Attorney turned entrepreneur Karen Kart of San Diego thought studying for the New York Bar exam was tough. Now it's her Kickstarter campaign for her Adi the stay-put-plate invention that's challenging her to the max. “I’ve been prepping for about a year now and working around the clock for the past six months," she says.
A mother of three, she rises at 4 a.m. to work on her campaign before her children wake. She creates a priority list of everything that must get done that day and what she needs to delegate to her support team.
When I asked her during a recent phone interview about the most time-consuming parts of the crowdfunding campaign, she admitted it's the writing. “It took me a lot longer to write copy than I ever expected," she says. "I’m a lawyer so I had to learn to write differently from how I was trained as I never wrote a press release before. But it helped me sharpen my focus on the features and benefits of my product."
Likewise Olive Branch, Miss.-based Cedric Burnside has found his current Kickstarter campaign to release a blues CD has taken a lot of time and preparation for him and his team. The biggest challenge was devising compelling rewards to appeal to everybody. "When you are running a campaign for a musician, it's tough," Burnside wrote in an email. "All we could think of was giving away music. Luckily we got creative and added a house party for $5,000. We had a contributor pledge at that level and it financed [two-thirds] of our campaign."
"If you’re not in front of your computer, sweating, your heart beating wildly, up until the very last minute of the campaign, you probably weren’t as invested as you should have been, and you probably didn’t do it right," said Los Angeles-based Gregor Collins who worked on a Kickstarter campaign for a film he was in called Goodbye Promise.
"You have to spend six months to a year building your audience through social media if you’re going to make full use of your campaign," Collins explained in a phone interview. "It’s about building an audience and genuinely connecting with people on a personal level, who will be your 'customers' for life and who will spread the word to their friends. If your goal is just finding people with money jangling around in their pockets, you’re missing the point of crowdfunding. You have to plant the seeds the right way for a tree to grow."
Related: Anatomy of a Kickstarter Backer
Along with emailing bloggers and media outlets and answering inquiries from backers, Kart meets twice weekly with her team: a campaign manager (recruited after hearing Kart speak about her product at a local mompreneur group) and three college interns.
They discuss marketing strategies, do outreach via social media, create Facebook ads and review campaign traffic analytics. They're on the Kickstarter page each day to post campaign updates and be sure every single backer receives a personalized thank you.
As is the case for most project creators, Kart was surprised by those who supported her dream and those who did not. “I’m touched by people’s generosity, especially those I know who are living paycheck to paycheck and still chose to pledge," she says. "On the flip side, I was surprised that a few people who have the financial means and who know I’ve put everything I have into this project have either not pledged or only pledged a small amount even though I’ve supported their projects in the past.”
Giving them the benefit of the doubt, she adds, “I’m only a couple weeks into my campaign so there’s still time for them to join the crowd!”
Finding that friends don't come forward -- or give at the level expected -- is a common experience and one for which project creators need to emotionally prepare. Some people are simply against the idea of soliciting for funds. But many people just need to be educated about crowdfunding. They don’t fully grasp the concept or know how to pledge. And they certainly don’t understand the work the entrepreneur pours into this fundraising approach and how it's a vehicle used to launch new businesses.
Those running a campaign should succinctly explain what crowdfunding is and why it was chosen as the path to capital. That type of explanation can make a difference in generating support.
Most campaigns run only 30 or 45 days. Kart learned that using analytics is key to getting the best return on marketing efforts. By using Bitly and analytics from Facebook, Kickstarter and Google to track where pledges are coming from, project creators can know what’s working and what’s not and shift their efforts toward what's driving the most traffic. Members of Kart's team check their analytics daily to see if they need to switch gears.
Facebook promotion has worked for the team but it’s hard to catch people’s attention on that platform amid all the activity. For this reason, members of the Adi team constantly strive to create engaging content and post a daily joke video. They found that as long as a post connects with viewers through humor or elicits an emotional response, it gets noticed and shared.
“It’s been more work than I ever expected but I’ve loved every minute of the campaign," Kart says. "It forces me to do all my marketing up front before the product is even done and I’ve received invaluable feedback on the prototype.”
It seems like her work might be paying off. Kickstarter nominated that Adi campaign as a staff pick soon after the campaign's launch and Kart's campaign is 37 percent funded.