Last week, my first Kickstarter project ended successfully. I was funded 115% of my goal, which means I raised $694 and my goal was $600. Not bad.
The idea here was twofold:
- First, I wanted to raise a few bucks to print a batch of custom t-shirts, but without taking on a personal risk. As noted, mission accomplished.
- Second, I wanted to have the experience of running a Kickstarter project. All too often, people talk about stuff without really knowing how it works. I’d heard a lot of about crowdfunding, how it relates to marketing, and figured it might make sense to know how it actually worked. Again, mission accomplished.
Setting It Up
As I mentioned in my first Kickstarter post, the setup process took longer than expected. I wanted to be running a few days earlier, but my project was initially rejected. It took me a day or so to appeal and get approved. Plus, there are the financial requirements, which took some time with the bank and Amazon.com.
Once I got started, the Kickstarter contributions surged. Within the first 48 hours, I’d almost completed my funding. Between several friends and a couple of generous benefactors, I was almost ready to retire to a beach in Miami.
The Kickstarter Hump
What started as a surge slowed down to a trickle, and then just stopped. I was almost at my goal within the first few days, but soon I was trying to get over the hump.
I’d shared the post on my social network and it was shared over and over. The word was getting out, but people weren’t pledging. Giving something a Like and actually taking money out of your wallet are two completely different things.
Fortunately, Kickstarter and comic books both have supportive communities. Michael Wirth posted a great article on his blog Caution: Idiot at Play and Bob Sodaro plugged in on Back These Campaigns. That got the word out and underscored the power of good relationships.
Those two posts gave the pledges a much-needed nudge and I was almost completely funded.
Dash to the Finish Line
In a furious dash to the finish line, everyone tweeted and Liked it again, which got me to the goal a few days shy of the deadline. Then it went past the goal, and all was good in the world again.
The project funded, which is the good part. Now, I have to print the shirts and pack all of the rewards. For me, it’s relatively easy because there aren’t that many backers. But it is still work and I wonder if I made any money or if I just broke event. After all, Kickstarter and Amazon both get a percentage of the gross.
It was a valuable learning experience that revealed one of the ways niche projects will be realized. The target audience being funneled through Kickstarter.com is your first focus group and reveals the commercial viability of certain products.
Kickstarter includes useful data to help you understand the funding process, which is all based on a relatively short timeline. I’ve looked at the charts and they make a lot of sense, but the next time I start a project, I will be far more savvy about how I promote the project and reward my backers.
Professional marketers will find the data to be useful and informative, particularly the conversion data. Kickstarter tells you where your leads come from and how much they spent. My most valuable leads came from Facebook and Twitter. Your mileage may vary.
The Marketing Angle
In the end, I couldn’t help but marvel at the marketing potential here. After all, this is all about connecting an audience with a product. Sure, most of the early support came from my family and friends, but that’s not a big surprise. Fortunately, I was selling something that my family and friends could justify as a purchase.
Looking forward, however, it’s clear that a strong mailing list and an even stronger social-media network is what will push certain projects to a successful finish. This is the ultimate bootstrapping project that succeeds for fails based on a series of truly relevant factors.
As a marketer, I knew it was important to connect with my core audience. My Facebook Page for Comic Book School was helpful, as was my opted-in email list. But even with that, I was still concerned about missing my target.
In the end, it came down to word-of-mouth marketing. In my initial set up, I had a short video explaining my project, so that helped. Later I added a short video that showed our outtakes, which seemed to generate a few additional pledges. (People liked the outtakes more than the original video because it included some humor.)
I also had several images of women wearing my shirts, which I seeded in social channels. Plus the video and photos all included that hot pink, which was part of my visual content strategy. The hot pink pictures really popped on the screen, especially on Facebook and Flickr.
Now that I know what to expect, I feel more comfortably planning a larger Kickstarter project. I’m glad I started small, which limited my exposure to failure.
If you’re a creative person, an entrepreneur, or a marketer (sometimes you’re all three!), it’s worth checking out Kickstarter.
I’m no expert, but I’ve observed a few tips that may help you get started:
- Schedule a few days to get the account set up properly with Amazon, Kickstarter, and your bank
- Scrub your email list and write a killer email
- Shoot a short, compelling video
- Plan some attractive rewards that incentivize people to back you
- Promote on all of your social channels, especially Facebook and Twitter
- Spread the word with passion and enthusiasm, and don’t get depressed if you hit a hump…just keep promoting
There’s always a project sitting in the back of your mind that’s earmarked as “if I could only raise enough money…”.
Now’s the time to dust off your idea, make a video, and launch your first Kickstarter campaign!