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What no one tells you about Kickstarter before you launch

Published by Salvador Briggman. Find him on Twitter.

Part of my mission with CrowdCrux and my ebook is to let crowdfunders know about the road ahead.

On your journey, if you can’t anticipate bumps, turns, or hanging branches, the likeliness that you will fail to meet your fundraising goal can increase exponentially.

Preparing, educating yourself, and working hard are the few things you can control.

One thing that most creators fail to recognize before launching is that not everyone in their social network knows what Kickstarter is or even has an amazon account, which is needed to pledge to your campaign if it’s located in the US (“For US-based projects, you will go through the Amazon checkout process. For projects launched outside of the US, you will check out through Kickstarter”).

Of those that do know what Kickstarter is and have an amazon account, many are still skeptical, and need to be persuaded to pledge to your campaign.

Don’t believe me? Below, I’ve shared the experience of Jermon Green who is running the Momensity Kickstarter campaign to finish building a social connection app that “goes beyond simply trading job titles to making true connections over the things you love and enjoy.”

MomensityWe started by researching similar Kickstarter campaigns including Looksery, Pressgram, Pixate, Mouthy App, Easy Shopper, and the Private Family Network iPhone App campaign.

We found that the first 3 had 90% veteran kickstarter backers, that is the backers had backed at least 1 – 2 kickstarter projects before that one, leading us to the conclusion Kickstarter is an insular niche community. Insular communities need relationships to gain access and acceptance.

The projects that failed had either 0 backers, or if they had any, they were first time backers (no other kickstarter projects). From this we inferred that going to outsiders was not going to be successful, but we tried.

I emailed, text and personally contacted 2763 people and found that 98% had never heard of kickstarter, which turned our campaign into a Kickstarter educational seminar, to our chagrin. We estimate we lost 50% of potential backers due to working with an unfamiliar website.

Of that larger group, I text 255 people the link to the campaign, and they, being uninitiated, beyond youtube, thought it was a great video and text me back saying so. Upon a follow up they explained they didn’t know to scroll down or that they didn’t realize it was a campaign to raise money. Argh. Lost 10% here.

Many of those that trusted this new website Kickstarter, mainly on the strength of my endorsement, were then unfamiliar with amazon payments and were deterred from signing up. We lost 25% here.

Our Facebook follow up included personal chats with 53 people, who responded with a lot of “…what’s kickstarter?” and when we asked whether or not they played the video we shared to Facebook the response was “…yes, but I didn’t know you could further interact with it?” – they are referencing the green word hyperlink or kickstarter medallion in lower right could be clicked. Argh x 2. Lost 13% here.

Leaving us with 15 supporters. Of those, 1% knew about Kickstarter.

So then, we went back and figured we better target the people that do not have to be educated about Kickstarter and amazon payments and re-commit our efforts.

At this point, we reached out to a Kickstarter backer of Looksery and asked for advice. Our original video was commercially done and targeted towards a mass audience, only to find this wonderful backer schooling us:

“The photo doesn’t tell me anything about the product, but the video gives me a better idea. A “snazzy video” is great if it actually tells a story. The videos you have look like they’re stock footage and don’t tell me your story. You can use an “eye catching/snazzy” video to grab someone’s attention, but you need to tell your story somewhere.

Your original video actually tells me a bit more of your story. What I’d really like to see is how you expect the app to work and what it will do “in the wild.” I don’t back a lot of Kickstarter projects but the ones I do, solve a problem I’ve had (Pressgram, Tiltpod or I believe in the creator, cause, product).

Take a look at Pressgram. They have a snazzy video that someone did for them up top, but then they did several more videos telling their story – including this is the problem I had and this is how I’m proposing to solve it – join me.

Take a look at this post as well: http://john.do/death-by-kickstarter and I would touch base with John Saddington as well. He’s written an ebook talking about his experience and how it succeeded. And if this method of funding doesn’t work out – don’t look at it as a failure. Look at it as a learning process.”

So we changed everything according to his advice, as he had backed 300 other kickstarter campaigns and here we are.

Conclusion – Sal’s Thoughts

From dealing with thousands of Kickstarter creators, I have to tell you that Jermon’s experience is not uncommon. Many people, particularly older generations, don’t know what Kickstarter is and are skeptical about giving money online, even if they can pick up some cool swag.

To maximize your chances of a successful Kickstarter raise from your social network, I’d consider letting people know that you are planning to run a campaign beforehand and explain to them what Kickstarter is and how to use amazon payments. You could also invite them to give feedback on your pre-launch campaign using our tool (PitchFuse) or by creating a survey, adding comment functionality to a landing page, or using a website like Prefundia.

You can also download a guide that Andy of the Working Title Kickstarter put together to educate his family/network about Kickstarter here.

Have you had problems similar to Jermon? Let me know in a comment below!

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  • Jameson Blade

    Great article! Will reflect on it as our campaign continues!

    • CrowdCrux

      Thanks :). Keep me up to date as you progress with your campaign.

      • Jameson Blade

        We’re doing well right out of the gate, 10% funded in two days! We submitted a free Press Release, just curious- How long those take to come back around?

        We’re considering some other press options as well, and we will keep you updated!

        Here’s our project: http://ow.ly/Ap7Yk

        • CrowdCrux

          Awesome! Typically 24-48 hours to be published.

      • Jameson Blade

        Hi there! I had two drafts of the same press release submitted and the wrong one got published! I went into the dashboard to find the other but it had been deleted! I have resubmitted the proper one!

        Hope to see it reviewed and posted soon! Thanks for your great resources!

        • CrowdCrux

          Will send you an email.

  • Boqn Kacarski

    Nice article launched my campaign about 7 days ago i really regret not checking out your website before i did was going to make much more better campaign anyway next time i guess ! Congrats about your work !

    • CrowdCrux

      Hope the site is helpful for your remaining fundraising days!

  • Excellent article, as per usual! Addressed one of the issues that has been concerning me – what is crowdfunding? what is Kickstarter?

    To the uninitiated it is a minefield….

    Anyone written an ‘Idiot’s Guide’?

    If not, I will (and I will share)



    • CrowdCrux

      Haha an “Idiot’s guide to Kickstarter.” Maybe “Kickstarter for Noobs” I might write one in the future, but if you decide to let me know and I will share it.

    • Did you write one? Would love to share something like this with friends and family. I have lost count of how many times I’ve explained it only to be met with blank stares. I wrote a “How does Kickstarter work” on my project but not sure anyone is even scrolling down that far.

  • We have had the exact same problems as Jermon which is why I am now trawling articles for lessons learned to see how we can boost our backers. For us too, we are based in the Netherlands which has created interesting issues.
    1. Many Dutch people don’t have credit cards – therefore preventing friends from pledging
    2. Most of ‘old’ network is in Australia – the exchange rate with the Euro is not very good and yes, I believe there is some scepticism around leaving credit card details.

    We have found it diasppointing to have not received the support from our friends that we had hoped for but feel as though we can only ‘ask’ them twice. After that, it gets embarrassing for all parties.

    So I am definitely ‘working hard’ to change strategy and get our fabulous product & the way it is produced known to the crowdfunding world 🙂

  • jfdougjml

    Great article. The crowd funding process is tedious. It seems as if you are to have a successful campaign, you have to make it your full time position for 30-45 days. I have 27 days left to raise $10K and I’m no where close. What do you recommend that I do?

    • CrowdCrux

      Yea, I agree. It’s a part-time if not full-time job. Well, have you tapped out family and friends network? What kind of feedback are you getting on the campaign and rewards when you are promoting it? Have you gotten any pledges from strangers?

    • Hey, did you make it? I’m 12% funded with 24 days to go and feel a little bit like I’ve tapped out my personal network. This has definitely become my full time job.

  • Excellent article, thank you. I’m finding it frustrating when friends tell me they are having trouble with Amazon when trying to pledge to my project. It doesn’t seem user friendly and I’m sure it has turned people away. Has anyone else had this problem?

  • I am going through this exact thing right now. It’s such hard work. I feel like I’ve exhausted my personal network, I can see my posts going ignored and realise now that it’s likely people don’t understand so just don’t do anything. It’s so frustrating. I’m at a bit of a loss actually. Will keep researching….. thanks for a great article, glad to know i’m not the only one. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/trueloveandco/truelove-and-co-jewellery

  • Rex

    Our experience with the Easy Binding Winder was very much this story. Knowing absolutely nothing about crowd funding, Facebook, or any other social media, building a brand, or social network I thought, over 6 months I felt I had researched and learned all I could. I setup a FB “Fan” page and with “page like” ads build a base of 2,500 quilters. We got little but praise for our new product. We ran a market study where we put it in front of quilters who also raved about our great idea. I contacted my 500 contacts in LinkedIn, 500+ FB friends, and 200 personal email acquaintances about our campaign. I felt very sure we would have a successful campaign even though I knew our steep goal $78,000 would be difficult to achieve.
    What shocked us is just what Jermon found but we found out far too late. I can’t tell you how my heart sank when we have 3% of our goal after the first week. I knew we were doomed. Unfortunately our audience is older, some would say elderly, mostly female and even though we tried to educate our audience in FB a few weeks prior to launch it was on our Fan page where, as most know, only reaches a small percentage of those who have liked your page. There was total confusion of this “Kickstarter business.” Despite 4 months of brand building and answering questions, producing our own videos, and then spending 10 weeks putting together our campaign we only managed to reach 11% of our goal. That’s the bad news though.
    The good news is we are financing our product ourselves. We are currently in the production phase. One thing I feel we actually DID do right was we went to the manufacturer before launch so we knew we had a marketable product before launch and reduced the design to product delivery of the first production run by 3-4 months. We made 3 cycles of redesign with the manufacturer prior to our campaign so we would be able to deliver on our rewards. I’d recommend, if you feel you have a finished product design to do the same.

    • CrowdCrux

      Wow. Thank you for sharing your story. Very good insights for someone else who is thinking of launching a Kickstarter.