Tag Archives: Kickstarter

Kickstart Your Kickstarter

KickStart Cover

A few years ago a friend of mine invited me out to lunch to talk about a Kickstarter campaign he wanted to do. I did some research and gave him my thoughts on crowd funding in general and what I felt would make a compelling and successful Kickstarter campaign. He succeeded in raising over $100,000. Since then I have consulted on dozens of projects. These consultations have been everything from a quick once-over to fully controlling the entire campaign. In every case, the campaigns I worked on succeeded.

Initially this seemed like a promising thing. If my advice was helping these people succeed in making thousands (sometimes hundreds of thousands) of dollars, maybe I could make a few bucks of my own consulting on Kickstarter campaigns. Unfortunately, the one problem with this is that most individuals who are launching Kickstarter campaigns do not have money to spare for a ‘Kickstarter Consultant’. Often when talking to potential clients they would be incredibly generous and passionate about the project and my working on it until I mentioned wanting to be paid for my work.

This led me to create Kickstart Your Kickstarter which is now available through Amazon.com. This simple e-book is much of my Kickstarter expertise distilled down into an easy e-book with just the necessary information one might want if they were going to start a Kickstarter campaign. And because I know that Kickstarter creators rarely have money, I’m selling this short little e-book for 99 cents.

I will not get rich selling this book, but you may very well get rich after reading it.

– Jack Cameron

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“Kickstart Me!”

kickstarter-logoI have consulted on Kickstarter projects and helped raise over $500,000. Most of these were projects started by friends or I had a personal interest in the project.

Almost two years ago, I wrote an article on this site about Kickstarter campaigns and offered my services for hire. Initially I helped on a handful of campaigns but every time we got to talking about money, they’d suddenly stop talking to me.

The problem is that if you’re starting a Kickstarter campaign, almost by definition, you don’t have any money. And if you don’t have any money, you can’t really hire me unless you pay me when and if your project gets funded. And even with my help there’s a chance that won’t happen. So it’s not a very good business model for me.

These days I get multiple requests every week to consult on Kickstarter campaigns. I literally don’t have time to answer them all which is why I’m posting this.

I want to help but if you’re doing a Kickstarter campaign you likely can’t afford me. I love the idea of crowd funding and when it comes to Kickstarter I have significant experience in making these projects work. So instead of turning everyone down, I’m writing an e-book about running successful Kickstarter campaigns. It’s going to cost $1.99. For two bucks you’ll get all my knowledge about Kickstarter right on your Kindle (or Android or whatever).

It will be out by this summer.

If you’d like to be notified when the book is available for sale, please send me an email at jackcameronis@gmail.com.

All you have to do is put ‘Kickstart Me’ in the subject line.

–          Jack Cameron

Kickstarting Your Kickstarter: An Analysis

scrapmA little over a year ago I wrote an article about Kickstarter campaigns on this site. This has easily become the most popular article on my site. About once a month I am contacted by someone who is thinking about doing a Kickstarter campaign or is already doing one and would like my advice. Many of them I simply decline to assist because I don’t like their project. Some I have helped because they are personal friends of mine. Some I’ve helped because I liked their project and they’ve hired me to.

When all is said and done, I’ve advised campaigns that have generated over half a million dollars so far. And every campaign I’ve had direct hand in has been successful. It turns out I’m pretty good at figuring out what works and what doesn’t when it comes to crowd funding.

The inherent problem with this is that most people who are looking to crowd fund their project don’t really have the cash to hire me to do what I can do. In other words if they could hire aKickstarter consultant they wouldn’t need a Kickstarter Campagn.

Over the weekend I was contacted by someone who is a perfect example of this. His name is Ryan Taylor. He and his two partners had an idea. In a world where more ebooks are sold than print books, why not bring the concept of high school yearbooks into the 21st Century? Why not take your average teenager’s obsession with texting, taking pics, updating statuses, and staring at their cellphone and make that into a digital real-time Yearbook app?  They pooled their money together and found they were still lacking the kind of funding that app development requires and so they’ve gone to Kickstarter.

I took a look at their campaign. After Ryan read my response he said, “Thank you a million times. This helped. We will definitely incorporate what we can from your notes…wish we could’ve talked beforehand.” Unfortunately he also said they couldn’t afford to hire me to fix some of the problems I saw with their campaign.

However, he was nice enough to agree that I could use his campaign and my analysis for this article. Before we go any further, I ask that you take a moment to check out their campaign site.

Here’s the link: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/169314665/scrapmhigh-school-as-it-happens

Okay. Now that you’ve had a chance to look over their campaign, here’s my assessment of that campaign and what they could improve on:

1.The concept looks interesting, but I don’t see much of a hook. The video has two guys who spend most of the time talking about how they’re not in high school and how contributing to the Kickstarter might gain them social status if Scrapm takes off. So you’ve got two guys who won’t be using the app talking about what might happen if the project takes off. There’s no point where I want to be these guys. While the video does do a good job of explaining what the app is, it doesn’t show us why it’s cool. Instead we just hear from two guys that they think it’s cool and we’ve  no reason to believe them. While I realize that budget and resources are factors, it would make for a better video if you had high school kids using the app and displaying how cool it is.

2. You ask the question why someone out of high school might want to donate to this Kickstarter and don’t seriously answer it. You just say you have ‘awesome ideas’ for alumni. You’ve got to give more if you want me to care about it. At the very least point out how my yearbook is a bit disappointing and wouldn’t it be nice if my kids had something more dynamic. High school kids tend to not have money. So you’re going to get your money from adults. Those adults will likely have kids. If you show why this benefits their kids, they’re more likely to do something about it.

3. Who are you? You say your names but you don’t say where you come from, what you’ve done, or most importantly, why we should trust you to use $30,000 in crowd-funded cash to do this project. You mention you’re against VCs but don’t really explain why Kickstarter is such a better solution. You want people to want to give you money because you’ve demonstrated your capabilities and all you’re lacking is funding.

4. Speaking of money, there’s no explanation as to how this app will make money. You mention it’s free. So is it ad generated profits or what?

5. ‘If it gets big’ isn’t really a selling point. If it gets big, it gets big, but until it does, it’s just a project. When I read ‘if it gets big’, I think ‘and if it doesn’t?’

6. Your rewards honestly aren’t all that cool. Personally I could care less about being listed on a website somewhere. However, I do see the difficulty here. Your donors likely don’t go to high school and your product is for high schoolers. I would need to know more about your project to make good recommendations. But off the top of my head, if your product is ad based, offer free ad space. Small business (and maybe even big business) owners love free advertising. If you’re running a premium version of the app, offer a free premium version for their kids. Basically you need to offer something more than just the app itself which you’ve said is free and stuff that you could get off of CafePress if you really wanted to.

Again, much of this comes back to what I said in my original article. When it comes to a Kickstarter campaign you want to show four things: What you’re doing, Who you are, What you’ve done, and Awesome prizes. If you’ve done all of that, you’ll likely have a successful campaign.

If you’d like my help with your Kickstarter campaign, go ahead and email me at jackcameronis@gmail.com. I’ll take a look and see what we can do for one another.

–          Jack Cameron

Kickstarting Your Kickstarter Campaign

If you’re thinking of starting up a business, chances are someone has mentioned Kickstarter to you. It’s a fantastic tool for generating money for independent projects. I’ve been tangentially involved in a handful of Kickstarter campaigns. All of them have been incredibly successful. Now that I’m preparing to publish my first novel, I’m in need of some money to get things up and running and I have no intention using Kickstarter to do this. As a marketing consultant and a guy who doesn’t like to see people fail, I think explaining my reasons why might help you decide whether or not you’re ready for Kickstarter.

First, let’s talk about why Kickstarter is a good way to fund your project. In the last three years, Kickstarter has successfully funded over 22,000 projects. They’ve generated over $200 million from over two million backers. If you’re looking for a way to quickly generate capital for your project and you’re not looking for venture capital, Kickstarter has some fabulous advantages.

For those of you unfamiliar with how Kickstarter works, it’s fairly simple. You come up with the minimum amount of money you need for your project. You estimate how long it will take for backers to fund your project. You put up a page advertising your project and depending on the amount of money backers contribute, you give them perks related to the project. If your project gets the amount of money you ask for or more, it’s funded. If not, it’s not.

Now before you throw up a Kickstarter page and start clicking ‘refresh’ every three seconds to watch the money roll in, keep in mind that 56% of all Kickstarter projects fail. That means if two of you start a Kickstarter campaign, odds are at least one won’t get funded. The reasons for failure are numerous and there’s not much reason to focus on them. Instead, I’d like to focus on the things I’ve seen that make a Kickstarter campaign work.

In order to have a successful Kickstarter campaign, you need at least three of four things:

  1. A good idea
  2. A clear plan
  3. A proven track record
  4. Good rewards for backers

You can get by with three out of the four but it’s not easy and you better knock those other things out of the park. And the thing of it is, I’m not sure why you’d want to when all four are fairly simple to accomplish.

A Good Idea

If you have a good idea, this is going to help more than anything else. Don’t just try to do a project because you love it. You’re not likely to get a lot of backers to fix your classic car. It’s good to have passion for something, but you’ve got to look at it from the backer’s point of view. Is this something they want to have or want to see? If it isn’t, then it’s probably not for Kickstarter. Who are your potential customers? Why should this project mean something to them? Why is your project important? If you can’t easily answer these questions, why would anyone back your idea?

New Pencil’s FlipSteady invention is a great example of a good idea. They saw a gap in the iPad case market and invented something to fill that gap.

A Clear Plan

A lot of people think that all it takes is a good idea. That’s understandable. Good ideas are exciting and when you have one, it seems obvious why people should fork over cash to help you out. The problem is that when people spend money, they like to know what they’re spending it on. So you need to have a plan. You need to tell them exactly what their money is going to do for you besides pay your bills. If you’re asking for $50,000 why do you need that amount of money and what exactly does that do for your project? If you’ve thought about your idea at all, you should be able to come up with a plan fairly easily.

WindowFarms.org had created a successful program for growing plants in your windows using water bottles, but when they created a more efficient and elegant prototype, they needed funding to get the molds made for mass production. You weren’t just ordering your own Window Farm, your money was going to making these things into a reality

A Proven Track Record

This leads us to the hard part. It’s the thing that people starting out don’t want to hear: you need to have a proven track record. I know you’re just starting out. I know you need money to get going and that’s the whole reason you want to use Kickstarter in the first place. And I also know that you wouldn’t give pay a guy who is sure he’d be a great mechanic if you’d just buy him some tools. You may have a great idea. You may know exactly what you’d do with the money, but who the hell are you? What have you done? If you’ve never done anything like this before, you might have some trouble.

Since this is the most difficult part of a successful Kickstarter campaign, I’ll try to help you out. This does not mean that in order to get money for your movie, you need to make a movie. What this means is that you need to show what you can do with limited resources. This will give potential backers an idea of what you might be able to accomplish with more resources. If you’re making a movie, make a short or a trailer for the movie you want to make. If you’ve invented something, make a few of them. This part is probably going to take you using some of your own money.  If you’re uncomfortable with that, then don’t get upset when other people don’t want to spend money on your project either. That line from Field of Dreams is still true, “If you build it, they will come.”

Before Dead Gentlemen Productions created their incredibly successful campaign, they created season one of JourneyQuest, a seven webisode series that had quite the cult following thanks to previous endeavors and some quality storytelling. When it came time for season two, they asked for $60,000 and got over $113,000. This wouldn’t have been possible without the work they put into season one.

Good Rewards

Lastly, you need to have good rewards. If you’ve got a good idea, a solid plan, and a proven track record, you’ll get backers, but if you really want to guarantee a successful Kickstarter campaign, you need to give back to your backers. You should take some time and think about what your ultimate fan would want. As long as these things don’t cost as much as they’re giving you, it’s worth doing.

When Jordan Weisman wanted to create a tablet version of his classic RPG Shadowrun, the top tier backers could have everything from NPC characters that look like them to a Shadowrun game developer come to your house and run a campaign for you.

Okay, so having said all that, let me explain why I won’t be using Kickstarter to fund my novel. Is the novel a good idea? Yes. It’s a thriller that combines relationships, crime, and lies in a way I’ve never seen before and it all takes place in my hometown of Tacoma. Do I have a plan? Yes. I have a step-by-step development and marketing plan. Do I have a proven track record? No. I’ve written one other book but it wasn’t a novel. It was nothing like the novel. And while it was successful in that it made a profit, it was far from a best seller. I have a successful blog with TacomaStories.com and a reasonable following, but I don’t have a track record as a crime fiction novelist so there’s no reason for your average person to think I’d be good at it. Do I have good rewards?  I wrote the novel knowing I wasn’t going to use Kickstarter so I didn’t leave characters or locations open for perks. I could offer copies of my book but really, if I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it from the ground up. So once my novel comes out and if it’s successful, I might use Kickstarter to fund my next novel if I feel I need to, but until then, I’m on my own. As it should be. (I suppose I should mention that I’m not saying I would refuse help funding my novel. I’m just saying it’s not a viable Kickstarter project.)

There’s a lot more that goes into the successful marketing and development of a Kickstarter campaign and there are a lot of people who know a good deal more than me about it, but this should get you started in the right direction. If you need more information, as I mentioned, I’m a marketing consultant as well as a writer and I’d be happy to help out.

–          Jack Cameron