The 10 questions your Kickstarter campaign should answer to be wildly successful

If you told me three years ago that a viral video of a drunk college student demanding jalapeño bacon mac and cheese would help me discover key principles to creating a wildly successful crowdfunding campaign, I would never have believed you. I didn’t even know jalapeño bacon mac and cheese existed and the viral video was far from positive. Before the video ends, the college student assaults the cafeteria worker and is carted off by the police.

While the video was floating around the Internet, some of my friends gathered for our weekly outing for 30-cent chicken wings. The conversation drifted to the video. We had all seen the video and, before long, this group of entrepreneurs started brainstorming ways to turn this humiliating video into a force for good. Our conversation lasted until the early hours of the next day and, before we parted ways, the Jalapeño Bacon Mac and Cheese crowdfunding campaign was born.

The Internet coughed up the university’s original recipe and we devised a strategy to feed this dish to 100 homeless people in Boston. When we started the campaign, we did EVERYTHING wrong, but refused to give up.  Over the next 30 days we made daily adjustments to the campaign and by the end of the month we exceeded our funding goal by almost 1000%.   

We were hell-bent on not failing. After tirelessly studying the most successful campaigns, we stumbled upon 10 questions that were creatively answered by almost every campaign who reached their goal.   The better you can weave your answers to these questions into your campaign, the greater your chance of success.

 

#1.  What are you selling and why should I care?

Your campaign should be clear and captivating when someone comes to your page.  Attention spans are getting shorter and in a society bombarded by advertising you want to communicate your message in a way that lures someone into the journey you are weaving.   The #1 way to captivate your audience is to KNOW your market.  Who is your ideal customer?  Create a profile of their characteristics, give them a name, a history, and detail their habits and desires. Where do they hang out, what are their needs, and how will YOU meet those needs? 

Once you can articulate what you are offering and have a deep understanding of your customer the only thing left to do is flirt like crazy.  Flirting usually works best when the one flirting has an accurate idea of what to flaunt and to whom.  One powerful social trigger that can help your campaign is FOMO.  

Here are a few ways we built the Fear of Missing Out trigger into our Mac and Cheese campaign

  • Included Testimonials from backers
  • Showed a picture of the cool t-shirt we were offering (you could be wearing this)
  • SOLD OUT (made sure our early perks became unavailable as soon as possible)
kickstarter blog t shirt example.JPG

#2.  Why should I buy this from YOU?

I LOVE traveling and my favorite way to get to know a new city is to get lost. One summer while lost in Brussels I came upon a violin shop.  I’m a violinist so it made perfect sense that I was curious what was inside.  When I entered I saw what I expected, a luthier building violins. Before I could say hello to the maker he left the counter with the violins and my eyes followed him as he moved to another counter where he started serving coffee. As my eyes followed him I noticed there were people sitting at tables.

I walked up to the counter very curiously and asked, “What is this?” and he said, “it’s a violin shop…..and a coffee shop.”  He proceeded to tell me that he was a social guy and making violins was too lonely, so he built a coffee shop on to his violin making workshop.

That moment changed my life

The moral of that story isn’t that you should ditch your current campaign and open a violin themed coffee shop, but it should FREE you to be yourself.  That violin maker in Brussels found a solution that was at the unique intersection of who HE was, and I think we can all do that.

The better you can articulate how your campaign exists at the unique intersection of you and your team, the better it will stand out from the crowd and the more exclusive your offer will appear.  

#3.  What’s in this for me?

The question that will keep you up all night during your campaign is how in the heck are you going to get all the funding?  While this is YOUR burning question, someone who visits your page will be asking, ‘What’s in this for ME’….not YOU!  Your deep target market research will reveal how to answer this burning question with artful nuance.  While you have spent months or even years on your idea, the campaign visitor has a single page to be won over.  

Your campaign is a finely crafted psychological journey leading your target consumer to the BUY NOW button.  Many campaigns fail because they assume the trendiness of their offering will make the transaction automatic. Successful campaigns understand they are courting their visitor like a seasoned maître d. 

#4.  How much will it cost me?

Now that you’ve created a more alluring page, the most objective question aside from what are you selling, will be how much does it cost?  While the answer may appear simple, the art of turning this question into a journey has proven to be the foundation of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns.  When your friends and family come to your page excited to give you $5 to help you reach your goal, you want to figure out how to tantalize them to give more!   Yes, this will be accomplished through creative perks but how your campaign integrates your answers to each of these questions, will give your campaign further legitimacy; inspiring friends and strangers to get excited to come alongside the ride you have created.

#5.  What will you use the money for?

A well-tuned Kickstarter campaign is a monument built upon growing levels of trust.   The more detail you can give about how you will use the money, the greater confidence you will build with your audience.   Include your budget and explain any items that might not be easily understood.   When we asked for $500 to make mac and cheese we included our budget detailing WHY it would cost that much to feed 100 homeless.  

budget example.JPG

 #6.  What are your next steps after the campaign ends?

The next layer in your trust edifice is your answer to the question of what your next steps will be after the campaign ends.   This gives someone the peace of mind that your team has an impressive handle on the best timeline to accomplish the lofty goals you've set.  Writing regular updates during and after the campaign is an easy way to build a sense of community.  Help people believe that they are now a part of this journey WITH your team and as valued stakeholders you want them to be aware of the progress.  

#7.  Who’s on your team?

When you build a Kickstarter campaign you are creating a space for a community to gather.   Giving this new community an opportunity to know your team adds a personal touch and another layer of meaning to their journey.  Every member of the mac and cheese campaign believed that the campaign was THEIRS.  While our roles were different each was vital to our success. We included brief bios and included everyone’s picture.   This was our way of being gracious hosts. If you think of your campaign as an event and your team as the hosts, you will give your page an irresistible momentum.

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#8.  Who else is involved?

Social proof is a powerful trigger that catalyzes trust in a campaign.   People want to know that reputable sources also vouch for your product or team.  If you haven’t been featured in the New York Times be sure to have highly regarded mentors or stakeholders. Ideally, you will be growing relationships with bloggers, reporters, and other influencers long before your campaign goes live.  Having their endorsement can be important to those who might need that extra level of security; answering this question in some form on your page will help your campaign stand out.

#9.  If you exceed your goal what will you do with the money?

One of the ways to put a fire under the seat of your potential supporters is to have innovative and exciting goals that can only be accomplished AFTER the funding goal is reached.  Initial backers will want to help you unlock the next level of your campaign if you can stimulate their excited for what you could accomplish if you could raise more funds.  

Perception is reality. Your campaign will appear as grandiose as YOU make it out to be.  Adding stretch goals increases momentum toward the initial goal. 

People want to be a part of something they think WILL be successful, for this reason, crowdfunding experts advise that you should market your campaign to your wider network only AFTER your campaign has raised 20% of the intended goal.  Including stretch goals subtly assumes that you WILL make your goal, creating another level of FOMO; why wouldn’t someone want to be a part of this burgeoning success story. 

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#10. What are the risks involved in your project?

The most successful campaigns anticipate the objections and questions that their backers will raise.  You will increase their trust if they believe you have thought of every possible curveball that might arise while being transparent about the real risks involved.

Here are some ways to prepare your answer:

  • Make a list of all the objections you and your team can think of
  • Share your campaign with potential skeptics and address the most common objections
  • Share your campaign with trusted friends asking:
  1. what further questions arise after seeing the campaign
  2. what wasn’t clear

Your backers should have little to no reservations about your campaign and product after seeing your page.  

CONCLUSION

If your campaign energetically takes someone on a unique journey from What you are offering to why I should purchase it, you will create a devoted community of supporters who will genuinely care about your success.  If what you have designed is truly innovative, then the world needs it to exist. Giving the above questions the attention they deserve will activate the necessary forces to bring your dream to life. The most successful crowdfunding campaigns aren’t about how to get the most money out of the most people; they are instead, a conduit for you to provide value to people whose livelihood you genuinely care about.  Providing thoughtful answers will give them everything they need to click BUY NOW.

 

**I would love to know what questions you believe successful campaigns should answer**