Our first ever crowdfunding campaign fell well short of our goal, raising 60% of our $100,000 goal. It was an important moment to reflect, learn - and return with a vengeance. Our second campaign went very differently. This time, when we launched the Superbook on Kickstarter, we got a much better result:
We were fully funded 10 minutes into our official campaign launch. Since then, we've raised over $1.3M for the Superbook, with nearly 3 weeks of our campaign to go.
So what did we do differently this time that helped us go from crowdfunding zeroes-to-heroes? Here are the 5 highest ROI activities we did to achieve crowdfunding success.
1. The video is everything
Of all the major decisions we made in launching our Kickstarter campaign, I can confidently say that finding a great video studio was the most important one.
For hardware products on Kickstarter, the video is everything. It's the first thing most potential backers click on when they land on your page, and in many cases, can be more important than other content in your campaign page. A good video should hook in your audience, tell your story clearly and succinctly, and give your campaign the polish of a much larger company.
We made sure that our video did just that, and saw some pretty clear results. For us, a full 60% of sessions resulted in video play. Of those who played the video, 38% watched it from start to finish--and, considering that a large number of sessions usually result in people leaving the page within seconds--the video was obviously a huge factor in keeping potential backers engaged and interested.
A great product video not only shows off your product, but also builds a compelling story around it—yet this step, while crucial, is often difficult. As founders, we invest all of our time and energy developing and improving on our respective products, making it hard to imagine what it's like for someone else to encounter it for the first time. We can make a lot of myopic assumptions that are often incorrect. This is deadly when you only have a few seconds to make a lasting impression on a large target audience.
To combat this, we worked closely with our video production team at Glass & Marker to determine how to best to tell our story in an engaging and relatable manner, all while visually showing off the Superbook in its glory. Bringing in outside experts and letting them figure out our product and how they could best tell our story for us, we were able to create a video that appealed to a larger audience—and not just to ourselves.
In addition, a great video pretty much writes the rest of your campaign page for you. Visual content is more important than anything else on your page, and if your video is beautiful, it increases the chances that your campaign will be as well. The video becomes a great source for screengrabbed images and GIFs for eye-catching visual content on your campaign page. (We also unabashedly stole lines from our video as headers for our page - why not? It was simply the best way to tell our story.)
Finally, an effectively structured video lays out an outline for how you should structure the “story” on the campaign page - because if it works for the video, it probably works for your actual written content, too:
No shame. A lot of our lines came from our video.
2. Build your mailing list
Everyone tells you this: build your mailing list.
Last time when we launched, we did not have a mailing list. We put our product out there, and then expected people to come.
That's not how the world works.
Our previous campaign opened to no fanfare. No one was waiting for it, no one cared. In fact, it wasn't until a few days after did we receive any kind of press attention - and only from very specialized niche Android publications.
This time around, we spent the 4 months leading up to our launch date preparing, building up multiple mailing lists of people interested in our product who wanted to be notified the day that it launched.
And it worked!
Comparing the first ten days of our previous campaign to our current one, you can immediately see the impact of a strong mailing list:
Of the ~$300K raised on the first day, almost half came from people on our mailing list - many of whom who were actually watching the clock for our campaign to begin, backing us mere seconds after we made our campaign live. It also helped that we had been regularly sending emails leading up to the launch, including a particularly helpful email sent 24 hours before the campaign that included a calendar reminder:
Not only did the mailing list help us meet our campaign goal in the first 10 minutes, the boost also carried us to the top of Kickstarter's most popular campaigns, which also drove a ton of secondary traffic to our campaign.
There's nothing more critical to your launch day success than your mailing list.
So how do you do it?
3. Engage the right communities
The easiest way to build your mailing list is to find the people that care about your product. For us, we were building the ultimate peripheral for Android smartphones, so our community cared a lot about Android and about gadgets.
We found our most engaging community members inside the r/Android subreddit. Reddit is an incredibly place to find communities of internet users that care about particular topics, and the Android community found our product really interesting and engaged with relevant questions, criticism, and support.
Once we had a website launched for the Superbook, I made a small post in the subreddit:
Although we were removed for not announcing at the beginning that it was our product (don't make our mistake, read the rules!), we were the #1 post for quite some time before being removed. It also led to a small wave of press that drove people to our website:
All in all, that first Reddit post and the collateral press and social sharing led to over 100K page views and 5K mailing list signups. In fact, we loved our engagement with the Reddit community so much that we also scheduled an AMA on our launch day with the r/Android community. This discussion answered a lot of detailed questions that we otherwise didn't have room to include on our page, also drove a lot of page views onto our Kickstarter campaign page.
4. Run pre-campaign Facebook ads
As one of our mentors likes to put it, you can earn users (by creating good content) or you can pay for them. We've learned that the best campaigns tend to do both. After chatting with the founders behind Pebble, Podo, and many others, it was clear that Facebook ads were the way to go.
We allocated our entire ads budget to pre-campaign ads. Not only do they provide you with traffic and signups, they also give you the opportunity to test your message. Which tag lines or images drive the best click-through rates? What value proposition provides the highest sign up rates?
For us, pre-campaign Facebook ads helped drive a total of 2,000 mailing list sign ups, and resulted in a ton more page views.
It's definitely worth spending time learning how it works and getting it right. Adspresso has a great blog post about how to effectively run Facebook ads both before and after your campaign, which is definitely worth a read. Additionally, we used a killer ad optimization platform called Clearmob, which made navigating Facebook ads a whole lot simpler.
5. Leverage your personal network
You'll often find the biggest supporters and cheerleaders for your Kickstarter campaign in your own network: your friends, peers, mentors, and advisors.
Leading up to the campaign launch day, we did a number of things to engage with our network, including Facebook posts to ask for feedback on our messaging, emails to close advisors providing progress updates and requests for help, and a “Launch Eve Party” for our friends in San Francisco.
On launch day, our network came through big. Our friends alone shared our campaign well over 100 times, reaching tens of thousands of people and driving a lot of traffic to our campaign page. By bringing people in our close personal and professional lives along for the journey, they became our biggest advocates and helped us to make our campaign a success
Launch day requires an immense amount of preparation, from videos and ads to community and personal network engagement. Nothing will replace having a product that people want, but making sure these 5 things are done correctly will ensure you have the best chance on launch day. Check out our campaign page to see it all in action. Good luck on your campaign!