Our list for a successful Kickstarter campaign

The doppel Kickstarter launch party

The doppel Kickstarter launch party

Considering a Kickstarter campaign?  What should you expect?  What can you do to prepare?  What are the most important things to do before and during the campaign?

All these questions are on our mind because last week we took part in a panel discussion at the V&A. It was a London Design Festival event titled "Kickstarter for Designers: From Prototype to Version One", on how Kickstarter can help designers connect with an audience and gather the resources to bring their ideas to life.  The wonderful Julio Terra from Kickstarter moderated and we shared the stage with the very impressive London-based creators Chris Romer-Lee of octopi and Alex Klein of kano.  The discussion touched upon many facets of to running a successful Kickstarter campaign – crafting a great story, getting the word out, building community, and arranging production.  We thought we'd put together our really honest list of what to do and not do.  

  • Never do it if you can help it!
  • If you insist on doing it plan on not sleeping during the entire campaign.  You will be checking pledges in the middle of the night.  
  • Tech is interesting - but beauty will win. People make the emotional decision then post-rationalise.
  • Make sure you thoroughly understand all your production and delivery costs when you decide on your pledges and goal.  
  • Consider your goal very very carefully.  Too low and you may not have enough money to produce, too high and you will miss out on essential momentum.   Frankly, setting a goal is a strategy (and sometimes a truth or dare situation) so be smart about it. 
  • Build in buffer for delivery, nobody will decide against backing because of an extra couple of months.  
  • Marketing before you launch is 100% essential.
  • Approach press before the campaign and try to get in before that. Kickstarter campaigns are old hat now so won't get you press on their own.
  • Direct email gives the best conversion rate, build a list pre-campaign. Then comes Facebook shares, it is almost like a 'recommendation' if it's shared, plus it moves slower than twitter so you don't disappear so quickly. Very targeted and well crafted Facebook ads during the campaign are useful to reach outside your networks.
  • Most likely your existing supporters will not be familiar with Kickstarter.  Make sure you explain to your supporters not only what Kickstarter is and how to pledge but also that it is very important to pledge as soon as the campaign launches.  
  • The Kickstarter people are wonderful, ask them for help.
  • Answers your backers immediately!
  • Is your campaign lagging?  Don't be afraid to redesign it during the campaign.  After you launch you will realise that some aspects of your campaign page are not working as well as you hoped.  Yes, it's been ten days since you last slept and the last thing you want to do is redo your campaign page.  Do it!  You now really know what will make the campaign fly, so dig in and get it done.
  • That said, you will go off like a rocket at the beginning and then will lull in the middle of the campaign before a kick at the end. Do what you can to fight that lull, but don't panic, you now know it will happen.
  • Organise events throughout the campaign to keep your self from pressing refresh!
  • You will love past-you if you pre-plan and pre-DO! You want a full schedule, day -by-day for events (already booked and ready to go) and announcements. Also write content for every day now and schedule them for release - you can always add something more specific as well.
  • Tell people what you are doing during the campaign in the updates (and make sure that you click the "seen by all" button as the default will send the updates to pledgers only). 
  • In the project FAQs tell people once again what Kickstarter is and how pledges work.  A lot will come to your project's page via direct referral and will not know what they are supposed to do.  Put all the information they need in one place, your project page.  
  • Set up google analytics to find out who is looking at your page and who is pledging.  Not only is this useful for any targeting your want to do during the campaign, but will be precious market research information when you want to take your product to the next level.
  • Kickstarter ranks projects with algorithms (and their 'staff-picks', which is human curation). They can be gamed - make sure you get a 'big start' and get yourself up those rankings.
  • Big start + low goal = goal hit early. You are a winner! People like to back winners. Plus it's a great feeling to hit your goal and stressful if it goes down to the wire, get it in early
  • Your (project's) Facebook page is a great place to put in even more information about what you are doing.  
  • Warn your loved ones that you may become a horrible person.  They might want to avoid you for the next 30 days.  After they pledge. 
  • Pre-plan a vacation with your other half.  By the time Kickstarter ends they will be ready to leave you.
  • No other half? Luckily they can't leave you, but you will still need that holiday.

Fellow Kickstarterers out there, do you have more bullet points to add to our list?  If you are considering Kickstarter and have questions please send them in :-)