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3 Lessons Learned from a Successful Kickstarter Campaign

June 8th, 2011

Thinking back, Kickstarter was one of the main catalysts in pushing me to build out the Common Camera Project. As I thought about what I’d need in order to shape a shiny Kickstarter campaign for Common Cam, I found myself scoping out a website, storyboarding the promo video, and hammering out a mini marketing plan.

And for that productive kick-in-the-butt, I really am thankful for the crowdfunding platform. Kickstarter enables anyone to fundraise for a creative project by putting together a pitch page and a system of pledging levels and rewards with payments handled via Amazon. My campaign turned out successful, gaining 134 backers from around the world and reaching an initial 35 day fundraising goal in just over 24 hours–the team and I couldn’t be more grateful.

I’m amidst pondering what my next nifty Kickstarter project will entail, but if you’re thinking about starting your own, here are three quick lessons learned from my own experience to get you on your merry way.

1. Establish a level of Sh*t-togetherness
Your underlying goal when launching on Kickstarter is to convey 1) that you have a cool project and 2) you’re competent enough to carry it out. When we were putting together our campaign for Common Cam, it was definitely tempting to jump the gun and kick off the fundraiser immediately because, well, launching is super exciting (plus you get an email filled with exclamation points every time someone pledges which for some reason makes you really happy, over and over again).

I could cite one of those statistics about how people look at a website for an average of .000001 milliseconds, but just like any website, if the viewer isn’t drawn in by what you’re presenting they won’t be coming back. It’s a game of first impressions (kinda like MTV’s NEXT dating show but not worthless), so get all your ducks in a row and put your best foot forward from the moment you go public. For Common Cam that involved having a live website, a fun stop motion promo vid, a twitter account, a well proof-read body of text, etc. No matter who you are, show’em you mean business and you’re passionate enough about your project to pay attention to detail and get it prim and pressed for the first date.

Common Cam’s final push video update

2. Don’t underestimate the power of your personal network
As many rampantly successful projects as there are on the Kickstarter site, the platform itself isn’t a silver bullet. If your idea resonates with the viral masses and ends up getting funded 4000% with the help of FastCompany then power to you, but chances are you will have to rely on relevant communities and start with your own personal network to reach your fundraising goal.

Common Cam’s campaign was a live lesson straight out of Gladwell’s Tipping Point . Immediately after launch, there were a few first followers (which really is incredibly important, people don’t want to be the first to jump in the water, they want to join the pool party). Then, I could see the connectors in my life getting excited about the project and actively spreading the word in their offices, on their gchat statuses, and in their Facebook feeds. These amazing friends were really instrumental in getting the ball rolling, and sure eventually a number of random visitors from the Kickstarter community and beyond joined the family, but even looking back I think that most of Common Cam’s supporters could be tracked to three or four degrees of separation from myself.

With that said, (and this may differ based on the scale of your project), your personal network can be your biggest asset. Make sure there are some people that will have your back from the onset and send out a heartfelt email to all sorts of friends, family, acquaintances, estranged roommates, long lost twins etc. just asking for their support. Let’em know what you’re trying to do and if they pledge that’s great, but helping spread the word and just listening is just as good (or maybe even better).

This might be the best Kickstarter promo vid known to man.

3. Simple, Creative, No-gimmicks Rewards
It seems like anything and everything is being offered up as a reward for pledging these days. From traveling backyard bbqs to launch party tickets to hugs, some organizers are cobbling together any and all mini rewards in hopes to attract more backers. The way I see it, don’t create more work for yourself unless you really think it’s going to compel your backers. Keep it simple but creative and put extra extra thought into these rewards (plus you can’t change them after someone has pledged at that level).

Read through tons of projects and especially successful ones with a similar feel and fundraising scale, do some digging and find out what seemed to work. At Common Cam we thought of all sorts of gimmicks from handwritten thank yous to mini photo albums, but in the end we did our best to settle on just what made sense: pledge for a cam, pledge for one for you and one for a friend, etc. Is that extra hand written thank you note with a spray of your perfume and a lipstick kiss on the seal really gonna help you reach critical mass? (Okay, maybe depending on the situation but you get my point).

Your rewards are the essence, the -ness, the va-va-voom, the sauce of your creative venture so spend an appropriate amount of time thinking through them.

So there you have it, three quick lessons learned from the Common Cam Kickstarter appearance. In the end, it’s about putting your best foot forward and flexing a little creative love when it comes to your campaign.

Best of luck and power to you for having the heart to put your project out there. That already says a lot.

Tagged: advice, Common Cam, freaker, fundraiser, kickstarter, lessons learned, promo vid, successful fundraising, three, tips, top lessons