How to Be Successful on Kickstarter

The Story of Hydaway Bottle & How We Raised $263k On Kickstarter

Kickstarter has become the ultimate setting for the cinderella story. It’s the playground of makers and inventors, and the storefront for unique, one-of-a-kind objects. $2.1 Billion has been pledged on Kickstarter, and many people are vying for a piece of the crowdfunding pie.

But striking it rich isn’t as easy as crowdfunding makes it seem. Oh no, on the contrary. Successfully raising money on Kickstarter is a lot of work.

Just ask our good friend and client Niki Singlaub, inventor of HYDAWAY Bottle. Niki had a simple idea: What if there was a reusable water bottle that you could conveniently fit in the pocket of my backpack? Wouldn’t it be great if I could carry a water bottle for my kids instead of relying on store-bought drinks?

That’s when the HYDAWAY Bottle was born. Designed for an active lifestyle, HYDAWAY bottles are compact, folding down like an accordion to just over one inch to easily fit in a pocket, backpack, or carry-on --nearly anywhere.

With such a unique product, how could it fail? 

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The HYDAWAY Bottle collapses down to easily fit in a pocket while you're on the go.

When First You Fail, Try Again

Niki came to us at the end of 2014. His first Kickstarter campaign had been unsuccessful, raising just $22,523, falling short of his $40,000 goal. But instead of quitting, and like most entrepreneurs, he decided failure was not an option.

This time, Niki decided he was going to to hire professional help with his campaign. Having heard about 41 Orange from a previous crowdfunding client who we helped raised $86,072 for their Kickstarter campaign, Niki reached out to us for help.

After a couple months of preparation, Niki launched his second Kickstarter campaign with the goal of raising $20,000. Having been unsuccessful the first time around, he wasn’t sure what to expect. Well...

The campaign raised $263,086.

When the campaign wrapped up, HYDAWAY was #627 of all time campaigns on Kickstarter (out of 233,590). That means less than one-fourth of a percent (0.23%) of campaigns did better than we did. Not too shabby, eh?

Especially when you consider that only 36 percent of campaigns on Kickstarter are successful.

You may be wondering how we did it, and that’s exactly what we’re going to tell you.

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How to Be Successful on Kickstarter: 5 Steps

Using the same techniques we would use for any product launch or marketing campaign, we crafted a full marketing program to maximize website traffic and drive sales (in this case pledges).

1. Competitive research

We kicked off our campaign planning by digging into similar successful products on Kickstarter. There were several similar campaigns. When looking at these campaigns, pay attention to:
  • How they described their product
  • What audience segments they appealed to
  • How they structured their campaign page and video
  • Where their product was written about in the media


We also took a look at who is on Kickstarter. There are 3 Million repeat backers on Kickstarter -- that’s a large base to tap into.

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Source: Crowdlifted

The Kickstarter audience tends to be male, between the ages of 25 - 34. While their education is closely split between a college degree and no degree, a little more than half of the audience has an income less than $50k, followed by $50-100k.

Does this mean that if our audience falls outside of this range that Kickstarter is not a good fit? No, not exactly. But it is a good indication that outside promotion is absolutely necessary. Although we can use this data as a starting point for paid media promotion to reach the most likely backers outside of the platform.

2. Messaging

The most successful campaigns strike an emotional chord and connect with backers based on their interests and lifestyles. You need an effective message to really drive interest in a product -- and it can’t just be about the product. People don’t buy products simply for what they are; they buy them for what they imagine the product can help them do. You have lean on aspirations, find the pain points and provide the painkiller for those through your product. This is all done with messaging.

And that’s where the research comes in.

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One of the campaigns, Smash Cup, was a very similar concept. We noticed very quickly how they continued to show how easy it was for the bottle to be folded down. They also did a great job at showing the cups in different scenarios: at work, in transit, etc.

Then there was the Memo Bottle. They really leaned into the message around how reusable bottles were better for the environment since plastic bottles can remain in a landfill for a lifetime. This was a message that especially resonated with Niki, one of the reasons he himself invented Hydaway Bottle.

Based on the research and what we talked about with Niki, we created what we call “messaging pillars” for the campaign: Convenience, health and sustainability. These messages provided the basis of our campaign, how we framed the use cases and the benefits of the product. We appealed to our target demographic of travelers, adventurers, health conscious parents and fitness fanatics, and those interested in the environment.

3. Page Layout and Content

Once you do your research and nail down your messaging pillars, it’s time to consider the outline and content of your campaign page.

Remember, you do not get the capability of HTML in Kickstarter. Every design aspect you see on campaign pages are done with the use of graphics: stylized section headings, images alongside text, product graphics, these all must be designed. Through our research, we found that the most successful campaigns were well designed pages with lots of product images, lifestyle image (the product in use), and even gifs of the product.

We worked with Niki to produce high-quality content using our messaging pillars and following some best practices.

The Video:

  • Get to the point quickly with a teaser in the first couple seconds, and show the product right away to keep interest
  • Keep attention. Videos have a sharp drop off after 30 seconds, so be sure to get the juicy bits up front. In journalism, we call this the inverted pyramid, placing all the important information at the top and working down through the more specific details
  • Show the product, don’t just talk about it. Use lots of examples of the product in action (use cases) to give prospective backers an opportunity to picture themselves using the product

 

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The Campaign Page:

  • Pictures, pictures, and more pictures. HYDAWAY Bottle is a unique concept, and we needed to make this idea as tangible as possible, so we used photos and gifs to give the Kickstarter community a good idea of what this product is and what it does
  • Create an emotional connection with the product. We did this by playing on the 3 messages in relation to the lifestyles of our target audience, and by introducing Niki and his experiences to give a human touch. Find out what your audience cares about, find that heartstring and pull it
  • Capture eyes. Remember what we said about short attention spans and drop off? Treat your page like the video -- put all the important details up front and add color deeper in the page
  • Use lots of social proof. Get quotes from product testers and media to show support for the product
  • Speaking of media -- a logo pond of all the publications that cover your product is very impressive to those thinking about backing your product


The campaign page can be updated throughout the campaign, too. During Niki’s campaign, we made changes as necessary to copy to help with clarity, updated the FAQs (a required feature for Kickstarter) and added media logos as we got them.

4. Pre-Campaign Promotion

I’d venture to guess this is why the majority of Kickstarter campaigns fail: They do not promote themselves! It is not enough to rely on backers searching through Kickstarter. Successful campaigns employ both social media and media relations to gain momentum.

We knew that this product would sell, but we wanted to up the ante by creating anticipation around the campaign. We did this in a couple of ways:

  • Collect Emails: Set up a landing page to capture emails before the campaign. This allowed us to make a big push the day Kickstarter began so we could gain immediate traction. Check out Prefundia for getting backers before you launch
  • Press Materials: Put together a press kit, with a release discussing the Hydaway Bottle, not the Kickstarter campaign. Many publications will completely ignore a press release with Kickstarter as the hook -- don’t even mention it in the title of your email or press release. The very last section of the message can mentions the “ product launch” on Kickstarter and link to the campaign landing page
  • Send Out Samples: Approximately 1 month prior to our Kickstarter campaign start date, we did a media push to travel and outdoor bloggers and local media (Bend, OR, where Niki is from, has a very supportive startup scene). We set aside about 20 bottles, contacted a select group of bloggers and journalists, and sent a sample to the publications that were interested in doing a review. We got some great pre-campaign coverage out of it AND it helped snowball press during the campaign since many bloggers couldn’t get an article out for a few weeks

 

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5. Promotion During The Campaign

We had a 3 prong approach: a) organic and paid social media promotion b) continuing outreach to a larger list of bloggers and media, and c) Found and published to Kickstarter-specific forums, social media accounts, and publications that tend to showcase cool product ideas or crowdfunding campaigns.

In addition to our promotion, we also focused on communicating with our backers. Don’t forget this! Your backers are your biggest asset to the success of your campaign. Treat them like family, ok? They want to celebrate each milestone of the campaign with you. They are excited for you and for your product!

Niki was excellent in communicating with this backers and with those who signed up for his email list before the campaign. He published updates regularly so that backers could be notified about the progress of the campaign. 

Getting Funded is Just Half the Fun

Once you have a successful campaign, you’re not done. You need to get the product manufactured and shipped!

While we continued to communicate with backers and fans on social media, Niki was sure to publish campaign updates to keep backers in step with his progress. This is so. important. Approximately 9% of successful campaigns do not ship, and although a small percentage, this has the backer community wary. If you don’t stay in contact with backers, they’re not going to be happy.

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A great company and brand can get a great headstart through Kickstarter and other crowdfunding. If you put in the work before, during and after the campaign, you’ll maximize your chances for success.

HYDAWAY successfully shipped its product in December and is now fully stocked and shipping regularly to the United States and abroad. Go check them out!

As for 41 Orange, we just launched Tashtego Travel Kits, the rolled toiletry kit for avid adventurers. It’s a durable kit that keeps your essentials organized, clean & accessible while on the go. Check it out! 

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Good luck!

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About the Author: Samantha Anderson

Samantha Anderson

Sam is a co-founder and inbound strategist at 41 Orange.