In a one month window from the end of July til the end of August in 2015 I launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign.
The campaign exceeded all my expectations and put me in a place where I could start running this business full time. When it was all said and done I was sitting at $85,324 (410% of the $20k goal) in funds raised with nearly 700 backers.
What was I crowdfunding?
Well, as you can see below, this campaign and now business is about a crazy idea I had to put reclaimed airplane aluminum into a watch.
Apparently others didn’t think it was too crazy…
In the spirit of giving back to a community that has given me so much, I’d like to take a moment and share everything that I did leading up to and during the campaign from a marketing perspective.
Maybe it will benefit you in your current/future endeavors.
So, I figure I’ll break this down to three critical areas in the timeline “before, during, and after” the campaign.
Let’s dive into every aspect.
And I mean EVERY aspect.
Some topics I’ll cover more extensively (mostly related to marketing).
Other topics I’ll set the stage for in this blog post and then go deep in a future blog post (mostly related to product development and manufacturing).
That being said let’s get right into the beginning….
The very beginning.
Let me set the stage.
I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Charlotte, North Carolina at one of their small high top tables that barely fit a laptop (much less my latte).
At this point I was still working at my 9-5 job as a marketing employee for a software company.
I just got done reading the Enter China blueprint on product idea generation and was mulling over ideas I wanted to pursue.
The blueprint had guided me to fill out a spreadsheet concerning all the successes at the time on the various crowdfunding platforms.
This is a great exercise for really going deep into product discovery and actually understanding what it takes to be a winner on these platforms.
It was clear watches were able to do well over and over again. Watches were also a good fit for me because at the time I was helping out a non-profit watch company – at the very least I had a moderate understanding of the market.
And I just like watches.
So, I thought to myself “if I was to make a watch… what would I make?”
That’s when I leaned back and took another sip of my overpriced latte and noticed the exquisite design of my Macbook.
It’s soft rolling to hard edges.
It’s bead blasted finish.
And that aluminum… mmm, yes, I love that aluminum.
Aluminum?… why isn’t there more aluminum in watches?
At this point I went down a rabbit hole of Google searches.
I learned that aluminum watches were typically the affordable (*ehem*… cheap) watch options.
There was also this trend to only focus on the merits of the metal if it was gold, silver, platinum – you know… a “precious” metal.
And there in that Starbucks the idea for the Morveau watch was born.
I was going to elevate aluminum in watches by using reclaimed aircraft aluminum and marketing the merit of the story of the metal before it became a watch.
But what now?
Now I had an idea, but how do I make it a reality?
My next tab open on my computer that day was Upwork.
Before the Campaign
On a very technical/practical level, I had to design the watch (CAD), create a logo, and come up with branding.
All these things were outsourced through Upwork.
For any technical or creative work Upwork has always served me well and I suggest you start there.
This process took about 3 months of going back and forth with my designer concerning the designs I wanted.
This timeline was definitely a little long but keep in mind I wasn’t so sure I was going to fully commit to this at the time and I was also still doing my 9-5 job.
Pro tip: If you decide to do something – FULLY COMMIT!
I’ll cover the design aspect in more detail in a future blog post.
Outside of the nuts and bolts of making sure I had a product and brand worth selling I also had to find a supplier to manufacture the watch. This is a topic for another day but for now I will link up this video Enter China recorded recently on finding a supplier.
Then I had to find people that would be interested in buying it…
In order to capture these leads I needed a landing page to grab their information when they suggested they were interested.
For that I used Instapage.
(I wanted to put a picture of my initial landing page here, but after searching it looks like I didn’t take a screenshot and wayback machine is not giving the best image of it. Sorry about that.)
So the next question to answer was where are these people going to come from?
Initially my idea was to identify the top 15-25 bloggers in the watch/fashion/lifestyle industry, 2-5 key forums, local and national media publications, and a few key social media accounts to find my traffic.
The reality of this plan was not as lucrative as I had hoped. The bloggers and media wanted to see samples – of which I didn’t have.
Social media is very visually motivated and I only had a few 3d renderings to show.
The problem with forums is you have to engage regularly and months before product launch in order to not sound spammy – I would like to have forums as a long term marketing plan, but in the short term I just didn’t have enough time to develop those relationships.
Looking back my first plan of action as soon as I knew what I was going to create should have been to put up a landing page and start engaging communities related to the product.
Live and let learn. (You can learn from my mistakes.)
So after about a month of reaching out to bloggers and trying forums and social media posts on my various accounts I realized that wasn’t going to work out and I had to pivot.
It was at that point that Tim recommended I reach out to all my Facebook friends, current and old, and ask them to sign up.
But I didn’t want to just ask them to sign up for a newsletter or updates for the Indiegogo launch date, because I wanted them to be much more engaged with the product by the time they purchased.
So I set up a survey where I would ask everyone to provide design feedback on the current design.
BUT, and here’s the kicker, in order to submit their feedback they would have to give their email.
Here is the link to the form I had them fill out
This way I knew they were interested in my product because they were willing to take time to comment on the design AND give their email in the process.
With this strategy I began the tedious but very beneficial task of starting conversations on Facebook with everyone I’ve ever friended, including people I hadn’t talked to in years.
In order to track this process I exported all my friends names from Facebook into an excel file. (If you’d like to know how to do this here’s a link that explains how to download your Facebook data.)
I would color code each friend’s name for where I was in the conversation. For instance yellow fill for message sent, green fill for response, red fill for no response.
This process turned out to be a ton of fun because I was able to catch up with people I hadn’t thought to reach out to in a while at the same time I was able to bring them into what I was doing. It surprised me how many of them were excited about what I was doing and wanted to know more. (Who knew my friends and family actually liked me.)
The conversation typically went like this:
Me: Hey So-and-So, What’s up? It’s been a while since we caught up, what are you up to these days?
Them: Great to hear from you. I’ve been up to this that and the other thing. What about you?
Me: Wow those life accomplishments are great. I’ve been living out here in mainland China for about two months. Manufacturing a watch I designed. Want to take a look at some of the designs?
Me: Cool man, here’s a link to all the designs https://docs.google.com/forms/d/130K-GwmqS2yjfw3_RgvUtmKv23fv5v86USL5Wn09J-E/viewform?usp=send_form There’s also a quick question on there that would be super helpful if you answered.
In reality this discussion was a bit longer and accomodating for actually caring about their story. 🙂 But you get the point.
After that initial round of reaching-out I had talked to about 500 people on Facebook and received about 250 emails.
Which wasn’t a ludicrous amount, but of the 250 emails all of those people were engaged in my product because they had stake in the design. So I was fairly confident that a good number of those people would support when the campaign launched.
To double the ante and keep my supporters engaged I had them fill out another form asking to clarify their previous design suggestions.
Here is a link to that form
Of those that filled out the first form 54 filled out the second.
At that point I knew that 54 people were near guaranteed to back my project.
But I needed more.
That’s when I talked to Nick.
This was about 3 weeks before I was set to launch. Nick told me to reach back out to all 500 people on FB again and ask them outright if they would support the campaign. (Nick talks more about this approach here.)
So that’s what I did.
At this point I modified the excel file to include extra data points to help me track where I was in the conversation with everyone. Like “Completed Survey”, “Purchase Day One?”, or “Purchase First 5 Minutes”… these were all yes/no data points.
By the time the campaign launched I knew that 100 people had committed to purchasing a watch. 84 of which would purchase within the first hour.
Which led to launch day.
I realize I didn’t cover building the campaign page, marketing, and the design aspects that go into creating a great landing page. In the future I will create a post solely focused on that topic. I recorded a video walking through elements of a great campaign page which will be helpful as you consider creating your own page.
Hitting Launch through the End of the Campaign
On the day of launch I woke up early after what was supposed to be a good night’s rest. In reality it was a night of tossing and turning between excitement and fear.
Excitement that my first crowdfunding project and my first product that I designed was launching to the world.
Fear that this whole thing would bomb.
So I was up early had a hearty breakfast and was ready to hit start on my campaign.
Real quick let me paint another picture here.
This was a solo project. For the most part I did this on my own – with extensive help from the Enter China community and my network of suppliers and designers.
For launch day I was staying in a friend’s spare bedroom and had set up campaign headquarters (my laptop) on his coffee table in the living room.
“Launching” was very NOT glamorous.
Ok now back to that coffee table with my finger hovering over the trackpad ready to hit LAUNCH!
Following up with friends and family
Before the campaign went live I had an autoresponder send out 3 emails.
One that was 1 day before launch.
Another 2 hours before.
And another at launch.
This was so that my prized list didn’t forget that they had promised to back the campaign.
Simultaneously I had my facebook messenger pulled up. Along with the excel file of everyone that promised to back within the first 5 minutes, hour, etc.
As the campaign went live I immediately began messaging my friends and family. First the first-5-minutes group. Just giving them a friendly reminder.
Some people were having technical issues signing up or figuring out how to use Indiegogo. (Looking back I probably should have given them some education the night before on how to do everything – even though I made this instructional video there was some gaps that could have been addressed.)
The reality I learned on that first day is that many people will promise to back you but only a certain few will follow through. Things come up, they forget, finances aren’t in order, etc. etc.
This you can’t control.
But what you can control is being direct and following up and getting a solid “yes” or “no” out of them.
That first day was entirely spent following up with people that said they would back my campaign, teaching people how to actually use Indiegogo, and resolving any technical issues that came up.
It was a long first day and there were still many people on the first 5 minutes and first 1 hour/day list that had not backed yet that I would still need to follow up with over the duration of the campaign.
But it was absolutely worth it to, what felt like, pester the crap out of my friends and family.
The momentum built up lead me to be featured on the home-page of Indiegogo which lead to more sales and more momentum and ultimately kept me on the homepage of Indiegogo for the life of my campaign.
Because of that first day I raised over $10,000 of my $20,000 goal. 50% on day one!
Moral of the story… don’t skip this step.
Momentum and Getting on the Indiegogo email newsletter
I had been in constant contact with my Indiegogo sales rep/client manager throughout launch. Each time we talked I’d mention the prospect of being included in their email newsletter of suggested campaigns that goes out to over 1 million people.
But it never turned into much.
However, on day 4 my campaign was still riding high on the momentum with my campaign being featured on page 1. Getting consistent sales and generally being one of the most successful campaigns on Indiegogo at that moment.
So I used all of this clout to reach out to a guy I had met in HK who was the director of tech projects with Indiegogo at the time.
Asked if I could be on the newsletter.
He never responded.
BUT, later that day I found out my project was going to be featured in the first slot on the newsletter.
I’m not sure. But everything counts!
When the email newsletter went out I raised $31,000 in one day!
45% of my total amount raised came from that one email! That’s $38,000…
With that one major success under my belt let’s talk about some other approaches I took that you hear about a lot.
Here’s the real real on other marketing approaches I attempted.
Reach out to bloggers/etc. Now that I have traction
Even with the traction I didn’t personally find a lot of success with reaching out.
What I discovered was that targeted media was much more lucrative for telling my story.
I had a connection with a guy who runs a regional online news publication called Charlotte Stories.
Because I came from Charlotte it was a really good fit – he agreed. So he featured my story of moving to China to start a business and launching on Indiegogo.
That one article drove $1500 in sales.
In the end I wasn’t able to get a whole lot of other press to bite without a sample. Given that I only had 4 precious samples on hand I was simply unable ship samples to press/blogs.
Pro tip: if possible do a larger sample run to have samples on hand to send to the press.
I wish there was some great success to share here, but the truth is paid advertising didn’t go so well for me.
The goal with this post is to share the real experiences of running a crowdfunding campaign. Not just share everything I did right but also to be honest about the things I did wrong.
If not wrong, at least not successfully.
I wasted a lot of money thinking that if I spent money on ads I would get a whole lot more backers.
The lesson learned here was if you don’t already know your audience fit for FB ads then you will spend a lot of money and time figuring that out.
With a 30 day crowdfunding campaign you might not have enough time to figure that out. If you want to use ads consider running ads for product update sign ups or pre-sales ahead of your crowdfunding launch to figure out which target market you need to be advertising to.
Facebook returned about $4000 in sales (many of these sales were not through ads but friends sharing) but I could never get the CTR to a reasonable rate. And I ended up spending much more money on ads than I earned in return.
This proved to be much more difficult than just flopping up a few ads and raking in the dough. (note to self: nothing is that easy!)
Another note of retrospection, creative is a huge component to ads.
I’m not very creative.
And I didn’t have the money or inclination to hire a designer for ads – this might be a significant reason my ads suffered. Maybe someone with more ad experience can weigh in on this in the comments?
Interacting with Backers and Updates
Another key aspect you will see in all successful campaigns is frequent updates to backers and to the general public – at least one per week; if not every other day.
You can never say thank you enough; after all, these are the people that allowed you to bring your business to life.
Show them how much that means to you.
Respond to every question and comment. No exceptions. Even the weird ones.
Write personal emails to each new backer. If you’re getting a ton of backers you can scale this effectively by automating the emails. But just make sure that they feel the care.
While you’re emailing them and thanking them try and get to know who has backed your campaign.
Develop a relationship.
This insight now will be invaluable later as your assessing who your target market is.
Even if you receive the occasional angry email just kill them with kindness. In almost every situation this has diffused the frustration and anger.
During your campaign you should get a very clear picture of whether you will reach your goal within the first few days or at most 15 days in.
Once you know your campaign will succeed you need to start communicating with your supplier to place the first order. (I realize some people are not in a position to place the 30% deposit without the crowdfunding money, in that case wait til after the campaign to place the order. Or, see if you can negotiate terms to start the order based on the campaign success.)
Most campaigns have some sort of variations. So you will need to know which version of your product the backer wants. In my case I had 12 different variations available.
To know how many of each variation (or SKU) to order from my factory I sent out a survey in each of the thank you emails. The survey simply asked which watch they wanted.
After a few hundred submissions the trend became apparent and it was easy to know which number of each variation to order.
For the most part that’s what my activity looked like during the campaign.
Towards the end of the campaign be sure to send out reminder emails that your campaign is ending.
The FOMO (fear of missing out) will get you an extra kick at the very end.
Even though it might feel like you’re done after the campaign… yay you raised the money… you’re nowhere near finished.
What to do after your crowdfunding campaign
I present the list of activities to do after the campaign is finished.
Frequent updates to backers
Keep the updates going (less frequently, but keep them involved in the production process and every step along the story process.)
Always respond to EVERY comment – it’s an opportunity to build a relationship with your customers
Setup email notifications for every time a comment comes in, be on these like a hawk, and fast with answers.
Start pre-sales on Shopify site or continue on Indiegogo InDemand
Immediately after campaign is finished turn your Shopify store on and start taking pre-sales to your website.
There are many other blog posts that are much more qualified to talk about website design but here’s an example of what mine looked like…
You should have already designed your site either before the campaign launched or during the campaign. This should be ready to go live the moment your campaign ends (or even before) and start taking pre-sales.
Another option is to continue selling your product via Indiegogo’s InDemand feature. This feature can be used with Kickstarter campaigns as well. InDemand is a way to continue to sell on Indiegogo after your campaign has ended. It’s crowdfunding without the timeline and it’s only for campaigns that successfully raised their goal. (I raised a few extra thousand using inDemand.)
If you ran a Kickstarter campaign Indiegogo has partnered with Kickstarter to basically port over your campaign to continue selling via InDemand. This is very simple for you the campaign owner because you don’t have to create a whole new page on Indiegogo it takes all the information from your Kickstarter and brings it over to Indiegogo automatically.
You should have already initiated the order before the campaign was finished when you were able to see that your campaign was going to succeed.
If you were unable to pay the 30% until you received the money in your bank account then this will be the first thing you do when the money hits the account.
With production everything will seem like it’s going well at one point and then everything will feel like it’s falling apart the next.
It’s incredibly frustrating and rewarding at the same time.
Just know NOTHING ever goes right the first time. There will most likely be delays, even if you gave yourself a significant buffer time
Appropriately manage expectations with your backers. Make sure they know exactly where you are at the production process and any delays as they happen (and as you have information).
Watch your suppliers like a hawk.
Rico recorded an extremely valuable video on managing the manufacturing process.
Once everything is ready you need to ship.
This is a BIG one. And can be incredibly frustrating if you don’t do your due diligence and consider some key aspects.
When it comes to shipping preparation is the name of the game. You should have this ready long before you even ship (have a shipping agent lined up)
Teaser: you are about to learn from many of my mistakes.
Customer service quality from the shipping agent should be a huge factor in choosing a supplier. My customer service rep always ghosted on me – didn’t respond to emails.
I had to go to the sales rep constantly. Even the sales rep ended up ghosting after my constant badgering over problems.
Because I was on a strict timeline I had to do whatever it took to get the product out the door.
So I went to Hong Kong showed up at the warehouse, met a warehouse representative and got her number and email. She finally was someone who would get stuff done. But I shouldn’t have to do this!
Always have multiple options and do your due diligence.
There’s also a hidden lesson here – get recommendations, but don’t always trust recommendations.
So what does due diligence look like?
In a nutshell, find at least 3 different people that have used a service and ask their feedback. Find at least one negative thing about a provider. If it’s all good then there is probably something hiding.
I did none of this. (*Gasp*)
Outside of choosing the right shipping agent here are some things to consider…
- Decide how to fulfill. Are you going to ship direct from China/HK or ship to a warehouse in key demographic areas and fulfill from there?
- Find a solution that can easily transition into your long-term solution once you’re selling on your website.
- With shipping timing is everything; I shipped near to Christmas at the end of November. I was promised to ship out by the end of November. My product just sat around in the warehouse “processing” until the second week of December. The shipping agent was new and overwhelmed with a bunch of orders – mine was relatively small comparatively and was given the backseat. My backers suffered.
- Have a clear understanding of costs – shipping agents will give you “estimates” and then say they will most definitely be under that amount. It’s almost never under that amount and almost always over. So plan on this. (Hidden costs include taxes, duties, customs, etc.)
If your shipping agent doesn’t have a way to monitor each tracking code then get Aftership.
Aftership is a very cost effective solution for monitoring every tracking code that comes from your shipping agent. Their software will match up with your shipping agents software. If Aftership is not compatible with your shipping agent you can always upload an excel file with tracking data.
You want visibility into where each package is at all times.
Keep in mind this tracking data will most likely be delayed (which is unbelievably frustrating – there has to be a better way to get real-time insight (this is definitely a HUGE gap in the market – anyone want to make a better system?))
You will have shipping delays, packages will get lost, customers will get the wrong packages, stuff will happen… plan on it and build great customer service into your plan. You have to.
If you’ve gotten to this point and you actually apply what I talked about above it’s a near guarantee your campaign will succeed.
That being said if you have any questions about anything mentioned above I’ll be answering questions in the comments.
Like I said above some of these topics that were more generically glossed over I will be writing more in depth articles in the near future. They will be linked up in this article when they become available.
You will probably notice the trend throughout all of this is focusing on your customer. Make sure they are happy and your campaign will succeed! Make sure you understand their needs and where they hangout then just crush it!