Ever since we raised nearly $600,000 through Kickstarter in 2013, other Kickstarter hopefuls have gotten in touch to ask how we did it.
How did we manage to surpass our $40,000 goal so quickly? What tactics worked best for rallying backers around our timepiece, The Bradley, which you can touch to tell time? Can we share hacks for crowdfunding?
While there’s no magic bullet for raising big bucks on Kickstarter, here are a few things that worked well for us, so you can apply them to your campaign.
1. Build your community before you launch the campaign
Project creators often make the mistake of thinking of Kickstarter as a place to grow their community. But if you want to go big, you’ve got to have your community in place before you launch.
That means having a professional-looking website (even if it’s simple), a presence on the major social networks and, most importantly, an email list. The email list is essential because it allows you to notify your community members when your campaign goes live. Newsletter subscribers are likely to be your most loyal fans, so they’ll not only back your campaign, they’ll share it on their social networks too.
All of these components will help you rally your community when the campaign launches and help you appear professional and put-together when potential backers check out your online presence. As an added bonus, if your project does take off, you’ll be well-positioned to convert campaign visitors into Facebook fans, Twitter followers and newsletter subscribers.
2. Ask your community to back you in the first 24 hours
One of the biggest factors in whether you meet and exceed your goal through any crowdfunding campaign is whether you make serious headway toward your goal on the first day. Why? Because campaigns that receive impressive numbers of pledges from the beginning are more likely to be featured on the homepage, and that’s how members of the Kickstarter community discover new projects to back.
(Why does the Kickstarter team feature projects that do well right out of the gate? Because they want visitors to back projects! After all, they’re a business, too.)
Now that you know how this works, you can set yourself up to front-load your support and receive pledges on the first day of your campaign. Ask your friends, family and the community you’ve already created via your blog, social media and newsletter to back your campaign and share with their networks on launch day. All that support at once will help you gain traction and hopefully land on Kickstarter’s homepage, which will boost your visibility.
This strategy helped us secure nearly 900 pledges (that’s 22 percent of the funds we raised) from backers who discovered us through Kickstarter’s Product Design section. (Kickstarter makes those statistics available to campaign creators so you can see where your backers come from.)
3. Spend plenty of effort (and even money) on your video
Your video is the most important component of your campaign, so make sure it’s professional and compelling. Kickstarter is designed to emphasize the video — that’s the first thing visitors see — and backers who share your campaign on social media will often share only the video. That means the only chance you have of getting potential backers to read your campaign page is by first hooking them with the video.
You’ll also likely want to keep your video short; most Kickstarter videos are under two minutes or so. We took a risk here and spent several minutes telling the story of our spokesman, veteran and Paralympic medalist Bradley Snyder, which pushed our video up to six minutes. But because we focused on the story and that story was compelling, the video was effective. If you haven’t watched it yet, click here to hear Brad’s story and learn about our timepiece, The Bradley.
4. Don’t be afraid to tell your story
Potential backers want to know about your product, but they’re also interested in your motivation, your team, and your story. They want to know why you’re working to bring this product to market.
So make sure your campaign page describes not only your product specs, but also your story. We believe that’s why our campaign spread so quickly, because our unique product and design was supported by Brad’s story of losing his sight in Afghanistan and overcoming that obstacle in the Paralympics. We also shared our desire to design products that are accessible to everyone, a compelling mission for some backers.
5. Do your research before pitching media
One of the best ways to spread the word about your campaign is to encourage bloggers and journalists to write about it. But how do you convince them to cover your crowdfunding campaign when so many new ones launch every day?
In addition to having an impressive product, professional online presence and growing community, there’s one strategy that worked particularly well for us: pitching the right person at each publication.
Don’t just send your pitch to the generic email on each publication’s site. Instead, research who at each publication is most likely to write about your campaign or product. Yes, this takes more effort than blanketing the world with your pitch, but it’s also far more effective.
How effective? We raised $16,000 because of a post on Cool Material, $14,000 through a mention on Gizmodo and $10,000 via a post on Hodinkee. Media and blogger coverage will go a long way toward helping your campaign succeed, so it’s worth putting a lot of effort here.
Extra tip: Rather than narrowing your search by publication, look for reporters who have written about similar crowdfunding campaigns or similar products. If you pitch well, it’s likely your story will fit into their beat, too.
6. Respond to every single comment, message and email
If your campaign takes off, you’ll receive dozens of comments, inquiries and feedback. It’s in your best interest to take the time to answer every single one, even potential backers who ask tedious or seemingly unimportant questions about your product. You never know who will become a loyal backer, and better yet, share your campaign with their network.
Overall, think of this as a product launch campaign rather than a crowdfunding campaign. Having all these pieces in place will show you’re a professional who knows what it takes to succeed, and that’s how you’ll attract backers beyond your friends and family.
Hyungsoo Kim is co-founder of Eone timepieces. The Bradley timepiece is available through Eone’s website.