Assuming you survive the gauntlet of making and shipping the first version, here are what several, Kickstarter successful, founders had to say.
Everyone one of the founders stressed this in some way. Your early supporters will be your most loyal customers so communicating with them frequently and consistently is super important. Even after you deliver the product, you want to keep them updated on the progress of the company, any future changes to the product, and how they can help you spread the word.
On top of keeping them in the loop, you want to begin learning as much as you can about who they are, how they heard about you, why they bought it, and how they use the product. This information will help you better understand how to improve the product and what marketing channels you should use to reach more of them.
Ultimately you are looking to reach product market fit (the point at which demand for your product just takes off) so the better you understand your customers, the better decisions you can make to get there.
You will need an e-commerce solution on your website so you can continue to take pre-orders from non backers. This keeps cash flowing into the businesses, enabling you to build more units. It also gives people an action to take when they do hear about your brand because coming to your website to read “we are sold out, sorry” is a very dead end experience.
One entrepreneur passionately shared two big warnings with me about this subject. First, is don’t start fulfilling new customer orders until all of your backers have been delivered. Second, don’t sell your product for less than your price on Kickstarter!
It’s also a good idea to step back and figure out how much it really costs to make and ship your product. Most likely you didn’t charge enough for your product, so taking a breath to adjust the price is important. Your backers don’t want to see you go out of businesses because you ran out of money.
Crowdfunding is an amazing platform to drive initial awareness, but once your campaign is over, the demand dries up like a tap.
Hopefully you received plenty of press coverage when you launched and sending those same editors small updates can turn into follow on posts. But most likely they won’t cover you again until version 2 of the product, which means you should be actively reaching out to new websites, magazines, and newspapers who have NOT yet heard of you. PR is one of the most affordable ways to tell your story.
Your existing customers are also an easy path to finding new customers. Unless people are searching Google for your exact solution, you will want to come up with every creative way that enables your customers to tell their friends. You can even borrow a page out of the e-commerce playbook and offer your customer money and/or credit for selling product to people they know. That’s what Scott Wilson did with the Lunatik Rewards App.
Even more important than the tactical execution for growing your customer base, I heard a consistent message to step back and audit what happened and what you want to do going forward. Growing from a cool product to a real company is a big leap.
If you have co-founders, now is the time to have a tough conversation about what the group wants to do. Everyone needs to believe in the same vision and have the same desires for your post crowdfunding life. It’s much easier to part ways now.
Create a simple six month plan, that includes the really big goals the team needs to get done. Ensuring everyone is on the same page is critical. You can’t afford to waste the little money you have.
Lastly, figure out how much money you need. I highly recommend being profitable with every unit you sell, but that doesn’t mean you won’t need some outside capital to scale your production. As demand grows for your product, your suppliers will start needing more and more capital to fulfill your orders.
Especially if you want to go to retail, the days of cash up front are over. You will need enough capital to handle a 90-120 day float (from paying your supplier to getting paid by customers). Successful crowdfunded projects like Pebble (raised $15M), Ooya ($15M) and Lumoback ($5M) have gone on to raise money from institutional partners in order to continue their dream.
Image Credit: M.Taniguchi via Creative Comons