Books, independant films, gadgets, and yes, startups. It seems that wherever there’s passion and a good idea, there’s the opportunity to mobilize a crowd to help get it off the ground.
Crowdfunding is by no means the most conventional method of raising funds for your startup, but when angel investors and VCs either aren’t interested or aren’t the most appropriate backers, testing the waters with a Kickstarter campaign may be just what you need to set the ball in motion.
Crowdfunding is hardly a new concept, however it feels like more and more startups are reaching out to us as of late for some advice on generating awareness for their projects, so here it is: Our top tips for launching a kick-ass Kickstarter campaign.
Be Bold. Go Where No Kickstarter Has Gone Before.
You can get media attention for just about anything given the right approach. (Don’t believe me? Just think about all of the attention media gives to general interest stories, cause-based campaigns, fundraisers, kitten videos…)
That said, I do believe that you’ll need to get creative to stand out amongst the hundreds of active campaigns at any given time. There needs to be laser focus in your approach, with very little left to chance. Use what makes you original to your advantage. Be different by devising a strategy.
Because the concept of a Kickstarter isn’t new (and because “Company X launches Kickstarter campaign Y!” isn’t newsworthy), you’ll need to put consideration into creating a smart story that will differentiate you from the rest. Why your project is a necessity and not just a nice to have. Why you’re the one to make this happen.
Make it relevant to now. Why is this project so important today?
Records were broken when a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a Veronica Mars movie met its goal of $2 million in less than 12 hours. Since then, it’s raised over $3.9 million dollars and raised the question what will this mean for the film industry?
Regardless of the impact, you can learn a lot from this crowdfunding example. The Veronica Mars project worked because there was a strategy, and because it spoke to now. It tapped into a key demographic – fans that were left high and dry when the television show was cancelled. Your product doesn’t have a massive group of die hard fans – so how do you replicate the Veronica Mars success? By remembering why it worked.
Tip: Like any other product launch, take all of the necessary steps to build a plan which includes a strong value proposition and media assets.
Preach to the Converted. Ignore the Rest.
When you can speak to those your product will appeal to, you’re one large step closer to Kickstarter success. Not sure who your key demographic is? Test the waters. Do a little A/B testing. Then design your campaign around your findings. For Veronica Mars, it was the fans. For personalized sock startup, Nice Laundry – it was environmentally conscious men who hate buying socks that attracted 283 backers within the first 24 hours.
Tip: Know your audience, and choose niche media coverage over trying to go too broad. Writing a book about a particular region or ancestry? Approach local media in those areas to help lobby support. Have a new gadget you know gamers will love? Focus on winning over media outlets like Gizmodo or PocketGamer, or gadget guys like Marc Saltzman.
Know your people and attract them. Need some real life proof? These nine startups not only met their goals – they dominated.
Set the Bar High. Then Go Higher.
How you design your campaign is everything. Competition for backers is stiff and remind yourself that Kickstarter is all-or-nothing – you have to meet your goal in order to get anything. Know what you want and when you want it by – we recommend setting a 30-45 day campaign. If you’re feeling extra brave, you can take the Tim Ferriss recommended approach and boldly launch a ten day campaign. The gamble paid off for Mike Del Ponte, who launched Soma and raised $100,000 in nine days. Find out how he did it, here.
Whatever you do – always set clear expectations for yourself. Estimate how much funding you’ll be able to extract from your own network, then drop your total by 15-20%. While we encourage setting the bar high, don’t be unrealistic. These campaigns take a remarkable amount of work.
“Everything takes way more time than you think it will,” says Nice Laundry founder, Phil Moldavski. “That’s been a consistent theme for us, and it was no different with the copy, the page, and the video. It took us something like 40 man-hours.”
Don’t half ass anything. Even on a bootstrapped startup budget, you can create a powerful explainer video to accompany your campaign. Some people don’t want to read about your product. They want to experience it, and a video will help achieve this. Make potential backers feel as though they are apart of something awesome. Less on your background (keep your intro tight and under a minute and a half) and more on why your project will benefit backers. Get them involved.
Lastly, before you submit your campaign, ensure you have a strong call to action. Reiterate what you’re asking for and when you need it by. Remind potential backers why they not only want but need your product.
Tip: Don’t consider a Kickstarter campaign unless you’re willing to put in some serious time both on campaign strategy and promotion. Don’t make your campaign a background project or waste an ounce of energy willing it so. The effort you put in will be directly reflected in the end result.
Involvement = Incentive
While you’re not necessarily asking for huge monetary donation from your backers (even though you’re hoping they’ll open their pockets to more) you’re still asking for their money and most importantly, their time. Why should they take the time to back you? What’s in for them?
Make it worth their while with Kickstarter Rewards. One of the incentives for Veronica Mars was a pdf of the shooting script. Backers only had to donate a $1. For the more generous, a $10,000 donation got you a speaking role in the movie. What’s ten grand to a die hard fan?
Realistically, you may be limited in what you can offer in exchange for backing but it’s been argued you should focus the most energy on offering the best rewards possible. Simply reminding people of their involvement in something life changing isn’t enough. That said, on top of any kickass rewards – remind them that they are instrumental to your success.
You’re writing a story – let them be a character in it.
Tip: When positioning your rewards, tell your story with the end in mind. Help your backers envision themselves reading the book, watching the movie or using the product.
You’re Changing the World. Tell People.
Alright, so you may not be working towards curing AIDS (unless you are) or creating world peace, but your product (in some capacity) is about to change lives. People should know about it. Before you launch your campaign, create a media release explaining your goal. Don’t focus on your company. Focus on what you’re creating, why it’s important, and why people should back it.
Identify who will care. Reach out. Tap into your own networks. “Focus your efforts online,” says Britgitte Lyons, of PR Primer. Get your existing community engaged on Facebook. Offer to contribute a blog post about your campaign for their website. Get even closer to home. Let your friends, family, colleagues know about your launch and how they can help be a part of it. Again, include everyone in your venture.
Tip: If you can reach 30% of your goal in the first few days of the launch, you are on your way. 90% of campaigns that reach 30% are successful. Your own networks may have the power to be the 30%. Make it convenient and easy for them to spread the news. Provide a copy and paste email format they can send friends. A post and share link for Twitter and Facebook.
Enjoy the Rush as You Cross the Finish Line.
“The last 24 hours of the campaign I don’t think I got more than an hour of sleep, between both the sheer amount of ‘push’ PR that had to be done, and the excitement of watching us meet and exceed stretch goals,” says Rev. Tamara L. Siuda, who successfully crowd-funded her venture earlier in March.
Once the project is completed and funding is secured, you’ll have amassed a devoted group of fans to leverage as you strive to maintain enthusiasm for the project through the development phase. Keep them informed as milestones are achieved and remember that they will be there for you the second time around – as you announce the completion of the project to the world.
No one said crowd-funding was easy nor have they declared it a full-proof way to get your funding. Some would argue finding investors is easier. But with the right amount of Startup PR, sheer will and dedication – a Kickstarter campaign can fund even your wildest dreams.
What was the coolest Kickstarter campaign you have seen? Why do you think it was so successful?