So, you’ve decided that Kickstarter is right for you, and you’ve expanded your horizons for ways to broadcast the message for your Kickstarter. Now you might be thinking:
What makes a successful Kickstarter campaign?
From what I can see, Kickstarters generally succeed for one of four reasons (though the list is certainly not exhaustive):
- The campaign focuses on a small, achievable funding target that outlines an easy-to-comprehend need and doesn’t require much capital to succeed
- The people behind the campaign have an idea that is revolutionary… or they have a highly-coveted product that they offer as a reward for a pledge that is drastically under-priced compared to what the retail price will be in the future (creating the sense that there is a high return for investing in this product at an early stage)
- The campaign or project is centered around a well-known person who can easily rally social support through their existing social media networks
- The campaign team spends a lot of time and energy expanding awareness of their project across multiple channels, leveraging personal connections, social media, traditional marketing, press releases, and press opportunities both before and throughout the life of the campaign
Most of us probably don’t have a huge audience yet (though it pays to try to build one up before you do a Kickstarter). And unless you are a well-known musician or in product/fashion design and have an audience ready and waiting for what you’ve got to offer, you might find yourself needing to be scrappy to get your funding targets met. Sure, scenario #4 probably applies to people who fall under #1-#3, but if you don’t have #1-#3 going for you, then you really have to lean into using all your marketing resources to achieve your aims.
My team is promoting a documentary. Naturally, the impact of the story we are trying to tell, the quality of the team that we have assembled, and the beautiful way that Cynthia and Juvie illustrated the film’s concept are all keys toward communicating that this is a project worth contributing to. But let’s face it—we are competing against hundreds of other quality documentaries who are also seeking funds through Kickstarter, and a film is not something that affords any obviously radical awards that can attract people on their own flash and dazzle.
We had to get creative to come up with some unique rewards, and use those awards to create a personal connection with our contributors. However, persistence has been the biggest key to date, and I imagine that this is true for most projects. Creativity, consistency, and dedication are absolute necessities for anyone to succeed in Kickstarter funding. Good thing we have the wonderful tools of social media and on-line networking to help spread the word and make our jobs easier!
Dedication to the campaign
I have heard a number of stories about people who took the month off to focus on funding their Kickstarter, or at least had to put aside all of their free time toward the effort of keeping the buzz going. You have to be dedicated and ready to release regular updates, or you’ll lose the interest of your audience. People pay attention to things like number of updates over the life of the Kickstarter when contributing, and regular conversation around your project helps people to maintain awareness of your campaign (also, lower numbers of updates could communicate a lack of commitment to the project, and you want to make sure to get across the passion you have for achieving your target).
You also can’t be afraid to keep promoting your campaign in your personal channels, to ask friends to help, or to contact people who can spread your message more widely. You can do it in friendly ways, by offering special rewards to people who contribute by a certain time, are the 25th or 100th contributor, or periods of time where you give higher-level rewards to lower-level contributions. We did a few of these on our Kickstarter, offering $30 level rewards to people who contributed $20 on a certain day.
Consistency in social engagement
One thing I consistently hear is that people worry so much about annoying the people in their social circles through regular updates, and this can cause them to hold back at a time when they really need to keep reminding people about their efforts. During our Kickstarter, I asked friends, “Are my posts annoying you? Be honest.” I was happy when they replied, “Absolutely not!” Most everyone was excited to see my progress and feel a part of the journey. And they universally agreed that it was necessary in order to get to the goal.
So don’t be afraid to talk about your project… If you are sincerely excited and treat it as an opportunity to share your enthusiasm about your vision, people will be glad to tag along for the ride. And as the finish line draws closer, you might be amazed to see friends and colleagues rally around your project to spread the word… Especially if you are bold enough to keep asking.
Creative content and outreach
Keep coming up with content related to your Kickstarter to keep people engaged without simply spamming them with money requests. We had lots of goodies to share over the life of our project, like logo designs, interviews, project news, and video samples. The more goodies like this that you can build up before you start, the better. (And the less exhausted you will be during the campaign itself.) Also, don’t be afraid to add new rewards to different contribution levels as you go, especially if ideas organically come up over the life of the project. There are no people better than your Kickstarter tribe to reveal the things your audience is really jonesing to receive for their pledge.
Contact web sites with related subject matter to your project. The leaders of our project contacted a few derby-related sites with information about the project and landed an article as well as a podcast. Derby-related Facebook groups and pages followed us, and some of their owners promoted the project in their social media venues.
Facebook pages, likes, and ads
Don’t forget to create a Facebook page for your project. This helps you develop a community of people who will follow your journey toward funding. You can use Facebook ads in a number of ways to expand awareness of your project… Try creating an ad to promote the Kickstarter and another to promote your Facebook page, and don’t be afraid to experiment with titles, descriptions, imagery, and demographics. (We got around 500 likes on our page from the ad by targeting derby fans and derby aficionados in Mexico, and if we had done it before the campaign we would have had more people on board and ready to support us from day one. Whenever someone likes the page through our ad, we get a double bonus: they can easily follow the project, and if their friends see that they liked the ad, then they will be more likely to follow along, as well.)
Unless you purchase subscriptions with sites designed to help track return on investment between FB ads and Kickstarter, you won’t know exactly what gains you get from the Kickstarter-focused ad… I think we got at least a couple of people supporting through this effort, and it definitely paid for itself. I will talk more about what I learned about Facebook ads in a later post, but in summary, you should definitely consider making Facebook ads a part of your arsenal.
Print promotions (and connecting them to your social media efforts)
It doesn’t hurt to create print materials to promote your Kickstarter and leave them around town right at the start of the campaign. Make sure you leave your materials in places relevant to your topic. I didn’t get many returns on our postcard endeavor (we handed out couple hundred of them at a derby bout), but I imagine that the results you get will be heavily dependent on the type of project you are running. Try fliers and postcards, and be sure to include a QR code so that people can quickly go to your page if they see it on the go.
Another suggestion for which print assets would be helpful is if you set up a table at any relevant events where you can discuss your project with people 1-on-1 and make an in-person connection. (If you have a laptop handy you can let them contribute right then or there, or you can take cash contributions and work with a friend to turn this into Kickstarter cash.) I’ll share some tips later about ways to optimize your print materials for your campaign.
When generating promo materials and rewards for supporters, make sure you consider the return on each investment. Don’t set yourself up to owe more in rewards or marketing than you make on your Kickstarter campaign. And try dipping your toe in the water of any new materials you put out. If you aren’t sure if a postcard will work for your promotion, start out by trying a few fliers from your color printer first, and track the results of those before expanding.
Tap the tribes of thought leaders
The most results you will get are by finding connections with notable people in your area of interest and getting their help to promote your project. If you aren’t widely known, getting the assistance of better-known people and tapping into their circle of followers is the best way to push your effort forward. Consider offering a favor or special reward in return for their help. Just make sure your ask is relevant to their focus, and that you quickly get to the point on your ask. Anything that makes them feel like they’ve just been spammed is going to hurt your effort more than help it. And they are likely very busy people, so make sure you don’t waste their time.
In short, be bold and experimental! Get ready to work your toosh off and make new friends! And if you don’t make it on the first try, don’t worry… There is an art to creating a successful Kickstarter campaign, and there are lots of stories out there from successful campaigns about the many false starts that preceded amazing victories.
Stay tuned for my upcoming posts on Facebook ads and optimizing print promotions to integrate seamlessly with your web marketing.
CHECK OUT MY CURRENT KICKSTARTER: THE PORTLAND TAROT!