Got my ass kicked on Kickstarter!

This article was supposed to be a post about the successful marketing tactics I used for my recent Kickstarter campaign.

But as you know, the campaign was not the success I’d imagined it would have been.

I did everything I was supposed to do. I spent several months getting ready: refining my project description and creating what I believed to be a convincing video; preparing a tight-but-realistic budget; studying hundreds of previous similar Kickstarter campaigns, both successful and unsuccessful; creating compelling pledge rewards. I unleashed powerful pre-launch and launch campaigns using social media contacts I’ve been accumulating. In addition to bulk emails, I also sent almost 1000 personal emails. I made regular Facebook posts and Twitter tweets. I blogged. I provided regular updates on my Kickstarter page. I generated positive press. I constructed creative messages to keep variety in my appeals. I purchased Facebook advertising and spent money to boost my posts. I lived and breathed Kickstarter every waking hour for a full month.

So what went wrong?

I have spent the last four weeks thinking of nothing else. And I wish I could tell you here that I’ve come to some solid conclusions. While I have in fact determined what some of the downfalls were, I am not yet certain how to conquer these obstacles.

Here is what I’ve learned from my campaign:

1. You need a huge stable of people who believe in you and your project before you launch, and they have to be loud about it.

Thank you again to those who followed and contributed to my campaign. The average pledge amount was $93.20, which is actually well above both the $25 most-favorite donation and the $70 average for most Kickstarter campaigns. Forty-four believers backed my project, but I’d anticipated about ten times that number based on my own relationships with friends, family and colleagues and their stated willingness to spread the excitement. So my stable wasn’t as huge as I’d thought, which still baffles me based on pre-campaign conversations. It’s tempting to get angry (and I have to admit that I was pretty miffed for a while…with some of that irritation still lingering toward a few people on whom I’d really been relying to sell my project to their contacts), but the more constructive thing to do is to figure out why my group of supporters didn’t come through as projected. Did I not sufficiently explain the process? Did I not adequately explain the importance of not only spreading the word but also of asking for support of their friends? Did I not give people enough reason to feel that they were a part of the project? Or were they just not as excited as I’d believed them to be? Before I launch again, I have to figure these things out, plus I have to increase my number of believers. While some crowdfunding projects are lucky enough to go viral, usually because of big name attachments, most are dependent upon the allegiance and participation of the core base.

2. People don’t want to be a part of a campaign they don’t think is going to succeed, even if they believe in the project itself.

This sounds crazy, right? But based on a post-campaign survey I sent to my prospect list, many said they didn’t see the point of pledging based upon the slow progress of the funding. Did they not want to be associated with a failed project? Did they think it just wasn’t worth their time to pledge if failure seemed imminent? I don’t know. This one makes no sense to me, especially because under Kickstarter rules, pledging would have cost them absolutely nothing if the campaign were to fail. This is yet another issue I must address before re-launching.

3. You will lose some friends and even alienate some family members during the course of your crowdfunding campaign.

Persistence is key to a successful crowdfunding campaign. Yet, there will be a segment who will find your persistence annoying. This was made very clear to me when I received an email with only two words in the subject box: “ENOUGH ALREADY!” I can’t begin to express how hurtful these two words were for so many reasons. Firstly, this message was from a professional fundraiser who knows the importance of repetition. Secondly, this was the response of a person for whom I’ve completed scores of successful projects over the years at no cost to him or his organization. Thirdly, this person knows just how important this project is to me. Once I got over the initial hurt (okay, so I’m not really over it yet), I began to wonder just how many others were alienated, especially if someone so close to me had such an intense response. I have to take this into consideration before my next campaign.

4. Funding other projects helps create support.

I am about to back my nineteenth and twentieth projects on Kickstarter today. I began supporting Kickstarter campaigns months ago because of my own dedication to independent filmmaking, because I know that crowdfunding is the only way most of these projects will get made, and because I believe in the projects I support. What I didn’t realize when I started pledging is that I was joining a community of mutual supporters who often reciprocate pledges and social media support. While I will continue to support the projects of other filmmakers in any event, I must concentrate on making better use of the mutual support that comes from pledging.

5. Did I choose the right crowdfunding program?

There are many reasons I selected Kickstarter over other fundraising platforms, and perhaps I will decide to go with them again. The main reasons I chose Kickstarter were because of their reputation and because I knew that I couldn’t create what I was envisioning for any less than I was asking. Since Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing proposition, I knew I wouldn’t be in the predicament of delivering anything of lesser quality than I’d be promising my supporters. On the other hand, had I gone with another site such as Indiegogo, I’d have some seed money in my pocket now and a record of fundraising that I could use to my advantage in raising additional money. While I am more interested in making my film than I am in spending countless months on fundraising, this is another option I must consider before launching again.

6. Connecting and engaging online with those who are most likely to support my cause is a daunting task.

I wish there were a simple way of connecting with those who have already demonstrated Kickstarter support for independent films (perhaps the recent hacking of Kickstarter was by a frustrated filmmaker looking for leads rather than by someone looking to steal credit card numbers)! When I was making my living in the world of advertising, it was super-easy to buy or rent a list of potential buyers. It appears that such a list doesn’t exist for this particular demographic. You would think the Internet would make it easy to build a list of those who share your passion, but the opposite is true. As pointed out by the website agency 2.0, the people I seek “exist in the nooks and crannies of the web. These nooks and crannies are where the passion side of the web resides…These are those people that care about your issues, your causes and hopefully your project.” The post goes on to say that these people are found on blogs, forums, websites, social media, podcasts, in newsletters, in groups and in hashtags. I have been searching all of these digital avenues for months, and I find I haven’t even made a dent! Daunting indeed. Suggestions are welcome!

7. I have to listen to my supporters and learn from my mistakes.

As I mentioned earlier, I performed a post-campaign 10-question survey of everyone whom I’d solicited. In it, I encouraged complete honesty, and that’s just what I received. As a result, not only will my next campaign be different, but there may be substantial changes to the project itself.

So, am I any closer to re-launching the campaign?

I am.

But, as you can see, there’s still so much more I have to consider!

So please…post your comments below and pass this link along to those who have either run their own crowdfunding campaigns (successful or unsuccessful) and to those who may have supported similar campaigns.

Together, maybe we’ll be able to find out how to increase the number of successful campaigns well beyond the current 30% level!

And please…if you haven’t yet subscribed to this blog, please do so below!

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