Ten tips for a successful Kickstarter launch

kickstarterThe time is at hand. Your heart is beating a little faster, the palms are sweaty and you begin to pace. Are you ready, because it’s pitch time. But you are not walking into a boardroom per se, you are about to submit your pitch to the Kickstarter world.

OK, so you may be in you underwear in your den (let’s see you try THAT at a VC firm) but the affects of a bad presentation make you feel as if you DID sit at the table with the Fruit of the Loom guys as your co-presenters.

In our quest to help you avoid such tragedies, the staff at BanklessTimes have put together a checklist of 10 factors to keep in mind as you develop your Kickstarter pitch.

1. Create a sense of ownership in your audience

If you do one thing right in your presentation, it must be to create a sense of project ownership among your supporters. They didn’t find your product in the bargain bin at Walmart – something drew them to click on your presentation, to support it, and to be willing to wait for their purchase if it even gets made at all.  This is an audience predisposed to being part of something bigger.

Take advantage of this fact by looking for every opportunity to draw them in and feel as if they are a part of the process. Let this philosophy imbue everything you do, whether that be communicating, designing perks or creating video.

2. Determine your ask

The great idea is the most important part of the process but after it comes a whole lot of mundane. One of those parts is to determine the funding goal.  Before you figure this out you need two essential tools – a calculator and a crystal ball.

Use the former to figure out how much cash you have available for what you are doing now. The crystal ball is for where you are headed. How much do you need to do that? What are your other sources of present and future income? What liabilities do you have now and in the future? Are you asking for an amount that allows you to complete the project or to roll out the next stage? The answers to these questions will help you determine your ask amount.

3. Be personable

Have the highest ranking person with a good personality make the pitch. Dry and bland is much less likely to be supported. Humor sells. Watch Double Fine Adventure’s Tim Schafer.  His video has him playing the drums, making fun of himself, stealing a coworker’s money and insulting other people in the office. There’s also a picture of him arguing with Cookie Monster in the board room. The humor hooks you, then he reels you in with the business end of it by which time you’re all ears.

4. Be authentic

You are on Kickstarter because you have either tapped everyone you know already or you recognize your are going to need to make your pitch to a larger audience from the onset. Whichever category you fall into, be mindful of one fact: those strangers most likely to support your venture are probably knowledgeable so your presentation must have more information than a Dick and Jane primer, because your audience can assimilate more and will require that extra information to make a support decision. Just make sure you know what you are talking about because if you don’t, they will figure that out and will take their wallets elsewhere.

By this point you have spent hundreds if not thousands of hours on this project. You’re passionate about it. Let that passion shine through.

5. Communication

As any good therapist will tell you, communication is a key to a healthy, successful relationship, and make no mistake, this is a relationship. If project A is successful, there may be a project B in your future and what better way to start off a new venture than with a group of people who know your work and who have supported it in the past. That’s every company’s dream, isn’t it?

So provide regular updates on the status of your project. State your timelines and adhere to them. Do this on your Kickstarter page and in e-mails to your supporters. Many companies provide regular video to show the status of the project and to introduce fans to the staff involved in its creation. This works especially well when your staff are personable.

6. Exploit Credibility

Does anyone or anything associated with your project have name recognition?  I don’t mean the “The secretary’s cousin once saw Brad Pitt get into a cab” type credibility, but more like have any of your staff been involved with notable projects within your industry?  Technology and games manufacturers are particularly adept at this. They drop the names of developers associated with the project who have been involved with other notable games.

Another way to accomplish this is by linking your project to a known entity through a shared bond such as a materials supplier. Fashion brand Ministry of Supply mentions in their pitch that a supplier works with Ralph Lauren.

7. Show them where the money goes

Many companies were explicit in their descriptions of the costs associated with their venture and in how the money raised will be used. The smart ones recognize the lost value in having guests to their page not support the venture because they have already reached their goal. What these companies do is add additional funding levels and describe what these extra totals will allow them to do. If you are making a video game you can create extra levels or add characters and functionality. Widget makers can expand product lines. Successful presentations can garner 25 times their original ask and STILL GET MORE by doing this.

8. Put your product to work

If you sing, sing, or at the very least have your songs playing during your presentation. If you are a dancer, dance. If you are making a widget, show that widget in operation.

Amanda Palmer and Grand Theft Orchestra is the best supported music act ever on Kickstarter. Their music plays throughout their video which is funny with a bit of attitude, much like how you would expect the music to be.  Check out the TGT, or Tight Wallet, the world’s smallest wallet.  The video shows the TGT alongside a traditional wallet and INSIDE a traditional wallet, that’s how much smaller it is. There are also numerous shots of the TGT sitting inconspicuously inside various pockets. The video for Star Citizen features designer Chris Roberts inhabiting his own game.

9. Wave the flag

Is your product made in the U.S.A., or in whatever country you are making your pitch in? If so, use that to your advantage. It may be a global economy and hyper-connected world, but many companies are taking advantage of the backlash against foreign goods by trumpeting their use of local products and suppliers. Flint and Tinder, makers of upscale men’s underwear, describe how few brands are made in the U.S.A.  They pull on the heartstrings by taking you to the plant and showing it below capacity. If your product will help create jobs, get your facts straight then say so.

10. Pay attention to your giveaways

Whole industries are based on industry’s desire to get on your shelf, in your closet and to do whatever it takes to stay in your consciousness. How many pens, shirts, coffee mugs and golf balls have you owned with some company’s logo on them? Do you even notice them anymore? Generic swag won’t encourage someone to support your project, or to increase their level of support. The goal of the swag is to create a lasting link between the supporter and your project, so when they look at it it triggers something. Think of the optimal situation as this: a previous supporter happens to be surfing online the day you release your new video for your next Kickstarter project. They see the video, look at the last giveaway on their shelf and pull out their wallet.

You can do so much in this area to make your brand memorable. Game figure maker Bones offers special figurines.  Offer game junkies a chance to name a character, contribute to the plot or get rare art related to the game. At a bare minimum your supporters get the product before anyone else. Think of midnight lineups outside Best Buy or the Apple Store to see how important this is to the diehards.

Price your giveaways in such fashion that there is clear value in supporting the project at any level while making each successive tier tempting enough that they’ll consider increasing their support.