Launching a Kickstarter campaign in 2016 is no simple task - especially if you are hoping to launch a successful one. The dream that someone can crowd fund thousands of dollars overnight is hardly more than a dream. A ‘KickStarter campaign’ done right can take months of entrepreneurial hard work, sweat, and tears.
So if you want to learn firsthand how a KickStarter campaign prepares to launch, manage, and closes it all out, you are in the right place. This three Article Series will feature Brent Thomas, a serial entrepreneur, and his latest project: Millennials (The Game). His Kickstarter campaign is live here.
Making The Prototype
First things first. Before setting up a KickStarter campaign, it’s important to develop a prototype. Ideas and visions rarely cut it for KickStarter’s savvy community.
For Millennials (The Game), it started by talking with the co-creator, Jack, about the irony of our own lives as millennials. We started writing our ideas down and a few minutes later we had a title & tagline around the idea that millennials don’t want normal jobs.
After playing around with some not so good ideas, we decided on a fast-paced UNO based card game. With that in mind, we set out to make a prototype deck and share it with our friends.
However, having no design skills proved to be a decent problem. We resorted to using free images on Google to convey our game idea. Ultimately, we came to the conclusion that this type of design required a professional designer, which led us to finding a pro in our very own friend, Catherine Kelly.
Gauging someone’s reaction to your game can help you decide whether to go all in or not. I have shown numerous ideas to friends and family, so I know that the quality of your idea can be gauged by the type of response it receives.
Do people have follow up questions? Do they want to know more than to wish you good luck? Do they have a genuine interest in your product? These responses can help decided whether or not it is worth pursuing further.
For Millennials (The Game), we were blown away with how positive the reaction was and has been still. People wanted more, so it became an idea worth pursuing.
Preparing To Launch
Easily the most anxiety filled and hectic time of a KickStarter campaign is preparing to launch. However great a task your launch may seem, there are always ways to plan ahead and prepare to make it a successful launch.
1. Be The MVP
Your project launch should be your baby, whether it is a personal project or one created with a group. You have seen it grow from nothing into a beautiful KickStarter campaign. So don’t let attention to detail be the reason your campaign isn’t even more successful. In today’s technology-filled world, it is more than possible to take control and learn anything from graphic design to the delivering the perfect project pitch.
In short, the single most helpful piece of advice I can offer is to download and learn Adobe Illustrator. Adobe Illustrator is the reason all of our designs and campaign infographics looks so clean and beautiful.
Having control of lettering, style, and the color schemes can be hugely important to a campaign’s success and KickStarter doesn’t provide the necessary tools to help you implement these styles. This is where a separate software tool, like Adobe Illustrator, can make a world of difference to your campaign’s appearance.
What makes Adobe Illustrator so useful is the amount of free tutorials available on the Internet. In a few short hours it’s possible to take any KickStarter campaign from good to ‘Wow! How do I back this beautiful project right now?’
Personally, I found that Youtube can be an invaluable learning tool. Not only did I learn how to create infographics and images, but I also learned how to animate at a very basic level. This is how the video for our KickStarter was created.
From end-to-end, it was a weeklong process learning to animate and the results speak for themselves. It is no secret that self-shot, interview-style videos on KickStarter can grow stale quickly.
What you can learn from this is to consider looking up tutorials online before hiring out work or deciding that certain aspects of your campaign are too challenging. In 2016, there is nearly a tutorial for everything and taking five minutes to watch and learn from that tutorial could be the difference between a failed or successful campaign.
2. Have A Role Model
When launching a KickStarter campaign it is best not to go in blind. You should be doing research about your product or similar ones. One beautiful thing about KickStarter is that thousands of creators are always launching their projects, which means your idea, while unique to you, may not be original.
Before you get discouraged, understand it is a benefit to see other similar campaigns. It allows you to see where their campaign did well and also fell short in certain areas. This is a great place to start looking for added exposure through marketing efforts.
If other campaigns were written about online or by a news source, that leaves room for your project to be featured as well. Often times, it can be written about by the same publication and even the same author.
For Millennials (The Game), we found our role model in Exploding Kittens. Not only is their tremendous success hard to ignore, but they created a very similar game to us. So we started our campaign by examining the parts of Exploding Kittens’ that we liked and didn’t like. From there, we designed our campaign with this role model in mind, looking to improve on their work anyway we could.
As mentioned, a role model helps you find the right place to focus your marketing efforts. For our new game, I began reaching out to the same authors that wrote about Exploding Kittens. While it is difficult to catch a blogger’s attention over email, it is important to reach out a few separate times offering to help generate content.
Even if you receive very few responses, keep these bloggers on a list and make sure they receive a copy of your press kit on launch day and regular updates throughout.
These relationships are key to gaining outside exposure during your campaign.
3. Set Your Funding Goal
One of the most controversial aspects of any KickStarter campaign is setting your funding goal. There are a few questions to answer before even attempting to do so. What is the bare minimum you need to raise in order to bring your project to life? How much money have similar projects raised? How much money do you ultimately hope to raise?
To me, raising the exact funding goal, while labeled a success, barely satisfies the requirement. A KickStarter campaign should always set out to exceed expectations and go at least 100% over the set funding goal. While this may seem daunting, there are a few ways to set yourself up for KickStarter success.
People rarely back projects that are not fully funded, or close to being funded.
With this in mind, set the funding goal for approximately 15-25% less than you actually need. This way, each donation counts for a larger percentage of your funding goal, and your project can appear more successful to the average person browsing. It is easy to rally around a successful cause and KickStarter is no exception.
Help your project get off the ground quickly with a low funding goal to start. You’re planning to go 100% over the funding goal anyways, right?
Another important part of your funding goal is to understand where your funds are coming from. Very few people care to back projects that are 0% funded, it is important to know where at least 10% of your funding is coming from before launching.
Rarely do things ‘just go viral’, so to do your part in gaining exposure, a project that is 10% funded on day 1 is far more likely to succeed. Keep your family, friends and everyone else in the loop so that come launch day you’re able to hit that 10% funding goal right away.
Account for every hidden fee.
When setting a funding goal, it is important to remember that KickStarter isn’t free. On average, they will take 8-10% of all your hard-earned KickStarter funds. The only way to combat this is to plan for it with your funding goal.
If a KickStarter campaigns involves a physical product, do not forget to account for shipping. Domestic shipping is fairly simple to understand and estimate pricing. However, international shipping has and will continue to be one of the most difficult aspects for KickStarter creators. Customs, delays and not to mention high costs can all cause your international backers to panic.
The best advice I can offer on shipping is to not estimate international shipping prices, but find the exact shipping costs to different parts of the world. These numbers will help ensure you don’t go over budget trying to ship your product.
If you are getting your product produced overseas do not forget to account for the import tariff into the US, which is approximately 10% of the cost of manufactured goods. This fee can eat into your funds raised and should be accounted for before launching a KickStarter Campaign.
For Millennials (The Game), we used a www.stamps.com account to find our costs of shipping both domestic and international. These numbers are what our shipping prices are based on.
4. Building A Crowd
KickStarter is a great way to raise funds and get your product off the ground. Though perhaps more useful is KickStarter’s ability to raise a crowd around your project. Every backer that your project earns is an early adopter of your product.
Early adopters have the ability to influence their friends and those around them, which makes them even more valuable than any money they pledged.
Get your crowd involved early with project updates, social media contests, and project- related activities. For Millennials (The Game), we are planning to use all these methods to further build our crowd.
In general, project updates should be sent out at least once a week, but ideally every time your campaign reaches a point of significance, such as percent funded, goal reached, stretch goals.
We will be sending at least one project update each week to keep our crowd engaged and in the loop with our campaign. Social media contests include using affiliate links, giveaways, and using sites like ‘KickBooster’. Contests are a great way to encourage your social network & loyal backers to further promote your campaign on their social networks.
We are most looking forward to raising a crowd through our stretch goals. Typically based on funds raised, stretch goals can offer incentive for backers to pledge more and spread the good word that is your project.
For Millennials (The Game), our stretch goals differ because they will be used to further build our crowd, instead of focusing on funds directly. One example of our stretch goals is having our backers take 15 photos of themselves ‘Netflix & Chilling’. As our crowd finishes more of these tasks, we will be unlocking hidden features that make both the campaign and card game even more exciting.
Having backers participate in your campaign through social media can help them to feel more connected with your campaign. Who doesn’t want to share on social media something they helped create directly?
I would love to write more about how best to gain exposure for a KickStarter campaign, but I believe that article already exists. Please see here for Tim Ferris’ article on hacking KickStarter. This is a great article covering the ins and outs of marketing your KickStarter campaign and gaining as much exposure as possible.
There are two disclaimers I would like all readers to keep in mind.
1. The first one being a hard truth: you cannot KickStart your dreams. Before launching a new campaign, there has to be a legitimate prototype worth demonstrating to people. Typically, this can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to months.
2. The second, I am writing this article before launching my campaign... this could go horribly wrong.
Brent Thomas and his business partners have launched the KickStarter campaign for Millennials (The Game).