Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms provide a tremendous opportunity for entrepreneurs and innovators. $529 million was pledged to Kickstarter projects in 2014—that’s more than $1,000 a minute. That said, running a successful Kickstarter project is no small feat.
During our final month in the Techstars startup accelerator program, we launched our Kickstarter project for Notion and hustled like crazy to make it a success. The result: Our project reached its $50,000 goal in under 24 hours, and went on to raise $281,000 from more than 1,300 backers.
This put our project in the top 0.25% of all Kickstarter projects ever launched. Here’s what we did:
1. Begin with the end in mind—know why you’re doing a Kickstarter campaign.
Though it may sound obvious, you ought to begin planning your project’s campaign by deciding what you’re hoping to get out of it. Raising money, increasing awareness or testing demand are all valid reasons, but knowing what the priority is (even if it’s all three) will impact all the other decisions.
2. Test, refine and perfect your messaging before you launch.
You thought of the idea, so of course you get it … but you are not the customer. Put all the content you are planning to use for your project’s Kickstarter page into a document, then send it to anyone willing to take a look and provide constructive feedback.
3. Take time to shoot a great a video.
There is a reason every Kickstarter how-to notes the necessity of a great video. According to Kickstarter, “Projects with videos succeed at a much higher rate than those without (50% vs. 30%).” A video is your opportunity to show the world why your idea matters, so make sure you have a powerful story and/or a great product demo. Our video was received 74,121 plays and was an instrumental tool for explaining our product.
4. Be strategic about your funding goal.
Resist the urge to pick a large, arbitrary fundraising goal. Instead, determine the amount of money it will take to bring your product to life and get it into the hands of your backers. Don’t forget to take into account other factors, including minimum order size from your manufacturer, packaging costs and shipping costs to name a few. Once you have your number, don’t stray too far from above it—better to be a successful campaign that gets overfunded than one with an aggressive number that barely meets—or fails to meet—its funding goal.
5. Make backer rewards clear and compelling, and don’t forget the “fanboy” option.
Pick reward levels that are appropriate for the product you’re selling, and don’t forgot an entry level reward for those who like what you’re doing and want to be a part of your journey. Structure your rewards to include something that only backers will receive in order to incentivize people to back now rather than wait for your official launch many months from now. Last but not least, if your long-term plan includes going into retail, know that retailers will take your Kickstarter “prices” into consideration.
6. Build a group of backers for day-one.
By nature, people like backing winners. Potential backers are more likely to back a project if the project is close to, or already, funded. Prior to launching your Kickstarter project, build an email list of people to share your project with the minute it’s live. Don’t be shy about asking contacts to check out your project’s page and share it with friends. In addition to this list, make sure to build a list of people who will back your project, preferably at a high reward level. This is important for two reasons, 1.) it demonstrates traction and 2.) it may get your project onto Kickstarter’s trending section, which dramatically increases your project visibility among Kickstarter’s audience of more than 19 million monthly visitors.
7. Invest in your success—spend money on PR and advertising.
We had less than a month to prep and launch our Kickstarter project due to the fact wanted the project to end around the same time as our accelerator program. We needed to do a lot in a short amount of time so we hired a tech-focused PR agency that had recently helped another company with a successful Kickstarter project. We also hired an agency agency that specialized in paid advertising to help run ad campaigns to send people to our Kickstarter page as well as build a large newsletter subscriber list. Lastly, we contracted a designer to create all of the assets we needed for our Kickstarter page, website, and landing pages for our ad campaigns. If you have ample time to prepare for launching your Kickstarter project, you may be able to do much of this on your own or in-house. That said, hiring a PR firm with a track record of success with Kickstarter projects can make a massive impact.
8. Don’t forget about offline audiences.
The need to drive awareness with online audiences is obvious, but don’t forget about offline audiences you have access to such as industry events, meetups, weekend farmers markets … really any place where you may find people who may be interested in your project. In addition to spreading the word, offline interactions often provide customer feedback and insights that you can’t get online.
9. Make yourself available and keep the conversation going.
Kickstarter is a vibrant community of people who are passionate about innovation. Your backers and potential backers will ask a lot of good—and, unfortunately, annoying or ridiculous—questions. It is important to provide clear, timely responses. Making yourself available shows that you care. In addition to answer questions, make use of Kickstarter’s update feature during and after the campaign to keep your backers thinking (and talking) about your project. Due to the volume of questions we were receiving, this role was essentially a full-time job while the project was live.
Of course, there is no silver bullet or magic formula for crushing it on Kickstarter. The activities described above worked extremely well for our project, and we hope you find them helpful in planning, launching, and running your crowdfunded project.
Brett Jurgens is the co-founder and CEO of Notion, a home monitoring startup.