Creating a successful project

So you wanna give a trickstarter project a go?

Awesome!

My name is Cosmo Solano and I’m the founder of this little website! Welcome!

I have been fortunate enough to have FOUR products get funded on Kickstarter so far. While I was CAREFUL to try and put products on that I felt STRONGLY would succeed, I honestly believe that the RIGHT product is only HALF (if not less) of what’s important!

In Feb of 2012, I launched a kickstarter project for the Bicycle Spectrum Playing Cards deck. I had no idea what crowdfunding was, so I researched it for weeks, before I felt competent enough to start building a project. However I decided not to jump in too fast, and I believe that THAT DECISION was the reason for funding at over 700%!

The reason I point this out is that there’s more to a successful crowdfunding project than just a good idea!

I studied literally DOZENS of successful projects on kickstarter, I kept notes on EVERY ONE of them, studying what seemed to work and why I felt the projects succeded. I also studied as many, if not MORE failed projects.

One thing I found was that it wasn’t necessarily a good idea or product that succeded! It was the campaign! How they presented the product or idea!

I remember a card game that was GENIUS but didn’t fund. In fact it failed miserably. the reason was the video and the rest of the campaign was done as if the creator didn’t really care. it was shot quick, poorly, with bad audio and the project looked thrown together. I LOVED the idea of the game, but I had to force myself to sit through it. If I weren’t out to study failed projects, I wouldn’t have even KNOWN that it was a good game! Unfortunately, the creator never tried to re-launch it and it never went to market!

After realizing what I thought were the MOST important things when trying to acquire crowdfunding, I finally launched a few weeks later. The Spectrum Deck Funded IN THREE HOURS! And while all I needed was a bit over $3,000, we finished at over $21,000 in just 30 days!  I honestly think it did as well as it did because of the campaign, FIRST and the product SECOND.

There are really just a few KEY elements that I’ll recommend you spend time thinking about and effort working on…

1. YOUR FIRST GOAL SHOULD BE TO GET FUNDED AS FAST AS POSSIBLE.
Figure out how much you need at the BARE MINIMUM. Don’t make the mistake of setting your funding goal at how much you WANT to make! Focus on how much you NEED MINIMUM to make the project a reality.  Don’t worry or think about “profits” yet! (That’s right, not YET.)

Example: Lets say you figure out that you can make a small run of your item for $1000. But at the small quantity, you won’t make a profit, you’ll barely break even. The profits only begin when you can invest at least $2500.

You’ll be tempted to set your goal at $2500! However, goal number one is to get FUNDED quickly (worry about profits later).
Here’s a very important thing to understand about crowdfunding: Funding spawns MORE funding! Crowdfunding generates a “crowd” mentality! Set your goal as LOW as you can. Its the same concept as “success begets success”. As you get close to funding, your backers get excited and start telling others.  They may not share at first! As others see your project getting close to funding, they too get excited and don’t want to be left out! As they jump on the bandwagon, they TOO become part of your cheer-leading team!

So now THEY start talking and spreading the word. In almost EVERY case study I did, the funding pace TOOK OFF as it got close to funding and then surged AGAIN, AFTER funding was hit! Why? Well, everyone wants to be a part of a winning team! If you’re goal is high, because you want to make sure you make a big profit, you’re risking NEVER getting funding. You see, if it’s crawling along, MANY people will NOT join in, why? Because no one wants to be on a LOSING team. You HAVE to show success as fast as possible! THIS will catapult you to those profits you want!

A LOW FUNDING GOAL DOESN’T MEAN A LOW FINISH AND WILL USUALLY GET YOU TO A HIGHER FINISH BY THE PROJECT’S END!

Case in point:
I PURPOSELY decided on my VERY FIRST kickstarter campaign, that I needed a minimum of $3,300 and that was because if I needed to, if that was ALL I made, I wouldn’t have made a nickel. In fact I was prepared to spend out of pocket to get the run done if we only hit $3,300. Well we funded in just THREE hours, and THAT created SUCH A BUZZ that the pace kept up and we ended up hitting over $21,000!

So hitting our goal within HOURS of launching created a FRENZY in the card collecting community. it also gave me GREAT leverage with the retailers and distributors! Being able to show that the project was funded made the dealers want in! Before we even went to press I had ANOTHER $15,000 in orders OUTSIDE of kickstarter, from ALL OVER the world! They saw success and wanted some of it! Success begets success!

The point here is focus on GETTING FUNDED FIRST, So that a large portion of the time during your project, shows FUNDED. It will create MORE INTEREST.

*NOTE: Do NOT go lower than you NEED! Make sure you can fulfill your promise to get the item made! If you claim you can print a custom deck at the USPCC for $1000 dollars, people will know something’s not right!

Take a look at Ryan Pilling’s Baby Bow project! The funding pace INCREASED as he got closer and he ended up funding at $3700, that’s 186% OVER the $1980 he set out to get!

2. Make an honest, clear and concise video, and be human.

Don’t worry about production values as much as you do making sure that it’s very clear what your product is.  A crowdfunding project isn’t just a “trailer”. Sure you can make a fancy trailer, but also add a little personal talk from yourself to the viewer! Who you are, why you made the project, what are the attributes, are there any challenges? Does it require sleights? etc.

Make sure the AUDIO is CLEAR, the visuals are clear and DON’T RAMBLE ON! Say what you need to say, no more and no less!  Write out a script and find the spots where you repeat yourself! Cut out unnecessary repetition! This is a very common issue and will cause a person to leave the page out of boredom! You may have a cute story about how you performed your creation at a party, but if it doesn’t add to the description, leave it out! A cute story won’t make someone want to buy it!

3. Describe your project clearly in writing as well. Use photos and drawings.
Keep your written description informative and concise as well! Basically follow the same guidelines as you use for making the video. Take photos of your product or prototype, or use drawings.

4. Be prepared! Don’t launch a product on just an idea!
Make sure you’re at the point of NEEDING to get funded! don’t try to launch a project that hasn’t been researched, or one you don’t know what it will take to produce! Know ALL the details of what it takes, get prototypes made, graphics made, and even mock up packaging! People want to imagine the product as a finished product!

5. Offer an incentive for your backer’s support!
I suggest that you be willing to knock off a little in the price just to make it worth “getting in” on the ground floor! Say THANKS to your backers by giving them a price NO ONE will get after the project ends!

5. Don’t rush!

ITS BETTER to take your time and double check everything and have a successful project than rush and have it fail.

6. Communicate along the way!
Update your backers on your efforts behind the scenes! Did the artwork get done? Show it off! Did you modify the design for the better? Show everyone! Bring them behind the scenes as often as possible! And if you have problems or delays, communicate! Tell everyone AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, so that they understand. They are your supporters! They’ll hang in there with you if you let or ask them, but if you don’t tell them why things are delayed, they’ll feel disrespected.

Other things to consider
These are all ideas on how to make the project appealing to the viewers/backers, but there’s also things you MUST think about before you launch:

Shipping. Research shipping costs thoroughly.
One of the BIGGEST mistakes made in crowdfunding is underestimating the cost of packaging and shipping! Figure out EVERYTHING, including bubble wrap, shipping boxes or envelopes, time it takes to package each item. Research the shipping cost of your item, weigh it INSIDE the box it will ship in WITH the bubble wrap etc.

Example: I had a project where I charged $13.50 for international shipping. I had weighed out the item without the shipping materials, AND later changed the box it would come in to a plastic box. The added weight made shipping internationally jump from $13, to $23! Suddenly I was PAYING $10 out of MY pocket for each shipment! I had dozens of international orders and it cost me HUNDREDS of dollars!  had I known this beforehand, I could have told people the TRUE cost of shipping and they would have paid it!

Packaging. Decide HOW you want to package your item, does it take printing? A special custom box? KNOW EXACTLY how much it’s going to cost, call packaging companies and get costs for various numbers of boxes. Packaging and design always cost more than you’d think!

I spoke with someone who sold a $10 item, they only did a short run, and he didn’t realize that the packaging was going to cost him OVER $1.50 per item! that doesn’t sound like a lot, but it caused the cost of the item to go UP by 50%! Every little thing adds up! If he’d done his homework, he could have EASILY just raised the retail enough to cover the cost!

Time! Your time is limited and valuable.
What killed me with the Spectrum Decks was how much time and energy it took to package and ship almost 500 orders, some of which were single decks, others were bricks, others were mixed, with uncuts and the special gold seal decks and the regular run decks. Some wanted signatures, It was a NIGHTMARE!  I found that after a normal long days work, I had to come home and work AGAIN on packaging. It was exhausting! I literally got NO SLEEP for months trying to fulfill the orders. Consider if you CAN handle fulfillment, if not, it’s WORTH IT to pay a fulfillment company!

DON’T LET THESE THINGS INTIMIDATE YOU!

They can EASILY be taken care of if you plan properly!  To over come any of these things, all you need, is to KNOW about them BEFORE you jump in! You can raise the price a little, make sure you charge properly for shipping, or change you ideas about design and packaging to something more realistic or affordable!

In summary, make a clear, short and sweet but informative video. Edit it, and edit it again. If you don’t know how, get help or learn how! It doesn’t have to be HOLLYWOOD! Just clear and easy to understand! Sure you can jazz it up, but that shouldn’t be your first priority!

Reward your backers with special “trickstarter” prices, and communicate! Even if you run into problems in manufacturing, people will understand if you keep them updated!

And I feel this is the most important thing… Set your funding as LOW as possible, but make sure it’s enough to fulfill your promises! If you hit ONLY your goal, and you don’t profit, at least your off and running and you have a product on the market!

People OFTEN FAIL TO SEE THE BIGGER PICTURE:

Crowdfunding isn’t the end of a product’s life, it’s the BEGINNING!

If you can make a profit on your campaign, that’ a bonus! But remember that once you’ve gotten the project funded, you now can market it with PROOF that there’s an interest in it! And you now ALSO have a team of happy customers who can keep telling others! Remember, people like to show off in youtube videos! Your customers are your best advertisers! GET IT OUT THERE and you’re off to a great start!