In this blog post I show you how I built a successful kickstarter campaign. It will contain personal anecdotes (in red), graphs, insights and tactics used. If you enjoyed it, please leave a comment or feel free to email me. Enjoy!
“Holy shit dude, check this I’m already at 20K views! When I left home it was barely 10K which is crazy by itself!” I scream like a little girl and raise both arms excitingly in the air as I demand the attention of a friend sitting next to me. The views I’m talking about are those on a video in which I present a passion project of mine. The video was uploaded only a few hours before, I have put €20 behind it to make sure I reach all 910 people that have liked my facebook page in the past and a few of their friends if I’m lucky.
The project mentioned is the TINYPINK stencil cap, an attachment that fits onto an aerosol can and allows the user to spray really thin lines, the target audience are spray paint artists like myself. The idea for having an attachment that produces really thin lines exists already for a number of years within that community but a good execution is lacking. With my interest in product design, a college degree in 3D-design and a notion of 3D-printing technology I took the original idea and improved on it. In this post I will lay out all the steps that I took in preparation of and during the Kickstarter for this project. (This does not include RnD, the viral video can be found HERE).
Building the campaign
Building a Kickstarter campaign isn’t that hard (you can find mine here), you fill out a few forms, add some rewards and write detailed copy that explains your product and add some quality pictures that help in clarifying details. I go for a straight forward, no-BS approach and keep the rewards simple, 2 small goals of €5 and €10 for casual supporters, several goals varying only in the number of products people want to pre-order and 2 additional rewards for those who want more (one was a limited art print, the other one a mural).
Doing a standard Kickstarter video, featuring the creators talking about the conceptualisation and execution of the idea with a mellow indie-rock song playing in the background, feels wrong for some reason so I decide to do some research. I look at roughly 10 campaign video’s in order to learn what makes some campaigns extremely successful and others DOA (dead on arrival).
This is a very crucial step, which I never saw advised in any articles I had read so far. I partly credit the (still ongoing) success of the video to this small step.
I go through the video’s and take note of all the things that irritate me. Not the things I like but the things that make me cringe, very important difference! My general mindset at this point is that quality consists not of the things you do well but the things you don’t screw up. I take inspiration from one specific campaign, the Tidashi titanium mini knife.
In their campaign video they showcase the creator going through the process of making the product from start to finish, a mellow guitar soundtrack plays in the background, you can hear all the grinding and machines working but a voice-over explaining what is going on, is absent. Instead they use subtitles to showcase the product’s properties. It is a revelation to see that a voice-over is not necessary for a clear video, in this case it makes it better! I am insecure about my english pronunciation (it’s my second language) and seeing someone pull it off without talking is a relief and confirmation that I can do it too. That is the point at which I compile a list of all the product’s USPs and how I want to frame them. Later on, I go out and shoot the footage. I record a voice-over with my iPhone just to make sure it’s no good.
I upload the video with a small promotional budget (€20) behind it, I anticipate to get roughly 4-5K views since most un-promoted video’s of mine get 1K views. After this, there isn’t much of a plan besides putting up some images of the product with additional info, some promotional budget behind it and the hope of getting some press coverage out of the handful of magazines and blogs that I have contacted. (In the end none of them wrote anything about the project.)
What do you do, when shit hits the fan?
It is two days later and the initial video has reached over 300K views, I receive an email from one of my favourite artists, showing their interest in my product. My facebook inbox is already RIP. This thing has become viral and I stand in front of a crucial decision, launch now or wait until the announced date. There is already a Thunderclap campaign running with a handful of influential people on it, set to go off on the planned launch date. I remind myself that I started out doing this just for me, that I have nothing to lose and just want to see how far I can take this (I also consulted with a business savy friend who I asked whether or not I should launch the campaign right now, whose only reply was “Now.”). I launch the campaign and message everyone back and tell them where to get it. The next few days I spend emailing and messaging all kinds of people, trying to get them to support the campaign.
Funny side note: most people assume that whoever they talk to online, speaks their language as well, I know a bit of Dutch, French, English and German but the video got at least 200K of its views in Mexico causing my inbox to be flooded with Spanish messages written in a slang google translate couldn’t handle.
I learn that after the 1 minute mark, already 66% of the audience has stopped watching and only 23% made the effort to click on the video to turn the audio on (which is disabled at first). With this info, not doing a voice over turns out to be a great decision! It also tells me that putting the url at the end of the video is a bad idea since only 3% reaches it, for the next couple of video’s I put all the information at the beginning.
The kickstarter itself
I need a total of 12K in order to start production and am willing to put in 4K of my own money. Some people might ask for 8K in their campaign and keep their 4K aside. I think it’s a better idea to ask for 12K on the campaign and put in 4K myself (through my parents’ credit card, you can’t support your own campaign with your own credit card) with the risk of losing between 5-10% of that amount in fees to payment processors and Kickstarter. The idea is that it will help me get over that important hump of 50% quicker and boost confidence in the project.
The attempt at boosting confidence works, for the 2 following days backing increases slightly. After this, it is a dreadful long road of continually trying to get some attention back towards the campaign. My main tool of attack is facebook, specifically facebook sponsored posts. Here is a list of all sponsored posts I placed during the campaign.
The very first post on the bottom of the list is the first mention I made of the existence of the project, notice the low engagement. 20-4 is the day the video went viral (which in total, received 4,4K likes, 615 reactions and 4,5K shares), I decided to keep on boosting it up to almost €200 but even with such a big budget behind it (for a bootstrapped project), you can see that it only makes up a fraction of the total amount of impressions (the dark orange part of the bar being the views received by sponsoring).
I continue with image posts but notice they are not engaging enough. I post 2 more video’s demonstrating the cap’s capabilities since the first video only showed it for a few seconds. The video’s are posted on 3-5 and 13-5 and are time-lapses of me re-creating iconic artworks on a A4 paper with nothing but spray cans and my cap. They don’t have a big impact when I post them but perform extremely well when shared by pages with a large audience. Since they don’t perform well on my own page, I stop paying for them, ending at about €5 each. Links: Mona Lisa and Van Gogh
The original video teaches me that a majority of my audience comes from South America, specifically Mexico. Not only the stats but also the comments and my messages are filled with Spanish people sharing their opinion. Which might be caused by an influential artist/friend of mine, who has a big audience throughout Southern America, shared my project on facebook. His name is Bue The Warrior, 21K likes on FB.
On 16-5 I post a re-edited version of the original viral video twice, each time with different targeting. One for the European and North American market, the other one for all the Spanish speaking countries, they seem to get an equal amount of views, 512,6K and 409,5K respectively but if you calculate views per Euro spent, the EU/USA gets 5,126 views per Euro and the Spanish one 8,19 per Euro. Which in the next two days brings the campaign from a 3 day stagnant plateau at 86% to 92% and 95% another two days later.
On 20-5 youtuber SIVE uploads a review of my product (I had sent him a prototype 2 weeks prior), which is extremely positive despite my fear of him tearing the idea to bits and pieces. His video reaches 5K views in a day or two and helps me push the campaign over the finish line in just the last few hours.
Other publicity includes one interview done with verynearlyalmost.com, a closely watched street-art news website. Which is triggered when the artist MyDogSighs posts my project on his facebook, grabbing the attention of an editor at the aforementioned website. Up until the interview, I’m unaware that this artist has posted anything about my project. The interview has no noticeable effect on the campaign but it does seem to give me credibility, people who at the beginning disregarded the project are now coming back around to congratulate me on how wonderful it is.
After the successful end of the campaign I set up a shopify webshop in order to provide other payment options for the people who didn’t have access to a credit card. At this moment the shop has generated another 2.5K in revenue without any advertising, purely driven by the initial video that is also uploaded on youtube where it now has gathered 70K+ views without ever being posted or shared anywhere, I just put it there as a backup but apparently it took off by itself.
Addendum: The youtube video mentioned above has as of Jan 2020 reached 1.2M views.