Seven Fundamentals for a Killer Kickstarter Campaign

Seven Fundamentals for a Killer Kickstarter Campaign

I recently introduced you to the most successful Kickstarter campaign ever, Pebble Watch, and its creator Eric Migicovsky. In this blog Eric and I lay out his seven "must-do" steps for success in crowd funding.

As I interviewed Eric Migicovsky from the stage at Singularity University I found myself asking a fundamental question: Was Eric's success in raising $10 million on Kickstarter from 68,929 people in 37 days luck, skill or hard work? So I asked Eric to flesh out exactly what he did and why. Ultimately, he broke down his efforts into seven specific key "must-do" areas. While some of these may seem obvious, as I reflected on them, they really are quite critical. Here they are:

1. Make something people really want. This seems obvious, but testing the market and understanding what people really desire is essential. "Prior to launching Pebble on Kickstarter, we had sold about $200,000 worth of the predecessor watch called InPulse. We talked to these customers, got their detailed feedback, learned what was missing, what features they wish they had," said Eric. "Before we ever launched on Kickstarter, we had feedback from 1,500 real customers. So when we designed the Pebble Watch we made exactly what the public wanted."

2. Pick three simple "use cases" for your product and communicate those in a simple and understandable fashion. "Communication is hard to do when you're talking about a really new product," Eric said. "No one wakes up and says they want to buy a smart watch. We had to figure out a simple way to convey on our Kickstarter Page and video why should you, your mom, aunt, sister -- anyone -- would want to purchase a Pebble Watch. We boiled it down to three fundamental things, 'use cases' that anyone could understand: First, using it for running and cycling; second, using Pebble around the house for music and email; and third, using it as a platform for developers to write their own apps for Pebble Watch. Pebble can clearly do much more, but we kept it simple so it was easy to understand."

3. Pre-test your Kickstarter materials with friends and family. "We pre-tested our video, we made a demo page, we wrote a survey with multiple-choice questions and sent it to everyone in our families, all of our friends, we got their feedback before we launched on Kickstarter. More than 100 people had seen the page and given us their feedback. We tweaked the video and the page based on this feedback," continued Eric. "And when we went out to them again, for the first time, practically every single person said, 'This is cool. I want to buy it.' That doesn't happen often. It was a good feeling."

4. Wag the long tail -- get your story out to as many sites as possible. Since Kickstarter allows you to see the number of people driven to your page, and where they came from, Eric offered up some insight about how his 68,929 customers heard about his campaign. "We found out that 25 percent of our backers actually came from the Kickstarter homepage webpage itself," Eric said. "Kickstarter is almost becoming a bit of a project shopping mall: People are spending time on Kickstarter figuring out where they want to spend their money. That said, we also found out that the remaining 75 percent of people came from a very long-tail of referring websites. After the Kickstarter homepage, the next top referrer, outside of search engines, was Facebook, which referred 3 percent of all our backers. You can imagine that there was a very very long tail of other social media sites, blogs, media sites referring our customers to us. It's also worth noting that while 50 percent of our supporters came from North America, the other 50 percent came from all around the world, including China and Russia.

5. Set your total Pledge Goal carefully, and time your campaign wisely. "Figure out how much your project will cost to design, build and deliver and set your goal there. We set our funding goal for Pebble at $100,000. Perhaps if we had set it at $1 million we might not have had the success we saw. People like to back a winner. I think it's better to be conservative rather than over-optimistic."

In addition, the length of your campaign is important. The maximum length for a Kickstarter campaign is 60 days, but "the closer to 30 days is best," Eric said. "You get a lot of media when the campaign launches and then then a lot as you reach the end. Keep it short, keep it fresh and dynamic. For us we set it at 37 days."

6. Widen the funnel of backers through media. Even before Pebble Watch began its campaign on Kickstarter, it worked with the site Engadget to promote the product on the day of its Kickstarter launch. But Eric didn't stop there. As soon as the campaign launched, "We started immediately getting hits. But I made a point of doing media for two weeks after we started. There's a large return on investment of spending time on media. We hired a PR firm and all they did was schedule interviews. For six hours a day I just sat on the phone doing interviews. We tried to get the news out as much as possible. The more people who heard about Pebble Watch the more backed us. We focused on widening that funnel."

7. Offer interesting rewards. "We looked at what other people offered. While a lot of campaigns offer T-shirts or stickers to people who contribute," Eric said, "we wanted to make sure people could understand how much the product would cost right away. So the first tier was actually $99. That was early-bird price for getting one of the watches. We were selling a product; we were making a physical device." The highest Pledge level was $10,000 for distributors to pre-buy 100 Pebble Watches at a time. In the end, they limited the amount of watches: "When we got to 75,000 units sold, we decided that it would be in the best interest for our Kickstarter package to cut it off. We knew we had a lot of work to do." Eventually, Eric and his colleagues added another reward tier, where people could vote on an additional color (it's available in black, white and red at the moment). So far, 18,000 people have voted on what they think the fourth color should be.

In my next blog I'm going to revisit machine-learning data-competition platform Kaggle, and how you can use it to solve your challenges.

NOTE: Over the next year, I'm embarking on a BOLD mission -- to speak to top CEOs and entrepreneurs to find out their secrets to success. My last book Abundance, which hit No. 1 on Amazon, No. 2 on the New York Times and was at the top of Bill Gates' personal reading list, shows us the technologies that empower us to create a world of Abundance over the next 20 to 30 years. BOLD, my next book, will provide you with tools you can use to make your dreams come true and help you solve the world's grand challenges to create a world of Abundance. I'm going to write this book and share it with you every week through a series of blog posts. Each step of the way, I'll ask for your input and feedback. Top contributors will be credited within the book as a special "thank you," and all contributors will be recognized on the forthcoming BOLD book website. To ensure you never miss a message, sign up for my newsletter here.

Sign up today to receive the X PRIZE Newsletter and occasional alerts

* Required
What Fields Are You Interested In?
Email Format