What I learned on my Kickstarter campaign

Tonic was not the first Kickstarter campaign I worked on, however it was the first I executed A-to-Z entirely by myself. It’s not a point of pride, because I recognize that there are many things which I am far from the best at. I would have loved to hire people to help with the design, video, and some research. I did it myself jsut to keep costs low.

All in all, the campaign cost about $500. This includes samples, some video equipment, props, and hosting. I took $10k in preorders in 30 days. Here are the biggest things I learned and how I would do things differently.

1) Plan the messaging better. Smarter people than me say that you need to build the marketing into your product. You have the Kickstarter headline, the video storyboard, the copy outline, the main benefits and talking points, and the marketing plan all done BEFORE you begin developing the actual product. This is hard and it requires more restraint, strategic thought, and clarity than I sometimes feel capable of. I didn’t do enough of this, so the result was that I spend way too much time and effort writing the copy, trashing it, and then rewriting it 5 times before I settled on a final draft. I did the same thing with the video and it cost valuable time.

2) Invest in a DSLR and learn how to use it. Some people will say that you can use your phone for video and photos no problem. I think these people are wrong. In 2015, as Kickstarter gets more and more professional, it’s getting more common for projects to spent a few thousand dollars to hire a professional videographer. Even if you’re filming it yourself, you need a dedicated camera because everyone is already using one. You do not want to stand out for having low video quality.

3) Build an audience before you need it. This is something I actually did, but I would have spend more time on if I had realized how effective it would be. Before launch I had a small email list which I built by giving away a free PDF version of my product. This list accounted for 80% of my pledges in the first 2 days, pushing me over the minimum requirement quicker than I ever could have. It’s a classic “permission asset” made up of with responsive and interested fans. Whether it’s email or something else, you need to have some of these people before you launch.

4) Relax. Don’t forget one of the biggest benefits of using Kickstarter: It’s a way to test your market. The costs of failing on Kickstarter are severely lower than they would be in any other instance. Be responsibile and put in the work, but be receptive to feedback and the possibility that nobody’s buying what you’re selling.

5) Have a post-Kickstarter plan. It boggles my mind that people run a Kickstarter campaign, and then once it expires their project page links to a website with a big “Coming Soon” banner. Don’t do this. You’re missing out on traffic and sales. You’re throwing money away because you couldn’t set up a basic single-product Shopify site the night before. Come on.

6) Pre-write emails. Do you have certain PR contacts, friends, or influencers who you KNOW you want to pitch or notify? Write these emails in advance. Especially if you have a full-time job and you’re doing this in the evenings. The first few days of a caompaign set the pace, and you need to hit the ground running. Save them as drafts a week before and send them when you’re live.

7) Contact Kickstarter and try to get a staff pick. Contact stories@kickstarter.com and tell them why you’re a great campaign that deserves to be featured. I got featured as a “Staff Pick” and it helped, although the holy grail is to be featured in the email newsletter. It’s easy and worth a shot.

8) Schedule your time. If you don’t, you’ll lost control of your hours and you will burn out. This is true generally, but it’s especially true for a hyper-focused event like a Kickstarter launch. Pace yourself. If it means working your day job, running home, microwaving dinner, petting the dog, and then working from 7 – 12, that’s fine. But make sure you’re in bed when you said you’d be in bed. Don’t confuse activity with results.

I’m sure there are plenty of other things I’ve learned, but these are what come to mind right now.