If you’re running a Kickstarter project, it’s important to market your idea to get the maximum number of backers. However, before you even get started with your project, you should plan ahead.
We’ve written about Kickstarter marketing techniques many times before, and I intend for this blog to serve a different purpose: to highlight additional considerations, to expand upon some of the tips mentioned before and to provide new guidance.
1. Make sure your idea is a good fit for Kickstarter…or crowdfunding in general. Kickstarter may seem like a great place to make a quick buck, but not all ideas are cut out for crowdfunding. Do your research beforehand on sites like https://www.kicktraq.com/ to see if other people in your niche have had success on any of the big crowdfunding sites. Kickstarter markets itself as a place for artists and creatives to come together and make great things, but Kickstarter butters their bread with the money from Games, big-budget films, design and technology. When you look at the average amount raised per successful project in each category, you can begin to see that well-designed products raise more money and attract more attention than the multitude of people rushing to Kickstarter to raise money for intangibles.
2. Create great rewards. Remember: Kickstarter is not a charity (or a store, but I’ll come back to that). Backers do not come to Kickstarter to help people out from the kindness of their heart. They come to Kickstarter to be a part of something great from the very beginning, and get something cool from the transaction. If you’re making a phone case, then the phone case had better be the primary reward that you’re offering. If you’re making a music album, offer the finished product. If you’re writing a book, offer the book. You get the idea.
Price your rewards correctly. Do market research, figure out your ideal margin and set a price. Ignore the old statistic of “the most popular rewards are in the $25 range” – this stat likely comes from the vast number of projects that are offering a $25 product. We worked with a project in the past where the product cost $1,500, so the most popular reward was the $1,500 tier. Many projects will try to fill the so-called “sweet spot” at $25 with novelty items such as stickers, t-shirts, hats and other SWAG. While this definitely helps, it won’t rocket your project to huge success.
3. Follow the rules. This is becoming more important with each passing day, as Kickstarter is adapting to the ebb-and-flow of the crowdfunding sensation. The public relations nightmare following the delivery failures of Kickstarter’s early titans, including the Pebble Watch, the Elevation Dock and the Ouya, effectively killed the distributor pack reward (where projects would offer packs of hundreds or thousands in retail packaging at a discount). You may remember Kickstarter’s “We are not a store” announcement that came along with this change.
More recently, the Kobe Red project almost pulled a $120,000 scam before Kickstarter noticed the fraudulent creators. This led to another set of rules dictating that project creators must now outline their research, development and manufacturing process.
Bottom line: read Kickstarter’s guidelines carefully, and read them again before you submit your project for review. Kickstarter is not lenient with their rules, and there is very little wiggle room. Do not break the rules mid-campaign either, as Kickstarter will come back and check periodically for compliance.
4. Set your goal as low as possible…but make sure that you can still finish your project. What I mean is this: find out the minimum amount of money that you need to fulfill the rewards, add 15% for Kickstarter and Amazon fees and add another 5-10% of wiggle room or extra margin for your hard work. That’s it. Don’t get greedy, and here’s why:
Big-budget projects with a huge goal set by a creator merely trying to turn a profit are rarely as successful as creators with a modest goal and a great idea, because the backers in the first example are gambling on whether or not the goal will be met. Once the goal is met in the modest example, the project becomes guaranteed to be made, which will draw an additional audience of backers that were waiting for just that guarantee.
5. Make a great video. We’ve written about making a great Kickstarter video at length, so read that. Basically, follow these three steps: Focus on the product, then give your background then add a call-to-action for how people can help. Let your project take the spotlight, and keep it under three minutes.
Additionally, your video does not need to be hollywood-quality, but don’t take that as an excuse to sit in front of a webcam in the dark and talk for three minutes. With most people owning an HD video camera (your phone) and the variety of easy-to-use editing software (iMovie for Mac and Windows Movie Maker for Windows) it’s not too difficult to put some polish on your video.
6. Press is of primary importance. Always wondering how the million dollar babies of Kickstarter did it? It’s easy – good press coverage. I’ve seen projects jump $10,000 to $20,000+ in a matter of a few days with one solid press hit. Learn the basics of media relations, media list building and pitching before you start. Tim Ferriss does a fantastic job laying out a roadmap for media relations in his Hacking Kickstarter guide, and has a number of useful templates and tips.
When pitching the biggest blogs, read their contact pages and follow the rules. Some of them only like to be contacted through their website, and Tweeting at them will only serve to annoy the authors. Others will only cover you if you offer an exclusive prior to launching. However, don’t get discouraged – aim high and try hard to get in on one of these sites. One big press pickup can do more for your campaign than ten small blogs writing about you.
Focus on media outlets that have a website, or use the website as their primary medium. We have had clients in the past make television appearances, and did not see a great result from the coverage simply because viewers couldn’t click a link and visit the campaign page.
Bear in mind that press is only relevant if you’ve followed rule number one: have a good project. All the press in the world can’t help you if there simply isn’t a market for whatever you’re making.
7. Use social media, but don’t rely on it. Social media is a fantastic tool, and we’ve written about how to use social media to help your Kickstarter campaign before. However, it is not a silver bullet. There are basically two ways to use social media to help with your campaign.
A. If you have a huge following going into the campaign, or you built up a good following by running targeted Facebook Ads (NOT by buying 1,000 fans for $10), leverage these numbers to announce the campaign milestones and get your audience to share interesting and engaging posts about your project with their friends.
B. If you’re starting from zero, you’ll need to build a fanbase by driving people to your social media channels from your Kickstarter project. Tell people in an update that you’re maintaining a Twitter account and a Facebook Page, and that they can follow you there for exclusive updates on your project.
If you have to pick something to focus on, focus on your PR efforts. Dollars-to-donuts, good PR outweighs good social media for financial impact.
8. Hold something back as an upsell or a stretch goal. If you’ve spent any time on Kickstarter, you know that a stretch goal is basically an informal second funding goal at which the creator will add new accessories, colors, features, et cetera. When you’re doing your initial research and development, think of your “phase 2” ahead of time and plan to release this as a stretch goal if your campaign takes off rather than scrambling at the last minute to think of something to offer.
If you have an accessory that you can easily add, think about offering it mid-campaign as an upsell for your existing backers. It will typically perform better as an upsell than if you had added it initially, as you have a captive audience to market it to using Kickstarter updates.
9. Use advertising sparingly. Facebook Ads are great for getting the word out, driving traffic to your page and building your fanbase on Facebook. www.kicktraq.com sells banner space to a targeted audience of people who are very familiar with Kickstarter. These are great places to advertise, as you’re reaching an audience that is already familiar with Kickstarter and the mechanics of backing a crowdfunding project.
Do not use Google AdWords or any other PPC advertising that typically works well for search marketing because people searching for products have a certain user expectation of what a product page and shopping cart look like when they click an ad. If a visitor expects something that looks like an Amazon product page but is met with a Kickstarter page, they will become confused and look elsewhere to purchase.
10. If you have the time, don’t forget to look in less obvious places. Press outlets, Facebook and Twitter are great Kickstarter marketing basics. If you have the time to use additional avenues, take part in online conversations in LinkedIn Groups, on Quora and in forums for your niche as well as for crowdfunding. Every little bit helps, so leave no stone unturned.