There's no such thing as too prepared!
Launching the Axxis Kickstarter marked a huge milestone in my life for a number of reasons, not the least of which was because it consumed my every waking thought for a solid year leading up to it. Starting completely from scratch, it took an exceptionally large amount of focused planning in order to get our heads around the sheer magnitude of the challenge. Consider, if you will, the many key elements that go into setting up a business and marketing a brand new product... As is necessary with any startup, we first had to establish our company, secure a manufacturing pipeline, as well as overcome a host of other "necessary evils" which go on behind the scenes (insurance, bookkeeping, taxes, etc). Simultaneously we were also building and stockpiling copious marketing material to help generate excitement for a product that wouldn't appear at people's doors for months after they paid for it. A really tall order for anyone, but even more so because Sean and I were the only two people responsible...for everything! In addition to writing and starring in the Kickstarter video, we were also responsible for reaching out to press, finding influencers, building a social media following, building a website and maintaining a strong line of communication with backers and followers all the while. A recipe for high anxiety and very little sleep! Ultimately, our campaign was a success. And although we encountered many unexpected challenges along the way (i.e. Corona), I am confident our early preparation work made all of the difference in the end.
We learned a HUGE amount through this process, and if there is one lesson I hope you take away, it is this... I cannot stress enough the importance of preparing marketing materials and calendars at least a month in advance. Having a solid plan with plenty of material to build around it, will help you to avoid scrambling for content at the last minute, saving yourself a great deal of agony and time.
Here are some marketing list items you'll need to build out before you're ready to hit the launch button:
A landing page/website
An email list (at least 1000 sign ups)
Oodles of videos and photos of whatever your product/project is
Social media calendar
Media list and press release
Rock Solid Kickstarter page
Be nimble...and have a really thick skin.
It's impossible to plan for every eventuality. So instead, learn to be nimble. Initially, we were on track to raise 200% of our goal. However, less than two weeks in, the pandemic took hold of the world and backers started dropping like flies as employers began furloughs and layoffs. Like everyone else, we too were forced into the uncertainty of quarantine. We debated pulling the plug in order to relaunch the campaign at a more advantageous time. However, we ultimately concluded that we couldn't allow this unprecedented natural event to rob us of our dream years in the making. Besides, there is no guarantee that there ever will be a better time than the present. With a renewed sense of vigor, we looked into alternative ways to exceed our funding goal. We injected more funding into marketing, revisited our press outlets, and though we hadn't wanted to, we eventually moved our campaign over to Indiegogo's Indemand platform. This gave us a great opportunity to recapture backers who had to withdraw their pledges in the initial uncertainty of the pandemic. Furthermore, it allowed us to continue to capitalize on our pre-existing marketing materials while we were focused on beginning the manufacturing phase of our campaign. If we hadn't implemented these actions, we never would have reached our Kickstarter goal, let alone exceeded it. So be prepared to be nimble. Though the Corona was an exception, you can always count on the unexpected. This is a fact and you should not be surprised when it comes to pass.
Your backers are your lifeblood.
One other important takeaway beyond this, count on meeting some amazing people all over the world and making some lifelong friends. Even if our campaign had been a complete flop, it would have been worth it simply for the incredible community which emerged to bolster us in our time of need. The sheer volume of support and well wishes we received were at times emotionally overwhelming, especially considering the collective maelstrom we all found ourselves in. It would have been easy for us to fall into despair, were it not for our incredible group of backers who came together to make sure our campaign continued to grow and thrive when the rest of the world seemed to be falling apart. Cherish each one of your backers and work to make a personal connection with them if you can. Foster these relationships and always work to make them feel like they are a part of the journey. The loyalty they will show you in return is the lifeblood your fledgling company will need in order to endure hardships and ultimately thrive. Your backers are not just your customers, they're your advocates and new best friends. Enjoy the love!