I decided in early 2016 that in business (and in life), I would only nurture and pursue Win-Win relationships. When I was faced with the challenge of raising U.S. $1,000 in funding for an audiobook project—along with finding an innovative way to host a Global Book Signing for New Roots Development's first publication, I chose Kickstarter as my business partner. I knew the relationship would be mutually beneficial. I would enjoy access to an exceptional crowdfunding platform with survey capability while Kickstarter would earn a well-deserved and reasonable fee. This partnership would increase the probability of raising a goal amount of U.S. $5,367 in 29 days for New Roots' projects.
On May 27, 2016 at 11:59pm EST, the Kickstarter campaign I launched a month prior, came to a close. I'm still proud to announce that The Clean Poetry Series Project will permanently float around on the internet as a successful endeavor, 113% funded by 134 backers who will receive a total of 165 signed, paperback copies of Clean Closet—the first of three books in a poetry series that I wrote mostly over a 3 year period. Kickstarter also does an awesome countdown at the end that facilitates the celebration; I love the personal touch!
Although raising funds for the first time can be intimidating, going through this process allows for significant growth. Here are 10 lessons I learned—or that were reinforced for me—during the longest 29 days of my life.
1. Connection Is Important
We need each other to make great things happen. Relationships matter. Looking at the data post-close, I found that I am connected to almost all of the 134 project backers—128 Directly, 4 Friends of Friends, and only 2 Unknown. Majority of the 128 direct backers are connected with me through Facebook and Instagram. Beyond the data I feel truly blessed to have backers from my family, childhood neighborhood, middle school, high school, university, study abroad program during college in France, grad program, first job, every job that followed, and even an awesome woman I met for the first time in church two Sundays ago. I genuinely love people and I feel so happy after receiving an expression of their care for me, my vision and company mission in return.
Given my life experiences, I have met and formed friendships with people from all over the world, and I'm grateful for the connection social media allows. 113 of my backers are in the U.S. The other 21 are living in other parts of the world, making this not only an online book signing event and fundraiser, but also a global one with backers as far from me as Singapore.
2. Do Your Research And Be Humble In Your Asking
Prior to launching the Kickstarter, I performed in-depth research to create as accurate of a project budget as possible. I was transparent with the breakdown on my Kickstarter page and also built in a contingency of 2% in the event any unforeseen risks decided to show up. With my estimates in hand, I built and optimized an excel model to come up with my target fundraising goal given the mix of fixed and variable costs (thank you, Wharton!)...and I stuck to that number, asking for no more or no less while keeping in mind that Kickstarter would not allow me to change my goal amount or project end date after I officially launched the campaign. I did have a choice, however, to stop when I reached the goal or allow for pledges beyond that amount up until the project end date and time. With confidence that my asking amount would allow me to pay all fees, raise U.S. $1,000 for the audiobook and produce as well as fulfill all rewards, the only risk that remained was in the campaign's execution. Marketing would be key.
3. Have A Marketing Strategy And Use Analytics
Before the campaign started, I thought about how to apply Grant Cardone's 10x rule to my project in the area of Marketing. I knew that I would need anywhere from 130 to 185 backers based on a range of pledge averages and so I decided to reach out to over 1,000 people. I created an email list of 1,000 contacts from all periods of my life and people who would support the project because of their love of poetry. I also relied on my 1,400+ connections on Facebook. After launching the campaign, I periodically checked which referrer or source attracted the most views or clicks by reviewing Analytics provided by Kickstarter. More so than Instagram, LinkedIn or Twitter where I personally have a lesser social presence, my efforts in direct emails and Facebook posts connected me with those who had interest in supporting the project. Needless to say, I focused on those two areas.
I also read a few helpful articles such as this one by Tim Ferriss while planning.
4. Expect The Unexpected
What happens if your potential backer is away on vacation and ignoring emails? Or if your friend in Colombia is taking a break from social media and you don't have his/her email address? Well, you might get some surprises given factors you cannot control.
The Outcome: there will be backers you expect to pledge that will pledge. There will be backers you didn't quite expect to pledge that will donate at levels that surpass those of your expected backers. There will be backers you expect to participate that won't pledge at all! The interesting thing about all this is that you will never know the whole truth behind these outcomes, but this is not an area that should concern you, especially if you have planned your marketing strategy well.
5. Give Something Of Value As A Reward
Reciprocity in relationships is what we should all strive for and me offering a book of my most personal work—to me—is an expression of love. I wrote Clean Closet from my heart (Forgive me, I'm an artist) and the intention of this work is to help facilitate the healing of young women who have had traumatic experiences. It is a work that relates me to them, a work that heals and a work that inspires. There is literally no amount of money that can express the value in that. I know it will help a lot of women. Check out an Amazon review posted by one of the readers.
6. It's Not Over Until It's Over
I mentioned that this was the longest 29 days of my life and that is because I experienced every emotion under the sun during the process. After the initial success of being 50% backed in 6 days, the pledge momentum slowed considerably and my emotions tried to get best of me. Check out the graph below and notice the slow growth period between May 4th and May 15th. In that window I had to encourage myself that there was still time and that I should continue with my marketing strategy, remain positive and keep the faith. The only option was to succeed.
7. Responses Will Vary
The graph brings me to the next observation. Consumer behavior played a huge part in all this. Some folks are first movers while others like the pressure of a deadline. I also realized that I influenced support levels given the quality of my communication. On the day I posted the very first photo of the physical book—showing proof that a real book existed, I raised the highest amount of funds (see steep growth from May 1st to May 2nd). Some even thanked me by email for sending them reminders and not simply stopping after the first one. Try not to bombard your supporters with messages, but focus on sending quality messages at strategic points.
8. Accept Graciously And With Gratitude
Understand when managing a crowdfunding initiative that not every person will be in a financial position to support even if they would like, and understand that some will have the ability to support, but will simply not have interest. All of this is ok. You should also remember that verbal support given with positive intention is just as important. Yes, money coming in is important to achieve your goal, but trust me when I say that money alone does not give you the strong feeling of success. This was true for me anyway. The private responses shared between me and each of my backers, will always mean more to me than money.
In short, thank every financial backer and every individual who could not afford to support with the same sincerity and kindness, and thank every person who provides a word of encouragement as you move through the process. No one is obligated to support your project. Be grateful.
9. Block Out Negativity...Quickly
At the very moment that you are flying high in your air balloon of potential success, a hater will appear and attempt to bring you down. Don't hesitate to immediately delete that negative comment on your post or take that rare unsupportive statement with a grain of salt. Control the narrative when you can and rise above these distractions.
10. Believe In Yourself
Although I make no claim that by following this advice, you will achieve success in your specific Kickstarter campaign, what I know with certainty is this: If you don't believe in yourself, nobody will. You must be your greatest supporter in all things. Confidence is key. Encourage yourself every step of the way.
You've got this!
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