Planning to fund your new invention on Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Go Fund Me or another crowdfunding platform?
Just because you made it with your own two hands and your friends and family love it, doesn’t mean strangers will want to give you money for it.
We talked to a couple of experts for an insider’s view of some make-or-break dos and don’ts.
‘It’s all about having the influencers.’— Daniel Cousins
“The days of throwing a campaign up on Kickstarter and it going viral and all of a sudden, you’ve made several thousand dollars — is not the case anymore,” says Josh Lindsay, co-creator of the Forktula — a tiny plastic spatula you can slip onto your fork to scrape up every last bit of sauce or whipped cream. He’s a wildlife biologist by day for a P.E.I. watershed group, but a product developer in his spare time.
Over the past five years Lindsay has launched three crowdfunding campaigns — the first, for a board game he created with a friend, was a flop. Another, for a children’s book he wrote and self-published, was a moderate success. And the Forktula campaign last December quickly exceeded its goal.
Epoch, the Game of Seasons, Settlement and Survival, was a cross between the games Settlers of Catan and Risk. He sought $15,000 on Kicktraq, but received only $1,370 — it was an all-or-nothing bid, so backers who pledged got their money back. Lindsay’s book My Love Grows With You in 2016 raised its goal of $1,500 on Kickstarter and was published — but lessons were learned along the way. Forktula raised $11,215 in just two weeks on Kickstarter.
Daniel Cousins is a marketing consultant who runs the Facebook page PEI Crowdfunding. He’s also invested in several crowdfunding campaigns.
1. Keep your ask simple
“Have your idea refined,” advises Cousins. “Often I see campaigns and it’s ‘I want to do this, and this and this!’ Pick one.”
Ask for a reasonable amount of money to launch a single product, he says.
2. Plan extensively for launch day
“I just launched a campaign without any planning ahead and put it out there to see if it would catch and lo and behold — it didn’t,” says Lindsay of his board game. He didn’t make that mistake again — with his book and Forktula, he got word out beforehand about the campaign.
Lindsay and his partner did Forktula demonstrations at universities throughout the Maritimes and asked people to give them their email addresses. They then emailed all of them in advance of launch day to create excitement. They also sent out press releases to websites they hoped might feature their product — and several of them did.
Then, they had a big launch party at a local brew-pub with prizes.
“Have a network, and build this well beforehand,” advises Cousins. If you have a product for gamers, for instance, research who the big influencers are in the gaming community — YouTubers with millions of followers, for instance — and send them a sample and ask them if they’d promote it when you launch your campaign.
“It’s all about having the influencers,” Cousins said.
3. Seed your campaign
Have investors committed beforehand, Lindsay advises. Let them know when launch day is coming and when they can press the “donate” button.
No one wants to be first — if potential backers see others have already donated, they’ll be more likely to support a project.
Campaigns that gain backers immediately won’t sink to the back pages of the crowdfunding platform, Lindsay says.
4. Have your product ready
Have a working prototype of your product and know how quickly you’ll be able to have it manufactured, Lindsay says.
“The internet is full of people that are quick to judge,” he says — which is what they did with his board game. Although Lindsay had come up with a makeshift prototype, it wasn’t good enough.
“They could tell we didn’t know what we were doing and we made it look like we wouldn’t actually be able to fulfil the orders.”
5. Don’t make crowdfunding your only plan
Plan for if you don’t get the money, and also for if you get more than you were expecting, Cousins says.
“If you only get half of the investment you want — what can you do?” Tell potential backers your plans.
6. Avoid crowdfunding marketing companies
Marketing companies may see your crowdfunding campaign and approach you, Lindsay says. As he and his partner launched Forktula, 16 companies messaged them claiming to love their product and offering to help promote it.
“They hound every campaign that goes live on Kickstarter,” Lindsay says. The companies ask for money to advertise your product, he says, but rarely deliver results.
A couple of years ago, worried he wouldn’t meet his goal, a less-experienced Lindsay was enticed by one such company, spending extra money hoping it would translate into extra backers for his book — it didn’t.
7. Offer good backer rewards
Offer your backers the product you want to sell — not a bunch of other stuff like T-shirts or tote bags, Lindsay advises.
8. Have a video
“People are drawn to videos,” Lindsay says — so use one or make one for your crowdfunding campaign. Lindsay included a video with both his book and the Forktula campaign.
Demonstrate you know what you are doing. Cousins recalls one campaign he saw recently looking to raise money for a CD of music for cats, that not only didn’t outline its budget but didn’t showcase any music. “You had no clue if they could even play a guitar — they have a video that was completely silent.”
Lindsay and co-creator Oliver Sauve have sold about 16,000 Forktulas so far and plan to pitch the product to CBC’s Dragons’ Den this spring. They’ve seen a new flood of orders and interest since sending out press releases for their Kickstarter campaign — their video has now been viewed on the Facebook page of lifestyle website Thrillist almost a million times.