For our first interview we talked to Mark Swanson. The man behind the Kickstarter hit, FEUDUM. Mark is an avid follower of the philosophy of: You do not have to launch tomorrow!
Tell us a bit about yourself and your current game, Feudum.
I am a life-long lover of board games and a Professor of Strategic Communication at the Missouri School of Journalism. I am also the father of 3 wonderful daughters.
What did you do to build up such a following before you launched?
I focussed on “owned media” and tried to build a community on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Board Game Geek. Being active on so many communities is not easy, but so important because people gather in so many different places. I’ve only begun to scratch the surface here and hope to be more involved on Reddit and the BGG Designer forum. Attending trade shows is also key. GenCon 2014 was key for me because I got to meet and gain insight from Eric Lang (A Game of Thrones: The Card Game, Quarriors!, Star Wars: The Card Game), Mike Eliott (Magic: The Gathering, Quarriors!) and Bruno Faidutti (Citadels, Diamant, Mystery of the Abbey, Queen’s Necklace). I also met a very gracious man named Jamey Stegmaier who taught me how to play his game “Viticulture.” Little did I know that this chance encounter would lead to correspondence with him via email. He tirelessly answered my questions, and even playtested Feudum at Geekway in St. Louis this year. His Crowdfunding book filled with insights on the community building process was priceless.
What is your best marketing tip so far?
One of the sentences in Jamey Stegmaier’s book crowdfunding book really stood out to me, and I’ve adopted this philosophy: YOU DO NOT HAVE TO LAUNCH TOMORROW! Sometimes people have an insane sense of urgency to launch. Make sure your game is full play tested. Make sure the art is fully polished! Make sure your community is built-up to a modest degree before you unveil your game on the world.
Never neglect your community. Be yourself. Be genuine. Apologize for your mistakes. Be patient with fans and backers. Customers are your brand’s most valuable asset.
If there was one thing you wish you knew before you launched, what would it be?
I wish I knew the VOLUME of backer questions there would be. The comments section on Kickstarter is non-stop, and you have to allow time for it to demonstrate your commitment to your community. I also was MORE prepared to field International shipping questions. If your game does well, knowing shipping costs for bulk orders is important. Knowing the difference between an MSRP and a KS MSRP is important. This enables you to accurately set your retailer and distributer pricing. I learned a lot of things “on the fly” Things like SKUs, SMCs, the Backerkit process, the role of a distribution broker (consolidator that can sell your games to distributers AFTER you’ve fulfilled backer orders, etc.)
When did you launch the campaign for Feudum and why did you choose that exact moment?
After researching optimal launch months, I figured it was either early November or the following year. I had enough of my I’s dotted and T’s crossed that I felt it was time. I was also receiving some pressure from the community to launch as well. Richard Ham of Rhado Run’s Through even said that he “was begging to lose all hope,” about Feudum and the game was starting to drop on his list of “Most Anticipated Games” as the game launch kept getting delayed. : )
The beginning and the end of the campaign are when most of the backers pledge. What is your main tactic to handle the mid-campaign drop in backers?
It’s important to develop a list of bloggers, bloggers, reviewers, opinion leaders,retailers, and stay in contact with them about your progress and milestones. If you campaign does well initially, it becomes newsworthy and bloggers are more inclined to share the buzz with their followers. Timing a launch around a trade show is also a good idea. Right now, I am typing this before heading to BGGcon. I hope to set up the game and let passersby know that the game is currently on Kickstarter. : )
How often do you send out updates and what do they include?
Currently, I send out updates each time a stretch goal is unlocked. Also, sending one out when knew stretch goals are revealed is important.
What is you tactic regarding stretch goals?
Reveal just enough to get backers excited. I use a “?” at the end of the list to let backers know that more are coming. They may start out close together, but you may have to adjust the distance between them based on success, because otherwise, your manufacturing costs could spiral out of control.
What is the most important element of a Kickstarter page?
Beautiful visuals and Beautiful words. Tell a story! People want to hear stories!
Do you regret something you did so far on your campaign?
Not anticipating that my stretch goals would be reached so soon in the campaign. Expansions to the game have been unlocked and now my artist is working hard to equip backers with rules.
What is your favourite board game and why?
Wow. This is tough. I love so many games. Some of my favorites include Goa, Tzolkin, Terra Mystica, Age of Steam, Caverna, Le Havre, Caylus, Puerto Rico, The Voyages of Marco Polo, Shogun, Taj Mahal, Dominant Species, El Grande, Tigris and Euphrates, Troyes, Power Grid……
Do you have any role models in the board gaming industry?
The prolific designers are my role models: Martin Wallace, Uwe Rosenberg, Martin Wallace, Reiner Knizia, Bruno Faidutti, Friedemann Friese, Stephan Feld, Jamey Stegmaier
Anything else you want to add ?
Yes, not very many people have seen the below “inside_tray” !