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How to successfully crowdfund your project on kickstarter

kickstarter job creation header copy
Image used with permission by copyright holder
Truth be told, we never saw it coming. Those under-the-radar projects — i.e. Potato Salad and the cybermatrix 100 tu01 — that blow up on Kickstarter in a matter of days, occasionally garnering more in pledges than you might hope to earn in your entire life. The prominent crowdfunding platform has been generating quite buzz given widely-successful projects like Neil Young’s PonoPlayer and a tricked-out cooler, the latter of which has gone on to become the highest-funded Kickstarter project in history despite a modest $50,000 goal. Although there may not be any single, one reason that determines whether a Kickstarter campaign becomes successful or comes up short, there are certainly pivotal aspects of the campaign process that tend to be overlooked. However, just about anyone can succeed under the right circumstances… that is… so long as they know what they’re doing. Here’s our guide to crafting a successful Kickstarter campaign, from growing your fledging idea to launching your project and providing incremental updates.

Related: The 10 worst Kickstarter projects ever

Step 1: Research other Kickstarter projects

Believe it or not, every successful Kickstarter project remains indexed for quick reference after reaching its funding goal. Consider perusing some of the successful campaign listed below to get a better idea of what kind of products and services typically meet their during goal. Perhaps, try contacting members of successful projects using the “contact me”  icon on the right-hand side of the page for advice. It’s possible creators of similar projects may even want to lend a hand in your next endeavor.

Step 2: Back other Kickstarter projects

While by no means a necessity, becoming a backer of someone else’s project will give you a better sense of what works and what doesn’t. There are  obvious benefits to backing other projects, the most notable being you’ll be able to gain the valuable perspective of your potential backers, which will then help you anticipate their needs when you launch your campaign. Moreover, backing other projects will provide you with a sense of what kind of effects pitch videos, rewards, updates, and other Kickstarter facets have on you as a consumer.

Related: How to make money online

Step 3: Tell your story and that of your product

Okay, so the word “story” is pretty much just a buzz word these days. Even so, you need to communicate what exactly you want to create with the help of Kickstarter. The scope of your project should be easily understood, detailed within your project goals and that of your team. You’re attempting to sell yourself alongside your product or service, so you want to give your backers reason to support you and your supposed vision. High-quality videos, whether filmed on a dedicated camcorder or simply your smartphone, or key to an effective pitch.

Lead with who you are and how your project is a solution to a real problem, then lay out the features and details that set you apart from your potential competitors within the field. Include behind-the-scenes photos and videos of the product if available, or use the video as an opportunity to introduce your team. Many backers simply want your idea to succeed — even they don’t necessarily receive anything in return. It’s not all business.

Step 4: Set deadlines and a time frame

Although Kickstarter allows your campaign to run from one to 60 days, the projects shown to have the highest success rates typically run for 30 days or less. Projects on a shorter deadline typically give backers more confidence in your ability to execute the task at hand, encouraging them to back your idea. Put together a timeline outlining the start and finish of your project, but remember, Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing format means you won’t see any money until after your project has been successfully funded.

Sense sleep-tracker
The team behind the sleep-tracking Sense provided a simple time line indicating its projecting goals, noting when it would ship the first rewards and the final product. Image used with permission by copyright holder

Step 5: Choose the right funding goal

As you might expect, setting the right funding goal is key to creating a successful Kickstarter campaign. There’s not necessarily a sweet spot per say when it comes to price, but you also want to choose an amount that’s within reach and reflects your actual budget. For instance, there’s no reason to sent an outrageous goal of $2 million when you simply intend to publish a short run of your latest chidren’s book.

Take the time to properly break down the projected cost of each aspect of your project on your page (i.e. production, packaging, manufacturing), briefly detailing how you intend to go about each step and limiting your funding goal to no more than you need. Doing so will show your potential backers that you’ve thoroughly researched your campaign and have somewhat an idea of what you’re doing. Also, keep in mind Kickstarter takes 5 percent of the money you raise and Amazom’s credit card processing fee takes out somewhere between 3 and 5 percent of the final funding amount.

Step 6: Offer plenty low-pledge rewards

We know you want to entice bigger pledges with more lucrative rewards, but Kickstarter has gone on record to say the most popular pledge goal is a mere $25, with the overall pledge average hovering around $70. That said, you want to fill your rewards system with a bevy of low-cost rewards in addition to more expensive offerings so even the most stringy of backers can afford to donate to your cause. The lowest tiers might seem insignificant — and in many cases they are — but you still want to offer the options. People who would normally donate $25 for an album probably aren’t going to pledge a $1,000 for a one-on-one dinner with you just because the low-level rewards are no longer available. Don’t offer a huge array of rewards and keep the structuring process simple, and remember, the rewards are often related to the project. Get creative.

Typhoon Kickstarter Campaign
Renowned Portland band Typhoon offered a melange of notable rewards for their campaign, including everything from a simple thanks to a vinyl copy of the band’s latest album. Image used with permission by copyright holder

Step 7: Highlight the risks and challenges

To the best of your capability, stay true to Kickstarter’s emphasis on transparency. Posting every potential challenge or setback directly on your project page will likely help, not hinder, your backing. If haven’t even made prototypes of the product, make sure to mention that so backers can anticipate and prepare for potential setbacks. If you’re experiencing production delays, mention that to your backers. No one wants to be kept in the dark when there’s money on the line.

Coolest Cooler
Creator Ryan Grepper was transparent from the get-go with the Coolest Cooler, highlighting the potential delay with creating molds and finding an appropriate manufacturer. Image used with permission by copyright holder

Step 8: Spread the word beforehand

Although you undoubtedly want to take to the pages of Facebook and Twitter once your Kickstarter project goes live, take the time to generate buzz regarding your project even before the initial launch. Talk to your family and friends, co-workers and peers, and blogs that may cover such a project. Then, ask them to share the project with people they know to grow your supporter base even before you actually get started. There are third-party sites (i.e.Prefundia) that offer marketing tools for your project, many of which allow users to make a free “coming-soon” pages to further generate buzz before projects go live. After all, Kickstarter claims 80 percent of projects that raise more than 20 percent of their goal surpass their desired funding amount.

Veronica Mars Kickstarter
‘Veronica Mars,’ a feature-length film based on the cult series of the same name, remains an excellent example of how to properly build hype before pushing a project live. Image used with permission by copyright holder

Step 9: Stay involved

Your involvement in your Kickstarter campaign doesn’t start when your project on goes live — quite the contrary, actually. You’ll have to develop correspondence with your backers, keeping them in the production loop as you would any other investor. Post frequent and brief updates regarding the state of your production — i.e. setbacks and stretch goals — and encourage your backers to share the project with others. Remember, they’ve backed the project, it’s likely they’ll want to see it through completion. They also don’t often mind setbacks as long as they know what’s going on.

Additionally, give shout-outs to specific backers via the usual social media channels, answer questions, update your project rewards, and add new photos and information to your page as things proceed. Don’t spam your backers with messages and remember every backer is different. Tailor your group messages for different subgroups and demographics, always reiterating how the service or product is going to be most useful for them. Then, follow up as necessary.

Might No. 9 Kickstarter
Keiji Inafune’s ‘Might No. 9,’ a Mega Man-like game, offered more than 25 key updates throughout its Kickstarter career. Image used with permission by copyright holder

Step 10: Stick to your time frame

So, you’ve successfully funded your campaign. Congratulations! However, you might want to skip the jello shots since garnering the necessary funds is only the first step. Holding up your side of the bargain will likely be the most trying part of this experience, with the months just following funding being the most strenuous and complex portion of many Kickstarter campaigns. That said, utilizing Kickstarter’s survey tool is a good starting spot as it easily allows you to send products to your backers. You’ll also receive a “backer report” that’ll help keep all that data organized.

Above all, stay organized and try to stay on schedule. Of course, the more “transparent” your project is, the more understandable your backers will likely be when it comes to delays and speed bumps. Chronical your progress on your project page, including your plans to ship rewards and any surveys that need to be completed. It’s not a “project” without a little work.

DT writers Joe Donovan and Brandon Widder contributed to this post.

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