9 Steps for Getting Kickstarter Dollars

Looking for startup funding? These 9 steps will help you create a killer Kickstarter campaign.
Associate Features Editor, Mashable
May 08, 2012

These days, more Kickstarter campaigns are achieving success than we can keep track of. The iPhone-friendly Pebble watch earned $7.6 million more than its $100,000 goal. And the Galileo iPhone platform closed its Kickstarter campaign at $702,000, far surpassing its $100,000 goal.

Not to mention, Kickstarter recently reported it has raised $200 million from over 2 million backers.

How does one cash in (literally) on the Kickstarter craze? For starters, it helps to have a unique concept, wicked ambition and one unforgettable pitch. We've read all of Kickstarter's guidelines, FAQs and tips, and have researched testimonials from successful campaign alums to compile a set of tips that will help launch you into the Kickstarter hall of fame.

1. The Scope

Kickstarter projects are just that: projects. And Kickstarter has strict parameters to define a project. It's "something finite with a clear beginning and end." In other words, Kickstarter is not meant to help you earn money to launch a business. Rather, it’s about earning money to complete a finite goal, whether that’s releasing your band’s latest album, completing a book, etc.

Now, if that project just so happens to coincide with the launching of your business, so be it. However, don’t expect to use Kickstarter funds toward anything related to general business–you can use the money towards the development of your project and in paying the necessary people to get your work off the ground. So, set very specific and measurable project goals. Not only will Kickstarter approve your project, but potential backers will have a firmer understanding of what they’re funding.

2. The Timeline

One of the biggest factors to take into account is your project’s timeline. This will dictate how long your Kickstarter campaign should run and how long it will take to deliver the finished product.

You can set a Kickstarter campaign to run anywhere between one and 60 days. Keep in mind, however, that projects lasting 30 days or less have Kickstarter’s highest success rates. A project’s momentum climbs in the beginning and the end, but can lag during a too-long middle time period. Find a happy medium between your timeframe and your audience’s attention span.

A timeline is also important so that you can set mailing dates for your backers’ rewards, another essential piece of the Kickstarter experience. Be sure to give yourself enough time to complete your project once the Kickstarter campaign has been funded; that way, you won’t disappoint your backers with late or rushed rewards.

3. The Money

Once you have a clearly defined project, it should be relatively straightforward to define a funding goal. It’s as simple as putting together a budget.

Take into account the following: production, manufacturing, labor, packaging and shipping costs. Factor in your “salary,” too; if you’re using Kickstarter to help you complete a book, backers are paying for your time. (Just be sure to make that clear in your project description.)

The most important thing to remember is that Kickstarter uses an all-or-nothing funding model. If your project doesn’t reach its financial goal within the specified time period, you’ll receive no money. Therefore, don’t set the bar unreasonably high. On the other hand, if you’ve accurately budgeted the project and are fully transparent to potential backers, you should see healthy returns.

4. The Tiers

Hand-in-hand with your budget, you’ll need to determine the proper rewards to return to backers once the project is completed. Rewards are tangible returns for a backer’s money, and can vary widely from project to project. A popular example is rewarding your backers with something made by the project itself, like a copy of a newly recorded album.

Rewards are determined by different funding tiers. Let’s take the CD example: You might estimate that a backer who pledges $20 deserves a copy of the CD. However, if a backer pledges $50, maybe he or she receives a signed copy of the CD. And if he pledges $100, it’s two signed copies plus a concert ticket.

Kickstarter data shows that the most popular pledge is $25, but the average pledge is around $70. Kickstarter also shares that projects with no reward succeed 35% of the time, while projects with a reward less than $20 succeed 54% of the time. Don’t be afraid to vary your pledge tiers widely to accommodate all budgets.

5. The Video

Kickstarter projects with a video component succeed at a significantly higher rate than those without (50 percent vs. 30 percent). So yes, a video is important. According to Kickstarter, this is what makes a killer vid:

  • Tell us who you are.
  • Tell us the story behind your project. Where'd you get the idea? What stage is it at now? How are you feeling about it?
  • Come out and ask for people's support, explaining why you need it and what you'll do with their money.
  • Talk about how awesome your rewards are, using any images you can.
  • Explain that if you don't reach your goal, you'll get nothing, and everyone will be sad.
  • Thank everyone!

Finally, be sure that your video thumbnail is strategic, inviting and piques the visitor’s curiosity. Consider featuring a prototype or a design element. After all, it’s the first image people will see when they visit your project page.

6. The Project Page

Now that you’ve defined your project’s parameters, it’s time to communicate them to potential backers and supporters. Kickstarter emphasizes the most important thing to remember is to be transparent at all times.

That means clearly defining your project’s scope and how you will achieve your goal. It’s also imperative that you explain precisely how you plan to use backers’ money.

Then, explain why you are the best person, company or group to complete this project. Why is your team qualified? What are your past experiences and accolades? Also, create a sense of urgency and timeliness–why do people need this project right now?

Remember to be concise but thorough. Ask yourself, "What questions would people have about my project before pledging money and support?"

7. The Community

Now that you’re ready to launch your project, it’s time to call on your community. Kickstarter recommends tapping your social media followers, but advises a gentle approach. Don’t spam your friends and goad your followers with self-promotion. Consider several different kinds of outreach so as not to overload one network.

And remember: Your community isn’t enough. Consider drafting a pitch document for media coverage, no matter how small the outlet. And ask for help from your local community so they can share in the success–pass out fliers in local businesses and make nice with your town’s radio DJs.

An often overlooked tactic is to tap your backers’ networks, too. Once a person supports your project, he or she is obviously invested in its completion. So ask backers to share the project among their communities.

8. The Updates

Your backers are the lifeblood of your project. They deserve to be updated frequently and thoroughly, as if they were on the team alongside you.

You may choose to either make updates public, or share them privately to backers. To make them feel invested, consider e-mailing updates that include video and photos of your progress, important milestones and team events.

9. The Rewards

A project’s completion means you need to start mailing backers their rewards. You’ll be able to send backers a survey upon completion of your Kickstarter campaign, in which you can ask them to provide their contact information and other requests (T-shirt size, color preference, mailing address, etc.) Kickstarter offers a spreadsheet tool to help you keep all of this information organized.

Staying organized is key. Many Kickstarter alums share that the most challenging part of the process was meeting the mailing dates for rewards. But the process should be pretty straightforward, as long as you account for every step of the process: collecting surveys, calculating shipping costs based on package weight and backer location, purchasing supplies, printing shipping labels, packaging, transporting and finally mailing your rewards.

Have you launched a Kickstarter campaign or backed a project you believe in? Do you have any Kickstarter advice to add? 

Image by OPEN Forum