Having been on a ‘journey’ with Thames Baths and Kickstarter, I’ve always thought that it would be useful for me to pass on some of the things that I think we learnt learnt on the journey and the experiences that we at Thames Baths shared on a journey that left us inspired, exhausted, and enthralled.

When Michael Phelps was training for the Beijing Olympics in 2008, he spent much of his time training with goggles full of water. Bob Bowman, his coach, wanted him to be prepared just in case that scenario ever happened so he would know how to react and what to do. Nevertheless because of this preparation Phelps did win one of his medals with goggles full of water in Beijing. This is our version of goggles full of water preparation.

The legend that is Michael Phelps perhaps with or perhaps without water in his goggles

Crowdfunding is not the solution to every idea. It needs a whole heap of commitment. It takes days, weeks and months to prepare… throughout that time our goggles were always full of water.

We spent time thinking about scenarios of not raising enough, raising too much, or worse still what if people hated the idea. It meant not sleeping (properly) for at least three months prior and then a month whilst the campaign is running.

I think in total we collectively had around 30 missed nights sleep making this campaign happen, but we felt at all times that we were really creating something special.

We raised £142,500 against our £125,000 target, which isn’t bad going a small team of two architects and a strategist with no budget, who hadn’t run a crowdfunding campaign before, and were also pursuing full-time jobs in intensely time-consuming industries.

The big day! hitting our target on Kickstarter will go down as one of the most exciting moments so far

I’m convinced that nearly anyone can do it with a great and unique idea plus the right thinking, planning, belief and energy.

What motivated me to start writing these chapters is that when I was looking for advice, much of it was conflicting (click here to see the vast array of differing opinions), a lot of it was based on personal assumptions from people who hadn’t raised any money or hadn’t tried to raise as much money as we were trying to. There is especially a lack of hugely successful UK examples and so it felt good to fill the void there too. Ultimately, it would be great if this post or series of posts helped inspire more people to try crowdfunding or hit their targets.

This isn’t anti-post to any of that writing, simply my beliefs about what you need to do and how you could go about doing it.

Here is the method we tried to follow when we got started:

1) One product truth — that people will find interesting and care about (although you may find this changes as you go through the process)

The most difficult thing about any product launch is finding the one thing that really matters. It’s even more important when you have zero budget, 30 days to win, and lots of things you could say.

Our focus was always on “imagine swimming in the Thames in a natural lido in clear, filtered Thames water”. There are essentially three ideas in here; swimming in the thames, a natural lido, filtered/clear Thames water, but they were soundbites enough for people to pull out and use consistently.

Daily Mail/Mail Online news report on Thames Baths Crowdfunding campaign

2) Find your tribe — who you think are most likely to love your product (it might change as you launch and run the campaign)

Our initial target was to focus on Londoners who were interested in design and architecture who would want to donate and participate in the creation of civic architecture. We eventually found out that this was too broad and in reality pretty inaccurate as an audience who would donate. We’ll cover why on a different day.

Londoners by Craig Taylor. An incredibly inspirational journey through some of London’s most interesting people

3) Create an honest, down to earth film which shows who you really are and why this all matters to you

You could spend a ton of money on getting your film completely right. In many ways, it is the most important piece of communication you will do. In all the projects I have donated to, I’ve always only watched the film. We didn’t have budget to do anything huge, but we did have a very generous filmmaker in Armand Attard who helped us create a film which got the project off the ground.

4) Write and rewrite your copy (or get a copywriter in) until it is short and punchy

There are plenty of services that can help you do that if you don’t feel capable (here), but ultimately nobody knows what is important to say as much as you do. This is a professional pitch though, give people as much information as you can, make it easy to understand and make it interesting enough that people care.

We started with way too much information and it took us a long time to edit it down into our final Kickstarter page. Even then we thought it was probably still a bit too long.

5) Spend as much time as you can on rewards to make them as rewarding as possible

It was clear that the best performing Kickstarter campaigns offer product as a reward. Different tiers, different products. When you are trying to build a swimming lido in the River Thames, there is little product to sell. We thought about getting your names on the wood panels that would make up the decking, but it wasn’t deemed interesting enough. Membership felt right though (a product in some ways) and although the usage is along way away, it still felt it was something unique and of value.

Our first batch of Thames Baths tokens were sent out and people seemed to love them

Ultimately though be prepared for change (for everything to change) as we found out as we went through and you’ll find out if you continue to follow, sometimes you need to make rapid iterations across the 30 days to hit your target.

I’ve got plans to talk more about crowdfunding over the next few months. To share more insights about hitting our first £1000, then the big £100k. If you’ve got some suggestions of what you’d like me to cover let me know in the comments.

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