Not into long intros? Consider skipping to Step One instead!
Since it’s launch on April 28, 2009, Kickstarter, now the world’s most famous crowdfunding platform, helped to fund more than 250 000 creative initiatives, receiving over $1,9 billion in pledges from 9,4 million backers in total. What’s even more remarkable is the range of the funded initiatives: Kickstarter’s thirteen categories include art, comics, dance, design, fashion, film, food, games, music, photos, publishing, tech, and theater. The list of particular initiatives is also impressive: From books to computer games to mobile applications, from paintings to spectacles, from technological novelties to retro audio equipment, the list goes on and on.
In other words: It seems like it’s the perfect platform – Kickstarter, that is – to launch a startup initiative. That being said, launching a crowdfunding campaign is one thing, succeeding in it is another. It’s not that it’s easier said than done: Starting on Kickstarter is simple and intuitive indeed. It’s that there are things that can be done to raise more rather than less, to make one’s success even more spectacular. It’s not a problem to raise $10 000, $50 000, even $100 000. But think of those who had raised over $1 000 000, $10 000 000, or $20 000 000! Think of Pebble Time, Coolest Cooler, Exploding Kittens. Think of the initiatives that surpassed their creators’ initial expectations by ten-fold, raising them 1000% of their minimum funding goal. Given the proper attitude, know-how, and preparation, it’s more than possible. It sure is possible.
Thinking about launching a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign? Here’s our eight-step Ultimate Guide to launching a successful one! It’s quite a long read, there’s no disagreeing, but reading it through is sure to advance you one step closer to succeeding. Two, even. Also: Take note that the advice below can also be applied to other crowdfunding platforms, such as Indiegogo, GoFundMe, GoGetFunding, Peerbackers. It’s all similar, the difference being the scope and the chance of success.
THE TABLE OF CONTENTS
- THE INTRO
- THE TABLE OF CONTENTS (YOU ARE HERE!)
- STEP ONE: AN IDEA
- HOW DO I MAKE SURE THAT THIS IS IT INDEED?
- WHAT IS A KICKSTARTER NO-GO?
- STEP TWO: A PROFILE
- STEP THREE: A PROJECT
- A PROJECT IMAGE
- HOW TO MAKE YOUR PROJECT’S IMAGE BETTER?
- A PROJECT TITLE
- HOW TO MAKE YOUR PROJECT’S TITLE BETTER?
- A MINIMUM FUNDING GOAL
- THINGS TO REMEMBER SETTING A MINIMUM FUNDING GOAL
- A DEADLINE
- THINGS TO REMEMBER SETTING A DEADLINE
- STEP FOUR: THE REWARDS
- THE PRODUCT ITSELF
- THE CREATIVE COLLABORATION
- THE CREATIVE EXPERIENCE
- THE COLLECTIBLE
- GENERAL ADVICE TO MAKING YOUR REWARDS BETTER
- STEP FIVE: A TEASER
- HOW TO MAKE A TEASER BETTER?
- STEP SIX: A DESCRIPTION
- TEN CHARACTERISTICS OF A GOOD PROJECT DESCRIPTION
- STEP SEVEN: THE FINAL PREPARATION
- STEP EIGHT: THE LAUNCH!
- FIVE ADDITIONAL THINGS TO REMEMBER
STEP ONE: AN IDEA
It’s obvious: The first step to launching a successful Kickstarter campaign is getting inspired, coming up with something new and worthwhile. The product has to be original, innovative, or fun. There’s no point in funding something that can be bought elsewhere, something that can be replaced with something else, or something trivial, useless, and boring. It has to have this certain something, this particular element. It has to be It.
HOW DO I MAKE SURE THAT THIS IS IT INDEED?
- It has to be something you would also like to have.
- It has to be something you would pledge your own hard-earned $$$ to. Now that’s a good test. But! Be honest! It is not as much about getting the positive answer as it is about taking the negative one as a sign: There’s something to be done to make the intended product better.
- It has to be something you would like to work on for some longer time. Because that’s what it’s going to take: A serious, full-time commitment (and, most of the times, a lot of patience.)
- It has to be something you would like to sell. To put it simple: It has to be something you believe in.
WHAT IS A KICKSTARTER NO-GO?
- It’s a no-go to expect miracles. Some can happen, but none will.
- It’s a no-go to expect the ideas themselves to be enough. Success will also require some sweat. Sometimes even blood and tears.
- It’s a no-go to plagiarize someone else’s ideas or to steal someone else’s concepts. It is low. It is the lowest. I’m not even going to mention that it’s a crime. In fact, it’s quite a detectable one. After all, it’s the internet. Sooner or later some geek will find out.
- It’s a no-go to take shortcuts. In terms of making the ideas shine, all the little details matter.
STEP TWO: A PROFILE
There’s no starting the campaign without a Kickstarter profile. Setting it up should not be a problem – there’s nothing specific here. It’s not that important whether it’s a personal account or something more professional. It will determine the interactions between you and your backers, making them either more personal or professional, but apart from that, it shouldn’t matter. That being said, it all depends on whats this you want to fund. While sometimes it can be better to establish a more intimate connection between you and your backers, sometimes it’s not. Take a moment to think about what it is you’re aiming to achieve.
Also: Make sure to choose a proper avatar and attach a link to your website (provided you have one!)
STEP THREE: A PROJECT
It is obvious: The first step to launching a successful Kickstarter campaign is getting inspired. But the first real step to launching a successful Kickstarter campaign is turning the inspiration into something that can be shown to the public. This means providing the invention with an image and a title and setting up a minimum funding goal and a deadline.
A PROJECT IMAGE
In terms of branding: There is nothing more important than the featured image. The featured image is what determines the first impression of the potential backers, making them either interested or not. To have a good featured image can mean a world of difference: It’s the difference between failing and succeeding, between attracting someone’s attention or not.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR PROJECT’S IMAGE BETTER?
- It has to be catching. It’s the first impression that matters here the most.
- It has to be fitting. It should reflect the actual product’s character, its qualities, and specifics. If the product is to be fun, make the image fun, if it’s to be demanding, make it intelligent. Remember: It has to make people feel certain things about the product.
- It’s good to show the actual product or some part of it (provided it can be shown at this point of its creation.)
Also: If it’s to be a photo, consider hiring a professional photographer. It’s not that big of a cost.
A PROJECT TITLE
The second most important branding element, the title is often the future product’s intended name. The reason behind its importance is that, when the first impression loses its hold, it’s the second, the third, and the fourth that are going to matter the most. In this case, it’s the title that will have to keep the potential backers’ interested. In fact, while it’s not impossible to make it with no proper image, it’s rather impossible to make it with no proper title.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR PROJECT’S TITLE BETTER?
- Make it a reference. People love references! Referencing someone’s favorite artist, dish, film, painting, read, or song, or videogame (or whatever else there is that can be referenced in a title) is sure to make this person interested.
- Make it a play-on-words. It has to be intelligent, meaningful, and fun, like, for example, Coolest Cooler.
- Make it straight-to-the-point. It seems surprising, but somehow it works.
A MINIMUM FUNDING GOAL
Don’t make the common mistake: the minimum funding goal is not the amount of $$$ one would like to raise. It’s the minimum amount required to finish and distribute the product. Thus, it has to be set up according to some calculations. The more precise these calculations are, the better your chance of a successful campaign.
THINGS TO REMEMBER SETTING A MINIMUM FUNDING GOAL:
- It’s all-or-nothing. Since Kickstarter operates on an all-or-nothing funding model, you’ll have to meet or surpass the minimum funding goal to receive the $$$. Otherwise, you’ll get nothing, and all the pledges will be returned to the backers.
- It’s the minimum funding goal, not the final funding goal. It can be surpassed. It often is. Sometimes by ten-fold, sometimes even more. It’s not unusual – it all depends on the campaign.
- It has to include all the costs. The stories of those who took the $$$ and failed to deliver are dreadful and sad. Don’t repeat their mistakes. Take some time to calculate.
Next, there is the deadline. It determines the amount of time the campaign will last. That’s it. It’s that simple.
THINGS TO REMEMBER SETTING A DEADLINE:
- Both shorter and longer campaigns have their pros and cons.
- It’s not that important in terms of success. Sometimes it matters, but most of the times if the product is to be funded, it is funded mid-campaign.
- It should be set according to the minimum funding goal. If it’s surpassed, it’s great, if it’s not, that’s not a problem either.
STEP FOUR: THE REWARDS
People won’t give you their $$$ for nothing. Thus, it’s important to promise them something, to somehow reward them. I don’t know if the rewards are indeed the main reason behind the success of the crowdfunding model as a whole, but I’m more than sure that it’s the right choice to offer people some, rather than none. If nothing else, rewards can make those still undecided want to pledge. Yet, if you design them right and the effect will surpass the highest expectations.
The rewards can come in all forms and numbers, but the four most popular ones are: the product itself, creative collaboration, unique creative experience, or a unique, one-of-its-kind collectible.
THE PRODUCT ITSELF
It requires no explanation. It’s the most common reward. It’s understandable that someone who pledges his or her $$$ to some initiative would also like to have it’s final product. Thus, it’s good to propose it as a reward.
The pricing should depend on the product. Because it’s more or less like pre-ordering it, consider making it a little bit lower for the first hundred backers. (If you feel confident that the final product will sell well, consider making it lower for all of them.)
THE CREATIVE COLLABORATION
It can be a lot of things: It all depends on the product at hand. From making some kind of appearance in the final product to participating in its creation, from writing a part of the book to becoming a character in the videogame: The possibilities are endless here.
The pricing should depend on the impact the change will have on the final product (and the cost to make that change.) If it’s a significant change in the plot of a film, then the price should be high, but if it’s a little change in one of the sub-plots of a videogame, then set it lower. If it’s some other kind of collaboration, the kind that will require the backer to offer actual help, consider making it even lower.
THE CREATIVE EXPERIENCE
It can range from receiving a phonecall from the creator to becoming his spouse (for real!). We haven’t even mentioned all the things like an author signing a book for his backer, a band giving a concert at one of its backers’ house, or a dinner with a movie cast. The possibilities are not as endless as with the creative collaboration, but it’s also not as invasive. It won’t affect the final product. Besides, it makes the connection between the creator and his backers much more personal: It makes it more like a bond.
Apart from including all the costs, as well as all the expenses, there’s no golden method to pricing such a reward. One more time, it all depends on the reward at hand. If it’s a signed book or a dinner, it shouldn’t be too expensive, but make sure to limit the number of rewards. Remember: It’s all about establishing a connection. This person has to feel that it’s a pleasure for you too to have this dinner. In other words, [roceed with extreme care when setting this kind of reward. It’s a delicate matter: A matter of people’s emotions and feelings.
It’s a unique item, a token, a memento, something related to the product or perhaps belonged to its creators. It doesn’t have to be something expensive, its value is the sentimental one. What’s most important here is to be creative. No one is going to want it if it’s someone’s shoe or pants. It has to matter.
The pricing here should depend on the sentimental value of the collectible. If it’s something unique, consider raising it a little. If it’s not, set it lower. Take note that it’s impossible to pre-determine the price it can reach later on the fanbase market. In some cases, it can become far more expensive than the product itself.
GENERAL ADVICE TO MAKING YOUR REWARDS BETTER
- It can be a good idea to set up some kind of day-one, early-bird type reward. What it is is basically a collectible, but one you can only get if you pledge your $$$ early in the development. These rewards are usually limited, both in terms of time and quantity.
- Remember that the average pledge ranges from $20 to $30. If that’s also the price of your product, good for you, it’s entirely possible you’ll earn more. If this is not the case and it’s more expensive, remember to find a way of thanking those who pledged less. It’s a matter of maintaining a good reputation throughout the community.
- Surprise rewards can work wonders. The reward is a surprise reward when you backer is unable to determine what is it that you’ll send him for his pledge (in addition to the product.) People are curious and creating a surprise reward can, in fact, surprise you with its outcome.
STEP FIVE: A TEASER
Some good writing. Some photos. Some renders. Sometimes a demo. Some screenshots. A trailer. A sample, a piece. A proposition. A promise. Something to attract the potential backers, to make them help you, back you and give you their $$$. It’s more like an advertisement than an actual intended product outline. In fact, most of the time it’s a short movie, showcasing the product’s intended features, its most significant pro and its principal usefulness. It’s a teaser.
Making a good teaser can be a challenging task indeed. It’s sure to take you some work to complete it, to make it suitable for its purpose (this purpose being, of course, to attract the potential backers and to make them pledge,) not to mention making it something special, unique. The problem is that there’s no universal guideline to making a good teaser. There are means, however, to make it a better one.
HOW TO MAKE A TEASER BETTER?
- Defer from using renders. They won’t make you look trustworthy. (Besides, there’s an ever-ongoing debate about using them for crowdfunding purposes; no matter your take, it’s always safer to find another way to showcase your product.)
- Don’t be corny. Your potential backers have to feel that you’re serious about them. Remember: They are clever. Make it intelligent! They are sure to appreciate it.
- Don’t make impossible promises. You’ll have to deliver what you offer, of course, but the general rule is that the more you promise, the less they believe you. (For example, Look at some politicians.)
- Don’t talk; show. This one is universal. People won’t believe your words, but they will believe what they see. Show them the product (given you have it already) and show them it’s features. Make them believe in it.
- Everybody likes good music. Back your trailer with a good sound track. (Remember: You can’t use just anything; make it fit! Also, make sure you have the rights to use it! Music companies and, especially, their lawyers can be merciless here, when it comes to gaining profits.)
- Go emotional or professional, but never mix it! This one is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a matter of creating and maintaining the coherent image. Who would believe a businessman that suddenly bursts into tears over their product? Who would take it seriously? That being said, avoid bursting into tears. Avoid it. At all costs.
- Hire a professional to write, direct, film (or all the above) it for you. The better the teaser, the better the results. Spare no expenses here; if you’re able to afford it, then do it – it will pay off.
- The shorter, the better. Or, alternatively, the more condensed, the better. Be careful, however, to not make it too short! It has to convey a lot of information, but there are ways to do it without extending its length. It’s not an informational video, after all; it’s a teaser.
STEP SIX: THE DESCRIPTION
The description is exactly what it is: It’s the description of your product. As simple as it may seem, there’s a lot to it. Writing a good description can be a lengthy and daunting task. This doesn’t mean it has to be long. In fact, it does not have to be. Nor should it be. The problem is that it has to be attractive (as in: to attract the backers.) If you’re not into writing (not to mention into reading) or if you’re not into marketing, it may be wiser to hire a professional to do it for you. Writers are mostly cheap and will happily help you, but their input can be priceless. A marketing specialist is also a good choice, yet it may be more expensive. Whatever you decide, don’t let any grammar mistakes sneak into your text; it will kill your authority. Double-check it (or have someone do it for you; people will never trust their $$$ to someone who can’t even write properly.
TEN CHARACTERISTICS OF A GOOD PROJECT DESCRIPTION:
- It’s always thorough, but never technical.
- It’s fun to read.
- It’s intelligent.
- It’s modest.
- It’s optimal (not too long, not too short.)
- It’s original.
- It’s straight-to-the-point.
- It’s true. (This one may seem obvious, but believe me, somehow it isn’t.)
- It builds your image as an authoritative person, a person to trust.
- It makes you want the product.
STEP SEVEN: THE FINAL PREPARATION
It’s the final step, a formality. It’s about filling some additional info, double-checking (once again) all the aspects I’ve mentioned above, making sure that every little detail is in its place. Don’t rush it, also. Remember that it’s always better to wait a little while longer. After all, reaching this point sure took you a lot of time, it’s probably about a month since you started. (The average time spent on preparing the successful Kickstarter campaign varies from 2 to 4 weeks, studies say.) It’s not that crucial if you let yourself sleep on it one night more. And sometimes something may come to your mind that will turn the intended $10 000 into the final $10 000 000.
STEP EIGHT: THE LAUNCH!
The launch signifies the end of the preparations and the beginning of the promotion. To launch a Kickstarter campaign, simply press the button. Then grab a beer and watch the numbers!
FIVE ADDITIONAL THINGS TO REMEMBER:
- Before your project makes it to the public, it will have to undergo a process of review. Kickstarter reviewers usually work hard, but sometimes it takes a little bit longer for them to finish. Don’t get nervous; be patient. It’s (almost) never longer than five to seven days.
- Don’t overburden yourself with the work when preparing the campaign. It’s a creative process and it requires your mind to stay fresh. A good night sleep will help, whereas staying up late at night can make you doubtful and depressed over the things your project lacks.
- Kickstarter’s categories are broad, but some things, like, for example, raising $$$ for charity purposes, are excluded. If that’s your purpose, remember that there are always other platforms, like the ones mentioned at the beginning. You can start your campaign there.
- The earlier you start working on finishing your project, the better. It will sure take a lot of time. The backers are usually patient, but they will expect you to report your progress and show them the results. From time to time, you’ll have to post a video, a log, or another kind of entry, so be prepared to do it. Never ignore your backers needs! It’s all about your reputation. Maintaining it at the certain level will help you with your further initiatives.
- There’s no such thing as The Perfect Project. There’s only The Perfect Project marketing.
Image Credits: See page for author [Public domain] Wikimedia Commons