Kickstarter is a great platform to validate a concept before you invest in development. Our goals for Pepper’s campaign were to 1) Substantiate whether people were willing to pay money to solve this problem and 2) Create an early community who were excited about contributing to the process. Our campaign achieved those objectives 470%, and we had enough validation to start the manufacturing process (and for me to quit my job!).
I am excited to see more friends launching their project on Kickstarter or starting to work on their campaign. (Shoutout to the Slant’d team for launching theirs TODAY!!) When we started out, we talked to as many successfully funded project owners as we could to learn what secret sauce they used to blow past their goals. Thank you to everyone who took our calls, shared valuable information and believed in us.
Here are the lessons we’ve learned from those conversations, resources we’ve found and examples of what worked for us — all collected into one handy launch guide. Hope it helps you in your journey!
Leads and Content Are The Top Priorities!
Brian Quach of Tree to Tub was one of the first people we chatted with and reinforced the importance of prioritization when it comes to working on the most high impact activities. (Listen to Brian’s podcast with Xero for A LOT of great tips) Everything you do should directly contribute to either creating content for your Kickstarter campaign or developing a list of quality leads BEFORE you launch.
This ended up being the formula that we used:
Drive traffic -> Capture leads -> Engage with content -> Promote your Kickstarter
I tell people we did 80% of the work before our Kickstarter went live, but then put in 120% as soon as it launched to take it to the finish line. The math doesn’t make sense, but hey starting a business isn’t rational!
We reached 100% of our goal in 10 hours, and it’s super important to have this velocity in the first 2 days because it affects your SEO within Kickstarter’s platform. 27% of our pledges came from being featured on Kickstarter’s website. A sick chicken and egg situation, but the more backers you have the beginning means the more you’ll continue getting. Get those leads!
Pre-launch sign up page – We created ours 3 months before we launched to start collecting email addresses. It was nothing fancy, but got the job done.
From this landing page, we collected 1,000 emails leading up to our launch. That’s 1,000 interested, potential backers! From this list, 13% converted into pledges* and became one of our best channels of backer contribution.
PR coverage – Talking to Ben Yelian of Maison Impeccable, who raised $156k on Kickstarter (!!), it became clear that for consumer goods to get traction you HAVE to get PR coverage.
I wrote a whole post on how we approached PR, so I won’t spend too much time here on it. I will say being featured in Huffington Post, Glamour, Allure, Bustle, DailyMail, Cosmopolitan (and more!) made a huge difference, and if you’re willing to put in the blood, sweat and tears yourself, you can get that coverage for FREE. We doubled our email list after the first press hit came out.
Friends & family – Firstly, THANK YOU to all my friends and family who contributed to the Kickstarter and shared it with their networks. Don’t underestimate the support of your tribe! I culled through all my email addresses and Facebook contacts (start now!) for anyone who might be interested in hearing from me, divided it up into different audience segments, and then loaded up into Streak where I used mail merge to automate 2 emails: The first one was 3 days before launch, and the second one was the day of. Every email and Facebook post I shared on my personal network had a custom URL with a UTM code so that pledges could be tracked. A whopping $2,400+ came directly from my friends & family! Thank you again!
Social media – We set up our social media pages 3 months before we launched, and Instagram stood out as driving crazy growth for our email subscriber list. We had about 2,000 followers in 2 months and there was incredible engagement from our community. Before we started doing press and other fancy things, Instagram was the only channel that was driving email sign ups for us — we had about 100 sign ups after the most month and half and this was all from non-advertising traffic.
Online communities – Facebook Groups, Reddit and forums are high value places to find your target customers, BUT you need to tread very carefully how you position your offering. These are sacred places and you’ll get eaten alive if you think you can just go in and post a link to you campaign (I’m emotionally scarred by Reddit now). I already participate in a couple of Facebook Groups, so they were natural places for me to share my project. More than 20 people ended up backing from the Facebook Groups! Authenticity is key — does your post fit with the goals of the group?
Product Hunt – I never used Product Hunt before, but I knew that it had the power to turn products into overnight successes. My friend Rebecca Hui of Roots Studio was a superstar for helping us get onto Product Hunt — the funny part was we both weren’t quite sure what we were doing! Pepper ended up get 437 upvotes and was featured as the SECOND MOST POPULAR of the day! This lead to almost $1,000 of pledges, even though I had low expectations since Product Hunt has a predominantly male community (yasss for men supporting women!).
Facebook ads – We were getting positive ROI from Facebook ads and gained about $2,000 in backers from our efforts, but were also very cautious about how much money we spent since we didn’t have money yet. We ended up pausing them at the tail end of the Kickstarter campaign because we realized we were already getting so many backers without spending money. The great thing about Facebook ads is that you can learn a lot without spending too much — this is definitely a channel to explore further for us.
Florence Shin and Athina Wang of COVRY gave us so much inspiration when it came to targeting a highly niche audience and not being afraid to be bold about it. Every successful Kickstarter campaign we looked at had beautiful content and aesthetic, so we put a lot our time ensuring that the messaging and visuals resonated deeply with our audience.
Video – This is super important but not important at the same time. You NEED one to look polished and to convey your story, but unless the video is going to be the core focus of your campaign, don’t spend all your dollars here. We were lucky to have Beatrice Leung of Insight Photography help us with ours along with product shots!
Product photography – I would say photography was the most important type of content for us because we didn’t have the final product yet. We did the whole campaign off of a prototype! If your product is halfbaked, make sure you show mockups, sketches or other visuals to make your project come to life and give backers the assurance that you’re on the way to fulfillment. Thank you to Beatrice Leung, Catherine Shyu, Alba Avella, Ming Luftig for helping us bring Pepper to life! I highly recommend working with people who know what they’re doing for quality images that you can feel good about using in your press kit, website, social content and everywhere else.
Branding & design – A cohesive brand and look elevates your campaign. Spend some time thinking through your message, copy style, target audience and values. This will make it way easier down the line to translate your brand strategy into creative. Emily Lordahl made the beautiful aesthetic for our Kickstarter campaign page and we got so many comments about how great it looked! Spend the time and money here to develop your brand’s unique point of view and personality.
Social media posts – Post EVERYDAY leading up to your launch! Stay at the forefront of your target audience and get them excited. Some people who are really on top of it might create a content calendar, but we were operating at such high speeds with such little resources that we took each post at a time. When we started running out of our own content, we put a call out to our community submit their #smallsquad stories as a way to listen to our followers and to connect our community together and got an overwhelming number of responses. Empowering our community is now one of our core values.
Supporting content – Brian from Tree to Tub also created cool giveaways like a e-book on the history of the soapberry. We weren’t able to develop supporting content for our campaign, but think stuff like this is golden for driving leads (a priority!). Find ways to remain relevant and interesting for your audience, and you can think of content as “reasons” to start another conversation with your followers.
Other resources I found helpful:
This is a high level overview of what we learned and what we did. Unfortunately we didn’t get to do ALL the things we wanted to do, or even find out about all the things that are possible to do. So while this is our guide, it’s far from complete. Would love to hear your lessons and tactics!
I’m also planning on diving more into specific topics and expanding on this guide. Any topics you’d like more information on? Let me know via email!
*We made the mistake of not enabling e-commerce tracking in Google Analytics until day 2 of our Kickstarter campaign launch, so these numbers are likely higher in reality since they don’t account for the crazy uptick on day 1!