Crowdfunding is a multi-billion dollar industry.
So there’s really no question about it: people will want part of that pie.
Once you even remotely signal to the internet that you might be launching a Kickstarter campaign, you will get bombarded with emails, messages, or ads. If you’re lucky, you’ll be hit with the trifecta (yes, sarcasm fully intended).
After running many crowdfunding projects, I’ve even experienced a lot of it myself.
As a rule of thumb: if someone reaches out to you after you’ve launched your project offering to help for some sort of payment, you should be wary.
Today we’ll talk about 5 different types of spam you might be exposed to after you launch:
- Promotion To Social Media Following
- Promotion To Social Channels
- Write A Review Of The Project
- Newsletter Blasts From A Crowdfunding-Focused Company
- Backer Email Lists
1. Promotion To Social Media Following
You’ll get people storming your inbox saying that they can promote your project to their 5,000 followers on Instagram or 7,500 followers on Twitter. Be wary of this.
Some of those who reach out to you might have many followers, but know that there are a lot of tools to build up a fake following.
Moreover, social media is never the strongest leverage point for a crowdfunding campaign. Yes, it’s there and incredible for driving awareness of your project and keeping people updated of your plans, but it’s never truly the direct driver for success. The core drivers of success are usually friends/family (your network), an email list of enthusiastic fans (from the pre-launch phase) and paid advertising (should you choose to go that route).
Does it work?
And if so, it works very minimally. Be sure to create tracking links for each one so you know if there are any returns from that source.
If there are people backing from that promotional source, then you’ve found a place that can potentially work and it’s worth it to keep digging.
2. Promotion To Social Channels
Sometimes people will reach out to you and tell you that they’ll “promote your project” for you.
They’ll tell you that they have access to many different channels (with thousands of crowdfunding backers!) and they can feature your project.
What happens here is that they’ll literally go out and bombard these different groups, pages and forums with a short blurb about your project and a link to it.
Does it work?
Not really. They’ll easily satisfy your initial agreement by posting about your project in many channels, groups, forums and such. But a lot of the time, nothing ever happens.
Why? Because there’s no connection between the people reading your posts and your Kickstarter campaign so it doesn’t move the needle.
Sure, more people might see that your project is live, but there’s absolutely no urgency or drive for them to actually click on the campaign page and convert into a backer. The people who back your project usually have a connection to you, your story, or care about your game in some way.
Blasting your message out to different social channels is like putting up flyers on the road. A lot of people will walk right by it, many people might briefly read it, some might be a little interested, but even fewer will be driven to act.
One of the best things to do instead is to create your own brand ambassadors for your game. I talk more about this in How To Generate Traffic To Your Kickstarter Board Game.
3. Write A Review Of The Project
As a content creator with a fanbase, a writer’s job is to continue bringing interesting news to their readers. Some people might come into your inbox to offer to do a writeup for your project and put it on their page.
That’s great news and you’re the lucky few who have people reaching out to you! It’s pretty much free publicity for your campaign.
Keep in mind though, that a lot of the time a review or writeup will just be a regurgitation of what you already have on your project page. The way they’ll continue to please their fanbase is to churn out as many of these articles as possible, and what better way than to use what already exists. Sometimes, the writer does go the extra mile by doing an interview with you or putting some fresh thought and insight into their article.
Does it work?
The next question is whether a writeup works to convert an audience.
If they already have an audience that is interested in what you’re offering (i.e. people in the same niche), then a review can definitely work.
However, if it’s a writeup for a channel that doesn’t relate very closely with what you’re offering, then usually it will be a bust in terms of converting people into backers.
4. Newsletter Blasts From A Crowdfunding-Focused Company
There are a lot of companies that spend a lot of money to accumulate a list of crowdfunding enthusiasts. Since so many people are repeat backers on Kickstarter, it’s not too far off to think that sending them another crowdfunding project will get them to back again.
Needless to say, these companies have turned around and commoditized every email subscriber.
By getting you to pay for them to send emails to the list, that email list becomes very valuable. There are different tiers of emails from “round-up” type emails where you sit with many others also vying for attention to “dedicated email blasts” focused solely on your project.
In this case, no matter what type of promotion, there will be a price.
Does it work?
This can work, but with huge caveats.
Firstly, you must bring your own successes to the campaign first. What this means is that these newsletters can’t be the “hail Mary” act at the end of your project that miraculously saves your campaign.
Really, these lists won’t take a Kickstarter project from $0 to $100,000 overnight. You must be diligent enough beforehand to build an email list, build social proof, get funded, get noticed and more before pushing this type of traffic to your page.
Second, keep in mind that the effectiveness of these newsletter blasts can vary depending on your project and the audience from each company that holds the list.
A huge tech website like Gadget Flow will work great for hardware products on Kickstarter, but you bet I won’t be recommending this to anyone launching a board game. The audience just isn’t there. However, companies like BackerKit have been through enough board game projects to have compiled a decent list.
So yes, although something like this can work, there is no “magic fix” and no “one-size-fits all”. I would recommend to ask questions to understand more about the audience of a list, if similar projects have been promoted before, and how those similar projects did in terms of attracting backers.
5. Backer Email Lists
You’ll probably see this coming into your email inbox, rather than your Kickstarter inbox when you launch. Typically, a message will appear in your inbox claiming a huge list of emails of crowdfunding backers all at a price that is incredibly palatable.
The truth is, those emails are probably real backer emails from real projects. Unfortunately, there’s been enough “leaks” going around now that backer emails really aren’t safe anymore.
At this point, your mind might kick into overdrive: “well, since I have to get emails for my launch, why can’t I just buy them and get it over with?”
1. Your own audience is the best audience.
Think of it this way: if you’re interested in Euro games, but then someone keeps emailing you about a game that’s similar to Cards Against Humanity, what would you think?
Firstly, you’ll probably be confused – why are you getting an email about this game similar to CAH in the first place? You’ll probably mark the email as Spam, delete the email or not even open it in the first place.
Bottom line is this: you won’t much care about that CAH-lookalike game since it isn’t something you were interested in the first place.
When it comes to crowdfunding, your own audience is the best audience.
You’ve captured their attention with your project and they’ve already started trusting you by providing their email. They’re much more likely to take note of what you’re doing, be more keen to read your emails, and understand where your project is going.
2. With email privacy laws, you’ll probably be immediately shut down.
This one is pretty easy to understand. The issue of online privacy has always been a hot debate. With a lot of tension on this issue, using an email that isn’t yours to use can get you in a lot of trouble.
Does it work?
The final verdict is yes, it does work – but only very incredibly minimally (a tiny percentage will convert, if any), but with many caveats.
I want to be very upfront about this: I do not recommend anyone going out to purchase email lists.
But I’ve been in this industry long enough to not be naive; I know some of you will. If you do end up purchasing email lists off a stranger on the internet, do so with caution.
Create workarounds that don’t implicate your main domain name. Don’t be foolish enough to upload those lists directly into the same email service provider you’re using for your own (real) email list because the service provider will probably disown you. Don’t be foolish enough to flaunt that you have purchased an email list. Don’t be foolish enough to send direct emails to those people right off the bat and hard-sell your project.
How To Succeed With Your Kickstarter Launch
Firstly, this is just an overview of what you will potentially be exposed to. There will be more.
At the end of the day, there are no shortcuts.
There are no successful projects that happen overnight just because you pressed the launch button. The best way to get fully funded is to do the work beforehand. Understand the audience for your game, build up hype for your launch, and activate fans into backers.
Campaigns work, and get funded, because of the hard work people put into the projects to market it and get the word out.
For more examples of how creators successfully marketed their games, be sure to have a listen to the episodes on the Board Game Marketing Podcast. There, I interview game creators who have been through the journey and pick their brain to understand their path to getting fully funded.