Kickstarting Success

by Adam on September 15, 2013

Crowdfunding as a platform for entrepreneurial success has seen tremendous growth over the past few years, with Kickstarter being one of the best examples of how harnessing the power of crowdsourced donation can launch new businesses. Everything from reusable whiteboard notebooks and wearable time-lapse camera devices, to homespun LPs and new film projects can find funding from a crowd of eager and willing supporters.

But what is it that makes a successful crowdfunding campaign? How can potential entrepreneurs launch companies with strong backing from supporters?

While by no means an inclusive list, I’ve identified a few elements that, when taken together can provide a strong platform off which to raise funds from outsiders.

  • Introductory video – Oftentimes, the video that introduces your project will be the first thing that potential donors interact with. It’s important to invest time, energy, and at times money to make sure that the video inspires and explains what the project is all about. This includes who you are, why you are doing the project, and what good it will do for the community. Make it upbeat, make it worth watching, and make sure there are clear calls to action about why you want the money and how you will use it.
  • Project landing page – The project page on Kickstarter that you create to give more details about your project also takes a lot of investment. I’m of the mind that more information is always better, and potential donors can choose to read on or not, depending on what they want to know. A good project landing page will include the aforementioned video assets, information about the genesis of the project, bios for everyone involved, proposed use of funds, timeline for project start, completion and delivery of any pledge gifts, other notable people involved (as advisors, etc), progress to date pre-funding, and of course, the ever-important explanation of pledge levels and gifts (more on that below). Again, putting time and effort into the project landing page shows that you are invested in the project, have thought through all the nuances of the project, and are ready to move forward. It also allows potential backers to make an informed decision about whether to donate.
  • Backstory – While not a specific asset in its own rite, the backstory about why you want to pursue this project must run through all that you do to raise money. It’s important because this story annunciates your passion for what you are creating, and also gets your donors excited/passionate about the project themselves.
  • Pledge levels – Perhaps one of the most important aspects of garnering donations on any campaign, the pledge levels (and associated gifts) are the second best driver of support, only slightly behind projects that produce high emotional affinity with donors. Consideration of pledge levels include both the number and size of donations, as well as the gifts that are associated with each. Oftentimes, projects default to starting at a $5 pledge level, but I find it useful to up the ante a bit with at least a $10 minimum pledge level (this is very useful when asking friends and family who may opt to support, but may choose the lowest level for support). Beyond that, think carefully about how your pledge levels scale. I find something along the lines of $10, $25, $50, $100, $250, $500, $1000 to be particular effective, mostly because they are round numbers, but these are by no means required. Some projects may require more, some less. But, in all cases, consider how best to tie pledges to those levels. I often find that experiential gifts are usual very good drivers, which could include time in a kitchen with a professional chef, opportunity to work with a photography, the ability to attend an exclusive event, etc. Again, at times it’ll be easier to use products (such as T-shirts, etc) to fulfill those gift levels, but just make sure they are high-value in the sense that potential donors will actually want them. At times, when entrepreneurs are producing a specific product, they use the finished product as one of the pledge gift levels, which at times works if the product is worthwhile (some use Kickstarter and others for pre-sales of these products, but I find that a bit of a slippery slope if it ends up costing more or taking longer than expected to bring a product to market).
  • Social media – Outside of the actual project page, work on social media and with viral sharing of the project is going to help extend it to an audience that doesn’t already know of it. Some project creators have said that Kickstarter et al are good ways to drive support from a built-in user base that is already interested in supporting your project, but beyond that, it’s difficult to find donors willing to give money to a project. I don’t agree as I think it’s a matter of using the above methods, and having a strong messaging/marketing strategy to use on Twitter and Facebook specifically, and also incentivize others to share as well. If you can get people talking about your campaign and harness the power of people who want to support your project, there is much more of a chance for success.

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