Hacking Kickstarter: 6.9 Tips to a Successful Crowdfunding

Ken Lamug
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As of this writing, there have been over 60,000 successfully funded projects on Kickstarter, totaling over $1 billion. Now, that's a lot of lettuce! If that's not evidence enough, check out these cool stats: * Kickstarter is the top publisher of graphic novels, just behind Marvel, DC and Image * Kickstarter signed up 679,413 new backers helping pledge $1.2M per day for a total of $112M in the first quarter of 2014 * Kickstarter launched some cool stuff (Ouya, Double Fine Adventure Game, Oculus Rift and yes, Veronica Mars). While the average overall funding rate for campaigns run about 43%, the categories for

technology and games have a success rate of 35% with a collective funding of $380 Million.


A fancy chart of funded projects as of October 2013 (Source:

Table of Contents

    Kickstarter) With my thinking cap on, and my monocle on the go, let's take a look at some quick, dirty, yet important ideas that can help in your next crowdfunding campaign.

    1 Thou shalt be prepared to eat, breath and bathe crowdfunding

    As with any project, planning is critical. I would recommend up to three months of planning and laying down the groundwork. Allocating enough time for the research and planning phase will save you headaches and eliminate uncertainty in every part of your workflow. If you're building a physical product, you have to determine costs of materials, design, production, and fulfillment. Several campaigns in the past have underestimated the cost of international shipping and product storage, which has eaten right into the money they raised. Make sure to get hard numbers and determine a reasonable campaign goal amount and be sure that your rewards are really

    rewards and not just pre-orders. Give something unique to your backers, a bonus won't be available to the general public. Running a successful campaign also means you have to live that campaign for the foreseeable future. Get ready to bug your friends, and make posts talking about your project. When you start a new campaign, Kickstarter requires that you validate your identity (SSN, drivers license, banking information). So make sure to have these ready. Often times, these requirements limit non-US based campaigners from using the platform. The next step is to create assets for your campaign. This means photography, sketches, illustrations, or 3d renderings that you will use to pitch your idea. Make sure they are high quality and professional. Create a short bio about you and your team, this will give confidence to potential backers and increase your trustworthiness. The video has also been considered one of the most critical parts of your campaign, so make it short and sweet. Under three-minutes is the recommended length. You can always add more images and video in the body of your campaign for additional information.

    2 Neglect not the power of the press release

    A 300-word press release will open up many doors. It makes your project official and it can start the buzz rolling weeks or months before your launch. Make sure to include the important stuff (who, what, when, where, why). Tell your story. What inspired you? You can even hire someone to write your PR for as little as five bucks (see

    fiverr.com). Don't forget that we live in the age of memes, even though the PR is a traditional method of distributing information, don't be shy to add a picture or a video, it will help.


    3 The ultimate power of the media

    Once you've got your brand spanking new press release ready to go, you need someone to send it to. In my campaign, I found my media sources in many ways.

    Big Media You've got your international media outlets such as Washington Post, Huffington Post, CNN, etc. Go to their site and you will easily be able to find out journalists that cover news stories in certain industries. Find one that matches your industry and you can send them your PR. Don't forget the rule that any news is good news. So make sure to connect with your local neighborhood newspaper. They are usually local for local stories that are unique, so make sure to share yours. Sharable Media You can also use this technique with social media savvy web sites such as digg, buzzfeed, mashable, lifehacker, engadget, reddit etc. For example, let's look at Mashable. Typically these sites have a News Submission section which is open to everyone. This is where your PR will come in handly. You can incorporate your idea/pitch in a concise and intriguing story and submit it to their news guys.


    Bloggers Reach out to bloggers and podcasters. These smaller outfits are typically run by a group of passionate enthusiasts and are willing to help out either via interviews or by writing articles. Even though search engines are great tools, I've successfully used twitter to find bloggers. Pre-Launch Sites Depending on how large your campaign goals are, you might also want to look at pre-launching sites such as LaunchRock.com. Their goal is to help create and maintain the buzz around your project before it launches.

    4 Tap that social media

    Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter - Even though statistically, humans can only manage up to 150 friends while maintaining some kind of a decent relationship; when it comes to crowdfunding, the number of people in your social circle may determine your success. But what's even more important is that

    the number of people who believe in your idea will determine its success. Building your social base is a full-time job on its own. This is one of those things, which you cannot build over night. It takes months and years to create an online social identity that has some influence. Tools like Klout and Mention will help determine your social relevance and probably keep you up late into the night. But unfortunately, it's an inherent and critical part of crowdfunding, and makes me wish that I never unfriended that weird guy who keeps inviting me to play Mafia Wars on Facebook.

    klout_screenshot Klout.com shows your social media metrix, impact of your posts and recommends relevant topics to keep your audience engaged. It boggles the mind.
    Mention.com Control Panel Mention.com notifies you whenever a keyword/phrase of your choice is published anywhere on the internet. Pretty cool stuff.

    5 Tools are not for tools

    Tools such as Kicktraq will help you determine how your campaign is performing by providing a nice daily stat. Based on your momentum; it can determine what your end goal could be. You can also research similar projects and see how they've done with their campaigns and compare it with yours. Backer Kit is a site that helps with the post-campaign process of fulfillment by providing an easy to use interface where you can manage your rewards. Another neat tool is called SideKick. It generates real time predictions of the success of Kickstarter Campaigns. Even if you're not running a campaign, it's definitely an interesting chart to look at and get a feel for what's popular. Don't let free ads expire. Did you know that Google, Facebook, Twitter and other major search engines are giving away $50 ad credits? Well, a good use for these free ads would be to direct users to your crowndfunding project. Effectiveness will vary, but let's make Google happy and put those free ads to work. [caption id="attachment_2865" align="alignnone" width="621"][Kicktraq.com fills your brain with stats and charts]2 Kicktraq.com fills your brain with stats and charts[/caption]

    6 Engage, not enrage thy audience

    During your campaign, it's always polite to update your backers on what's happening. Constant communication will save you headaches of disappointed customers. Backers love to be involved every step of the way. Besides, they're not buying a finished product, they're supporting you in your dreams and they want to be part of it. Whenever someone backs your campaign, a simple thank you will go a long way. Put the spotlight back to your supporters, and show them that they are appreciated. An easy way of doing this is using Kickstarter's built-in messaging system (which also sends an email notification to the backer). Every campaign also has a comments section which has been used as sort of a pseudo-forum to chat with backers. Although you could use a third party service to communicate,  most backers don't want to sign-up for another service until the campaign has ended. After the campaign has ended, do the same thing. Make sure to add photos along with your updates. Don't be shy or embarrassed to address any challenges that may arise. If there are issues with design, manufacturing or fulfillment, it's better to let everyone know in advance rather than weeks or months down the road.

    6.5 Thou shalt not ignore thy fees

    Yes, you have to pay fees for your crowdfunding campaign. According to kickstarter,

    they will charge a 5% fee to the funds raised while Amazon will charge 3%-5% for credit card processing fees. Since kickstarter forces you to use Amazon, you really don't have a choice about the whole thing. If your project doesn't get funded, no fees will apply. Indiegogo on the other hand has a flex funding option, which means you can still receive the funds even though you haven't met your target goal. This could be a double-edged sword and could backfire if you're forced to manufacture a product without having enough funds to afford the minimum amount. Indiegogo also allows the use of PayPal, which some prefer over Amazon. Check to see if local or federal taxes apply. It is still considered a profit, so most likely you will have to pay something to Uncle Sam. (I am not a tax attorney, so see your accountant for confirmation.)

    6.9 Other dirty tips you should already know

    Jumpstart or Pushstart your campaign Offer limited or "exclusive" pledges. This will get momentum going in the beginning of your campaign or during a plateau. Don't start or end your campaign over the weekend This makes sense; people are busy, watching Game of Thrones. Leave them alone. If you don't have it yet… build a web site You need it. Guest blog This is actually pretty important and can be quite effective. Why else am I here? ;) Mass Emails While it sounds enticing, I would highly recommend sending out personalized emails. Your emails will have a more positive effect versus ones sent via a bulk mailing service... science said so (or Psychology to be more specific). Be Organized Pop-out your spreadsheet, take notes and plan everything out. Quality Matters Believe it or not, your backers are buying YOU and not just your product. Be professional. Make them believe that you can finish what you promised and deliver it on time. A sloppy presentation will not impressive anyone. Have fun and don't lose faith Like I said before, it's a long and arduous process. Make sure to keep your head up, work hard and you will make it. Kickstarter is just that, something to kick-start a good idea. Even if you don't make it, a great idea will find a way to get made. Good luck!

    The Hot Section - This Author and his Wares

    Ken Lamug is a web developer by day and a writer/illustrator by night. He started computer programming way back in the DOS days with Turbo Pascal, BASIC, Assembly and C. Even though he's forgotten most of it, he did learn the ability of not having to know everything, but knowing how to find the answer. Today, he still develops web based applications for his unruly clients, while maintaining his sanity by making comics. His most recent children's picture book, A Box Story (2012) (Amazon), has received positive press reviews and has won awards including the 2012 Moonbeam Children's Book Award, the 2012 Pinnacle Book Achievement Award, the Literary Classics Best Picture Book Award, and was a National Indie Excellence Award Finalist. In 2013, he was also part of a collaborative comic book, The Tales from Lost Vegas. Ken is also a proud contributor for the online children's macabre/horror magazine, Underneath the Juniper Tree and was published as part of HitRecord's Tiny Stories 3 (Amazon) book. profile_kenneth_lamug_rabbleboy I hope you'll support my new comic book on Kickstarter called - The Tall Tales of Talbot Toluca. It's a book which combines a comic book style narrative, hidden-object games (like Where's Waldo) and mind puzzles (like Professor Layton). Click on over there and show your support by pledging, or just by sharing it with your friends.



    Bonus Reading

    Here are some other random crowdfunding articles that might help:

    "Cats" and other words that will help your kickstarter get funded. Untold story behind Kickstarter stats Your brain and your facebook friends A great site to submit and read crowdfunding PR A group mocking Kickstarter projects A great resource for crowdfunding news Don't be this guy who burns his rewards instead of shipping them