Two people holding glasses of champagne together


A Doomed Video Game Project... And a New Beginning.

The other day, I was sitting in my office. The spring rain was falling outside and I was reading advice from one of my marketing mentors who has done over $50 million of business online. I was researching how his direct marketing methods, such as what's known as a funnel, can help your crowdfunding project. That's when I came across a small video game project. They had a great looking little game they'd clearly been working hard on. Their backers had each given them a decent amount, but there were just too few of them and it was clear the project was going to fail. All of their work, their hopes and their potential, were about to be crushed.

This article is for them and to all of you who haven't launched yet and want to avoid becoming them.

So what was their main problem? While people were giving them nice comments on their YouTube videos, none of those commenters seemed to be backing them. People liked the look of their stuff, but weren't committing to a pledge.

Remember, the hardest part of any campaign is to actually convince a casual visitor to actually stop what they're doing, pull out their credit card or other payment details and pledge. Even if they love your idea, it takes effort to decide, to get excited about the reward, and risk disappointment if you never get funded.

So how can you give yourself the best chance of turning that casual page viewer into your highest pledging fan?


The Irresistible Pledge Funnel™

What's that? Simple. Once people have made a pledge, raising their pledge amount is very easy, practically and psychologically. Unlike the initial pledge, they don't have to create an account, or get out a credit card or start thinking of themselves in a different way (as a backer). So, what's needed to make that very first step utterly irresistable to them? Make the risk of the first pledge virtually nothing, by making the reward tier as low as possible. Specifically, make it $1. Make what they get for that single dollar ridiculously high. Make the delivery of their reward as instant as possible, rather than something they only get only after you (hopefully) fund some time in the distant future.

Once they've become backers, it's easy for all of them to increase their pledge size. Now you have them thinking of themselves as a backer, with a super easy way to increase their pledge (especially on Kickstarter). Better yet, you have an exclusive channel to contact them that they're actually likely to pay attention to, because they paid for it. You can use that to share the benefits of your larger reward tiers with them, which is now easier than ever for them to get.


So How Do You Do It? (Step By Step)

1. Find Your Single Dollar Irresistable Offer (SDIO)

Large carrot held by string

Let's imagine you're the video game maker from the start of this article (although it works in any category). To provide backers irresistable value you can afford for only $1, typically you need something that costs nothing to give away. Usually that means a digital download. Alternatively, it could be becoming personally a small part of something larger like a film credit or something like what Hybrid Vigor did, with all $1 backers getting their photo in the film's poster.

Authors or comic book projects could use a PDF of an older publication, music projects a free track download, film projects the chance for people or their name or likeness to appear, etc, or for game projects like the one we've been talking about, a playable demo (or subscription to periodic demos).

Just make your $1 reward something genuinely desirable, preferably that lets backers experience what they'll love about your stuff instantly (so they'll want more). This is your instant bonus.

Once you have something that $1 backers will get instantly, ideally, you'll also add something else that they'll get only if your project funds. This is your funding bonus. Ideally, this will also deliver exceptional value, although in this case you can usually make it a bit more expensive, as they're only going to get it if you get funded.

An instant bonus is what will get them to pledge. A funding bonus is what will get them to share. - Click to Tweet This


2. Create the Reward Tier

Once you've got your SDIO, create your $1 reward tier and a backer-only update with a link to get it. You want people to read the reward tier description, and be genuinely surprised at how much you're giving away for only a measly buck. This is easier than it sounds because people don't expect a whole lot for this little money. Do whatever you can to max out the value they get, without giving away your primary reward though. How much they love your $1 tier, is what's going to raise the percentage of visitors to your project page who pledge from around %1 to %15, %20 or more (meaning you get 20 times the number of backers you would have gotten otherwise).


3. Get it Seen... Everywhere

Audience watching an event

Right near the start of your project description let people know about your $1 offer and the remarkable value you're giving away. Also do it at the start of the rewards section of your video. And in social media updates. And in any interviews you can line up. Basically mention it anywhere and everywhere you can. Let them know that every backer, even at $1, lets you and your team know that people want to see this project made real. Talk about the $1 reward tier more here than your highest value tier. Pitching that will come later. Make it your featured tier, if you're on a platform where you can do that like Indiegogo. At a pledge level of only $1, with a surprising level of value provided, you can easily get many backers quickly and early, which also helps with publicity and ranking in the crowdfunding platforms "popularity" rankings.

On the download page for your $1 offer, ask people not to share the link. Remind them, that you're only asking a single dollar for it, which anyone can afford, and that if they really want to share it, to please share your project page link instead.


4. Turn That $1 Pledge Into More

Post regularly to your backers, always thanking them for being backers and having already helped you out. If your primary request of your casual visitors, was to join you at the $1 level, your main message to your $1 backers is that they can guarantee the success of the project, their reward and get much better rewards again, by increasing their pledge. Optionally, consider holding a competition, where you give away one thing of value to one randomly chosen person, who upgrades their pledge in a certain time frame.


5. Time Limit the Instant Bonus (Optional)


Optionally, make the $1 Instant Bonus available only in the first few days of the campaign, and remove the download after that period. Make sure you make it very clear this will happen, especially in your reward description, so you don't get people upset about not getting something promised. Why would you want to do this? Remember, if not forced to make some kind of decision, most people will make no decision at all, which means no pledge. There are many people who would pledge, but will just get distracted without ever making their decision. Get them to decide and you increase how many of them will join you for a stronger lightning launch.

If you're concerned about people losing interest after you remove the instant bonus, remember this. The start of the campaign is when a large percentage of your viewers will visit your page anyway. Making the offer available only then, will still make it available to most of your visitors, but will force them to at least make a decision. Putting off making a decision until "later" is the number 1 reason people don't pledge, as "later" almost always becomes "never" with the constant stream of distractions we all face. Removing this by creating urgency for a decision, is one of the oldest methods for increasing revenue proven by direct marketing, and is a powerful technique to get people to take action.



Why This Dramatically Increases Your Backers... and Average Pledge Size

If someone is a backer, you can contact them again any time. If they leave without pledging you're unlikely to ever see them again.

You catch people's attention by offering so much at such a tiny price, making it far more tempting to take the first step (pledging). Once they have pledged, they become psychologically involved in the project, and are more likely to want to see it succeed. Once they've pledged, they have momentum, and have broken the pattern of just clicking through to other projects.

Don't underestimate the power of this.

Psychologically, people tend to act in alignment with the identities they already hold for themselves. If someone has given you money, even $1, they're no longer a visitor to your project. They're a backer. When they see themselves as a backer, they'll act how they believe a backer acts. Backers spread the word, offer encouragement, make important introductions, retweet, share and often, also increase their pledges. Once they are already a backer, it's far easier, especially on Kickstarter, for them to go in and raise the pledge amount. They don't need to create an account, enter an address or payment details. It's just enter the amount and click update.


So What Does This Look Like in Practice?

So, let's take that video game project we talked about at the start of this strategy guide as an example. How would they implement this? They could create a $1 reward tier that offers access to regular playable downloads for anyone who pledges in the first few days after launching (instant bonus) and their name and photo in the final games credits (funding bonus). They would then mention their bonus in all parts of their project, social and media outreach. If they got an interview on a gaming podcast, or did a let's play video they'd mention it there, too. This will usually lead to a good number of backers at the $1 level, with an enthusiastic community of people actually starting to play the game, leave comments on the project and share it.

After that they'd talk in the project updates about the potential upgrades, such as appearing in the game, getting custom upgrades or unlocking Mac and Linux versions. This would give them the opportunity to go and be interviewed on Mac or Linux podcasts / website stories, where they could further mention the $1 offer, while also getting a large portion of those $1 backers to increase their pledge to $10, $40, $100 or more.

That's the power of a marketing funnel, and how it looks applied to a crowdfunding campaign.

Now they have a core group of backers who got in for the $1 deal, upgraded to become a larger part of the project and then share because they want to see "their" game become real. Each step was a logical extension of the last. They now think of themselves as backers supporting their project. Backers are the heroes of the project. People like to feel like heroes, so make it easy for them and they'll make it easy for you.  - Click to Tweet this


So, What's Next?

So are you getting ready to launch a project? We're getting ready to guide a group of people through the whole process, including the Irresistible Pledge Funnel™. Click the button below to download your step by step checklist for putting this into action, your guide to the top 10 free crowdfunding tools and future updates on becoming part of the mentoring group.

Do you know someone else without a huge audience, who needs every visitor possible to become a backer? If so then please consider helping them and me out by sharing this guide with them now.


Special shout out for this article to Mike Dillard for reminding me of the power of the $1 offer and building marketing funnels. You rock Mike!



As Featured / Quoted in: