Blood, Sweat, and Cheers | Celebrating Kickstarter and Its Glorious Lessons
By Chuck Frizelle. September 13, 2017.
Last year, after 17 rewarding years of corporate business – largely spent spearheading new ventures and strategic initiatives – I guided my first true start-up. The team and I ran fast and furious, overcoming many typical start-up challenges on our way to achievements and a wild crowdfunding program. A year ago this week we launched the Coros Linx Kickstarter campaign, which went on to achieve "Project We Love", 639% of funding goal, and top 1% all-time campaign status.
Since the Kickstarter campaign, I regularly find myself inspired by entrepreneurs seeking guidance for their own crowdfunding. Just as I borrowed learnings and lessons from people successful before us, the anniversary seems to be a good time to reflect back at what I learned and pay it forward to entrepreneurs seeking to crowdfund their idea(s).
To start, general principles of running corporate businesses can be applied to crowdfunding, and much can be applied in the reverse. But the two are worlds apart in the nuances and approach to what and how to make it happen. With many start-ups, crowdfunding can be a ‘make or break’ for survival. This requires everyone to sprint faster, work furiously, wear more hats, drive more impact, be more resourceful, do new things, and be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Everything you do (or don’t do) is magnified.
My lessons and learnings are applicable to the majority of campaigns and start-ups, small or big. They may seem basic, because they are. Entrepreneurs running at the speed of light often times overlook or forget the basics that are required for winning outcomes. Part 1 will cover general insights; later I will submit Part 2 which will dive into specifics. The specifics won’t matter unless you do these first.
0. Enjoy the process. There are a lot of ups and downs; enjoy the ups and learn from the downs, but try to smile and laugh all the way through it. It will be one of the most memorable things you ever do.
1. Clarify goals. Know what you are trying to accomplish - funding, product feedback, community building, awareness, etc. Be thoughtful in setting Kickstarter funding goals. Hit your goal early and leverage momentum with your backers, advocates, and team.
2. Understand tradeoffs. Be sure crowdfunding is for you. It will entail tremendous work, and you will be sacrificing a lot of other business activity to focus on its success. It is all consuming, so prioritize everything (campaign, business, life) accordingly.
3. Plan your execution, execute your plan. Schedule all executables 3 months out, and schedule daily programming -3 weeks through campaign end. Adapt your plan based on data, metrics, results. Plan and execute an amazing campaign page. More in Part 2.
4. Immerse in due diligence. Research similar crowdfunding projects, best practices, tips and tricks, etc. Find someone who has done Kickstarter/IGG successfully (note: our PR wiz was also my KS coach).
5. Target your compelling product to a defined audience. I will assume you have a compelling product, validated by others (not just you). Identify your audience (need, urgency, $ to buy) carefully; target the story, product, message to them and their tribe(s).
6. Refine positioning, value proposition, the story. This applies to the product, the business, the team. Do not skimp on communication and messaging - refine, test, refine, refine again. More in Part 2.
7. Commit to marketing. Engineers, please listen. Be a marketing machine...money, creativity, and time required. Tap and measure all levers (PR, influencers, blogs, email, social media, ads, events,...). Build pre-campaign awareness, interest, momentum. More in Part 2.
8. Engage friends and family. Reach out…early, ask for their support…early. Lean on them for moral support, funding support ($1 works), and spreading the word. They are a massive multiplier effect!
9. Seek expertise. Minimally you need to consult someone who has done it successfully. If you can’t commit 100%, then hire help. They can be objective, ensuring the campaign page sings, messaging tells a story, and product connects with the targeted community.
10. Win as a team. Have a strong team in place - employees, vendors, agencies. It takes a village. Everybody plays a vital role and every bit counts. More in Part 2.
Crowdfunding success or failure is a manifestation of product, planning, execution, timing, and luck. With crowdfunding and Kickstarter, the saying ‘you make your own luck’ could not be more appropriate.
About: Chuck Frizelle is President and Principal of Project Sparx LLC, a business consulting practice helping entrepreneurs transform their ideas into market reality. Project Sparx focuses on start-ups and early ventures seeking to build, accelerate, and commercialize a business, brand, and/or product. Chuck has successfully guided ventures in consumer tech, digital media, sports tech, gaming and entertainment, fitness/health/wellness, and travel/hospitality across Microsoft, Xbox, Plantronics, Jawbone, and Coros Wearables.