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Promotion

Note: Promotion is not advertisement. That’s the next section.
Much like with sales, promotion is not about the product. It’s never about the product. Don't promote the product. Promote the solution to a pain. Provide value to people.

Much of the advice in the Market category comes from successful entrepreneuers interviewed on the IndieHackers Podcast. I highly recommend subscribing to it. A few of my favourites episodes are about Kettle and Fire, Clickminded and this one and that one with Steli Efti. You might also find this article helpful about the best and worst times to post on social media.

You will find that this is mostly split into four segments. Your own platform, social media, the press and the campaign.


Build an audience first

This item is so important, it should have its own entire section. There is something you need to understand: Kickstarter does so little to promote your project, that it's not even funny. Even a well crafted campaign has very little chance of success, if you launch on Kickstarter without any prior promotional effort. Which begs the question of why any of us even use Kickstarter, instead of just a pre-order page on our own webshop....

This is a hard pill to swallow, because it's hard to do, but need to start building an audience, way before you launch your campaign. Either direct people to your draft page and tell people to use Kickstarter's Notify on launch button, or set up a launch notification email list with signup page (either on your website or a dedicated newsletter service provider like Mailchimp). Then start promoting your product to everyone who will listen.

It can take months to grow your email list to a level with which you can launch, which is roughly 1000 people at the minimum. Most of your subscribers won't turn into backers. Here's a couple of examples how to build your pre-launch audience. You will need to have your project page or website set up before you do this, so you have something to show to people.

Friends & family
Bloggers
Podcasts
Social Media (FB, YT, Twitter, Insta, Snap, TikTok, whatever)
Content marketing (described below)
Reddit
Paid advertising
Online press

You will find a couple tips about all of these in this section.

High quality images

First up, a general tip. You will need nice pictures for an effective promotional effort. Peter Vaughan is here to tell you about a few tips and tricks of enticing product photography. While the is about board games, the principles apply to most products.

The Photography of Scott King: Tabletops of Beauty

Real world promotions

The rest of this section is about digital promotion, but it's worth noting that it's not the only avenue to consider. Try coming up with novel places where your promotional efforts can have a big impact.

Do you have a board game about aviation? Why not send promotional copies to the staff of small airfields or even airports so they can fool around with it in their spare time. It's right in their alley and it's very likely they will share it with their friends. The surprise of a board game ending up one day in their language is certainly something they will talk about.

It's easy to dismiss these opportunities as too small-scale, like what's the ten-person crew of a small airfield when you can post to Facebook and reach thousands of people? .....but how many of those will care? You might find your biggest fans in these niche places. Fans are the ones who generate word of mouth - the most effective kind of promotion in the world.

PLATFORM Website

It's not strictly necessary to have a website for a Kickstarter campaign, but it's hard to imagine a business without one. Still though, you are not required to have one.

PLATFORM Content marketing

Remember the providing value thing? A lot of companies run their own blog where they share useful information or tips to drive traffic to their website. The company behind a bird feeder could write a few posts on how you can make your own DIY bird feeder. It's a way to show their know-how. Since most poeple will eventually find DIY-ing cumbersome, they'll just probably buy a BirdMagnet 2000.

PLATFORMNewsletter

They don't require technical knowledge to set up (you can use services like MailChimp) and it's a good way to reach your audience and keep them engaged.

PLATFORM Signup incentive

It's pretty important to gather an audience for launch day (so they help in getting funded quickly, which has several advantages described in the Funding goal section), so it might be worth offering some incentive on your website for people who sign up to be notified when your campaign launches.

One company offered a limited edition (but inexpensive) decoration card for their nature-themed game and also pledged to plant a tree for every subscribed person. They also showed a counter on their site showing the number of people who already signed up (for social proof).

PLATFORM Personal emails

When emailing someone about your project, don't ask them to back it. Merely ask them to check it out. If you ask them to back it, you’re putting up a barrier to entry right away. There’s way less barrier to entry for someone to click on a link. The goal is to get them to look at your project. That’s it. Let your well crafted campaign page do the rest.

Tell the person why you thought to contact them. Basically, connect the project to them somehow by the way you frame it. Say you have a project for a new gardening tool made out of local, sustainable materials. For the people in your life who love gardening, tell them that’s why you thought to write them. For those who live locally or love the concept of local support, pitch that to them. Cater to the things that are important to that individual. Keep it short and sweet, and explain what Kickstarter is in the post-script.

SOCIAL MEDIA (DUH...) Social media

I will just quote Jamey here:

Online and offline, we share things that define the way we want other people to perceive us. We want to be seen as funny or clever or compassionate, so we post or well-written articles or videos of dogs greeting their owners after long trips.

To get people to talk about my campaigns, I mostly try to just create some fun challenges that people might want to share on social media. Like on Scythe, Jakub and I gave backers permission to Photoshop several pieces of the Scythe art with funny captions and images of their pets. I also created avatars that I awarded to backers based on when they pledged and which reward level they supported. I still see some backers bearing those same avatars on Kickstarter.

Create images that people want to talk about because they make that people look and feel awesome, clever, or funny. People don't share commercials, they share emotions.

SOCIAL MEDIA Make your photo your avatar

Apparently, a study found that when patients' photographs were included along with their X-rays, radiologists discovered 80% more incidental findings. They paid more attention when the connection to a human being was more apparent. Making your profile photo your avatar, backers can relate to you more and find the value in your project easier.

SOCIAL MEDIA, BOARD GAMES BGG page

BGG is the Facebook of board gaming. Create a page for your game and upload all the info you can. You can also post your campaign draft's link there. Here are some BGG tips for Kickstarter creators.

SOCIAL MEDIA, BOARD GAMES Games for Geekgold

Post in BGG's Games for Geekgold. It's held every month. Only works if you have a production quality prototype you can give out. Games for GeekGold (Jan 2020).

SOCIAL MEDIA Facebook group for your project

It will serve as a place for people to gather and talk about your product.

SOCIAL MEDIA Post your campaign on social networks

Directly ask your friends and family to share your post. You can also create a Facebook event for your launch where people can sign up to be notified. That's also possible on Kickstarter itself, by sharing the campaign's draft page. People unfamiliar with KS however, will find it easier to do it on Facebook. Post also to Facebook groups, but only to those that are for promotion.

SOCIAL MEDIA Get people talking about your product

This is a pretty broad category, but the key is to view yourself as a moderator. Your job is to create the potential for discussion. Start threads on BGG that pose questions. Ask questions in project updates. Talk about the product on your blog or Facebook or Twitter in a way that invites opinions and feedback.

For board games, a big part of all this is that you want people to play the game as soon as possible, so if people see others discussing the game, they’re going to want to play the game so they can be a part of the discussion. Make sure to be an active part of these discussions, and continually invite more discussion through your responses. For example, even if you definitively answer a question, leave the door open for other questions or discussions about strategy.

PRESS Press

Bloggers, reviewers, podcasters, influencers and online press. It's not about spamming. Instead, try to nurture relationships with them for a long time and then offer them something of value (a review copy, interview, guest post, etc) without ever asking them to share your project. If they want to share it, they will.

Bloggers need two things: content and participation. Contact the writer and propose a specific guest entry that would add value to their audience.

Contact them one by one with individualized emails showing what you liked about their blogs and suggest a few ways you could add value to their content. Don’t contact people asking them to promote you. It’s your job to promote you. If you reach out to people, think about what you can offer them. You can prioritize the bloggers based on their Alexa rank, their Facebook Likes, or their RSS subscribers (Google Reader will show you that), but sometimes your biggest supporters are those with smaller, more intimate audiences.

Note: if your campaign is successful (or is on track to be successful), contact the people who didn't write you back before. They may be more conducive to review your product this time around. In the above paragraphs I was paraphrasing Jamey again. Here you can check out an email template he posted.

PLATFORM Think about your unique circumstance

Do you maybe live in a small country whose press is eager to talk about the international success of a countryman? Talk to them. There are many more situations like this one where you can get additional coverage outside your specific industry.

PRESS Prepare a press kit

A press kit is just prepared material for members of the press to make their work easier - giving you a higher chance to be featured somewhere. Usually, it just includes product photos and a document called the press release, listing important information on your product along with a few paragraphs in the 3rd person that talks about your project in more detail. Writers copy that verbatim to make their life easier.

You might think they can just copy that off the campaign page, but the point is that they don't have to wade through the marketing copy to hunt down all the important details. When writing an article, it's very useful to have the details in one place. Zip it all together and have a download link for it on your project page.

PRESS Have nice prototypes

When you send out prototypes for reviewers (more on that later), make sure the prototypes are nice. Potentially a lot of people will be looking at the video or images the reviewer posts and many of them will be making a purchasing decision based on those visuals.

PRESS Find your matches

Find blogs, podcasts, YouTube channels etc... in your topic and ask if they would be willing to publish a guest post or appearance from you. Explain what value that would add to their audience.

You can also contact publications in adjacent topics. For example, if you have a product specifically for men, it might be a good idea to reach out to communities about fishing - as those are mostly populated by men. It might also be a good idea to contact your local newspaper - they might be interested in a local project.

To decide who to contact, you can check out their Alexa rank (there is also an Alexa plugin for browsers). Look for blogs that are within the top 2 million, if not better. You can also check the number of likes on their Facebook page, or the number of subscribers.

PRESS Ask for reviews

From video reviewers, bloggers, podcasts, anyone you can find. Send them a free prototype copy for review. Do this 1-2 months before the campaign, so they have time to respond and receive the prototype.

CAMPAIGN Post your coverage

Now we are getting into things to do while your campaign is running. Part of what you can offer bloggers is a new audience. When they post the interview/guest entry/review, share it with your backers and on Facebook. It makes you look good–you’re getting press!–and it increases the blogger’s stats.

CAMPAIGN Live stream

This is one of the hardest, but most effective ways to promote your project. Do a live stream where people can see you, interact with you.

Nothing screams legitimacy more than if you are willing to appear on camera, stand by your product, show it work. If it's a board game, stream a session with your friends. You can also use the live stream just to engage with backers and answer their questions. This can have a profound impact on your campaign. Announce it ahead of time in one of your project updates.

CAMPAIGN Notify retailers ahead of time

Most retailers would like to be notified before your campaign. Give them a heads up a week before you launch. This mostly applies if you already have retailer connections, but it doesn't hurt to contact a few retailers ahead of time even if you don't.

For board games, here is a list of retailers who have indicated they don’t mind having their email address be in the open.

CAMPAIGN Personalise

Think about how you can make your product more of a personal experience for people. Do you have a game about dogs? How about promoting a contest whose winner gets to have a likeness to their dog appear in the game art?

CAMPAIGN Nudge to share

You should use calls to action very selectively with backers. Asking them to like or share something in every project update will quickly lead to mass unsubscribes.

But when the time is right – perhaps a week after they’ve received their rewards – give backers a specific call to action. Like a photo, share the product page, or subscribe to a newsletter. If it's a game, you can also remind backers to mention the game the next time they’re at their local games store. Remember, backers are your biggest fans (until you let them down): They want your product to do well post-Kickstarter.

CAMPAIGN Invite fun engagement

This is way more preferable to the more self-serving call to action method. The idea is to give backers the opportunity to share the project in fun ways. A creator, Eduardo Baraf did something at Gen Con where he encouraged people to take one of the meeples from his game and take a photo of it doing something mischievous and silly.

Regarding board games, it’s a great way to get backers to open up their copies of the game and hold the components in their hands, building excitement. They can then take photos or videos with those components in a fun way as you suggest and post them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Encourage unboxing videos. You could do this just for fun or make a contest out of it. Again, this is a way to get the product in the public eye.

CAMPAIGN Contests

For the same reason that lotteries are regulated, Kickstarter wants nothing to do with randomness. If you’re considering anything that involves a random draw, you can’t do it. But there is a loophole: do it before the Kickstarter campaign. Kickstarter can’t regulate what you do before a campaign launches.

However, you can also have your backers vote on a particular outcome. Maybe run a caption contest on Instagram. Provide a picture, tell your backers to write a funny caption and post it. The best caption gets the product for free.

Finish the puzzle, vote, mystery or game you run a few days after the project ends. Kickstarter emphasizes that all backers should be eligible to participate.

CAMPAIGN Cross promotion

You can have an agreement with another project creator where you cross promote each other and if a backers backs both projects they get some cool stuff for each product. However, it's best to allow backers to buy the reward as an add-on if they were not interested in the other project.

CAMPAIGN Previous campaign

If you have already have a previous Kickstarter campaign, be sure to post an update there as well, announcing your new product.

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