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Confessions of a Serial Crowdfunder...

by Magnus » Sat Sep 20, 2014 7:14 am

It's precisely 6:52pm on a Saturday night as I type this...

You're going to find this thread a little different to most other threads.

Here's why:

I'm slap-bang in the middle of launching my fourth crowdfunding project on Kickstarter.

This is the project which should push me over the $100k mark across all four crowdfunding projects combined (...so far I've raised a combined $70k across my first three projects).

I've learned a few things over the last year of crowdfunding - and so I thought I'd start a thread to pull together my thoughts. I've posted some rock-solid information in a few threads ...but it kind of disappears into the ether - which seem a bit of a waste. :roll:

Two quick things:

#1 - A thank you to Salvador for running this forum. Thank you Salvador!

and

#2 - You're probably curious as to what my projects were, so... you can check out my Created Projects in my Kickstarter Profile here: https://www.kickstarter.com/profile/cogent/created
Read: Confessions of a Serial Crowdfunder Thread.

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by fortunestavern » Sat Sep 20, 2014 7:32 am

Very interesting, thanks for the info!
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by Magnus » Sat Sep 20, 2014 7:35 am

I'll say this before anyone else does...

My approach to the crowdfunding "pitch" is a little (well, okay, a lot) more of a hard sell than others.

Here's the first problem I encountered in crowdfunding:

Crowdfunding is pretty damn new. We've got the "Big Daddy" that is Kickstarter ...and a bunch of smaller platforms. This means that, even though there's a lot of "advice" out there - we're still very much feeling our way around in the dark.

Hell, I'm about to launch my fourth crowdfunding project ...I've studied hundreds and hundreds of hours on crowdfunding (books, blogs, sites, interviews, other projects, and so on) ...yet I still fell very much in the dark about the whole thing.

My BIGGEST desire is to have some sort of split-testing available - this would somewhat help us prove what works and what doesn't.

And, the reason this is so important...

There's so much ineffective, incorrect and just plain bad information out there on crowdfunding.

Want an example? Well okay then...

I see website after website say, "The video is the most important part of your crowdfunding campaign...".

Absolute nonsense. It's not the video.

Technically the most important part of your campaign is your idea (or concept ...or product ....or whatever it is you're doing).

But, in terms of the campaign itself, the most important part is... *drumroll*... the written part of the campaign. I call this the "pitch page" (this included photos, graphics and layout).

Not quite sure how so many websites have it so wrong. Strange.
Read: Confessions of a Serial Crowdfunder Thread.

Titanium Pen *LIVE* On Kickstarter Right Now --> Click Here.
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by Magnus » Sat Sep 20, 2014 7:59 am

An actual confession...

I'm a little "lucky" in the way I got into crowdfunding.

Most people have an idea ...and then try to crowdfund that idea.

I stumbled into crowdfunding around 18 months ago. I was curious about 3D printers and there were quite a number of them popping up on Kickstarter. I remember this is how I first came across Kickstarter (and crowdfunding in general).

Like a lot of others - my interest was piqued when I saw projects raise the big bucks ...especially when it was for things I was sure I could do!

I studied ...and studied ...and studied some more. I looked at hundreds of projects.

A number of project types came up that were routinely successful.

I eventually settled on producing a titanium pocket-tool type thing. Essentially ...I reverse-engineered the whole crowdfunding shindig.

Here's the thing...

I could have chosen a different type of project that was also popular (role-playing board games, playing cards, etc.) ...but I naturally gravitated towards a titanium pocket-tool type of project. I was somewhat interested in it.

Actually, that's a really important point right there...

I never "followed my passion". I just chose the most interesting thing out of a bunch of stuff.

Oh, wait, that's not quite true. The most interesting would be some fancy, new technology gadget - because they're "cool" and generally get highly funded.

The problem is...

Producing something like that would have been, well, damn near impossible at the time (hell, its still very far away now!).

So, yeah, I ultimately selected the type of project I'd kick things of with based on a combination of:

Popularity.

Interest.

Do-ability.

Took me 3 to 4 months to go from knowing absolutely nothing at all about pocket-tool type stuff - to launching the ViperFish™ on Kickstarter: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cogent/titanium-incredible-12-function-ultimate-pocket-to
Read: Confessions of a Serial Crowdfunder Thread.

Titanium Pen *LIVE* On Kickstarter Right Now --> Click Here.
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by Magnus » Sat Sep 20, 2014 10:18 am

Even after three successful crowfunding projects...

I still struggle with my estimates of the times things will take ...as well as the cost of things.

The time thing is just not thinking accurately enough and learning from experience. So, yeah, a work in progress there really.

The money thing is different though...

Calculating the costs is pretty easy. And you can be pretty damn accurate.

But, it's a little more difficult to predict when things go wrong (...and, when things go wrong, they usually cost money).

A recent example...

I decided to try a simpler method of packaging.

Instead of a drawer-style box (which contains my titanium product) that goes into a larger cardboard box ...I thought I'd try the drawer-style box straight into a cardboard envelope.

I ordered a couple of samples of this custom-made envelope. Put the drawer-style box into it. Cool - it worked!

So I ordered a thousand of these custom-made envelopes. They arrived. I confirmed they worked as before ...but they didn't!

The glue just wasn't strong enough ...and so the envelopes would sort of explode (okay, more like peel) open on my table.

The only thing I could do was to put sticky-tape along the left-side, right-side and top. Problem was ...my spectacularly cool custom envelopes now look spectacularly bad.

So, yeah, I basically just wrote those off (maybe around $600 or $700 - something like that).

But, because the drawer-style box was designed to match these envelopes (which I now couldn't use) ...I had to use the original boxes I already had.

But, the problem was, to make these work I needed to order some more foam for packing. Another $500.

And yet another twist...


I stumbled upon a very, VERY good envelope (like the ones from before that would burst open - but super-strong so that this wouldn't happen) before I started shipping ...and decided that I really needed to use that envelope.

I would save money on the shipping - but the saving on the shipping would be used in the purchasing of these new envelopes.

The shipping service I use goes purely by weight. And, by using these latest envelopes I had discovered, I'd probably save enough on shipping to justify the cost.

Now you're perhaps thinking... "Why would you break-even on those new envelopes when you already had those other boxes, and the new foam for padding (especially when you're just paid $500 for the foam), you could use?"

SImple... these new envelopes are a lot easier to pack and ship. And, when you're packing and shipping 500 of something ...even 30 seconds makes a difference of four hours.

So that initial "issue" with the envelopes was just one of those things I couldn't anticipate. It's part of the learning process.

While you can get super-accurate costings for pretty much everything ...it's the crazy, random stuff that will suddenly swipe $1000 away from you in the blink of an eye.

Right, I've probably confused the hell out of you with this post.

But, for anyone who's had to deal with shipping more than a hundred of something - this would have been an enlightening post for sure.
Read: Confessions of a Serial Crowdfunder Thread.

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by Magnus » Sat Sep 20, 2014 10:29 am

Man oh man..

I really didn't intend for any of these posts to be so long ...but, well, my brain just seems to dump it out! :D

I'll do a short one just to mix it up a bit:

This is not so much from experience - but from studying thousands of other projects (successful and unsuccessful)...

You simply cannot have poor photos in your project.

I don't understand quite why that is. But it's just something that's impossible to deny when you look at projects.

It weird...

I've seen six-figure projects with bad videos and I've seen five-figure projects with no video (just a little confirmation there of what I said earlier about video not being as important as most people think).

But, I don't think I've ever seen a successful project that had bad photos (and by bad I mean they look like they were taken on an 8-year-old cell phone camera). I just haven't seen it.

You can get away with screwing up any one, single thing on your campaign ...but, for some reason, photos seems to be the only thing you can't do that with.

Like I said ...weird.
Read: Confessions of a Serial Crowdfunder Thread.

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by Magnus » Sat Sep 20, 2014 10:43 am

Something to think about...

Most businesses fail.

I expected my first crowdfunding project to succeed ...but I was prepared for it to fail.

If it had failed ...then I would have tried one of the other prototype tools I was working on.

And it that failed ...then I'd have tried another.

Most people seem to treat their crowdfunding project as a do-or-die, one-shot deal.

Perhaps I'm the "odd man out" though...

(well, I probably am actually, spending my entire Saturday night posting on a forum that's super-quiet because I'm in a peculiar timezone :lol: )
Read: Confessions of a Serial Crowdfunder Thread.

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by Magnus » Sat Sep 20, 2014 10:48 am

I've backed around 50 projects on Kickstarter...

Not a single one of them has made me say, "Gee, they're doing too many Updates."

However...

On a large number of these projects, when I did receive an Update, I'd say, "Damn, I completely forgot I backed that project!"

Project Creators generally don't do enough Updates.
Read: Confessions of a Serial Crowdfunder Thread.

Titanium Pen *LIVE* On Kickstarter Right Now --> Click Here.
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by Magnus » Sat Sep 20, 2014 11:06 am

This really confuses me...

I've seen a few threads on here relating to getting Backers at any cost (i.e. you-back-me-and-I'll-back-you ...that kinda thing).

Here's a different perspective...


I want Backers with whom I can build a relationship and have them willingly hand over more cash for other products I create.

My products are reasonably high-end titanium pocket-tools, gadgets, and so on.

Rather that trying to get every Backer I can ...I only want specific Backers. And I will do my best to filter out the types of Backers I don't want

Here's an actual example...

On my most recent Kickstarter campaign I had someone pledge $1.

Now, I had no $1 Reward. The minimum Reward I had was $35 (well, that's New Zealand Dollars ...which is around $29 USD).

This Backer pledged $1 and then placed a comment in the comments section saying he was still trying to make up his mind. He also asked a couple of questions in the comment as well.

I replied to his comment minimally ...and in a way that I hoped would persuade him not to back my project.

That fellow was exactly the type of person I don't want.

The type of person I do want is one of the people who had Backed me earlier on that day...

This person spent around $100 on my website ...then five minutes later backed my project for around $200. He's my man!

So, yeah, it helps to know exactly what you're trying to achieve.
Read: Confessions of a Serial Crowdfunder Thread.

Titanium Pen *LIVE* On Kickstarter Right Now --> Click Here.
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by Charles » Sat Sep 20, 2014 3:36 pm

This is a fabulous thread! This is rock solid advice.

Not being a Kickstarter project creator, but only a "regular backer," as Sal Briggman called me in a PM a while back, I look at things from a different perspective.

You've done lots of "homework." More importantly, you've actually tried to learn. One thing that I find to be interesting, simply as a general observation, is that project creators are eager to succeed, but simultaneously, they are often resistant to learning.

On the video thing, I think that videos are not so much critical, but rather, that they can be very effective. Pound for pound, a good video can net you a LOT of effect, backer-wise and pledge-wise. I've encountered some projects where, if I click on the video first, the project snags me with the video, alone. If that happens, then it really doesn't tend to matter to me what the rest of the project page looks like.

On the photos thing, you're right on the mark with that one. I've seen blurry photos, and photos that are largely lacking in elements of visual interest in them. Black and white can work, but color tends to work better, simply because color acts as an attractant to the human eye. It embodies additional facets of interest. There are projects that are being touted in this forum, right now, which suffer from bad photos and from deficient, sub-par artwork. That sort of stuff can SLAUGHTER a campaign's chances of success.

Typically, I just shake my head, when I encounter it. They want you to back them, but what they present creates a visual impression of crap. What lies beneath the imagery may be a very solid concept. But, if it's presented in a way that hurts the eyes, turns the stomach, or bores the Hell out of the person viewing the project page, then it becomes an uphill struggle to then persuade the person to back the project - no matter what the project is.

You emphasized what you call the "written part of the campaign," aka the "pitch page." What I would emphasize is that it boils down to presentation. A project page has various elements to it (text, photos, art, videos, etc.), and each of those things involves presentation.

On more than one occasion, I have commented to project creators that they are pretty, when I browse their project page and accompanying links, looking for things to offer them feedback on. If you are pretty, then having your picture on your project page is a visual plus. Even if you're not pretty, you could still be photogenic (not all pretty people are photogenic, as odd as that might strike some). If you're photogenic, then it can benefit your project page for you to have your picture on it.

If you're not pretty and you're not photogenic, then one thing that a video can do for you is to bring your personality to the forefront. You might be funny, or you might have a good voice. You might just come across as sincere, or as someone that others can relate to on one or more levels. No matter who you are, you possess certain human qualities, which translates into there being other people out there that can relate to you - provided they encounter your video.

I hope that you don't mind me chiming in. Keep this thread going. You've got a great thought stream flowing.
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