Cross-promotion, when it comes to crowdfunding campaigns, is a form of marketing promotion where a project creator promotes another project to his or her backer audience. Given how cooperative and helpful the crowdfunding community is, it’s no surprise that the practice is now commonplace and it’s almost expected to see creators give other projects a mention at the end of their campaign status updates.
We asked several project creators about their experience with cross-promotion to find out more about how to arrange a cross-promotion with another creator, how they measured the impact, and how cross-promotion ranks among the other standard crowdfunding marketing activities.
Finding the Right Partner
The first thing project creators have to do is find other projects that make a good cross-promotion match. You want to find other projects that share a similar backer audience, so that it will make sense to present your project to their backers.
Cross-promotion was a logical decision for Dr. Lyssa Neel, creator of the Linkitz Smart Friendship Bracelets: “obviously not for a direct competitor, but for a product that appeals to the same demographic, it’s a pure win-win.”
Each creator that we spoke with had similar rules about what projects they would consider for co-marketing. Michael Dickson, creator of the PiCO Titanium Bottle Opener, laid out his for us: “I pretty much had three rules, it had to be a project that I would want to back myself, it had to be at least somewhat relevant to my own backers, and it had to be mutually beneficial, meaning they needed to have a decent amount of backers already themselves.”
Most creators found other projects to promote by browsing through Kickstarter and Indiegogo project lists, studying their backers to see what other projects they’ve recently funded, or by getting contacted directly by another creator.
Henry Smith, creator of the Spaceteam Admiral’s Club game, used Kicklytics, “a tool that showed what the backer overlap was between my project and others (e.g. ‘your project and project X have 23% backers in common’). I found this pretty interesting and I actually discovered new projects that I was personally interested in through this tool.” Note that tools like Kicklytics are no longer around since Kickstarter stopped displaying project backer data publicly. Now creators have to find projects the old-fashioned way by browsing on the crowdfunding platforms or using project discovery sites like BackerKit’s BackerTracker.
The Cross-Promotion Dance
There’s no set procedure or etiquette to approaching another project creator about a cross-promotion. Most of the creators we asked simply messaged other creators. Ali Kothari from CoffeeBar advises, “I’d just message the campaign that you want to cross-promote with, tell them a little about your project, your current success, and why you think a cross-promo between your campaigns would be beneficial.”
A few of the creators we contacted mentioned that they actually backed the projects first before contacting the creator about cross-promotion. From PiCO creator, Michael Dickson: “I did pledge on a number of projects before contacting them. More because they met the ‘had to be a project that I would want to back myself’ rule mentioned above, and I actually wanted one of their products.’
Creators are conscientious of protecting their backers’ trust. Serial-creator Jessica Feinberg has spent years building her fanbase and is careful to make sure that she only promotes projects that will benefit her backers. She believes that cross-promoting indiscriminately is a bad practice that can cause harm, for example, “if you ‘spam’ your backer base with lots of suggestions they might just stop listening to you and unfollow your updates, unlike your Facebook page and so forth.
Also, if you recommend a project and it doesn’t deliver on time, you lose points with your backers. Jamey Stegmaier of Stonemaier Games goes a step further, taking a stance that mentioning another project should be done purely with the backers’ interests in mind without any expectation of reciprocation from the other project creator.
Cross-promotion brings you into a dangerous situation where you could easily put your personal gain ahead of your backers’ well-being. The approach most creators follow is to only do promotions where their interests and their backers’ interests are aligned.
Does It Work?
Few creators could give exact pledge conversion rates for their cross-promotion mentions because it used to be difficult to track attribution at the campaign level using Kickstarter dashboard metrics. Most guessed that the conversion rate matched up with their overall campaign conversion rate, which is 2-3% for most projects.
Tracking attribution is easier on Kickstarter now that they’ve added support for Google Analytics. Vince Ng from Bomber & Company told us that cross-promotion pledge rates can get as high as 10% for his current Firestarter Survival Bracelet and Carabiner Paracord Keychain campaign if the backer demographics are closely matched between campaigns but he cautions that those conversion rates are rare–his project already has a higher-than-average overall pledge rate of 6% because “everyone wants fire.”
Is It Worth The Effort?
All of the creators we contacted agreed that cross-promotion does generate new pledges but it ranks well behind must-have activities such as reaching out to bloggers and the media. For PiCO’s Michael Dickson, cross-promotion ran “a distant second” to media outreach: “Blogs, especially the well known ones (Uncrate, Gizmodo, Coolmaterial, etc.) generated exponentially more traffic than any of our other efforts.”
Spaceteam’s Henry Smith told us that he did cross-promotion on his campaign but it wasn’t a focus for him because his co-marketing opportunities were limited: “I didn’t want to spam people who might not be interested (in either my project, or the projects I promoted) so I was very selective about who I shared with. My project was also very unusual so I wasn’t sure how my audience would react. I only picked other local multiplayer games or projects that I thought were really compelling or different.” Henry detailed all of his Kickstarter marketing activities in a post on his Sleeping Beast Games blog.
The consensus from the creators we contacted is that cross-promotion is a worthwhile activity that deserves a place in your marketing toolbox but you can’t count on it to carry your campaign.
The overall impact will be limited by the number of projects you’re able to partner with and the size of their audiences. Combine that with the work involved in finding appropriate partner projects and convincing them to work together and you have a low-hanging-fruit situation: find the projects that make sense but don’t waste time that could be spent on higher-impact activities such as PR and blogger outreach.