Running a Kickstarter Campaign is a great way (for lots of reasons) to raise capital to fund your product's production. We've had six successful campaigns so far, and will be launching our seventh at the end of the month. Today, we're sharing the key lessons we've gleaned in our experience.
5 Tips for Running Your First Kickstarter
1. Pitch the right idea at the right time
It's your due diligence as a designer to do thorough market research: Is there something similar already available? If so, be ready to tell in a hot minute WHY and HOW your product is better. Be clear, be concise, and be honest.
Before you launch, to protect your idea you should apply for a provisional patent . And hopefully you have a catchy product name – see if it's already in use as a trademark by doing a TESS search, and consider applying for a trademark.
When you're planning, set your launch date at a time of year that makes sense for your product. If you’re raising funds for your line of swimsuits, do it during peak swimsuit-buying season! Who cares that they won’t ship for a few months, hit the market with your message when they’re open to hearing it. Would you buy a swimsuit in the winter?
We launched Wally Stick-On in early 2013 for iPhone 4 and 5.
2. Craft your campaign with care
As soon as we reach our goal, our campaign seems to generate more momentum. We asked, "What is our minimum order quantity?" – or, what is the cost to get those finished goods in our hands? OK, that's our break-even number on our first order; that's the number we need to make this project happen.
Once your pricing and goals are calculated, it's time to create your assets. A video is the best way to tell your story to Kickstarter backers, and the objective should simply be to show your product (or prototype) and tell folks how it's going to make their lives better. You can easily spend thousands of dollars creating this, but in the past, we've filmed all of ours with an iPhone camera and edited it ourselves. Mind you, we had to watch a few tutorials on iMovie, but we learned enough to get it done.
3. Build buzz, then keep it fresh
Know your audience and how you’re going to reach them. Perhaps you already have a solid mailing list or plenty of followers on social media. Reach out to them – including friends, family and familiar members of the press – using a service like Mailchimp or Klaviyo. Get everyone excited with some save-the-date teasers, and be sure to give your insiders a special heads-up if you’re offering a limited Early Bird Reward.
You’re likely going to experience some mid-campaign lag. That’s okay, because you’ll plan in advance some exciting updates! Keep the word out there, and keep it fresh. For example, when you add a great new Update with product video demonstration, create a quick video or animated gif to alert folks to the new content. And oh boy, if the Kickstarter Staff features your project as a "Staff Favorite" be sure to grab a screenshot and humble brag about it!
4. Engage with your Backers
Once the campaign goes live, you can add FAQs. You can prepare these ahead of time to answer the usual suspects – like shipping, how to pledge for more than one item, how they'll pick which style they want, etc. There’s a good chance you’ll address these questions elsewhere in your campaign, but people will still ask, especially if you have a ton of content in your campaign (a good reason to keep it simple). And don’t assume they know what Kickstarter is and how it works – for instance, that the project will only be funded (and their cards charged) if you reach your goal. You can refer them to Kickstarter's own FAQ for a great introduction.
Your comment board is an open forum so be prepared to hear feedback of all kinds. Questions, comments, suggestions, constructive criticism – it’s all part of the community. It’s a great way to see if your product resonates with the target audience you’re hoping to market to, or if you’re capturing a wider/narrow audience, or if it falls flat – good to know you’ve got more work to do on your idea before going into full-on production!
5. It's not over when it's over!
You thought your Kickstarter was over? No way – NOW you’re in business and accountable to your Backers! You’ll be sending out a survey to Backers to collect their pledge information, such as item color, shipping address, etc. This is where a service like BackerKit can be used for more advanced data-collecting capabilities following the campaign. If you have thousands of Backers, complex product options or staggered delivery schedules, this will make things easier on yourself. What's more, BackerKit connects with ShipStation to help manage the shipping process, which can get messy when sending your precious new products all over the planet.
Is production on schedule? Is the product looking how you expected? What are some surprises, and how are you addressing them? Updates can be as informative as you want them to be, and it’s wise to be honest with your Backers about any set-backs that are going to affect the delivery schedule.
Keep the community informed of new target dates you’re trying to hit – Backers might not be thrilled that you’re running late, but transparency is appreciated (expected?) and typically met with understanding, especially if it means a better product. Sure you’ll get bonus points for fulfilling a Kickstarter on time, but a rushed product that’s unfinished or defective will certainly leave a longer-lasting bad taste in their mouths about your brand.
Speaking of transparency, we've even shared screen shots from our TeamGantt schedule.
As for the "business" part, set yourself up to be ready to continue accepting pre-orders by creating a Shopify store or running an InDemand campaign on Indiegogo.
How will you keep all this straight over months or perhaps even years? Consider managing it all in project managing software like Asana (great for teams) or TeamGantt. And remember, when it comes to maintaining your project, it's "Garbage in, garbage out." You're in charge now – we're proud of you!
Provisional Patent Application
DIY Provisional Patent Course
Trademark Search and Application
Mailchimp or Klaviyo
Ready to launch your great idea, or get even more information? Go straight to the source – Kickstarter's resources for Creators is informative and entertaining. Best of luck on your launch!