Working on a crowdfunding campaign is a tough and gruelling work. It’s not just about the perfect video, engaging copywriting or well established rewards. It’s abut right timing, open and regular communications, quality PPC campaigns, strong community, databse of the tech journalists, and many, many more important stuff. Ivan had an opporunity to participate on one such campaign on Kickstarter and here is he to share this unique experience.
Please, welcome Ivan.
I was lucky enough to work on a Kickstarter campaign called Skinners: The Revolutionary Ultraportable Footwear with Silver for the whole time. And this is how it ended up after 44 days:
I joined the team two months before the launch and stayed on board to finish everything three months after the campaign ended. That’s quite some time to find out how the system works. What have we learned?
For all the lifehackers hoping to find shortcuts in our story, I have some bad news: there are none. Crowdfunding success is all about hard work. Just try to imagine that you need to sell 20 000 units of your product via your own e-commerce. How long would it take you? 12 months? Half a year? It depends. But try to stick all the important activities in just 44 days. Sounds impossible? Welcome to the world of crowdfunding.
“We will shoot the video on iPhone, post some basic photos, add the description, and we are done.”
It is such a shame that several Czech and Slovak campaigns have adopted this kind of attitude. Just look at the examples of Yerdna 3D, beefarm, Guacam and Ephemeris (although the team of the last one wrote a nice article about it and is aiming for the comeback). All the ideas were promising, at least on the paper. But all these guys forgot one thing:
The preparation is the key.
In Skinners, we have reviewed dozens of other campaigns, took notes, observed, read enormous amount of articles, listened to podcasts, collected e-mails, built a database of journalists, prepared a press kit, pitched the journalists, waited, pitched them again. Only after that we started working on the actual design of the campaign.
Previous checklist completed and the campaign running? This is just a beginning. Nothing could prepare us for the amount of e-mails we received during the campaign. Questions from the backers, offers for a cooperation, distribution requests, people believing in the idea, haters. Prepare for everything.
Keep in mind that e-mails are only a fraction of what you need to handle during the campaign. Choosing the right marketing channels, mapping the new ones, optimizing the performance, communicating with journalists, solving things you have never heard about.
Oh, and cancel most of the social events in your calendar, because you are going to take night shifts. Often.
Pulling off a Kickstarter campaign on your own is tough. If your team is as big as Peak Design’s, then you are good to go. But you will probably need to divide the roles between each other from the beginning. You will need:
– a guy responsible for putting the campaign together (a good copywriter),
– a guy for videos (who said there has to be only one video?),
– a guy for photos,
– a guy for Photoshop,
– a guy for design and branding,
– a guy for PR,
– a guy for social media,
– a guy for PPC on Google,
– a guy for Facebook ads,
– a guy for answering e-mails,
– a guy for managing all the other channels,
– a guy for designing your webpage,
– a guy for coding your webpage,
– a guy for crowdfunding accounting,
– a guy for patent protection and legal matters,
– a everything-is-wrong-and-I-need-a-shoulder-to-cry-on guy,
– a just-do-it kind of guy,
– a don’t-do-it kind of guy.
Sure, each team member can have multiple roles at the same time but the more responsibilities everyone has, the more often everything-is-wrong-and-I-need-a-shoulder-to-cry-on guy comes to play.
Master the project management, and, if possible, try to outsource everything you are not the best at. If necessary, don’t hesitate to take money out of your own pocket to pay for the best people in the field.
Believe me, every dollar spent on improving the quality of your campaign will bring you many more.
Do you know what’s a crucial factor for your project’s success? The first several hours of the campaign. That’s when you need to hit the funding target. Focus your pre-campaign efforts in building a community of early adopters. Those are the people who believe in your idea and are eager to back your project. Offer them some sort of incentive, such as super early bird, and let the magic happen.
We wanted to reach our funding target (10 000 USD) in the first days of the campaign. We managed to do so in 6 hours. If you work hard on the promotion, PPC ads and carefully collect e-mails before the campaign, you can do it too.
Plus, make use of the fact that your campaign is trending and there is hype around it. Get in touch with other successful projects and ask them for their success formula. The community of campaign creators is still small and most of the projects we talked to were happy to help.
This quote by Mariquel Waingarten, the co-creator of Hickies, comes to my mind often. During one of the Skype calls we had together, we were talking about the thing that separates the successful campaigns from the unsuccessful ones.
We came to a conclusion that it’s mostly what you do after the campaign, not during it. Have you raised a five- or six-digit number? Good job! But the real challenge only begins. You need to make sure to produce everything within a short period of time, figure out the fulfilment and ship the products all around the world.
There are many projects which fail to meet the expectations of backers. Just look at the examples of Zano, an autonomous mini drone which raised 3,2M USD and just recently announced bankruptcy, or Coolest Cooler, a bright orange cooler with ice-crushing blender and outdoor speakers which raised 13M USD and has not delivered a single fault-free product yet.
In Skinners, fulfilment and shipment to 70 countries around the world caused us headaches but we did our job and have already delivered more than 5 000 rewards up to date. We are even faster than we planned. It’s exactly these things that investors notice once they start rumbling around.
Despite all the hard work, careful preparation, sleepless nights and everything-is-wrong-and-I-need-a-shoulder-to-cry-on situations, I wouldn’t change it if I could.
Working on a crowdfunding campaign is a real test of your abilities, and you will probably want to set yourself on fire at some point. About 60% of all projects fail to meet their goal so the numbers are against you too.
But once you get your first pledge just a few minutes after you start your campaign, once you see the support from your family and friends and once you start receiving money from strangers who really believe in your idea, just then you realize that this is probably the best time of your life.
It’s an adventure, and whether you get funded or not, you will learn a lot.
Ivan Zatko is a marketing guy currently based in Brno, Czech Republic. He works on two startups: Spoteee & SunBall and he is also preparing a new project. His interests are lifehacks, future of technology and ultrarunning. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Flipboard.