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9 Epic Lessons Learned From Dozens of Successful Kickstarter Campaigners

Published by Salvador Briggman. Find him on Twitter.

This article was written by Matt Ward, founder of the Art of the Kickstart podcast.

mattHey there crowdfunders. I’m Matt and for the last several months Kickstarter and Indiegogo have been my life. In my podcast Art of the Kickstart, which highlights inventors, entrepreneurs and creators using crowdfunding as a means to amazing innovation, I’ve interviewed tons of awesomely inspiring and uniquely talented individuals, 60+ in total and its been a wild ride.

From questions on campaign strategies, lessons learned from failure and the always important tips and tactics to success, these crowdfunders have shared so much with me and my audience. I want to end my endless ramblings here, a mere explanation of the individuals and influence behind all that this post shares, and I sincerely hope the lessons and ideas here help you create and conqueror your own unbelievably awesome endeavors.

1. More time, more effort, more everything.

One of the biggest fallacies creators and inventors have when considering Kickstarter or Indiegogo is the unbelievable time commitment and effort necessary to successfully bring a product to market. Perhaps said best:

thomas_alva_edison-genius

Creators out there don’t see the sweat, blood and tears which go into the entire inventive process. From idea to assembly line, it takes months if not years of devoted hard work. Can you dedicate yourself to this passion or product and sacrifice all it will take to build a truly great business (crowdfunded or otherwise) around your concept? If not, consider if it’s really a good idea to be building products and putting yourself out on Kickstarter in the first place.

You’re going to be overworked, behind schedule, above budget and beyond stressed…but at it’s totally worth it. If you love the idea, have the passion and entrepreneurial tenacity, then get ready for a wild roller coaster.

2. Bring your own Crowd.

Kickstarter is an organically awesome search engine for the latest and greatest trends, products, and ideas around the internet. Hit it off there and your creation can catch fire and form a formidable business. The catch of course is exposure and reaching the organic Kickstarter crowd. Popularity is power in crowdfunding. You need to hit the charts and get exposure early to the millions of backers and buyers of crowdfunded goods to ever really exceed your network or do something spectacular.

You’ve all heard this before, but it’s so important it bears repeating. For months leading up to the project, you should be building up an email newsletter, a blog or something to turn the tides when your campaign kicks off. Additionally by reaching out, both before and immediately after launching your campaign you can bolster the impact of everyone involved by appealing for support or shares.

Seriously, it never hurts to ask. Simply reach out to each and every person you know and let them know about your project, your dream to build something amazing. These are your friends, family and loved ones, they want to help you but don’t always know how or necessarily want your product so be sure to emphasize the importance of sharing and spreading.

3. Killer Campaign Page.

Remember crowdfunding is a platform of commerce. Every project, pitch and passion people put out there is selling something. They just need you, the backer, to bust out your wallet and boom, they’re in business.

To truly shine on Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or any of the many other crowdfunding platforms you need three things: the awesome product, the powerful pitch and a little marketing magic. Typically two of the three can cut it, but to really ramp up it takes a trifecta of awesome.

Nailing the pitch is all about copywriting. Can you get interested individuals to convert and back your campaign? If you have a background in sales this is your lucky day, if not all hope is not lost. You can still string together a powerful page on your own or get help from a crowdfunding or copywriting consultant to really stand out (interested? Let’s chat).

In order to nail the basics however, here are a few tried and true principles to follow:

– Use engaging, informative headlines.

– Have lots of amazing images (props for extra videos as well).

– Add a pinch of personality: show who you are and why you care.

– Build credibility with testimonials and media mentions.

– Get design help. Find a friend with a flair for art and make it all look sexy.

– Design informative infographics to show your rewards (for more on setting rewards see the 9 Habits of Highly Effective Campaign Rewards)

– Highlight in-depth details to showcase the magic.

– Shed light on company history to create a bond.

– Talk about the team, the peeps behind the product.

– Sell feelings, not features.

Of course this is only a very basic set of guidelines but hopefully it will help you kick butt on your next Kickstarter. We did an extremely in-depth post on this highlighting the HEXO+ 1.3 million dollar aerial photography campaign to really walk through the ins and outs of amazing campaign pages. You can check that out here to see what rockstars of crowdfunding do differently to make their campaigns shine.

4. Get Pro Help.

A lot of entrepreneurs and product creators try to do everything themselves. From my experience and that of many past podcast guests, this can actually be a hindrance to success. Whereas your expertise may lie in product design, marketing or any number of other avenues, there are always much more practiced and skilled individuals out there able to help in any area you struggle.

Whether its bringing in a video team to shoot a stellar pitch, putting up the cash to have a professional copywriter critique and improve the sales message and content of the campaign (something I love helping with) or marketing masters to help your campaign get the coverage it deserves, it pays to invest in the right people. Just make sure the individuals or agencies you hire can actually deliver proven results. This issue is especially prevalent in PR firms so watch your step as well.

5. Time Your Launch.

One thing Kickstarter creators never seem to consider is seasonality and how it affects campaign success. While off the top of my head I can’t remember who shared this seemingly obvious yet often overlooked nugget of success, the mantra still holds true.

Try your best to time your launch for when backers will be looking to buy your product. Whether gifts for the holidays, outdoors accessories before summer or football fan gear just as the season starts it can be critical to ride natural ebbs and flows of the year.

One particularly important point comes into play when considering summer and winter holidays and time off. During the summer kids are off school, reporters on vacation and people are generally away from their computers as often as possible. Pair this with an online crowdfunding campaign and its an accident waiting to happen. Try instead to avoid the high seasons for travel and relaxation. The same may be said of Christmas and the winter holidays as a whole in the US (the biggest by far of all crowdfunding markets) as well. Families are frequently buying, visiting loved ones and spending serious amounts of time on vacation mode as well they should. Proper planning will make success simpler.

6. Set your Goals.

My good friend, fellow engineering entrepreneur and foodie founder behind Fonde, the world’s greatest ravioli maker, Michael Finizio is the inspiration for this supremely sensational insight into campaigning.

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In a nutshell, without oversimplifying, sales is a game of psychological perspective. Setting all-or-nothing goals as is the case with Kickstarter and most Indiegogo campaigns relies on the mentality of scarcity and achievement to help campaigns fund and individuals feel a part of the cause.

The thing is setting your sights too high ultimately turns off potential backers. From your overly ambitious ideas, lack of respect for the minimalism of crowdfunding and fears over whether a campaign will fund it is inevitable that more loftily pointed projects will see less success. Consider the funding success rates across the entire Kickstarter platform as of 2013:

Projects with goals below $10k  have a 38% success rate

Projects with goals below $50k have a 18% success rate

Projects with goals above $100k projects have a 7% success rate

More manageable goals have additional benefits as well. Back to our boy Michael: he set his project goals low, much less than he expected to raise at only $1000. Suddenly as your campaign funds within minutes or hours of launching your project is a sexy sell on Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Everyone likes tossing around massive multiples and low and behold Finizio’s fantastic meal maker raised $64,963 or almost 6500% of his original goal. A) that is awesome and B) which of those two numbers sounds more impressive?

For a more detailed analysis of exactly how goal setting sets up your project for success you can check out this post.

7. Maximizing Marketing Outreach.

Coverage is critical. You need to spread across the internet and get eyeballs on your project. Really push the limits. Unfortunately fighting for press isn’t exactly every creative’s forte.

Honestly this is hard. You need to pitch blogs, media outlets, heck even the local paper on your product, your story and why you matter. Keep this in mind when crafting emails. You must be newsworthy. Reporters, writers, bloggers and all are looking for the latest scoop, something scintillating to sell the story and engage readers. So build your base around how you can help them. Whether it’s something they are interested in, a story their readers would rave about or an exclusive interview to make the media more appealing to them there are tricks to trying to get covered.

By the way remember writers are people too. Overwhelming spam, seriously ego-centric emails and obvious canned emails are not the way to go. If you have time take it to get connected with reporters and influencers before considering launching. Build a relationship. For a more helpful approach to pitching check out CrowdCrux’s super detailed guide, the 10 things to remember when pitching your crowdfunding campaign.

8. Study and Research.

One of the beautiful things about the internet is that no problem is ever truly unique and more so than any other time information is becoming available to empower those that seek it. CrowdCrux is an example of this. Salvador has built a reservoir of crowdfunding and production creation knowledge to empower innovators and makers everywhere to build the products of tomorrow and successfully nail crowdfunding.

On my podcast and blog at Art of the Kickstart we have a similar focus. With tri-weekly interviews of amazingly accomplished Kickstarter and Indiegogo creators we’ve amassed 60+ stellar inventors interviews already. Everyone shares insights, lessons and outstanding, completely free concepts that can create true success for campaign creators.

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9. Just Get Started.

This is my final word. Stop wasting your time reading this article and act. If you have spent time on the site, understand crowdfunding decently well or even been a Kickstarter groupie then Get out there, put in the time and get to work. You already have everything you need to succeed.

Don’t wait weeks, months or heaven forbid years planning adn preparing your perfect product. Start today. Start now. Just take the first step and run blind. You will be absolutely amazed at what you learn, the pivots you make and the excitement of true creation.

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  • Awesome article – thank you for the insights!

    • CrowdCrux

      Welcome 🙂

      • Parker Stafford

        I so appreciate the information! Lots to take in!

    • Matt Ward

      So glad you liked it Michelle. You working on anything lately?

  • I’ve been researching crowdfunding for the last couple months to prepare for a Kickstarter for The Angel Guardian, a book and matching angel doll designed to get kids more sleep and make bedtime fun! We launch next Thursday, October 16th…

    • Matt Ward

      That’s awesome. What about “The Sleepy Guardian Angel” or something that shares the idea behind it a little more obviously? First thing I think of when I read the title is Guardian Angel mismatched…just my thoughts

  • I’ve probably read more than 50 articles on crowdfunding – #3 and #6 above were particularly helpful and made me rethink some of our content and our goal!

    • Matt Ward

      If you need help on your campaign page I can hook you up. There’s a great guide in the HEXO campaign case study or I can help if your interested…either way kick some butt. Love the effort

  • Great list of lessons! I dove right into my first campaign and learned some of these the hard way. Researching on how to be successful should be the very first step after any decision is made whether to crowdfund or not. Item #7 is what really makes or breaks a campaign, IMO. People need to know about your project, and they don’t know what you don’t tell them.

    • Matt Ward

      Absolutely. Build it and they shall come right 🙂

  • Dressinprint

    I do agreed on reaching out for pro’s help. A lot of entrepreneurs does everything on their own including myself but usually this is not up to them. Not all start-up has sufficient budgets to seek for professional helps on non-domain areas. Also, it takes time and money to find the right person and the person has to gamble to see if theres really a future in that start-up. Its hard overall.

  • Plan Zed

    Great article. I really like number 2. I will have to try and implement that one into my campaign.

    • Matt Ward

      Marketing is make or break. What are you working on now?

  • Kathy Craig

    I like this article. I am trying to figure out my campaign goal. Although I do want to set it low, I do not want to run the risk of meeting my goal and requiring I supply rewards if I don’t have the money to launch the product. Thoughts?

    • Matt Ward

      Hypothetically if your need is small enough and goal comes up short there is always a dreaded loan to fill the void. How much you trying to raise?

      Typically I like creators to set goals at the exact minimum they need to make it happen though.

  • Novelsys

    This article was really great. Good explanation of all the points. Just a thought though, for point #6. My startup is planning on launching a smart wireless charging sleeve, clearly we need to take into consideration what are the manufacturing costs. So, our target goal would be ideally able to cover that. Which is, probably, why most tech/hardware related Kickstarters might not be able to have goals as low as $1k. Or how do you perhaps find a good balance? 🙂

    • Matt Ward

      It is a really touchy subject here. Basically what is the absolute minimum for you to go forward?

      You can be risky and bet the farm or conservative and possibly have a smaller final result.

      What is your goal going to be? What’s product cost?

  • Matt. This is really powerful stuff. We’ll definitely get our Story creators at 1dollar1home to utilize some of these great techniques in fundraising. This is extremely resourceful to me from the backend.

    A couple of questions on using some of these techniques on a platform like ours that has seen more recent $500-$1000 campaigns. How do campaign creator’s substitute not offering rewards etc like kickstarter and still get enough support (or motivated visitors)?

    Great article!

    Thank you!

    • Matt Ward

      Hey Doug what platform are you using? I must have missed it. What type of campaigns are you talking?

      The bulk of orders will always be preorders but there will always be some people who do lower level stuff as well.

      • Thanks for your reply Matt. We actually manage 1dollar1home.com and have seen Stories fundraising between $100-$500 funded faster within a shorter period of time.

        Since we’re not a rewards based platorm, how can story creators motivate and drive traffic to their pages? Following your advise could do wonders to some of our users but should story creators consider other factors when they’re posting a fundraiser?

        • Matt Ward

          Honestly I have done a lot with purely charity based fundraising. How’s the organic traffic/reach of the site?

  • Hi, Matt. This is a very useful article to read, especially when you’re from a country where crowdfunding is not white spread (like me). I would like to ask what kind of perks would be appropriate for a film campaign? What kind of people pledge money for films and why do they do it? Because they feel it’s amazing to contact with a filmmaker and feel like you are a part of the process, or something else? Regarding this, what perks would be available for film pledgers?

    Greetings from Bulgaria,
    Vladimir