£20,000 in 20 minutes and over £170,000 in total pre-orders, and all without spending anything on advertising! Let’s look at how…

So let’s make sure this is clear up front – Hamtun is my business so it wasn’t hard to get the details. But the campaign absolutely smashed it and this blog is largely based off what I learned from this and other Kickstarters, so I think an overview is useful to understanding me and my experiences.

Pre-launch preparation

The Hamtun Kickstarter for the H1 dive watch launched in late 2016, but preparation started long before that. Knowing that I had a very limited budget and needed to pay for prototypes and promotional materials of a good quality before I could consider taking orders, I was aware that I’d have nothing to spend on ads. That didn’t mean that I wasn’t going to market my campaign, just that I had to find free ways of doing it.

This began in early 2015 when I started a blog about watches. I’ll write in detail about how I started and promoted the blog another time, but the idea was to start building an audience of people that were interested in products in the same niche and price point that I was aiming for. I spent 18 months building that audience at every opportunity, which meant that by the time I got to launch time I had enough people interested in what I was doing that they were keen to buy on day one.

The money I did have went in two areas. One was high quality prototypes – without prototypes you don’t have anything. The other was video and photography work. I’m absolutely convinced that if you present something that looks professional it will be treated that way. All kinds of mistakes and problems can be covered up by some quality photography, but film something on your mobile phone and stick up a few badly lit photos and suddenly your campaign looks amateur. If you can’t deliver on the details on your sales page, why would anyone believe you can deliver the details when it comes to the product?

With a good product, a mailing list nearly 2000 strong (see my posts on building an audience), and great sales materials, I decided I was ready to go.

Mistakes during the Kickstarter campaign

I launched my campaign at 4pm on a Tuesday (I’ll be writing about why I picked this time to launch in detail at some point) and was fully funded in 20 minutes. Comments started flying in, emails were crashing my inbox and I had to very quickly work out what I was doing! In general I’m delighted with the campaign and it achieved it’s goal – I now have a business and my products continue to sell. But I made several mistakes that, were I to start again, I’d be able to fix:

  • I had no idea how quickly I’d fund, so I didn’t have stretch goals in place. As soon as you’re funded people start asking about stretch goals. Deciding on them under pressure is a bad idea, as you can make commitments that you haven’t necessarily thought through. My advice? Have a few thought out in advance for different scenarios (funding very fast, funding quite slowly, try to anticipate customer requests etc) and then pick the ones that seem appropriate. Don’t wait until it’s time to decide on them. More importantly, don’t promise something that you haven’t had time to prototype in advance as it could badly effect delivery.
  • You’ll get lots of people asking for small extra things or little changes to their pledge. “I love it, could you just change the colour” or “Could you declare the rewards as a gift for customs” are common ones. Don’t be so desperate for customers that you say yes to all of these things, as when it gets to fulfilment time you’ll either forget or it’ll slow things down. You should be selling a good product at a good price – have confidence in it.
  • Make sure your customers are aware in advance of the URL to place pre-orders and are aware of the number of early bird pledges you’ll have available. I emailed my customers the URL once I launched, but emails to large lists tend to arrive with different people at different times, meaning lots of people missed the opportunity to grab one of the cheapest priced options. That upset people that had been supportive for a long time. If they are aware of the URL and quantity in advance, they can’t be fairly upset with you.
  • Don’t live your life around the Kickstarter app or website. If you’re always watching your analytics you aren’t out there selling or communicating with your existing customers! I was waking up several times in the night just to check sales and that’s not healthy…
  • Don’t stop when you think you’ve done enough. I was at 300% of my goal in a day or two and sales were still coming in, so really slowed down my promotional activity. Looking back, I had a hot product at a great price and I should have pushed as hard as I could then. That extra funding would be incredibly useful now!

Order fulfilment

Once orders were complete I began the process of collecting customer preferences, ordering my goods and then shipping them. Again, I did a good number of things wrong:

  • Make sure you’re giving frequent updates to your backers, even if it’s just an “everything is on track” type of message. Nothing annoys backers more than not knowing what is going on and that is very understandable, they’ve given you money and they want to know you’re not abusing that trust. If you think shipping is going to be delayed then be honest about it as soon as you can, and mostly people will understand. The better you build a relationship with your customers, the better you campaign will go.
  • Don’t underestimate the amount of time and effort that goes in to shipping a product. If you’re doing it yourself get a lot ready before you start shipping, and try to get the whole batch finished within a week. I started shipping slowly and it took me nearly a month to get through them all. By the end people were getting very angry!
  • Packaging matters. A well presented product will make up for all sorts of mistakes in the campaign.

Summary

By beginning promotion really early, the Hamtun Kickstarter project was able to fund in super fast time without spending any money on advertising. It’s only one way of doing it, but it’s the cheapest. If you’ve got a budget (and if you’re on Kickstarter you probably do) then get going now, every day you spend promotion your project before it launches increases your likelihood of success. Read all of my posts on building an email list and get in touch if you have any questions.