I have run three crowdfunding campaigns, all with over 1,000 backers per project, totaling close to $2 million in pledges. One of them raised over $1.2 million for a brand and prototype that I built in six weeks on a $600 budget.
What’s my secret? Above all, be passionate about your project, be honest and transparent with your backers, and show them that you truly care. On top of this, my seven most practical tips are as follows.
1. Solve a real problem.
What pisses you off? What have you heard your friends complain about, too? There are 1.6 billion online shoppers in the world, yet only 13 million people have backed a crowdfunded project before. You’re looking at a small niche of people who are super-early adoptors looking for something cool that does something awesome. Make sure it’s something that more people are frustrated with than just you and your friend Bob.
Related: 10 Top Crowdfunding Websites
2. Make a solid prototype and strong brand image.
There are plenty of Kickstarter projects that have fallen through over the years. In order to prove that you’re legit, you need to put in some serious effort to make a great looking prototype to convince people to give you their money for something that doesn’t exist. Always keep in mind that this is what is happening — it’s not like sales of a traditional product. Your potential backers are paying cold, hard cash for something that does not yet exist. Thanks to 3D printers and current design technology, this is now easier than ever.
3. Tell a great story.
This isn’t like where people come to buy from a big brand — they’re buying from you. Tell your story, explain your frustration, and most importantly your solution. Start with why — and review Simon Sinek’s TEDx talk if you don’t know what I’m talking about.
4. Keep it simple.
Whether it’s design, film, product or writing, my favorite quote on any kind of creating is this on from The Little Prince author Antoine de Saint Exupéry: “Perfection isn’t achieved when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
The crowdfunding community is incredibly international. If possible, it’s ideal to launch a single product with a single SKU; it makes for an easier “yes” from your backers and it saves you headaches when fulfilling later.
5. These are backers, not customers.
It’s important to understand the distinction between backers and customers. Backers are people willing to give launching companies money for a product that they will hopefully receive within the coming months. As these backers are taking a risk by investing in a campaign, companies should be sure to honor their commitment and keep close communication with them.
6. Test, test, test — then launch.
Companies should absolutely test their products before launching. Micro-testing with friends and acquaintances is a great way to get feedback. There are different keywords to look out for when you’re gathering feedback from testers. If people claim it’s a “cool idea,” it means they may like your idea, but they’re not likely to back the project. However, phrases like “when can I get one,” indicate a much stronger connection to the project.
Crowdfunding campaigns bring a new element to price sensitivity. Backers want to feel that they are getting a good deal, which is why Early Bird rewards (discounted offers available in the first 24-72 hours of the campaign to create additional urgency) are a great way to help speed up the funding in the first days.
This is where nothing beats pure hustle. One-on-one reachouts to journalists who are fans of crowdfunding, tech and other similar products go a long way. Don’t spam anyone; just be genuine and reach out to people who have shown interest in similar things.
There is nothing more exciting that hitting that launch button for the first time. Be sure you’re ready to press go and that you have your megaphone ready — because now is the time to shout it from the rooftops.