What is a First Follower?
A first follower is exactly that, the first person to jump on board so you are no longer alone or in more technical terms, the first individual to join a person with a unique idea and transforms them into a leader.
In a world of Kickstarters and crowdfunding, this is incredibly relevant and we can pull some very important lessons from the idea. However, the one caveat in the online world I would add is that the first follower is not the first person to follow you online or join your group. The first follower is the person who is as passionate about your game as you are, maybe even more so. They are out there trying to get other people to play the game and are supporting you with their efforts because they believe in your game, which has transformed into “our game.” They are huge believers in the product and they are looking to be a part of it.
So, I am going to propose a few lessons that we can use in order to grow a board game or a board game company.
Lesson 1: Don’t Market To Everyone
This first follower or first followers will be the ones that really broadcast your message and help you to gain traction in the world of crowdfunding or just gaining new customers. Without a crowd there is no crowdfunding, so this is where you must start.
Does this mean I should immediately go out and try to recruit everybody? Let the chips fall where they may?
You can do this, and with enough money, time, and resources it could eventually work. If it cost $100 US to let everyone know about your project, I would do it in a heartbeat. However, in the real world, that is not possible. It would likely take billions and billions of dollars. That is not very cost effective or even feasible.
What you are looking for in marketing in general are those people who are likely to buy, that way you can at least gain as much money in return as you spend. Thereby growing your # of units sold and your market share. I would argue that in the very beginning, you don’t even want that as much but an even more targeted approach of looking for your first followers. People are different and some people like to be the first ones in and are very risk tolerant. This is where a number of Kickstarter backers are in the scope of things. They like to be the first in. They want to be supportive of the process. This is where you need to move your focus in the early stages of building up your community.
Now, this is not all Kickstarter backers. This is an important distinction because just like the video, there are those who will wait to see if it becomes big enough or popular enough or acknowledge if it will succeed before they jump in. There is nothing wrong with that but those people are just risk averse. I would argue that this is where you see the growth on the very large Kickstarters and why you keep seeing people say, “success brings more success.” This is where that idea comes from. This is the FOMO effect that really happens when a Kickstarter gains momentum. For those who don’t know what FOMO is, it stands for the Fear Of Missing Out, a social anxiety that you are missing out on something fun and exciting; you yearn to be a part of that group and want to join in. It’s a natural state of being for many people, and that’s okay. We are social creatures by nature and we want to be part of groups and get excited just like everyone else. These people, the risk averse, are the ones who sign-up for your newsletter but wait and see what happens. They want to see a finished product or even a good amount of success before they join in.
The lesson here is to look for your first followers in the beginning, as you do so you will find plenty of people who are interested and like your project and you definitely need to keep them in the loop and primed for your board game, but you are looking for those diamonds in the rough. Those people who will help you spread the word, playtest your game, come up with ideas, and be passionate about the project. Those are the ones you need early in order to really build a community or crowd for your board game. You need your first followers.
Lesson 2: It’s Not About You…Or Is It?
This can be hard. You need to ask yourself the question, “why am I creating this board game?” This lesson will vary depending on what your answer is.
If you are creating a game for yourself, for you to play, and potentially share with a few people, then the answer is yes, it’s all about you. There is nothing wrong with that. You don’t have to turn it into a business, you don’t have to go to Kickstarter, this is all the wrong way to think about it. Don’t worry about missing out if you don’t crowdfund your game. Crowdfunding a board game is a very different experience and I see too many people go down this road when they shouldn’t. They just want to create a game for themselves. Do just that. Go for it. Keep it simple and it will make you happier than you can believe.
If you are creating a board game because you want to start a business, then the answer is that the game is not about you. I know in the beginning it is but when you are putting your game onto the market, it ceases to be about you. The market is going to decide if they want this game or not. It may be niche, it may be big, it may not fund, it all depends on their perception of the value of your game.
Now, if you design your game to be niche and focused on a particular market and that is what you are expecting, then great! A single board game can’t be for everyone, it’s not going to happen. There are too many people and too many different kinds of board gamers in different stages of life for that to work. The key here is to know what you are shooting for. Know your target market and try to let them know you are there to help. It’s all about them.
Now this doesn’t mean you have give everything for free or even at cost. You have value. You have created value out of your hard work, skills, and money to create something. That should not be treated lightly. Those people who really want to follow you and support you and the product fits their need, they will support you. Now, you can over value yourself too and price yourself out of the market but that is an interesting discussion to have as you may be shooting for the wrong market. However, that is a discussion for another blog post.
The lesson here is know why you want to create your game. When you do, you can make the right decision for yourself about how to accomplish that dream.
Lesson 3: Every Project Has A Tipping Point
What is a tipping point? It is a critical threshold an idea crosses in order to gain significant momentum aka go viral.
Every project has this built into it, the problem is a lot of times we don’t know where it is. Also, just because a project has a tipping point it doesn’t mean it’s going to be as big as another project. That’s okay too. In board games, some are more accessible than others. Really heavy Euro games can reach a tipping point and gain a lot of momentum but there is a limit to how far they can go because the game itself is not conducive to the market as a whole. Where as something that is more accessible to a larger audience will be able to go farther and become much bigger in the marketplace.
Now this being said, there is one majorly important idea when it comes to Kickstarter. We know that you need to fund early in the process in order to build up momentum. We have seen it time and time again. Now, there are some variables here that change depending on funding level, etc. and that will have to be evaluated on a case by case basis but in general, fund early in order to fund more. That is a major tipping point for a lot of board games on Kickstarter if you want to gain momentum. I think many creators know this, which is why you see them cancel a Kickstarter that is doing alright. You ask why? You were almost funded by day 7. The momentum wasn’t there like they wanted so they canceled the Kickstarter in order to try again. Think of it like trying to get the longest jump in your life. You start running but you know you are not fast enough to get your best jump. You basically stop, go back to the starting line, and try again with a better running start.
The lesson here is to get to that tipping point as quickly as possible by funding a reasonable funding goal as fast as possible. In order to do that, you need to have marketed your game at least months in advance and make sure you have your first followers on board with you. Getting to that tipping point is the difference between a great Kickstarter and a stellar Kickstarter.
In the end, determine your end goal. Find those people out there who are as passionate as you are about the game you created, cultivate them, help them, and invite them to be part of the game. Build up your community and help them know how to best gain momentum for the game.
Does anybody have any experiences they wish to share? What do you think of this idea? Have you seen it before?