Planning your campaign is the most important step
Ideally, you’re better off starting 3-4 months out with pre-launch activities. Even longer doesn’t hurt.
BY HOWIE BUSCH
Last month, I examined some myths about crowdfunding and some of the basic information you should know. Now I’ll get into some insider tips.
When I launched my campaign on Kickstarter two years ago, I hit my funding goal in just two days. “Shark Tank” saw my campaign page and reached out seven days after I launched. So yes, I’m a big fan.
Before the campaign
Plan for the pre-launch: The pre-launch page is a service that lets you announce your crowdfunding campaign. It’s designed to let people subscribe to your email list and share your pre-launch on social media. Don’t forget that revenue from rewards campaigns and pre-sales of goods are taxable income, so consult your CPA.
This time, which leads up to the start of your campaign, is more important than anything else you will do. The more time you have to prepare, the better.
Starting one month before is doable but not advisable. Ideally, you’re better off starting 3-4 months out with pre-launch activities. Even longer doesn’t hurt.
Fill that email list: Bring your people to the party and get them to become “backers” early. That’s how you move up with their algorithm, which results in better placement on the site so their endemic traffic can find you easier.
So get your friends, family and acquaintances on an email list and involve them early. Whether they are in the demographic for your product is not relevant.
What do you do once you have them on your list? First, get them excited about what you’re doing. Second, make them feel like they’re part of the process. Ask them their opinion on the product’s name, color choices, pricing. Tell them other exciting things going on, such as showing them the prototype.
The more invested they feel in the launch, the more likely they are to support you and share it with others.
Organize publicity: During your pre-launch, pull together your list of people who might want to write or blog about your product.
Identify various campaigns that are similar to yours, in terms of product type and demographic, and see who has written about them. Typically, the campaigns will have an area on their campaign page that lists their most impressive media coverage. Dig in and do that research—or get someone on your team or hire a virtual assistant to do that.
Not only do these folks have an audience, they have shown they are willing to write about Kickstarter products and products that also fall within your product category.
Have that list ahead of time so that when you do launch, you’re ready to reach out to these folks quickly. Getting good media coverage will help ignite your campaign and give it social validation.
Sharing your publicity with backers via updates and with your email list via blasts is important, as well as targeting them with Facebook and Instagram ads and social media updates.
This creates something I’ve heard described as “surround sound.” In other words, you want them to feel like they’re seeing your campaign everywhere.
Prioritize killer visuals: The best Kickstarter campaigns have great images and videos. You’ll need to have a prototype developed. Depending on what your product is, you may want to have one or more samples or prototypes done.
Not only do great visual assets look great on the campaign page, you’ll also use them for your Facebook and Instagram ads to drive traffic to your campaign. Great visual assets also will be sent to media and influencers. The better they are, the more likely they are to help you drive traffic.
Plus, great visual assets give the impression to potential backers and media that you are the real deal. Your product will look like something they can see themselves buying and using.
So make sure you have enough of a budget to get really good assets here, or call on friends who might be really good at it. That’s what I did for my images.
When I launched DudeRobe, I needed a photographer who could take product shots for my page. I put it on Facebook and received more than 25 suggestions of people to contact.
I got a text from my college roommate’s brother (who happens to be a professional world-class photographer with more than 10 Sports Illustrated covers to his credit). The message simply said, “Stop trolling Facebook. I will help you.”
And that’s why the images on my Kickstarter campaign are so incredible. He did an unbelievable job and for payment, all he wanted was a complete set of DudeRobe products.
Like I said, people want to help. Sometimes, you just have to ask.
Max out the landing page: A landing page is a one-page website that shows your product and teases your upcoming campaign.
Your goal is simple: get people to give you their email address. They are only giving you their email address if they feel it’s something they would be interested in purchasing. Your visual assets will help drive their interest and desire, and hopefully net you their email.
Tie your landing page into an Email Service Provider such as Mailchimp or Klayvio. There, you can store the email addresses and send out email blasts to your audience.
Keep in mind that just because someone gives you his or her email address, that doesn’t mean that person will end up buying your product. Most people don’t want to wait—and if it’s not available right then and there, often they lose interest.
So how do you drive traffic to your landing page? Right now, the gold standard is still via Facebook and Instagram ads.
The other benefit of this approach is that you can get a pretty good sense of the demand for your product.
Calculate rewards/pricing: You’ll need to know your manufacturing costs as early as possible so that you know how much to charge backers for it. Typically, you’ll want your price to be 4-5 times your cost because there are plenty of costs you have to cover during your campaign.
Consider your shipping and fulfillment cost. For me, shipping a DudeRobe is expensive, so I had to figure that into my cost structure.
But you’ll have other costs, such as the cost to create your video and pictures, and the cost to hire an agency if you decide to go that route. And if you do have someone doing your ads for you, what is that cost?
Make sure you factor in everything. You would hate to do all of that work, have a great campaign and lose a good amount of money.
I had something happen two weeks before I was ready to launch that was potentially devastating. My manufacturer, after confirming my pricing three times, decided to triple my cost. If I moved forward with them, I would have lost a lot of money.
I turned to my network of friends and asked anyone involved in any apparel manufacturing whether they knew of a factory that could make the robes. We were launching on Tuesday after Memorial Day. Four days before, I got a call from a friend who had secured a factory that would make it for me at the original price.
During the campaign
Provide campaign updates: Regularly update your backers within whichever platform you use, but try to keep you email list updated, too. People may not have gotten to contribute yet, but keep them up-to-date and they may very well contribute as the campaign goes on.
Update them with where things stand on the campaign front, and things that are happening like good press coverage and other cool things. Then, as time goes on, let them know what’s going on with manufacturing.
Be as upbeat as possible at all times. But once the campaign is over and you’re getting into the manufacturing part, don’t be afraid to share problems. It shows you’re working hard to make this product a reality and makes the experience more human.
Use cross-collaborations: This is when you partner with other brands that are also running campaigns that happen to also hit the same demographic as yours. Then, when you provide an update to your backers, at the bottom of the update you will provide a blurb, image and link to those campaigns. Limit it to no more than three per update.
Remember, they’ll do the same for you. So you’re getting people in the same demographic as your target who have already purchased on Kickstarter/Indiegogo. That’s a big plus.
If you partner with one of the marketing agencies, they’ll usually help you do this—especially because they’re working on so many campaigns at once. For me, this was a valuable way to drive sales. But you can also do this on your own, by researching other campaigns that are running and reaching out to them personally.
Either way, it’s a valuable way to get sales…with no cost attached to it.
Scrutinize agencies: A number of digital agencies, including Charlotte’s Enventys Partners, have expertise in crowdfunding. I used a couple of them and although they were not overly successful with Facebook ads, they did give me comfort in knowing that they were running my ads and A/B testing what worked and what didn’t.
You have a couple of options when it comes to your ads and what you will be charged. One option is to have the agency pay for your ads. That comes with a much steeper commission (typically 30-35 percent). You have less risk but a much bigger liability with great success. I know someone whose campaign did more than $1 million who paid the agency approximately $300,000.
The other option is to pay for the ads yourself. They will run the ads for you and test them as well—and for that, they will typically take approximately 15 percent as commission.
Consider Green Inbox: The best ROI I saw was with a company called Green Inbox. The company can also run ads for you, but I didn’t use it for that.
I used its email, Facebook and LinkedIn options to send emails to anyone I had emailed before with my gmail account. There were plenty of people I didn’t have on my email list with whom I had emailed over the years. Many of them were happy to know about the campaign and happy to contribute.
Even though many people received duplicate emails because they were already on my mailing list, that’s OK. It was just another reminder to them that added to that “surround sound” effect.
Look at Kickbooster: This service offers a way to reward affiliates that send supporters to your campaign. Perhaps it’s a blogger or other influencer; maybe it’s a well-networked friend. Either way, it lets you reward and track people who send people to your campaign and end up contributing.
Track everything: Although Kickstarter is notoriously difficult in terms of letting you use pixels, make sure you do your best to track everything—using Google Analytics, Facebook Pixels and Kickstarter’s analytics within their platform.
You will be amazed at the treasure trove of tools and information at your fingertips.
Consider Backerkit: Most people I know have used Backerkit to process their orders because it allows for upsells and better data export and management. There’s a fee to use Backerkit, but you should be able to make it up in upsells.
Use InDemand on Indiegogo, aka The After Party: You can continue to take pre-orders once your campaign ends. So why wouldn’t you?
If you launched on Indiegogo, it’s a no-brainer to continue there. But even if you launched on Kickstarter, as I did, you can move your campaign over to Indiegogo’s InDemand portal and reap the benefits of its traffic.
Not everyone knows about this, but I say why not? I raised more than 10K after moving over to Indiegogo.