Lessons learned in the middle of a Kickstarter Campaign
By George Kahn
The Jazz & Blues Revue is now 21 days into our 40-day Kickstarter campaign. We have reached the half-way mark, and we are basically on track, having raised almost exactly half of our $18,000 goal.
We are close enough that I am confident we are going to hit or exceed the mark, and make our album. I am now starting to finalize plans for the completed project. This is the fun part: scoping out recording studios that we can use for the album, and interviewing people to do the album and poster design.
We are not there yet, and the energy needed to make it to the finish line on July 11 is daunting. This last week brought some new revelations, as well as some lessons that you may find helpful in your crowd-funding adventure. Here are the four biggest "A-Ha"s of this week
1. Keep people involved in the experience
Now that we have over 100 backers, it is important to keep these people involved and committed to the project. Kickstarter gives you a really simple system to send updates to your backers, either as a group or individually. Each week I have sent individual thank you messages to new backers. Now I am also sending out group emails as I research the studios, and add new "rewards" for people who support our project. Remember - people aren't just pre-ordering a product. They are buying an EXPERIENCE, not just a disc of songs.
2. Keep the web page fresh
This week we added two rewards by special request. One was a way for people outside the US to order our music, and the second was a chance to have the Jazz & Blues Revue sing you a "Happy Birthday" message. People who visited the site requested both of these, so I knew there was a need that I could fill. Adding rewards, or posting more pictures or answers to FAQ's (frequently asked questions) keeps the site fresh, and gives you a reason to tell people to visit again. The master of this idea is Muertos (Dayof the Dead Playing Cards) . Throughout his campaign, Steve Minty kept adding product, photos and videos as they hit new targets. His original goal was to raise $13,000, and in the end he had 2,793 backers and raised over $159,700.
3. Keep people engaged OFF the internet, as well
Our music (a living history of Jazz & Blues music from the 1940's to the 21st Century) attracts people of all ages, but honestly, a lot of our fans are older and not as plugged in to Facebook and the Internet. This week has been a lot of outreach into the "physical" world - passing out flyers at networking events, meeting people for lunch and asking them to participate, etc. Today we have another house party where we will play our music and have iPads set up for people that want to donate. I have also found that many people love our Kickstarter site, but do not feel comfortable pledging money on the Internet, even when Amazon.com handles the "back office". So I have set up alternative ways that people can donate without having to create a Kickstarter log in, or deal with the Internet at all. We keep a log of the donations, and a list of their respective rewards. Then one of our band members "pledges" the money, so it shows in our Kickstarter totals.
4. There is no "Magic Bullet"
Somehow I had the belief that "crowd-funding" and "viral marketing" meant that I could post a great project, tell a few key people, and then somehow the Internet would work its magic and suddenly hundreds of total strangers would be throwing money at us. Guess what? If that sounds like a dream, it is. So far about 10% of the backers have come from discovering us on Kickstarter. The rest have come from our databases, our outreach and our hard work. There is no "magic bullet". Like in any business proposition, it is whom you know, and knowing when and how to ask for help. We can dance around the subject, but in the end we are FUNDRAISING, and it is challenging and rewarding work.
I still love the Kickstarter platform - it gives credence to our project. People recognize the brand and are willing to check it out. The systems they provide make running the campaign easy. But I can't forget - it is a campaign and I am running it - it won't run itself.