Kickstart Your Startup By Taking Marketing Notes from Crowdfunding Successes

I was wasting valuable time on Facebook yesterday when I noticed an acquaintance promoting her Kickstarter campaign. I’m all about supporting small business ventures and clicked the link, only to realize she was requesting donations to “better herself through an educational trip to Paris.” In between heavy cringing and judgmental thoughts, I did have to admit to myself it was bold and somewhat innovative — and began thinking about how crowdfunding platforms have evolved into quite powerful and accessible marketing tools for all types of ventures.

Kickstarter has become the de facto crowdfunding platform for launching successful businesses, new products and, apparently, even vacations. In 2015, Pebble Time set the record for the most money raised in its Kickstarter campaign for smartwatches, coming in at just over $20 million. Even a less technically innovative project, such as the Exploding Kittens card game “for people who are into kittens and explosions and laser beams and sometimes goats” cracked the top ten most successful Kickstarters list, raising nearly 88,000% of its initial goal.

How does this relate to you and your startup? Because regardless of whether you’ve got a great idea for an innovative tech product or an innovative card game, your marketing strategy can play a key role in making, breaking or surpassing your business goals. While crowdfunding to create a toy isn’t exactly the same as looking for backers to launch your own business, there are quite a few strategic marketing lessons startups can glean from the most successful Kickstarter projects.

Video is worth…well, more words than anyone is willing to read these days

Recent studies say humans now have shorter attention spans than goldfish…but then again, I only paid attention long enough to read the headline. This means you’ve got a limited amount of time to capture potential customers’ attention to get them interested and invested in your brand. The most popular Kickstarters of the past show your best bet to accomplish this is by creating a video.

Kickstarter projects that include a video have a much higher success rate than those that do not (50% vs. 30%), and also tend to raise more money. The same is true of businesses, as seen by video conversion rates whether they’re utilized on social media, emails or on your website. One-third of all online activity is spent watching videos, and putting a video on a landing page can increase conversions by 80%.

Kickstarter suggests following three simple guidelines to film a quality video: clear audio, ample lighting, and footage of you and what you’re making (your story). Incorporating these three elements are that basis of creating any great video, regardless of budget or experience.

That third element is something startups sometimes struggle with. It’s not enough to tell the “what” of your business; you have to tell the “why” behind the brand to get viewers to care. Kickstarter recommends asking yourself these six questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What are you planning to make?
  • Where did this project come from?
  • What’s your plan and schedule?
  • What’s your budget?
  • Why do you care?

By incorporating these elements into your video, you can show the personality and passion behind your efforts, which is what gets viewers invested. Enjoyment of video ads increases purchase intent by 97% and brand recognition by 139%. And if you still need to further quantify it, note this: the latest research estimates a one-minute video is worth about 1.8 million words.

Here’s an example of a well-done video for the record-setting Pebble Time campaign that incorporates the suggested elements.

Take your startup’s supporters behind the scenes

There is a reason Kickstarter recommends you start your video by answering who you are. When you are asking people to invest in a young, unestablished idea, you are really asking them to invest in you. Make your early backers feel they are responsible for and part of your business’s success in a few ways:

  • Show the product or service in action through video or photos on your website.
  • Update your blog regularly with insight on production and progress from your perspective.
  • Give followers sneak peeks of upcoming product launches or news on social media.
  • You can even throw an event or walkthrough at your startup for your first customers / investors or followers to thank them for their early investment.

For a great example of the “behind the curtain” technique, take a look at this Kickstarter for a short film called “Wonder.” The filmmakers of “Wonder” took backers behind the scenes by introducing the cast and crew, explaining the passion behind the script and laying out the budget. They even included a section on the risks and challenges they faced filming a movie on a tight budget for complete transparency, which created empathy and trust with supporters.

Make like Oprah and give something away

Give away content like you're Oprah.

Take it from the piles of free branded t-shirts I received in college that are still hanging proudly in my closet — people love giveaways and it hardly matters what the piece actually is. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be a physical piece of swag, such as a button or poster. My personal favorite part of checking out Kickstarters is what they offer supporters, and I’ve seen creative giveaways range from credits on a movie to a band’s hand-painted old Volvo for the highest backer.

From a business standpoint, content can be one of a startup’s most effective giveaways. Free educational content that’s relevant to your industry is a great giveaway for a few reasons: it creates a relationship with a potential customer, builds recognition and respect for your brand, and grows your email list all at the same time. Think about what type of content your brand could offer that would be valuable but also leave the customer wanting more. This could range from an eBook to an email series that teaches them something new or a webinar that presents you as an industry thought leader.

Talk to your startup’s customers early and often

Let’s say you’ve followed the steps above and have already made a sale. Congrats! Now, don’t spend too long celebrating before reengaging with this customer. One of the reasons Kickstarter campaigns are so successful is because they constantly update supporters on the project’s progress, successes and even failures.

Create a marketing strategy focused on keeping customers engaged once they have made a purchase from you. This should involve engaging your customers soon after they first make contact with you and on a recurring basis. One proven way of doing that is to send out a drip campaign to customers after they make a purchase or sign up for your service. This content can be a combination of promotions and personalized interaction.

For example, ask your customers to take a survey of their experience working with you to improve upon pain points in the checkout or customer service process. If your business depends on a one-time sale, you can send your customers a thank you note for their support and a discount code to encourage them to return to your business. If your startup is a SaaS, you can send customers information on getting the most out of your offering along with recommendations for related services. You’re not only educating the customer, you’re learning what elements of your business might be most valuable to their broader needs.

On average, repeat customers make up 40% of a business’s total revenue. Not only are they valuable in terms of revenue; it take less time and marketing effort to sell to someone already in your funnel than to find and convert new customers. By following up with customers and keeping them in the loop regarding updates on your startup, your brand will stay top of mind and also appears transparent, building trust and respect.

Deliver on your promises

How often have you backed a Kickstarter project only to find yourself receiving it a year or more after it was promised (or not receiving it at all)? Sadly, a lot of well-intentioned startups end up with similar reputations.

Don’t be that startup. Don’t get so caught up in creating an out-of-the-box marketing strategy that you deliver a substandard product or fail to deliver your product on time. Make your business and project timelines transparent from the get go, and continue to update customers on progress in the ways suggested throughout this post. The underlying motive behind all of these tips is to build your customers’ trust in a yet-to-be-proved idea. Once you break that trust, there’s no gaining those jaded customers back. It takes years to win a customer and only seconds to lose one.”

Check out Kickstarter’s Creator Handbook for more tips you can leverage into your startup’s marketing plan. And if you’re ready to take your marketing to the next level, contact Dreamtown Creative and let us help you kickstart your business.