The Secret To Running A Successful Kickstarter Campaign
Crowdfunding is all the rage, but it takes careful planning and execution to achieve your funding goals
It seems that everyone these days is running, or thinking about running a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign. Instead of trying to get a loan from the bank or pitching investors, people are turning to crowdfunding as a no strings attached way to raise money. In fact, $34 billion was crowdfunded in 2018 globally and it is estimated to grow to over $300 billion by 2025. In comparison, the Venture Capitalist industry invested $84 billion in 2017.
Many people don’t realize how much work and planning goes into a campaign. My business partner, Kelly, and I were also naïve to this when we decided to run a campaign. One of our mentors asked us, “Have you figured out how many people you will need in your database ahead of time in order to ensure you meet your goal?” Our answer, was “no” and we had a, “holy crap” moment and went back to our office to ponder whether this was the right method.
In the end, we decided that Kickstarter was the right approach for Kirrin Finch, because although it is positioned as a funding platform, its real strength comes as a marketing tool. As a completely unknown company, it was a great way to introduce our brand to the world. Kickstarter CEO agrees; in discussing the widely successful Pebble Watch campaign, he said “The Pebble Time project will show that the real power and utility of our platform is not in money, it’s in community and distribution.”
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of what you need to know before launching a crowdfunding campaign.
1. Get as many e-mails as possible for potential backers before you launch the campaign.
The most popular pledge on Kickstarter is $25, and the average pledge for fashion is ~$60 so we assumed we needed somewhere between 500–1000 backers in order to raise $30,000. By the time we launched, we had compiled an e-mail list of approximately 1000 people. We leveraged the heck out of our existing personal network, so many of these included friends and family, but we also spent about four months building a list of new contacts. We did this by putting out a prelaunch website and capturing interested people through an e-mail signup. We utilized social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter) to drive people to our website and build out our list. In the end, almost 40% of our pledges came from people we contacted directly through an e-mail blast. From speaking to other people thinking about running a crowdfunding campaign and reading posts about why Kickstarters fail, I think many people assume that being on Kickstarter alone is enough to build a following. It is not! Start building your database early, and only launch when you have enough potential backers to make a large portion of your funding goal.
2. Develop relationships with press and bloggers early and determine your PR/marketing roll-out strategy for before and during the campaign.
Most people assume that if you build it, they will come. This is usually not the case. In order to get press coverage you have to pitch them and tell them why their readers will want to read about you. A compelling story is critical, as hundreds of crowdfunding campaigns are launched everyday. Why is yours special? We created a list of bloggers and writers who were writing about topics that were relevant to our target customers, such as androgynous fashion or LGBTQ issues. Next, we created a press release that we sent over in an e-mail with a short paragraph about why we felt they should consider us for a piece. I have to be honest most people didn’t write back and you should know that this is pretty typical. But a few did, including Huffington Post, Pride.com, and DapperQ. It only takes a few articles to drive people who wouldn’t have otherwise have found your campaign to your page. All in all our media coverage ended up contributing to just over 10% of our pledges. But it also provided us with additional content that we could share on Facebook or through Kickstarter updates to keep people engaged and remind them we were running a Kickstarter campaign. So start building buzz and publicity early, as it will help you grow your network and prevent you from scrambling for publicity in the last week of your campaign.
3. Create a short, compelling video with a clear idea of what the product is and why the viewer should care.
A project without a video only has a 15% chance of success, while a project with video has a 37% chance of success. Also videos that are between 1–4 mins tend to be more successful than those that are less than 1 min or more than 6 mins. Our video was just over 3 minutes, and only 25% of people actually watched the entire video, so make sure what you want them to know is relatively near the beginning of the video.
4. Appeal to people’s emotions — don’t focus on features.
As a marketer, I know how important it is to tug at peoples’ heartstrings to drive sales or behavior change. It is no use listing out features and attributes, like fastest, best, shiniest, etc. “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do,” says author Simon Sinek, in his TED Talk. You need to connect with people by telling them a compelling story that gets them to care and act. In their book Made to Stick, Stanford and Duke Professors Chip and Dan Heath state: “A credible idea makes people believe, an emotional idea makes people care, and the right stories make people act.”
Kelly and I started Kirrin Finch, because we were frustrated with the clothing options available to women like us. We knew from our market research that there were many others like us, who felt underserved and excluded from fashion. We wanted to tell that story and connect with all the other women and non-binary individuals across the globe, who had experienced the same emotions and frustrations as us. During and after the campaign, we had many people reach out to us to say how much the video connected with them and that they had struggled for so long to find clothing options that made them feel comfortable.
We believe we have a great product with a unique design and better fit, but it is more important to us that our customers feel free to express themselves authentically vs. focusing on the product details. Product features can easily be copied, but an authentic connection with a customer is hard to displace.
5. Think carefully about the price and distribution of each reward tier.
I could write and entire blog post about pricing strategy and rewards, but there are a few common sense tips that will go along way. Make sure you have a reward around the $25 level. This is the most common pledge level on Kickstarter, so capitalize on knowing this data. For us, it was our third most popular reward after our $50 reward for a t-shirt and $145 for our button-up shirt.
Create a few rewards that give people a reason to pledge early. For example, we created an early bird reward at $100 for any shirt for the first 10 people. This was a pretty hefty discount, but it was sold out on the first day. It gave us a good boost, created momentum and a reason for others to get on there early and back the campaign.
Lastly, be clear with what your reward levels offer and how they are distinct from each other. As I reviewed other Kickstarter projects in preparing for our launch, too often I was confused by all the add-ons and potential color or style options that could be combined in one reward tier. Kickstarter allows you to send a survey afterwards to ask backers what style, color, etc, they want to choose, so keep the rewards simple and worry about those details once you finish the campaign.
6. Blitz your marketing channels to drive people to your Kickstarter page.
This is pretty obvious, but I think many people are afraid to ask for money. You have to throw that concern out the window and become a selling machine. Blitz every marketing channel you think potential backers might be using, and do it often. I am sure you can think of many times, where you saw something on Facebook from a friend raising money for a charity. You were busy at work, so you didn’t have time to donate. Your friend doesn’t send additional updates or reminders and it has totally fallen off your radar, so you don’t donate. Think of your marketing strategy as friendly reminders for friends and family, and ways to engage and build relationships with new backers. Although marketers can’t agree on the number of times someone has to see a message to take action, 3, 7, 10…., they can all agree that messages are more effective when repeated. So don’t be afraid to get your message out across multiple channels and repeat it often.
7. Try to get featured by Kickstarter.
This used to be called the “Staff Pick.” It is now called “Project We Love” and results in a purple heart showing up on your page. Projects that are featured have an 89% chance of being successful, compared to 30% without. We were lucky enough to become a featured project after just one day of launching and this greatly contributed to our success. The benefit of being selected is that you feature more highly on Kickstarter’s page, you are easier to find and Kickstarter promotes you on their social media channels or newsletter. As a result, 26% of our pledges came from people finding us on Kickstarter, and this would not have happened had we not been a “Project We Love.” You are probably wondering what is the secret sauce to getting featured by Kickstarter? Kickstarter provides a few tips on their website, but there is no easy answer. Ultimately if you create an authentic and unique campaign, then you have a good chance of being selected.
8. Keep people engaged throughout and after the campaign.
Every crowdfunding campaign, experiences what is called the “dead zone.” Most pledges come at the beginning and towards the end of the campaign, leaving this dead zone in the middle where pledges just trickle in. This is a great time to engage backers to keep momentum going during the campaign. In our case, we decided to feature individual backers from across the globe and showcase their personality, where they came from and why they decided to back Kirrin Finch. It was a great way for us to get know people we had never met before, and also meant we had content we could share on Kickstarter and our social media. So many people said they loved getting our updates and learning about the different backers. This can be a great time to engage with potential customers and start to develop loyal followers, so don’t waste this golden opportunity.
We were fortunate enough to be successful on Kickstarter raising just over $36,000. I truly believe it is a great platform to raise money for many people. But it requires careful planning ahead of time and the actual campaign is an emotional rollercoaster, especially during the dead zone. The minute I started to see a downturn in our funding, I was convinced we weren’t going to make our goal. Luckily my partner Kelly is a bit more optimistic and she kept us focused on our pre-planned strategy to keep communicating and engaging with potential backers. It worked. We made our funding goal of $30,000 on day 20 of our 30-day campaign. We breathed a sigh of relief and joined the increasingly large club of successful crowd funders.