So, you have a magnificent idea or product. Now what? With the popular crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo, the world is your oyster and the possibilities for success seem endless. I have been following crowdfunding for the last 3+ years, observing the wildly successful campaigns and also ones that weren’t quite so successful. After having one of my campaigns miss it’s goal, I went back to the drawing board and dug in to as much crowdfunding tips and research as I could get my hands on.
When my second campaign first launched, my inbox was flooded with everyone from Kickstarter campaign gurus to PR agencies and Fiverrs. Everyone wanted to help make it successful. At a price, of course. But I was on a zero budget, so I did it all myself. The campaign was a success but I learned a lot. Through trial and error, along with determination, I discovered there are several pretty crucial (and basic) elements involved that can really make all the difference in your campaign.
1. Get Social! Make sure you have a strong network, online and off. Build up your social crowd and establish yourself and your brand/product first before launching. Let everyone in on your secret and get them excited, pre-launch. Talk to people, get to know them. In other words, make sure you are well connected and plugged in to your social connections. I would aim for at least 1,000 in your network. Facebook is still a great resource, but tap into Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+. It’s like any business: if no one knows you exist, how can they support your project?
2. Look and Feel – Is your campaign click-worthy? First of all, make sure your MAIN image looks awesome. This is the image that everyone sees first. If it’s appealing to the eye, you’ll get that click you want. You want it to stand out. A clear photo of your product, or an appealing image that showcases your project is key.
Make sure your campaign page looks attractive and cohesive as well. Pictures tell a thousand words. I have discovered that too many words in a campaign can bore an audience. We are living in a digital age where we are more stimulated with quick posts and pictures. You can provide all the info you want, but make it easy to read. Take some inspiration from various infographics and think of creative ways to get your message through quickly.
If you are not much of a graphics guru, that’s OK. Ask a graphics designer for assistance with this.
3. Your Video This can be tricky and expensive if you don’t know a videographer or editor. If you have a budget to hire a videographer, that’s great! If you are doing a DIY video, make sure your video has good sound (I goofed on this one with a cheap radio shack mic). Create a visual story, tell everyone about your project in 30-60 seconds or less. Let your project evoke a mood or inspire your audience. Be yourself. It doesn’t need to be fancy. If you are not comfortable being on camera, a video or photo montage with your voice-over is good too!
4. Rewards Offer a variety of pledge amounts, but don’t get too complicated. I have found that less can be more on Kickstarter. Too many options, and people can get a little confused. The $16-$25 rewards are a nice sweet spot. However, I also realize a product that is more expensive is well worth it to Backers, especially if it’s a project they believe in. Also, never underestimate the power of the $1 reward! I have seen quite a few projects with over a 1,000+ $1 Backers.
5. PR and Blogger Outreach is as equally important as the product you create and vital to maintaining a steady flow of traffic to your project campaign. If you plan to do your own PR, make sure you have created some kind of social media rapport before pitching your product to an editor, even if it’s just to Share or Re-Tweet an interesting news article they have written. Make sure you are targeting the right blogs, magazines, etc. Have a list of the contacts ready to go before you launch. Send the e-mails out before you launch and offer exclusive “first dibs” press. Send them info on your project along with the website or Kickstarter preview link. Emails are the best way to reach editors. Make the emails personal. Canned, lengthy templates are not a wise choice. And make sure you follow up! (If the email addresses are not available online, you can call and ask for the specific editors’ email address if it is a magazine like Conde Nast or Hearst Publications).
Make sure you understand the amount of time it’s going to require to reach out to the right bloggers, editors, etc. It doesn’t end when the campaign goes live. Write, Send, Follow-up and Repeat. (Getting friends to help you with this is also highly recommended). I think I must have sent 30 emails out before I got an interview and write up with Fast Company. Be diligent and don’t give up! It WILL pay off.
6. Extra Marketing Funds Set aside some funds for help in Social Marketing/PR. Even if it’s only $500-$700, make sure you have some funds for this. There are a lot of social media ad promotions you may want to take advantage of (i.e. Google, Twitter, Facebook). There are also individual PR agents and agencies out there who offer crowdfund-specific packages at reasonable rates.
7. Social “Auto-Pilot” and Organization Get familiar with social media platforms such as Bit.ly, Hootsuite and Sprout Social. These are excellent tools to help you get organized and track your interactions to see what platform works and who is listening. Also, it will do you some good to have these platforms working for you on autopilot while you (hopefully!) sleep. There is a whole other side of the world that is up while we sleep and we can’t forget to include them.
Some say there is no real secret sauce for Kickstarter success, other than having a strong network and tons of views. I have seen marshmallow projects go crazy, underwear sell like it’s a hot commodity and wallets hit (and miss). I think the product has to be a good one, but I also think people are looking to connect with a project and the creator. It’s more than just products people want. They want to feel like they are a part of something that moves them, whether it be in a fun, creative, humorous or philanthropic way.
I would love to hear about your Crowdfunding experiences! Please comment and let me know what has worked for you!