146% on Kickstarter: was it just

    Hello, Habr!

    In fact, I embellished the title a bit: Black Swift for this minute scored 161% on Kickstarter - and he has five more days ahead, so that the interest will increase. We deliberately launched the project for a short period of three weeks, and now with a slight trembling we look at projects with a term of up to 60 days, only creeping out for 100% by the end of it.

    And while the memories are fresh in my memory, I want to talk about what we did and did not do, whether it was easy or cheap, and so on - I hope this helps other Russian startups who are thinking about crowdfunding.

    However, I’ll put another picture to attract attention:

    These are the first 100 Black Swift car kits in the final (third) design, which arrived in Russia the day before yesterday. Since the New Year is in China from February 4 to 19, we will collect the next experimental batch here. If everything goes well with her, in March we will start production of the first full-scale batch.

    However, I promised about Kickstarter.

    First, of course, the traditional question: why in New Zealand dollars? The answer is banal: Kickstarter allows you to withdraw money only to a limited list of countries, Russia is not among them. Traditionally, Russian projects use intermediaries in the United States, but our team included a person living in New Zealand - so there was no need for an intermediary. On the one hand, as a result, we have not very familiar NZDs as the currency, on the other hand, there are no losses on the commission to the intermediary and there are no fears about possible problems with it.

    Further, perhaps, I will go with theses.

    Don't count on success. The more you get used to the idea that you will earn millions now, the less likely you will earn them. People who invest in you want to see that you can be trusted - and the best way to show them is to work on the product you are conducting, because even if Kickstarter does not take off and there is no money, you still need to do something . Have a plan "B" (we had it, by the way) and work on it - then people will see that you are really doing something, and not sitting, sleeping, waiting for the money, as one Korean business manager said .

    In general, the ideal option is if you have a coherent long-term plan of what you want to do with your project. Not necessarily drawn on the timeline in Excel, but a general understanding of where you want to go, what steps to go there and what exactly to do. Unless, of course, you really want to do something, and not just make money on crowdfunding and put it all on the far shelf.

    Do not go to kickstarter for money. It would seem, but for what else to go there? For fame. For partners. For the press. For contacts. No, money is very good, we do not plan to refuse. But if money is all that you want from Kickstarter, then you do not understand what you can get from it. A successful start on Kickstarter, during which you explained who you are and why you need it, gives you fame - and now you can come to potential partners with the confidence that you can explain who you are, and some will call you and write to you. For example, seeedwrites with a proposal to help with the production. Not automatic mailing - we went to the site, found the necessary names, connected them with emails, wrote. We do not need, but nice. There are larger and more pleasant calls, about which I will not yet - if cooperation works, then we’ll tell you.

    And by the way, there is no word “investors” above. To sell an idea or a semi-finished product to investors, in my personal opinion, the idea is far from the best, despite the numerous prolific incubators and accelerators. You will need an investor when you have a small business with the desire to grow it to a large one - but for now, you have no one. And yes, an investor is not the one who gives you money (if you think differently, then you confuse it with the bank), but the one who helps you grow and rebuild this business. It is possible, by the way, that when you get to a more or less sustainable business, you will realize that you simply don’t need help anymore. Again, see above for a long-term plan.

    The main thing is the product. The thesis seems to be obvious, but for some reason many startups do not reach it, focusing too much on beautiful presentations, working out the technique of 30-second pitches and other cargo cults. The product is always primary. Even if you have a multi-million dollar marketing budget. Yes, sometimes you can create an image in the minds of potential buyers weakly connected with the real product (as those dear comrades on Kickstarter did, that in the wake of all protest movements around the world they tried to push through the project of a “protected Tor router”, which gathered a lot and quickly slammed, as soon as it was discovered that they were selling ordinary Chinese hardware), but usually this already borders on fraud, sometimes passing into it. In all other cases - it is necessary to dance from the product, and a poor presentation with a good product gives a better exhaust than vice versa.

    I'm not talking about the fact that if you have normal prototypes, best of all - a few, then trust in you will be much higher than if you show a great idea, so far embodied on the breadboard from the Chip-and-dip.

    Your product is an image in the minds of customers, or, in simpler terms, you need to be able to talk about the product so that the buyer understands what it is and, most importantly, why it might be necessary for it. From the moment the buyer saw the first picture, an image began to take shape in his head - and your story should unfold this process in the right direction. Never rely on “yes, everything is clear from the specifications” - with this phrase you just made the buyer do a competitive and functional analysis on his own, and since he usually does not want to do this, the result may not please you.

    For many small technology teams (from which, in fact, crowdfunding projects grow) it is common to dig into the technical details and features of your favorite product. We must abstract ourselves from this with all our might - and do the product positioning as if you still really want to sell it, but it has ceased to be your favorite (in fact, this is the view of the buyer who should form the desire to buy this product). Test on family and friends, on friends and Habré - the ideal result is a story that people listen to the end, even if they disagree with your theses and ideas. They may disagree, but they are already interested - this is an order of magnitude better than if they would just be uninteresting.

    If no matter how you turn around, and in return you get either indifference, or the questions “why do you need it?” - you have something wrong with either communication or the product. The fact of entering Kickstarter will not fix this, but will emphasize it.

    PR and marketing communications dance from the product . Here I share marketing and marketing communications - the first includes a lot of tasks, including a set of requirements and wishes for the product, and the last is the marketing section that deals with all issues of communicating to potential buyers information about an already finished product.

    You have several communication channels that you must use.

    1. Kickstarter himself.Everything is quite clear here, at least theoretically - you need a good text about the product (if you are now stretched to read something fashionable about landing pages, funnels and conversion, throw this garbage into the waste paper, read better “About Advertising” by Ogilvy). Not “selling,” not short, but just normal. If a person is interested in your product, he will read this text to find out more, so the text should contain what a person may want to know. Promotional messages and invocations either throw out altogether, or leave in the first paragraph.

    Video is needed. Professional video - depends on the product. If you do - as we do - a thing for DIY and electronic engineers, and at the same time you are still a small startup, then at best you just do not need a professionally shot video, because your audience will wait for specifics, and not watch the picture, but at worst, if you go too far, it will raise questions whether you are such a small startup and if you really need money, you can afford commercials. If you are making an emphasized mass product, here’s literally consumer electronics - yes, then you need a beautiful video, because your viewer will look first at the picture. Specifications concern him to a much lesser extent.

    Photos are needed, and making good photos is easy and inexpensive, at least for small objects. I need only normal uniform lighting, so I give two life hacks: a lightbox from the ikeev laundry basket, on which lightbox shines from white plastic wall panels shine, on a box of which a ceiling LED lamp 600 × 600 mm is placed on top ( link ; photos for our the pages were made in this miracle of technology). Well, or for 2-3 thousand to buy a Chinese ready lightbox and light with lamps. Until you shoot large household appliances or naked models in full growth, you do not need professional photographic equipment and studio rental.

    Do not forget about such a communication tool as comments and FAQ. The latter should be filled either immediately or three to four days after the start of the campaign, if during this time you receive any comments with questions. Having a FAQ causes the illusion of dialogue.

    And finally - a striking picture as a title. Just something stand out when viewing the Kickstarter muzzle diagonally. Visits from the catalog of projects can give you a very good increase in money.

    2. Newspapers and magazines. Relations with the press very much depend on what kind of product you have - probably stronger than any other communication channel. The press should be interesting to you. As a Russian project, you will be unambiguously interested in the Russian press - for example, very noticeable editions of a very quiet topic wrote about us at the start ( one , two , three ), and no less noticeable and already universal topics - right after we collected 100% ( time ). Moreover, they showed us on TV and called on the radio . All this is completely free, and this is not the end: for example, an interview in Russian has just been released, but very similar to English, for a large and serious site that decided to get a column on crowdfunding and rummaged in search of fresh technological projects, while it’s standing somewhere in the queue. Yes, it’s very good to have very direct - at the level of friendship - contacts with editors, but contacts are just a way to bring news about you faster and more directly. Some publications will write without knowing you in person (by the way, although all journalists deny this, many of them still read press releases that simply fall into the mail), some will not write about you until they make sure that you are interesting, despite any degree of acquaintance (see above about those who wrote only after recruiting us 100%).

    Then begins the interest in the product - it determines the attention of the Western press, for which your fifth column is not a news item. As soon as you publicly announce somewhere that you plan to go out to Kickstarter, you will receive free advisers, most of whom work on the same methodology - for example, they will immediately tell you that the press needs to be introduced to your product in 3 months or more. Drive to the neck. In general, drive into the neck any advisers who, instead of “we usually do like this” or “I think that it might turn out better differently,” start a conversation with “you have everything completely wrong, I will explain how to.” The more confident the “expert” has a tone, the more likely it is that he is mistaken - because a good expert doubts himself first of all.

    By the way, literally a couple of people among the advisers who wrote to us were literally a couple of people, and they were the least categorical and intrusive.

    So, the product. Look at it and understand a few things: 1) a news or article; 2) article or testing; 3) profile site / section or interest in passing. From this, interaction with the press grows.

    For example, Black Swift is obviously news (there’s nothing to write about the article about), there’s nothing special to test, we’re specialized only for sites specializing in such electronics, and for the rest it’s some kind of regular microcomputer. In our case, starting to talk about yourself in 3 months would be foolish - the author takes 10-15 minutes to evaluate the material for the news, no more, if you start feeding him this in 3 months - then, depending on the intensity, it will take you either forget, or add to the black list, because they are tired. Maximum - you can try in two passes, choosing different news feeds and maintaining a not too large interval between calls.

    The exact opposite - for example, computer games. The chances that you have an insanely good idea that will appeal purely to the screenshots, in general, are, but not very large. Accordingly, you need a beta version, and a journalist needs a free evening to drive into it. If this journalist is not your old friend from the third grade of high school, he can look for this evening long enough.

    There is also a popular tip to make friends with reporters in advance, right down to subscribing to their twitter and retweeting it violently. It helps. But only if you choose a journalist who will be interested in your topic in principle - because in this way you do not raise the level of interest, you just get a shorter way, which allows your news to be guaranteed to be conveyed to him. Believe me, as a person with a dozen years in the IT press - even your knowledge of the number of my mobile phone will not affect in any way whether I am even interested in your topic.

    And yes, do not offer gifts before you are noticed. After - you can. To - create the feeling that you want to buy a mention for yourself, and cheaply. As a rule, it is possible to buy cheaply those whom it makes no sense to buy at all.

    But what you need to do is to create a beautiful picture and headlines for the media. Feel free to buzzwords. For example, we were not noticed by Western relatively universal publications (although highly specialized ones were vigorous) - and now I think that if we immediately made some senseless expansion card for Black Swift, for example, “the smallest router in the world” or “ 100% compatible with Arduino ”, our chances of getting on the cover would increase dramatically. A publication that writes about your subject matter in passing is not interesting to figure out what you did there - so it would be nice to save them from this by telling them in terms that they understand. Even if nobody really needs this smallest router, because it doesn’t solve any new problems compared to a centimeter.

    3. Blogs and forums. Use necessarily. Your own blogs, especially if you have a decent audience, can bring not only a certain percentage of bakers, but also unexpected support and acquaintances - support from people from the first circle who were always, in principle, relevant to your topic, but did not pay the fact that you are doing it, special attention, until you began to create a lot of interesting noise about her. Dating is the second round, and there may be something completely unexpected, for example, someone from the MIPS architecture developers. With corresponding consequences .

    Third Party Bloggers -  Engage, if you can. Just remember that paying money here makes sense only for very top bloggers and their coverage of projects for a very mass market - and it will be expensive, and if you have so much, it is not clear that you forgot on Kickstarter. In addition, of course, look at attendance - spending time on people who write a post every two months and collect a half likes under it usually usually makes no sense. Do not fall for the favorite in KPI PR departments "the number of publications."

    Forums - reclaim those that somehow relate to your topic yourself. The forums adjacent to you can bring interesting results - from there ideas will come that you can show and tell about your product in order to expand your target audience (though in order to have time to implement something within the framework of Kickstarter, it is better to start working on them in advance - unless, of course, there is something to show there). Look at the rules, not everyone is allowed to advertise openly. Look at the attendance - if you see that a post published three days ago (not yet yours) with a completely normal headline collected ten or three views, then it would be senseless to waste time on this forum. It is possible, but it will not pay off.

    In some forums you will begin to discuss without your participation. If there is something to say and you speak the native language of this forum - come there and speak.

    4. Your site . It should be and it should not be a stub - from the point of view of your target audience, it should look like a normal site on which its owners tell visitors what visitors want to see. There is no universal “format that everyone on Kickstarter is used to” - there is a format that your target audience will understand (especially since we, for example, a third of bakers, invest for the first time on Kickstarter).

    And yes, some media will want to put a link specifically to the site, and not to Kickstarter. Therefore, a large banner on it can bring you a hundred or two contributions.

    5. PR agencies. You will receive many offers of various formats - from the comprehensive promotion of crowdfunding projects for three-figure sums and down to the bottom, to posting on the Best-Crowdfunding-Websites.com website (I’m not joking, I have several letters from them) for $ 49. I’ll be brief: everyone’s neck. Firstly, the only real service they provide is sending out a press release on a large base with a very small exhaust (it can somehow cost thirty, but not three hundred). Secondly, if a PR agency starts pushing at what kind of experts in crowdfunding they are an alarming call, because actually working with PR in crowdfunding is no different from just working in PR.

    A working PR-agency is a stable office, as a rule, which appeared long before the word “crowdfunding”, and has direct contacts of journalists who understand that they will not be sent trash from here. You can work with these agencies, but they prefer to do this, as a rule, under a contract and with respectable clients, so if you have money for it - again, what did you forget on Kickstarter?

    Resources. Actually, the main question is how much it cost and which team we had to hire. If we talk about the actual preparation of Kickstarter and the company's website, then this was done almost completely by one person and without outside costs. That is, if the manufacture of samples of the type presented in the examples of use and in the updates is attributed to the usual work on the project, then the budget for reaching Kickstarter tends to zero.

    Spoke out. Thanks for attention.

    PS Oh yes, was it easy. Perhaps yes. If you have an understanding of where and why you are moving, and you are not swaying along this path in different directions, then nothing really complicated.

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