To date, Kickstarter has over 92,000 successfully funded projects. That’s a lot of people donating a lot of money (over $1 BILLION, actually) to a ton of projects. But how can you get your hands on that cash?
Raising that much money might seem like a far-off concept – a strategy for the tech companies and movie makers of the world. But, it’s not. There are companies and individuals using Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms every day. And, they are doing it right here and in your backyard.
These Lansing locals know what it takes to launch a successful Kickstarter campaign because they’ve done it, they’ve learned from it and their advice can help you do it too.
The Mini Maker, a maker space for the smallest of makers (kids) recently raised $20,000 in 30 days to buy equipment for their space.
Bloom Coffee Roasters raised $10,000 in order to move toward their goal of opening a cafe in Old Town, Lansing.
K. Lynn Smith, creator of the comic, Plume, and an old pro when it comes to Kickstarters, has held 4 different campaigns over the span of four years. Each campaign met and surpassed their goals. The funds were used originally to publish the web comic and then to compile it into books.
|Campaign 1||Campaign 2||Campaign 3||Campaign 4|
While these folks might make raising the money look easy, it takes a lot more than simply hitting the launch button on your campaign. We’ve gathered some of the top advice from the people who know, the people who have been there.
1. Be Prepared
A crowdfunding campaign isn’t something you can just jump into. Those behind these successful campaigns agree, planning is key.
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K. Lynn, throughout her campaigns, realized how important planning was. “Make sure to have everything nailed down before starting the campaign,” she says. If you don’t, it could cause bumps along the road. “We were unable to hit our promised deadline due to scrambling to find a new printer, and waiting on proofs.”
Jared Field with Bloom Coffee Roasters got a little help with the planning process through his chosen platform, Seedkicks. They helped him through the steps he needed to take and provided a calendar that shows you where you should be throughout the process.
His biggest take away from their help?
“Going into it, be sure you’re organized. Have email lists and a network of people you know will want to support your campaign. “
Chris Allen from the Mini-Maker learned the hard way what a lack of planning can get you when another campaign for another business failed. “We went into it not knowing a lot about crowdfunding. We sat in on a webinar about it and went from there. We created a video, launched and that was it.”
That approach did not work.
They learned, and did better next time.
While doing research for the next round, they found that everyone said to do as much as you can to pre-campaign. “We read that if companies had 35% on day one, they were successful.”
This may mean making sure you have a community of supporters before you launch a campaign. Which leads to the second piece of advice…
2. Build a Community, Before
From her very first campaign, K. Lynn found the merit in being able to turn to an already established community. “Even with my first Kickstarter, I had the audience,” she says, “I had worked up my product (the comic) for nearly a year and a half, so the support was behind the project before it even launched.”
Eone, designer of the The Bradley timepiece, agrees. They raised $600,000, surpassing a 40,000 goal, to build a touch timepiece. They’re number one piece of advice? Build your community before you launch a campaign.
“This is actually my biggest piece of advice,” adds K. Lynn. “Get a following BEFORE you launch…30 days is actually a really short time…”
[Tweet “Get a following before you launch a campaign, 30 days is really short @plumecomic via @startuplansing”]
3. Keep People Interested
Once you have that following, telling them about your campaign won’t be enough. They may be interested, but it’s your job to keep them interested.
Chris found, through his research, that it’s typical to get a surge at the beginning and end, but a slump in the middle. And this is true of most campaigns, leading a large number of crowdfunding veterans to urge users to keep up their momentum.
The Mini Maker used this advice and offered add-ons mid-way through their campaign.
“For about 4 days, we offered anyone who funded $50.00 or more their reward plus a Mini Maker t-shirt.” This is a great way to get new donors or urge those that have already done so to donate more in order to get more.
“By setting goals throughout the process,” says K. Lynn, “it gets people excited and gets them to spread the word. To keep them interested, I would add a new sketch or a new strip. It is very important to keep the communication going.”
Another aspect of this is keeping backers informed, K. Lynn adds. “It helps. People need to stay informed every step of the way. If there’s a hitch? Tell them. If there’s a change? Tell them.”
4. Have a Video
Having a video is a major part of a successful crowdfunding campaign. And putting time, money and effort into that video, can make or break your campaign.
Their first time around, Chris and his team made their own video. “We did it on an iPhone. This time,” he says, “we knew it needed to be better. We hired someone to create it for us and that was a key component.”
Throughout all of her campaigns, K. Lynn made sure to have video. “Videos are a must. Not only does it allow your audience to get to know the product, it allows people to get to know YOU. And people are more willing to support someone they ‘know.'”
Eone echos this sentiment, stating that, “Your video is the most important component of your campaign, so make sure it’s professional and compelling.”
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5. Promote, Promote, Promote
It may seem like an obvious piece of advice, but get the word out.
Promote what you’re doing.
Many newbies may be under the impression that, since Kickstarter is so well known, the word just gets out. Chris had this mind-set when they first started. “We thought everyone was paying attention and if we put it out there, they would find it. But, unless you’re creating the latest technology and picked up by a company or blog, that’s just not true.”
For their next campaign, they switched gears.
“We had a launch party on the first day. We canvassed the community with flyers, attended community events, and did footwork. Having that event in the beginning was helpful to us, it got us a lot of attention that very first day.”
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Jared took the launch party route as well, though if he had to do it again, promotion is something he would definitely do better.
“I would work harder in the beginning to get more traction before we launched. Give people more time to think about it and consider their contribution.”
With an already established audience, K. Lynn hit her goal on the first day of her most recent campaign. But, to keep the momentum going, she says she offered incentives (prizes for those that had already donated once certain donation numbers were met). Then, she worked to get people excited about the next incentive. These incentives, and her continuous promotion, drove the momentum of the campaign and kept it moving well past her funding goal ($19,734 past her goal, to be exact).
6. It’s All About the Brand
When you decide to try crowd funding, it goes without saying, if you don’t have a great product, you’ve got nothing. It may not be a physical product, but according to K. Lynn, it better be something you believe in. “When you’re excited and passionate about your product, it’ll shine through.”
The Mini Maker experienced the importance of a great brand when they tried to fund a service instead of a product.
“We didn’t think about how difficult it was going to be…we had to work around it.” But, they had a service they believed in, so they personalized their prizes to match their service.
From “Take It Apart Kits” and discounted memberships, to Maker-themed birthday parties, they considered what they could offer and went from there.
Jared’s prizes were based around his coffee brand; subscriptions, t-shirts, and other merchandise. “Make sure you can offer a great product.”
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Some Other Pearls of Wisdom:
When approaching a new experience or adventure, you want feedback from people who have been there, who have made mistakes and learned from them. Well, here are a few extra tidbits from those people.
Planning Doesn’t Make Perfect: “You can plan and plan all you want but there’s still no guarantees,” says Chris. “We had a schedule, but you’ve only got 30 days, and running the campaign is a full-time job. For the month prior, and during that month, it was literally all we did. You have plans but you don’t always have the time to execute them.”
Don’t Get Discouraged: Jared actually didn’t meet his goal at first but he believed in his product and he convinced the folks at Seedkick to as well. “We sent them some coffee, and they really liked it. They got behind the vision.” The extra time helped Jared meet his ultimate goal.
Kickstart Your Passion: “Kickstarter is literally just that,” says K. Lynn, “a kick start. It is not a charity, not a handout… It is a campaign to fund your passion. Use it as such. Share it and get people interested.”
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