Whether your crowdfunding campaign is about to wrap up or launching soon, you might be starting to think about what needs to happen after your project ends. Should you use the free-but-limited Kickstarter survey, or will some other tool be better to help you continue to grow your project and manage your post-campaign needs? Lucky for you, we asked some of the tabletop gaming industry leaders, ‘knowing what you know now, what would you have liked to know before you picked your survey tool?’. Here’s what they came up with.
5 Things you should be thinking about…
1. How much does it really cost?
While you certainly want to find out about any set-up fees and the cost of any in-tool transactions for add-ons, upgrades, shipping or taxes, the real question here is deeper than just the obvious initial out-of-pocket expense. Some tools are white-glove and handle all the set-up for you while also offering support for your backers and include that level of service in their pricing; others may be advertised as free, but require as much effort from you or your staff as running another Kickstarter campaign, ultimately making them more expensive than the full-service options. Then there’s the cost of the user experience both within the tool and after your campaign through any email marketing the survey provider may perform, all of which will be associated with your brand and could impact some backers’ willingness to back your next project. And, of course, all of that needs to be weighed against any capture of attached sales from upgrades, add-ons, and late backers, none of which are offered by the free Kickstarter survey.
James Hudson, Senior Director of Tabletop Games at Skybound Games who has worked with such titles as Wonderland’s War, Trial by Trolley, and Court of the Dead: Mourners Call Board Game, among many others noted, “I think the biggest misunderstanding is what [a pledge manager] is going to ‘cost’ you and ‘is it worth it’. The simple answer is [our] PM system had the same costs as running the crowdfunding campaign in the first place, so there is no down side to having it, in fact, it’s quite silly that anyone wouldn’t use a PM system with their campaign. They are literally throwing away growth for their project. A PM allows you to extend your sale period and keep the momentum building for your project at a very similar cost as the original crowdfunding campaign, that just makes sense.”
2. When should you start researching pledge managers?
Heath Robinson, Co-Founder of Infinite Black, has been developing board games and game accessories for several years. He suggests “that a creator really needs to understand the options they are offering on Kickstarter, then discuss them with the company that is running the pledge manager system well in advance.” Choosing and committing to your partner several weeks before your Kickstarter campaign goes live will allow your partner to suggest minor changes to reward structures to help you run the most profitable and backer-friendly campaign possible, from launch to fulfillment, based on the specific strengths and weaknesses of their tool compared with your unique campaign rewards.
3. If push comes to shove, who will have your back?
“Are the people that create and support your PM awesome to work with? You’ll be working with them a lot!” says Dan Yarrington, Founder of Tabletop Tycoon and a professional in the tabletop gaming industry since 1996. While you are undoubtedly the subject matter expert on your project, the reality is that you may not be the best resource to forecast all the downstream reporting, manufacturing and fulfillment data, and survey configuration details that need to be included in your pledge manager to get the right answers. Bad input data will result in bad output data (GI/GO), and your backers won’t necessarily absolve you of guilt if their order is wrong just because you accidentally asked the wrong questions to get quality data out of the survey.
Make sure that the team you choose to support you is available and willing to help you identify and eliminate potential complications before your campaign launches, and that they’re fully committed to helping you untangle any issues that may arise after your survey goes live. Do they guarantee the integrity of the data? Who specifically on their staff will support you through your survey set-up, admin training and testing, survey launch, backer support, production support, preliminary manufacturing reporting, and final fulfillment reporting? You’re going to need to have a close personal relationship with each of those people and should feel like they care about your success and your backers’ happiness as much as you do, or you’re probably going to be looking for another pledge manager for your next campaign.
4. What special features do you need, and can the tool you’re considering actually deliver?
“Does your PM handle state and international sales taxes? Recent tax laws require reporting from many districts and jurisdictions so this is a must! Does your PM integrate with your fulfillment provider to automatically transfer your backer data to them without potentially catastrophic corruption during a manual transfer?” These are just a few of the things that Tabletop Tycoon found to be vital to their choice of pledge manager.
Perhaps you need a path for your friendly local game store (FLGS) to get special rewards at retailer pricing. Maybe you’re like Brenna Noonan, who has been involved with over 40 successful Kickstarter campaigns since 2017, and you need complex shipping configurations – incorporating flat rate, weight-based and pick fees all in the same project. Do you need a path to convert $1 and late backers into full backers? Or the ability to add a unique loyalty product to specific subsets of your backers and have it stick with them, even if they upgrade? It could be you just need a super user-friendly backer interface that allows you to share even limited-quantity items from your last campaign and an intuitive creator dashboard like Michael Coe, CEO of Gamelyn Games and publisher of the “Tiny Epic” series by Scott Almes. Perhaps your campaign was viral and it’s really important to you that the survey tool feels like an extension of your brand and campaign rather than an advertisement for your survey vendor.
When it comes to pledge management, each campaign is its own individual mystery, and not all pledge managers are created alike. You’ve probably backed some campaigns yourself. What annoyed or thrilled you about one tool’s process over another’s? Be sure you spend some time thinking about the process from your backers’ perspective and choose the tool that presents the path of least resistance between your backers completing their survey and you getting them the right rewards.
5. Where will my project be promoted?
This is important! We are data and privacy nerds. Hear us out.
Some tools offer “marketing” in the form of emailing all the users in their database about your project. Cool, right? Ugh… no. Not really.
How much do you enjoy getting unsolicited emails from peripheral connections asking you for money? And, if the platform you pick is emailing other users in their tool about joining your pre-order campaign, then they’re also going to spam your backers with emails about other campaigns. Gross. The worst part is that your backers can’t even opt out until after the damage is done since they can’t get their rewards from you without agreeing to the platform’s terms of service. You did this.
In essence, depending on which platform you go with, you may have just committed to pay a lot of money to give your precious backer data to a company that will use them to make bank for itself and other creators. We’re in the age of digital privacy. Find out exactly how the platform you’re going with will treat your backer data. There is no undoing of your mailing list getting sold.
Make sure that your backers are the customer, and not the product.
A pledge manager survey tool can be cost-effective, help you grow your campaign, offer a ton of features that will make your life easier, and ultimately help you get the right products into the right boxes headed to the right backers with the least amount of stress imaginable, but you may need to really dig in to find the one that’s the right fit for you and your backers.
Disclaimer - Kicktraq provides pledge management services, but our tool is not the main topic of this article. We encourage you to take the time to research all of the tools available and find the one that fits your specific needs and your budget, whether that's PledgeManager or some other solution. As always, our goal at Kicktraq is to enable your success as a creator, so the most important take-away that you'll hear repeated again and again in any of our Tips since our first blog post in 2012 is: Do your homework, whether that leads you to use our services or not.