How to succeed at Kickstarter?

Ivan Zatko 🇺🇸
The Startup
Published in
6 min readFeb 6, 2018


Have you ever wondered how to tell why some campaigns are successful and why the others fail? When analyzing it, I used to compare different components — first video impression, marketing needs of product, sources of inspiration and things which to avoid.

And there is nothing wrong about this.

Except that recently, I found slightly different approach by Funded Today. It’s called 7 P’s of Crowdfunding Success and it helps you determine why some of the campaigns succeed, while the others fail.

After we finished with our Benjamin Button campaign, we’ve looked at it from this different point-of-view. At this is what we found out.

Your product needs to have only few characteristics in order to be successful.

It needs to be everywhere. It needs to have unique “techy” feature(s). And story that gives you chills.

The product itself is very innovative. It’s child friendly. It offers software that nobody else has. And it looks great

Is Benjamin the upgrade of existing external camera? Yes. But everyone has camera on their smartphone. And for most of the people — this is enough.

Its biggest advantage, storing memories, is really niche.

What to do better:

  • Focus on different job-to-be-done

Kickstarter gives you better exposure, better PR and higher credibility than just selling via e-commerce or Indiegogo.

But there is a reason why there are hundreds of successful children-focused products on Amazon and only a dozen on Kickstarter. That reason is lack of parents.

To solve that, you either need to have the database of previous backers/parents or you need to bring your target group outside of Kickstarter.

The first one in almost impossible. The latter makes more sense.

What to do better:

  • Bring A LOT of first-time backers/parents
  • Rethink whether selling via Kickstarter is worth it

If there would be an article about how to make a successful crowdfunding video, I’m sure it would include few simple advices.

Take enough time to prepare. Allocate appropriate budget. Pick the actors wisely. Use the user testimonials. Show the product in action. And start with a strong hook.

Too bad we did not follow them.

Am I saying that the video was wrong? No. It’s still better than most of the Kickstarter videos. But there are many things which could be better.

Our video was shot in one day. With budget of $1200. Without casting. We have not included testimonials and product-in-action shots. And our hook did not work.

Maybe if we did those — more than 28.82% of visitors would play the whole video.

Please note: Don’t expect 100% completed video plays. Even if you reach 60%, you’ve made a great video.

What to do better:

  • Outsource a production of Kickstarter video to professionals
  • Show product in action as soon as possible
  • Use user testimonials in the main video

The single most important marketing thing is done prior to the campaign. It’s collecting as many e-mails as possible and making sure that your product launch does not suck.

The math is simple.

If you want to reach your goal of _____________ with average order size of _____________, then you need _____________ backers in the first 48 hours. With e-mail conversion rate of 3%, that equals to _____________ e-mails beforehand.

We needed at least 6,250 emails. We only had one tenth of that number. And yet we launched the campaign.

If you do the preparation properly, then you rank among top live Kickstarter project and you can get 30–60% of “free” Kickstarter traffic. The more you sell in the first 48 hours — more you sell in total. If you combine that with paid Facebook ads and world-class PR, then you’re on the road to success.

As you can see, our launch accounted to about 40% of all pledges. Then “free” Kickstarter traffic was another 40%. But PR, social media and paid sources were not converting at all. I wish we had more prototypes, so we could send it to influencers to try it out.

What to do better:

  • Don’t launch until you have enough e-mails
  • Test the Facebook ads before campaign
  • Build a network for influencers by offering them your product

Our prices started at $179. Benjamin is cheaper than GoPro, but if you compare that with other Kickstarter products, the price tag was still considered a little high. And since we wanted to produce locally, our margin was far from being 40%.

It is a general rule of thumb that 30% of all the cost go to marketing and another 30% for production of the product. That should leave you with comfortable 40% margin.

And from that — we were planning to use our funds for software development.

Never ever use Kickstarter money for complete R&D.

We had no financial buffer and that resulted in cancellation of our campaign.

What to do better:

  • Calculate the costs and don’t cut your 40% margin
  • Pay R&D from FFF (friends, family, fools) or investment (if you’re lucky)

What if I told you that all the data about your success or failure are there on the internet? You just need to mine them.

Pay attention to trends, see the studies, read competitors’ blogs. Scroll down through reviews and comments on Kickstarter and Amazon. And find out if the market is ready.

What to do better:

  • Ignore your gut feeling — at least for a while
  • Combine your initial customers’ data with market situation

Surround yourself with people that are better than you.

Find the best people and employ them either internally or externally. Use their capabilities to build the best product. And then show your team and partners in the video as a proof.

If you have a strong story to relate to, it’s a huge advantage.

What to do better:

  • Show the team in campaign video (laughing faces always work)
  • Don’t be afraid to refer to your partners. We know you won’t do this alone.

To sum it up

When thinking about successful campaigns, make sure to think about every aspect. Ignoring even the least important one results in catastrophic results.

After all, you don’t want to spend so much time and money on a unsuccessful campaign. Do you?

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