How to do a successful Kickstarter campaign: 7 tips

Click & Grow recently ran a Kickstarter campaign for the Smart Herb Garden, raising $625,851 from 10,477 backers. I had the privilege to look after the marketing side of thing for this project and I really mean ‘privilege’. Running a Kickstarter campaign is a marketer’s dream job: it’s highly measurable, the duration is finite and the playing field is more level than is usual.

Although running Kickstarter campaigns has been written about extensively, quite a few people have inquired about the topic, so I typed up my observations. Here are 7 tips for running a successful Kickstarter campaign.

1. Have a good story. 

Having a good story is a good idea anyway but on Kickstarter it is crucial. A good Kickstarter story answers three questions:

What is it and how does it make the world a better place? The first part is obvious, the second part isn’t: there aren’t very many Kickstarter success stories of things that promise more of the same or marginal improvements.

Who are you to make this project happen? There are many examples of failed or severely delayed projects, so credibility matters. And because you don’t yet have a product, your own face is a big part of the story. Like marketing in the good old days!

Why are you on Kickstarter? It helps to be clear how much do you need and how will you spend it.

2. Read articles and talk to people.

Many smart people have done it before, so it’d be a crime not to read up on Kickstarter’s own resources, blog posts of creators and Quora threads. Here are three posts ( 12 and 3) I found really useful, there are many more. And you’ll pick up even more if your get on the phone/Skype and chat to a couple of people that have ran a Kickstarter campaign.

3. Be part of the community.

This is kind of obvious but backing a couple of projects yourself and lurking in the comments section of projects is a great start.

4. Video and project page.

There are people more qualified to advise on video matters but I know this much: you need one part video shooting and editing skills and one part of aforementioned story to get a good result. If you hire external help for getting the video done, write a tight brief and take the time to thoroughly talk it through with the video maker before the work starts.

You also need to present your story well without the video. Good web copywriting principles apply – best pages are made easy to skim with sub-headers, illustrations and tables, as opposed to long paragraphs of text.

5. Make yourself visible on Kickstarter.com

Here’s where it gets a little less obvious. Most backers will likely discover your project on Kickstarter, not via your own mailing list or media. So you really want to be featured in places like “Popular”, “Staff picks” and the page that’s shown after you’ve backed a project. And the way to get there is earning your place by getting lots of people to back you in a relatively short amount of time. If you get listed well, you can expect every backer you convince yourself to drive 3,4 or more additional backers.

Our two main levers with the Smart Herb Garden were the existing Click & Grow community and PR. To engage the former, we had prepared three different mailing lists to go out the minute the project went live as well as personal email drafts to individual networks of team members. We also used paid promotion of our early Facebook announcements.

On the PR front we had identified a short list of six publications we really wanted to write about the project. We had pre-briefed them days before the project launch, in addition to a longer list of blogs and news sources that we contacted as the project went live. This secured coverage in Techcrunch, Gizmag, Mashable, CNET, etc which trickled down to other blogs in the following days.

Focusing the effort in the first 12 hours off the project got us our first backers, but perhaps even more importantly it got us listed throughout Kickstarter for the whole duration of the campaign. In the end more than 75% of pledges originated on Kickstarter.com.

6. When in Rome. 

… do as the Romans do. And I don’t mean frequent visits to public baths or lavish festivities, but following the best practices that work really well on Kickstarter. Early bird offers and limited pledge levels give a reason for your loyal community members to back your project early (and help get listed on Kickstarter). Kickstarter-special reward modifications make backing more interesting for your biggest fans.

Kickstarted famously is not a store so if you’re running a hardware project, there are also some restrictions compared to traditional pre-ordering. For example, you can’t offer multiple quantities of the same thing. What you can offer is “reasonable sets” of different products, for example two console remotes. We introduced a set of two herb gardens, one with a green lid and the other white all around, which was reasonable enough for Kickstarter.

7. Listen and adapt.

Last but not least, Kickstarter is a much more “live” campaign than most marketing I’ve done previously. You’ll get a ton of questions and feedback in comments and personal messages, and you’re expected to not just listen, but take action too. We changed quite a few things as a result of feedback and this seems to be the norm on Kickstarter. The good news is that this feedback is much easier to act upon compared to most situations, as you haven’t yet started the production process.

Reading feedback, replying and making the necessary adjustments to FAQ’s or project description takes at least a couple of hours every day, which is a good reason to make sure there’s a dedicated Kickstarter “project manager” in the team.

What I would do differently next time

Getting more than 10,000 people behind the Smart Herb Garden was definitely a good result, but the campaign was by no means perfect. Here’s what I’d do differently in the future:

– Show more face. There were no have native English speaks in the team, therefore we made a decision early on to minimise talk time on camera. A good substitution would have been showing US backers and potential backers instead, and there was even a great opportunity to record this, but timing was too tight to organise shooting. Also, in hindsight I would also have organised a couple of meet-ups with existing community and new backers.

– Don’t rush the video. We had hired external help for the video and had a very tight deadline. This meant that script writing started before we had throughly talked through the brief, and filming started before we had thoroughly talked through the script. In the end it all worked out fine, but we would have gotten the video done quicker and smoother by not rushing the very beginning.

– When you get into stretch goal territory, be more ambitious. The success of the project had us set stretch goals twice which kind of worked but in hindsight I’d set them once and for all.

It’s all about the team

While I had a say in marketing side of things the brains behind the project belonged to Mattias Lepp, founder of Click & Grow. (My tip #8 would be to borrow some of Mattias’s entrepreneurial energy for any Kickstarter endeavours.) Liis and Priit from the Click & Grow team, people at Velvet & London AD (spacial thanks to Mari-Liis and Oliver!) and Max Borges Agency all made huge contributions. A good reminder that it’s all about the team.

Finally I’d also like to thank Peedu Tuisk of OCDesk for sharing his experience with me early on, and giving feedback later. Hope this blog post has gone some way in paying it forward. And if you have any questions, please add a comment or get in touch.

6 comments

  1. Watcher

    Good job on raising money, but the way you did it seems to go against the Kickstarter vibe. You guys already had a successful company and money. It seems like you used Kickstarter more like a Groupon – as an order taking site. What’s next, will Nokia offer their latest mobile via Kickstarter?

  2. Andrus

    Indeed, this was not Click & Grow’s first product but the company is far from being a big corporation like Nokia. So far startups have been welcome on Kickstarter and I hope this will be the case in the future as well.

  3. reko

    Great advice, I learned the hard way about not rushing the video. We did a video in December, rushed it to hopefully go live in late January, we showed the video to a few friends. All hated it. We had to start over with a new video idea, that took some time, which was good because I started immersing myself in the crowdfunding universe. We hope to go live this JUNE, be on the look out for #newlywedandbroke.

  4. Malcolm Childs

    I have reached out to a few websites about getting coverage for my kickstarter campaign and received no responses. Did you all cold call or did you have prior connections to these websites that wrote articles about your project?

    • Andrus

      In that sense Kickstarter campaign is just like any other campaign – having previous relationships helps a lot. If you don’t have them, look for opportunities for getting intros.

      If you’re left with cold calling / emailing you just have to make numbers work. It’s not uncommon that response rate is around 5-10%, so reaching out to a few websites may not be enough to get coverage. Good luck!

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