Peeking Inside a Successful Kickstarter Campaign

Kickstarter - TalesWhile Zack Brown’s “potato salad” campaign got a lot of press and brought him enormous Kickstarter results (His initial goal was $10 and he raised over $55K, garnering 6900+ backers from around the world!),  his experience was more of an anomaly than the norm!

Rather than talking about crowd funding campaigns that are just a stroke of good luck, I would like to discuss the success of a campaign we recently conducted for one client in regard to their children’s books, The TALES OF THE KINGDOM Trilogy.  In an attempt to document our lessons learned to strengthen potential future campaigns, and to benefit others who might undertake a future Kickstarter Campaign of their own, we took a long, hard look at our successful efforts and are sharing our findings with you here.

LENGTH | Our Kickstarter Campaign  began on June 27, 2014 and ended on August 4, 2014, running a total of thirty eight (38) days.  We labored over the campaign length numerous times but eventually selected this number of days as a compromise between prevailing Kickstarter recommendations [ 1  2  3 ] that say shorter campaigns do better (under 30 days) and pundits and experts saying go longer if it’s your first rodeo [ 1 2 3 ]. In retrospect, I wish we had extended it even further out from a pledging perspective, because I think our pledges were probably curtailed by the 38 day length. Here is the chart showing how our funding process went. As you can see, we still had significant momentum running right up through the last day.

Kickstarter Graph

Another successful Children’s Book project, launched after ours ended, set a 60 day funding goal and has done exceptionally well, ending up 3rd all time in the Children’s Book category.

One major lesson learned after this campaign was how important a good pre-campaign marketing and promotional launch is. If we had done one, we would have come out of the blocks much faster and probably ended up higher overall.  We had a very slow start because we under-engineered the pre-promotion and didn’t gain real tracking until about 19 days in when direct mailings started landing and pulling in substantial backers.

FUNDING GOAL | Our Campaign Goal was $22,500 and, when the smoke cleared away, we ended up raising $38,316 from a total of 144 backers.  This equates to 170% funding, and was accomplished with an average “pledge” of $266.00.  Our campaign ended up #14 Most Funded all time of over 3,000 Children’s Book projects on Kickstarter. It has since moved to #15 and may trend lower, as other successful Children’s Book projects roll out, but we were thrilled with those results when they happened!

But it was agony trying to decide on the correct funding objective, and we wavered back and forth from lows of $14,400 to highs of $73,000. Our challenge was made more difficult in that we were asking for funding for a TRILOGY (3 books) rather than just one book, which made all the publishing costs higher. In the end, we decided to be more cautious, and migrated to a lower number overall of $22,500.  By day 19 of the project it seemed like we might have overreached on the goal, and I recall a few pros in various Facebook Kickstarter forums telling me my campaign was sunk. But most of our heavy marketing plans had just started landing and we really started getting momentum at the midway point.

I think I would still lean lower for first timers, feeling like it’s better to get a successful campaign under your belt, with all the learning lessons that come along with that, than overreach and end up with nothing. But having said that, we went through 4 substantive BUDGET revisions, and even now that it’s over, I wish we had worked the budget numbers even further.

TIP: Spend a lot of time hammering out your budget. It’s important NOT to be losing money every time you get a new backer. Besides, how ever much time you think it will take to run a successful campaign, in the end it will take MORE than you anticipate. Our campaign was over 300 man hours, and I’m sure we under counted. And there will likely be other charges you incur you hadn’t planned for — hopefully smaller oversights, not bigger ones!

   Tracking the results provides us with some most worthwhile information.  For example, on July 15th, nineteen days into and half way through, the Campaign, we only had 30% of our Campaign Goal. According to the experts, our chances for success at this point were minimal to say the least.  In most instances, the successful campaigns are those who hit deck running hard, and most of their support comes in early.

   The reason for our slow start?  We had virtually no pre-promotion launch!  In retrospect, this definitely needs to be changed.  At the very least, you should plan on running a thirty-day (30) promotion in this realm.

   What we did do was utilize a full range of Marketing and Promotional Tools. During the course of our KickStarter Campaign we did three Direct Mailers – one letter and two postcards. We also “worked” the various e-mail lists at our disposal, sending out in access of 25,000 e-mails.  We drafted and submitted a Press Release regarding our endeavor, and employed Facebook Postings and ads.  Once these all started “landing,” about day twenty, things really started to pick up and backers started coming on board.

   We immediately realized that, for future success, we were going to need to calculate the benefit of each of these endeavors.  The four most beneficial avenues resulted in the following numbers:

          SOURCE                    # OF PLEDGES               % OF PLEDGES

          Direct Traffic                         38                                              32%

          Web-Site                                32                                               20 %

          Facebook                                25                                              15%

          KickStarter                             16                                              10%

One of the most important aspects of a KickStarter Campaign is your KickStarter Page.  We agree that a video is vitally important, and learned some most interesting things in regard to that, too.  For example, we had over a thousand “hits” where people played the video, but of those only forty percent (40%) watched the video all the way through (the video was 4:14 long).  This taught us two important facts:  Shorter videos might be more conducive to a successful KickStarter Campaign, and, if you feel you must do a lengthy video, be sure you get your key points “right up front” in the filming

As we alluded to earlier, we discovered that a lot of our stats reflect a near total antithesis of what you will typically read on KickStarter.  For example, they advise you to go for “small donations” stating that most backers will pledge $100 or less.  However, we found that forty-five (45) of our backers (thirty-one percent [31%]), pledged $157.00 or more.  In fact, we had five backers who “went in” for $2500 or more, and thirty-three percent (33%) of our money came from the largest reward level, though we did get backers at every level.  Due to our “unorthodox” KickStarter Campaign, one of the “KickStarter Gurus” proclaimed that, though we reached and even surpassed our goal, the Campaign was not a success.  And, even though we were seeking backers for a three-book package instead of the standard (one book) Campaign, we ended up fourteenth all time for KickStarter Children’s Books Campaigns!!!

As we did not end up number one, there are areas where we can, and will, improve in the future.  For example, we “over-engineered” our stretch goals.  The key is, to present a “realistic” KickStarter Campaign you should not “post” a stretch goal until you reach your original goal!  For us, that was on day twenty-eight (28), and that is when we announced our stretch goals.  Now, you will want to have a stretch goal in mind, but don’t post it prematurely.

Before preparing to close, we would be doing the reader an injustice if we didn’t stress one most salient point:  Be sure you accurately research and prepare your Budget!  If you don’t calculate what it is going to cost to purchase, and send! your backers the “gift” you promise them, a KickStarter Campaign can, theoretically, cost you money instead of raising it!

Referring to finances, it will probably help you to know the process for receiving your funds.  First, AMAZON will “run” all of the credit cards the day your KickStarter Campaignends.  However, there is a fourteen (14) day delay before you have access to the funds.  While we know the following will vary, we ended up paying KickStarter nearly $2000.00.  We were able to raise $6000.00 through KickStarter and, therefore, feel the $2k to be a worthwhile investment, even though we never received an “endorsement” or recognition of any kind from them, though we finished up 14th in our category on their “all time” list.

In preparing to close, we have several thoughts we would like to share concerning our success:

  • Be sure to have a “Strong Project” concept.
  • Offering backers a valuable reward is a good idea.
  • Make sure you have “assets” to work with:  Legitimate Facebook Fans; a good Direct Mail List and good e-mail lists.
  • Get your Marketing Plan in place and work it like crazy!  Trust me, there is a great deal of “Behind the Scenes” effort that you never see.
  • We found that “add ons” may have value, but they did not add much financial support to the Campaign.
  • You must have good graphics and a good video.
  • Be aware that your “Backer Curve,” like ours, might be totally non-conventional compared to most KickStarter Campaigns.

As a summary, we would just like to re-emphasize the following points:

  • Have a Good Project – Explain your story succinctly – “flesh it out” but don’t make it obese!
  • Be sure to have Good Graphics and a Good Video.
  • Feature Good Backer Rewards.
  • Develop a Good Budget.

If you’re a novice regarding KickStarter Campaigns, you need to keep in mind that there is a lot more work involved than you might think.  You really need to spend time planning and promoting your campaign.  Remember, “He who fails to plan plans to fail!”

(If you would like to pursue a KickStarter Campaign but feel you don’t have the time or ability to conduct one properly and would like to commission PATHMAKER MARKETING LLC to assist you in the project, please contact Randall Mains at 623-322-3334 or randall@pathmakermarketing.net.)

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