The Jewelbots Secrets to a Successful Kickstarter
Greetings from Jewelbots!
There are many resources out there that can guide you towards general best practices for a successful crowdfunding campaign, and here’s one more! We decided to take a few of our learnings from our recent Kickstarter and try to extrapolate what could be helpful for other companies and projects. So feel free to take any of this advice that you feel can be useful and if you have other specific questions, leave me a note!
Do Your Research
Before even starting to sketch out what your campaign will look like, spend the time studying and analyzing all of the campaigns in your sector. What do the successful ones have in common? What can you borrow for yours? What was a turnoff? What traits did the unsuccessful campaigns share? Also, read up as much as you can on the Kickstarter blog, or other crowdfunding sites and resources online. There is an incredible amount of free info out there if you are looking.
Ask the Experts.
As much as we love the DIY ethos, sometimes it’s good to know when to call in the pros. Crowdfunding is still relatively new, but it’s been around long enough for the experts and consultants to emerge. Like any consultants, of course, you need to do your research, but we had amazing luck with Clay Hebert. Clay has individual clients but also has online workshops for those on a tighter budget. At first I was skeptical of how much we could learn from an outside crowdfunding consultant, but now I’m so glad we did. I can now say without a doubt that the extra money we were able to raise as a direct result from his suggestions, more than paid the fee for the service. I’m a believer.
Know Your Audience
Even though we are creating a product for kids, we know that kids aren’t on Kickstarter. Kids are not likely to back a project where they might not see their reward for months or years at a time. So for our campaign, we set out to market towards parents, educators and adults who wished that a product like our had been around when they were kids. Our language focused on appealing to the adults in a way that would inspire them to back our mission.
Nail The Video
This may be the single most important part of your entire campaign. The video let’s people know who you are and what you are doing. From you tone, music and sense of humor, the audience can form a mini bond with you, and ultimately can either repel or attract them in a matter of seconds. The key is to get right into the meat of your pitch in the first 10 seconds or else you will lose them. Introduce the problem, introduce yourselves and introduce the solution. Yes, you can spend A LOT of money to do this well, or you can be strategic, plan ahead and engage awesome people and hire someone great to come in and take care of the heavy lifting. We watched a ton of videos when researching for our campaign. We noticed a few of the ones we liked were produced by the same company, PCD Productions out of Chicago. We had a few initial calls with Paul, the owner, and loved him. He understood what makes a good Kickstarter video, and we liked the tone, humor and sensibility of the crowdfunding videos that he had done. We ended up hiring him and worked together on a script that really told our story. Sure, hiring a pro is not cheap, but again, a good video will bring the backers, so the adage is true, sometimes you have to spend money to make money. Just be realistic about what you need and don’t spend more than you will make on your campaign! Write out your script beforehand, plan what you want to show, and don’t have too many crazy locations. But please, don’t skimp on video and audio quality. Crappy sound will make you seem unprofessional and untrustworthy. Even if you are “scrappy” you want to be able to convey your team and product in a clear and polished manner.
Show Your Process
Kickstarter actively discourages photo-realistic renderings, which was a shame for us because we had some awesome ones! The purpose of this rule is to paint an accurate description of where your product currently is so as not to mislead potential backers. While this rule totally makes sense, it can be frustrating for a product that is early stage and pre-production. However, working within these constraints actually forced us to make our images better. Instead of photo realistic images we relied on pencil sketches of our final product. We also included many process photos of our initial ideas and various stages of prototypes. Some of the early prototypes were very rudimentary, but for Kickstarter, this is a good thing. The crowdfunding audience wants to be part of your journey. They don’t just want to buy a cool thing, they want to see what inspired it, how you got there and be included on the journey.
Be Strategic About Your Rewards
Crowdfunding is designed for superfans who want your project to exist, but let’s face it, many people back for the rewards. It’s good to spend a lot of time thinking about what your reward structure looks like. You want to pick the optimal reward, and funnel people into picking that one. Also, it’s a good idea to stay away from physical rewards, apart from the actual product you are producing, as shipping, mailing and writing physical letters will eat up a lot of your time. Also, people probably don’t want your swag. (Ok, that might be just a personal preference, I don’t want your swag, but I bet others will agree with me.)
Set A Realistic Goal
Something like 60% of Kickstarter projects don’t reach their goal, and as Kickstarter is an all or nothing platform, those projects who don’t reach their goal get nothing! So think about what you think you can accurately hit. You can always go over, but you don’t want to do all this work and then be in a position of not hitting it. Conversely, you don’t want the goal to be so low that it is meaningless. The goal should be an accomplishment, but something you think you can reasonably hit. (You can read more about Kickstarter stats in our previous post about Kickstarter Data).
Engage The Gatekeepers
Kickstarter allows you to submit your campaign early and gives you the chance to solicit feedback from the Kickstarter team. This is a must do. They made some VERY helpful suggestions to us to make our rewards clearer, and to make an edit in our video. They have seen it all, and they want you to be successful as well. Listen to them!
Coordinate Your Outreach
In the weeks leading up to the campaign, our team made lists. Lists of family, friends, influencers, people who owed us favors, and basically anyone we could think of. We crafted personal asks and pre-written tweets and a custom share page where they could easily share our page on social media. We had heard that the first 48 hours of a campaign are critical, so we timed our push for the hour our campaign launched.
Don’t Be Afraid to Overly Self Promote
During the campaign we used Hootsuite to set up robo tweets, to encourage backing the campaign. We also tweeted every milestone hit and, during the final weeks, many countdown tweets, eg “Only 48 Hours left to back!!” For many people this kind of non-stop self promotion can feel kind of icky, but remember that not everyone sees all of your tweets, even those who spend their days lurking on twitter. So you have to over tweet to cut through all of the Twitter noise. We saw from our analytics that the vast majority of the money we had raised came directly through twitter. Sure, we may have lost a few followers, but it was worth it!
Use the Press
Press can be a great way to get the word out. Not all press generates sales, but press can also generate other press, and other opportunities to be discovered by potential partners, employees and investors. PR firms can also be very helpful, if you pick the right one. The benefit to having someone external handle your press is that they can brag about you and pitch you in a way that is hard to do about yourself. Sure, an interested journalist will ultimately like to talk to the creator or founder of the project, but having someone else do the initial pitching and reaching out can be very valuable, and frees your time up to work on your project. Not all PR firms are created the same, but do a little research. Find companies you like and see who they worked with. As for recommendations, and interview firms to make sure that the people who will be working on your account understand what you are building and can represent you in an accurate and flattering manner. Even if you are going at it alone, it’s good to get in touch in advance and plan a big splash around your opening day.
So hopefully you can use some of this to help construct your awesome crowdfunding campaign. And if you want an even deeper dive into the analytics of our campaign, check out my previous post, Our Kickstarter: A Deep Data Dive (With Charts!)