(This is a long read. Grab a good cup of coffee and read on. I hope it’ll be useful to many of you. Happy to answer any questions.)
In the past few years, there has been a fundamental shift in how everyone can make their project a reality thanks to crowdfunding. Kickstarter is one of the most popular crowdfunding platform and to date has enabled more than 85000 projects to come to life and raise a combined $1.6 Billion.
This is how we went about launching our Cultured Coffee - the idea is simple, enhancing / making awesome coffee by using controlled fermentations. And the idea of using Kickstarter is also very simple: we want to build a company that is totally open about its technologies. We believe it is very important, especially when dealing with new biotechnologies and something that has such a strong cultural and social roots as food. Beyond the products we are building and the challenges we hope they will address, we also aspire to inspire a new appreciation for the wonderful world of microbes and what they can do for us, humans.
Anyways, we spent tons of time studying this sub and many other sources. We’d like to share here what worked for me and the best resources we’ve found. We hope it'll be useful to many of you.
Filming: get a professional company to do the shooting. You will need a high quality video and it’s a spend you can’t really avoid. We payed a small local film crew about $2000 for ours and we’ve been super happy. Finding an awesome crew can be challenging. Mandy or ProductionHub can help. But the best advice is probably to use your network.
Script: be yourself, keep it snappy, use attractive visuals, explain why you are raising money, how you are going to use it, and close the sale. Try to keep the video around or under 2 minutes. My favourite post on the matter is by Joanna Wiebe. Read it. Seriously.
Music resources: Pond5 and Audiojungle are popular options with most musics around $20-$30 We ended up going for a music on MusicBed with is more expensive but offers much better production qualities. Most musics are around $200 but worth the price IMHO
2. Social Media:
- Build your presence: This goes without saying but you should start building an online presence well ahead of your campaign on both Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at least.
- Tools: I use tweetdeck and hootsuite to manage my accounts. Works really well. I use both Mention and Google alerts to make sure I don’t miss anything about Afineur and our Cultured Coffee.
3. PR #1 - Build relationships with key journalists:
- Build relationships. No tricks here. I spent about 6 months building relationships with a handful of key journalists that I got connected to through my network. With all of them we did personal tasting and I really took the time to interact with them. Out of these about 3 wrote key articles that helped build initial traction.
4. PR #2 - Build a targeted journalist list:
- Google News Scraper: I used a trick developed by Justin at CustomerDevLabs. We used his google news scraper to build a list of about 800 potentially interesting articles based on specific keywords. I cut down this list to about 400 by going over it and double checking for relevance.
- Finding emails: I used Upwork to find a freelancer who found us the emails of about 350 of these. Here are the detailed instructions we shared with our freelancer to find the emails. We used a trick that combines Rapportiveand Email Guesser.
- Find twitter handle and Alexa rank: We also asked for their twitter handle, how many followers the have and the alexa ranking of the different news website these articles were published in. We discarded every article with an alexa rank above 1M.
5. Build an awesome press kit:
- Here is ours. I don’t have that many tricks other than it needs to be visually compelling and clearly tells your story, who you are and why you’re doing it. We used keynote to make ours. Make a dropbox public folder with the above presentation, 10 great pictures of you and your product, and your logo. Copy the public link and use bit.ly or goo.gl to shorten it and monitor if/when your folder is actually opened.
6. Reach out to journalists 2 weeks before launch:
- Write custom intros: I took the time to go through all the 171 articles and journalist contact info we compiled and wrote a custom email intro in a new column in our excel sheet. This intro is used to personalize all the emails we wrote and automated with streak (see below)
- Use Streak to automate emails: We used streak extensively for our emailing. It’s a free tool that integrates with gmail, offers many awesome features to keep track and help you with the hundreds of emails you will be sending. Here’s the intro best video I found about it that shows how you can import your list of journalists and use email automation. Incredibly useful.
- Cold email: Here’s the email template of the first cold email we sent to the press. All the emails were personalized as you can see. We got about 40% response rate with this email and 90% opening rate.
7. Building your Kickstarter page:
- Keep your goal as low as possible. People like backing successful campaigns, journalists like to talk about successful campaigns and it makes sense.
- Use pricing psychology. Whenever possible use prices finishing in ‘9’. For example ‘$39’ is much better than ‘$40’ Read this great blog post to learn more.
- Don’t abuse early birds. It confuses about the real value of your product.
- Design: Kickstarter doesn’t support HTML. We build all the graphics in Keynotes and imported them as images. FYI the default width is 680pix
7. Our viral pre-campaign:
- Rational: It’s essential that you reach at least ⅓ of your goal within the first 3 days to get your campaign funded. For this, you need to engage your extended network.
- Our pre-campaign: For cultured coffee, we built a 2 pages mini-website to let our network know about our launch before anyone else, incentify everyone to spread the word and back the first day. Here’s what it looked like. It’s build with Ruby on Rail on Heroku and inspired by the Harrys precampaign. I found a freelancer on Upwork to do the job for about $300.
- Launch: We launched the precampaign 48h before the Kickstarter. Shared it with a selected group of friends and gathered around 600 emails. In hindsight I would have like to run it a bit longer but these people were really primed and revealed to be essential for the great launch we got.
8. Spread the word about your launch:
- Gather all your social media contacts: I exported all my contacts from linkedin, all my contacts from facebook, sorted them and wrote personalized intro to all of them. Here is how to export your linkedin contacts and here is how to export your facebook contacts (tricky)
- Email tools: : We used Streak to send emails to all our friends. We used Mailchimp to send nice personalized emails to everyone who registered in the precampaign
9. Things that didn’t really work for us:
- Instagram Influencers: We tried to work with Instagram influencers but I don’t think it’s really worth your time. The ROI is poor and super hard to figure out.
- Facebook advertising: I did eight $5 experiments targeting different demographics. It didn’t really work for us but most likely because we’re at the interface between several interests (biotech/coffee) so targeting is a bit tricky. That being said, if you have a super specific niche (like horse supplement - yes you can target for that on Facebook!) it might work fine for you :)
10. Update 07/2016 - New cool tools:
- PR Tool: MuckRack is a great tool to help you identify potentially interesting journalists and reach out to them.
- Kickstronger: Use big data to further refine your campaign. Check out KickStronger.com, a really cool and interesting tool that analyzed 300000 Kickstarter campaigns to figure out what works and what doesn't.
I hope this is useful to many of you. Happy kickstarter, and don't hesitate to shoot any questions!