Viticulture Pre-Orders and Lessons Learned from My Kickstarter Backers

Tonight at 11:59pm, my Kickstarter campaign ended. We went out with a bang, raising $8,000 in the final 24 hours to bring our total to $65,980. Which, considering that I had absolutely no idea back in August if we’d even hit our goal of $25k, is astounding.

But I want to focus today on a different number: 942. 942 backers (a person who supports a project on Kickstarter) pledged to support my game. My passion project. My dream.

I have a lot to say about Kickstarter, but today I specifically want to talk about the advice that backers gave me throughout the project. After any person pledged to support Viticulture, I send them a message on Kickstarter to thank them. In that message, I asked for advice, feedback, and recommendations that those backers had seen other campaigns do.

Remarkably, I heard the same thing two things over and over again. I think these apply to much more than just Kickstarter–this apply to pretty much anything in life, business, and relationships:

  1. Convey Your Passion: Part of the reason why people back projects on Kickstarter is because they get a cool reward (ideally at a good price). But you can do that anywhere–I can walk into any retailer or any online store and find something cool to buy. Kickstarter adds the extra element that you’re supporting someone’s passion project. Thus my backers said that the projects that they found the most memorable were those that were brimming with passion. To the point that the passion carried over to the backers and built to a fervor. Those memorable Kickstarter projects became experiences that were forever tied to the actual product itself.
  2. Communicate Consistently, Honestly, and Openly: There were two parts to this. Early on in the campaign, backers told me that they enjoyed projects that had interesting updates throughout the campaign that conveyed the aforementioned passion. But after a few weeks, backers started to focus on a different side of communication: post-Kickstarter updates. You see, the Kickstarter campaign is only a small sliver of the overall experience. It’s 30-60 days, whereas many of these projects take many months to come to life, especially if there’s a manufacturing cycle. So there’s a lot of waiting involved, and a lot of hoping that the creator will actually deliver on his or her promises. Time after time, backers told me that all they really wanted were regular updates (once every few weeks) that gave them a behind-the-scenes look into what was happening and provided honest insights into the progress, whether it was good or bad. I have the feeling that many of these backers had been scarred by some negative experiences where they didn’t hear from a creator for long stretches of time during delayed projects. That’s just a guess. But this was the advice that I heard the most often, by far, so it’s something I will pay particular attention to in the coming weeks.
What do you think? Have a missed any significant piece of feedback that all Kickstarter creators should be aware of during and after a project (I’m going to delve into how to create an effective project on a future entry)?


14 Responses to “Viticulture Pre-Orders and Lessons Learned from My Kickstarter Backers”

  1. Katie says:

    I think more than communicating openly and honestly (which could have been limited to group updates), you really connected with your backers on a personal level by emailing and messaging with them one-on-one. I think all of those increased pledge amounts you saw at the end were not just because they wanted the game to be even better–they see you as a friend now, and they wanted to help you out. It wasn’t just a sanitized business transaction (does that mean it was unsanitized? :)).

    It definitely starts with conveying your passion, but even transferring the passion for the game over to the backers only does so much. I think they kind of had a passion for you too. That sounds weird and it’s not making as much sense as it does in my head, but I think you understand what I mean. It wasn’t just about helping to create a cool board game. It was about helping this awesome new person that they’d gotten to know a little bit over the last 45 days.

    What I’m trying to say is that I think they had a personal investment in both the game and you.

  2. Katie says:

    I also think you really made everyone feel like this was *their* game too, with all of the appreciation you showed, feedback you solicited, polls you created, etc. It really feels like a Viticulture family! You can feel passionate about something on Kickstarter but still not feel like you are a true part of it. But with this, I think we all went from curiously following along to becoming more and more involved in the decisions and outcome (or at least it felt that way!).

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Katie–Thanks for your insights into what worked in my campaign. I think even I am surprised by how connected I feel to my backers–thanking each of them and hearing back from many of them humanized them and made them much more than a few dollars in my inbox. I have a relationship with them as people, as individuals, and that relationship is really important to me to maintain and develop.

  3. Neil Roberts says:

    “I have the feeling that many of these backers had been scarred by some negative experiences where they didn’t hear from a creator for long stretches of time”

    But it’s not just from delayed projects. I got very invested in a documentary project turning an overweight average guy into a super-hero only to see the project sit around without even a visit from the project owner. You can see how I reacted in the comments:

    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/illuminatitv/a-real-life-superhero-movie-starring-jeeves/comments

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Neil–I checked out that link, and although the creator’s response was surprising to me, the dollar amount they raised was not. If their mentality was to sit back and let the funds roll in, then that’s indicative of the passion they feel for that project. It’s unfortunate, especially since you connected with the project, but hopefully they and other project creators will learn from unsuccessful projects like that.

  4. Gayvin says:

    I completely agree with Katie. I think that Jamey has a lot of valuable information and he conveyed it in a very personal and caring manner to people that pledged to his project. I’ve seen other projects where I’ve gotten long winded emails that are impersonal. I’d rather have a personal, shorter email that speaks to me than an impersonal one, especially while doing a kickstarter campaign.

    • Jamey Stegmaier says:

      Gayvin–Thanks for your comment. I agree that the personal touch is SO important, even if it’s just a little touch. Kickstarter makes it easy to see what other projects a backer has supported and their location (if the backer has shared it), so project creators might as well use that to better connect with them. Good luck with that as you continue to work towards your project’s goal!

      https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1146847075/julia-fae-ya-novel

  5. Jacob says:

    Interesting to read these two points. I did not back Viticulture in the end due to lack of funds, but when I almost did it I was swayed by your prompt, personal responses to any of my messages. I realize how much of a difference connecting with the designer makes for these sorts of projects. Viticulture is still on my radar and I enjoy reading people’s reviews of it, but unfortunately, I will have to wait for its arrival in my local game shop.

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  9. Thanks Jamey, we just started researching crowdfunding, and honestly brushed it off as a gimmick at first. Once we sat down and went through some projects, and dove into the Kickstarter website, we quickly discovered your main point. While we initially looked at crowdfunding as a way to build capital outside of VC funding, the other benefits clearly weighed in, not least of which was building a community. Having (in your case) close to 1000 people with a vested interest in your success, eagerly anticipating the arrival of the product they now share a passion about, is absolutely huge.

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