Hi, this is Robert and I’m sharing an experience I had a few years ago launching a new company on Kickstarter…
There’s a lot of business and email marketing lessons you can learn from, as well as a few danger spots you should avoid.
Here’s a quick rundown:
I was working as a direct response copywriter and marketing consultant for a new marketing agency. Their second client was a start up luggage company.
This client had a great design and prototype for a versatile and cool piece of luggage aimed at business travelers and jet setters going on short power trips.
During the 30-day Kickstarter campaign we broke through the client’s minimum funding goal in the first 48 hours, over $43,000.
Then mid-campaign, their founder and the marketing agency founder clashed heads and the client fired us and hired a new agency.
Start ups on tight budgets and the stress of launching a new product on Kickstarter using a multi-pronged marketing campaign can make people go cuckoo.
At the end of their 30-day campaign this from-scratch-company raised $263,020 from 1,081 backers.
Here’s what happened next.
They tried to launch a second design about a year later. Unfortunately, this time their Kickstarter campaign flopped. They couldn’t even hit their minimum funding goal of $20,000. They barely got $12,000 in pledges. Fail.
In my opinion, the stark difference was because they didn’t understand how vital it is to have a strong email-list building and email-marketing game plan.
Before we continue…
What Is Kickstarter, Indiegogo, And Crowdfunding?
Here’s a brief overview of crowdfunding in case you’re not familiar with the concept.
If you need money to start a new business, you can save up, use credit cards, take a loan from your life insurance policy, borrow from friends and family, get a bank loan, or raise venture capital.
You could also use crowdfunding:
“The practice of funding a project or venture by raising money from a large number of people who each contribute a relatively small amount, typically via the Internet.”
– Oxford Dictionary
The two biggest platforms in crowdfunding are Kickstarter and Indiegogo. You can find a gigantic and enthusiastic community of individual “Backers” through these two platforms.
This community is eager to “pledge” cold-hard cash to “back” the next cool business idea, the next new hot electronic gadget, video game, leather purse, theater production, music album, even comic book. Pretty much anything you can think up.
What’s also appealing to businesses and creators is that these platforms enable you to raise the necessary funds to get your idea off the ground but you do NOT give up equity.
With crowdfunding, the only thing “backers” want in return for their money is…
- A sample of the product (in my example they got luggage at a discount off suggested retail plus a few bonuses)…
- A gift (i.e. Fund me for $15 and you’ll get this cool decal), or…
- To feel good that they helped someone with a dream (i.e. Fund me for $1 and I’ll publish your name as a producer on my short film).
** (There is now also equity-based crowdfunding, an alternative to Wall Street, but Kickstarter and Indiegogo do not offer this type.)
Some detail on the mechanics of keeping the money raised on Kickstarter and Indiegogo:
Backers first “pledge” money to back a project. If the project raises enough “pledges” to surpass their minimum funding goal, then the pledges are locked in and real money will exchange hands at the end of the campaign.
But if the project cannot raise enough “pledges” to pass their minimum funding goal, then it’s a no-go. The backers are not obligated to cough up any dough. It’s all or nothing.
There are a few slight variations to this method, but the bottom line is if you take the money, you better fulfill your obligations.
A few companies have raised millions of dollars through Kickstarter or Indiegogo, but this is very rare. And industry research suggests that 60% of campaigns fail to reach their minimum funding goal. Evenso, those who do benefit from successful campaigns roll 4, 5, or 6 figures (in my case, they raised more than a quarter million dollars) into their businesses. Not bad.
Back To Our Regularly Scheduled Broadcast – Using Email To Jet-Fuel Your Crowdfunding Campaign …
Below is a rough schematic of our 3-part email marketing campaign. Feel free to use it. Just understand that you’ll need dozens and dozens of emails, landing pages, and light boxes, press releases, articles, ads, cold emails, social media/content, and hopefully you’re A/B split testing everything that’s testable to improve your results.
I set up the marketing plan to heavily rely on email as the workhorse for the whole thing.
Step One: Pre-Launch. Squeeze Page.
Priority number one was to build our in-house email list. We wanted it as big as possible and to make sure we had the right people on the list.
In our case, we targeted people who were into fashion, liked luggage or bags, enjoyed travel, worked in sales, had a high income level, and/or were open to, or experienced with, crowdfunding.
All of our marketing efforts such as social media posts, Facebook ads, article marketing, PR, influencer marketing, SEO, and an existing but small email list (mostly personal and industry contacts) pointed to our special Kickstarter pre-launch squeeze page.
The squeeze page’s number one job was to convert visitors into email subscribers.
Everything went into building that list as big as possible and as fast as possible. The more time you have to do this, the better, especially if you have a tight advertising budget, like we did.
We also had a series of emails already loaded up. So once a subscriber joined the email list the emails went out automatically and nurtured them, building up excitement, asking them to spread the word, and announcing the all-important launch day.
As a parallel email campaign, we used a series of emails to reach out to social media influencers and ask if they would plug our product and Kickstarter campaign to their followers.
Step Two: Launch. Kickstarter Page.
Next came the main event – the launch.
We chose a 30-day campaign window. The major change in our marketing tactic during this phase was to point everything to the dedicated Kickstarter Campaign page instead of the squeeze page. This was our conversion – backers pledging real dollars.
We kept the squeeze page on ice.
To the email list built during Step One, we sent multiple emails (both automated and broadcast, depending on the situation) throughout the thirty-day campaign.
The emails included campaign updates, reiterating the benefits of the product, notifying them of limited-time or flash bonuses, asking them to spread the word, and of course, reminded them to visit the Kickstarter page and pledge their support before the deadline.
As I mentioned earlier, the client fired us mid-way through the campaign and hired a new agency. The new agency got the client access to OPL (Other People’s Lists); other people’s crowdfunder lists.
These lists were filled with people who want to get notified about new and exciting products to check out and support. People who enjoy backing cool new products, so they can own them before anyone else.
Step Three: Post-Launch. Ecommerce Page.
Finally, after the campaign ended successfully, the plan was to shift our marketing priorities and point everyone to the new e-commerce website, where customers could buy the product outside of Kickstarter’s ecosystem.
And at the same time, we continued to make email list building a priority. So the website would employ email capture boxes and light boxes to capture even more subscribers.
This would empower the client to automate long-term follow up, which would allow them to sell more bags, sell new products, ask for product reviews, and proactively generate referrals.
What’s more, this stage would also need to employ transactional emails, giving backers updates on the production and delivery schedule. And also triggered emails, such as order confirmations, cart abandonment, page abandonment, win back, and pre-programmed/pre-scheduled promotional emails.
As you can see, email marketing is the grease and workhorse of a successful Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or Crowdfunding campaign.
Backers require clear and constant messaging at each step of the process. Ignore this at your own risk.
Questions about launching your own successful crowdfunding campaign?
Let loose in the comments box below.