If you’re looking for the perfect success story for how to dominate Kickstarter and get your project fully funded, look no further than Web Smith and Kevin Lavelle from Mizzen+Main.
Their Kickstarter campaign for an athletic sport coat (aka: performance blazer) raised over $25,000 in the first few hours and ended up netting 3x their funding goal: $54,568.
If you’ve ever thought about doing a crowdfunding project, follow every move they made (and steal with pride!). This applies to Kickstarter, Indiegogo, other crowdfunding platforms, and even product launches on your own website.
The Mizzen+Main Kickstarter project launched at 8am on a Tuesday morning. As of 1pm on that same day, it was already over 100% funded. At the end of their first day they had double their initial funding goal. Here are some of the reasons their Kickstarter project was such an “overnight success” and how yours can be too.
Having a successful Kickstarter campaign starts with your brand
But Jason, I’m starting my brand with Kickstarter. I want the world to meet me for the first time through my crowdfunding campaign. WRONG. No you don’t. And you know why? Because only about .001% of crowdfunding projects have zero existing brand, launch a crowdfunding campaign, and have it turn out to be successful. You want to have a much better shot at being successful right? Work on building a solid brand first like Mizzen+Main did (two and half years of work). They have a great logo, an easy to use website, they’ve sold products and received feedback from users, they’re active on social media, and…..
Getting fully funded on Kickstarter is way easier when you already have an audience.
This sounds counterintuitive right? You’re thinking about using Kickstarter so you can build your first customer base. WRONG. Again, if you don’t have an existing brand, your barrier to entry is huge when it comes to crowdfunding. Even the Kickstarter FAQ says that “the majority of funding initially comes from the fans and friends of each project.” If you want to hedge your bets with your crowdfunding project, and you should, build a customer base first and then use a platform like Kickstarter as a marketing tool.
If you want to succeed on Kickstarter, it’s important to build strong connections before you launch.
Full disclosure, I’ve known Web Smith from Mizzen+Main since 2011. We met playing pick-up basketball at SXSW and have stayed in touch ever since. We’ve both had other projects, have been busy, had our own lives, but we’ve stayed connected. When the Mizzen+Main Kickstarter launched Web shared it with me and I immediately backed it. Honestly, I didn’t need any of their awesome looking shirts or the cool looking 0-5 Blazer, but I believe in Web and wanted to support him in any way I could. I’m sure Web and Kevin both reached out to their friends when the project kicked off. I did the same thing when I launched SponsorMyBook. There were about 30-50 people that I emailed before the SponsorMyBook website went live and I shared the project with them. Why…..?
Getting momentum early is hugely critical for Kickstarter.
A quick stat directly from Kickstarter: 80% of projects that raised more than 20% of their goal were successfully funded. By getting some early momentum it shows other potential backers that they should also back the project. It’s the same thing bartenders do at bars/restaurants. They do what’s called “stuffing the tip jar” with their own money. Meaning, it already looks like people have tipped them, so when customers come to the bar they feel compelled to tip as well. Haven’t you ever seen an empty tip jar and thought “Hmmm… I don’t want to be the first or only person to tip these people. Why hasn’t anyone else?” After that, you start to wonder about the quality of product or service they’re offering. Early momentum is key with any project launch and should be a big part of your planning.
IMPORTANT: You must have a realistic, easy to achieve, funding goal for your campaign.
All-too-often people start Kickstarter campaigns with incredibly lofty funding goals. $10,000, $40,000, $100,000! Kickstarter says that out of 55,815 successfully funded projects, 48,949 of them raised $19,999 or less. And out of those 48,949 projects, 41,485 of them had funding goals of $9,999 or less. As soon as your goal is over $10,000 your chances of getting successfully funded decrease greatly. And if your goal is over $20,000, your chances are extremely low. The point here is that while you may want to raise $50,000 or $100,000, you should start with the ABSOLUTE bare minimum (and I mean minimum) amount of money you need to get your project going. My good buddy Clay Hebert is a crowdfunding expert and has helped 33 crowdfunding projects raise nearly $3M. I’d highly recommend signing up for his upcoming Crowdfunding Hacks course if you’re thinking about crowdfunding.
Remember those connections you’re building? Use them to get early press attention.
This goes along with getting momentum and building relationships. Media folks like talking about things that are interesting. If your crowdfunding project helps them write a great story that gets shared, it’s a win for them. And, if they write about your crowdfunding project and it gets fully funded (or way over funded), they look good for writing about it early. Reach out to any press contacts you may have and share your crowdfunding project. It’s especially good timing if you do it after the first day when you have some solid momentum rolling (go get ’em Web and Kevin!).
You should look at your Kickstarter video as an investment in the success of your funding campaign. Don’t be cheap!
I’ve watched countless Kickstarter and Indiegogo videos that were just plain awful. Kickstarter is not the place you should be sharing the first video you’ve ever been in or ever filmed/edited. I completely understand if you’re bootstrapping and can’t spend thousands of dollars on video production. However, you can find college kids at a local university who are budding videographers and looking for work to practice on. And hey, if you want to film it yourself, that’s totally fine, just practice, practice, practice, and practice more. Get incredibly comfortable with what you’re saying and watch your video with other people to get their real reactions. If they get uncomfortable watching you, why was it? What can you learn from their feedback? Personally, I would look at the cost of your Kickstarter video as part of the initial amount of money you’re trying to raise. If you watched Mizzen+Main’s video, I think you’ll agree that it was money incredibly well spent!
(Side note: Did you notice in the Mizzen+Main Kickstarter video that they didn’t say “Hello Kickstarter!” Be unique. Be original. People already know they’re on Kickstarter watching you talk to them, it isn’t mandatory to say “Hello Kickstarter.”)
They key to every successful Kickstarter is a great product
Mizzen+Main did a brilliant thing by not doing a Kickstarter project two years ago when they first started their men’s clothing company. Instead, they spent two-plus years creating products and learning along the way. I bet even Kevin and Web would admit that the first products they made weren’t perfect and needed tweaking and redoing. Whatever the product is that you’re trying to get funding for, make sure it’s something great. And like any business or product you sell, it helps if your product solves a problem.
Last but not least, deliver on your crowdfunding promise!
I backed a project on Kickstarter in December 2012 and didn’t receive anything from the company behind the campaign for over 2 1/2 years. Yowzers! This seems to be a common theme with Kickstarter projects, especially tech related ones. While I was trying to be patient and understanding, I always wondered why it took so long? I never ended up getting that product and eventually asked for a refund.
It may not seem like a huge deal to make your customers wait, but I’d be willing to bet a customer that gets the product they backed in a timely fashion is way more likely to purchase more products from that company and be a brand evangelist. An example of people not being happy about waiting is the pre-funded Lockitron project. You can ruin your brand’s reputation if you don’t deliver in a reasonable schedule. Mizzen+Main delivered the performance blazer within their initial delivery timeline (even beating it by a few weeks!).
My hat goes off to Web and Kevin. Not only have they built a business doing what they love, they’ve created a loyal customer base that was primed and ready to support their Kickstarter project. Learn from what they’ve done, and don’t go all-or-nothing on crowdfunding. Put in the work ahead of time and use crowdfunding as a marketing tool, that can also generate revenue and build your customer list.