The secret to Kickstarter success

Last year I launched Workshop Tactics, a deck of workshop recipe cards that help product teams get stuff done. I could've gone down the Kickstarter route, but I decided against it at the time. I didn't want the ordeal that comes with running a successful Kickstarter campaign. I wanted to go at my own pace, and iteratively build a product and do the presale myself. I didn't like the all or nothing pressure that Kickstarter brings. I managed to raise £10k from my own non-Kickstarter presale efforts, which meant I broke even on Workshop Tactics' first print run.

But now, with a new deck 'Storyteller Tactics' on the horizon, I've decided to go down the Kickstarter route. You only have to glance at a handful of similar physical info-product campaigns to see that they can be massively successful. In all cases, far exceeding their modest funding targets. What's not to love? Kickstarter helps you test the idea in the market, virtually risk-free. It raises capital (and more than you might expect if done right). It draws upon a vast community of backers. And its a launch marketing campaign all in itself.

I want that for my product, of course! But there is a hidden secret to surpassing funding targets on Kickstarter. A secret that I've learned from peering under the hood of a few successful campaigns. And it was one thing I severely lacked in the early days of Workshop Tactics...

An audience. Not just any audience, but a captive one. One who already know about the product, and desperately want it.

And therein lies the hard work, and whisks away the magical 'overnight success' myth that Kickstarter promotes. You've got to do a tonne of audience building before you even have a chance at hitting your funding target. And if you haven't already invested the time to grow an audience, you pay for one. But that's not a bad thing.

You can leverage £10k of hyper-targeted ads into a mailing list of 10,000. With an average conversion rate of 5% (500 people), that mailing list pays an average of £90 and works out to £45k. Your costs of goods are covered. And you've sold in one week, what previously took you a year to sell! And that mailing list you spend ads on is a valuable long term asset. It's a well-oiled machine if you find the right product-market fit.

The most exciting thing that's got me thinking is what this systematisation of Kickstarter looks like long term. It's not just a place to get funded on a kooky idea. It's a presale platform that de-risks your product. Every time you launch a new product, you start with an even bigger audience. Making it more cost-effective every time you launch.

I must sound like the first person to discover the potential of Kickstarter - and audience building. But my fascination is more to do with how Kickstarter campaigns become a regular heart-beat to an indie publisher's market-testing and distribution.

Hat tip to Dan Howarth for opening my eyes a bit wider!