If you’re looking for an easy way to propel your business forward, then Kickstarter isn’t the platform for you.
While you may have heard the maxim “the best things in life are free,” you probably also know that few things in life are truly free. This is especially true when it comes to your business or career success. So, if you want to take advantage of Kickstarter to fund your brilliant idea, you’re going to have to work pretty hard at it.
Since its explosion onto the web in 2009, Kickstarter has received more than 340,000 pitches from many a twinkly-eyed entrepreneur (or wantrepreneur). Around a third of these projects get funded—but the majority slip through the cracks or fall off the radar.
The cause of Kickstarter failure
Why do so many Kickstarter projects go unnoticed and unfunded? Because they fail to put together an awesome idea, backed up by a viable plan that catches the attention of the Kickstarter community. Not only that, their Kickstarter campaign is a bottom-of-the-barrel, barely passable attempt at seeking significant funding.
While you may be able to get your campaign approved by the Kickstarter crew, if the diagnosis from potential backers is “could do better,” your campaign won’t get a second glance.
With over a third of a million campaigns to date, it’s pretty clear: You’re not the only one looking for funding. So, here’s a tip before you upload your “acceptable” campaign to Kickstarter—don’t. Until your campaign shifts from acceptable to good or—even better—awesome, then there’s no place for you on the site.
How to create an awesome Kickstarter campaign
Make sure your product solves a problem
A lot of entrepreneurs get caught up in trying to be the next Steve Jobs or Wozniak. While it’s the very essence of entrepreneurship to push the boundaries and create, don’t waste your time trying to reinvent the wheel. Don’t try to come up with an idea so obscure that it doesn’t solve an existing problem.
Luxury headrests for passenger spaceships may be in high demand at some point in the future, but for now, you’ll need to keep it real. So, before taking your idea to Kickstarter, or any other type of investors, make sure it solves a real problem today.
Remember Joy Mangano and her Miracle Mop? As a divorced mother-of-three, you might think that Mangano would succumb to the frustration of cleaning up after small children. But instead, she devoted her spare time to designing a product that would make the thankless task of mopping less painful for everyone. The result? A net worth of $50 million and a 2015 movie with Jennifer Lawrence portraying her rags-to-riches story.
There’s nothing exciting about a mop. You don’t need a product that makes the hairs stand up on the back of your investors’ necks—you just need one that fulfills a need and will sell, backed up by a sound business proposition.
Spin a good yarn
How well you tell your story will directly affect the amount of funding you receive. The art of storytelling on Kickstarter is so important, in fact, that there is a page full of tips and ideas on their site.
Don’t get confused, though. An incredible story with a mediocre product is going to be just as unsuccessful as a killer product with a lackluster campaign.
So, here’s your chance to combine the two. Take Mamahuhu shoes and bags, who completed their first Kickstarter campaign 140 percent over target. Their leather shoes and accessories are handmade by previously unemployed artisans in Colombia. They deliver a desirable product and create jobs in a developing country at the same time.
They further tugged at the heartstrings of potential funders by posting high-quality photos of real people, showing how they live and how their lives have improved through the Kickstarter campaign.
Cubetto’s campaign was even bigger. They managed to raise more than $1,500,000 from Kickstarter backers with their compelling argument that children around the world should have early access to technology. Regardless of where they’re born and what their economic situation is, any child can learn to code from just three years old with Cubetto’s simple product. This provides real opportunities for families who may not have the resources to send their children to school or college.
Take time on your campaign
You probably already know that you should never judge a book by its cover, but I bet you do from time to time—especially in a fast-paced, information-saturated age, where a simple glance at a website or app is usually enough to make up your mind about it.
A study by Microsoft found that the average adult has an attention span of just eight seconds, so if the design of your Kickstarter page is lacking, it will be passed on.
Use high-quality images and a professional logo that makes you look like a trustworthy company that will follow through if given funding. The more details you can give, the better, so be sure to include product prototypes, mockups, and sketches. Taga Family Bikes spent two years making sketches and studying materials before taking their project to Kickstarter. They’ve now raised more than $2,500,000.
Your business may be cash strapped, but this is one time when you shouldn’t be saving money. If you need some help with your business branding or you’re not proficient at making videos, hire someone creative who can help you come up with a compelling presentation that will make it hard for potential backers to say no.
Report back often
If you want to acquire continued financing and support for your project, be sure to give regular updates and report back often. Your backers deserve to know where their money has gone and the difference it’s making to your company and the lives of the people involved.
Show them tangible results. Pictures of the successes you report are the best way to keep backers interested—and attract more supporters who want to be part of a dynamic story as it unravels.
Remember too that not all updates have to be positive; all businesses have their ups and downs. Informing your backers of misfortunes, as well as triumphs, can be equally important in forging a connection.
Mamahuhu’s store in downtown Bogota was broken into and their entire stock was stolen. Teetering on the brink of disaster, instead of deciding to shut down their business, they returned to Kickstarter and updated their backers with the sad news. They posted pictures of the devastation and informed people of the backlash this would have in the local community and the loss of jobs. The response from previous backers was amazing, and they reached 300 percent over target in just four days.
Another great example of a Kickstarter campaign that continually touches base with backers is that of Reading Rainbow, one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns of all time. They start off with a shocking statistic informing backers that one in four children in America are growing up functionally illiterate.
They then go on to say that, thanks to Kickstarter funders, the problem is being tackled. More than 16 million books have now been read over the last two years on Reading Rainbow tablets. They have achieved repeated funding thanks to their regular updates showing real results and connecting backers to the people who benefit from the funds.
Play by the rules
Check out Kickstarter’s guidelines before starting on your campaign, as you may not be eligible for funding on this platform. Some of these stipulations include working on cures for illnesses, energy drinks, or raising money for charity or political causes.
There are also some other regulations that may seem fairly obvious, but as you’re going to invest time and money in your campaign, make sure there are no references to drugs, pornography, or violence. Your campaign will be taken down if you don’t play by the rules.
So, if you’ve decided you’d like to try crowdfunding for yourself, take a leaf out of the books of these successful companies, and launch an awesome Kickstarter campaign!
If you manage it well and provide regular updates, you can use Kickstarter to kick-start your business, and also to finance new projects and ideas along the way.