Can 200 people in 15 countries build a start-up together?
Yes, they can.
Our company Martinsson King has developed the world’s first modular hair care system — you just blend your own personalized treatment in the palm of your hand.
From the beginning, we wanted to make sure that we involved future customers — preferably as many as possible — to create a company that really makes a difference.
We looked at different crowdfunding options, such as Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, but found them to be mainly pre-sell sites where purchase is the only customer interaction and where you need to have a fancy video of a finished product to get anywhere. We wanted true collaboration from the start.
There seemed to be only one solution: build it ourselves. In June this year, we launched the Martinsson King Founders Club. For $100, we promised that anyone could get involved in the development of our company and our products, and also get free samples and products. We have so far signed up over 200 Founding Members in 15 countries, and it keeps growing. We’ll cap at 500, to make sure we can manage the dialogue with every member.
To make sharing and feedback easy, we invited all members into a closed Facebook group. Here, we gather invaluable input on design, communication and sales. We also use it for comments on samples we mail out, like our product fragrance, where our members made us realize that it’s not just a great product scent — we should offer it as a perfume too.
So what are my recommendations, if you want to create your own “crowd” platform? Here’s the top 5:
1. Schedule it. Decide on a day that is easy to remember for the launch of your club and the opening of enrollment, and a time of day that works well in the places you know you’ll have the most interest. We chose June 1st at 8am NYC (which was 5am LA, 2pm Europe and 10pm Australia).
2. Prep it. You’ll want to make sure that there is a lot of interest at the time you launch, to quickly create buzz and critical mass. Involve your friends, try to get PR and gather email addresses. Two months before launch, we began directing friends and networks to our webpage that then only had a “let me know when you launch” email form. We quickly got over 1,000 sign-ups.
3. Shape it. You of course want to think about what to offer and how much you want to charge. Even if we were mainly looking for the interaction, we still thought that a financial contribution was important to guarantee commitment. We also decided to mainly talk about the co-creation, even if we also offer a lot of product benefits, to make sure we didn’t only get members who were after a good purchase deal.
4. Play it. Make the most out of your launch day, giving everyone the feeling that they’re part of a big celebration. We broadcast live from different locations in New York throughout the day, beginning at 8am on our rooftop, shouting out the first people who enrolled. We even let the viewers decide where we should broadcast next, sending us to the High Line and the top of the Empire State. We answered questions and engaged with several hundred people that day, got more than 100 new members in 12 hours — and it was great fun.
5. Connect & Improve. Once you’re past launch, the interesting part begins. Get to know as much as you can about your members, why they joined, what they’re hoping for etc. We added a first member survey right after payment, which had an 85% response rate. We post inspiration and ask for ideas or feedback in the Facebook group almost every day, often with results that make us adjust or completely rethink.
I’m happy to share more insight on how you can use this approach for your brand — or you can just join the club and learn from the experience.