How I launched my Kickstarter campaign and what I learned


by Wilfred Hirst March 17, 2016 3 Comments

I launched the Makker website in February of this year and have since been testing out ways to market my products, specifically the magnetic keychain. Being a one man show and not having a large bank account to support expensive marketing initiatives I've been seeking unconventional methods of getting my products in front of consumers. One of the tactics I decided to try was a 30 day Kickstarter campaign with the hope that I'll expand my visibility.  

Pre-Kickstarter Work

Before I launched my Kickstarter campaign I researched successful campaigns to find out what they did in order to reach their goal. More importantly, I researched campaigns that hit their funding goal but failed to send out products - I feel as though this scenario is actually worse than having a failed campaign. Why? Because over promising and under delivering is worse than failing. Needless to say I wanted to avoid both of these scenarios at all costs.

Here were the priorities I set for myself pre-launch:

  1. Capture emails and build some sort of audience.
  2. Set a realistic funding goal and time limit. 
  3. Take quality product photos and storyboard a video.

Here's how I worked through each task:

To capture emails I set up a simple contest using the KickOffLabs platform. The contest was to win two keychains and minimalistic bracelets. I created a simple video using my iPhone showing the keychain at work:

image of a magnetic keychain on a light switch and being thrown on a fridge

magnetic keychain on a light switch

 

I included an email capture which lead the customer to a page where they were encouraged to share. The users who generated the most amount of additional leads won. 

Results: In 28 days I captured roughly 600 email addresses. I didn't pay for any ads, I simply posted the contest to my Instagram, Reddit, and my Facebook page. Now before you too excited realize that not all these emails were legitimate... there were a lot of: 123@gmail.com, fakeaccount123@yahoo.com, fairy69@aol.com account snuck in there by users trying game the system. 
Pros: It was very easy to set up and the customer support was very helpful. I feel comfortable with the amount of quality emails I captured but I believe I could have grabbed more with better promotion. 
Cons: The amount of time I spent checking for fake emails was annoying. I will say KickOffLabs does have a service that does this but it's over $100 and I did not feel as though the cost justified he time. Also, the mobile version of the contest did not play the video, which I can only assume hindered my Instagram marketing strategy. 

Setting a funding goal and time limit was the next priority of mine. I decided that a small goal of $1,000 in a 30 day period would work best for me.

Why not shoot higher?
Well, I wanted to maintain quality and control. I'm not at the stage where I feel comfortable expanding my business and outsourcing production. I also wanted to make sure I had enough time to full-fill all of the orders in one month time frame. I set limits on the amount I available to make sure I didn't get myself stuck in a spot where I couldn't meet the demand. My overall goal was to earn customers so that when I launch additional products (like dress shirts, belts, henleys etc) I'll have an audience who views Makker as a reliable and trustworthy brand. 

Finally, I needed to take photos and story board the video for the Kickstarter. Now I've never taken product shots before so I did need to research best practices. After some trial and error I was able to capture some high quality shots using a home made light box, like the one pictured below. The light box helps minimize shadows around the product and makes it incredibly easy to edit in Photoshop. I used a Nikon D90 and an external flash to shoot the images.

DIY light box using a cardboard box

For the video I wanted focus on the human element of the product, meaning what is the REAL reason someone would purchase this keychain. 

Is it to help a person not forget their keys?
Maybe, but to be honest if you're as forgetful as me you're going to forget them regardless. 
Do people buy because of the craftsmanship? 
While I take great pride in the creation of the keychain I don't believe it's why people are buying this product. 

The reason why people would buy this product is because they want to bring a little extra amusement into their life. Once I had this eureka moment I quickly wrote down a short script which ended up being used in the final video:

SCRIPT:

Lord knows you probably don't need another keychain. But this isn't just a keychain. It's a product that will turn a mundane task into an amusing, thought provoking, and attention grabbing moment. Break away from the mundane and help support this Kickstarter. Makker, wear us out. 

Once I had the script down I sent it out to my friend Morgan Freeman to do the voice over. ;-) Once I had the voice over I then began to sketch out the shot sequence in my notebook: notebook sketch of the makker clothing kickstarter videoAfter I made a full storyboard I send over a shot list to my good friends at Above Summit, a Boston based video production company. We picked a date and shot the whole thing in about 3 hours. Pro tip: Work with people you already know and trust on a video! Don't give yourself an extra headache by dealing with unreliable people. 

The final product:



Live Kickstarter

My campaign went live on March 4th and I hit my goal in 4 days and I'm currently at 122% of my goal with 14 days remaining. Granted it's not a huge sum of money but I did what I set out to do, raise enough to cover my costs and build a small following without spending money on advertising. 

Here are a few things I was unaware of when I launched:

  • Lot's of scams out there. Within 10 hours of my campaign going live I had 10+ messages in my inbox from random people / companies saying their service helps people reach their funding goal. fee or telling me that I need their services in order to reach my funding goal. Two notable ones are TurnkeyPR Company and BackersClub. After I conducted some research I found that apparently been taking lots of money from small businesses seeking funding and delivering zero results. I was contacted numerous times by different representative / scam artists not only via Kickstarter by through my Facebook page. Lots of companies will pitch you services once you hit your goal too. 

  • Don't be fooled by fast traction If you're proactive with friends and family you'll get a lot of support from them early on and you'll also see additional traction because you'll be found featured under Kickstarter Newest campaign.... this popularity will pass. After the initial push from your friends and family you'll notice a slow down. The hard part comes after the initial wave of support. The people who genuinely want you to succeed will go out of their way to help fund you, most others will consider a Facebook "Like" sufficient support.

  • Kickstarter DOES NOT drive tons of traffic to your site. It's not what it used to be it seems. The campaigns that are raising hundreds of thousands of dollars from Kickstarter are spending lots on Facebook and re-targeting ads. Roughly 75% of my backers came from outside Kickstarter. Meaning I drove them in via an email or social post. 

What I would do differently next time

  • I would reach out to press well before my campaign launched. Reach out to media! Local blogs are best to reach out to first then larger publications. I reached out once my campaign was already launched. Also, be ready for rejection, I've reached out to probably 30 journalists and only have 3 replies. I learned from speaking to others who've launched wildly successful campaigns that the traffic from blogs is what will maintain traction around your campaign well after the initial friends and family push. To do this, research specific writers / editors and send them targeted emails (Don't send generic copy / paste emails) asking if they would like consider covering your project. Be short, sweet, and to the point. A great tool for finding journalists and blogs is JustReachOut.

  • Careful about giving out free samples Before I launched the campaign I send many samples to friends and random Instagram followers. I thought my generosity would be repaid with promotion. Not the case. I sent out 20 samples, each sample included a note telling them when my campaign was starting. Out of the 20 samples two people are actively helping me promote. The other 18 either sent back a photo of them with the product or did nothing. If I were to do it again I would probably ask people if they were willing to promote in exchange for product and not blindly assuming people were willing to promote.

Later on this summer I'll be launching a line of shirts and I'm still debating if I should go the crowd funding route again. Either way I'll most likely include a post detailing my experiences. 

I love feedback so please feel free to add your comments below!




Wilfred Hirst
Wilfred Hirst

Author



3 Responses

Amron
Amron

April 17, 2016

Hey Wil, This entire Blog article (pre-kickstart, live kickstarter with video, what I learned & would do differently) should be offered to potential entrepreneurs as part of their course study program. You are clear in the steps taken and generous in sharing your knowledge. Your expertise, confidence, sincerity and integrity comes thru in the Blog. Good luck & keep it going!

FanGrow.com App
FanGrow.com App

April 13, 2016

Hi, amazing article, thanks for sharing your knowledge!

Margo
Margo

March 23, 2016

Thank you for your quality post and tagging Reddit in it! I’m going to be launching my own campaign and this was very useful, different information.

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