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Interest in crowdfunding is soaring at the moment thanks to the success of high-profile campaigns like Double Fine Adventure, Shadowrun Returns and Wasteland 2. (Not to mention the Pebble E-Paper watch, which recently shattered investment records by raising $10 million in public donations.) But tempting as it is to launch your own videogame fundraising initiative, especially in the wake of the JOBS Act’s passage (which allows qualified investors to gain equity in crowd funded ventures), be aware. As many successful online money raising ventures as you may see featured in the nightly news or splashed across newsstand headlines, many more die a quiet death, failing to garner widespread public awareness or meet funding goals.

Want to improve your chances of succeeding on sites like Kickstarter, RocketHub or IndieGogo? Consider that a campaign actually consists of several phases: Pre-launch preparation, launch programs, post-launch management (and campaign evolution), and post-completion follow-up. Naturally, the pre-launch planning phase is critical, as the building block upon which all other activities are founded. Following are ten crucial items to keep in mind when doing your homework here – all of which are of vital importance as the backbone of any crowdfunding campaign.

  1. Study Other Projects. This is critical. Look at campaigns that have worked and ones that have failed alike. What similarities and differences do they have with your project? What insights can you glean from them – and how can you avoid falling prey to the pitfalls on which they stumbled? Use this study time to also assess whether your project is really the kind of venture that works well in a crowdfunding environment, and what funding levels, rewards and marketing/social media campaigns are most appropriate.
  2. Prepare Assets in Advance. Do you have enough product/project samples and supporting materials to quickly illustrate to potential backers what your idea is all about? Do you have visuals or videos that can clearly, quickly and concisely convey key message points, and demonstrate your project’s upsides? If not, invest some time to develop corresponding images and/or videos that provide a clear impression of what your project is all about. A picture is worth a thousand words: Doubly so when you only have seconds to capture a viewer’s attention.
  3. Perfect Your Pitch. Refine your overarching vision and corresponding pitch, including all audiovisual and copywritten elements. Can you clearly and succinctly explain your project and its value in terms that your audience will understand and appreciate? Have you tried it out on friends and strangers to gauge their reaction and readjusted accordingly? Regardless of whether your project is ongoing or just beginning, or you’ve compiled pre-production assets, do you have something to show potential backers? Do you have representative images or video to share that illustrate your project and supporting assets? What other audiovisual and copywritten elements (concept art, prototypes, sketches, in-development scenes, songs, etc) have you arranged to leverage? Perhaps you have notable individuals’ testimonials to share or other kinds of support. Line up everything you can and plan how and when to use these materials. Be sure to plan a running promotional campaign that incorporates all elements – these materials will serve not only to define your project to the world, but as ammunition in the ongoing battle to promote it.
  4. Plan your Rewards. Know what goods and services you have to offer, what they will cost you and how you will manufacture and distribute each. Be certain that you’ve created options that suit all pricing tiers, speak to a variety of backers, and have built in at least a handful or unique or eye-catching items and opportunities, if only for purposes of generating discussion.
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  1. Project Budgeting and Completion. Estimate how long it will take you to complete a project, allowing room for slippage – a 20-30% buffer is reasonable. Generate your budget and determine minimum funding levels (including any cushions) required to complete the project, and use a spreadsheet if necessary to calculate any costs that you may incur. Be sure to estimate service costs, expenses associated with reward fulfillment and even taxes (take time to speak with an accountant or other certified professional so that you fully understand potential financial and legal implications here) into your projected budget. Note that delays can have a significant effect on project overhead, shipping dates and funding goals.
  2. Funding Targets. Don’t make financial goals too high. Instead, ask for what you need at bare minimum to make a project work – and, in your project’s description, describe added content, features, services or events that will be offered only if specific higher target goals are met. If you’re successful, you may reach them. (Note that it’s important to check funding rules for each individual site or service you are using before beginning as policies differ, i.e. most allow you to keep everything you make, even past your goal, but some do not.) Ultimately though, the less you’re asking for, the likelier you are to incentivize potential backers into taking the plunge, as they’ll be more willing to commit to goals that they believe are achievable.
  3. Campaign Duration. Determine the optimum length of time to keep projects running. Some sites recommend that you keep the funding period down to as little as a few weeks, while others suggest that programs run for no more than 30 days at maximum. However, actual timeframes should be discussed and determined based on individual project need, including how much time it will take to raise awareness, how long you can sustain supporting promotional programs, and how important it is to create a sense of urgency (act now before funding closes!).
  4. Run a Systems Check. Besides preparing campaign assets and tactics, ask yourself: Have you identified your target audience, and do you know where they consume news and media? Have you planned your reward strategies, and run them by friends and associates to affirm that they appeal? Are you confident that your funding target is reasonable, and aimed low as possible to increase chances of success without compromising your budget? Have you identified PR, marketing, media and social media you will need create and utilize to reach your audience?
  5. Make Initial Outreach. Try to drum up some initial interest from friends, family and colleagues, or any existing support base that you have, and secure their promise to contribute once campaigns initially start – their support and contributions may create a sense of successful forward momentum that spurs others to rally to the cause. Work hard to get momentum going around the project early, and ensure resources are ready to bring to bear on day one, before you officially launch it.
  6. Engage Fans Early. If you have an existing fan base or strong group of potential supporters, engage them early – perhaps even weeks before launching your campaign. One way to do so is to solicit their opinions when determining which rewards you will offer. This is something that InXile founder Brian Fargo did successfully with the Wasteland 2 video game reboot project, and it helped catapult the venture forward from the moment it launched.

Professional keynote speaker Scott Steinberg is a leading expert on leveraging new technology trends to enhance business strategy and family life. A noted industry consultant and bestselling author, his new book The Crowdfunding Bible is 100% free to download at www.CrowdFundingGuides.com, or in eBook form on Apple, Nook and Sony Reader devices.

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