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How to Host a Successful Crowdfunding Campaign, Part One

Thinking of pursuing some crowdfunding for a new product line, collection, big collaboration, book, or project? Amelia Bartlett shares her tips for building a successful crowdfunding campaign, regardless of your end goals. Even if you don’t want to pursue crowdfunding, you’ll learn about business plans and structuring budgets in this informative piece.

Hosting a Kickstarter campaign is akin to your business receiving funding from a lender or investment organizations - you’re asked to present your work, your team, and your plan. The platform makes it incredibly straightforward to set up and display your project attractively. However, the amount of planning and creation that goes into a Kickstarter campaign can be daunting and overlooked in lieu of just going for it.

I want to see your Kickstarter surpass it’s goal. Utilize this list, garnered from a number of unsuccessful and successful Kickstarter experiences, to plan your campaign far ahead of its launch date.

“If I had five minutes to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first three sharpening my axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

Start with a business plan.  

Business plans are stuffy, long, require lots of math, and can be quite redundant. My favorite is the Business Model Canvas, which can be drawn and completed on one big piece of paper. Or, and this is my favorite way, drawn and redrawn over again on an erasable white board. By starting with a business plan, you’re starting with a road map to success. I promise it’s worth it.

If you don’t feel confident venturing into business planning on your own, do an internet search for the nearest community Entrepreneurship center. These organizations typically provide free business counseling or classes and can help you form your plan of action within a few meetings.

Know your pitfalls and points-of-failure before they happen, and plan to solve problems that arise.

Blindspots, pitfalls, and problems are inevitable. When I ran my first unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign for a self-published magazine, I couldn’t have perceived that I’d be traveling in Brazil during the biggest, spontaneous opportunity for marketing and that my printer would deliver 50 books whose bindings broke immediately upon opening the product, claiming this wasn’t their problem.

Inside your project dashboard is a place to list potential points of failure called Risks and Challenges. It doesn’t feel great to share your shortcoming with potential customers, but on Kickstarter, your customers are also your investors. They want to know that their money will be well-utilized and that the team in which they are investing is confident and agile.

Ask yourself, what could go wrong in these areas?

  • During your project funding period - what if your marketing doesn’t work as intended, your collaborators fall through, or your production timeline changes? 
  • Product production, packaging and delivery.
  • Team conflict or difficulty making deadlines, especially if your team is nationally or globally distributed. 
  • Legal, licensing, and logistical activities. 

To fully understand all possible points of failure, list each moving piece in your organization, your supply chain, and your accountable partners. Know how each piece functions and how each piece could break. Prepare your team for inevitable hiccups and outline briefly and confidently the top 3 - 5 that will impact your customers with a pre-plan for how to overcome the challenge.

Understand your complete financial landscape before establishing your Kickstarter budget.

Whether your aim is to sell self-published comic books or launch a six-figure-valued clothing line, understanding the financial landscape before you’re set to launch is key. The funding goal is the target amount for which we’re solving, and understanding how each working piece will weigh into that total will take a bit of math (and showing your work).

Here’s a list of expenses to keep in mind: 

  • Salary for yourself and your team. I wouldn’t suggest running your Kickstarter for free. The best teams are the ones that are completely focused on their business, and setting yourself up for post-funding success is key. How much will you and your team need to fulfill each of your post-funding promises? What is the timeline on those post-funding promises and how much will you need for the duration of that timeline, until you’re selling on your own?
  • Costs of: Production, marketing collateral creation, social media advertising, returns and production gaps. These are your general business expenses, but more importantly is the timeline on which you budget. Know your timeline for the campaign (30 - 60 days), your production season (which is the first date post-funding to the last date of initial product delivery), production season two planning and development, and the cost of producing your second ‘season’ or round of products for your cultivated market.
  • Taxes, which vary in rate by location but are completely necessary to prepare for with Kickstarter. Your Kickstarter earnings are taxes, so be sure you’re utilizing the money appropriately with a business bank account, an accounting software, and keeping your receipts for end-of-year filing ease.

Create rewards your community will love.

At this point, it’s imperative to know your community. Your community is the group of early-adopters who will see your campaign, know who you or your brand are already, and be the first to support you. They are your inner circle. Brainstorm a long, far-reaching list of what this inner circle would value from you.

It’s common for Kickstarter campaigns to offer their products as rewards, and this is a great strategy for those sharing products. Additionally, and especially if your products come at a high price-point, developing rewards that allow a low-cost entry point will help generate even more buzz as your campaign grows. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Stickers that represent your brand, your products, or most effectively, your mission. Your mission is the collective understanding between your brand and its followers, what you are both committed to creating.
  • Graphically-branded or decorated swag such as tee shirts and tote bags. Most of us are pretty over the lame, throw-away cheap swag we get loaded with at conventions, so choose items that are useful and worth enjoying over time.
  • A personal mention in a plaque, printed brochure or book, or on the “Sponsors” page at your website. This is warm-and-fuzzy option for aunts and uncles, friends of friends who will throw $5 - $15 dollars at your idea, and for folks who are unsure yet if they want to dive into your brand.

Create the imperative elements of an engaging Kickstarter campaign:

What made Kickstarter special from the beginning is its storytelling-focused platform. Inside the campaign setup page, you’re prompted to upload videos, media, quotes, and various engaging pieces of content to drive-home the message of your brand. Consider these elements to be your commercial, your press-release, and the foundation of your marketing.

Create your content once, repurpose extensively.

Connect with talented, brand-aligned media creators and plan your content.

Boulder Denim did this stupendously with their video, photos, graphic design, and layout of their project page. Which none of what they have created requires a massive video studio or huge design budget - most of the photos were taken in spaces the team had access to utilizing the talent and gear of friends - their attention to detail paid of in an 800% funding of their $15,000 goal.

Here’s a checklist for your project page, and be sure to add anything you believe to be additionally necessary:

  • Place your product in the environment in which you hope your ideal customer with maximize their enjoyment of the product.
  • Capture angles that allow the viewer to place themselves in the shoes of the subject.
  • Utilize an application like VSCO (for iPhone or Android) or Adobe Lightroom to process the photos with consistent color-correction and brand-themed ‘filter.’ Uniformity breeds trust
  • Graphics that illustrate the use, features, and specifics of your product. This can include sizing charts, fit guides, content or context breakdowns, and illustrations that further your brand storytelling.
  • Stellar layout of your media and written content. Go through Kickstarter campaigns that have passed and reached their goal and take notes on project page elements you find impactful and that would fit your brand. Picture collages, certain graphics, paragraph styles, lists. You’re designing a user experience the same way one might design a landing page, so create a pathway that leads them to fall in love with your project.
  • Quality brand video that outlines your Why (mission), how (method of production/creation + team), and what (product), preferably in that order. This can easily be done on an iPhone utilizing iMovie.
  • High-quality (non-blurry, grainy, or poorly-lit) photos of your product, team, and brand. How does one photograph a brand? 

Be sure to get at least two additional pairs of eyes, preferably from entirely different demographics and interest-groups to look over your profile and provide feedback.

Not all feedback needs to be taken and acted upon, but having outsiders experience your storytelling can help eliminate blind spots and missed opportunities before you launch.

Next, get your Kickstarter campaign seen–we’ll outline this in the next post in this two-part blog series.

Amelia Bartlett is a new knitter, long-time crocheter, and enthusiastic writer, entrepreneur, and photographer. You can follow her through her website, Instagram, and on Steemit, where she shares a variety of content on everything from woman-run business practices to hand-blended teas!

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