Three Successful Kickstarter Campaigns: what I learned and why I am going back
I am preparing for my fourth kickstarter in the next few months. I debated whether I should or shouldn’t use Kickstarter again. Can I find success again? Will my backers revolt? Is Kickstarter really worth the 5%-8%? Don’t I want to drive as many people to my website and not to Kickstarter?
In short, I am going to use Kickstarter again. Why? Despite the challenges I do feel it is great for companies like mine that don’t have 5 million monthly visits. I could pay people to come to my warehouse or I could buy retail on 5th avenue. The latter isn’t cheaper but it should be more profitable. Let me share my story and how I made $92,000 in 30 days and got started.
My First Launch Went Viral
I am Travis Peterson and founder of Joker Greeting; I make prank musical greeting cards that loop the music until you break them. Due to the Kickstarter’s success I decided to start a company and website.
My first kickstarter made $92,073 in 30 days with $500.00 in ads. This was in April 2015. Our sincere goal was $7,500. By day 2 we had like $75o. Until Dudeiwanthat.com blogged about us, momentum picked up and CNET wrote an article, and it snowballed into Gizmodo, ABC News, and finally we trended on BuzzFeed at #16 and we made $13,000 in a day. It was absolutely surreal and fun! I hardly slept the whole 30 days. And once the cards arrived I hardly slept again because I had so many cards to ship.
My second campaign was a “measley” $31,000 and my third campaign raised $15,200. A steady decrease. But I don’t think it is Kickstarter’s fault but a variety of different issues that stemmed from me, my timing, and outside forces as well. Let me try and explain.
What We Did Right
1. A simple product that fit demand. We didn’t need to create demand, it was already there. Birthdays happen to everyone.
2. A great video. The pitch emoted the joke. The video was on brand with the product.
3. Some luck went a long way. I made a bunch of short videos on my iPhone and a video with me dunking the card in water was huge. It was short and to the point.
This goes for all of the campaigns. I think our media was on point. In fact, the second campaign that raised $30,000 has continued to be a big success on my website and redefined how I build and market my cards. And oddly, it was after Kickstarter that Yahoo News posted my cards and I had a deluge of new orders and saved me from that 5% fee.
What went wrong?
The second and third campaigns were not nearly as big as I had hoped. I was happy with $30,000 but $15,000 was a surprise. So what went wrong?
- Timing was a problem. I launched my second campaign 7 months after my first. It seems foolish to do such a stunt, however, I had new ideas I had to test. And Kickstarter was my venue to fail fast. I launched cards with glitter inside, a Macarena card, and even a card that played Car Alarm noise. It was me testing the waters and range of growth. In the end, people didn’t want odd gifts they wanted normal Birthday cards.
- The third campaign is not within the demand cycle of buyers. The Cricket is a great product that plays a cricket noise. It has a sticky pad on one side and message on front. Press play and The Cricket plays for 6+ hours. A great idea, however, it’s not the same demand profile of greeting card buyers. This is more prank related and not as much gift related.
3. One-Trick Pony. It is easy to feel like a one-trick pony. Or at least be seen as a one-trick pony. I am sure this happened. It didn’t feel new enough to get people excited.
Why am I going for a fourth?
You think I would have learened my lesson. Shrinking sales and fewer blogs that care about me. While I hope to get away from the Kickstarter cycle I still think I have one great idea that is not a greeting card.
I think Kickstarter is good for me is because I have three campaigns I can share with immediately. It’s a built up audience to jump start my 1st and 2nd day of sales; and, help me stay on top. This may not happen but the risk is worth it.
I have a totally new product that is non-music related. No electronics. But relevant and funny. Stepping outside my normal product line will be interesting as this means I need to change my website and brand. I will no longer just sell Prank Musical Greeting Cards.
If I fail on Kickstarter it means my product is not ready and not a fit. I can move on and spend time on something else. And it only took me 30 days to figure this out rather than 6 months or a year. But of course I feel confident and I would not do this if I had any doubt it would fail.
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# Extra Notes: Beware of Advertising
In each of my three campaigns I used different amounts of advertising. I worked with Jellop.com and some MonkeyBrain PR and CrowdFundSocial.com. And lots of FB ads and other stuff. Here are my thoughts.
1. CrowdFundSocial is the only one I felt was a pure rip off. It wasn’t that expensive, however, they were completely unhelpful. I tried to get my money back but there wasn’t much left to do. $500.00 wasted but a learned lesson. At least it wasn’t that costly.
2. Your biggest advertisement should be your product not an ad. People should want your product because of the product not because of how you sell it. Greeting Cards are simple to understand and everyone knows how and when they are used.
3. For me, cross posting is the most helpful way to spread your product with a limited budget. Find other projects that are live and ask them to share your product on their next update and you will do the same for them. They aren’t always ready to help but I have found this to be very helpful and cheap if you have the time.
4. Beware of promises and inbound messages. Most will not be helpful at all. I often give them 5 minutes to explain but most are cut before that.
5. I did have some success using a Kickstarter Club. It didn’t drive top line sales a lot more (as I had backers get a discount with club) but it did help with momentum and total number of backers. In other words, more backers but average was lower.
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My name is Travis W. Peterson. I wrote this article myself and this easy to notice because of my writing style and grammar. But since I see grammar as an art and not a science…you can relax.
www.jokergreeting.com a prank website that makes and sell musical greeting cards that don’t stop playing music until they are broken. And that’s the point.