We wrapped our first Kickstarter Campaign around this time last year, and one thing is for sure: it was a steep learning curve. We definitely surprised ourselves with how quickly we met our goal, but in retrospect, there were a few things that could have pushed us even further that we wish we’d known beforehand. So, we’re writing those things up now in case they might help someone out their with their own Kickstarter.
A quick note: our experience might not be entirely applicable to every potential campaign, and might be redundant for any crowdfunding veterans out there. We’re just sharing our journey in case someone else might find themselves in a similar boat. Please feel free to sound off in the comments with your own ideas and experiences!
Start early. With everything. Give yourself a buffer in case something goes wrong with your video, with manufacturing, with anything. Spend time on making a good, short video and a thoughtfully written page that people will want to share with their friends. We had a friend whose campaign went viral because her video first went viral, so we put a lot of sweat and tears into ours (it didn’t go viral, but c’est la vie, at least we had fun making it).
Start press outreach anywhere from 1 month to 1 week before. We had a hell of a time getting press (more on that later) so the earlier you can start building relationships with journalists and outlets, the better. We combed through every relevant digital publication we could looking for journalists and editors who covered products or niche markets similar to ours, and then looked them up on Google/Instagram/LinkedIn/Muck Rack/you name it to see if we could get into contact with them. If you can afford to hire a PR person or marketing professional, it’s well worth taking a flyer on it since the payoff can be so huge (though, we did, and we still didn’t get much press, so…some of it kind of comes down to luck-of-the-draw).
It’s also worth noting that there are a handful of product hype websites/apps that feature crowdfunding projects or just cool products in general–Uncrate, HiConsumption, GadgetFlow (this is a pay-to-play), to name a few. So submit to those early. Again, no dice for us really, but YMMV.
Have an email list set up of friends, family, and anyone who will be excited to pledge on your behalf. The more backers you can get in the first day, the more likely you are to get picked up by Kickstarter’s algorithm, and get visibility on their page. We threw a launch party the day of our launch and invited our friends, family, and colleagues. That was great for bringing in those initial pledges and getting our community excited.
Here’s what helped us most to gain backers: We tested our product for about a year before launching on Kickstarter. This did a couple things for us: it gave us an opportunity to fine-tune our product as needed, and it built up a list of potential backers from the get-go. Those potential backers became real backers, and we could use their testimonials to build our credibility, which brought in backers organically.
ONCE YOU’RE ROLLING….
Plan to have a few updates every week. People on KS tend to be worried about fulfilment, so the more that you can show you have your ducks in a row, the better. Show them that you’re communicating with your manufacturer, that you’re working on your first prototypes, that you’re taking into account their feedback, etc.
Involve your backers in your decisions. We sent out a survey to our backers asking them to vote on their favorite packaging designs, and we saw a ton of engagement. If you can do that a few times in various ways, you’ll get people excited and more folks will want to join in.
Set aside time to thoughtfully respond to every comment and email. People appreciate this so much, and they’ll remember you if you launch another campaign in the future. Most people who back a Kickstarter have backed at least one in the past, so those are the folks who you want on your side.
Cross-promote. Promote yourself on your social media. Reach out to other Kickstarter campaigns and see if they want to cross-promote with you (you’ll feature them on your updates and/or social media, and they’ll feature you on theirs).
Towards the end of your campaign, introduce the options of add-ons or upgrades. In the last couple days of your campaign, give people the option of upping their pledge by $X in exchange for a cool bonus (an extra product, a custom color, something like that). That brought in a ton of increased pledges for us.
A NOTE ON EXPOSURE
It goes without saying that press coverage is the single thing that can really start a fire. But…..we got essentially no press. Our team tried, our friends tried, the marketing professionals we hired tried: NOTHING. This wasn’t due to lack of effort or skill, it was likely just that we had sort of a weird product (for those of you thinking about launching anything in the athletic sphere or that enhances wellbeing, we were told that press outlets are wary of covering this realm of products because they’ve gotten burned by them before–i.e., they don’t work, they don’t live up to their claims, etc. Just something to be aware of). We eventually did get a couple things that boosted us, but one was lucky (a popular podcast found us and gave us quick feature) and the other we paid for. But, if you have a fairly foolproof product, or one that’s a response to a larger movement or trend (think KS’ FinalStraw, which encourages people to be more environmentally aware), you’ll likely have a much easier time.
We also ended up running a couple advertising campaigns (you can do this through a pay-per-click service like Outbrain, or, if you’re able, hire marketing professionals to work on advertisements/paid promotions for you).
Well, that’s all we’ve got! Again, please share your thoughts in the comments, if you feel so inclined.