I had a unique opportunity, when I was contacted by Judy (not her real name), an entrepreneur who was running a Kickstarter campaign, and wasn’t happy with the take-up and support she was getting.
I would assume that most entrepreneurs who have launched a crowd funding campaign on either Kickstarter, Indiegogo or any other crowdfunding platform, are likely to face similar challenges. Digging a little into the Kickstarter stats, here’s what I’ve found:
2 out of 3 projects on Kickstarter are unsuccessful. Only 36% of projects actually get off the ground. The project Judy had launched, was in the Fashion category, which is even harder to fund, with less than a quarter of projects get funded (24.14%).
With that knowledge in mind, I looked into what Judy’s campaign looks like, and what I would expect from a successful campaign to include. Personally, I’ve backed a number of projects over the past 3 years or so, and not all of the projects I’ve backed had eventuated – for various reasons…
Full Disclaimer – I’ve never personally run a crowdfunding campaign, so take my analysis and observations as they are – opinionated observations only.
Judy’s product is a fashion accessory for women. Since I don’t have much personal experience with women’s fashion accessories, I’ll take Judy’s experience as given, that it’s a great quality product, that the target market needs. From my conversation with Judy, it is clear she’s:
- done her market research,
- matched a need to a product,
- found the best materials and
- found a manufacturer to be able to make the accessory at an affordable price.
From a product preparedness perspective – Judy had it all covered (pun intended).
Community and promotion
So here’s a challenge: You have the product designed and ready to go. Now you have to tell people about it, and make random people back you and your project. Those random people don’t know you, and your project is new to them… Cold calls, as every salesman will tell you, are very difficult to “close”. Here is a similar situation: people on the crowdfunding platform who stumble upon your project, are unlikely to be attracted to it, as it more than likely not appeal to them – whatever it is. Some people will be excited by technology, or fashion, or theatre, or books, or food or any other of the 15 available categories (on Kickstarter). As there are over 5000 projects live at any given time, it’s very hard to get the attention of the right people already on the platform, and get them to show enough interest that they’ll support you.
So what do you do – you need to drum up support from your own personal network and community. You’d need a reasonable number of personal connections to start with – friends, family, colleagues. Keeping in mind that crowdfunding takes place online, having a strong social media presence and community BEFORE you launch can really help. If your community and networks are small, you’d need to think of other ways to reach people:
- Brand ambassador – someone famous (with extended presence and wide network) who will endorse your product and promote the project to his/her network.
- Influential bloggers and journalists – Those people should be contacted as soon as you have a product to show. Reviews by bloggers, and journo’s to tell your story, evoke positive emotions with their readers, and channel them to your project page are essential to your campaign’s success.
- Paid advertising – social media ads, sponsored stories, and banner ads, may prove cost effective for a short period of time. As most of the entreprenuers are on a shoe string budget, it isn’t a likely option… but something to consider anyway, if some funds are available.
- Groups and established networks of potential buyers – find where your target market already hangs around, and crash their party! Find the Facebook / Linkedin groups you can participate in, the hashtag you can hijack, etc. Keep the eye on the goal, and go for it!
It’s safe to say that was one of Judy’s major challenge.
Many people, can not think of various ways to reward their backers. Rewards is a tricky subject, if you don’t fully understand the psyche of the crowdfunding backers.
People will back you and your project on various levels:
- The random backer – people who like you and your concept, but don’t have an immediate need for the product. They’ll be happy to put down a few dollars, and get recognition (e.g. name on a website). Get those people a couple of price point options, just to get the number of backers up, and get the exposure – the more backers, the more exposure the project gets.
- The product enthusiast – people who loves the idea and want a part of it. There are several levels of backers here
- A backer who is just excited enough about the product, and is willing pay for it. Just an ordinary product, delivered to their door will do just fine, thankyouverymuch.
- The “special edition” guy – an ordinary product isn’t good enough. He needs the “platinum edition”, gold-plated, engraved just-for-him edition. He’ll pay handsomely for that privilege.
- The “serious investor” – the money-can’t-buy experience. Special reward for backers who love your products so much, they’ll pay a lot just to help out and make sure the campaign is funded. They will want something very special in return, like a dinner with the designer, behind the scenes or red carpet access, and other experiences beyond the product itself.
When you’re planning your rewards, take into account that people make buying decisions based on their own motivations, not yours. Understand their motivations, and cater to them. Get creative and build a tiered reward system, catering to all types of backers.
Tip – some of the rewards need to be capped. Scarcity is a fantastic motivator – use it!
Video and photography
The most important and sharable ingredients of any successful campaign, are the the visual elements. You can write beautiful copy, but most people will make a decision whether or not a project is interesting, based on their first impression. Once you’ve managed to attract the visitor to the page, the video AND photography, should be enticing enough for them to make a buying decision.
Sure, you can pay $50,000 for a production company to produce your video, and make it cinema-quality. Chances are you’ll have your iPhone, or at best – a DSLR camera to shoot the video with.
There are endless online tutorials on how to make a good-enough video, but here are the essentials:
- Storyboard – write down the message you want to convey, and build a story (visual) that will convey this message. Use a whiteboard, corkboard, sticky-notes or whatever, and visualise what the video will look like.
- Lighting – I can’t emphasize enough the importance of good light. For most non-professional cameras an outdoor, daytime shoot is best. Shooting the video indoors, or at night, will mostly produce a mediocre result.
- Sound – if you’re talking to the camera, don’t use the in-built microphone. Use an external mic if you can, and if that’s stretching the budget a little too much, use the camera to record the audio separately, and sync it using the video editing software. Not ideal, but doable.
- Fun – Don’t be boring! Have fun with your video, show your product in the right environment, and make sure the video is fun to watch and engaging.
- Time – You have just a few seconds to grab to attention of the viewer. Then, tell just about enough information, and demo the product as quickly as possible. Being fun and engaging is a lot easier for 45 seconds, than 10 minutes.
- Call to action – at the end of the video, ask people to back the project. Literally. Don’t beat around the bush. You have their attention: they’ve watched the entire video, meaning that they are interested. Don’t let it go to waste! Ask them to get out their credit card and help you reach your goal.
As you can imagine from the language I’m using, Judy’s video didn’t have those elements…
Simon Sinek gave a famous TEDx talk you must watch before you write your story down. Understand that people buy your vision, not your product. Tell the story from the heart – what made you dream this project, and your drive to make it happen. Everything else will just fall into place (hopefully).
Best of credit to Judy on that front – she told her story very well… just missed some production values.
Talking to your community isn’t a once off occurrence. It’s not an email blast once, and expecting the dollars to flow in.. That just won’t happen. EVER!
Think of your communication strategy way before the project launch. Prepare what you’re going to say, to whom and when. Specify the channels you’d use (email, facebook, twitter, email, email, email..) and write down what you’re going to say, and when.
You’d need to create a buzz, excitement around the launch, so have some secrecy, and reveal bit by bit what this is all about. By the time of the launch, you’ve created enough buzz for the curious cats to come and have a first peek.
During the campaign, send updates: where you’re up to, what milestones you’ve smashed, and ask your community and backers to share this with their network, and bring others into this community. It’s all for the greater good, isn’t it??
When your campaign in successfully funded, keep people updated as often as possible, about the state of production, challenges you are overcoming, delivery schedules, etc. Keep people informed and excited to get your product. Why? Because at the end of the day, the Kickstarter campaign is only a kickstart! Once you’re successful with that campaign, then you’re on your way to really create a great company, with many other projects (hopefully) in the future. Keep your community as lifetime customers – and start early!
If you’re unsuccessful this time around – don’t despair. Let people know you didn’t reach your goal, and that you’ll start again. Keep your backers and community in the loop, and they’ll remember you for your next project. Don’t let that experience disappear, and waste all that hard work…
Yes. Building a Kickstarter campaign is very similar to building any other company, startup or initiative:
- You need to have your product to fit the market.
- You need to tell a story to the market, which will make people buy your product.
- You’ll need to create a community of customers and enthusiasts and maintain their enthusiasm and support.
Thank you Judy, for sharing your campaign with me. I’m now a lot more familiar with the do’s and don’ts of crowdfunding campaigns. I hope those lessons have been helpful to you too…
If you have personal experience with Kickstarter, Indiegogo or any other crowdfunding campaign, whether as a buyer or seller – please share your experience below.