Hint: probably not yet.

The biggest mistake people make with a crowd funding campaign is launching too soon. It’s understandable, you’ve got a product or prototype that you love and you just want to start selling it to people. The problem is these days Kickstarter is flooded with projects, huge numbers of which vanish out of sight with a couple of backers. If you just threw something together without spending money or time then maybe it doesn’t matter, but if you’ve expended serious time and/or money on getting your product ready, you need it to sell. So how can you make sure it does? Here are a few things you should be doing in advance of launching:

Build your email list

It doesn’t really matter what you’re selling, a mailing list will get you there faster. I’m going to be writing a lot of articles on how to build an email list as I think it’s the most valuable thing you can do. Even if you ignore everything else on this site, please take the time to understand how important a good, engaged mailing list is and how to get it to convert. So how big does it need to be? If you’ve built it well and so have populated it with genuinely interested potential customers, you might get 10% of them to convert to paying customers if you’re lucky. Get a list big enough to fund the project based on those numbers. Need 200 orders to fully fund your campaign? Make sure your list is at least 2000 people before you launch at a absolute minimum. If your list is full of people that signed up because they were incentivised to do so (via contests or whatever) then that number needs to be higher still.

Get samples out to reviewers

Actual hands-on reviews from independent sources are a great way to both spread the word and build up trust with potential customers. However much promotion you do, nothing is as convincing as someone unconnected to your product saying you’ve done a good job. You’ll have to make a personal decision on how you handle reviewers that request money or free product (my tip – don’t unless they can offer you a lot of guaranteed, relevant exposure), but get your product out in the hands of real people. YouTube videos do especially well in converting in my experience, but you also want well known websites in your niche to write about you if at all possible. The more of this you get done before you launch, the better positioned you’ll be to judge and act on feedback.

Designing your Kickstarter campaign

Look at the campaigns that fund well. Look at the ones that don’t. There is a direct correlation between campaigns that fund well and ones that look well designed. That’s not to say it should be designed in any specific way – use your own personality rather than making something bland – but don’t leave it to the last minute. It took me over 2 months to design my most recent Kickstarter campaign. Not a solid 2 months of work, but 2 months of trying things to see how they looked, getting feedback on how clear the product details and rewards were etc. It’s not something you should be throwing together in an afternoon with a couple of paragraphs of text and a photo taken with your mobile phone.

Once you’re happy with it, share it with friends and see if it makes sense. See if they understand the product and why someone might want to buy it. It’s easy to get too close to these things and miss little details. Once your friends have seen it, share it with your potential customers in its review state. They might have comments, there might be things they don’t understand. The draft URL updates to point to the live campaign once you go live, so by sharing your draft URL with your customers they’ll be able to back your project the second it goes live without having to wait for you to share the updated link.

Spreading the word on social media

Don’t make the mistake that lots of people do of thinking “I’ve got 10,000 followers on Instagram so I’m ready to launch”. It’s almost meaningless. A mailing list of 1,000 people is going to be far more useful than an Instagram following of 10,000. That’s not to say that there isn’t value in social media profiles, but you need to be realistic about what that level of value is.

I’m in my mid/late 30’s, so I don’t use or understand SnapChat. If your market is young, perhaps find someone else that knows how to talk to them! But Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are all very much made for people like me. I’ll do detailed posts on how to use each of these services individually and which third party services can help you increase your reach on them, but what is important is again you start early. Tweeting to your 17 followers when you go live will get you nowhere, as with your email list you need an engaged following which takes time to build.

Realistically, unless you have a huge budget (if so, what are you doing here…?) you aren’t going to make hundreds of sales from social media. But that’s fine, because if you’re doing it right you will get lots of useful feedback. Use Twitter, Instagram and Facebook likes and comments to gauge what kind of interest there is in your product. Got thousands of followers and no interaction? Either your followers are useless or your product isn’t right.

Build up buzz for your Kickstarter

You don’t want to go live and have the project just sit there, and “celebrating” your first sale within an hour is not something worth celebrating at all. You want to explode out of the blocks, which means people have to be gagging for the project to go live. The quicker you fund, the more natural buzz will build up around the web, so being able to say you did it in less than an hour/less than a day or whatever is incredibly valuable. If you’re not confident from the subscriptions you’re seeing to your mailing list and the responses you’re seeing on social media that you can fund quickly, wait. If people are desperate for your product they’ll still be there in a couple of months, but if you blow your launch it’ll be hard to put it right later.

In summary

You’re not ready. Build your email list until it has at least 10x more subscribers than you need backers, build your social media profiles until you’re getting consistent engagement, get your products in to the hands of trusted reviewers, and make sure your Kickstarter page design is shit hot.