Advertising your Kickstarter Post-Mortem (Lawyer Up)

posted in: blog, kickstarter, kickstarter lesson | 3

This is a follow-up to my Kickstarter Advertising ROI post after Gothic Horrors and my original How to Advertise your Kickstarter series of posts.  You may want to refer to some of these past posts since I certainly reread them as I worked on this reexamination of the Kickstarter Advertising space. 

Our recent Lawyer-Up Kickstarter almost broke $200K during the COVID-19 Pandemic.  I feel I always need to remind people that there are NO SHORTCUTS to Kickstarter Success so consider that my disclaimer.  Lawyer Up is a game we conceived over 4 years ago and its success is a result of a lot of hard work which was supported by marketing and advertising.  Advertising is a way to amplify your success, but can also be a huge waste of money if your project isn’t ready.  Here is a quick table outlining this campaign’s performance:

Dicebreaker Ads$1,500.00205$7.32$196.00-$1,304.00-86.93%
BGG Ads$2,200.002510$0.88$3,619.00$1,419.0064.50%
BGG Newsletter$300.001324$0.23$1,717.00$1,417.00472.33%
BGG total$2,500.003834$0.65$5,336.00$2,836.00113.44%
Rahdo Sponsored Video$825.00NANA$1,642.00$817.0099.03%

This post focuses on comparing this Kickstarter advertising campaign to past performance. Let’s look at how these advertising campaigns have performed over time with our Maximum Apocalypse campaign (2017), Gothic Horrors (2018) and Lawyer Up (2020):

2017 Revenue2018 Revenue2020 Revenue2017 ROI2018 ROI2020 ROI

BTW all the data above was compiled using Kickstarter’s referral tags, Google Analytics and the metrics from the advertising platforms themselves.

Another Decline…time to stop advertising right?

It does seem like once again our returns declined for this campaign.  End result is that any positive ROI is worth it in my opinion.  So what could have attributed to this decline over the years.  I have a few thoughts and guesses on what may have attributed to these declines so here we go.

The most obvious explanation is the COVID epidemic. It has greatly impacted the current economic climate and there is a huge amount of uncertainty in the world as a result. A lot of people have been losing their jobs and no amount of advertising is going to get them to part with their money even if they would like the product.

Another factor is that the competition in the board game space has been increasing tremendously over the years as the hobby has grown. That means more companies/games are competing for dollars and spending money on these advertising platforms. Of course, this increased demand also raises the price for all of us Kickstarter companies as well.

I think the most alarming decline over the years is actually with BoardGameGeek (BGG).  Since 2018 they have redesigned their site, forums, etc. I think it’s pretty clear that these changes along with their increase in pricing over the year has negatively impacted CPC (cost per click) on their site.  Back in 2017, we had an average CPC of $0.19 compared to $0.65 this year.  That is a big percentage change.  It means we are paying way more per visitor and probably converted these visitors into backers as well if not better than we did back in 2017.

On the plus side, I think Reddit is still overlooked.  It appears we neglected it and probably should have spent more money on it this campaign.  I think our original campaign on Reddit is probably an outlier because their ad platform was changing right as we ran that campaign.

So How Do I Advertise my Kickstarter?

One of the things people still don’t realize is how powerful direct email marketing is and of course cultivating and supporting the community that supports your business. If you don’t believe me, here’s a quick chart comparing our direct pledges from just our newsletter to the advertising platforms:

If I added in our Kickstarter Updates, Social media referrals and other direct traffic, it would completely eclipse the amount of money that advertising brought us.  I’m telling you this because that is the hard part.  Anybody can spend money on an ad platform to drive traffic, but if you’re in this for the long haul you need to build your own crowd.  Whenever new designers ask me for advice, I always remind people that I went to every convention I could for well over a year playtesting and showing off Maximum Apocalypse before we launched on Kickstarter and even then, we had some luck gaining momentum.

Ultimately, how much you spend on advertising a Kickstarter is going to be a factor of your experience, access to capital and your aversion to risk.  Advertising is always a risk and ultimately requires you to some have faith not only in the power of marketing but also in your product.

Stay Safe and Secure!

3 Responses

  1. Oliver Schlien

    Hi Mike,

    Great write up! As a (hopefully) future Kickstarter game publisher I’m more than interested in such real life numbers. Thanks for sharing them, this provides a great insight for newcomers like me. You write about how the market or backers have changed over time, and I’m sure you’re right.

    But there maybe another aspect: Your games are quite different. Though basically huge card game boxes with some added tokens, Maximum Apocalypse is a game for 1 to 6 players, the Gothic Horrors Expansion is, well, an expansion and of course you made the base game available as well during the campaign. So that is a totally different story, some backers are already familiar with the game from the first campaign, waiting enthusiastically for the expansion. Others make their first contact with Maximum Apocalypse during your second campaign, giving them the chance to spend more money at once. Then, the recent Lawyer Up campaign had quite a different target audience, focussing totally on a one on one setup. Different audience, different habits. What do you think?

    Also, I have looked some minutes at your table of numbers: Facebook and BGG Ads have brought you a comparable number of clicks, whilst the revenue of BGG Ads was much higher. I wonder: Is that due to a better conversion rate, due to higher amount spent by converted backers, or both? I would love to read some deeper insights, if you are willing to share those numbers as well 🙂


    • Mike

      No question that each of my games is different, each Kickstarter is different and even the time of year they were run are different… but we do the best we can with the data we have.

      I don’t see how the games being different matters that much when it comes to advertising… I doubt anyone remembers what my ads looked like for Maximum years ago and it’s all about clicks and first impressions. I’m looking to bring in new people with advertising… not get backers who have already backed my games excited (I should already be bringing those backers in myself).

  2. Quinn

    Thanks so much for sharing this! It’s the only place I’ve been able to find CPC and ROAS for the industry. Do you share your Facebook ad targeting anywhere?

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