Lessons Learned from Running a Successful Kickstarter Campaign
Kickstarter is stupid.
Kickstarter is actually a great way of launching new products and finding out if your amazing idea is something people will actually pay you money for. However, planning and executing a successful Kickstarter campaign is Actual Hard Work. 60% of projects fail to meet their goal, so if you’re planning on giving crowdfunding a try, doing the groundwork to give yourself the best chance of success is pretty damn important.
In this post, I’ll be sharing some of the things that I think helped us reach and beat our goal. Hopefully it’ll be kinda helpful to out anyone out there who’s planning a crowdfunding campaign of their own. If you have any questions, feel free to hit me up.
The list of things I did that I think made the most difference:
1. Started collecting email addresses early
I set up a landing page using Shopify (where Stupid’s online store lives) where people could share their contact details almost 6 months before the Kickstarter campaign. I also sent a few emails to the list using Mailchimp to keep people in the loop about Stupid’s progress and to get them excited about supporting the Stupid Kickstarter.
2. Used tools that made it super straightforward for people to help
I figured that everyone who signed up for the Stupid mailing list was down to help the campaign somehow, either by backing directly or by helping to spread the word.
- I used ClickToTweet to write and share pre-scripted Tweets with my list.
- I also used Eventable to get the Kickstarter launch time/date straight into people’s calendars. It’s not something I’d used before, but I thought it was pretty cool.
3. Found mentors and got plenty of feedback
Kickstarter-for-gaming isn’t quite the same beast as Kickstarter-for-print publications, but hearing about the experience from someone who had just been through it was incredibly enlightening.
Kickstarter lets you share the draft of your campaign page with other people before you publish it. Taking advantage of that option, and asking a bunch of people to give feedback on the page, helped me hone the campaign messaging and the rewards in a way I wouldn’t have been able to do by myself.
4. Studied the space & started a scratchpad
There’s a huge amount of information out there on how to run a crowdfunding campaign. Finding insights that are directly relevant to your product & situation takes time, but it’s worth it. I started a scratchpad on Google Docs where I kept a running list of tips that felt the most useful to me.
😏😏😏 (That doc is publicly accessible, albeit kinda messy, but feel free to take a look through or add some tips of your own 😏😏😏
I also spent time looking at other magazines that got their start on Kickstarter to see what I could learn from looking at their campaigns. It was also a great opportunity to connect with magazine makers who have been out there making waves for a while.
5. Spent time getting to know how to use Kickstarter
Kickstarter is a really robust and helpful tool that’s designed to help you create and manage your campaign, communicate with potential backers and distribute your rewards. It’s also kind of a learning curve, and I’m happy I gave myself a bit of time to learn how to use it in advance of the campaign.
6. Asked Kickstarter for help
When the Stupid Kickstarter went live, one of their team reached out to see if I needed any help. They were super communicative and friendly, and we made sure to stay in touch with them throughout the process.
Stupid went on to become a Featured Journalism Project and got a mention in their newsletter. Keeping their team updated on our progress made it easy for them to help us get in front of more people.
7. Asked for help from the indie publishing community
One of the best parts of this project was being able to find and connect with other magazine makers and people in the publishing space. The Stack Magazines team were incredibly friendly and supportive, and even agreed to feature Stupid on their blog whilst the campaign was running.
The Indie Publisher Club Facebook group, run by Offscreen’s Kai Brach, is another great place to find support and ask questions if you’re making a print magazine.
9. Launched with a bang
One of the pieces of advice I read that really stuck with me was that most successful campaigns meet at least half their target during the first couple of days of the campaign. So all of our messaging and requests for help were geared towards getting people who were interested in backing to do so on day one. We also threw a launch party on the first day of the campaign (complete with laptops so that people could back on the spot).
10. Set realistic, attainable goals
I knew that with a small email list and a fairly niche, offbeat idea, a few thousand dollars was a realistic target for Stupid’s Kickstarter raise. Setting an achievable goal also gave me the confidence that the time spent planning the campaign would be worth it.
Next, I’m sharing some screenshots from the Stupid Kickstarter campaign dashboard so you can take a look at what it was like behind the scenes. You can see that the vast majority of backers came from my network and the email list (as opposed to being people on Kickstarter who happened to find and like the project).
Most backers contributed on the first day, after which funding increased slowly but steadily for the duration of the campaign.
Also, nobody warned me that it’s kind of an overwhelming experience (in the best possible way) when a bunch of your friends and people you admire give you money to help get something completely imaginary off the ground.
So, watch out for that.
Most pledges arrived independently of Kickstarter. Above is the breakdown by traffic source.
Ultimately I’m stoked that I had the chance to learn about what it takes to put a Kickstarter campaign together, and incredibly humbled and grateful by the support it received. With a bit of planning, some realistic goal setting and a hefty dose of community support, crowdfunding can be a great tool for launching a new publication. Take it seriously and plan before you execute and you’ll probably be fine.
Holly Knowlman is the Founder and Editor of Stupid Magazine: A print publication for people who love pop music.