Reflections on Launching a Kickstarter Campaign
In the two and 1/2 months since finishing my Kickstarter, I’ve spoken to several people looking for advice on how to run a successful campaign so I thought I’d make a list here of what worked, what didn’t, and what I would do differently next time.
- Read A Warts-and-All Guide to Kickstarter: What Works and What Doesn’t (Plus Where We Royally Screwed Up). There is tons of advice out there on what to do/not do in launching a crowd funding campaign. This was the best article I read.
- E-mail Lists: Everything you read says that this is the key to a successful campaign. Because we have a big list (9000), I felt fairly confident setting what I only found out after the campaign started was a very high goal for KS projects: $54,000. But I figured that if everyone who typically opened Numen emails contributed $10, I could easily reach my goal, and so $54,000 didn’t seem out of the question. Yet my email announcing the campaign to our list was met with… silence. Maybe 2 backers contributed a total of $100. There are probably a number of reasons for this, but mostly because I am not comfortable sending email newsletters and so I don’t. And when I do, the messages are both forced and stiff and I typically only send them when I’m asking for something, never a good thing to do. I take a few lessons from this: either develop a really good relationship with the people on your list or find people who do have good relationships with their lists who are willing to share your campaign with them. Focus your energy on where you are comfortable. For me, this turned out to be writing individual emails to people encouraging them to look at the campaign, share it with friends, support it if they could. I wrote more individual emails during the campaign than anything else. That isn’t to say it’s what you should do. It’s just what, for me, was the most effective way to connect with people around the ideas in a way that felt less pushy than the general messages I sent to our list made me feel.
- How does this impact me? Early on, when my campaign was going so slowly and it seemed there was no way I’d reach my goal, I asked an herbalist friend what I was doing wrong. She told me (thank you, Rosalee!!) that I was describing the problem very clearly, but I wasn’t showing how it related to my readers. I wasn’t showing how it made any difference in their lives. Her advice was spot on. I’m not sure I ever managed to really change the language to do that, but others who did share the campaign with their followers did. And I think that is what made all the difference.
- Updates/Posts: Include new information in every new update so your ask isn’t ever only an ask. This also felt key to balancing the feeling of being overly pushy that was always lurking. I wrote new posts about the research I’ve done so far on sourcing and the herb industry and I also wrote a post responding to a recent news item (the NY Attorney General cease and desist letters to GNC, Walmart, etc) to show how the Sustainable Herbs Project related to issues facing the industry overall. And then I let others know about this new information and by the way, could they take a look at the Kickstarter or share the link with friends. I wrote updates fairly frequently to Kickstarter backers as well. I have no idea how these impacted the overall campaign, but backers are a great list to write to – because they already backed you and they want you to be successful!
- Write Thank You’s: It should go without saying but of the three Kickstarter’s I’ve contributed to, I’ve only been thanked once. You would think I would have been more understanding for not getting a thank you, given the number of times I have failed to write one. But it bothered me. I wrote short thank you notes to ever backer – as much as possible, within a day or two. I didn’t always get them out that quickly – when I had a lot of new backers on a day or when I just needed a bit of a break from the computer (I was the only one doing this campaign, if you have others to help, I’d say write within 24 hours). Hand written notes might have been nicer, but I did work hard to be in touch with all of my backers, individually as well as collectively.
- Social Media: Everyone talks about the importance of social media. For me, it was okay, but nothing I wrote ever really took off the way I hoped. Again, it’s important to not just find where your audience is (the herb community: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest somewhat), but where you are comfortable. I’m not really comfortable anywhere! I paid to boost some posts on the Numen Facebook page so that more of our followers actually saw them. I think that helped get the word out. But what worked much better was other people with more engaged and active audiences posting the campaign on their pages. So, if you don’t love Social Media, find supporters who do!!
- Awards: Everyone says this, but be very careful about awards so you don’t end up spending all that hard earned money fulfilling them. I thought I was being careful and included as many online rewards as possible to save on shipping and to make it easy on those contributing an award. And I was lucky that so many herbalists were willing to offer awards for free, so overall, my cost is pretty low. That said, I did buy some books wholesale and I still have to pay to ship all of the books around the world. Shipping costs were included – which means I don’t have to dip into non shipping costs to fulfill them – but it does mean that that big final number on the KS page includes costs that go toward shipping. So while backers think $65,000 is going to the project, in fact, when all is said and done, perhaps $50,000 will be available. Which is fantastic, I’m not complaining. It just isn’t $65,000!
- Community: Lots has been written about this. Even so, I am astonished by the incredible support for this project and hadn’t at all anticipated how that would feel. This in itself is why it is worth doing a crowd funding campaign. I now have 975 people who believe in this project, who I can turn to for suggestions and contacts. Who write messages of support. It’s incredible and has really helped me believe in this project even more strongly and feel like I have an active engaged audience eager to hear what I discover.
- Honing Your Message: I have never worked more intensely or with more focus than during the 30 days of that campaign. Faced with the prospect that all the work I’ve been doing for the past 5 months and that I hoped to do in the next year would be awash if I didn’t reach my goal, I pulled out all the stops, contacted people I would have waited days to contact before. Picked up the phone to call people. Followed up. Followed up again. Became efficient. Lots of good things!
- Get Help: I wrote this post a few weeks after I finished my Kickstarter campaign but I was so burned out from any and all online activity, that it took me three months to come back to it. As I said above, I did everything behind our campaign: writing blog posts, writing updates, contacting new supporters, contacting old ones, maintaining an active presence on social media, etc. etc. etc. And then as soon as the campaign was done, I needed to begin fulfilling awards. Not only that, I began teaching a class that involved a tremendous amount of preparation and time immediately after the campaign ended. It would have been good if I had maintained more contact these past few months, updating people on my progress, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do any of it. Not only was I not able to do it, I felt a constant nagging feeling that I should be. Lesson: It’s hard to ask for help after people have just been so generous. So I suggest lining some up before you begin so you can go the long haul, not just for the campaign but for the duration of the project. Do this especially if online outreach doesn’t come easily to you, since, like me, you will be more likely to burn out more quickly.