5 Ways Kickstarter is Like Dating

With Velociraptor! Cannibalism! halfway towards reaching our goal, I’ve started to get some questions about what makes a campaign successful. Running the Shelter in Place Kickstarter and attending numerous panels and talks about it, I’ve started to develop ideas about good practices in a successful campaign.  Now I see how planning a Kickstarter campaign is a lot like dating. You can get all the good advice in the world, but everyone’s experience is going to be different.

One of the first rules you’re taught in dating is that good hygiene is the foundation, a must for anyone who wants to get a date. Anyone whose ever given or gotten dating advice, usually remembers lines about taking showers, cleaning under your nails and smelling good for your date. Good advice, right? Sure, maybe in general, but there is always someone who breaks all the rules.

When I was in college, I knew a young man who was always dirty. A dumpster diver, he always had a fully stocked fridge to pair with the dirt on his face. I never saw him wear a shirt that wasn’t ripped and he smelled of incense that was covering other, more unpleasant scents. He also had the most beautiful, clear blue eyes that I have ever seen.  His long dreadlocks fell down his back and his legs were muscular, his wiry frame athletic and agile. He never wanted for company. And he was breaking one of the primary dating rules! But it didn’t matter, because his conversation was interesting, his personality intense and his face was beautiful. Who cares about a little dirt when you are looking into eyes like a summer sky.

Kickstarter is like that.  You can give people good, standard advice, general ideas and concepts, good practices, but really, different techniques work for different people and projects depending on who they are, what they’re doing, and who the audience is. Just like dating, what works for one Kickstarter won’t work for another, and though there are good practices and general guidelines, there will always be a project that breaks the rules and does just fine. In learning these practices, I found five ways that running a good campaign and being a good date overlap.

Five Ways Kickstarter is Like Dating

1. Appearance Matters

How your campaign looks matters. Having a stunning video, great art and a polished look tells people that this is a project that you care about a great deal, enough to make it look as handsome as possible before it steps out the door. Supporters see how much you care about the project and it tells them about how much they should care. Some people aren’t good at making things look beautiful, but the person who can make their campaign look good will always have an edge.

. . .But it isn’t the only thing: The fact is that all the flash doesn’t replace good content, and though flash and beauty might get someone in the room, it might not keep them there.

2. Who You Are is as Important As What You Do:

People tend to connect with other people more than ideas, and knowing who you are can tell supporters that you have the skills to accomplish the project and passion for what you’re doing. Knowing who you are allows supporters to connect with you as a person. There are very few movies that focus on objects, ideas or projects. Most stories tend to focus on a character, who lets the idea and project move through them.

. . .But sometimes who you are isn’t the point, sometimes it’s all about the project. For some people, letting people know who you are is a waste of time that could be spent focusing what you’re planning to do.

3. Your Goals Are Important:

We want to be with people who believe the same things we do, whose goals align with ours. Letting your supporters know exactly what their funds will be used for helps them to figure out if your goal is one that want to invest in.

. . .but sometimes it’s all about the artist. Sometimes it’s not about the project, but the person, about supporting the goals of that talented, inspiring individual, no matter what those goals might be. A fashion designer might get support from someone who could never wear the clothes designed, but who just wants the designer to keep creating.

4. Honesty is the Best Policy

People appreciate knowing what’s going on and are willing to forgive more when you are honest. It can be tough to be honest when problems arise, but often honesty now avoids disaster later.  A delayed shipment of goods is often forgiven as long as supporters are notified in a timely manner. When supporters follow along with production, they get to see the hiccups and issues that happen when bringing a project to completion, and this makes them a part of the journey.

. . .except, you know, when it’s not. Sometimes, a creator might offend their audience by making a surplus on a project and not pouring that money back into extras for the supporters. Or being transparent about a lost shipment might make supporters feel like the creator was irresponsible, when fixing it behind the scenes means that no one would have ever known something went awry. I tend to err on the side of transparency, but I can’t deny that I’ve seen full honesty bite a creator in the butt now and then.

5. Know Your Audience:

In dating, you want to know who you want to attract and the kinds of things those people want. If you love skiing, it would be much nicer to have a partner who enjoys skiing too – or at least, enjoys frequent trips to ski resorts. With Kickstarter, it’s the same way. Knowing what horror fans love if you’re making a horror movie, or what tabletop gamers like for a tabletop game, or what fashionistas are interested in for backing your fashion line is absolutely vital. One community might like to wear buttons on their bags that show off the things they like, where other communities might be more interested in looking into the artistic process. Knowing what you’re audience wants can give you a great insight into generating rewards that will attract them.

. . .except maybe this doesn’t apply to you. Maybe you are trying something new and innovative, something your audience hasn’t seen before, or something that might appeal to an under served audience, one that appreciates different things, or an audience whose desires are unknown.

A Final Note: These are good general practices, but there are always people who break the rules and do just fine. That person may be you. But before you break the rules, look at yourself, your product, and your campaign. Are you the beautiful but dirty creature with a heart of gold or are you just dirty?

The Velociraptor! Canniablism! Kickstarter can be reached here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/boardraptorgames/velociraptor-cannibalism

Shelter in Place can be purchased at Galileo Games: http://galileogames.com/shelter-in-place/

3 thoughts on “5 Ways Kickstarter is Like Dating

  1. Thanks for the insight. I have a few questions, if you have the time and inclination to answer them it would be much appreciated…

    On a scale of 1-10, how important is it to have a preexisting community of people to support your work? 1 being ‘not critical, just fucking do it’ 10 being ‘super critical, don’t attempt a Kickstarter campaign without it.’

    How important is it to act now? Do you get the sense that the Kickstarter bonanza is a temporary thing?

    What are the top three things that separate the 3k-5k project from the 100k project?

  2. I think the community support idea has three slots, you’ve got the people who are your fans because they think you’re cool, the people who will think your project is cool, and then general community respect. You got to plunk all that stuff into a little equation to see how you think you’re going to do.

    For example, if you are doing a project that is about you creating a series of paintings for a gallery show, then I would say that you would need a 8-10 of support for your work to get that going.

    On the other hand, you might not need a fanbase of you if your general project would have fans. For example, I met one one woman at panel who is a dancer, and who knows that there are a lot of hobbyist dancers in her town. She wanted to run a Kickstarter to create a space for all those dancers to dance. Now, she doesn’t have a fan following herself, but the project concept does, so I would say she’s got a great chance of success.

    You can also get support by just being generally respected in your community. A graphic designer that might not have their names on a lot of covers, but has done work for influential authors might be able to leverage that kind of respect into success.

    I wouldn’t put community support as a number, I would say it’s part of an equation for success. You have to take your support, add it to the general awesomeness of your project, add your publicity skills, add in reward desirability and then see if that is more or less than your funding number.

    So maybe it’s like this:

    Support + Awesome Number + Publicity – Funding Number = (Funding Number = Change Equation)

    I see Kickstarter as something that has emerged because of the new methods of distribution and communication. Kickstarter is an outgrowth of the fact that an indie creator can make a decent video, connect with other creators and reach out to anyone interested in what might be a nitch project. I don’t know if Kickstarter in particular is going to last forever (though I don’t think people will want to stop buying stuff anytime soon) but with the internet, I think crowd-sourcing might be something that is here for a good long while. I think people should act now, but not because I think that Kickstarter is going to explode tomorrow, I just think people should make stuff and share it with me.

    I think that the successful 3-5k project and the successful 100k+ project are just different numbers that can be plugged into the equation above. When I see outstanding successful projects, they often have a huge fanbase somewhere, plus a great project and amazing publicity. A smaller project might also have these things, just not quite as big as the larger project.

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