It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an entrepreneur in possession of a good product idea must be in want of funds. Launching a crowdfunding campaign is a great way to acquire said funds, however, executing a successful campaign is rather like doing ballet on ice-cubes- one insane coordination act! I say this with the authority of one whose ongoing Indiegogo campaign, Aster, is giving us ulcers and sleepless nights. We’ve hit that refresh button on our campaign page so many times, it’s filing a domestic abuse complaint!
We – the team at Lumos- made Aster, a backpack with built-in bike lights, turn indicators and automatic brake-lights that deploy on sensing decrease in speed- making it easier and safer for you to ride off into the sunset. It has a theft-deterrent, customisable light settings to match country-specific cycling regulations, and a whole bunch of nifty cyclist features that make it a commuter’s best-buddy! (the kind of buddy that carries all your stuff and flashes people to keep them away from you)
We’re a week away from completing our campaign, and decades wiser in all matters crowdfunding- related! Here’s some things we did right, and a few we wish we’d done better.
The good stuff first!
We made multiple prototypes: Some crowdfunding sites insist that you have prototypes of your product, and others allow you to showcase concepts and promise results. We went through multiple Iterations of Backpack design and testing, until we had five prototypes to share with testers and bloggers. We collected feedback from cyclists at EVERY stage, and we feel that involving the community in the process helped build our initial backer-base.
We spent big moolah on the video: What qualifies as ‘a lot of money’ varies depending on your company’s bank balance. In our case, we didn’t have a very big marketing budget, but within that, the biggest marketing expense was in creating the video itself. Living and breathing Aster made it difficult for us not to geek out with script-ideas, when it came to explaining concept and features. Working with a external filmmaker, we made three videos, and multiple edits of the final one to come close to the message we were trying to communicate.
We had a pre-launch demo: A week before the launch we had an event where we demo-ed Aster to a large group of local cyclists.
Lists, lists, lists of potential backers, bloggers, distributors: We had a nice long list of emails collected on our website in the two months prior to launch, which helped us get an idea of the numbers we could expect. We also emailed everyone we knew, from middle-school upwards, and we were impressed by the support from acquaintances.
Testers became backers: Our first set of cycling testers ended up buying most of the products on first day. Once they bought, they we’re also proud to share their experiences testing Aster on their personal Facebook pages, and communities. Overall, we met 12% of our goal on day-1.
We made a cat video: We made a revolutionary, life-saving, feature-loaded backpack as well, but we noticed that we got a better response when we shared a hilarious video of Pixel, the cat exploring our backpack. Lesson: Don’t underestimate the internet’s love for cat videos.
What we wish we’d known:
Account for Courier delays and acts of God: While shipping out our prototypes, one of our backpacks reached a blogger two weeks late and in poor condition! Meanwhile, a second blogger was unable to test the backpack for two whole weeks, due to the terrible weather conditions where he lived.
Don’t experiment with new platforms: Facebook is our social media weapon-of-choice, with a foray into Twitter. However, a few days before the campaign launched, we explored Product Hunt, Pinterest, Instagram, and their lesser compatriots. What we discovered is that it takes months of dedication to a platform, and marketing bucks- if you have any, to get a large following on any platform.
The more trustworthy the source, the more likely that backers with support you: For example: a review on a private forum convinces more people than a big-blogger’s review, which in turn is better than any mention on social media. You may want to plan your outreach accordingly. (Cat Video trumps this rule, obviously)
Distributors don’t make impulse buys: Distributors need at-least two months of contract-signing and sample-testing before they can place a sizeable order that will significantly affect your campaign. They are potentially more important than even bloggers, and bagging a chunky distributor order in the first week can significantly boost your campaign.
With a week to go for our campaign, we are looking forward for the best. Do check out our campaign page https://igg.me/at/Aster and share it with your cyclist friends!
I leave you with the much touted video of Pixel, the cat!