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Share Your Kickstarter Story (Updates, Campaign Stats, Marketing Strategies Used)

Has your Kickstarter experience been positive or negative?

Treat this section like a blog for your Kickstarter journey. Feel free to share project stats and lessons learned. Hold yourself accountable to new weekly goals by sharing them with us!

by mysteryuk » Mon Sep 25, 2017 2:45 pm

Hey guys,

I've had an all round positive experience with Kickstarter so far! I've seen there are a number of different options when it comes to promotion though - we're developing a Mystery Event subscription, and most PR companies deal with "physical products.

I'd love any feedback on our campaign, and whether you know how I might find an even subscription PR team in the UK!

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/36 ... bscription
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by pend » Fri Sep 29, 2017 11:00 pm

Hello all,

This is my first post! I launched on September 12 and I'm just about exactly halfway through, and am also at 54% so it's nerve wrackingly borderline right now. I'll bet a lot of you know the feeling!

My campaign is here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/12 ... at-hexapod

Quick summary: It's a six legged robot (hexapod) that is built to play games using attachments. It's 100% 3d printed, and it supports MIT Scratch programming (drag and drop programming used by hundreds of schools).

I'm going into a lot of detail here. Hope it helps someone!

Pre-Launch Activities
-----------------------------
I had lined up a 10 unit distributor sale in advance of the campaign and a few friends and family. I had also been soft launching on Facebook and advertising on FB to get page likes and build up a list of followers which currently stands around 2400.

I created a bunch of very short videos showing the robot doing cool things like dancing, playing a xylophone, playing the Joust game (one of the attachments), etc. These videos were boosted on FB and got tens of thousands of views and thousands of likes in advance of launch. I also did a nationwide press release which was somewhat tongue in cheek: the robot launched its own kickstarter, I programmed it to tap the keyboard and hit the launch button.

The Bad Thing that Happened
-------------------------------------------
Two days into the campaign almost all of the sales were to people I knew, only two from KS regular backer, one of which was $7.77

I investigated and found that my project was not showing up on the EXPLORE/ROBOTS page! I mean, nowhere. Even when sorting by "newest" it never showed up. The only way to find it was to search on the term "robots" by typing.

I immediately opened a support ticket. I won't go through all the things that happened because it was really bad. But after my fifth support ticket in which I submitted video proof that my project wasn't showing up, kickstarter support finally realized there was an error in their system.

Turns out, being a robot, being in the Technology/Robots category, having the word "robot" all over your campaign including in the title and subtitle, doesn't make you a robot on kickstarter! A human being has to manually decide that you are a robot to show up in EXPLORE/ROBOTS.

They fixed it on day 7 of the campaign. I was at 12% and depressed.

Then A Good Thing
---------------------------
A couple of days later my project got the "Project We Love" badge! I guess once they realized it was a robot, they understood how cool it is!

Now I thought, wow I'm on easy street! I am not only showing up in the robot category, I'm showing up really high, above the fold because now I'm a staff pick. Views on the video shot up even though I had discontinued most FB ads (ineffective at conversion, was spending $2 for every $1 in sales). A surge of orders from people I didn't know came in with seemingly no effort on my part.

Then It Slowed Again, and Speeded up Again, and Slowed Again
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
But that only lasted a few days, and again I was getting only like one sale every 2 days. I had a major promotional event, the NY Maker Faire, which concentrated on the 3D printing and open source aspect of the project.

This was also great. I got 10 solid sales in a few days, several of which were using the code from the flyer I handed out at the Faire. It more than repaid the $500 fee I paid for the table, and I was feeling good again.

Then bam, down to zero sales 2 days in a row.

And Now
-------------
54% with 18 days to go. I am posting on 3D print websites (got a few sales from them in the past). I'm about to launch another press release with a "donate a hexapod to your school" promo (I found that the educational section of my audience can't by and large buy from kickstarter so I'm basically only getting Maker and 3D print enthusiasts). Coming up with some more clever videos to film this weekend. I did an event at a big science museum and they will be displaying my hexapod in their 3d print lab. I'm chugging along every single day, all day long, getting the word out.

The Moral of the Story
-------------------------------
I should have set my goal much lower. I had researched other similar robotics projects and I thought $18k would be a chip shot, boy was I wrong. It's a struggle every single day for every sale. Should have made it 8k or 10k.

I did not get far as many sales from KS regular backers as I thought I would. My own ads, my own tradeshow appearances, my own contacts, are currently about 85% of sales. Only a handful of sales from KS backers who I didn't previously know or didn't use one of my ad codes.

Is KS Really for New Companies?
--------------------------------------------

I am a little on the fence at this point about KS. My problem is: Why bother launching this with KS if I am getting almost all the sales through my own efforts? Why not just list it on Amazon or one of ten other places and drive ads to there? Don't get me wrong, I expected to have to do a lot of work and generate most sales, but 85%? Why am I handing them 5% for coming up with so few backers, even as a "Project We Love"?

The jury is still out. If I was an existing company with a client list so i could presell 100% of goal then just farm their regular backers for gravy, KS make sense. But is that what KS is really for? I thought it was for start ups who don't necessarily have client lists, right? Instead, it seems to be optimized for existing companies who can guarantee immediately hitting goal and thus get press for "funding in 2 hours". But it's really kind of incorrect, they had those sales without kickstarter, right?

Upsides and Downsides of KS
---------------------------------
Upsides: There is some mystique about crowdfunding, it's in the news, people have heard of it, it might help get some news stories placed, you can possibly get some of their regular backers. The deadline makes you laser focus, forces you to work fast and keep thinking of new ways to promote. If you're an existing company with a loyal customer list you can basically guarantee you make goal on day 1 by getting presale commits.

Downsides: You lose a ton of flexibility. You're locked in on goal, it's not a real store so you have to list all kinds of wacky combinations of rewards or quantities. It will be embarrassing if you fail to fund. You're under the gun with a looming deadline that's very stressful, and which cannot be altered no matter what else happens. If you were to simply do a non-crowdfund launch, you would have a lot more flexibility to react to things, failure would not be so public if it occurred, you could change prices or product specs at will based on customer feedback without being locked in.

My current advice: Do not launch if you don't have 50% of goal locked up in presales for the first day of launch. That means you are marketing, beta testing, whatever, for months before launch, or you're an existing company launching a new product to an existing customer list.

Like I said, for me, jury is still out, will report back in 18 days.
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by hyperstarter » Sat Sep 30, 2017 10:18 pm

Hi, I can sort of feel the sadness in your great roundup of your campaign on Kickstarter.

I think it could of been down Kickstarter not listing you properly, but you were initially getting noticed and were live so you shouldn't rely on the Kickstarter platform to promote you. Ideally you should consider KS a place to list your campaign, then you need to draw traffic to it - through your contacts, pitching to big sites to get featured with a link back to your page etc,

The problem I found with your campaign page, is that it doesn't look professional. The images don't fit the page and it just looks a bit dull. If you look at the big campaigns, their imagery stands out and everything is explained.

I worked on quite a few overfunded bot campaigns from MeArm Pi to IronBot, so hope my advice is useful. If you need any campaign page help or guidance, feel free to get in touch.
Promote your campaign today with Hyperstarter & use our free tool to identify Kickstarter page problems & fixes: http://www.hyperstarter.com
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by pend » Sun Oct 01, 2017 2:17 pm

Thanks for your thoughtful reply!

I absolutely admit that my page and video may not be as professional looking as ones made by companies who have graphic artists on staff and big budgets to hire a crew. And I admit I made a number of mistakes that I would definitely not make again (setting goal too high, not having sufficient marketing on day 1, having to play catch up, misreading the ability of schools to buy from KS, etc.)

But yeah, the initial sales were 100% from my contacts, handshake deals with distributors, facebook ads I did, etc., as are almost all of the rest of the sales. I have done tons of marketing, and I'm fine with that. I did not expect to turn on the project and wake up the next morning with 500 sales.

I think my real point is this. Kickstarter is pitched as a place where there are millions of active backers. You go on there, and yes you have to do most of the work and you have to have a great product, but you'll also get at least some significant bonus by making some decent number of sales to their backers. That is not what I am finding in my own campaign. I am finding almost no benefit from being on kickstarter so far, even as a "Project We Love". After paying the 5% fee and with overhead etc I'm basically breaking even on the 15% of backers that came from KS vs. the 85% that came from my efforts.

I could have listed this product on ebay, bonanza, etsy, and amazon, and I could have driven traffic to those places using my ads and my tradeshows and my business contacts, and I would have had FAR more flexibility in the ability to change prices, change product mixes, etc., in response to market demands. On KS, I am getting only a tiny benefit from their existing backers, but I am giving up a ton of flexibility. I'm locked in, and that's costing me some sales for absolute sure.

The campaigns that fund in 3 hours are also, from what I can tell, almost all companies with existing customer lists who pre-sold their entire goal. Kickstarter is billed as a place to raise the money you need to make your project a reality. But let me ask you an important question: If a company pre-sold 100% of goal, guaranteeing they would meet goal in hours or a couple of days, is that REALLY what kickstarter is all about? Clearly those companies DID NOT need Kickstarter to make their project "a reality".

I'll give you another example. Right before I launched, bad timing, another hexapod project called Hexa launched. I'm sure this hurt me to some extend and I actually seriously considered delaying my launch, but all the wheels were in motion and Hexa was a much higher priced product so I pulled the trigger on launch anyway.

In their video, Hexa pitched the standard words, something like "we need you to help make this project a reality". But just 30 days before they launched, they got 7 million dollars in VC funding, and in the year before they launched they had a total of 14 million dollars raised in VC funding. Did the $100k goal that they raised in 2 days make it possible for them to launch the product? That's ludicrous on the face of it! They had 14 million in VC commitments! That 100K was a *rounding error* in terms of their financing. Most certainly they had presold just about the entire goal before launch, and they could well afford a large marketing staff to do it, so it was already guaranteed.

I guess I'm saying, I don't really think kickstarter is exactly what they say they are at this point in time, at least in a lot of cases. In a lot of cases, the funding goal was guaranteed before launch, or the company had plenty of VC backing and did not need kickstarter to actually make their projects "a reality". They are only using it to farm some increment sales to KS backers, who are probably much more likely to pledge if a project is already funded (bandwagon effect).

Another downside to kickstarter that I forgot to mention in my prior post. I was at NY Maker Faire, a huge event for 3d print enthusiasts, hobbyists, etc. 50,000 people were there, thousands were at my booth. My booth was packed from opening to closing both days. People LOVE this product when they see it. When a prospect said, "How do I buy this?" and I mentioned "We're on Kickstarter" I got BLANK STARES from 50% of the people. They may have heard of it but they had no idea how it worked. I had to explain how it worked. I don't have to tell anyone in sales that the moment you have to explain something you are TOAST in a sales situation. Don't get me wrong, I sold at least $2000 of product at that booth over two days and it helped my campaign a lot. But maybe it would have been twice that if I could have said, "Oh we're on Amazon.com you can pre-order right now!" I wouldn't have to explain to anybody what Amazon.com is. I do have to explain to a lot of people what Kickstarter is and that hurts a lot. Every second I was explaining KS I was not pitching features and benefits of my product. I became a pitchman to help KS get their next million backers so they could tout even higher numbers.

Are there some clever, viral products that don't have existing customer base or big backers that catch fire on KS? Sure there are. But they're like the lottery ticket winners, they are few and far between in my opinion. Caveat: I haven't done a formal study, this is just what I have observed over the past few weeks.

Conclusion: Did I make mistakes? I sure did. But your response did not address the main point of my prior post. If I am getting almost no benefit from the millions of existing KS backers, and I am giving up a ton of flexibility, and kickstarter is basically dominated by companies with existing customer lists to presell to, or huge VC backing so didn't need KS to really launch their product, then why did I need kickstarter at all? There are upsides and downsides to KS, but in the final analysis, was it worth it?

That's my question and I admit I have not made a final decision yet on whether it was worth it or not.

The jury is still out in my mind.
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by kronos » Wed Oct 04, 2017 5:29 pm

This is my first kickstarter campaign and we just launched today. It's an exciting day. I'm reading this posts trying to learn more and get some tips.
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/12 ... -sun-shade
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by pend » Wed Oct 04, 2017 5:45 pm

Hi kronos,

That's a really great looking campaign, best of luck to you!

I think the only thing I can fault is the timing ... you're launching a product primarily for beach (and always outdoor) use in October when outdoor activities really slow down for most people. I realize it's still hot in places like FL, TX and southern CA, but that's probably a much smaller market than you would have had a few months ago, or six months from now.

Now another piece of advice: I learned very quickly that it was a mistake not to include overseas shipments. You're losing a lot of sales by limiting it to USA. Also, it's spring in the southern hemisphere! I'm getting significant orders from New Zealand and Australia, and summer starts for them in December so they're already probably thinking about beach weather. Southern Europe might also still be warm enough for significant beach activity so targeting the EU countries would make sense.

I added europe and australia/new zealand about a week after launching and I'm glad I did.
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by pend » Fri Oct 06, 2017 3:44 pm

UPDATE on the Vorpal Combat Hexapod Project:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/12 ... ts/2008064

Well what a difference a week makes. We got some huge exposure from a major Maker website (Thingiverse) and that turned things around in the blink of an eye. We went from 60% funded to 100% funded in just 48 hours.

We also ran an educational donation program and a backer referral program--those did also contribute to the extra sales, but the exposure on Thingiverse was the main driver.

With 11 days ago, dare I dream of 200% funded? That actually seems possible if the sales continue at even half the rate of the past two days, but I have learned to keep expectations modest, as things can change in the blink of an eye! For now, I'm funded, and that's the best news I've had in a couple of weeks.
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by PUNCHROBERT » Tue Oct 31, 2017 2:25 am

So far relatively negative. I thought with 750K social media followers who I've created content for for years - I would raise the 70k for my pilot in the first few days - but only 130 donations after 15 days lol - still exploring new approaches :D
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by NivStudio » Sat Nov 04, 2017 7:01 pm

I set my campaign for 40 days, almost 6 days passed, and just 6 backers, it seems kickstarter website has no visitors.
I contacted Kickstarter press to add my project to their press, still no response from them.
I have learned that PR is everything for rising funds.
You can check my campaign, maybe you are the next backer (LOL): https://goo.gl/25xK21
Thunderclap : http://thndr.me/gMmWnz
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by Trissy » Sun Nov 05, 2017 1:58 am

Just started my campaign 5 days ago and got a back on the first day.......Thats it and 25 days to go....So ... :?
I 'm trying to get the word out.....
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/74 ... tarot-deck
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