My passion for crowdfunding is even stronger now, than it was when I discovered Kickstarter 2 years before launching my project. It always seemed like a beautiful concept to me but there are some beautiful qualities that I didn’t fully appreciate. Of course there are some serious hassles that I didn’t know about either, but let’s start with the things I came to appreciate:
- It’s a big life event like a wedding with very sharply defined dates which forces you to do planning, preparation and execution that a slow launch doesn’t require.
- You come out of it with video, testimonials, PR and contacts that some businesses don’t acquire in 10+ years of operation.
- You finish with a worldwide customer base developed in 30 to 60 days – see where Massage Track tools are being used now in the graphic on the right (33 countries).
Some of my friends offered to fund Massage Track but I decided to go with Kickstarter instead and am happy with that choice… even as I feel appreciation for the insatiable need for $$$ of new projects. The good news is, it’d be even easier to raise more funds now, than it would’ve been prior to Kickstarter (if we wanted to go down that road).
Here’s what I’ve learned:
Anyone can do it and life ain’t fair so stay focused. I’m always telling my kids life isn’t fair, so why shouldn’t life school me on the same subject! During the life of my project on Kickstarter, first the potato salad dude, Zach Danger Brown, showed that a campaign that took him 10 minutes to create which he secretly hoped would raise $60, could pull down $55,492. Two other successful projects targeting neck and back pain offered products that have little chance of healing anything. Then another related product launched with promotion by professional athletes and scored big. Next, a wave of big successes came along (to show me how small my project is) spearheaded by the $8 million cooler and the nifty million-dollar bunch of balloons. Don’t get distracted by anything!!
Submit your project for Kickstarter approval early before you have crossed your t’s and dotted your i’s – several weeks before you plan to launch. In the excitement of preparing your project, you may forget to account for the time it takes the Kickstarter staff to review and approve your project. This happened to me and it delayed our launch by one week. I submitted the request on a Monday morning and it was approved on Friday afternoon.
Plan out in advance at least 30 days of marketing activity – that means doing a ton of research, having all the email addresses, Facebook and Twitter pages – where you plan to do PR – ready to go. Every minute you spend doing research during your campaign is a minute wasted.
One touch only! When you’re doing your PR research, in a lot of cases you can collect an email address or web contact form url, twitter and Facebook info. Choose one. I chose them all and got this crisp feedback “just seems like a really, low-quality PR firm spamming everyone. your product looks cool, but all the hammering really put me off.” Ouch, I’m mortified, but feeling enlightened and grateful because I only irritated 70% of my market! Oh, and don’t worry that web forms might not work. They do.
Monitor your website frequently during crucial times – this is critical if you’re using a redirect like I did (http://deeprecovery.com/kickstarter). My site was hacked on the same day I had a big PR push happening so my redirect was not working for about two hours at a critical time.
If you have a dynamite product, ignore the Kickstarter staff’s advice to run a 30 day campaign – go longer. You’ll leave a lot of money on the table if you run 30 days and restrict your ability to figure out the PR formula on-the-fly. They say you’ll benefit from a sense of urgency with 30 days – that’s probably good advice for projects depending on the kindness of friends and family. Not relevant for products that people really want when they see. Slide and clutch is a great example – no urgency needed!
But, running a Kickstarter project is like having company in your house – you’re going to burn out around 30 days or maybe sooner! It helps to love your project a lot.
Ignore the “start on Tuesday, end on Thursday” advice – just look at your demographic and use your gut. I think the Tuesday Thursday thing probably works if your audience is most likely to be backing you during business hours. If your project is more personal, Fridays and Saturdays may be strong for you as they have been for Massage Track.
Test your messaging in advance using Facebook ads targeting “likes”. It’s inexpensive and the people who ‘like’ may not realize they are signing up for future views of your posts. This is also a great way to tease out the best marketing messages and photos. You can also use Google Adwords and Bing Adcenter for this purpose.
Don’t be afraid to run a very long project video. Ours is nearly 11 minutes. Most people’s gut reaction is, three minutes is right, 10 minutes is way too long. I think if the first three minutes is dynamite and you have lots more compelling content, run the video longer. Think of it as an infomercial. Watch the Pono video at 11 minutes because they raised $6 million.
Use star power if you can get it – we put the spotlight on athletes instead of ordinary Joe’s. There’s a good case to be made for portraying the average Joe using our tools. But, focusing on athletes is much more compelling to me in spite of the fact that with my illness I’m the farthest possible thing from an athlete. Be memorable or be forgotten!
Don’t feel compelled to offer stickers T-shirts and $1 ‘friends’ of rewards – I’ve seen plenty of failed projects with dynamite T-shirts. Seems like a big distraction to me if your budget and team are small. Stay focused on the big stuff.
Thank backers individually during the campaign – I didn’t do this and I should have. I realize this afterwards when I received dynamite thank you’s from other creators like the one on the right.
You can try to entertain, but it might not work out! My efforts to make a viral video about dancing in Kickstarter videos failed miserably… I think I was the only one who found it fun. That’s the life of an entrepreneur, though, you take a risk and then another, and another, and so on.
PR – you’ve got to get it! I give myself a B- in the PR department. This is the crucial mistake I made – I figured that my tools were so obviously revolutionary that fitness magazines would watch my video, say “oh my God, why didn’t I think of that!” and sit down to write a new story about my Kickstarter project. So, assuming that I would get press just for being such a genius, I spent all of my cash developing my product and my Kickstarter video.
The day I launched my Kickstarter project, I had about $300 left in my bank account and one prototype kit left. In hindsight, had I borrowed a few thousand dollars to produce 30 more prototype kits, I think I could’ve scored the national PR I was craving. That’s because, with an experiential product like mine (without techy sex appeal), I believe you’ve got to put it in the writers hands. So while a good number of wonderful kindhearted bloggers said very nice things about my massage tools, the big media ignored me entirely.
Note, this doesn’t happen with tech products. In tech, it doesn’t matter how bad your product or pitch is, they’ll write about you – just check out yourbot – and resolve not to get jealous about a competitor’s great PR.