May 21, 2015
The Top 5 Things We Learned From Kickstarter

This week marks 6 weeks since the completion of our Kickstarter campaign. We’ve bought the printer, set up shop and are well on our way to fulfilling all our backer commitments. Now we are a (real) business and our focus is on moving forward. Sometimes the best way to forge ahead is to look back. So in the spirit of self-reflection; here are the top lessons we gained from our crowdsourcing experience. 
 
1) Developing the Campaign Page is Only Half the Work {Or maybe just 1/4!}
We spent 4+ months of working on our Kickstarter campaign. The video, graphics, mapping out our reward strategy, budgeting, developing the copy and creative, drafting emails to family and friends, crafting our the press lists and pitches. 

By the time we pressed the green “GO” button, we were excited (and exhausted) to go live. We were ready to put into motion our (we thought) perfectly mapped out plan to introduce Hi Little One to the world and hand it off to Kickstarter and take a breath. Wrong! We’ve never spent more time on email, Instagram or Facebook as we did during the 30 days of our campaign reaching out to family and friends. Every post you do is a reflection of your brand, and it takes time to perfectly craft a message and the creative to support the campaign. 
 
Effective communication takes time, budget for it.
 
2) The Bell Curve is no joke
We had read many articles, spoken to many successful and unsuccessful heads of Kickstarter campaigns and all said to expect some major ebbs and flows of activity with your campaign. The rule of thumb is you start out strong then interest wanes, and if you’re lucky, it picks back up at the end just in time to reach your goal. This was our experience almost exactly. We had a day we made over 25% of our total goal, and then many days with no activity at all.

 It’s a rollercoaster, brace yourself!

 3) Kickstarter Doesn't Owe You Marketing
Creating a campaign doesn't mean Kickstarter will promote you. Kickstarter runs over 3K active campaigns each day. Our strategy didn’t rely on Kickstarter promotion, but in the back of our minds / hearts we did expect to get their support and we were disappointed (nervous) when we didn’t. So we worked harder and upped our social activity and PR pitches and focused 100% of our attention on promoting our product. 

Plan to generate 100% of the buzz for your campaign and take anything on top of that as icing on the cake.
 
4) Crowdfunding on it’s Own isn't Novel Anymore
“Crowdfunded” has become a household term; there is no longer any cache in the campaign itself. Just running a campaign doesn't mean people are going to care about it. Even with a compelling mission, product and cause, it was difficult generating press. From 100 media pitches, we had two responses, not everyone thinks your idea is amazing as you do.
 
Personalized Baby Clothes is not a new market, so we needed to prove why we were better than the existing products in the market. The two media outlets that featured Hi Little One wrote from the perspective that what differentiated our products from others in the market is that we are a design driven, sister run company with a commitment to supporting pediatric cancer care and research. The media did not focus on our Kickstarter Campaign as the story. 

Posts and pitches that focused on our product differentiators, not our means of raising capital had the strongest response.
  
5) Social Media is Your Anti Spam Vehicle
Because Hi Little One didn’t really exist before this campaign, we didn’t have a list of customers, or supporters, or even that many people who fully understood what we were doing. We had to start with our personal network.
 
After careful consideration, we decided that we would reach out to our contacts just once via email and the rest would be done through opt in forms of communication, such as the Kickstarter page, our newsletter and branded social outlets.  It was challenging to think up original and interesting things to post. Simply reiterating the status of our campaign was not compelling. So we looked internally and let people get to know us. We told the stories behind our mission, we developed new product lines, shared pictures of prototype products in action. 

We found that with each post, a few more pledges would trickle in. They served as gentle reminders that the campaign was running, and gave people tidbits to share and let people get to know us.
 
Bonus: People are Incredibly Supportive
Probably the most important lesson of all is that people are overall (amazingly) supportive. Looking back at the list of 212 backers, we know through some degree of separation (friend of a friend) over 190 of our supporters. They are family, friends, sisters of co-workers, childhood classmates, former teammates. People came out of the woodwork to support us, and it was (and still is!) incredibly moving.
 
Creating something new and sharing it with the world is scary. This campaign felt like a senior thesis we were not only sharing with every single person we knew, but asking them to rate with their hard earned dollars. Throughout the campaign we didn’t receive a single negative comment. Beyond that, we felt an overwhelming outpouring of positive reinforcement and cheers. It wasn’t because our product or ask was flawless, or that these people were dying for personalized baby products. It is because people recognize and appreciate when you work hard and put yourself out there.
 
So if you have an idea cooking and are considering a crowdsourcing as a means to raise capital, our final advice is go for it! {And by “go for it” we mean carefully map out a strategy, meticulously craft your campaign and creative and then painstakingly stay on top of all communication.}

Nell Lindquist