16 September 2013 | 20 Comments
I’ve followed Kickstarter since the site launched in 2009. There’s something about the look and feel of the platform that immediately appealed to me, and I loved the idea of connecting with strangers around the world to fund a product that I couldn’t otherwise afford to create.
From then on, I visited Kickstarter almost every day. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was researching Kickstarter, dredging it for knowledge that I would someday apply to my own projects.
This is incredibly important.
You need to extensively research other Kickstarter projects before launching your own. Potentially for months or years. This isn’t something you throw together the last weekend like a college paper.
Like with any project in school or life, there’s an ineffective way to research Kickstarter and an effective way. Here’s a step-by-step guide for the effective way (if you want to know the ineffective way, do the opposite of what I suggest here. Let me know how that turns out for you):
- Create a running list of ideas. I suggest free web app called Trello for this purpose so you can access your notes anywhere and anytime. Trello is really easy to use and share with collaborators (or keep private).
- Pledge to other projects. I talk about this in detail here. It’s a non-negotiable. Seriously, if you haven’t backed any other projects, go spend $1 on 10 projects right now. Take notes on which project updates engage you and which ones make you want to unsubscribe.
- Study projects outside of your project’s category. The project that originally brought me to Kickstarter in August ’09 was called Robin Writes a Book. Even looking back now, it was a brilliant campaign, and I learned so much from it. While the most important projects for you to research are those in your project’s category, but stepping outside of those batteries to learn from different types of creative people can be hugely beneficial for you as a project creator.
- Make a spreadsheet charting similarities and differences between successful projects in your project’s category. All the notes and accumulated knowledge are helpful, but it’s really tough to notice patterns if the data isn’t side by side. I created an extensive running spreadsheet before I launched Viticulture that helped me determine all of the reward levels and stretch goals. Here’s the Google Spreadsheet I created for the Kickstarter Lesson on rebooting a project if you’d like to use that as a template (please copy and paste it to your own Google Drive for your personal use).
- However, don’t assume that what other projects did is right for your project (or even possible). On almost every project preview page I look at for other people, I notice a few elements that are inconspicuously out of place. A way-too-high funding goal, way overpriced rewards, or a number of small rewards before getting to the actual product, those types of things. Things that you can figure out from reading a few Kickstarter advice blogs. Inevitably when I recommend to the project creator that he/she change those elements to something more conducive for Kickstarter success, they say, “Well, this project had them,” and then they point to a super-successful project run by James Franco and Stan Lee that has tons of amazing miniatures and a pedigree of backers from previous projects run by the same people and official endorsement from Apple and Stefan Feld. And the new project creator will say, “Well, James Franco had $35 t-shirts, so we’re doing the same thing.” And I will shake my head and wish them good luck, because if you don’t already know that you are facing very different challenges than James Franco, there’s nothing I can do to help you.
- Participate on Kickstarter. Consuming all this information about Kickstarter is one thing, but actually participating and learning to interact with backers is quite another. You don’t have to start a project to do this. Pick a project that you feel particularly passionate about, back it, and then be really active on the boards. Be the guy who answers questions when the project creator is sleeping. Learn to not get defensive when someone says that you’re not as cool as James Franco. These skills will pay off when it’s time for you to launch.
What am I missing? What are some of the ways that you’ve research Kickstarter?