1. Start early.
Crowdfunding is easy, right? All you need to do is say who you are, what you need money for, and just like that, the money magically comes pouring in. Wrong. Crowdfunding is a lot of work and a lot of hard work. It takes time. In order to successfully fund a project, you need to build a community around it.
Start at least one to two months before you plan to go live. Also, start working on your project page ASAP. Even if you don’t have a lot to work with at the moment, it helps to get it started. You can return to it and refine it as time goes by. We started working on The Doll Kind’s Kickstarter project page a few months before our initial launch date and had to kick it out even further so that we could have time to accomplish everything that needed to be campaign ready.
2. It’s not about you.
You might fall into the common trap of thinking that crowdfunding is all about you. After all, you love your project. You just need people to help you and get your idea out there. If it all works out, everyone will like your idea and everyone will give you money. Well, the truth is that the moment you start thinking it is all about you, your campaign is doomed.
Instead, think about the following; what’s in it for your target audience? How are you benefiting their lives? How are you improving their lives?
If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you need to find the answers. If there isn’t a good answer then your project is probably a bad fit for Kickstarter. If you focus on yourself, if what you are creating is for yourself, then hopefully you don’t need more than yourself as a backer. Once you begin to understand that what you are creating is for someone else (your target customer), you are better able to create a strong project and a more effective campaign.
3. Know your audience.
Many hopeful entrepreneurs make the mistake of thinking their idea, or project, is for everyone. Well, the bad news is that it’s not. The good news, is that knowing it’s not for everyone allows you to focus on your target audience.
Who exactly is it that you are marketing to?
These people will not only be your backers, but your community. When we put together the business plan for The Doll Kind, part of our process was creating a profile of our target customer, “Emily.” We included information such as her demographics, spending habits, amount of time spent on social media, etc. Find your target customer and make his or her profile. Be specific. Once you know who it is that you are selling to, you will be able to design a more successful marketing strategy that helps you reach them.
4. Reach your audience.
Once you have successfully profiled your ideal customer, it is time to reach out to them. Promote, promote, and promote some more. You can have the most thought out project page, a beautifully constructed and amazing project video, but if no one ever sees it, then it will have zero benefit.
How do you not only get the word out, but get the word out to the people who are most likely to back you?
There are several avenues that can be taken and depending on your target audience, certain avenues will yield greater results. It is your job to find out which ones those are. If you are launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund the latest video game, collaborating with a well known mom blogger will not be beneficial. It seems obvious, but many people fail to match their marketing efforts to their product. A greater reach does not necessarily equate to a greater yield in results. For The Doll Kind, we knew that we wanted to reach as many parents as possible, and we knew that our ideal customer “Emily,” a millennial mom, does 50% of her shopping online, and has at least two social media accounts. These facts made it clear that marketing via social media would be a must for us. We contacted bloggers that we felt were a good fit for our brand and that we knew had a following composed of our ideal customers. Don’t be afraid of ‘big name’ bloggers and influencers. You may be less likely to secure a collaboration with one of them, but one blogger with a 100,000 follower is 100 times more effective than 100 bloggers with 10 followers each. The big ones are worth pursuing.
5. Tell your story.
Your potential backers want to back you. Of course, you need to sell an idea/product as well, but when it comes down to pulling out their wallets and making the pledge, backers want to feel like they are backing a person with a story, not just a company. People often feel that they need to have a story that fits into a certain prepackaged idea of success. Don’t think like this. Be authentic, it’s crucial.
How did your project come to be? Was there anything of particular interest that drove your project to where it is today?
The Doll Kind was founded by the most unlikely series of events that involved a viral photo, cyberbullying, and a mom wanting to create a company that empowered her children to overcome the obstacles they would surely face in a sometimes unkind world. Everyone has a story. You just need to share yours.
6. Set the right funding goal.
Don’t set your goal so low that you have trouble fulfilling your backer’s rewards, but don’t set a goal so high that it is likely to fail. Kickstarter stats tell us that the majority of successful campaigns have a funding goal of $10,000 or less. Write out your business plan, decide what it is that you are trying to accomplish with your campaign, and calculate the minimum amount necessary to reach that goal.
7. Thoughtfully plan out your rewards.
Planning your Kickstarter rewards can be a challenging task. My biggest piece of advice is to consider point number two, it’s not all about you. The better you are able to focus on what’s in it for your backers, the more successful you will be in creating a set of rewards that helps you meet your funding goal. Rewards that relate to your story can be compelling to backers. Offering rewards that are truly unique will add value to your backer. When planning your rewards, ask yourself if the reward is something you would be interested in yourself.
Some people make the mistake of creating rewards that involve ‘swag’ items such as t-shirts, stickers, and beer coozies, believing that it will benefit the campaign by adding more pledge levels. This is a mistake. Only add rewards that will be of value to your potential backers. Most people who are backing a project want what the project is actually creating. For The Doll Kind, we knew that having one of our dolls at our core level of pledging was a no-brainer. Potential backers don’t want a sticker of the doll, they want the actual doll, which brings me to my next point; make your rewards a good buy for your backers. Your backers may believe in your project, but that doesn’t mean that they are looking to just give you their money. They want a piece of the project and they want to feel like there is something in it for them too. If you are having trouble with ideas for rewards, look at what other campaigns that are similar to yours offer. Look at both successful and failed campaigns to see what works and what doesn’t.
8. Be open to criticism.
Now I know this might be difficult for some. After all, you are putting your ‘baby’ out there, your pride and joy, your hopes and dreams, and you want people to tell you how amazing it is. But I promise, criticism is your friend. It can show you flaws that you haven’t seen and help you brainstorm ways to create an even stronger (more likely to fund) campaign. The Doll Kind has gone through several revisions and refinements and will continue to do so until we get it right. Value the constructive criticism you receive and use it wisely. Kickstarter offers a preview link to send to people you select before the campaign goes live. I recommend not only sending a preview link to your friends and family, but to a few trusted advisors that you are sure will give you an honest review. We all know your mom loves you, but she may not be the most unbiased person to give you the constructive criticism you need before you launch.
9. Don’t launch until you’re ready.
Be flexible if you need to be. As frustrating as it may be, do not launch your campaign until you are absolutely ready. After months of preparing to launch our campaign, we had to reluctantly push back the launch date. This is difficult to do especially when you have prepped for so long and you have your community waiting for the promised launch, but taking a couple extra weeks in order to perfect your campaign is better than sticking to a launch date and starting a campaign that still needs work.