How to Succeed Using Kickstarter

ksScreen shot 2014-11-21 at 5.39.16 PM

*Warning: Some of the links in this post and on this site contain nudity*

by Paul Roustan November 21, 2014 read time: 13 minutes

12 Things you can do that will maximize your Kickstarter Success!


There is a myth that you can set up a kickstarter project, sit back, relax, and watch as it achieves glorious overnight success! Odds are though, if you don’t know how to do it, the opposite will happen. You may find yourself sitting on a big fat ZERO like many of the projects displayed on Kickended.

Since many Kickstarter projects fail, how do others appear to be resounding success stories? It’s pretty simple really.

It takes a solid dose of Hard Work.

I recently finished my SECOND successful kickstarter campaign. That’s two for two! Although they were both successful, I handled them differently, vastly improving the second project.

The first relied heavily on social marketing. The second relied on a WHOLE LOT MORE!

While most people may think my second kickstarter was a surprise success, in reality, I invested nearly a year of research and preparation beforehand to generate such results. The info below is a summary of all my findings.


This goes without saying: If you don’t have a good product, no one is going to want it.

Having said that, with the right copy and promotion, even some of the crappiest products have made millions. Still, wouldn’t it be better if you successfully profited from something of great value and continued to profit past its original success?

Ask your friends and family what they think of your idea? If they honestly believe you have something, go for it. It’s much easier to succeed with a good idea than a bad one. Really step outside yourself, become the viewer, and determine whether or not you really think this idea can work in the long term.

Once you have that product, the following advice WILL help you sell it.

1. Check Your Ego at the Door

[CC-BY-SA-4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Maybe you’re an artist, musician, humble tech programmer, or just someone with an honest hobby that is not motivated by money. But you have a dream, an idea, that needs money to progress.

Time to suck it up and become the entrepreneurial salesperson you never thought you were. Kickstarter is a business, and you need to approach your project with the mentality of a business person.

Leave your hangups about “selling out” or “what will people think of me?” at the door. If you want to live your dream, and need money to make that happen, shake your pride and do EXACTLY what you need to do.

Stop second guessing yourself. While you waste time doing that, I do the work that I love to do, and make a living off of it. You SHOULD too!

You know that car salesman you despise? Well, you need to develop his hustle. You can still be genuine and honest. There’s no need to swindle anyone.

Instead, you need to be able to relentlessly & shamelessly put your genuine idea out there for EVERYONE to see. The only way to do that is to hustle Hustle HUSTLE!

Until then, “Put that Coffee Down! Coffee is for closers only!”

2. Don’t be a Beggar, be a Value Maker

People don’t care about what they can do for you. They care about what you can do for them.

When someone sets up a project asking for something like, “Help me raise the money to buy a camera and take pictures like I’ve always dreamed!” That’s begging. Why in the world would anyone, especially a stranger, WANT to do this for you?

When I said, “Help me achieve the goal of making this book. A book that will blow your mind, and give you hours of entertainment!” I offer value for their support. They back the project because they want the book more than they want to help me achieve the goal.

You must create a DESIRE for someone to back your project.

My kickstarter book is presented in a way that shows the viewer:

• what the book offers (290 pages, over 300 images, tutorials and anecdotes)
• what it will help them with (being entertained, learning some of my techniques)
• AND how they can be a part of its production (even becoming an elite level sponsor getting their name in the book)

My dream of producing the book still remained, I just presented it in a way that more importantly offered value to the backer.

If the first dreamer really wants a camera, they could represent the project more about what they want to photograph, how they can organize the final photos, and offer them to the backer as a reward. This makes it more about the reward, and less about “money for whiskey.”

3. Create Powerful Headlines

3150724610_e2b0f585e3_z

By Peter Rukavina, CC 4.0 via Flickr Commons

When doing promotion, nothing is more important than the headline.

Let me reiterate:
NOTHING is more important than the headline

Before anyone can even look at your project, you need to catch his/her attention. You need to create such an irresistible draw, that they absolutely MUST find out more.

If you look through the history of Newspaper headlines, they haven’t really changed much in over a hundred years. That’s because they are tried and true effective methods for gaining a person’s attention. The same headlines apply to titles, email subjects, newsletters, blog posts, and more.

The best headlines generate: curiosity, controversy, 10 simple steps, promises to help, value

I could have written the headline:

“Buy My Big Book”

but opted for two headlines that I used interchangeably:

“Unbelievable Body Paint Photography Art Book” & “Discover the Secret World of Body Painting”

I don’t know about you, but I see a CLEAR difference in the desire to click those headlines. There are numerous posts on google that can aid you in writing good headlines. Or you can even hire copywriters for $5 on Fiverr.com to help you do that part of the work for you. If you don’t like the results, you can build on his work, or hire another copy writer for $5 to get more results. Spend a hundred on several copywriters and get more headlines than you know what to do with. One good headline is potentially worth hundreds of thousands of dollars!

I also LOVE using this HEADLINE ANALYZER to help judge the quality of my written headlines. It’s been a tremendously useful free tool.

4. Create Anticipation

Screen shot 2014-11-25 at 9.04.42 AM

There is value to announcing your project before it is available. Sending out a teaser can generate excitement. Your biggest followers may not want to miss it and may want to sign up to a mailing list to be notified as soon as it’s available.

Using a site like Prefundia is a simple way to do this. I encouraged people to sign up so that they will be guaranteed a chance to nab an “early bird backer reward.”

The biggest value of this is to generate many backers on the first day of the kickstarter. The more backers you have immediately, the more likely you will end up as a popular kicktarter project.

You can see how simple my prefundia page was here.

5. Family First

Techwood3

Library of Congress collection Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re a fan of the TV show Shark Tank, a show where entrepreneurs pitch ideas to investors (sharks), you may notice the Sharks, from time to time, ask if the entrepreneur has looked to his/her family for funding first. This is for a good reason.

When someone backs your project, it means they believe in your idea, and they believe in YOU!

If you can’t get the people closest to you to believe in your idea, believe in you, and be willing to throw some money into that belief, how can you expect a stranger to do it?

During my first project, I felt uneasy asking friends and family. In fact, I didn’t want to. I always felt like the people closest to me deserved to receive my product for free. But in reality (unless they just feel bad for you and reluctantly donate to your cause), they are more than happy to support the project. They believe in you! They are excited! They want to support. Do not deny them the right to be the first to back you. Especially if they can benefit from it in some way, like making a profit, or receiving an item that will give them pleasure. Wouldn’t you want your family to be the FIRST to have access to this opportunity?

6. Build a Mailing List

When it comes to a means of promoting & marketing your product, your e-mailing list is #1. Companies spend large sums of money on solid leads, the highest rated potential buyers of their products. If you set up a mailing list subscription on your website, events, or whatever means you can go about gaining subscribers, these people voluntarily opt into your newsletter because they believe in you, your product, and/or your work. They want to be informed of everything in your future.

Not only are they the most ready to go supporters, but they are the most easily reached people. By giving you their email address, they are willingly allowing you to instantly notify them of your happenings.

Don’t believe me? Believe the stats, the proof is in the pudding!


tally
Think of it like this. At the time of my kickstarter I had approx 500 people on my mailing list. 127 out of 500 people backed the project.

On the flipside, 3000 people on average would see my facebook or Google+ posts. I posted on those platforms every day. Let’s way under estimate and say that 10,000 people saw the social posts in a month. Facebook & Google+ combined garnered less backers than my mailing list even with 20 times the exposure.

I built my mailing list using Mailchimp and by adding mailchimp widgets on my wordpress website alongside free tutorial videos and other free things I’ve offered over the years like this. I’ve never required signing up to view the content, so my mailing list is true opt-in. Each email is hard-earned not bought. So they are very strong leads. I’ve also displayed guest books at gallery shows displaying my work.

Take a moment to categorize your mailing list. I split my list up into groups including Friends and Family, Acquaintances, Body Painters/Colleagues, & Cold Sales(people I don’t personally know). Each group received a customized email that was written in a way to generate the highest conversion rate. For example, with the family email, I wrote more personally because each person knows me. For cold emails, I prepared copy more like a sales pitch.

7. Social Networking and Relationships

Ad-tech_London_2010_(5)

By Derzsi Elekes Andor (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Social Networks are a great way to build relationships. And relationships are the finest way to generate sales. People buy from people they trust and become more than willingly spread the word.

That is not to say that you should deceivingly go about building relationships online. Most people can sense dishonesty.

Instead, enjoy yourself. Be genuine. Meet new people. Think of it like going to a party. You have the option to stand in the corner, lurk, and maybe not have that much fun. Or you can socialize and engage with other people at the party. Find out who they are, participate in their interests, comment, like, +1, share their posts. This kind of participation will generate reciprocity and support when you begin to promote your own projects.

These people will become your friends, and in some cases, your family. Like I said earlier, your friends and family are the first people you should make your pitches to. More often than not, they will be happy to oblige.

Social networks and mailing lists work hand in hand. Social networks create traffic for your website. People that become fans of your website may sign up to your mailing list. Social networks keep people loosely informed. They are yet another channel to spread info. Mailing lists give your biggest followers direct notification of the posts they may have missed on your social networks.

If you can, I would spend at least a year or two building as many relationships as possible before you even think about publicizing a kickstarter. Force yourself to interact with posts that give you even the slightest interest. You’re on facebook all of the hours a day anyway. You may as well “like” and “share” something.

Real social influencers, if they know what they’re doing, will eventually notice your consistent participation. And they will possibly reciprocate in the future if they feel what you post is worthy. If you get an influencer to share your stuff, that is excellent traffic.

Regarding your posts during a kickstarter, it all begins with the announcement of your project. On Google+, make a circle of your best relationships, and be sure to tag them on the post so they get a direct notification and don’t miss it. On facebook, consider preparing an event and inviting your best relationships.

After the announcement, you will need to post often. On some networks, two posts a day are sufficient. Too many posts will become a turn off. But you definitely want to post at least once a day.

Each post should have a strong headline, interesting content (whether it’s writing, an image, or both), and the link directly to your kickstarter. You need to make everything as easy to navigate as possible for potential backers.

Screen shot 2014-11-25 at 10.11.18 AM
On Facebook, images reign supreme. On Google+, animated gifs are king. Videos are good on both, but they don’t generate as much engagement as images. Text, by itself, doesn’t get as much notice as images.

My project lent itself well to social networking. Since my book is a photography book, I was able to pull out 30 images that I could post once a day with the link. These images would acquire new supporters and reignite the reason old supporters originally followed my work.

Social networks are the finest means to spread your project via word of mouth.

8. Have a Realistic Goal

goal

According to statistics, aiming for a $10K goal or higher is where Kickstarter projects begin to have a lower chance of success.

Make very certain you know what your project will cost, the kickstarter fees you will owe, and the cost of shipping rewards to backers.

DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE COST OF SHIPPING!

To give you an idea, the cost of shipping my first project’s rewards totaled $1000. The second ran near $2500.

Your goal should be the absolute minimum that you need to fund your project. When it exceeds that, it is just frosting on the cake. If you do it right, your kickstarter will exceed your goal by a lot. If you have a product that people want, they don’t care that you already achieved the goal. They will just continue to buy.

You definitely don’t want to get greedy, overestimate your goal, and fall short after all of your hard work. that’s just heart-breaking.

9. Rewards, Early Birds, and Stretch Goals

earlybird

Do the math and figure out how many backers at the listed reward prices will be needed to achieve your goal. They say on an average kickstarter, 300 backers is a difficult amount to achieve. Ideally, we dream to break 1000. But keep it realistic and make sure 200-300 backers can sufficiently achieve your minimum goal. Under pricing your rewards can severely hinder your totals.

With that said, the most popular pledge is generally around $40. Make your most sought after reward at least that price.

If that’s the product you are trying to sell, make it your “Early Bird Backer” price. Limit it to less than 100 available. This kind of urgency will encourage backers to back the project early. The earlier you have have backers, the more likely you will end up on “Popular” or “New and Noteworthy” Kickstarter lists on the website. This will in turn enable you to attract more kickstarter backer referrals.

I also ended up creating a “Late to the Gate Rate” after my “Early Birds” sold out. This rate was still affordable at $50, $10 less than the $60 retail price, maintaining that urgency to back.

Once you achieve your goal, I recommended creating stretch goals that offer special bonuses, gifts, or extras to backers for exceeding a new goal. This will help motivate current backers to either increase their pledge, continue spreading the word, and enable extra reason for new backers to pledge beyond the successful goal.

10. Prepare an Excellent Video

The best kickstarter pitch videos follow the K.I.S.S rule (Keep it simple, Stupid!)

They need to be as short as possible, under two minutes. They need to be as informational as possible, and they need to tell a story.

If you’re trying to sell to a stranger who you have no pre-built relationship, what can you do to get them to back your project? Along with creating a product they can’t resist, you need to tap into his/her emotions. You can do this most easily by telling your story.

You may think there is no story behind your project, but there always is. You just need to figure out how to tell it.

My story is about the ten years it took me to create the content in my book, and the success that came from it, all while people told me I couldn’t do it.

After you tell your story, describe the project and it’s benefits to the backer.

Who are you?
Are you an expert in your field? Have you demonstrated that you are fully capable to produce the product you describe? Can you describe a way that a potential backer may relate to you? Talk about yourself.

What is your idea?
Is it original? Is it appealing? Do people need it? What is it all about? explain it all.

What can the Backer get out of it?
Will this item help the backer? Can they get one of their own? If not, can they get something cool for supporting it?

Now comes the hard part. Make sure you put yourself in the video. You are your number 1 spokesperson. Kickstarter statistics show that people who talk to their camera in the video tend to have higher success rates in their projects. Show the backers how real you are and how passionate you are about the project.

DO NOT FAKE IT! Be genuine. Honesty in your passion is gold. People will sense otherwise and click away before you can say, “But wait! There’s more!”

Here is my video:
Notice I had quick cuts keeping the dialogue flowing and the video shorter. This is a proven method for keeping the viewer’s attention.

You don’t need the highest quality equipment to create an honest video. You have a complete studio in the palm of your hand using your smart phone. If you don’t have a smart phone. Get with the times. You can at the very least, use your web cam. Just make sure the lighting is clear and bright. And make sure the audio is easy to understand.

Explore Fiverr to get creative with a variety of things you can do with sound, logos, graphics, & humor.

With a little research, it is not difficult these days to produce an entertaining video.

11. Your Website is Also Your Kickstarter

All of the people and traffic currently flowing through your existing website should become very aware that you are running a Kickstarter campaign.

Change your Website to be all about your project, redirecting traffic through a call to action to your Kickstarter page.

Everything else on your website is a distraction. Remove it from the main page. Any link that would take your viewers elsewhere is a lost opportunity. Your front page should be about one thing, and one thing only… YOUR KICKSTARTER!

Put all of your promotional copy, videos, and imagery on your main web page mimicking the kickstarter. Include links directly to your kickstarter so people know where to go to back it.

This is how my website was transformed during my Kickstarter

Think about it, can you live without your regular website for 30 Days in order to generate the tens of thousands of dollars you can generate via your kickstarter project?

12. Viral Campaign

Social_Red (1)

By Daniel Tenerife (Own work) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-4.0-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

After all was said and done, I ran a viral campaign promoting my kickstarter. Making things go viral is not easy, that’s why I treat it as a bonus and not something I depend on. My personal secret for making things go viral is by using Reddit

Now, reddit ain’t easy. It is a hard boiled community of intelligent people and trolls too. There is little to no BS as far as what they accept and don’t accept. If you don’t have a thick skin, you will be eaten alive.

Your best bet to adapt and understand how it all works is to invest a few months becoming an active member of the community. I promise if you figure it all out, it is 100% worth it.

Look at it like this. They call reddit the “Front Page of the Internet”. And that’s no lie. Users up or down vote posts deciding on whether they are worthy or unworthy. If a post generates many many upvotes, it ends up on the coveted front page of Reddit.

If you achieve this, you are ALL SET!

All the major blogs you’ve ever read, at this point, scour the front page looking for proven material to post on their blogs. A day or two later, these re-written blog posts end up all over your facebook, twitter, and g+ feeds. You read the post, and then you start sharing the ones you like with your friends and followers.

Another day or two later and these posts end up in traditional media like the TV news, newspapers, or radio stations.

That’s how to make something go viral.

Figure out how to succeed on Reddit, and you’ll get stuff to go viral.

Speaking of Reddit, you can also create a Reddit IAmA. This is a great source of traffic demonstrated by Hollywood’s regular use of it as promotion. You are not allowed to promote kickstarters in an AMA, so you need to create a way to indirectly promote it.

Another way to go viral is to cut out the reddit middleman, and submit directly to blogs. This is equally as hard because bloggers must wade through countless crap submissions and may never even see yours.

But if you go this route, you need to make it as easy as possible for the blogger to adapt your story to their blog. Create a post on your website like I did for this one. Notice it has writing, video, animated gif, and pictures that the blogger could easily download and use. The headline is solid because it creates a curious challenge. And the post itself has a good wow factor. With a little luck your post can go viral like this one did.

And if it does, it will generate exposure you won’t believe.

For my specific campaign, I received a nice plug on BoingBoing. This in turn led to other blogs resharing the content as well.

The successful campaign generated an extra $2000 boost for my totals. This could be amplified depending on your product and product copy.

Bonus: My Thoughts on Paid Advertising

By American Quality Coach (1960’s ad) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

People are generally blind to ads these days. As a result, if you want to do ads, they need to be exceptionally creative to draw attention. I prefer building relationships and spreading word of mouth.

Having said that, I could not leave a single stone unturned regarding my kickstarter. So, I invested $300 in internet advertising. $300 is by no means a large amount of ad budget. Ultimately, I received little to no return on my investment.

Advertising is an art-form in itself. I either did not create good strong ads, enticing enough copy, or online advertising is simply ineffective. I imagine it was a little of each.

I believe ads are good for reminding people of your brand, and just subliminally getting your branding into peoples heads. But as far as generating conversions, I think there are better uses for your money.

Unless you have top notch ad agency skills, or high capital for advertising, I say don’t bother with facebook, google, or any other online ads. In my case, I generated less than 1% click through, and zero conversions. Most people just don’t look at them and/or they just don’t trust them.

Bonus: What to Expect As You Succeed

1. Kickstarter is a Roller Coaster Ride. Unless you achieve your goal in the first week, you will have feelings of success and failure. Backers show up in ebbs and flows. One moment you’re on top of the world, the next moment you feel impending doom.

2. Some of your backers will cancel their pledge. For various reasons, people will pull out. Nothing is more exciting than opening your email to find you have gained a new backer. Nothing is more bumming that when you see one has canceled their pledge. Be prepared to lose backers. It’s inevitable. I had maybe 15 people cancel their pledges on both kickstarter projects I ran.

3. If your project begins to show success, many people will come out of the woodworks trying to capitalize on your success. Be wary as they will make offers to get you even more success. If you decide to follow up with any of these people, do your research and make sure they can deliver on their offer. More often than not, they can’t do much for you. There will also be scammers trying to get a piece. So, be very careful. In my case, I had two people try to undercut the printing company for my book. It was very tempting, but after research I found that it would have been a risky decision.

4. A handful of your backers credit cards will fail and they will ultimately end up being canceled pledges. Some backers also take forever to fill out their individual kickstarter surveys, if at all. It makes it difficult for you to ship, if you don’t have an address.

Bonus: Don’t Sweat the Haters

200px-Angry_smiley.svg
Relentless self promotion is a part of the game. I posted my kickstarter project every single day for 30 days knowing that some people might become sick of it. I think it’s good to be creative, changing it up here and there. In my case, I posted a different image from the book every day. So, while it was constant, it was fresh and not annoyingly excessive.

NO MATTER WHAT, I POSTED EVERY SINGLE DAY.

Do not talk yourself out of making a post or promotion because you might annoy someone. You should worry more about the person who will back your project than the person who gets annoyed. If your one extra post garners that extra backer, mission accomplished. They would not have backed the project if you had not mentioned it.

In addition to that, these posts serve as reminders to procrastinating backers.

Shameless Plug

If you’ve come this far, you may as well check out
the book I produced for my kickstarter!

Don’t forget to buy a copy 🙂
I guarantee as you flip through the pages You Will… Say… WOW!