Pick of the day
Some, on the other hand, benefited from a dose of good fortune. Barry McWilliams, whose quirky ‘catalogue’ of illustrations of flower-delivering robots successfully reached its funding goal in October, owes a lot of his success to Kickstarter itself. His project was featured as a ‘Staff Pick’ when it first launched and as ‘Project of the Day’ at a week and a half. “That was all the marketing I needed,” explains Barry.
Graphic designer and illustrator Axel Pfänder, who used Kickstarter to launch his Berlin Boombox, a cardboard boombox for iPhones, was also lucky. His project was one of only a three German ones on the site when Kickstarter was making global headlines, so interest from German media provided him with ready-made publicity.
Meanwhile, Phil Bosua, who launched LIFX, a Wi-Fi enabled, multi-colour, energy-efficient LED light bulb that you control with your iPhone or Android. He had a loose marketing plan but never enacted it. “All the attention was inbound, and there was a lot of it. The only way I’ve been able to quantify this is to realise the clarity of your core message has to speak loudly. Focus on that and your message will spread.”
Relying on luck will not be successful for everyone, however. Most advise a more organised approach to marketing. Matt Stevens, for example, set himself a goal of reaching out to one website, blog or person every day, while Chicago the Beautiful spent around six months hammering out the details of its Kickstarter video and page and subsequent marketing. “There were lots of revisions,” explain Leo and Max. “We were both obsessed for six months.”
Marketing is something that Democratech should have paid more attention to, admits the design collective’s Mario Bollini. Launching Sprout, a pencil with a seed inside that can be planted when it’s too short for writing, Democratech “did not spend as much time on marketing as we should have”.
Mario adds: “We went in with the assumption that ‘if we build it they will come’, but that turned out to be naïve as the project plateaued in the middle of the campaign. We got lucky with our Tumblr viral post, but it’s not a good strategy. In retrospect we should have had a concerted social and real media campaign with samples sent to journalists and bloggers. Lesson learned.”
Another element of any successful campaign is the all-important introductory video. According to research by blogger Jeanne Pi of AppsBlogger.com, who analysed Kickstarter success rates with Professor Ethan Mollick of The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, for the average $10,000 project, a project without a video has a 15% chance of success, while one with video has a 37% chance.
“There are people who make funny videos, but I just tried to be myself,” advises Axel. “You have to have a good video so I tried to do that and just explain to people what it is I am trying to do to get them interested, and make them feel the passion that I feel.”
Cassie Kelly, who successfully funded two projects on Kickstarter (an illustrated book called Washington’s Waltz and Zombie Kitchen products), also stresses the video’s importance. “People love to come to your site and just click on your video and be told what the project is in a simple, entertaining way,” she says. “When browsing Kickstarter, potential backers want a quick explanation of your project, not a 10-hour documentary on your evolution as an artist, you can add that as an update later.”
But equally important is staying in contact with your backers, and regularly posting updates. In fact, Barry McWilliams used responses on Kickstarter to modify his project. “I tried to update and comment often,” he says. “I also asked questions of my backers. People like being involved and it’s beyond gratifying when people want to be involved in something you’ve created. If people reward your work with their attention, respect that. Do not take it for granted.” Barry’s backers were involved in his decision to make postcards, patches and the original art tier of rewards, for example.
Inviting people to join him on his journey was also a big part of Matt’s concept. “I had 60 illustrations done (enough to show people what the project was about), but 40 still to go,” he explains. “I used the project updates as a way of chronicling the finishing of the project. I was trying to create a sense of ‘being along for the ride’.”