As the current Cadillac ad points out, a number of great American businesses and artists started in a garage. That trend has been boosted thanks to crowdfunding.
Last year alone, nearly 20,000 projects were funded through Kickstarter and more than three million people pledged a combined $480 million. But it’s more than a funding source. Kickstarter is an enormous, virtual garage, an incubator where companies, movies and music get off the ground.
Take Pono, Neil Young’s new music download service and player. While a millionaire music legend could finance such a project himself, Kickstarter let him create a community of believers and advocates. Our client Boston Boot Company also recognized that Kickstarter’s value went beyond money. Sure, the capital is key to getting off the ground. But Boston Boot’s founders also saw it as a venue to share their vision and generate interest. They set out to build a new way to craft men’s leather boots, where they could blend style and comfort at a reasonable price point.
But with 57 percent of all Kickstarter projects failing to meet their goals, the challenge was clear. For Boston Boot, we needed to convey why this line of boots was different than, say, Timberland or Frye. Here are five key learnings from our campaign.
- Be realistic about the money. Since it’s all or nothing with Kickstarter, set your goal wisely. It should be based on what you need and what you think the market will bear. Boston Boot’s goal was a reasonable $25,000. When the 30-day campaign was done, the founders ended with nearly $250,000 from close to 1,600 backers. They sold 2,000 pairs of boots and the company was launched. But be careful. That amount of money raised is not the norm. Most successful campaigns raise less than $10,000.
- Press Play. You need a killer video to tell your story. Projects that use video have a 20% better chance at meeting goal, according to Kickstarter. This is your one chance to tell your story, and while it doesn’t need to be overly produced it can’t feel cobbed together. Your idea is important but I also want to hear who you are, why you’re doing this and how you’ve planned for success. The video is a reflection of your seriousness about the project and readiness to pull it off. Storytelling in two minutes is not always easy but try to keep it tight. Make it personal and entertaining. And while a graphic identity is ideal a clear message is mandatory. Finally, make sure the video has energy so you get me excited to be a part of your venture.
- Leverage your social network. Your friends and family are on social media. Start with them before you go wide with your ask. Email them, talk to them in person, call them. Let them know one-on-one what this means to you. Post the video on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter with a link to your page. Let them in the door early to create support and ask them to share that support with their own social networks. It will spread. If this all works you will leave the Kickstarter nest and be on your own. Prepare for that point by building your own social media channels. Use them to not only build your community but keep them engaged with updates, images and other relevant content.
- Amplify through PR. At CTP, we believe strongly in influencing the influencer. That means finding the people with credibility and sway with your audience, whether it is a fashion blogger or a tech analyst. Identify and target those who can reach and persuade your audience. Tell them your story, let them sample the prototype, show them something they care about. Create unique media angles to tell your story. For Boston Boot, we told the story through a range of outlets, from hyperlocal in the hometown of the founders to broader Boston media and fashion and lifestyle bloggers.
- Respond to supporters … and detractors. Not everyone will be a fan of your idea or your approach. You need to be engaged with those who show early interest, the very people who will either praise your virtues and share their excitement or ask critical questions, maybe even criticize your product or your vision. Don’t get sidetracked by the trolls but, at the same time, be responsive to those with real questions or legitimate concerns. Identify in advance the questions and create an FAQ sheet. Regardless of their position, have a conversation with as many of them as possible. Don’t get offended or angry. Simply provide your perspective. This is where either evangalists are born or ideas implode. The former is much more attractive.
Kickstarter is more than a place to ask for money. It’s where you establish a brand, begin a conversation and bring an idea to life. Do it well and you’ve built a foundation and generated momentum for your business. You may even move out of the garage.