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Jun 21, 2016

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Benny's Crowdfunding Tips

Thinking about running a Kickstarter or IndieGoGo campaign? Read my personal tips that I've developed over several years of running campaigns:

Before


Be Honest With Yourself:

Is this a viable product? Ask 20 people you know who ARE NOT FRIENDS AND FAMILY. F&F will support any stupid thing you do, but that only gets you so far. You need a widespread thumbs up from strangers. Try to get this info in advance. If no one likes the idea, move on to something else, or refine it according to the feedback you get.


Be Honest With Yourself 2: Time

A crowdfunding campaign is approx 30 days long. During those 30 days, it is a FULL TIME JOB. This is not an exaggeration, I’ve run several. Trust me. It’s 10 hours a day, 7 days a week for 30 days. The month before and the month after the campaign, it’s a part time job (figure 20 hours a week). From the time you start the project until delivery of your product to backers, it can be a year or more. You will work on it between 5-20 hours a week for that ENTIRE YEAR. Sometimes more (shipping to backers) sometimes less (let’s say, the month the project is being sea-shipped to you). At NO TIME is it OK for you to not keep updating your backers weekly and checking into the back end of your campaign daily. That only ends several weeks after you've shipped your last reward to your last backer.

Be Honest With Yourself 3: Is This for You?

I have heard from several people in my industry that crowdfunding is pandering, and that if you really believe in your project, you'd self-fund it. While not all of us are rich and successful like those detractors, they have a point: Crowdfunding isn't for everyone. It's ton of work, it opens you up to extreme public scrutiny and pressure, and basically, your reputation is on the line every time you run a new project. The campaign could fail. Can you deal with that? Do you have ANY other options for this project that don't involve such a time-consuming method of acquiring funds?

Good categories - here are a few categories of projects that tend to do well on Kickstarter:
- games (card, tabletop and online)
- electronic devices
- high-tech apparel
- small non-electronic gadgets

Start Early: 

Buy an easy to remember domain to support the project. Build a simple website or even just a landing page that shows the item you’re making. Backstory, design details, illustrations, general info about item/project help people understand more about what you’re doing. If you don’t know how, get someone to create the site for you. This is not optional. You don’t have to fully reveal the item, but definitely get some info up on the web about you, the name of the project, the type of project, background info, preliminary sketches. Literally, if you have a sketch of some sh*t in a notebook, snap a picture of it with coffee stains on it and your jacked-up pencil in the shot and post that. People love that sh*t.

Social

Also start social media accounts. Build community early, before launch. Twitter is good for contacting journalists and writers. IG good for sharing pics. Gotta have a FB page too. Building community early is the best way to generate buzz before launch.

Not kidding, Start early. Start now. Build website and social media accounts NOW, today. The bigger your network is by launch date, the more successful you’ll be. Read up on how to get more Twitter and IG Followers. It’s not hard, it just requires smart posting (always incl images and hashtags) and non-posting actions like Liking and commenting on influencers’ posts, reposting/retweeting, and generally being active and engaging on social. If you don’t have time, get someone to do this for you.

Email List: 

Make one. Don’t care how. Use MailChimp, MadMimi, ConstantContact. Any way that you can collect emails is a good way, even if it’s a manual list on a spreadsheet (that can get time consuming though, better to install a signup form on your website). To encourage signups, include this link in press release and share on social. Possibly come up with a cheap reward for email signups: free digital download, access to insider info, or mail a 3” sticker. If you mail something, don’t forget you need the person’s mailing address. Many signup forms allow you to add that info as optional. 3” die cut sticker is maybe $0.25, and a stamp is $0.49 so you’re looking at cost of approx $0.75 to acquire that contact. Can be worth it if they pledge $50 to $100 in your campaign.

Get Your Sh*t Together: 

Make sure the financial details of your project, and your vendors, are all in line and ready. Solicit quotes from factories or vendors, get it in writing. Often this means an intial expense out of your own pocket to create a prototype / 3D print / working model / MVP. If your “vendor” is an individual (a resin caster for example), make sure you have 2 other resin casters lined up to take up the slack if your individual vendor flakes. If you have a factory making your product, re-confirm your quote after a month or so. The timing of your project can lead to cost overruns- if you ask factory for quote and then you actually go into production a year later (this is not uncommon) you don’t want to be surprised at a new, higher quote from your factory! Often producing in higher quantities is cheaper per unit. Plan for future sales. See #3.

Get Your Sh*t Together 2: Plan for disasters. 

Have a game plan for each facet of your project if something fails. Know the costs associated with your backup plans. Know the costs for EVERYTHING. What will you do if you’re a little short of the goal a week before the end of campaign? What will you do if you’re way short of the goal a week before end of campaign? There’s no right answer, what matter is that you have a game plan. Simply running a campaign is a big PR push so you can harness that interest and push the customers to preorders on your commerce website if the campaign fails. KS does NOT give you an email list of your backers if your campaign is not successful, so make sure you set about acquiring those email addresses somehow before the end of campaign

Get Your Sh*t Together 3: Plan for post-campaign. 

What will you do with all the extra items you have? In a campaign you might sell 400 items… but you may have to manufacture 1000 or 3000 as a minimum order. That’s awesome, what are you going to do with those products, where will they be stored, will they be sold in your ecommerce shop (do you have one?) or will they be sold wholesale to other shops? Can you move 90% of the overstock to a distributor and have them deal with it?

Get Your Sh*t Together 4: Understand What You’ve Signed Up For. 

Read the details and nuances of how your platform works. Participate in multiple projects (as a backer) on both IGG and KS. This will give you good info. It’s best if you are a backer of a wildly successful, huge project, plus a successful small project, AND an unsuccessful project. You will learn different things from all of those. 

As important: read all the documentation on the platform you’ve chosen. There are ways each company communicates w you, schedules to sending you money, ways they deal with issues, fee structures, etc. This type of project can move around $5K to $100K or more. Do you REALLY want to be responsible for $100K of other people’s money, and NOT understand how, when and why that money is transferred to you, and what happens after that? There’s taxes. Understand tax ramifications of moving that money around. It’s usually a f*ckload of money. If you’re not fiscally responsible, don’t run a campaign. End of story.

Get Your Sh*t Together 5: Images, Video, Copy

Great images, with branding, in a square shape, are best. Use them in your campaign. 

A video need not be long or complicated. Most people stop watching after 30 seconds. I’ve examined the stats on mine and heard the feedback too, this is standard. Make your video short (30 seconds) and you don’t need to be on camera the whole time. It’s nice to see your pretty face for a few seconds, but then you can just switch to a voice-over and video of the actual product. Everyone hates the sound of their own voice on camera. Forget about that. What’s important is: do YOU sound excited when you talk about the product??? If you don’t, re-record the audio until you’re f*cking Billy Mays. If you’re not excited about the product, no one else will be either. Do not drone on in a monotonous voice. Everyone hates that. Wrap it up, get to the point, ask for support. End of video. 

Copy MUST fully describe the project. DO NOT USE FIRST PERSON in the copy. Your first chance of copy in the campaign is the one bloggers will copy and paste. They can’t write in first person. Write about the product. Look at successful campaigns that generated millions, and replicate the format of their description. You can talk from your own point of view, but like in a press release, you should quote yourself as the founder/creator and use quotation marks. It feels weird the first time you do it but ignore that feeling and speak about yourself as if you are the most interesting person in the world and you deserve to be quoted.

“Writing this blog post at 9AM on a Saturday morning seems a strange way to spend your first waking hours of the weekend,” Tenacious Toys CEO Benny Kline reveals. “But it’s like an itch I had to scratch - I couldn’t help myself. The rest of the day will not involve computers at all.”


Get Your Sh*t Together 6: Money

How much money do you have saved up? How much can you put on a CC or borrow? Factor that into your goal amount. Your goal should be as low as possible. The lower it is, the better chance you’ll have to hit it. Look at other successful campaign in your space. Make a list, write down how much they took in. Be super honest with yourself about whether you have a bigger or smaller network than those creators. If yours is smaller, you may take in less money. Make sure that your goal number is so low that you are super confident that you’ll hit that mark VERY quickly. It’s better to hit your mark and still not quite take in enough money for the production, than to entirely miss your mark and fail. You can always put an extra $2K on a credit card to get your vendors paid. You cannot go back in time and re-run the campaign with a lower goal number.

Get Your Sh*t Together 7: NO. 

If you plan on screwing up and not delivering for any reason, and not returning that money you took in, please do not run a campaign. Your choices on that front can actually f*ck up other peoples’ chances at success, like mine. Don’t be a d*ck.

Timing:

Don’t launch during any events that will distract your audience. Holidays, sporting events, elections and other time, money and energy consuming events will prevent you from reaching people. DO NOT LAUNCH OR RUN A CAMPAIGN BETWEEN THANKSGIVING AND CHRISTMAS. That whole stretch is off limits. No one is spending money on your stuff during the holidays if it won’t arrive for 8 months.

Reach Out: 

Make list of people/blogs/writers who have covered similar crowdfunding projects in the past. Email them a press release to get on their radar. Look up PR format and tips on how to write a good, concise press release. Don’t forget to include a SUPER engaging pic and all the details, incl launch date. Give them the link to your new website (cuz you don’t have one to the actual campaign yet). 

Plan Your PR:

I’ve heard from a successful KS creator that he did send press releases to a targeted group of journalists beforehand, but asked that the info be embargoed until his launch date. He communicated with them a lot and set it all up so everyone knew what to do. All 10 journalists posted article simultaneously on his launch date and ensure a HUGE kick-off to his campaign. All you need is EVERYONE in your space talking about you for one day- be unavoidable. Be everywhere for that one day. Everything snowballs after that. You can’t stop working, but it’s good to get a healthy start.

Embargoes on the launch info are NOT entirely necessary. They may or may not help. The other strategy is to just get the most # of people posting about the campaign as possible in the weeks leading up to the launch. Don’t forget, consumer attention span is very short. They need to be able to see the article, click the link and enter their CC info right away. Often, getting press on the web 2 weeks before a launch is useless. You might get some signups, or new followers, but what you REALLY want is backers instead. It’s easier to acquire a backer in the moment, right after launch, than it is to convert an early follower to a backer.

Launch Day

1. Post link to the Kickstarter on homepage of your website, in Twitter and IG profile, in button on your FB page. Send second PR to your list of writers with that link and the fact that the KS is LIVE now. Also email your general email list with the link. 

2. Be available. Respond to inquiries, be flexible. Add to your campaign’s FAQ or update the copy as necessary as questions arise. Add images if yours are not sufficient. Alter reward descriptions if people are confused. Add more rewards if people ask for them.

3. This is a full day of work. Plan for it. The whole day is spent on email, web and phone, communicating with influencers who could get the word out to a lot of people. 

4. The campaign is live, so make sure your website and social media accounts are updated to include ALL info about the project, the full reveal, plus links to the campaign. You can stop hiding all info now as it's publicly available anyway.


During

You need to monitor messages in the campaign and on social media and email daily, and respond daily. If people want to give you money but have a question first, best answer it fast and get that pledge. 

Like I said above, expect to put in a full workday on your campaign every day during the course of the campaign. Your PR work is not done until the campaign closes. Continue reaching out to industry contacts all through the campaign, tell them what you're doing. Get coverage. Web, TV, radio, outdoor signage, Google / FB ads, sponsored posts, etc etc. You better do as many of those things as possible, and start early. Once you are 50% of the way thru the campaign, is NOT THE TIME to begin panicking and setting up ads and outreach. The first week is the one you need to put some muscle and thought into outreach. 

Rule of thumb: No one cares about you and your project until you actually reach them. Do not expect people to just randomly stumble upon the campaign. Make sure you actively reach out and contact people every day during the course of your campaign. Make it your goal to contact 10 new people (influencers, or backers, or both) about the campaign every day.

Be Aware, Stranger Danger

Be aware that once your project is live, you will instantly get contacted by all sorts of snake oil salesmen via email, the campaign messaging system, and Instagram. There will be a lot of them. Do not pay them to "help" your campaign. Instead, act interested, reply to all of them, and ask them what exactly they'd do on IG / Twitter / web to generate sales and backers. At some point in the conversation, say, "Hey listen before I pay you to do stuff, I just want to know exactly what your plan is so I know how my money is being spent." Take the info they give you, and figure out how to do it yourself! Many of these people operate on IG, and they just go thru and like and comment on posts that include relevant hashtags (using your IG account of course). Well, you don't need them to do that, you can do it yourself. Spend an hour a day or 30 minutes a day on this yourself after you figure out what their tactics are! Haha, derpy lame asses!

After 


You STILL have to work! You need to communicate with backers daily for one to two weeks, then weekly after that as your project moves through production. You will also have to monitor communications / messages from your backers.

There should be a new tidbit of info or a new image to share with backers every week, even if production takes 6 months. Ask your factory / vendor for weekly updates. Come up with fun ways to engage your audience. Show them what you're working on, if it's related to the campaign. Anything. Just be there and communicate.

WORST CASE SCENARIOS:

You might encounter one, or several!

- vendor makes crappy product
- product delivered to you late
- product delivered to you broken / not working / imperfect
- project is more expensive than you anticipated
- you have to change what you're planning on making in some way
- product / project turns out to be impossible

In all cases, communication with your backers is absolutely key to survival. When something goes wrong, you WILL hear very vocal complaints in your campaign comments, in messages and online on other peoples' blogs! You need to work on accepting those negative feedbacks and use them to make a better product. Often your biggest complainers are actually your biggest fans. All feedback is valuable. If one very very vocal person is demanding some change, don't automatically make that change. Survey your other backers to get their feedback on the proposed change.

Depending on the issues you encounter, you may have to refund part or all of the money that some/all backers gave you. Hopefully not, but be aware that if you fail to deliver on some part of your project, your reputation is on the line. You need to do what's right and send money back to people if they are unhappy or if you fail to deliver.

The thing to remember about crowdfunding is that when you launch a project like this, and source your funds from the public, this becomes the public's project. The crowd owns it, you're just running it/managing it.

That's either a major downside, or a major upside, to crowdfunding. If you deal with the feedback in a reasonable manner, listen to opinions, and try to keep everyone happy as best you can, you'll do OK. If you make posts and updates that are dismissive of your backers and their concerns, people are going to get angry. Just remember....

Communicate, communicate, communicate.

Feedback welcome! Please comment!

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I didn't write if for my own edification. I wrote it for you and your followers, so give me a share please! Danke.





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