After analyzing and working alongside thousands of crowdfunding campaigns, the $100,000 mark has emerged as our chief metric for success. Surpassing this threshold indicates market validation, long-term project success, and the potential for bigger business. It’s also hard to do. In fact, on Kickstarter, 98.5% of crowdfunding campaigns fail to reach the $100K mark. Interestingly—especially for hardware innovators—almost half of projects that do reach the “golden mark” fall into either the “Design” or “Technology” categories.
In other words, capturing serious crowdfunding bucks is rare, and when it does happen, it’s no fluke. A successful campaign is the result of a great project idea, expert planning and execution, and ultimately, creators playing almost every card right.
Read the 7 actionable ways to help you play your best hand and beat the odds all the way to a $100K campaign.
7 Ways to Beat The Odds and Run a $100K Crowdfunding Campaign
1. Solve a Real Problem, Well.
There are countless moving parts that need to be juggled in order for your campaign to be a success. However, the most important thing is that your product is actually great. If you’re building something, does your product solve a real problem? Have you built a strong solution? Perhaps even more importantly with a human-powered platforms, does your project evoke emotion? Does your project inspire backers to take action?
If your idea is in fact innovative, and in the words of Paul Graham, is "something people want”, decide if your product or project is suited for crowdfunding. Know what your customers want and where to find them. Some products and ideas are amazing, but won’t perform well on a crowdfunding platform. The bottom line: some target demographics—like the elderly—simply don’t go on Kickstarter.
Know who your customers are, solve a problem for them, and sell with them in mind.
2. The Double I’s: Get Scrutinized as Much as Possible.
The double I’s—incubated and invested—are a common thread in the most successful crowdfunds. The examples are countless, but include Celery all-stars like Plastc, Boosted Boards, Particle (Spark), Nomiku, and Pebble. Each of these $100k+ campaigns went through hardware incubator or accelerator programs and received investment funding. Although it’s not necessary for all fiery entrepreneurs to receive backing before they hit the crowds, the notable edge these innovations received was scrutiny.
In other words, before the most successful projects hit the crowds, they’re tested, poked, prodded, and put through the ringer. In order to be great, creators need to overcome obstacles, answer tough questions, absorb criticism, and ultimately work with others to make their products better than they ever thought possible (or necessary).
One of the most respected firing squads for hardware scrutiny is Dragon Innovation. Receiving Dragon Certification means that your project has been fully ripped apart by a team of first-class engineers who’ve performed a mechanical tear-down, assessed the project timeline, and ran countless logistical tests.
When it comes to crowdfunding projects, being scrutinized, reacting with iterations, and showcasing the best possible version of your product is key to drumming up major support.
3. Market, Market. Paid Ads, Paid Ads.
It’s been estimated that the traffic from crowdfunding marketplaces like Kickstarter and Indiegogo will only boost your sales by 5-10% (yes, even if you’re a staff pick!). In other words, in and of itself, Kickstarter or any other platform, doesn’t do the work for you. You can’t just set up a campaign, thank Kickstarter for the flood of traffic, and watch the sales roll in. In fact, doing nothing but being on a platform will likely result in crash and burn failure. You are solely responsible for generating your own traffic through marketing, paid ads, and whatever desperate and creative tactics you muster up.
As such, if you’re not an expert with paid ad channels like Adwords or Facebook, you better become one or hire someone who is. Cracking the paid acquisition code by getting cost-per-click and cost-per-impression right, is something you have to (slow voice for emphasis) invest in.
4. Communicate like a Boss
If you’re crowdfunding on a traditional platform like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, your campaign page will be a template and lack customizability. One way to stand-out and create backer confidence is to tell your story well. To do this, you’ll need to:
- Choose your best project image to headline the campaign.
- Introduce your team and showcase the relevant experience that proves you have what it takes.
- Write and rewrite your copy. Make sure your voice is clear, concise, and has some “oomph” (be funny, sassy, nerdy, playful or anything).
- Be transparent. In order to back your project, customers need to trust that eventually—even if it’s several months later—they will get their promised reward. Share blueprints, prototypes, manufacturing details, budgets etc. Give backers everything they need to support you with confidence.
- Continue to build trust by answering customer questions, comments, and emails.
5. Build a Kick-Ass Team.
Okay, so this one may seem obvious, but it’s a hard one to nail. In analyzing a series of successful hardware crowdfunding projects—like Kreyos, ZPM Espresso, and Instacube—who either folded without delivering their promised rewards or shipped years late, the detriment of having an unbalanced and inexperienced team is a constant theme.
Even though we’re talking about reaching $100K, and not blowing it after the fact, the sentiment remains the same: launching with a strong team is hugely important. This is true throughout the entire lifecycle of your crowdfund. To be successful, with or without a large team, the people driving your project forward should come with diverse skills, expertise, and knowledge. If all necessary skills are bundled into one jack-of-all-trades super-human, congrats. If your project is being propelled by a small team, please, please (don’t make me beg), have humans who are packin’ manufacturing and marketing experience. It’s one thing to make, another to sell, and visa versa.
Approach your campaign fully-loaded with a bulletproof team you can be cocky about. Share your impressive team experience on your campaign page. After all, more and more backers are doing their homework and researching project creators before pulling out their wallets. Make your impressive team experience accessible, and prove that your project needn’t be approached with caution.
6. Build a Fan Club of a Community!
Besides having a killer idea, the most important part to delivering a huge campaign, can be summed up in two parts: 1) building a loyal, excited fan-base and 2) calling upon them to back you in your first 24 hours.
The process of building a devoted online community doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, building a fan-base for your crowdfund should start months before your scheduled launch. Community-building and maintenance takes on many forms, but here are some things you should be doing: generating original blogs and/or other content, posting regularly in your social accounts, attending the events “your people” go to, and building media lists.
To dive in a little deeper, let’s touch on the less straightforward, but very effective, media list-building. To start, you'll need to identify key players in your world.
Question: If you could get 10 people to write about your project (for the greatest impact), who would they be?
Once you have a list of 10 key influencers defined, go a layer deeper. You don’t want to reach out to general contacts at VentureBeat, Entrepreneur, or Forbes. You want to start building relationships with specific reporters at the key pubs, as well as other independent influencers (like Ashton Kutcher or someone sa-weet). Next, follow those key players, and engage with the content they produce regularly. Eventually, some of the key players on your “hit list” will begin to take notice. This will allow for much warmer introductions when you’re launching and pitching to the media that matter.
7. Control What You Can (Like Timing).
Getting timing right doesn’t (only) mean waiting for the astrological stars to align, but means launching when your product is refined, when you’re community is built and raring to go, and most importantly, launching at a time that best reflects your product. A prime example of a launch that epicly failed at timing: The Coolest Cooler.
In December 2013, The Coolest was unsuccessful in reaching their $125,000 target on Kickstarter. Six months later, the same project went on to raise $13M. Marguerite Svendsen of the Coolest Cooler, explained their second success as the result of, "Better design and better timing...People are interested in purchasing something in the season they would actually use it".
Look to your customers and similar products, as well as appeal to common sense to make the right moves.
Now You’re Ready to Take Pre-Orders.
After you’ve crushed your $100K crowdfunding goal, it’s time to leverage campaign inertia and capture more orders. Continue the momentum by riding the wave you’ve built.
By setting up pre-order on Celery, you can continue to accept pre-orders from the moment your campaign ends until you’re ready to ship. Based on past data from hundreds of alumni, continuing pre-orders on your own website will generate sales reflective of about 10% of your campaign total (in approximately 3 months). The 10% benchmark is also low and represents post-crowdfunders that do not advertise, optimize their checkout, retarget, or remarket.
In other words, post-campaign sales are there for the taking, and like everything in crowdfunding, it’s up to you to make the most out of it.
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