Kickstarters: Kicking it Off

March 4, 2017 at 7:45 am 1 comment

I have run six Kickstarters for my brand Kimchi Kawaii, four which successfully funded beyond the goal, one that didn’t fund and one currently running. I get a lot of questions about running Kickstarters and while I don’t claim to be the foremost guru of crowd funding (I have yet to hit that magic formula where I fully fund in a few hours), I figured I would start a little four part series compiling what I’ve learned through trial and error.

There are many different sites to chose from out there – some are all or nothing, some let you keep whatever money you’ve raised, even if you haven’t hit your goal. There’s really no right or wrong. It’s really what works for your needs. That part I leave up to you. In the meantime, here are some things to think about as you’re getting ready for your adventure.

Believe in your product.

The super cute and kawaii chocolate and strawberry panda bar plushies!

The super cute and kawaii chocolate and strawberry panda bar plushies!

This may sound like a ‘duh’ moment, but it can be something that people overlook in the excited rush to launch. The very first Kickstarter I did was for some panda ice cream sandwich plush. I was new to the plush outsourcing game and basically, I let the factory tell me what my plush should look like. I didn’t push back enough with edits until it was in line with MY design. So when I got the prototypes, I had some doubts about them.

You may think it won’t affect your project, but if you’re not behind it 200 percent, it will show. Kickstarters require a ton of marketing to get the word out and the pledges in. You need every advantage you can get. It was really hard to talk to people and get excited about it when I was feeling half hearted about the prototypes. I was trying to get people to believe enough in my product to pledge their hard earned money even though I didn’t fully believe in it. I felt like I was being dishonest in selling them on this. The Kickstarter failed to fund.

Time Commitment

Crowd funding done well takes A LOT of time. You can expect to spend anywhere from 4 months to a year on a project from prototyping to the time you send out the last backer package. I start planning financial details and backer levels a few months before start date (for first time creators, you may want to start even earlier). About a month out, I start marketing a lot more through my social media and physical cards sent with customers’ online orders. (I’ll talk more about promotion in a later post). I also have the graphics to put together for my website, the project page and my social media promotions.

Then, it’s launch and time to hit the most intense part of the project. The average recommended time is 30-60 days. Longer than that and it’s really hard to keep people engaged. You need to be able to keep the pledges coming in through creative social media strategies. Additionally, as this is a dynamic platform, you also need to think fast. You may have plan A and B, but then depending on how pledging is going, have to suddenly switch to plan C. I often try to clear my project queue as much as possible for the time my Kickstarter is live so I can give it my undivided attention and energy.

I often laugh a bit when the last day hits and then people say ‘Now you can relax’. Nope, now I have ordering, backer surveys and then packaging and shipping. Depending on how large your project turns out, you may want to consider an outside service for this part like Backer Kit. Just keep in mind that these services often have additional fees to budget for. As of posting, I haven’t had a Kickstarter large enough to warrant using one, but I do have some friends who have and they’ve said these sites are lifesavers.

Consider the time of year.

There are many posts out there suggesting the best times to run a project. I’m going to share when I’ve discovered NOT to run a project.

One of mine, I made the mistake of running right over tax day, April 15th. All of a sudden, people who had waited last minute to do their taxes discovered that they were not getting that nice refund from Uncle Sam and started looking closer at their bank balances. I had a ton of pledges drop the few days around that date. So much so that I actually posted a negative total for some of those days. I don’t know about other platforms, but Kickstarter shows a progress chart. Mine actually dipped around the 15th. It did eventually fund, but that one stretch was not a good feeling!

Try to avoid setting an estimated time of arrival (ETA) anywhere near the holidays. Even if you state it in your project over and over, there will be backers who won’t see it and expect that the product will be there in time to put under the Christmas tree. If it doesn’t arrive, cue the angry or panicked emails about Christmas being a failure.

Another thing to think about, when the items do arrive, what will be going on in YOUR life? Will you be trying to ship during what is normally a busy time of year for you? I sell at a lot of anime conventions. Con season is nearly year round now, but heavily concentrated during the summer months. So I try to avoid having Kickstarter shipping (which is a huge project in itself) during that time as I’m also hand creating product in addition to my full time job.

I did find that due to scheduling and the plans for my business this year that I couldn’t avoid the delivery time falling in the middle of con season with my current project. So I’ve adjusted the ETA to backers to allow for the fact that I’ll be juggling multiple tasks when stuff arrives.

*Side note to those doing plush projects: Factories in China shut down for about a month around Chinese New Year. Make sure you account for this in either your preparations or the backer ETA you’re listing in your project.

Back up plans are always good, right?

Not always. As tempting as it may be, don’t bail out your own Kickstarter. With all or nothing platforms like Kickstarter it’s almost a risk free way to test a product’s appeal among your customer base. It can be extremely hard to put something out there that you believe in and watch it fail. As hard as it is, it may be that it just doesn’t have the pull to make it a successful product in the long run.

Sweet Dreams Kickstarter is 86% funded as of posting!

Sweet Dreams Kickstarter is 86% funded as of posting!

My second Kickstarter was for a sleeping chocolate covered strawberry plush. Pledging was going very slowly and I didn’t want another failure so I threw in $2,000 of my own money to push it to full funding. I now have 400 or so strawberry plush taking up space. They move just as slowly in my shop and at cons as they did on the Kickstarter. I should have seen it as a sign that this was not a product with strong interest and just swallowed my pride and let it go.

__

So, hopefully this gives you some food for thought when planning your crowd funding project. I’ll be honest, it can be a crazy, emotional roller coaster and at times, you may wonder why you’re torturing  yourself with all the anxiety that can come from them. These things are hard work! But if you do stick it through, it’s an amazing feeling when you hit your funding goal and realize that enough people believed enough in your product to put their money behind it!

Next up: Setting it Up

 

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Entry filed under: Informational, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , .

Put on Your Sales Face Kickstarter: Setting it Up – Time and Money

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