Kickstarter is extremely exciting! Anyone can go out and get support for an idea without enagaging the traditional gatekeepers such as producers, manufacturers or investors that only allow the ‘go big or go home’ mentality. Many ideas never come to life using traditional models, projects that appeal to less than 1,000 people instead of more than 1 million are not only feasible on Kickstarter, they represent the majority of the revenue on Kickstarter.
Creators working on massive ideas used to be forced to give away control at an early point that can never be recovered. Kickstarter is therefore affecting both small and large projects in a new form of Indie Capitalism (term coined by Bruce Nussbaum) which is optimistic and based upon a different set of values to Wall Street, Silicon Valley and the typical startup + VC culture.
My first Kickstarter raised £26,000 ($40,000) and I can’t wait to do another! The campaign received 35,000 hits and 550 backers. Clearly, some things went right and some things went wrong. Below are some of the best tips I learned, most of them during or after I had finished on Kickstarter.
I have created more furniture projects that can be seen on timbertail.com.
For those not doing a Kickstarter soon and not reading on, please note that Kickstarter is a rewards-based crowdfunding platform, not an equity based (investment) crowdfunding-platform.
Make a List:
Preparing a list of people you are going to contact beforehand is a must-do starting point and can be updated throughout the campaign. The audience for kickstarter projects generally comes from several places that are discussed below.
Beyond mentioning your project at work or in the gym, it is best to discover which friends are most likely to back you. The easiest backers to convince are going to either love you, love your project or love kickstarter. You should have a good idea for who loves you and who loves your project, add them to the list. Use the ‘Find Friends‘ feature on Kickstarter to discover your facebook friends who have previously backed projects. Those who have previously backed projects on Kickstarter are likely to do so again.
Klout.com sorts friends by how much noise they create online and adds a second layer from your personal networks to contact. Those with a kloutscore of 70+ may be online influencers and should be prioritised. Send a personal email to everyone you know with a score between 50-70. Prepare these emails before you start.
You can’t hack this option, but getting on the Kickstarter homepage as I did or in the Kickstarter newsletter drives alot of traffic to your project page. I didn’t get mentioned in the newsletter that lists three projects with a similar theme each week, but looking through many projects on Kicktraq, you can see the sharp rises in backers which the newsletter brings.
During the campaign, check out who is backing you. Many backers will have personal networks and followings much larger than you, I wonder if this $10,000 campaign knows that Zach Braff from Scrubs is a backer. After my campaign was over, I realised they were two delivery addresses in 90210, Beverly Hills!
Create your kickstarter page/video well in advance so that you can show bloggers/journalists using the preview link. Ask them to sync the time they will go live with when you launch your campaign.
If you have an awesome campaign, the press will want to cover it. In reality, only certain press who already believe what you believe will be interested. The best journalists that covered my campaign said that they were “waiting for this to happen,” they knew the topic inside out having interviewed people like Chris Anderson (former editior of WIRED) the previous week. Many journalists will wait for when the campaign is trending. Both of these groups took the same amount of time to pursue, so make sure you research who to contact from the beginning and when to contact them.
I searched major press sites for similar topics and made an spreadsheet of journalists who were covering the field. It was immediately obvious from what they previously wrote whether they were going to love my project or ignore it. Journalists recieve lots of mail, tweets, post etc every day, they are saturated with requests for Kicktarter coverage. Check out this presentation by Mike Butcher from TechCrunch Europe on how to contact tech media. He recommends you give the journalist a story. You should also think about preparing multiple angles that can launch the campaign from different perspectives.
Early Campaign – Launch articles on what you do.
Mid Campaign – Launch articles as a progress report and how you did it.
Last Push – Launch articles that highlight why this project matters.
I have heard several people such as Simon Sinek say that you should always talk about ‘why‘ your project matters first, but the first 100 people to back your campaign already know why the projects matters, they just need to confirm ‘what‘ you are doing is what they already care about and that you are good enough to deliver.
INFLUENCERS & BLOGGERS
Influencers are the group of people who everyone pays attention to. In the past, they were limited to celebrities, famous sports people and journalists. The internet has created a long tail where you can now find influencers from any field from sneaker design to cancer research. Many of these influencers will have blogs, social media channels and email newsletters. Having their support will add to both the credibility of your campaign as well as bring in lots of traffic from their followers. A call of action from an influencer goes alot further than press coverage, but as I didn’t know that before beginning my Kickstarter, I missing out. (Journalists can be influencers too, but not all journalists are influencers.)
Many blogs have a ‘submit story‘ button, make a spreadsheet of those links before starting with additional columns for what is needed. e.g. eight photos minimum.
There are also Kickstarter influencers such as @BestKickstarter with 85,000 followers.
Surround sound is the most important thing you need to understand.
The idea is simple. Hearing about a Kickstarter campaign from multiple respected sources will convince would-be backers to click ‘Back This Project’. You might try convince msuic lovers on week one, so that a music lover will see your campaign appear multiple times from multiple sources and influencers they trust. On week two, your strategy changes to focus on a circle of technology lovers by chasing down a separate group of influencers, bloggers and journalists. On week three, you chase new yorkers and on your final week you focus on schools. The purpose of ‘surround sound’ is not to spread your limited resources too thin. A person in one of the communities above needs to see your campaign several times within a short time period before they click on it.
Start with another spreadsheet naming what communities you can target, who are the influencers in those communities and how you are going to engage those influencers.
Topsy.com facilitates social search and is useful at finding influencers. If you find similar campaigns on Kickstarter or links that your potential backers find interesting, drop them in the Topsy search bar. Topsy lists all the twitter accounts that tweeted that link which can be sorted by influence. Find out if you have any friends in common and tweet a couple of these people to see if they are interested in your campaign.
Tweepi.com can be used to mass follow/unfollow people from curated lists. For example if you had a photography list made by a reputable photography magazine, you can mass follow the list which will notify everyone on the list that you followed them. Two days later, you unfollow everyone that didn’t follow you and build up 100+ followers each iteration taking two days.
If you tell ten friends about something and only one friend tells another person, your story goes dead quickly, (0.1 virality). A viral campaign is one where every friend is telling a minimum of two or more friends that results in viral growth. What can do to convert your campaign from 0.1 virality to 2.0+ virality? Make your campaign easy to share. See what SOMA campaign did.
Making a page on Launchrock.com is free and quick. It allows you to tell many people about your project and collect email addresses so that you don’t lose them. There tools are built to encourage people to share your page.
Make a Remarkable Campaign
Seth Godin argues that things today should be remarkable as those things will be shared.
Share your campaign with as many people as possible using the Kickstarter preview link to gain feedback and make sure it’s clear. Be prepared to make your video more than once if feedback says make it again. I recieved advice to remake the video halfway through my campaign, but didn’t have access to the friend who helped make the first video.
Friends will ask, “What is Kickstarter?” I assumed that most people knew what Kickstarter was. In the Kickstarter of ‘Double Fine Games’, Tim Schafer explains that adventure games are a a bit of lost artform. When an employee cries “adventure games are not dead,” Tim explains that publishers would laugh at his face if he pitched an Adventure Game. The employee responds that he is willing to pay for an adventure game and lots of others fans are too. That is Kickstarter.
‘Wish I Was Here’ by Zach Braff tells the complicated story of his problems in financing. Investors generally want control which in many cases can ruin a creative project. In the film industry, this translates as final cut and controlling the cast and filming options. Kickstarter was a means for Zach as a director to maintain his artistic freedom, his pitch is less about the film and and very much focused on explaining why he is on Kickstarter. (Zach Braff did recieve some negative press of which he responded with a Kickstarter Update.)
BACK AND RESEARCH OTHER CAMPAIGNS
Some campaigns get funded on their first day, when they are well prepared. Some go for stretch goals which was always part of the plan. Others cross the line on the final day while and of course some projects fail. Watching lots of campaigns in advance is a must. Kicktraq that will be explained further below is a great resource to understand other campaigns as you can see their performance very clearly. Another site is Can He Kick It.
Study who failed on Kickstarter, Melissa Joanheart came across as inauthenthic looking as if she was paid to be there, a complete contrast to what kickstarter is about. She wasn’t making the film, she was starring in the Kickstarter video.
You shouldn’t be asking for help, you should be offering an experience they’re going to love.
On Kickstarter, I look at the video first, check the rewards, possibly back the project. The video is your first impression and will decide the fate of your campaign.
I made a big mistake of wanting to pitch a vision but thought that visions weren’t allowed by the Kickstarter rules that read ‘projects only’. Visions are allowed. If you are appealing to people who are backing the mission of the project, you need to mention it. If you are appealing to people who back the product of the campaign, you need to mention to the use-case. Reality is you need both.
Most successful videos are just someone telling their story straight into the camera. The easiest starting point is to make a checklist of what should be in the video (From Kickstarter Guide)
- Who are you?
- What is your project and why does it matter?
- What is the story behind the project?
- Where’d you get the idea?
- What stage is it at now?
- How are you feeling about it?
- Ask for people’s support, explaining why you need it.
- How will you spend their money.
- Discuss rewards.
- Explain that if you don’t reach your goal, you’ll get nothing, and everyone will be sad.
- Thank everyone!
Music Resources can be got from SoundCloud, Vimeo Music Store, Free Music Archive, and ccMixter. Technical specs: Videos must be 4.88GB or less and have a file type of MOV, MPEG, AVI, MP4, 3GP, WMV, or FLV.
Use gif’s as done in Dartstrip’s campaign
BUILD A COMMUNITY, NOT A PROJECT.
(You fulfill the project after Kickstarter is over, the campaign is all about the community.)
You will want backers to actively get involved in your project, but they will only get involved when they feel included as part of the project or the mission, let them leave their mark. I wasn’t sucessful at building this ideal into my first campaign, but you can see that in the +Pool project, backers are allowed to leave their name on a tile of the pool that will be built in NY. I am not sure if they made individual photoshop images of backers who bought a tile, but I think it would strongly encourage those backers to share the project again if they did.
Meeting Greg from SketchChair who created several rewards for different types of backers, I learnt that I have made a fundamental mistake. I essentialy had one group who could recieve a rocking stool, but Greg made rewards for people who wanted a chair and separate rewards that would target designers and programmers who would also be interested in the project. Out of 584 backers, only 41 backed to get his chair. You’ll never please everyone, but different people back projects for different reasons, don’t limit yourself to one group.
- Customers: They want the product
- Project Fans: They feel the intent of the project is amazing, but don’t necessarily want it, but want to somehow be part of it.
- People Fans: They feel you are inspiring and amazing want to back you. Below, Tyler made the beginning of his film purely about him as he felt that people back people on kickstarter, not projects.
- Community Fans: If you are doing something creative commons for example, the creative commons group on Kickstarter will list your project. People who don’t care so much for what you made, but believe in creative commons might back out of a shared interest, but only if there is a reward option for them.
BIG BACKERS + PARETO PRINCIPLE
Shoreditch Village Hall has 340 backers with £90,000 backed, it a project that garnered support from the big tech companies based in East London. Two thirds of the money raised is from 26 backers who gave £1,500 or more. A futher 53 backers gave more than £100 which combined with the initial 26 were responsible for £75,000 of the total £90,000. 83% percent of the money raised came from 23% of the backers. (See Pareto Principle.) One would assume this was not by accident, but the team cultivated relationships with those 79 people or companies.
REMIX + FIND INSPIRATION
Watch Kirby Ferguson’s TED talk explaining everything is a remix. Build on the work of others finding interesting videos and things inside or outside of Kickstarter that might influence how you build your campaign. Some of my favourite pitch videos are the Dollar Shave Club, the work of Improv Everywhere or Dr.Seuss told by the people of Burning Man.
Submit your campaign to Kickstarter in advance to launching as they firstly they need to verify and approve the campaign. Once verified, you will have a green launch button that you should have ready two weeks before launching as you are going to want to send the preview link to the press and others for critical feedback. I have seen several people post or tweet that they are waiting to get approved intending to launch as soon as that green button is active, I strongly recommend against doing so.
Most Kickstarter projects follow an S-curve, they start well, go flat in the middle of the campaign and climb again towards the end. Prepare accordingly. I got recommended to start on a Monday at 8am as less people are on the internet at the weekend and you need build up momentum that can take first three days.
You should have everything above lined up before launching your campaign, strong lists and prepared press, email newsletters to fire out, influencers in position to shout and tweet about your campaign and mention you in their newsletters, surround sound strategies with targeted communities.
Kicktraq is a must use tool that allows you to track your campaign showing the pledge totals per day. You can see curves of how fast you reaching your target. As the beginning of your campaign will have relatively more raised than the middle, the predictions will shoot up really high in the first few days, ignore them. While Kickstarter offer analytics on your campaign, I found myself checking Kicktraq more regularly.
I changed alot of the copy mid-campaign as it was looking as if I wasn’t go to make it. Be prepared to change your campaign midway. I got recommended to remake the video but didn’t have the same opportunity to get a good camera lined up and therefore struggled to change it.
You can learn alot from looking at the updates of others that are mostly public. Cesar Kuriyama put his app ‘One Second Everyday’ online needing lots of backers as the reward amount for an app was small. With lots of updates and lots of press, he sucessfully got more than 11,000 backers compared with many campaigns that have 500-2500 backers. Campaigns with lots of updates do better, so think about doing 20+ updates and what milestones you want to post.
Conversions range based on how many hits you have, how good the articles were, how good your video is, how good your rewards are and lots more, but I still think they are interesting to look at.
Here are conversions of several campaigns (backers to hits)
- Avg Reward – £45 – 35,000 hits, 550 Backers, 1.6% conversion (£26,000 pledged)
- Avg Reward – £25 -60,000 hits, 2,789 backers, 4.5% conversion (£57,000 pledged)
- Avg Reward – £5 -80,000 hits, 11,200 backers, 14% conversion (£37,000 pledged)
- Avg Reward – £100 -500,000 hits, 37,500 backers, 7.5% conversion (£1,700,000 pledged)
If your over halfway there, but nowhere near your goal. You can try upselling the pledges of your backers by offering further rewards. Alternatively, with over 50% funding and an active audience, you could try asking everyone to tell a friend, but try incentivising it through rewards rather than just asking.
CONNECT WITH THE BACKERS (THROW A PARTY)
When Shoreditch Village Hall wanted to create buzz two days to deadline, they threw a party with lots of beers! The line of go and meet your customers has been said time and time again by Airbnb founder Joe Gebbia and might prove useful for Kickstarter too. If your backers are largely in one city, throw a party. Invite everyone to bar without permission, no expense needed.
I didn’t know what stretch goals were when I started. If your target is £10,000 and you meet your target on the first day, then offer some things you’ll add in if you get £15,000, £25,000 and £50,000.
THE KICKSTARTER APP
The Kickstarter app is far too addictive! If my phone vibrated with a notification, there was a chance that £50 had just entered my pocket, a surreal feeling.
One campaign I learnt alot from was SOMA that made this excellent post that every potential Kickstarter campaign should read throughly. Mike Del Ponte’s intensive prepartion paid off receiving $100,000 in backing in just 10 days of which I will mention later in other points.
THE LAST TEN SECONDS
What to do after:
Remember it takes two weeks to process payment.
Best to put a deadline for survey responses, 80% will respond within three days, the rest will make you chase them.
Once your Kickstarter campaign is finished, several sites have formed to be marketplaces for sucessfully funded products such as Swish, Outgrow.me and Tiny Lightbulbs. There are of course a ton of other options that are open to all projects.
RUNNING A KICKSTARTER CHANNEL LIKE A YOUTUBE CHANNEL
Youtube channels don’t succeed because of one video, they have several. Some campaigns become businesses, others become serial project creators.
It is time to send rewards to backers. Send plenty of updates as without them backers will get frustrated and leave negative comments.
A video to watch as you start something new by Ze Frank