Thoughts on Kickstarter

It might seem strange to post about making a successful Kickstarter having never actually run one but I think I’ve picked up a few tips and ideas that might help me get there eventually.

Priorities:
I guess the first question is what your goal is? This may seem obvious but you have two tasks with a Kickstarter, making your project and keeping backers happy. They are not the same thing. If you try to keep your backers happy at the expense of your project failing then clearly your priority was wrong.

Example: I launch a campaign and need something to fill my $25 reward slot, so like many, many people I offer a t-shirt. A month later my project is funded and I eventually send out the t-shirts since they’re the easiest thing to fulfil. However five months later I run out of money and cancel the project. So people have a t-shirt that is pretty irrelevant and the project was cancelled so the main people wanting to see the actual idea work get nothing. The ‘profits’ on the t-shirts were a few dollars and it took 2 weeks of messing around to get them all mailed out.

Two Lessons: Don’t offer t-shirts but if you do make them expensive and ship them last. If someone wanted to see your project succeed they would have backed it and bought a ‘widget’. Chances are they don’t care about a t-shirt really so concentrating on making and mailing t-shirts at the expense of the idea is wrong. Idea first, everything else last. If you just run out of money but scrape through with the project you’ll have succeeded despite the t-shirts still being missing. You can sell extra widgets and fund the t-shirts later, but if you spent the t-shirt money on t-shirts… you could fail the whole thing.

So? Make cheap rewards virtual, a key-chain you can print at shapeways or a t-shirt design you can download and print yourself. These are essentially ‘free’ items for people who want to back your idea but not buy your idea.

Are you making your amazing widget or producing t-shirts???

Time and Money:
Everything takes more time and costs more than you think. Especially if you want something quick, it’s more expensive and if you want something quality, it is slow. So take your best schedule and economic projection and add some pi…. ie triple it.

If you think it will take a month then after 30 days you’ll have people asking ‘where is my widget’ and dealing with them will slow you down even more. Say 3 months, try for a month and when you deliver after 6 weeks everyone is happy…

If you think your widget will cost $8 to make so you can sell it for $10 then think again. If it ends up costing $10.05 you’re screwed. If you expect to sell 100 and sell 10,000 you’re even more screwed. You may as well not have run the campaign. So, make your widget $30. Now if everything goes wrong and your costs triple (which means you’re really bad at this :p) then you still have a $6 buffer.

Now you think ‘they’re not worth $30’… if your idea is so bad that someone’s not willing to pay triple what its could then maybe it’s not a very good idea. Your total sales will suffer, so you might only sell 3,000 but do the Math. 10,000 at $10 earns you $20k profit, but 3,000 at $30 earns you $72,000 and you’ve cut your customer support to a third of what it was.

Completing the project is all that matters, so when you’re done you sell the widget for $20 to 3,000 people who didn’t want to pay $30 and later sell 4,000 more to the people that would only have paid $10. Plus you’re now guaranteed to deliver, the product is out and available, it’s not a $10-20 gamble as to whether you can really deliver.

Don’t run a Kickstarter for fun or ‘get my idea out there’. Run it strictly for cold profit, otherwise you’re wasting your time and other people’s money.

The Curse of the stretch-goal
When you’ve hit your initial funding goal it seems people go crazy at the money they’re about to get and start spouting stretch-goals like a fountain. Feature creep can be deadly to a project. The most important thing is to fulfil the original promise, not ruin it with features no one wants. If you decide ‘we’ll add this feature, it’s probably cheap and quick’ without being 100% sure it is you could derail your hole project. It’s far better to promise to add on something once the original project is done than say you’ll do it at the same time. Again, virtual ‘rewards’ are far better and cost nothing.

Our solution is to talk about Vision Goals.

Patents and Prototypes
So your amazing idea hits you in the middle of the night, it’s going to change everything! You start making prototypes, printing samples, you hire a patent lawyer and mortgage your house….. stop!! You now need to run a massive campaign for moulds and machines… don’t spend 12 months and thousands of dollars developing something to launch on Kickstarter, just launch it on Kickstarter. Show your models and mock-ups in a quick $2,000 campaign offering the prototype samples as rewards. Get the first lot of backer to pay to develop the idea. If no one is interested then you’ve just saved your mortgage and 12 months of your life. You might gain some insight as to why your idea was fundamentally flawed to start with and tweak it into a success. Better to accept failure quickly than waste your life on the assumption everyone will love your idea.

Start early
Make your basic campaign with a couple of pictures, some rewards and a good description and submit it for approval early. It takes a few days and you can edit it afterwards anyway. Don’t waste time crafting a perfect campaign only to get rejected for some weird KS rule. You can always appeal if rejected.

Back some campaigns
Someone might waltz into your project page with $10,000 to spend but find that since you’ve never backed a project they might not think you’re interested in the Kickstarter philosphy, just yourself. So back some projects if you expect people to back yours.

Pay it forward
This tip is slightly sneaky but you need to use what you can to get the project going. Kicking It Forward started a couple of years ago and is a great idea. People that get their projects funded with put 5% into other projects. So a couple of months before your campaign goes live head over and back some projects. Now when they’re funded and ready to kick it forward themselves they might see your campaign on the same page and kick some of your funds right back to you. Not the whole 5% of course but if someone likes your idea to the tune of $200…. winner!