Fulfill Your Board Game Kickstarter: Sending Products Outside the USA

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Heads up: this fulfillment article assumes you live in the USA. Even if you don’t, it’s still helpful – but it’s not as specific to your needs.

Fulfillment is one of the trickiest parts of any board game Kickstarter. It requires your inventory being sent from your manufacturer via freight shipping agencies through customs agents to warehouses and finally to your customers. It’s the part of the process that feels the most international and it’s one of the areas that feels the most overwhelming to the uninitiated. That’s for good reason: the devil really is in the details.

Last week’s article, we focused on domestic fulfillment from the perspective of a resident of the USA. This week, we’re going to focus on international fulfillment. This is a little more complex than last week’s, but we’ll follow the same format.

Like last week, I recommend that you read some of the other fulfillment articles I’ve written – particularly A Crash Course on Board Game Fulfillment. They include:

 

 

Scenario 1: You fulfill the game yourself using USPS even for international packages.

I’m using brand names here, but that doesn’t imply loyalty to them.

“A hundred and sixty backers,” you say to your co-designer. “I never thought we’d make it this far, but here we are.” Having shopped around for a number of fulfillment companies, you’ve determined that it just doesn’t make sense to send all your inventory and warehouse it with a larger company for 160 packages. You have enough space in your garage for the remaining 340 units, so you tell BangWee to go ahead and ship the game to you.

Twelve long weeks pass and your game is printed and shipped from Shenzen, China to your home of Provo, Utah. It’s shipped into San Fransisco and then travels by less-than-truckload (LTL) to a nearby warehouse. You borrow your friend’s pick-up truck, move about 40 boxes of 12 games each, and regret lifting with your back instead of your knees.

You unload the inventory in your garage on a wooden pallet. You check all the inventory to make sure it looks neat. BangWee did an awesome job. You cover everything up with a tarp and get ready for a busy Saturday of preparing packages.

Now your US packages? Those aren’t too hard to send. We covered that in last week’s version of this same scenario. But you’ve got 12 packages that aren’t US-bound. Five go to Europe, three to Australia, two to South America, one to Russia, and one to Belize.

After dropping off a big batch of US-bound packages, you return to the post office the following day with your remaining 12 packages. Each one is neatly packed with the lightest material you can find. You make sure that the package is a small as it possibly can be. You ship First Class International instead of Priority to save money. You don’t get tracking and the packages can take weeks to ship, but Priority Mail can be close to $100 each. That’s seriously cutting into your profits, and would even make you run at a loss.

You fill out 12 different customs forms by hand. It’s pretty time-consuming. You wind up paying a little over $500 to ship everything. Weeks later, your customers receive their packages. Some of them receive them with no issue, a few of them have to pay customs fees on delivery but they let it slide, two more are demanding reimbursement for the customs fees, and one package went missing entirely.

At this point, you’re probably hearing the record scratch. Customers getting charged customs? Paying extremely high shipping rates? Whaaaat?

I’ve done quite a bit of research and I’ve yet to find a satisfying way to fulfill board games internationally without going through a third party such as Games Quest, or another company with global distribution. The simple fact is that sending a board game from your house to Australia can be as much as $50. Similarly, you can send a similar game to the UK for about $30, but then they’ll get hit with customs and handling fees when it’s time to receive their package at the door. It’s a mess.

Can you fix this by using FedEx or UPS? Maybe, maybe not. That’s highly dependent upon the nature of your project and I’ve never had any luck with it. Their rate estimates come out so high that they wind up making the USPS look good.

Some clever folks have worked around the difficulties of international fulfillment for small Kickstarters by shipping a few copies of their game to friends within a region or country, such as the European Union, and then having them ship the games separately from there. Does that work? Sure, it can. But do you really want your business to depend on bundling games to send to overseas friends and then pressing them to fulfill your deadlines? I sure don’t, and to be honest, it’s not usually a money saver. That brings me to…

 

Scenario 2: You have Games Quest fulfill your games for you.

Again, I’m using brand names here, but that doesn’t imply loyalty to them.

“Eighteen hundred games!” Your parents can’t believe it. How could your scrappy team of three make $51,000 on Kickstarter? That’s enough to order more than the MOQ from Panda Games, with stretch goals to boot!

Last week, when we ran through this scenario, you sent most of your stock to Fulfillrite, a company that specializes in fulfilling packages to the US. They can fulfill packages internationally, too, but they can’t do it in the customs-friendly way that backers have become accustomed to. (This might change by the time you read this, though.)

To fulfill your 217 international packages, you send 250 units to Games Quest. Like Fulfillrite, they take care of fulfillment behind the scenes. The only difference is that they’re sending to different countries. The average package costs about 10 pounds to ship, or $13.

Every once in a while, you get a customer service call saying they haven’t received their package. They’re so few and far between that you send another game no questions asked. By all measures, your campaign was a smashing success and you barely had to work during fulfillment!

 


 

International fulfillment is nothing to be intimidated by. It’s not as simple as domestic fulfillment, but there are a great number of services available to board game creators like you and me to help make the process easier.

Do you have any questions about how to fulfill your campaign? What about war stories from your own fulfillment experiences? Share both in the comments below 🙂

Fulfill Your Board Game Kickstarter: Sending Products Within the USA

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Heads up: this fulfillment article assumes you live in the USA. Even if you don’t, it’s still helpful – but it’s not as specific to your needs.

Fulfillment is one of the trickiest parts of any board game Kickstarter. It requires your inventory being sent from your manufacturer via freight shipping agencies through customs agents to warehouses and finally to your customers. It’s the part of the process that feels the most international and it’s one of the areas that feels the most overwhelming to the uninitiated. That’s for good reason: the devil really is in the details.

 

 

Truth be told, once you get past the bear of a learning curve, fulfillment isn’t terribly difficult to master. There are a number of great companies you can ask for help such as Fulfillrite and Games Quest. You can even fulfill games yourself – domestic or international – if you’re really determined. That’s why I’m here to ease you into this subject.

I’ve written a number of articles on fulfillment before including:

I love this subject. It’s maddeningly complex, yes, but it’s well-established that I’m a fan of travel and I think it’s fascinating how these things work.

A Crash Course on Board Game Fulfillment covers the basic concepts of fulfillment and How Board Game Fulfillment Works at Fulfillrite does the same basic thing from the fulfillment company’s perspective. For today’s article, I’m going to focus on two very specific ways you can fulfill games. By focusing on two very specific scenarios, I hope to give you examples that are very close to what you can expect to encounter in real life.

We’re going to focus exclusively on covering domestic shipping in the USA. Let’s save the international stuff for the following week so we can understand the basics first.

 

Scenario 1: You fulfill the game yourself using USPS.

I’m using brand names here, but that doesn’t imply loyalty to them.

“A hundred and sixty backers,” you say to your co-designer. “I never thought we’d make it this far, but here we are.” Having shopped around for a number of fulfillment companies, you’ve determined that it just doesn’t make sense to send all your inventory and warehouse it with a larger company for 160 packages. You have enough space in your garage for the remaining 340 units, so you tell BangWee to go ahead and ship the game to you.

Twelve long weeks pass and your game is printed and shipped from Shenzen, China to your home of Provo, Utah. It’s shipped into San Fransisco and then travels by less-than-truckload (LTL) to a nearby warehouse. You borrow your friend’s pick-up truck, move about 40 boxes of 12 games each, and regret lifting with your back instead of your knees.

You unload the inventory in your garage on a wooden pallet. You check all the inventory to make sure it looks neat. BangWee did an awesome job. You cover everything up with a tarp and get ready for a busy Saturday of preparing packages.

You’ve got a Stamps.com account and you’re ready to use it. You’ve already uploaded Kickstarter’s CSV flat file, which contains all the US-bound shipping addresses you need to ship to. You keep a separate spreadsheet open in Excel so you can mark each person’s name off once their parcel is ready. That way, you carefully make sure that everybody is getting exactly what they paid for.

You’ve already ordered 200 flat rate padded mailers from the USPS website, free of charge. You’ve also got a big roll of bubble wrap, and special label paper for your printer. You start printing off labels two at a time at the price of $7.10 each, the commercial rate of a padded mailer. A little expensive, you gripe, but you know that customers will have it within four business days and it’s cheaper than UPS and FedEx.

One-hundred sixty packages, five hours, and seven music albums later, all the packages are sealed and loaded into your car. You take them all to the post office, have them scan your tracking sheet, and you’re done. Now you can keep an eye on the status through Stamps.com and address any late deliveries.

 

Scenario 2: You have Fulfillrite fulfill your games for you.

Again, I’m using brand names here, but that doesn’t imply loyalty to them.

“Eighteen hundred games!” Your parents can’t believe it. How could your scrappy team of three make $51,000 on Kickstarter? That’s enough to order more than the MOQ from Panda Games, with stretch goals to boot!

You know there’s absolutely no way that you’re going to be able to fulfill this one on your own. It would take days, if not weeks. You need professionals to ship out the games, which they thankfully can both faster and cheaper than you could on your own. After reading an interview on your third-favorite game development blog, you contact Fulfillrite. You create an account, describe your needs, and they send materials that you can overview.

You contact your manufacturer and tell them to send inventory to Fulfillrite’s receiving address. You carefully relay all the information they tell you to. You prepare files exactly to their specification. Your account rep, Charlie Brieger compliments your attention to detail.

Twelve weeks pass between the funding of your campaign and Fulfillrite receiving your inventory. Two more weeks pass and everything’s been shipped. Every once in a while, you get a customer service call saying they haven’t received their package. They’re so few and far between that you send another game no questions asked. By all measures, your campaign was a smashing success and you barely had to work during fulfillment!

 


 

As you can see, fulfillment is nothing to be afraid of, even if it seems complicated. There is more than one way to get the job done. Do you have any questions about how to fulfill your campaign? What about war stories from your own fulfillment experiences? Share both in the comments below 🙂

How to Order a Print Run for Your Board Game Kickstarter

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If you find yourself reading this guide after you’ve funded a Kickstarter campaign, congratulations! After an enormous amount of work creating, testing, and promoting your board game, it’s time to send it off to the printers. How exciting!

 

 

Even if you’re not at this stage, this guide will still be helpful. In fact, it might even be more helpful because there are there are three things you want to absolutely nail before you launch your Kickstarter:

Realistic timetables, cost estimates, and specifications are the foundation upon which everything else you do after funding a campaign is built. Campaigning isn’t easy, and neither is fulfillment.

Throughout your campaign, you want to be thinking about what you’re going to do immediately after the campaign. You’ll want to contact your desired printer before you launch the campaign. When you fund, let them know. Every time you hit a stretch goal level, it’s smart to send them a message about it. The point is: you want to keep them in the loop. If this sounds like a lot of email, consider this:

  • You send more email than they need: they mark as read and move on with life.
  • You send less email than they need: “um, we’re going to need four extra weeks to do this.”

It’s also a good idea to see if you can get a jump start and begin printing during the two week period in which you’re waiting for your funds to clear. Depending on your printer, you might gain a week or two on the front-end of your schedule, and that’s never a bad thing!

Naturally, you’ll want to let them know exactly how many games you need to print. You need to definitely print enough to fill your Kickstarter campaign plus 20 or 25%. You should do more than that if you plan on taking pre-orders or selling the rest. Be careful not to be unrealistic when you do this. This industry moves fast and your garage only has a finite amount of space.

Before you complete the order, double check your specs again before you finalize the transaction. You need to make sure you’ve accounted for any stretch goals that you promised during the campaign.

Another interesting thing to point out is that different companies have different payment methods. Some will accept payment through PayPal. Others will insist that you pay by wire transfer. If you’ve never done a wire transfer, this can be an intimidating concept. Your printer will provide you the information you need, and you can go to any place that has a Western Union to do it. Not sure where to look? Try your nearest full-service grocery store.

 


 

You’ll notice that this is a relatively short post of mine. That’s for a good reason. Once you get to this point, the most important factors are preparation you’ve already done and making sure T’s are crossed and I’s are dotted. The printer will take care of manufacturing, and in a few weeks or months, it will be ready for you to fulfill – either on your own or through a third-party company.

In the mean-time? Pop open a bottle of champagne – you’ve hit a major milestone!