27 May 2014 | 42 Comments
The first secret to marketing is to understand that marketing is not the same as advertising.
We often use those two words interchangeably, but their true meaning is quite different. Advertising is letting people know about a product. Marketing, on the other hand, encompasses the entire cycle of product creation from start to finish.
In Kickstarter terms, marketing begins the moment you start to conceptualize your product. It means that from the very beginning, you’re deciding to not just create something for yourself, but also to create something for other people to use and treasure:
- Marketing continues as you start to bring others into the process, and it progresses when when product starts to take shape–art, design, visibility.
- Marketing is how you interact with people about the product–marketing happens when you decide to comment on someone else’s blog or podcast or video. Do you make the comment about you or about them?
- Marketing happens when you run your Kickstarter campaign. It is defined by the way you present the project, how you price it, how you interact with backers, and how you let backers take ownership of the project.
- Marketing happens throughout the manufacturing process as you communicate with backers and keep them updated.
- Marketing is when a backer opens their package for the first time and has their first impression of the thing they supported so long ago on Kickstarter.
- And marketing doesn’t stop there–it continues as you share your product with reviewers and retailers and as you forge relationships with customers and make connections between backers.
When you think about marketing, first ask yourself if you’re actually thinking about advertising or marketing. If the answer is the latter, brainstorm some ideas from the above list to define your project on a micro and macro level. Every aspect of your product and project should embrace the ideal tone you want to set.
The second secret to marketing is to stop thinking about promotion.
A derivation of the oft-asked marketing question is: What’s the best way to promote my project?
My external answer is always some variation of the following: Stop thinking about promotion and start thinking about ways you can add value to other people, whether it’s through content you host (a blog, podcast, and YouTube channel) and/or through content hosted by other people.
My internal answer is a little more cynical and defeatist: If you are the type of person who asks that question, you’ve already failed. Promotion is selfish. Promotion is all about you. Promotion is about pushing yourself and your agenda onto other people whether they want to hear it or not. If that’s the way you think–if you’re actively looking for ways to be selfish–then it’s going to be really, really hard for you to realize you’re asking the wrong question.
However, I don’t say that, because my hope is that you’ll prove me wrong.
The third secret to marketing is friendship.
I often use words like “community building,” “backer interaction,” and “making connections,” but really, let’s bury those business terms for today and say what I really mean: The true secret to marketing is friendship.
I read a remarkable story the other day by an author friend of mine about her latest book release. The distribution for this book was significant–all the major retailers had her book in stock, including Walmart and Barnes & Noble. But the first week of sales weren’t great.
Then something very cool happened.
Tawna tells the story way better than I could (with pictures!), so I recommend you check it out on her blog. Here are the two key paragraphs that summarize what Tawna learned from the process:
It was friendship, pure and simple. It was the joy of making genuine, honest-to-goodness connections with people on social media and the resultant urge to support someone who’s become a friend.
This is how it’s supposed to work, guys. Not authors screeching “buy my book!” or “like my page!” from their social media soapboxes. Just friends helping friends and supporting authors they’ve gotten to know.
A big thanks for Tawna for putting that into words. I should point out that friendship on Kickstarter takes many forms, just like real life. Sometimes you’ll exchange regular e-mails with a backer and truly get to know them on a personal level. Other times you might spot a backer on a forum and stick up for them or even just Like their comment. And sometimes your friendship might just take the form of the tone with which you address backers in updates–we’re open and honest with our friends. We trust our friends. Is that how you interact with backers?
Can your Kickstarter project succeed without you becoming friends with your backers? Can it succeed if you don’t even really care about your backers or if you shamelessly promote your project at every opportunity?
Sure. Absolutely. I see some projects wildly overfund despite their creators actively choosing not to build any sort of community. I also see some projects fail despite their creators’ efforts to interact with backers. Even though it makes me cringe, it happens, and it goes to show there isn’t just one recipe for Kickstarter success.
But here’s the deal: Adding value to others and forging friendships will significantly increase your chances of succeeding on Kickstarter. Those are the projects that backers gravitate towards. Those are the creators that backers trust in the future, because they’re not just backers anymore–they’re friends.
The best part about this concept of marketing isn’t about data or money or numbers or Likes. The best part is that when you succeed because of strangers you care about, strangers who care about you and love what you create…well, it feels pretty damn amazing for you and everyone involved.
Thanks for sticking with me through 100 Kickstarter Lessons. I have more blog entries in the pipeline, but I’m always open to feedback. If there’s a topic I haven’t covered that you’d like to read about, let me know!