By Josh Ledgard
Here at KickoffLabs, we love beer. It makes us happy :)
Which makes us happy to bring you our guest, Luke Brown.
Starting at the end…
Kickstarter is about validating your business, if people don’t like it they are not going to back your project.
All the money aside, to me the biggest success was having a community of people that believed in what I wanted to do, and were passionate about craftsmanship and my cause.
With all the work I put in, a failure would have told me a lot.
I’m from a small town; Faith, South Dakota (population 400).
My dad stored woodworking tools on our ranch and growing up, I taught myself how to use the different tools by building gifts for people.
During college, while studying abroad and different parts of the US, I found that a woodworking skill was actually rare. That’s where I made it a life goal to spread craftsmanship.
No, this was my first experience with business.
I’ve always been interested in technology, music, photography and video… which all kind of came together when creating the Kickstarter campaign.
The Beer Hammer idea came when I was traveling in Europe. A German family I stayed with had a hammer/gavel looking thing (that was very different looking than mine) they used to open beers with. When I got home I wanted to make something people would use often and be personal to them.
With Kickstarter, you want people to back the idea… but it needs to be something they want or need.
I threw around ideas for higher priced items, but the majority of pledges on Kickstarter are in the $20 – $40 range.
I did a ton of research on successful Kickstarter campaigns. Also emailed hundreds of people who had ran successful campaigns, receiving several good replies.
That led me to create something in that price range.
A great resource for crowdfunding advice and tips is Stonemaier Games. There’s a whole series on Kickstarter lessons.
It’s interesting that you didn’t necessarily validate the particular idea, but instead validated the market existed within a price range.
Now that you had the price point and the idea…
The general advice of successful campaigns is to start at least 3 months before (as a bare minimum). No matter how cool the idea is, you need an audience and a community before you even begin.
What’s recommended is a landing page.
It was important the landing page was easily shareable and had contest functionality. KickoffLabs offered incredible support along the way too :)
I built a contest page and spent months sharing the page with people.
This got a lot of people involved and was setup so that the day I pushed ‘Launch’ on Kickstarter, I had hundreds of people ready to back and promote the campaign.
I was 50% funded in the first 24 hours, and it even got the attention of the Kickstarter Staff Pick team.
Aside from the landing page, I talked to people on blogs but the key to that is to build a community around your idea. If you’re out there spamming people, it’s not going to work.
It’s okay to talk about your product, but listen a lot too.
Find your people and have conversations with them. Being interested in craftsmanship, I want to read about it. I would read blog posts, comment, and engage people with community in mind the whole time.
Build yourself into a persona they trust. People will be a lot more willing to participate than if you just came to the community cold.
Grab people’s attention. The to the actual Kickstarter video. It was only 30 seconds long with no words. If you want to grab people, 30 seconds to 1 minute is a good aim.
Make it exciting for people. I wanted to give people incentive by giving away 25 free Beer Hammers. When people have the chance to win something, it makes it very easy to signup and share.
Create a sense of urgency. Using KickoffLabs Viral Giveaway theme (with a timer option), I was running referral contests on a weekly basis to give people incentive to keep sharing. After the timer had rundown, I would email people and tell them the contest had been reset.
Even though the campaign lasted 3 months, every time somebody came to the page it felt like there was urgency.
Luke was kind enough to share the results of his KickoffLabs pre-crowdfunding launch campaign.
They had a 19% conversion rate and almost a 90% Viral Boost (learn more about KickoffLabs Viral Boost).
This means that almost 90% of people that landing on the page used a KickoffLabs unique social referral link. This almost doubled the audience reach.
I have great friends and family that shared a lot, specifically on Facebook.
I used Facebook Ads to target an audience. And also experimented with YouTube ads.
Get your project in front of people. Someone shared the landing page to their thousands of followers. It was a giveaway site, so it wasn’t the highest quality signups but at least it was being shared virally.
No matter what, more people saw it and that was very beneficial.
Put in the sweat equity. Paying attention to people that signed up through the landing page, I would personally thank them with an email.
Don’t just build the audience with a set it and forget it campaign strategy. Get people engaged with you as a brand.
Even with the actual Kickstarter campaign, I sent personal thank you messages to people and asked them message me back. People are not just numbers, they are your community.
Yes, adspace was much cheaper than I thought it would be. You set a daily budget and it stops when it runs out. If you use ads to target small audiences it’s going to be much more successful.
I think advertising is very important to spread the word of a pre-launch landing page is very useful and worth your money.
The entire time the KickoffLabs landing page was up, I was working behind the scenes getting the Kickstarter page built and figuring out product costs.
An engaging video is a must. The most work went into the video… running a camera, talking to yourself in a room and making it convincing is hard to do.
Most of the advice says 30 seconds to 1 minute for the actual Kickstarter video, but I didn’t feel that was enough. I wanted to make it more compelling with a catchy song and had a high percentage of people that watched the video all the way to the end.
A larger percentage of Kickstarter’s succeed with a video versus those that don’t.
Start strong and keep the momentum. After some time of building the email list on the landing page… it was finally go time. I emailed my list and directed them to The Beer Hammer Kickstarter page.
People rallied to the project as soon as they could and within the first couple hour it had raised almost $2,000.
That momentum tells Kickstarter that work has been put in and is something that stands out.
I later got an email that the campaign was a Kickstarter Staff Pick! That got even more people to the campaign page.
Map your results in realtime. There’s a great crowdfunding tool called Kicktraq.com which gives up-to-date data on your Kickstarter.
You can also access data from massively successful crowdfunding campaigns and see how they strategically planned press and to keep the momentum.
Kickstarter has a ‘Remind Me’ button on the Kickstarter page that will remind users within 48 hours that the campaign is about to end. During this time, the backers spiked up again.
People know that a product is going to be more expensive after the Kickstarter.
Relish in your first real customer. Friends and family are always going to be happy about anything you do. The first satisfied customer that you don’t know at all helps validate the idea.
Surprise and delight your customers. Throw some stuff in the box that people are not expecting. I included a keychain bottle opener, a sticker, my business card and a handwritten note to all my backers. It’s always fun to open a box and keep pulling out goodies.
People appreciate if you care. I had complications with getting out some orders for the Christmas delivery date, and rather than going silent I was honest with my backers. I emailed them a deep apology and threw in some coasters when I did deliver.
Include customers in the journey. In a letter that was delivered with their Beer Hammer, I asked people to let me know what they think, whether privately or on the Kickstarter page. That’s where I got a lot of positive comments posted.
It’s important to do if you are considering opening up your own online store. People will remember you and be more willing to keep track of your future progress.
Do your homework. Research any taxes so they do not surprise you in the end. Learning about taxes is very different than having to go in and explain each transaction to your accountant.
You don’t want to run a campaign that doesn’t take into account taxes. That can ruin you really quick.
Prepare yourself for logistics. Getting more than 100 orders out for Christmas delivery was a nightmare! I was pulling all-nighters sometimes to get things done. I did not realize how long it would take for packaging. Get friends and family to help.
Yes, definitely… but it’s difficult. A lot of people I’ve talked to who run Kickstarters or people who want to follow their passion don’t realize how hard it’s going to be. It does take a lot of work.
Following your passion doesn’t mean you always be wearing a smile. There’s going to be hard times when you’ll be answering emails all night. But it needs to be done in order to build a community.
The biggest thing is finding a market for your passion. You have to find people and get them interested in joining your community.
Passion is great, but you have to make money so you might have to make some compromises. For example, a lot of people really like Beer Hammers so sometimes it gets really old making 700 of them… but it’s what I need to do to keep my business and passion going.
It went well. It was mainly on Facebook, but plenty of people shared it. I did not share it on Kickstarter which probably could have helped.
The end dream is to teach young men and women carpentry. I love education and have taught in various teaching jobs. Making a living teaching people craftsmanship would be the goal eventually.
As far as the immediate future, I plan on selling product online (either through Etsy or on my own website). I’d like to create different designs of Beer Hammers, bottle openers… anything related with beer.
I’m taking it a day at a time and seeing where it goes.
Be sure to visit CedarHorseWorkshop.com to get your own BeerHammer.
If you are interested in crowdfunding, visit the Cedar Horse Workshop Blog for lots more useful advice.
Also stay tuned to the Cedar Horse Workshop YouTube channel for upcoming tutorials.
Remember, the Kickstarter… crowdfunding campaign… whatever the business… make it about other people. Whether that’s helping people, offering something to other people. If it’s all about you, it’s probably not going to be very successful.
If you genuinely care about using your passion to reach other people you will make it.
Want more tips and tricks on how to guarantee your crowdfunding goals? Check out our article Kickoff Your Kickstarter Campaign for Crowdfunding Success.