Imagine being transported back to old-world Tuscany where you’ve inherited a meager vineyard. You need to figure out how to strategically plant vines, harvest grapes, and manage workers so you can become the best winery in all of Italy.
This is the setting of Viticulture, a game that Jamey Stegmaier began creating in 2012. He then partnered with co-founder Aaron Stone to run a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for the production of the game, and the success of the campaign kick-started the business Stonemaier Games. Jamey kept his day job while running Stonemaier Games as a side hustle and became a full-time entrepreneur a year later. Since then, Jamey and his team have run eight successful crowdfunding campaigns, scaling Stonemaier Games to over $100 million in revenue and publishing over a dozen games in the process.
One of those games is the cult-favorite Wingspan, which challenges players to compete against one another to build networks of wildlife preserves to attract the best birds and has sold over a million copies worldwide.
In this episode of Shopify Masters, we chat with Jamey to learn the key components of a successful crowdfunding campaign.
How to run a successful crowdfunding campaign
Jamey and his team are known for their success on Kickstarter, where they’ve raised over $3 million across eight campaigns. As a result, members of the business and board games community often turn to Jamey for advice on running their own campaigns. As a result, Stonemaier Games’ website is not just a shopping destination for board game fans, it’s also a free resource library sharing tips about exactly how Jamey ran his crowdfunding campaigns.
Having published over 200 hundred blog posts on lessons learned from running crowdfunding campaigns, Jamey has categorized and organized them into a master list and even published the book, A Crowdfunder’s Strategy Guide. Here are some of the top tips he shares on running a successful crowdfunding campaign.
1. Support and learn from other crowdfunding campaigns
Jamey’s number one tip for understanding the ins-and-outs of crowdfunding is to learn from other campaigns. “One of the biggest things I recommend is to back and support a lot of campaigns that you're interested in,” shares Jamey.
Observing and participating in other campaigns is the best way to understand which tactics you want to emulate and which you want to avoid. By following along with a campaign’s updates, fellow founders can get a grasp of how to communicate to backers as well as best practices for keeping a community engaged.
- Small investments, big learnings: Most campaigns have the option to pledge just $1 to support a campaign. This gives you access to their updates and how they communicate about the campaign’s progress to backers.
- Study in and out of your category: Invest time into the industry that you want to create a product in, but also see how campaigns are run in other categories. This way your campaign can stand out and include best practices from an array of inspirations.
- Keep a spreadsheet of learnings: There will be an endless amount of blog posts, books, and other campaigns that offer great insights. Organize and keep track of your research in a centralized document or spreadsheet.
2. Maintain a separate source of income while crowdfunding ideas
When the Viticulture Kickstarter campaign surpassed its goal by over two folds, Jamey still ran Stonemaier Games as a side hustle. “I continued having a full-time job after raising a decent amount of money,” Jamey recalls. “That money was to make and ship the game to backers.”
In order to maintain an income while also running Stonemaier Games, Jamey pitched an alternative schedule at work that allowed him more time to develop board games while shrinking his job to a 4-day work week and taking a 20% pay cut, while still delivering on the same amount of projects. Jamey says, “It was an easy sell for my boss at the time. And that was a nice way for me to test the waters.”
3. Use personal communication to build community
At the heart of Jamey and his team’s success is the dedication to one-on-one interactions with their community. From crowdfunding campaigns, Stonemaier Games expanded to a blog on their website, Facebook live streams, Instagram updates, and Youtube videos. “Whenever someone is willing to show up and consume a little bit of that content and has a comment or a question, I want to let them know that I'm listening, that I'm reading along,” Jamey says.
Personal and timely communication is crucial during a crowdfunding campaign and this is a philosophy that Jamey has carried into his day-to-day operations at Stonemaier Games. Even though their business and the number of online comments both ballooned over the years, Jamey still dedicates time on his calendar to engage with the community personally. Additionally, the team has a dedicated team member who answers questions and comments.
4. Find an ideal manufacturing partner to fulfill orders
The end product that reaches customers is key to backer satisfaction and future crowdfunding projects, so finding the right manufacturing partner to bring your products to life is crucial. Jamey is transparent about which manufacturer they work with and why the relationship works so well. “I've worked with the same manufacturer called Panda. It's a Canadian company that has its main factory in China,” Jamey shares. “I started working with them early on when I heard good things about this company.”
Jamey decided to partner with Panda after observing how communicative and transparent the company was about the production process. . Jamey says, “In addition to evaluating price, I'd also recommend looking at early communication. Are they responsive? Are they answering your questions? Are they being transparent about their information and the quality of their products as well?”
Crowdfunding strategies are just one of the great highlights that Jamey Stegmaier shared during our interview. Tune into the full Shopify Masters episode to learn:
- How Stonemaier games navigate global fulfillment and logistics.
- What Jamey looks for when deciding which games to publish next.
- The key apps that allowed Stonemaier Games to have a great buyer flow and a beautiful site.
- How the game Wingspan became a cult classic and sold over a million copies.
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