My business partner and I recently completed a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for our product, Kapture. In just 30 days, we raised over $160,000. It was no small feat. Nearly 120,000 projects have launched on Kickstarter since the site went live in 2009, and only 0.7% of them have successfully raised over $100K. Plus, we were asking people to buy now for a product they can’t experience and that they won’t receive for six months; that’s a tough sell. Since the campaign is fresh in my mind, I wanted to share some helpful tips for using crowdfunding to launch your next idea.

Matthew Dooley and Mike Sarow of Kapture

The first step is to determine if crowdfunding is your best route and, if so, select the right tool. There are many things to consider, and this infographic is a great starting point. We went with Kickstarter for a couple of reasons. It’s the most well-known site of all of them, which means there’s a thriving community of backers and a higher trust factor from people who have never pledged before. Also, Kickstarter is all or nothing – meaning, if you don’t reach your funding goal by the end of your campaign, you don’t get any of the money you’ve raised. As scary as that may sound, it’s actually a nice, built-in incentive for supporters to spread the word and see the project through.

Plan for at least three months of pre-work to get everything ready for launch. Here’s a quick checklist.

  • Media list/outreach + narratives
  • Event/conference list
  • Launch party planning – date, location, invitees
  • Microsite with countdown ticker for the campaign
  • Email marketing – account setup and list build
  • Social media accounts – setup/design
  • Communication schedule – emails, status updates
  • Complete project details
    • Title – simple, specific, memorable
    • Description (200 words)
    • Video – most important!
    • Funding goal – realistic and tied to a key milestone
    • Pledge levels + rewards/incentives (initial + planned additions)
    • Planned sneak peeks + information leaks
    • FAQs
    • Challenges and strategy for addressing
    • Testimonials and associations
    • Delivery dates
    • Creative assets (logo, product images)

In addition to the items above, we worked with a Chicago-based firm to help us build a “city leader” structure to localize our efforts in key cities across the US. These friends of ours were trained and provided with materials – t-shirts, postcards and stickers – for spreading the word in a grassroots fashion. We also partnered with a local PR firm on the media outreach; their expertise contributed to more than 100 million impressions from start to finish. Another key resource was a graphic designer that we contracted with to provide assets for the page setup in addition to graphics throughout the 30-day period. Combined with our lifestyle photographer, we put our best foot forward in order to build credibility for a brand new product in a relatively unknown category.

The Kapture device

In our first three days, we raised almost $40,000. Still, we didn’t make it into Kickstarter’s Top Projects for the week, nor were we one of their Editors’ Picks. To accomplish either of these – and therefore get a nice snowball effect from increased attention – I would have released additional quantities of our Early Bird pricing and planned our official launch a little differently. We had set and communicated our launch date of September 3rd and then worked backward from there. We unnecessarily scrambled to get everything ready in time – including our credit card processing and Kickstarter approval – which meant we didn’t have a launch party to press ‘go’ in front of a bunch of people who could immediately become backers. Instead, we had a pre-launch event and then an Insider Event with friends and family. Either way, the good news: of the projects that reach 20% of their funding goal, 82% are successfully funded. Yet we still had a lot of work to do.

A week after launch, we entered the “dead zone.” This is the two-week period in between the launch and final weeks where growth pretty much flat-lines. It’s nearly impossible to establish any sense of urgency, so we scratched and clawed to carry the initial momentum. We knew this ahead of time, so we planned some communication blitzes during this period. One tactic that worked pretty well was asking our connections to think of five people who might benefit from our product, send an individual text to each of them and make sure to include a specific use case and the direct link to our campaign. A very simple ask, but one way we moved from awareness to conversion during this critical time frame.

Crowdfunding made Kapture a reality

In addition to recruiting new backers by attending local events and leveraging email and social media, we knew there was an opportunity to inform all of our current backers and compel them to spread the word. While we posted regular updates (two per week), responded to their public comments (nearly 200) and fielded their private questions and ideas (close to 1000), we gave them everything they needed to get the word out – photos, sample messages, answers to FAQs, stuff to print and our press release. All of this was housed in Google Drive, which made it super easy to share. We also kept our main page up-to-date with new press, use cases and testimonials from actual backers, and additional product features. And if any backers reduced or canceled their pledge, we quickly followed up to try and get them back on board.

Another aspect we should have considered prior to launch was some sort of an incentive for surpassing micro-goals. There’s a lot out there about “stretch goals” beyond your funding goal, but you have to keep the horse before the cart. Nonetheless, we introduced two micro-goals: one at $100K and one at $125K to spur additional activity. The one that worked quite well was opening up purchase of the Klip, a product that actually came about thanks to feedback we received from the backer community. It was a big hit because it showed that we were listening and innovating in the midst of our busy campaign.

You have a pretty decent chance of being successful on Kickstarter – 44% of all projects meet their funding goal (basically, a flip of the coin). If you close your campaign on a high note, don’t forget to thank your supporters and continue to provide regular updates. A shocking 84% of all projects miss their promised delivery date. But as long as you’re open and honest with where you’re at, the Kickstarter community will give you the benefit of any doubt. We’ve partnered with a fulfillment service called BackerKit, which is not only helping us to manage our current pledges but also upsell them and continue pre-orders now that our campaign has ended.

Kickstarter is a powerful tool for fundraising and market validation, and you’ll get out of it what you put in. Good luck!