September 23, 2016
With our campaign over, I thought it would be nice to have a round-up of all our Kickstarter tip episodes while I worked on a retrospective of our latest campaign. I’m sure you’ve missed one in the past thirty-one days, and even if you caught them all it’s a great way to download the information into your brain noodle one last time and have a bookmark to return in the future as you plan your own campaign.
Below are all thirty-one Kickstarter tips we gave out during our mini-season. However, if you really want to hear some extra content, I highly recommend downloading the episode too.
Tip #1: Start early.
You should be building your audience for at least three months before you launch a campaign. You can’t be successful in crowdfunding without a crowd.
That means showing off your project, starting a Facebook group, beefing up your social media presence, making press contacts, and building a newsletter.
The more time you have to build your network and prep them for a Kickstarter project that’s coming, the more likely they will be to back your campaign when it’s time.
Tip #2: Send individual thank you notes to backers.
When somebody gives you their hard earned money it is only polite to say thank you. It’s easy for us to treat our backers as money, but they are humans and adding the human touch will improve your connection.
On top of being the right thing to do, it will also stem the loss of backers toward the middle of your campaign because you are making a connection.
Tip #3: Stretch goals should always make your core product better.
Most people have terrible trouble with stretch goals. Once a project funds the backers fall off because there’s nothing more to keep their interest.
You can change that by making sure your stretch goals always improve the quality of your project. For instance, if you have a book that is a 100-page soft cover comic, you can add extra pages at the end as a stretch goal, you can add an extra story, you can make your soft cover a hardcover, you could make your book a bigger size.
Meanwhile, the original backer is still paying the same amount for their pledge, and they are getting a better product. Nobody cares about the bookmarks and prints. They just want the coolest project they can get.
Tip #4: Keep your rewards simple.
There is no need to add multiple options for similar items. Each reward should be targeting a specific buyer, and have enough space in between to clearly delineate the right buyer for that product.
I recommend you start with a $1, $10, $25, $50, and $250 for a standard book. Certain products will not fall into this range, but for a publishing product like a book or CD these five categories should be your base. You can always add more later.
Tip #5: make deposits into the good will bank.
Good will is a finite resource, and you will use it up when you run a campaign. In order to make running a Kickstarter palatable to your audience, you need to add value to people’s lives for months and months before you ask them to pledge to your campaign.
This could be from a webcomic, or free pages from your book, or a podcast helping them fix their biggest problems, or anything you can do to help add value to your audience’s lives. The more value you add, the more trust you will have with your audience and the fuller your good will bank will become.
You can’t be a take with Kickstarter, you have to give 10x more than you ask. You should be delivering 10x value to your audience so they will gladly give you money. In fact, they will consider it the least they can do after all the help you have given them.
Tip #6: Don’t overextend yourself on merchandise.
Especially once a project is funded, creators generally go crazy offering all sorts of merchandise like t-shirts, mugs, and other very high priced items. The problem is that they are eating into their own profit margins and eventually end up in the red.
Merchandise is unnecessary in almost all instances until you have a well-known product. Just focus on making a great single product (unless your product is incredibly high priced like many tech products are). If you must make merchandise, don’t make anything with multiple sizes. Also note that if you offer merchandise you can no longer ship your product media mail.
Tip #7: Keep your video under three minutes.
Your video is a commercial, and nobody can stand a commercial for more than a couple minutes, no matter how amazing the commercial. You can say everything you need to say in under three minutes.
Yes, you will have to edit yourself down. There are plenty of free programs like iMovie which can take out all the ums and ah. You need to make your case clearly and succinctly so people don’t tune out.
Tip #8: Add lots of images.
The average successful Kickstarter has 11 images in it. Even if you have something with a novel, there are plenty of images you can add besides your cover. You can add a photo of yourself. You can add some quotes from your book overlaid on top of a royalty free image. You can add silly memes. You can have somebody draw some illustrations of your book.
In whatever the case, your book needs images. Humans are visual creatures and picture help improve the quality of your page and make your project look more professional.
Tip #9: Keep your text concise.
People on Kickstarter love to use huge blocks of text, but that is ugly to the eye. They also love to muddle their paragraphs. Remember in school where we learned how to write a paragraph?
You have a main sentence, 2–3 sentences that support the main sentence, and finally a concluding sentence that ties together everything you said. The same thing is true with paragraphs. You have a thesis paragraph with your main point, then 3–5 supporting paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph.
You don’t need much in order to get somebody to back, but it does have to make a compelling, clear, and concise case.
Tip #10: Send updates often.
Throughout the campaign you need to update your backers at least once every 3 days. The average successful projects have given more than 10 updates. These can be raffle giveaways, or stretch goal announcements, or just a great day that you had. I like to offer weekly challenges on my campaigns, so every week I upload a new video for backers.
The point is that the backers need to be involved in your campaign throughout.
Tip #11: You don’t have to do your dream project first.
If you’ve never raised money on Kickstarter before, then don’t expect to raise several thousand dollars, especially if you have no network. You are much better served doing a project you can complete and fund, even if it’s only $500 or less. Then you will have a baseline of your audience and be able to build from there.
Your goal is to get your feet wet and learn the ropes. It’s not to stress yourself out chasing an impossible goal. You have an entire career to build up to your dream project.
Tip #12: Pledge to other projects.
Kickstarter is a community, and people want to see that you are an active backer before you launch a project. Additionally, if you do back a lot of projects you can then email them during your campaign and ask them to introduce you to their audience. It might not work, but you are almost buying their time to consider your offer.
Tip #13: Consider your category carefully.
Some categories have a much more active community than others. Tech, design, and comics have very active communities. Publishing does not. You want to make sure you get a sense of the community
Tip #14: Start on a Tuesday. End on a Thursday.
Studies show that Tuesday is the best day to begin a campaign. However, Wednesday and Thursday are very close to Thursday. So much so to be within the study’s margin of error. However, Thursday is far and away the best day to end a campaign. Thursday blew all other days of the week away by a statistically significant margin.
Tip #15: Post more to social than you think necessary by a factor of 10.
Only about 3% of people see your Facebook posts. Twitter has a shelf life of 15 minutes. So the people you think you are going to annoy probably haven’t even seen your post. You need to post all the time in order to get word out about your project.
Post when people back your campaign. Post when you’ve hit a milestone. Post everything, but make sure to keep changing your imagery so it doesn’t get stale. It’s the same reason McDonald’s has 1,000 different billboards. The same image drowns into the background. People need new stimuli in order to keep engaged.
Tip #16: You need to raise 30% of your funding in the first 48 hours.
If you think you can raise $1,000, that means at least $300 needs to be raises in the first 48 in order to guarantee success. If you raise under 20% then your project will have a tough uphill battle. If you raise more than 50% it means your target was too low. 30% means you hit the nail on the head.
Tip #17: Convey the why.
Most campaigns are pretty good about describe what their product it. Some can even clearly discuss how they are going to bring it to market. Almost none convey why people should back their project or why they are uniquely qualified to bring the product to market.
The why is what makes people back, though. People are much more likely to back an unfinished product with a compelling why than a finished product that has none. The why is different for every product, but if there is no why you will suffer much fewer backers and risk your campaign not funding.
Tip #18: Bring the passion.
If you can’t show passion for your product, then nobody else will show passion either. You need to show extreme passion for your product to motivate others to get passionate about the product as well. Your passion is contagious, as is your lack of it. It needs to come through in your word, your social strategy, and definitely in your video.
Tip #19: Make sure to calculate shipping carefully.
Almost 10% of successfully funded products fail to deliver. The number one culprit in that failure is shipping. Sometimes rates go up, but sometimes it’s because stretch goals change the weight and size of the box. Still other times it’s because a product that was once media mail can no longer be shipped that way because certain incentives prevent it from being shipped in that way. Other times it can be because they didn’t properly check shipping rates to all countries, and international shipping ate into all their costs.
You need to be very careful with shipping. It can add an undue burden on the unprepared creator. However, with some planning you can make sure it doesn’t destroy your campaign and send you into debt fulfilling rewards.
Tip #20: Kickstarter takes 10% off the top.
Kickstarter takes 5% for their fees and 3–5% for all processing fees through their credit card vendor. Take this into account. Add a 10% buffer to your campaign to prevent failing to raise enough money.
Tip #21: Transparency is key.
If something is going wrong, or right, tell your backers. If you have something to say, say it. Don’t hide anything. People are very forgiving if you are honest.
Tip #22: Schedule posts before your campaign begins.
Buffer, Hootsuite, meet Edgar, Tweet Jukebox, and many others allow you to schedule a base line of social media posts before your campaign begins. You will have other things to post as well, but you want to make sure you get the bulk of your updates out of the way early so that you aren’t fretting about them when your campaign is live.
Tip #23: Double check your rewards.
You can’t change your rewards when your campaign is live. If you accidentally charge the wrong shipping price, or you need to change the tiers in any way once even one person backs, you can’t. This often leads creators to creating new tiers to try to fix what they screwed up. An ounce of preparation is priceless.
Tip #24: Give an early bird perk to your first-day backers.
The first 48 hours is critical to the success of the campaign, so reward those people who back early. It doesn’t have to be much. Maybe the first day backers get a free wallpaper, or maybe they get the digital rewards before anybody else. It doesn’t have to be much, but that little gesture will help push people over the edge to back early.
Tip #25: Make your Kickstarter campaign a spectacle.
Kickstarter is the closest thing to an online comic-con that I’ve ever seen. You should be treating it as such by offering super cool, exclusive perks, doing live chats, engaging with your fans, and giving people something they can’t get anywhere else. You could offer daily giveaways through raffles, or weekly videos.
You can do a google hangout or an AMA, but the simple fact is that Kickstarter is an event and the more you can treat it as such the more success you will have.
Tip #26: Set up a launch and close event for your campaign.
You can do this at your house, at a local comic book store, at a park, or a restaurant. The key is not to spend a bunch of money on the event, it’s to get people excited about your project. If you are an artist, you can hold a show at a local gallery.
If you are a filmmaker you can hold a trailer screening at a local theater. You should hold these events the first and last day of your campaign to help drum up the most fervent enthusiasm possible during the most crucial times of your campaign.
Tip #27: Build press relationships early.
Emailing press contacts the day your campaign launches is too late. The press may have up to a six-month lead time on getting articles into their pipeline. However, if you aren’t building your contacts well before then the press won’t even write a story about you.
You need to be fostering these contacts for months or years before you launch. Offer to do articles for them, meet them at cons, find them on social media, and treat them like humans just like you would for anybody else. The real question you need to ask is “how can I provide value in their lives?” When it’s time to email about your project, then you need to make it easy for them to publish.
Tip #28: Your backers will be mostly people you know.
No matter how many emails you send to the press or how many cold contacts you make during your campaign, most people that back your project will be people you know for months or years before the campaign launches. That means you need the biggest network of energetic friends and fans before you ever hit the launch button. Remember, you can’t be successfully on crowdfunding without a crowd.
Tip #29: Pledge levels should include rewards from all previous tiers.
You don’t want people hesitating about backing a higher tier because they don’t want to miss out on something they really wanted from a previous tier. You want it to be very easy for them to increase their pledge level.
Increasing existing pledges is a crucial part of the middle campaign lull, and any hesitation will prevent you from getting that extra pledge money.
Tip #30: Model success.
Hundreds of other campaigns have done Kickstarter better than you in the past. They’ve succeeded and failed thousands of times. Use that to your advantage. Look through them all and find the points of commonality between them. Make sure to take note of the words they use, the imagery, and the reward levels that are consistent among the highest performers. Then, you can model that in your own campaign for the highest chance of success.
Tip #31: The right title is critical for success.
With hundreds of projects to choose from, you only have a second to catch a backer’s eye. With the way that Kickstarter is set up, you basically get an image and a title to make a backer click on your link.
So you want to make sure your title is catchy AND that is uses all 60 characters to fully explain the reason somebody should click on your project. Almost all hyper successful projects use a colon after the name of their project to state what the project is about. Make sure to utilize all 60 characters in order to give yourself the best chance for success.
That’s it for our mini-season. If you liked this, please subscribe, rate, and review it wherever you download your podcasts, whether it’s Itunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or any of the other wonderful podcast aggregators out there.
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