you’re going to need to put in the work before, during, and after the campaign. This post contains knowledge I learned firsthand from running my own campaigns, contributing to the successful campaigns of others, and information I’ve learned from my entrepreneurship classes on crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding not only gives you the opportunity to market a product, but it gives you an opportunity to create “fans” that may support your future work as well. Smaller, more artistic ideas, are great for crowdfunding platforms because it gives them access to funds that may be out of reach in other, traditional financing venues. Launching a successful crowdfunding campaign provides social proof and feedback that your idea has the potential for longevity. Remember, (for the most part) crowdsourcing success happens by small margins and failure by large margins.

It was just over a year ago that we launched the Dinner’s Ready! crowdsourcing campaign on Kickstarter. Our dream was to creative a fun, competitive card game that promoted healthy eating by encouraging players to draw healthy recipes and collected the necessary ingredients to make them. We set our goal of $4,000 and set the clock at 23 days, ending at  the midnight before my 30th birthday. Ultimately, we raised $4,699, or 116% of our initial goal. This wasn’t an Exploding Kittens experience, but it was incredibly eye opening to the trials and tribulations of crowdfunding in the 21st century.

To let the cat out of the bag a little bit, Mystery Tin Games is in the development stages of more card games to be launched early next year on Kickstarter, so we’re going to use the example of a “card game” throughout this discussion, but these techniques can be applied to any crowdfunding campaign.

The Idea

Crowdfunding has given creators the opportunity to create anything they can imagine and see if people are interested in it. If you want to make a card game, you need to identify early on if there’s a certain subsection of people that would want to play it. With Dinner’s Ready!, a healthy eating card game, which we ultimately narrowed down to “millennial table-top game players that are also parents of kids ages 6-10.” Maybe you’re making a card game that would appeal to LARPers. Maybe you’re making a card game for pregnant mothers. Locate the crowd your solution benefits and go after them.

What problem is your product solving? Who is the “crowd” you’re really trying to win over? What is the best method of reaching them? What other games or product does this group support? Why?

Once you’ve got your idea and the target crowd in mind, it’s time to get down to development. Kickstarter allows people to launch a campaign for a product that hasn’t come to life yet, or serve as the marketplace for a product that is almost finished. Depending on the idea you’re attempting to bring to life, it is important to consider the initial expenses required for development.

In creating a card game, for example, there are a number of development expenses. If you’re a graphic artist, the opportunity cost of your time is something to keep in mind. If you’re not a graphic artist, you’ll need to figure out who to hire and how much to pay them. (My recommendation is to operate on a set price for the art design based on achieving 100% of crowdfunding goal. If it’s a blowout hit, you can always renegotiate later.) And after the card game has been designed, test decks need to be printed and shipped from the manufacturers.

What other costs does your project involve? Is there anyway to minimize (or table) those costs before starting the campaign?

The Campaign

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I hope you’re ready to do the work. Studies have shown the most successful crowdsourcing campaigns required (on average) 30 hours per week for the 4-6 weeks prior to the campaign, 30 hours a week during the campaign, and 30 hours a week through fulfillment. If that seems like a lot of time, it is, but it’ll make all the difference in the world.

Pay attention. Make sure you double- and triple-check everything on your campaign page. Research shows that a single spelling error on your campaign page can result in 13% less funding.

Timeframe. The length of your campaign is important. Research shows that donations are the highest during the first week and the last week. If your campaign is too short, people are going to miss out on the opportunity and it may hurt your chances of reaching your goal. If it’s too long, people will delay in backing you, which could result in people “forgetting” to back your project. I’ve had campaigns as short as 21 days and as long as 40 days.

How long should your campaign be? Are there any specific benefits to running a longer campaign? A shorter one?

The Goal. Don’t be greedy. Since Kickstarter is an “all-or-nothing” platform, you don’t want to exaggerate the cost of your project. In fact, you should work through the bare minimum costs associated with your project far in advance and set the lowest number as your goal. Take advantage of bulk-manufacturing and crunch the numbers.

What is the bare minimum cost you’ll need to produce your product? Don’t forget to include shipping costs! 

The Video. While there’s no denying the correlation between beautifully shot, high-definition videos and successful campaigns, you don’t need to have a professionally filmed video. Of course it helps, but the overarching reason for the video is for backers to get to know the people behind the campaign. Before backers are going to give you their money, they want to know you’re a “real person” and they want to see your emotion and commitment to the project. If you’re not pumped up, why should they be?

What kind of video is right for your campaign? Do you need to be in it or can you get the message across in a different, fun way? 

Overview. Give your backers an overview of what they’re getting. If you’re selling a card game, you want to share the general gameplay (even if you haven’t completely fleshed it out yet). Mixing the written word with infographics is a visually compelling way of pulling potential backers in and send them reading to the bottom!

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“Who We Are” Section. 2/3 of successful crowdsourcing campaigns are done with teams. It’s important to include a section about the team behind the campaign, again, to build credibility among the potential backers. This gives proper recognition to the people that contributed, but also gives the team ample reason to share the campaign with their own networks. “Check out this game I worked on!” A short paragraph and a picture of each team member goes a long way.

What information can you provide that will instill the backers with confidence in your team? 

Why Pledge? Section. Getting in at the bottom floor is one obvious benefit to backing your project, but that shouldn’t be everything. Tell your backers why backing this project right now is the first stepping stone to a much larger plan. “This is something new to be a part of” isn’t as good as, “This will be the first game in a family of card games, and we won’t be manufacturing this game with the same packaging and box design in the future. Back us today because this is it!”

What are the real benefits to contributing to your campaign early? Can you provide any intangible or “one-of-a-kind” benefits to your backers? Be creative!

Stretch Goals. Stretch goals are a great tool to incentivize backers. If you’re going to include “stretch goals,” I suggest you have both financial stretch goals (i.e. “If we reach $10,000, we’ll release a stretch expansion pack”) and crowd stretch goals (i.e. “If we reach 1,000 donors, we’ll release a stretch expansion pack”). Depending on your campaign goal, an overly successful campaign should result in “unlocking” at least one of these stretch goals.

What kind of stretch goals do we want to accomplish? Donors? Financial? Social media following? What kind of behaviors can you influence by utilizing stretch goals?

Risks and Challenges Section. Be honest and open about the process. Crowdsourcing gives backers the opportunity to contribute to something at the very beginning. Being honest and open about the risks and challenges your project faces not only opens up communication with your crowd but it also presents an opportunity for the crowd to contribute. If you foresee yourself encountering some issues along the way, publicize them, because one of your backers may be able to help!

What are the real risks and challenges you face? What is the worst case scenario? What happens if you are insanely successful, what possibly problems could you face then? What happens if you fail to reach your minimum goal? Is it the end of the road?

Campaign Updates

Crowdfunding is about including the crowd in the process. Accordingly, you need to be updating your crowd almost constantly throughout the course of the campaign. This means utilizing social media (you should have a Facebook Page, Facebook Group, and Twitter #hashtag for the campaign), as well as leveraging the built in updates to the campaign platform. The easiest way to do this is by reaching out to your crowd when you reach major milestones:

Time Updates

  • First 24 hours.last-day-v1
  • First Week.
  • Half Way Done.
  • One Week Left.
  • 48 Hours Left.
  • 24 Hours Left.
  • 1 Hour Left

Funding Updates

  • Quarter of the Way!
  • Halfway there!
  • 10% left!
  • Fully funded!
  • Stretch goal achieved!
  • Shipped out!

What information do my backers want to know throughout the campaign? What information is important to get across to potential backers? How many updates are too many updates? 

Content. Leveraging these updates is the best way to get input from your community. Throughout the campaign you should be sharing the evolution of the artwork, seek input from your community, and inspire them to seek out and share your campaign with their own communities. The more you give to your community, the more they’ll give you back. It’s also worth mentioning that these updates can automatically post to Facebook and Twitter, and “boosting” these posts is an easy way to generate interest.

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People also love sharing the rewards of their crowdfunding participation! Encourage your backers to share their rewards with their social networks then share, retweet, and repost!

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How can I maximize my crowd through updates? What content can we share to incite more enthusiasm for the project? 

Rewards

You can offer as many reward tiers as you want, but I’ve found that simpler is better. If you’re offering a card game, you don’t need to have t-shirts and apparel as donor levels. By keeping the donor levels simple, you won’t get bogged down in the fulfillment logistics after the campaign.

Calculate the Shipping! With Dinner’s Ready!, we wanted people to purchase more than one deck, so we offered to calculate the shipping costs later and bill each backer separately for their shipping. When we invoiced out the shipping, we only got 1/10 of our backers to reimburse us for the shipping (we event spent $27 shipping a game to the UK, which was more than they gave to the campaign in the first place!). Not surprisingly, this significantly ate into our margins. Calculate the shipping and make that in addition to the cost of the game.

How much is it going to cost us to get the product shipped from the manufacturer? How much is going to cost to send each product to the backers? What happens if packages are returned?

Low Goal (No Game). <$10 If you’re launching a project in this day and age, you should have a stand alone website for the product outside of the crowdfunding platform. Utilizing this webpage gives you the opportunity to reward your lowest tier of backers. A small donation deserves recognition, and having a “thank you” page on your website is a great opportunity to collect the low-hanging fruit.

How can I make a small donation a worthwhile investment? How can I inspire a small donor to give more money? 

Core Product (Basic Game). ~$15-$25 Your core product can be priced at anything you want, assuming you’ve calculated your minimum per unit cost and you’ve set the price accordingly. Something important to remember is that crowdsourcing backers expect they will be paying slightly more than consumers will in the future, because they were contributing to not just the game but the entire lifespan of the game moving forward.

At what price does my product feel like a steal? At what price does my product feel like a rip off?

Upgrade (Expansion Pack). ~$35 (including Basic Game) If you’re going to do an expansion pack, offer a backer-tier that includes the basic game. Chances are you’re going to manufacture the expansion set separately, which will allow you to have additional expansion sets available for purchase after the campaign for those that didn’t order it during the initial campaign.

Does my campaign facilitate an “expansion” of some kind? What kind of expansion would be best for my campaign? Should I get the input of my crowd to determine what the expansion is? How many people will buy the expansion versus the original?

Bundle (Pair of Games). ~$45. Don’t underestimate the power of “giving.” As much as people like getting in on the ground floor of a cool project, they love sharing their cool projects with other people. Bundles give the opportunity for backers to get one for them, and one for someone else.

Is this the kind of campaign where bulk buying is likely? Is there a need to create a larger bundle than 2? 

Marketing

According to research, the number one and two reasons why crowdsourcing campaigns fail is that (1) the target audience was not well understand, and (2) the marketing efforts were not adequate. The intention of the marketing is different for each stage of the project, and in order to have a truly successful campaign, you’ll need to capitalize on each stage individually.

Pre-campaign. The sole focus of your pre-campaign marketing efforts should be to get people “lined up” to buy your product at the moment you press the “Launch” button. This means you need to do press releases, reach out to public entities and accounts, all with the intention of getting that first burst of attention at the launch.

Have I made myself a member of this community already? How can I draw attention to my game without appearing to be a spammer? Is there a better way to reach this particular community?

Campaign. Your marketing during the campaign needs to be heavily weighted toward the beginning and the end of the campaign. If you get fully funded within 24 hours, Kickstarter will feature you and give you an extra marketing bump by featuring it on their website. Getting the Kickstarter “seal of approval” is an instant game changer when it comes to any campaign on their platform. If you get it, you’re almost guaranteed to succeed.

In the event you are not fully funded early on, your marketing should be focused on getting in front of your target audience, friends, and family. Finding where your “crowd” hangs out, what blogs they read, what other projects they’ve backed, etc., is the best to way to draw in more eyes to your project.

If it’s going to be a fist fight to the end of the campaign, the last of your campaign efforts needs to be focused on the last 72 hours of the campaign. You need to reinvigorate all those backers who said they’d be back, and really capitalize on the FOMO on your project. Looping back to the all the marketing venues you utilized along the way is a great way to get those last ditch efforts to convert in those final harrowing hours.

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Was my messaging clear? How many people actually saw our advertisement? What was the CPC? Where were the marketing efforts least successful? Was it worth the investment and time?

Post-campaign. Congratulations! Your campaign was fully funded, but that’s just the beginning of your journey. Now that you’ve got the money you were looking for, you need to start setting the stage for the next steps, which is continuing to stoke the public’s appetite for the game and letting them know where they can get it next. If you have a website, or an e-commerce site, for the game, this is where you’ll want to send the traffic next.

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Dinner’s Ready! is available from the Mystery Tin Games web store!

Have I laid proper groundwork to convert the “interested” parties into customers?

Fulfillment

Abraham Lincoln said, “If you give me four hours to cut down a cherry tree, I’ll spend the first three hours sharpening my axe.” Whether you’ve got 50 orders or 5000 orders, having systems in place is essential.

Reports. Kickstarter does a great job of helping you collect information from your backers, including their mailing addresses. Make sure you have all the survey questions figured out ahead of time, as they only let you message everybody once.

Do I have all the information I need to deliver? Have I clarified any questions with my backers?

Organization. Export the information into an excel sheet based on the donor levels, and work through each level preparing for fulfillment. We recommend starting with the highest donor levels and working your way toward the bottom.

Where will I be staging the inventory? Who will be responsible for organizing, packing, and labeling the orders? What steps am I taking to be ensure fulfillment is done efficiently?

img_1873Shipping. Depending on the number of backers you need to fulfill, you’re going to have quite a shipping operation on your hands. I would recommend picking up a scale and weighing out each variation or SKU you’re sending out. By having these numbers in advance, you won’t have to weigh each box individually, just change the destination and print the labels.

Stamps.com has an introductory offer where they’ll send you a digital scale and allow you to print your own shipping labels at home. If you’re in this thousands of backers, you can import the excel sheet containing all the addresses and print them all off. You’re also able to schedule a “package pick up” so you won’t have to haul hundreds of packages to the post office.

Who will be responsible for the boxing and shipping? How long will it take to ship everything out? Who should be the first to receive their packages? Is there an easier way to ship out the rewards?

Other Random Crowdfunding Tips

Here’s a few more tips for you to consider when running a crowdsourcing campaign,

Good luck out there!
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