February 16, 2015
Kickstarter is an amazing tool for launching products and expanding innovation, if you know what you’re getting yourself into. We’d like to share this guest submission from the folks at Notion. Even though they were told they were crazy, they launched their Kickstarter campaign during the final month of the Techstars accelerator program. They ended up reaching their goal in under 24 hours, and went on to raise $281,000. This placed the Notion campaign in the top 0.25% of all Kickstarter campaigns ever launched. Here is their story:
We started Techstars in July last year and by the time we entered the program, we had made the decision we would launch a Kickstarter campaign. Why not, right? All the cool kids (hardware companies) were doing it and it seemed like the perfect way to launch, help fund, and establish Notion. Great! Now, the hard questions: how and when?
We were in the world’s top tech accelerator, an intense program to say the least. And we met with a ton of successful entrepreneurs. The problem was, half said we should wait until after Techstars was over and the other half pushed us to launch during the program – something everyone we talked to about running a successful Kickstarter campaign said was crazy! They said it would be too much to take on and we wouldn’t be able to manage a campaign while in an accelerator.
Well, we’re a tech startup, and we were in an accelerator. So obviously we went for it and launched a month before the program was over!
We made this decision with only a month to prepare, which is really fast. But, this turned out to be the best decision we made during Techstars. We wanted to put together a list of the things we did in order to fund our campaign in under 24 hours and reach the 99.5 percentile of all campaigns ever launched that is a little different than the “how to” lists floating around.
Know Why You’re Doing a Kickstarter Campaign
A lot of companies we talked to before we launched asked us this question, and it’s a great one. Raise money, raise awareness, figure out if you have a product worth pursuing? There are a lot of perfectly valid reasons to launch, but knowing the “why” before we started was invaluable. We wanted to raise awareness and test pricing. Knowing this ahead of time meant we needed to have confidence that we knew how to market Notion in the first place. It also helped us set our goal and our reward levels.
Test Before you Launch to Validate Your Messaging
A number of companies we talk to about launching a Kickstarter campaign use the campaign itself as a way to validate the way they’re marketing their products. Totally valid. But again, since we established our “why” early on, we needed to know how to market Notion before we pushed to go button. In order to get more data, we ran an email signup campaign using Facebook Ads and AdWords linking to specific landing pages the month leading up to our launch. For us, it was critical we understood what resonated best with people before we launched. We found out quickly through our signup campaign which specific use cases, copy, and images worked the best. All of this work guided the messages in the videoand the copy on our Kickstarter page.
Hire an Army (or at least a PR agency)
We knew that with only a month to prepare, we needed a lot of people who could help quickly. We needed people who could jump in and make a huge difference immediately. We hired a PR agency that focused on tech and had recently helped another company with a successful Kickstarter campaign. We contracted a designer to create all of the assets we needed for our page, landing pages, and website. And we hired an agency that specialized in paid advertising to help us quickly iterate through and understand the results from our email signup campaign. If we would have had 2-3 months to prepare, we likely would have handled more of this on our own, other than the PR agency. At the very least, hire an agency that has a track record of established success in your industry and with Kickstarter companies. It can make a huge difference!
Shoot the Best Video Possible
Part of our army was a great, local, and not very expensive video production company. They did a great job taking our concept and turning it into something engaging and impactful. The video is critical. Campaigns get funded 50% of the time when they have a video, but only about 35% of the time when they don’t. Plus, it will be an asset after the campaign is over for your website and investors. Even though we had to reshoot it 3 times because we changed our company name two weeks before we launched (a story for another time), the money we spent on the video was worth every penny!
Put Together a Group of Day 1 Large Backers
Just like fundraising, Kickstarter backers are more likely to support a campaign that is close to or already funded. Once we decided to launch, the networking we were doing during Techstars also became selling and pitching. Our goal was to get 20 people who would back us for at least $500 right away. We felt that if in the first 10 minutes of the campaign we could hit the $10,000 mark, we could show a lot of early interest and momentum. The plan worked and we had 18 people fund between $500 and $1,000 right out the gate. This really helped us fund our $50,000 in under 24 hours and also helped establish that critical, early momentum propelled us to a large total.
Think Outside the Box (Dare we Say…Offline?!?!)
Denver Startup Week happened during our campaign and we took full advantage. We were part of the festivities which included a pitch event, a panel, and a closing party. We convinced the organizer of the closing party to hold a connected device showcase. This was amazing because it let a few thousand people in Denver, a very supportive community, see Notion in action! This generated a lot of buzz, we got an amazing amount of helpful feedback, and we got an influx of orders that night (and for a couple of days after the event). We got some great press from the Denver Post and one of the most rewarding parts was we invited a number of the Colorado-based hardware companies that helped us launch our company. It was great to be able to repay them for the things they had done for us. Connecting actual people with connected devices was a great part of our Kickstarter success.
A Kickstarter campaign is a lot of work and if you want yours to be successful, be thoughtful and purposeful, think about every detail, utilize your networks, do a lot of research, and you can make it happen. Just like starting a business, be tenacious and creative! You will be surprised at how helpful the feedback can be especially if you do a good job engaging. Go build things!!
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