How do you take a product that nobody’s heard of – starting with zero brand recognition and no email list – and get thousands of people to buy it right out of the gate?
Successfully launching a new product involves co-ordinating a wide variety of marketing strategies, weaving them together in a way that gets people excited to give you money.
In August 2017, we launched a Kickstarter campaign for the world’s first foldable pull up bar, and raised $177,226 in funding. We also sold an additional $16,000 in product upsells.
Throughout the process, we tried a bunch of different marketing tactics, including:
- Facebook Ads
- Email Marketing
- Paid Influencers
- Press and PR
- Hiring an agency
In this guide, I’ll walk you through all the strategies we used. We’ll talk about what worked, what didn’t work, and how you can take these ideas and use them in your product launches as well.
By the end of our Kickstarter campaign, we even got featured in …
Although launched our product on Kickstarter, these strategies can really apply to any type of product launch. You can use them on IndieGoGo, GoFundMe, or other crowdfunding sites. You can also use these strategies for non-crowdfunding product launches, such as launches on your own website.
So, grab a cup of coffee and take a seat. Let’s chat about how to take a new product to market.
Before we get into the marketing, let’s talk …
About Your New Product
Before we get into the nitty-gritty marketing tactics, let’s touch base on the product itself.
The #1 most important thing in having a successful Kickstarter campaign is having a great product that serves an unmet need. The job of marketing is to make more people aware of your product and offer. Great marketing can’t make up for a product that doesn’t resonate with an audience.
For this guide, we’ll assume you have a product that people already want – and just need a “push” to make the purchase.
Also, note that certain product categories do better on Kickstarter than others. Bags, board games, new technology, and kitchen gear all tend to do really well. Intangible products – iPhone apps, software, seminars – tend to not do so well.
Okay – so, assuming you’ve got an awesome new product, in a category that does well in crowdfunding, how do we start generating sales?
The “Holy Crap, I Gotta Buy This” Effect
Having an emotionally compelling sales video and a detailed product page is essential. I’ll show you all the marketing tactics we used to bring people to our page, but your Kickstarter page has to do the heavy lifting of actually convincing your visitors to buy.
Some of the most important things to have on the page include:
- A Video that Evokes Emotion. You must have a video. NEVER do a text-only campaign. These statistically perform far worse than campaigns with video. Your video is what emotionally convinces people to buy. The rest of your page really just fills in the logistical details for their logical mind. Invest in hiring a great videographer. Do not – do not – iPhone your Kickstarter video. Backers will assume the quality of your video reflects the quality of your product.
- A well designed, “infographic style” product page. If you look at all the top performing campaigns, you’ll find that they all have a “long form” style product page. That means a ton of detail and a ton of images. It “feels” like you walked into an Apple Store.These pages often have product photos, dimensions, technical details, FAQs, pricing info, and all kinds of other stuff.Note: getting these graphics done is a $5/hr task, so don’t do it yourself. Hire a designer or two on Upwork.com and have them create infographics, demos, showcases, etc. of your product. Focus on the important stuff and leave the design to the professionals (unless you’re a designer.)
- Early Birds & Scarcity. Having a few early bird rewards will help you get early traction and sales. This was a big part of the reason our campaign was successful. While some Kickstarter creators don’t recommend early bird discounts – because they create winners and losers – we found that the power of having early birds outweighs the cost.
- Clear shipping times and costs. Logistics are going to be one of the most common questions people have, so make sure it’s addressed in your product page.
Spend some time on Google and Kickstarter, exploring what goes into a good Kickstarter video and product page. There are a lot of other resources on this already, so I’m not going to go too deep into it.
I’m going to focus on the strategies you can’t learn in other places – the tactics that really helped us generate sales. And that is …
Prelaunch Promotions: It Will Make or Break Your Campaign
One part of our marketing generated a much higher impact for our time and energy than any other marketing strategy we used.
That strategy is pre-launch marketing. This was by far the most effective and impactful thing we did.
Remember – we started this launch with no brand and no email list. By using these pre-launch strategies, we were able to generate $32,756 in sales in the first 24 hours.
So, the question is: how do you get hundreds of buyers to stand by, wait for the moment you launch your product, and buy immediately?
Our #1 Strategy: Use Facebook Ads to Build a Pre-Launch List
“The best persuaders become the best through pre-suasion – the process of arranging recipients to be receptive to a message before they encounter it.”
– Robert Cialdini, Author of Influence & presuasion
Prior to our pre-launch marketing, we had no email list. So, we did the same thing Nike, Eminem, and Jon Stewart do when they want to get the word out about a new product:
We spent $9,257 on Facebook Ads before we launched, and got 4,624 leads.
Our ads sent users to an email capture page. The email capture page asked users to put in their email, in exchange for a discount on the product when it launched. It cost us about $2 per lead.
How to Use Facebook Ads for Crowdfunding
Of the $177,226 we raised, over $100,000 in sales were directly attributable to Facebook Ads. This is including our pre-launch marketing and marketing during the campaign. It was, by far, our most effective and highest volume channel.
Facebook Ads is, in my opinion, essential for just about any crowdfunding campaign or product launch. Their detailed targeting abilities will let you get your product in front of your ideal audience.
So how you go about building Facebook Ads for Kickstarter? You have two main options:
1. You can do it yourself. If you have experience with Facebook Ads, I would absolutely recommend doing it yourself. We did our pre-launch ads ourselves. Alternatively,
2. You can hire someone to do it. If you haven’t done Facebook Ads before, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to learn it fast enough to do it for Kickstarter. Upwork.com – the world’s largest freelancer marketplace – is a good place to start looking. GrowthGeeks.com is another resource to look into.
Here are a few things you should know about running Facebook Ads for crowdfunding.
A) Target the Intersection of Kickstarter and Your Interests
Use the “Narrow Audience” targeting to target people who are both interested in your product type and are interested in crowdfunding.
The type of person who gives money on a crowdfunding page is a very particular kind of person. They’re early adopters, and people who like to help product creators succeed. Your goal is to find the people who are both early adopters and interested in your product.
The majority of our backers had already backed other projects on Kickstarter. Instead of trying to convince people who’ve never backed on Kickstarter to back for the first time, you should instead try to convince people who’ve already backed Kickstarter campaigns to back your campaign.
B) Target Direct and Indirect Interests
There are targeting options that are obvious, and options that might surprise you. While you definitely want to do direct targeting, it’s also important to try the less obvious options.
For example, with our foldable pull up bar, we targeted things like “pull ups,” “bodyweight workouts” and “P90X” (a home workout system.)
But, we also targeted :
- Rock climbers, because rock climbers need to train their arms.
- People who lived in crowded cities (New York, SF, London) who might want to save space.
- Management consultants, because they travel frequently, workout, and have money.
Some of these – management consultants – didn’t convert for us at all. But rock climbers and people in crowded cities became some of our best converting ad sets.
We would have never tested those if we had just stuck to “people who do pull ups.”
C) Test, Test, Test, Test
It took a lot of testing for us to get our cost per email down to a reasonable level. Our first few email leads cost us about $8 dollars each. By the end of our campaign, we were paying about $1.50 per lead.
To lower your lead costs, test. Come up with an idea, test it, look at the results, figure out what you learned, and repeat. Repeat this process several times a day.
Here are a few of the things we tested:
- Different background colors on our landing pages.
- Result: Negligible difference
- Different animated GIFs at the top of the page.
- Result: 30% reduction in cost per email for the winner.
- Different types of ads (image, video, carousel.)
- Result: Still image performed better than all other types. 25%+ improvement.
- Different images and headlines in the ad itself.
- Result: Substantial differences, 25%+ improvement in cost per email.
- Remove the Kickstarter video from the landing page. People had to enter their email address to see the video, instead of seeing it right away.
- Result: Cost per lead dropped by 50%. Massive improvement.
- Various different groups of interests and targeting.
- Result: Improvements were big, depending on the targeting group.
As you can see, none of our tests were “home run” per se (except for moving the video to after they give us their email.)
It was more incremental. When you add up a 20% boost on the ad, a 20% boost on the targeting, and a 20% boost on the landing page, the compounded improvement means you’ve almost doubled the performance of your campaign.
Since you’re very limited on time in your pre-launch – I’d start pre-launch marketing about 14 days before you launch – you have to swing for big tests. Don’t test things that might only swing the needle 2-5%; instead go for massive changes that will either flop or make a big difference.
Once You Have Their Email Address …
What Should You Send Them?
Your backers are not just buying your product. They’re buying you. You’re asking them to trust you. You’re asking them to give you money today, so that they can receive a product 6-12 months later. You’re asking them to take a big risk.
That’s why it’s important to not just instill the desire for people to buy your product – but to build a sense of trust, rapport and connection.
To do this, we wrote a series of emails that told our story. We shared the story of how the product was invented, who the inventors are, what the manufacturing process is like, etc.
We used vivid imagery and painted a picture for our readers, so they felt like they knew us. That way, when we asked for their money, we’re not just two random dudes on the internet.
We ended each email with the same call to action. We worded in different ways, but each time we covered the same 3 main points:
- Be online at 11am on July 11.
- There are only 500 units available at a discount. This email is going out to thousands of people.
- Make sure you’re one of the first to get the discount by signing on at 11am.
We repeated this message so often that – on the day we launched – we had several hundred buyers ready to purchase. We sold $10,000 in the first 25 minutes, and $32,700 in the first 24 hours.
Prove That Scarcity is Real by Demonstrating it in Public
Scarcity is a tactic often used by marketers to try and get people to take action. Unfortunately, it’s so often overused that it sets off people’s BS radars. Phrases like …
- Limited quantity!
- Limited time!
- Only X available!
… often elicit an eye roll more than a purchase.
That’s why we wanted to do things a bit differently when we launched Flexr. We did have genuine scarcity because we were limiting the number of early birds available, but we needed to make sure that our customers believed in the scarcity of the discounts.
We did this by creating a Facebook group. Whenever someone joined our email list, they were taken to a page that asked them to join our Facebook Group. We also asked people in our first email to join the group, and invited them one more time later on.
We asked people to post about why they were interested in the Flexr. This resulted in a steady stream of dozens of people posting about why they wanted to buy our product. As a result, anyone who joined the Facebook group would see messages in their Facebook feed from other people who were excited to buy.
This helped reinforce the message that they need to be online at 11am to buy the product right away – or they would miss out on the discounts.
As a result of this marketing campaign, we had hundreds of buyers hitting refresh at exactly 11am, which allowed us to sell $32,000 in the first 24 hours, and helping us quickly rank on Page 1 in Kickstarter’s search engine algorithm.
Getting Press: Ladder Up to “Tier 1” Publications Like Men’s Health
Getting PR is awesome. For one, PR drove over $40,000 in sales for our Kickstarter campaign. Uncrate drove the most sales, followed by Men’s Health. More than that though, being able to say that our product was featured on Men’s Health is a big credibility builder – especially in conversations with retailers, partners, etc.
So how did we do it?
Well, we did do PR outreach. And later, when we hired our marketing agency, they did some outreach for us as well. But none of the news outlets we reached out to wrote about us. All of the outlets that eventually wrote about us did so on their own. Without us contacting them.
We often didn’t even know about it when the articles went up. We only found out by looking at our Google Analytics, or when a friend tagged us in the publication’s post.
That said, there were three things that helped us a lot with PR.
- Kickbooster. Kickbooster is an affiliate network for Kickstarter campaigns. Kickbooster actually reached out to AskMen and BroBible for us, and collected a commission on the sales generated by those news sources. As a result, we were able to put “as seen in AskMen & BroBible” on our Kickstarter page early on. Uncrate and Men’s Health were uncommissioned, but getting the commissioned news placements early – which didn’t drive many sales – helped us build the credibility that let us get the larger publications later on.
- Press Kit. We had a press kit with all our images, a pre-written article, and all the information on the product that news outlets could download with one click. We put all these files in a dropbox link and put it on our Kickstarter page. This let journalists write about us quickly, without having to contact us first.
- A strong pre-launch campaign. At the end of the day, journalists are interested in writing about interesting things. While our $9,200 investment in pre-launch promotions generated the first $50,000 or so, I think the impact was actually much bigger. The strong launch got us to front page of Kickstarter, which put us in front of Uncrate’s writers – which got us the additional $20,000 that Uncrate brought in. That’s why nailing the pre-launch marketing is so important.
Note that some agencies will charge you extra for PR services. For example, you might have an agency that has a standard rate for Facebook Ads promotion, but charges an extra $2,500 for PR services.
Personally, I would just put that $2,500 into more ad spend. The more you can use ad spend to drive your campaign up the rankings, the more likely you are to get picked up by the press.
Based on our experience, spending more money on generating more sales (via Facebook Ads) is a better use of money than hiring PR services.
Cross Promotions & Partnerships
There is a lively ecosystem of Kickstarter campaigns, all cross-promoting one another. Once your campaign passes $25,000 in backing, expect to get several messages every day from other campaigns asking to cross-promote with you. We also did a little bit of outreach ourselves.
Cross promotions were moderately successful for us. In total, cross promotions drove about $5,000 in sales. It’s a fairly labor intensive channel, since you have to correspond with a bunch of other people and co-ordinate cross promos. Even after we had an agency take over, it was still fairly work intensive.
That said, it’s free. So, why not.
One partnership worth noting is that BackerKit featured us on their Staff Picks. This drove about $2,500 in sales for us.
Hiring a Crowdfunding Agency
After we raised our first $60,000, we started to stall out. We were riding on the coat tails of our successful launch, but we weren’t able to keep up the momentum.
Our Facebook Ads, which converted well pre-launch, were not converting at a positive ROI for us. This is due to a few reasons:
- Facebook Pixel. Kickstarter doesn’t let you put a conversion pixel on the order confirmation page. That means your sole source of data is Google Analytics. So you have to UTM tag everything. This is a giant pain. (It probably also costs Kickstarter millions of dollars a year – they should really fix this.)
- We were over spending. We were spending $1,500/day going into the launch, and kept up our spend at $1,000/day after launch. In retrospect, we should have tested smaller. We should have started our campaign at $150/day and scaled up once we were converting.
- Targeting IndieGoGo & GoFundMe. It turns out that many of our backers were experienced Kickstarter users already. In our ads, we had targeted people who were interested in fitness AND Kickstarter, IndieGoGo, or GoFundMe. In retrospect, we should have just targeted the intersection of fitness and Kickstarter. Our audiences would have been smaller, but much more targeted and would have converted higher.
I think that, given more time, we could have made it work on our own without hiring an agency. But given that we were on a clock – every single day mattered. We eventually decided to hire a marketing agency who specialized in crowdfunding.
The agency helped us raise the next $100,000 or so. Their primary marketing channel was also Facebook Ads. They also managed our cross-promotions, press outreach, and emailed out to their internal email list. That said, 90%+ of the sales they generated were still from Facebook ads.
A typical agency fee is $1000 – $3,500 upfront, plus 30% to 35% of the amounts they raise. These agencies pay for Facebook Ads out of their own pocket.
Overall, I’d recommend a similar process for other Kickstarter founders. Focus on the pre-launch marketing, and come out of the gates swinging.
Once your campaign is live, continue to do your ads yourself. If you can get it to positive ROI and scale, then don’t hire an agency. Do it yourself and save the 30%. But if you’re stalling out and are having trouble continuing to generate sales, like we were, then hire an agency to take things from there.
These were the agencies we spoke to. I’d recommend emailing and/or Skyping each of them to get a sense for which is the best match for you.
Use Upsells & IndieGoGo to Earn an 15%
After your crowdfunding campaign is complete, you can replicate your campaign across other platforms to boost your sales.
Let’s touch on each of these.
Once someone has bought from you once, it becomes much easier to get them to buy from you again. This is especially true if you can sell them products that compliment the product they just bought.
In our case, we sold a carrying case, rings, bands, and gloves. This has the added bonus of helping you predict what other products might sell well in the future.
Important: If this is your first physical products business, I would not recommend selling more than 1-2 additional products. Try to make your upsells digital instead.
Manufacturing multiple products at the same time can be a nightmare for a first time founder. My co-founder and I have both manufactured in China and we felt confident we could deliver on our product selection; but if it’s your first product you should focus just on producing your Kickstarter product and nothing else.
We used BackerKit to manage our upsells, as well as our backers’ addresses.
I generally wouldn’t recommend launching on IndieGoGo for Round 1 of your crowdfunding campaign, unless you’re in a category that Kickstarter doesn’t support. For example, if you’re doing a project for a charity, or a pre-prototype product, Kickstarter won’t let you use the platform, but IndieGoGo would.
If you’re in a category that Kickstarter allows, I would strongly recommend starting on Kickstarter first. Kickstarter has more than double IndieGoGo’s traffic. More journalists browse Kickstarter, and there’s a stronger ecosystem as well (for cross-sells, agencies, etc.)
That said, porting your campaign over to IndieGoGo after Kickstarter is easy. IndieGoGo can copy your Kickstarter campaign over to IndieGoGo in just a few clicks. I would recommend raising your prices so that your Kickstarter backers don’t get mad (they supported you early, so they should getting a better deal.)
Kickstarter will let you place a button on your Kickstarter page that links to your IndieGoGo campaign. In other words, once Kickstarter stops accepting sales, you can start making sales on your IndieGoGo campaign right away.
Combined, BackerKit and IndieGoGo should help you raise an additional 15%+ on your Kickstarter campaign.
Honorable Mentions: Other Strategies That Worked
There were two other things we did that were important.
One, we used Excel to model out every possible cost we could think of, from payment processing fees to marketing expenses. Knowing your numbers is extremely important. Your margins are probably thinner than you’d expect.
Second, we used Thunderclap. Thunderclap lets you coordinate your friends to help you share your campaign. Basically Thunderclap will connect with your friends’ Facebook accounts, and schedule a post for them the moment your campaign goes live.
Thunderclap brought in around 30 sales for us. Not a large amount in the grand scheme of things. But it served a much more important function: it made our campaign spread like wildfire through our social networks.
In other words, it was a great way to make sure all our friends – and all our friends’ friends – knew about the product launch.
This resulted in a lot of introductions – people seeing what we’re up to and tagging people we should meet, introducing us to influencers, potential investors reaching out, etc. It was a great network building tool.
That about wraps up our Kickstarter marketing strategy guide. To summarize, here are the most important points:
- Pre-Launch: This is the most important thing. Use Facebook Ads to quickly build a list.
- Email: Use email marketing to build trust and excitement. Get people to set reminders to buy right when the doors open.
- PR: Use Kickbooster to get early press, then use a press kit ready to go for larger publications.
- During Campaign: Focus on Facebook Ads. Get it to work yourself if you can, but if you can’t get it to work, hire an agency.
Questions? Comments? Post in the comments below!
Best of luck on your campaign.