What is the first crowdfunding campaign you’ve ever heard of? Which one was the real deal?
For a majority of people, the most memorable crowdfunding campaign to really capitalize on the use of such platform is the smartwatch maker Pebble Technology during their 2012 April campaign.
Of course, the tech and production industries’ watchmen would strongly disagree, citing campaigns closed back in the early 2000’s; we just chose to focus here on modern, rewards-based crowdfunding platforms, the kind of projects posted on websites such as Indiegogo or Kickstarter.
These two platforms respectively started in 2008 and 2009, created a new kind of product launch strategy within the tech ecosystem. A strategy firmly focused on the crowd rather than funding, a strategy that encompasses brand awareness, pre-order generation, and initiating traction.
In 2015, our team worked with 2 of the most successful French Kickstarter campaigns as they entered the U.S. market. The ubi i/o team has also advised many other startups throughout their pre-launch brainstorming process. So we’ve decided to give you a quick look at what we’ve learned over the years, and put together a brief checklist to validate before launching a crowdfunding campaign.
What should I really expect from a crowdfunding campaign?
As previously mentioned, it is less about the money, and more about getting initial traction. Should your product falls into the electronic hardware category, be sure that it will never do the trick to manufacture and ship 5K units, especially products that respect all the amazing features promoted during the campaign.
If executed properly, here’s what you can expect:
- A fair amount of cash in the bank
- A proof of market fit and customer interest
- A qualitative brand awareness campaign of your product / brand
- A measureable initial traction
- A community of loyal backers (ambassadors) who will be there to promote your product to their own community and who will defend your product when relevant
- Communities of angry backers (hopefully a small minority) depending on your ability to genuinely update them and ship on time.
Do I qualify?
Early-stage project build-ups and product launches are all about metrics, so let’s start with a reality check: 64% of all Kickstarter campaigns do not attain their goal. This percentage dips even lower when looking at Indiegogo, which by the way does not make these statistics available to the public.
All right, so how should you go about increasing your chances of ending in the remaining 36%? Make sure that your product fits with this funding model.
First and foremost, you should crowdfund a final product (or a prototype, but beware of new Kickstarter rules), not a concept, nor a range of products. This final product should be addressed to a particular community that at least one of the founders knows well. Your marketing approach will greatly improve by having a deep understanding of the people who will be interested in helping you getting this thing out to the world.
Remember that, this particular community will never pledge for a solution that deals with a problem already solved – with the exception of bringing strong improvements to the already existing solution. Perhaps, take a look at our article on addressing verticals in your target markets.
You will need time, a lot of it, before, during and after the campaign. You need to make sure that:
- You can prepare early on, to launch at the planned date and not deceive your early ambassadors
- You are out there during the fundraiser to quickly reply to any questions on any platforms you have a presence on (and on the ones you’re not on)
- You can regularly update your backers post-campaign while going through the harsh part of actually building your product for your backers
How do I execute properly?
Now that you know what to expect and what type of campaign will be successful, you need to prepare your campaign page, website, social media profiles and other online/offline presence to welcome your campaign elements for a long period of time. Make sure to be fully dedicated to your campaign (not your product) at least one month before the planned launch.
You should be able to produce different types of content to keep followers/backers entertained and informed: texts, videos, pictures, gifs, etc … directly aligned with the product itself and its purpose.
Below are the questions you need to answer with this specific content:
- What do you want to achieve?
What is the problem you are trying to solve, how do you know this problem, why is your solution better than the other ones, etc.
- How will you achieve it?
What is the manufacturing process, who are your partners, how do you source your raw material, where is everything, etc.
- How will you use the raised funds?
What is your financial roadmap in concordance with the final amount you will accumulate, where will you spend the money, which material is the most difficult to source, etc.
- Who are you, who are your team members?
Show the audience who you are, put a picture of yourself and your team members. Make it personal; show the importance of the project and how it relates to your life etc.
- What qualifications/experiences make you certain that you will achieve your goal?
Obviously, show what makes you qualified to work on this project, this will reinforce your credibility
- What is your project’s timeline? Be frank about the expected shipping date (you’d rather be safe than sorry)
Be realistic on the shipping date. Ruining the hopes of your ambassadors is as easy as not delivering on time, and the longer the delay, the worst off you are.
To succeed, the person / team in charge of putting these elements together should put himself/themselves in the backer’s shoes (remember?), and imagine the crucial points that will influence their decision making process of helping you out or not. It involves a lot of personal dedication and a great deal of transparency.
Your backers’ satisfaction is important since their Early Adopter status allows them to be among the first to: receive the product, test it, know everything about it, give their feedback, ask questions, get answers etc. …
As you can imagine by now, the main outcome for your company is that your backers will be the first people to talk about your product: this is crucial. We witnessed product managers running late on shipping and not taking the time to answer to angry backers. To the question: Should I answer a 20th time to this angry backer who twitted again? The answer is: YES. That person may have a blog or an online presence that could harm your reputation within that community. You most certainly don’t know him/her offline, and what his influence can be; he/she may have a tech journalist brother-in-law.
Just remember, the backer is king. To facilitate this part, try to bring your backers on a helpdesk platform so you can control the information flow, and prioritize your replies with automation.
Video: you are going to produce a video; there is no way around it. Make it simple, beautiful and show the problem you are solving along with your solution.
Rewards: do not offer t-shirts (except if it’s part of your product) each reward must have a true added value for your backers, and at least one of them should include the final product.
Timing: the successful campaigns have an average length of 38 days. Making your campaign any longer wouldn’t do you any good: it is known that when a campaign is successful, it reached its goal within the FIRST 3 DAYS. Remember we talked about preparation?
Goal: be realistic with your funding goal, aim for an amount that you can prove will help you in building the product for every backer. Don’t aim too high though, because a campaign that surpasses its goal creates a positive image and ends up bringing more backers.
Vocabulary: whether technical or popularized, adapt your speech to your audience. This is particularly true for crowdfunding marketing, as you have (nearly) only one page to convert your potential backers.
In conclusion, a crowdfunding project exposes your brand, your products, your team and your own reputation. It is a great opportunity to present your company, your values and show how you work. It’s an opportunity to communicate with your potential clients, and show how you plan on making the world a better place. But it also provides you with plenty of ways to make a faux pas that will send you straight to hell, and the web will keep reminding it to anyone looking for you or your brand.
You should be fully dedicated while preparing your Kickstarter campaign, with measurable objectives that you can keep track of at any given time, before, during and after the campaign.