Lessons Learned from a Successful Kickstarter Campaign by Brian Davis, inventor of Fix It Sticks bicycle multi tool

Brian Davis was recently the featured speaker at the new Inventors and Entrepreneurs (I&E) Club that meets every second Tuesday of the month in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.  The purpose of the I&E Club is to educate, nurture and network area inventors and entrepreneurs.  At the June 2013 I&E Club meeting, Davis shared his story about completing a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign that funded over 250% of this goal.  In this blog, he shares his 49 tips for a successful Kickstarter campaign.

In the spring of 2012, I had an idea for a system of bicycle tools called Fix It Sticks.

Fix It Sticks is a new, unique take on a bicycle multitool that is lightweight, compact and has no moving parts. I thought the idea was pretty good when I came up with it and got better as more prototypes were produced. Check them out at www.fixitsticks.com

Having ideas is not unusual for me and likely not for you if you are reading this. Ideas are easy. Anyone who gets a lot of them will tell you that. What often isn’t discussed? What it takes to make an idea a reality.  I am often asked how I was able to get my bike tool idea turned into Fix It Sticks, a real product for which, strangers pay money. 

The big difference is execution. I have it; lots of other people don’t. Turning a product from an idea into a saleable item is not easy.

When I set out to accomplish a task, I usually think to myself about the “next smallest step” it would take to move closer to my goal. In my mind I refer to them as microgoals. I learned this method from cycling, a sport I am passionate about. When you are climbing a hill and about to fall over from exhaustion, I use the same tactic, “just make it to that next sign”…”just make it to that driveway”…”just make it to that stick on the road”…next thing I know, I am at the top and thinking, that wasn’t so bad. I apply the same thinking in creating a business or a product.

I meet entrepreneurs that have ideas but are not willing to execute. They aren’t even willing to read articles on subjects they are interested in. I have had many people contact me about how to do a Kickstarter. We usually start talking and I can tell in 1 minute if they have even visited the site or read 1 article on how to launch a Kickstarter. Sadly the majority of these folks are looking for a shortcut or magic bullet. I have no shortcuts. It takes work, determination and intelligence.

For those willing to do the work, here are my best tips for launching a successful Kickstarter campaign.

49 Tips for a Successful Kickstarter (KS) Launch – Product Design

 1.      Have a good idea-no really. Coming up with something that is not well designed or well thought out, will not work. Kickstarter backers are very intelligent and while they sometimes fund whimsical ideas/concepts, often a bad idea is just that. So have a good idea and execute it like your life depends on it. If your idea is good, a lot of what follows will fall into place all by itself, if your idea is marginal, then you gotta hustle baby!

2.      Read these tips and at least 12 other articles on Kickstarter itself and about other creators’ experiences.

3.      Get your product in prototype stage with very few known changes needed. In essence get it as far along as humanly possible prior to asking for funds.

4.      Set up an LLC, bank account, credit card, etc… consult your accountant, lawyer, priest disclaimer…I am none of those things!

5.      If at all possible be in a position to send samples out to media contacts.

6.      Research shipping thoroughly. I sent 2 people to 2 different post offices to get answers for domestic and international costs. In the end I was still wrong (USPS raised rates in the interim).

7.      Get a logo, don’t get wrapped up in this process…just get something done quick.

8.      Set up a domain for your future use and then set up a launchrock.com site on that domain to collect pre-launch email address info and refer people to your KS campaign once it does finally launch.

9.      Plan on getting a professional video done.  Just do it, don’t skimp on this. Yes, sometimes a guy with an iPhone can pull it off, but more often than not a bad video will lead to a bad campaign. Although refer to #1 if you are thinking about a DIY video.

10.  Use a virtual assistant for research, follow up, writing projects, and more research. If you have a day job, I would HIGHLY encourage this step.

11.  Get high-resolution photos taken of your project.

12.  Set up a Google folder for your photos, press release and other info to refer the press to a simple link. This is easier for them and you.

13.  Get stickers and postcards to hand out to people on the street with a QR code created to bring people to your website, which then directs people to your KS campaign…try to avoid sending people to the KS link directly as it will hurt your search results after the campaign, assuming you want to sell directly on your own website at the conclusion of your KS campaign.

14.  Find and hire a PR agency directly involved in your industry.  Have a kitchen product?  Find a PR pro in that space. Sports? Get a sports industry focused PR agency. Ask them for the cheapest option for them to create a press release for you and send it out with them listed as the contact. This is a must. You cannot skip this step.

15.  Set up a Twitter and Facebook account for your product. Then start some Facebook ads to build “likes” in your target market.  Be prepared: Facebook ads are likely to bring you lots of spammy “likes” but that’s OK, we’re just building credibility and momentum right now…don’t worry about the spammy likes, we’ll convert that to real people later.

16.  Set up your KS account and start building your campaign. Don’t worry about getting it right, it can stay in draft mode as long as needed, but I would encourage you to do all the editing and building on your own computer and BACK IT UP.  The KS interface is difficult at best to work with. Also start the set up process with Amazon Payments, which can take some time. 

17.  Pre-write your launch emails to friends and families. Pre-write your Facebook launch post. Pre-write your launch tweet. Pre-write as much as you can now, after you launch things get pretty busy.

18.  Once you have your Kickstarter draft written and maybe even have your video done, you should be able to submit for approval. Be sure to read KS terms and conditions and then submit. They will get back to you with an approval or not. Once approved, you can continue to get things right prior to launch. There is no rush!  Really give thought to your rewards. Are they special, unique, cheaper, better, different color, something to make them stand out.

19.  Start lining up bloggers to cover your product. Don’t be afraid to ask them to wait on covering it until a specific day or week when you launch. They might not care about your schedule, but I found them to be very cordial.

20.  When you are ready to launch the project, send out the personal emails to friends and family you pre-wrote, hit Facebook and Twitter and forums and everything you can think of. (Sign up for Mailchimp if you have a lot of emails to send out).

21.  THE FIRST DAYS ON KICKSTARTER WILL DETERMINE YOUR SUCCESS. Line up some friends and family you know will contribute and ask them to donate quickly at launch. One example is that if a married couple is planning to give you $50, ask them to split it into 2 separate $25 purchases, 1 from each spouse. Anything you can do to build backers and money will help make you “popular”…once you are popular on KS things start to take care of themselves.

22.  Follow up with all media contacts and remind them of your launch on KS. Be persistent without being a pain.

23.  After the first few days…review all your messages, emails and social media and make sure you are responding to people and always asking them to share your project with their friends.

24.  Specifically related to Facebook, ask your friends to always SHARE your posts. Liking is OK, but SHARING is what drives virility.

25.  Consider and communicate any design changes to your product based on early feedback from your backers.

26.  Start researching packaging options for eventual retail display/shipping.

27.  Finalize your sourcing of materials for your product; you should start to get a feel for quantity now that your campaign is about a week old.

28.  Keep on posting to Facebook/Twitter etc.  Don’t be shy, keep posting.

29.  Go spend some time writing on walls of retailers that sell your type of product on Facebook or visit “groups” on Facebook associated with your target market.

30.  Start getting a stand-alone website set up so you can sell your product as the campaign ends.

31.  Back some other KS projects that are ending soon so you can see their end of campaign surveys. You want to have a good feeling for what you should be asking of your backers. You only get 1 shot at the end of campaign survey so you really need to think it through.

32.  Order some t-shirts, banners, signs etc. to be able to market your company at tradeshows and events.

33.  About this time, your money might be available from Amazon Payments, try to get it out. Do not leave your money in their hands; there is no good that can come of that. Once you have the money, start following your budgeted spend to get your product produced. Be very wary of anything that diverts your money from the mission at hand.

34.  Follow up personally on all failed payments from the Amazon system (expired CC being the number 1 reason for failure).

35.  Get the survey results and start sorting them out in terms of your shipping, picking and packing. Keep it so simple a 3rd grader could figure out what parts go with what orders.

 Other things to consider, not in any order…

36.  Send plenty of updates.

37.  Send emails personally to early backers and encourage them to send your project on to their friends/family.

38.  Start contacting future customers/retailers early on and be persistent.

39.  Set up email addresses specific to your campaign and any key players as well.

40.  Expect 10% of your gross funds to be taken by KS and Amazon payments (they tell you it is less, but it is not).

41.  Find a way to let people order multiples of your product, even if you have to divert them away from KS. KS has odd rules about allowing people to purchase multiple rewards of the same thing.

42.  Have your wholesale costs decided early on, so you can quickly connect with future retailers on ordering. Invoice them quickly once they decide.

43.  Try to re-use your video after KS on your website.

44.  Try to speak with other KS creators prior to launch and get their thoughts on the process. Just message them; usually people are good about this as long as it is not in their first week.

45.  Give a great deal of thought to your campaign length. It is a tiring process, so keeping it over 30 days can get to be a grind in my opinion.

46.  For nearly every update or social media post have a video or photo to keep interest high.

47.  When looking for bloggers, use Google Images to find projects in your industry already on KS or recently finished on KS. Search for them on Images to see what websites and which bloggers covered them…then target those bloggers as they have a pre-disposition to covering KS projects related to yours. This tip is fantastic and I am re-using it from an article I read prior to my launch. Invaluable tip!

48.  Compile a list of all your social networks and make sure you hit them at launch, church, school, high school friends, sports, clubs you may belong to, leagues, etc. You want everyone who knows your name to know about your KS launch. Get them ready to support you in the first week!

49.  Have a great product.