How I helped raise $62k and $42k on kickstarter

Kickstarter video of MONT5

MONT5 OVERVIEW

MONT5 is an online only luxury leather brand. MONT5 creates top of the line leather products without the luxury markup by taking the middleman out and connecting the craftsmen directly to the customers. MONT5 is named after the 5 highest mountains of Pakistan and aims to promote the country throughout its branding. MONT5 was launched on kickstarter in November 2015 and raised $42,000 in funding and this is the study of how MONT5 achieved that.

ROLE

  • Product Owner
  • Campaign Designer
  • Writer, Storyboard
  • Marketing Strategist

WHAT’S KICKSTARTER?

Kickstarter is the largest crowdsourcing platform with over 126,565 funded projects raising $3,103,561,191 dollars. People back projects they believe in if the projects are successful they are ‘rewarded’ with the product. Kickstarter has now turned into a modern marketplace with brands like Pebble watches releasing their products on kickstarter first.

OVERVIEW

The case study is written in a comprehensive guide on how to raise money on kickstarter. Following topics are covered in the study.

  • Why are you raising money? Finding out if kickstarter is actually for you.
  • Finding out your business viability: Understanding the hidden costs in a kickstarter campaign & finding out if you can actually make money after being funded.
  • Understanding the kickstarter algorithm: How does kickstarter work, who does it reward? How do you get to the front page?
  • Campaign structure: What are the parts of the kickstarter campaign and how do you optimize it for highest conversion
  • Marketing your kickstarter: How do you streamline your marketing using free and paid channels.
  • PR Campaign: How do you reach out to media, how do you sell your story and get published internationally.

RESULTS

  • Raised $42,000 making it the third largest leather jacket campaign on kickstarter and 2nd most funded from Pakistan at the time.
  • Using the same methods, helped Fuchsia shoes raise $62,436 on kickstarter.
  • Featured in national and international publications.
  • Launched a luxury brand with budget under $5000.

THE PROCESS

WHY ARE YOU RAISING MONEY?

We raised money on kickstarter to pay the salary of the craftsmen for the next 6 months and buy the highest quality leather from the best tanneries.

It’s important to know why you’re raising money so you have a figure in mind. If you think you’re going to raise a million dollar coming out of nowhere and spending no money there’s a slim chance of it.

What should be kickstarter goal?

If you reach your kickstarter goal, you’ll be funded otherwise you don’t get anything. Keep your campaign goal your bare minimum which you are sure you will reach, most backers which will back you after the goal is reached.

My kickstarter goal was $18k. This was different from my real goal of $40,000 which we were aiming for. You cannot have a low kickstarter goal in some cases e.g if you’re making a selfie drone from china where the single batch is a minimum 1000 pieces and it costs $50,000.

An example of kickstarter goals and how they appear for end users

IS KICKSTARTER VIABLE FOR YOU?

Kickstarter Costs

That big number on the campaign isn’t your take home, that’s the most important part to remember. Maintain an excel sheet of every cost. Include your time cost and people working with you, kickstarter will take two / three months of your life day and night and that’s a cost.

These are the additional costs that you need to keep in mind:

  • Video and campaign material.
  • Kickstarter Marketing companies.
  • Paid campaigns.
  • Item production cost.
  • Salaries
  • Packaging
  • Shipping
  • Discounts to customers
  • Discounts to friends
  • Free items to PR folks
  • Cancellations and Credit card issues

Pricing your product

Pricing is a double edged sword, you have an expensive product you sell less of it and you can make decent money. You have a shirt for $20 bucks you need to sell a lot of them to make money, but a lot more people will buy a shirt than an expensive product. The right product is the one which is cheap to create but has a high perceived value and works with the tech oriented kickstarter audience. And is priced in the middle tier around $100 — $200. Along with a smaller cheaper version of it.

Price also matters a lot if you intend to run adverts, I’ve talked to a few kickstarter people who ran campaigns the conversion rates for low price point campaigns are a lot higher.

Profit Margin

If you can have a 200% markup (net) and people still find it valuable or it’s unique DO IT! JUST DO IT! . An ideal price is 6x-8x of your base production cost.

If I do another campaign, I’ll do it for a product that gives me a better margin because I’m playing with 30% margin right now which looks like a great number but it isn’t. If you go with a marketing company they will take 30–35% of your revenues, I repeat revenues. And there are so many people you pay, some leads work others don’t.

UNDERSTANDING THE KICKSTARTER RANKING ALGORITHM

Kickstarter search is broken, if someone is searching for your project he will find it but generally people discover you through the listings. Sections are sorted by ‘Magic’. The higher you rank the better your chances are to be discoverable.

People who are part of the kickstarter community are the most interested people. I don’t have the exact math but from observation, kickstarter takes into consideration the following factors to decide who goes on the first page:

  • Social shares / day
  • Backers / day
  • Traffic / day
  • Pledged amount / day
  • Comments on kickstarter
  • Comments on updates
  • Likes on updates

If you’re listed in the first two folds of the advanced search people discover you easily otherwise you’re lost down there and non kickstarter users are harder to convert. So everything during the campaign needs to be done to get any of these numbers high.

CAMPAIGN STRUCTURE

Video

This is the most important part of your campaign, if your video kicks ass and has the ability to go viral, sky’s the limit. Don’t compromise on video or the photography your 75% budget should be just these two things.

I had a friend make the video for us, I wrote the script in a couple of days (the worst idea ever), the script sounds like a go to shitty marketing gig. But it wasn’t too long it highlighted the values for the user and the craftsmanship so it sort of worked.

  • Use a kickstarter video company if you can afford one they cost from $2.5k to $100k, the most funded projects are all made by professional advertising agencies.
  • If you’ve got a quad copter with an HD camera even if you’re selling a frigging pen use it. Use the quad copter, I hate it, you hate it but it sells. Check out the opening sequence of this campaign.
  • Video length varies ideally it should be below 2:30 minutes, unless you’re doing something insane.
  • The first 10 seconds of your video break or make your video. Your bait should be in the first 10 seconds.
  • 35% video completion is good anything above it’s great. Keep tweaking your video even during the campaign to get the perfect sweet spot.
  • You’re selling to a mostly 20 something American, college educated male American audience. The video should be relatable to them.
kickstarter video of fuchsia shoes — A campaign I consulted on

Rewards

This is what everyone is here for. The rules of pricing strategies also work here. Some kickstarter specific rewards tips would be:

  • Have a cheap reward: Selling a big handbag for $200 have a wallet for $40 in the same material. There will be people who love the idea but just can’t afford. Cater to them.
  • Super early bird, early bird rewards: incentivize early adopters. Give it without a profit even the first couple of days set the tone for your campaign.
  • Keep a $1 thank you: Getting backers even $1 helps in ranking have all your friends do it when the campaign is slow.
  • Package your reward: Don’t just have your hair oil as a reward, add value, give them a hair health chart, a usage chart, etc.
  • Have merchant pack: Someone would want to order in bulk we had someone get a $3000 reward. Keep it.
Some Sample rewards — Left to Right — MONT5 , Amabrush, Fuchsia Shoes

Rewards Formatting

  • Once you create a reward and someone backs it up you can no longer change it. A lesson I learned the hard way.
  • On mobile rewards are the first thing the user sees not the campaign.
  • Make your rewards easily readable see the reward section in my campaign.
  • Make rewards scannable: How not to do reward structure and how to do it.

Stretch goals

Stretch goals are things you will give to the customers once you go beyond your basic goal. People care about stretch goals and these are a great marketing tool. Ask your backers to help you reach your stretch goal so you can provide more value to them for the same price.

If I was doing the campaign again I’d keep more and shorter stretch goals after $18,000 I would have one at $25k and then one at $40. Some great stretch goals are:

  • Giving something for free
  • Adding a new color
  • A new material
  • An add on to your offering. Something smaller.

Updates

Apart from your campaign page you can put updates about your kickstarter on the update page. This can be backer only and this can be for the public.

  • Remember updates are going to the most valuable, people your backers they already love you, give them value on every interaction.
  • Do a backer only discount: This makes your backers feel special, they are getting something no one else is. Conversions for exclusive deals are always higher.
  • Give a discount on multi purchase: In my second update I introduced a 25% off on your second jacket and I had 5 backers increase their pledge. I had to triple their pledge.
  • Be careful about introducing things in updates: I also did an update where I introduced a new color and showcased it with a design which I wasn’t offering, I had 4 people cancel their pledge. So be careful about this.
  • Always give value in your update, they do care about your kickstarter but they care about what else are you giving. Give your backers something, if you can afford it.
Left: Updates Fuchsia Shoes , Right: Updates MONT5

Gifts

Have small items that you can give away to people who help you out, or perhaps in an update of because you’re having a great day. Every one loves free stuff.

Shipping

I’m a believer of free shipping, it’s expensive but it will drive a lot more conversions. But if you’re making a $20 thing you can’t ship worldwide for free. But you can ship free at least in the country you’re in. Pro tip: Add free shipping as a stretch goal or a gift.

Customer Service: Love every backer. This is your tribe.

Find heroes who will spread the word for you. Kickstarter is where all those heroes chill out, talk to every customer. Don’t send a template message talk to them, like real people not marketing robots. How can you help them more, is there something they’re worried about. How did they find you? What did they like more.

Please every backer and my backers were all such good people, I had a lovely time discussing types of leather to the weather in their region. And I intend to surprise them and make them happy when they get their product.

MARKETING

Freebies

Your social network

I’m sure you’ve heard from any and every kickstarter campaign page that this is powerful and all, that’s true. We’ve raised 25% from it.

  • Make sure you engage all your network on the first day, the sooner you get to your goal the better, you’ll be listed not only in new but popular.
  • The most useful medium for me were Facebook chat and phone calls. Start a chat talk to them like you usually do, don’t pitch. Don’t be that guy, no one likes that guy.
  • If someone likes your thing and wants to back you up that’s great, if they don’t like it maybe you can get a $1 backing out of them.
  • I tried out Nouncy I had a reach of 100,000 users nothing happened and you can ask for favor only like once a year, so you can’t ask them for a share by nouncy and then ask for something else. Pick one.

Pre Campaign email list

  • Do you have existing customers?
  • Do you have friends on an email list or your professional network?

Get these folks on an email list of your kickstarter asap. Get a free or a small paid landing page get as many emails as possible. In e-commerce email has the highest conversion rate up to 6% use this.

If you’re a giftable or tech product run ads to capture emails. If you lay in a specific niche and it’s not an expensive product run ads on Facebook, bring them to your landing page and get emails. Linger runs brilliant email campaigns for their kickstarters starting at 6000 emails.

Cross promotions

Talk to people with live campaigns on kickstarter, see how you can cross promote each other. Big kickstarter marketing companies are running their campaigns solely on cross promotion in their network at times.

Find campaigns selling small things they have a number of backers and reach out to them. You don’t care about how much you’ve raised but how many people their update will be emailed too. 3–5 cross promotions is good with each update, think of updates as newsletters.

Cross Promotion example in project updates

Kickstarter Pick

If you get picked by kickstarter this gives you a boost. We got to be picked for another campaign and it made a difference. You can have your friends reach out and email the kickstarter team recommending your campaign and why it should be picked. That’s how we got picked.

Kicktraq

This is such a great tool to see projections, I love it. List your press stuff on kicktraq it helps got us like 200–300 clicks which isn’t bad. If your product is relevant to makers on kickstarter advertise here. It’s a cheap way to get some traffic.

Paid Marketing

Niche Blogs

If you are working on an indie game or a new non sweat sock, find people who love talking about it, they are always in groups. Share your love of the product most indie games are funded by preexisting lists. We were in fashion, a tough category and the large blogs are hard to target so didn’t through this route. I would recommend working with bloggers in your niche. How to reach them is in the PR section.

Backers Club

This is a club of kickstarter backers with a large email list, you pay to be featured and you also give an exclusive discount. Backers club has been good, we paid them $300 and they got us $3,292 now that’s a good deal. Because of the discount the profit will be small but remember we’re doing it for the numbers, traffic, backers and all. So it’s still a good deal.

Kickbooster

Kickbooster is like backers club but you only pay a percentage for amounts of backers you get. Wonderful dashboard, good folks and we got two backers. (Reminder high profit margin)

Backers Hub

Another club. $289 fee for the email. No tracking, No Dashboard. Didn’t work out for our product.

Crowd Donation

This is an interesting little place try out a $5–10 dollar thing and see if it brings you traffic. This will not drive conversions but will help you drive traffic which will help you on kickstarter popularity.

Press Release

The only good use of a press release is getting listed in google news and other listing websites. I was talking to anyone and anyone I could get my hands on and when they searched me I didn’t want an empty google page. Spent $198 at 24/7 Press got random coverage and some decent logos to put in my press kit. Got one backer so recovered some money.

Facebook Ads

Facebook allows you to target people with an interest in kickstarter and crowdfunding. Combine with your interest group that’s a powerful tool. Some companies have seen conversions up to 4% on Facebook. We were unable to convert even through a professional marketing company. My suggestion , do it yourself, run tests before campaign see if it works.

Google Ads

Didn’t try. I would imagine it will be hard to convert at least for my product which is readily available at other places then why pre book and wait for it. If you’re sitting in google’s shopping network. If you can ride a google trend this can work for instance if you were selling the best yoyo in the world in the yoyo wave of the 90s.

Places where the MONT5 campaign was featured

Kickstarter Marketing Companies

There are a few kickstarter companies which help you with pre campaign marketing, Campaign advertising and PR campaigns.

Campaign marketing companies with rev share

If you’re a gambling person there’s are marketing companies which will take a rev share 30% or more and run paid campaigns for you these companies know what they are doing are behind kickstarters with funding over a million dollars. Here are some key points to consider before going with them:

  • You have to pay $2500 or more upfront (negotiable). Non refundable.
  • Can you afford 30–35% rev share?
  • Is your product a tech product which will sell easily on an ad campaign?

We went with one company and we lost the money and got no conversions. If you’re going to take a gamble take it for a tech giftable product with super high margin.

PR CAMPAIGN

PR Overview

Every guide tells you to start PR early and schedule posts for when you campaign starts. There are two issues with this approach:

  • No one cares about your campaign unless you have something to show or you’re recognizable.
  • You must be viral, linkbait worthy.

Again if you have the money outsource, there are PR firms which give you a confirm slot on huffington, Mashable etc. Each costs you from $800-$2000.

If you don’t have the money or aren’t newsworthy, do the following:

  • Find someone who knows someone who’s in the media.
  • People (at least locally) care about the $100k raised from your town.
  • Get one item published, refer to it to the next blog.

All clicks are the same whether from techcrunch or your neighborhood newspaper. This is important information so publish where you can. This whole thing will take 2–3 weeks to mature, so start early and keep that we’ve raised X dollars pitch ready.

Blog & media reach out

No one cares about you or your product. It’s your job to make them care to make you stand out from the hundred emails they get daily.

My product didn’t have an interest in the tech community, nor was it unique enough or savvy enough to be picked up by fashion icons. So my only angle was local so I focused there. If you have 5–10% success rate that’s brilliant.

Here is my process for blogger/ media reach out:

  1. Presskit
  2. Contacts sheet
  3. Pitches (Email, Elevator, Phone, Message)
  4. Follow ups

Presskit

You already know what you’re selling from kickstarter. Just organize it. The point of the kit is to help aid the person who is writing on you. So it should have your short pitch, images, quotes from you guys, goal, testimonials if any, about the team.

Sample from presskit — Click image to download presskit

Media reach out sheet details

You have your press kit, the next step is to find people to reach out. Divide your contacts in the following categories (from low hanging to hard to get)

  1. People you know.
  2. Super small bloggers in your niche.
  3. Local news outlets.
  4. Influencers.
  5. PR people in your niche.
  6. Big guys.

I organized all the contacts in a single sheet which told me the status of my PR campaign. Who have we reached, through what medium, what’s the status and so on. I highly recommend organizing everything and measuring results of each type of contact to optimize your campaign. Let’s discuss some mediums and how to use them to reach out to people.

Sample from one of the PR reachout sheets

Email

  • Email as many people as you can (I emailed about 150 people)
  • A/B test your pitch on a batch of 10 people at time and refine it.
  • Always follow up within a week.
  • Follow up emails should always give something new to the audience.

To read about the details on how to reach out to people and getting a reply from them. Please read my blog post on the topic.

Phone

  • I haven’t cold called anyone, I talk on email, twitter, Facebook get phone number and talk to them about it.
  • It’s the best way not a single conversation has given me a dead end.
  • People published us, referred me to other people, or became good contacts. So email them and get a number.

Facebook:

  • Don’t pitch on Facebook in the first message.
  • Say hi, see if it’s read or not.
  • If it’s read talk there’s a high chance of a reply, send them a one liner pitch.
  • Get email or phone number, preferably phone number. Send pitch after the phone.

Twitter:

  • Start following people want to be published with. (as early as possible)
  • Talk to them before pitching, so they know who you are or at least that icon is familiar.
  • Don’t pitch just say I’ve got something related to X that might interest you where can I reach you?
  • Always follow them so they can DM.
  • Don’t ask for phone numbers on twitter, ask for email address.

LEARNING & INSIGHTS

  • Understand the KS audience, pick a product they will buy.
  • Find experts for everything, outsource everything. Your job is to manage.
  • All visits are the same if they are uninterested.
  • Have at least 3–4 months to prepare. Work on KS while you work on product.
  • Get out of your comfort zone, reach out to anyone and everyone.
  • Build a brand from kickstarter not a sale.
  • Love the backers, these are amazing people who have paid their hard earned cash for a vision you’ve given.
Some of the client reviews after the campaign