With the development of technology and the rise of platforms such as Kickstarter, launching a creative project has never been easier. It just takes a matter of hours to start your campaign and bring your project to life, but (yes there is always a but) in order for your campaign to be successful, there’s one factor that you shouldn’t underestimate: your community.
Nowadays, community has become a buzzword extensively used when it comes to brand image and marketing. So before moving forward in this topic, let’s answer the following question:
What do I mean by community? It’s pretty simple: a crowd of people that share the same passion and interest. These people are the ones who follow your project and are engaged in it.
Why having a community is important for you and your project? Because it will help you build trust and gain credibility. It will allow you to add value to your followers’ lives, while at the same time, creating advocates for your project. It organically increases word of mouth around your project and thus gives it more exposure
Building a community before launching your Kickstarter campaign is a crucial part for your campaign’s success. The tricky part is that it takes time, effort and consistency to engage these people to your cause. The perfect timing to start building your community is 6 to 9 months prior to launch. In the following paragraphs, I’m going to share with you some steps to follow to help accomplish this:
1. Define your community.
At the beginning of everything, 9 months prior to launch, you should ask yourself the right questions. For example, let’s suppose that I want to create a card game about Llamas. Why Llamas, right? Well, because Llamas are funny, fluffy and cute. Don’t you see them everywhere now? On social media, clothes or birthday cakes. Forget about unicorns, llamas are the new trend. Now it’s time to ask myself the right questions.
Who is this for ? Card game lovers, friends who like to spend time having fun while playing games, llama lovers.
What is my target ? Individuals who love to socialize around card games.
Who are my potential partners ? Gamer bars and cafes, gaming magazines, gaming shops etc…
Who can potentially support me ? Family, friends, card games specialists etc...
What is the positioning of my product or service ? A funny game to play for groups who want to chill and spend quality time.
Answering these questions will help you get a clear vision about your project and its environment. By clearly defining your project’s positioning, you’ll be able to identify your target and define its main characteristics, behaviors and interests.
Based on these parameters, you’ll have the opportunity to plan the most efficient communication strategy to specifically reach your target audience.
Your community is not limited to your audience. It can be other people that share the same passion as you. In my case, I can contact the other card games creators. This would give me an opportunity for exposure, potential support and feedback from industry experts.
2. Reach out to your first circle and start building up from there.
After personal savings, family and friends are second on the list for funding startups. Not only are these the people that love and trust you, but they’re also the ones that believe in your potential and want you to succeed. Getting backing from them can be a good way to get feedback on what to improve. It is also a factor of motivation as their trust will make you more prompt to succeed.
A good example on how family support can help you achieve your dreams and grow your project is the story of Bhavin Turakhia and how he became a self-made billionaire. He started his journey back in 1998 when he received a 375$ loan from his father to launch his first tech venture. He went on to create many startups that were sold for millions a few years after, and now Bhavin is one of the most influential entrepreneurs in India.
So just like Bhavin, don’t be afraid to seek support from your family and friends. They might be the ones to first back you for your project launch. Getting backings from the first moments of your campaign’s launch gives you momentum and exposure on Kickstarter’s website due to its algorithm and thus attracts more and more backers.
In my case, no one is a fan of llamas or card games in my circle, but I know for sure that they will help me by backing my project to reach my $10 000 funding goal. Securing double the number of backers needed for the funding as soon as the campaign is launched, is essential to gain the momentum I need to exceed my aim.
3. Join forums and groups that share the same interest:
People usually join Facebook groups or forums to talk about things they are passionate about or to meet people that share the same interests. So look for some groups related to your passion or project and join them.
You’ll have access to a mine of resources, content and debates which are made by people who are extremely passionate about what they do. This can be a strong learning opportunity for you as well.
Take part in the discussion and spend a few weeks interacting with other forum members. Get involved in the community and show your engagement by commenting on others' posts.
Share your project in these forums, as you can be sure to find at least a small group of people that will be passionate about your idea and will give you feedback.
After fulfilling these steps, you’d then already have a small community who’s interested in what you do and is ready to back your project. This is a good start, but this is just the beginning! You’ll need to put in more effort now to attract a new audience. In the following paragraphs, I’ll list some actions that you can frequently repeat to grow your community:
4. Build, update and segment your community list.
This list is the one that regroups all of your community’s data. In other words, all the contact details (names, email addresses, social media and phone numbers) of all the people that are interested in your project will be well categorized.
Reading this, it might seem like a mountain to climb, but a database can be any normal Google Spreadsheet. You can find here a template (database) to get you started.
Once the list is big enough, start segmenting it. “Is this person a member of my family, a friend, a potential partner etc… how did I reach this person ?”.
Segmenting your list and organizing by groups, will help you in later stages to share specific content and send tailored newsletters. This will improve your chances of getting better feedback from your audience. The following graph shows the results you can get from segmenting your list.
Collecting this data can be hard but you can start slowly, by asking people for their contact details on forums. Another good way is to add a small space on your website for people to leave their email addresses for receiving updates on your project.
There’s no shame to start small. A community doesn’t need thousands of people. We call it a community as soon as there are 2 people who share the same passion and interests.
5. Create content that gives value to your readers
As Gary Vaynerchuk famously said: “Brand storytelling isn’t about pushing advertising, it’s about bringing value” and this is what separates the successful projects from those that fail. Your content strategy should focus on giving value rather than selling a product, a project or a service.
What do I mean by making content that brings value ?
It is all visual, verbal or written communication that you expose to your community, and it should at least answer one of your followers’ questions or problems, or simply help them learn something new about what they’re interested in.
So make sure to create content that brings an added value. It will be your main tool for driving traffic and building engagement around your project.
Creating content that resonates in your tribe’s mind can be difficult, but if you’ve followed the first steps described in this article, you’d have everything ready to produce some kickass content. Once you know your segments, their interests and their behavior, you’ll not only be able to understand which type of people you’ll be addressing yourself to, but you’ll also know which channel you should use to reach them.
The next step is to find what you should write about. I personally use a simple technique which consists of picking some of my followers’ questions and starting from there, creating content that would help them solve those problems and answer those questions.
A good example for someone who produces valuable content is Jamey Stegmaier. He successfully raised over $3.2 million for his Kickstarter campaigns, and he shares his insights, mistakes, and lessons learned on his blog. I recommend checking it out.
6. Use paid social media ads as a promotional tool
This is a huge debate within the kickstarter community. Many experts and kickstarter lessons recommend not to use social media such as: Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat etc. as a promotional tool, while many creators have seen a huge ROI from their social media campaigns.
I personally recommend you to use it because out of all the tools you can have access to. Social media ads are the cheapest and most effective way to reach your audience.
Which platform to use ? Facebook ? Instagram ? Snapchat ?
The most important is to define your target, based on which, you'll be able to choose the platform to invest in.
Facebook (and thus Instagram as well) for example, offer you the opportunity to use their Behavior Targeting and Interest targeting. These 2 features help you target people based on purchase behavior, purchase intent and other behavioral characteristics, or based on people’s interests like activities, hobbies and liked pages.
Another feature that Facebook offers is Pixel. It helps measure conversions and optimize your ads. It also provides the opportunity to track the actions people take on your website, such as reading your amazing content (that brings value, of course) or purchasing a product. Pixel will help you retarget them or reach a similar audience on Facebook.
Note: For those who don’t know what retargeting is; it consists on targeting your content toward users who previously visited your website.
7. Back other projects that are related to yours
Backing projects of other creators in the same category as yours can help you prepare your campaign. You can see how a campaign is executed from the backer perspective. You’ll also be able to access the project updates and see how other creators run their campaigns. It will also help you connect via the comments with other backers that share the same interests and might be interested in your project.
It is also important to back projects as it is badly perceived by the kickstarter community when a creator seeks backing while not backing other projects.
If you’re short on money, you can still back 3 or 4 projects by spending 1$ each. This will give you access to the projects updates and grow your backed projects list.
In my case, I'll check out all the card games or llamas related projects and back some of them.
8. Use email newsletters
Many people say that sharing content by mail is outdated and dead while some others rely solely on email marketing for their content strategy.
Yes email marketing isn’t as powerful as it was 5 or 10 years ago, but it’s not dead in my opinion, it’s still a really valuable channel and that’s why you should use it.
Why is it still valuable? Well because out of all the channels you could use, email marketing has the highest ROI (Return on Investment). As you can see in the graph taken from Truconversion below.
In fact, emails generate 40$ for every 1$ spent, which is a 4000% ROI. It’s twice as much as Search Engine Optimization which is the second best on the list.
Another important reason for using emails to reach and engage your community is that pretty much everyone has an email address (5,6 Billion in 2019). In contrast to social media for example, we all know some people who don’t use facebook, twitter or any other platform.
Now, if you’ve followed my previous steps and actions, you should already have a huge list of segmented emails and a great (valuable, of course) content. The next step is to distribute this content.
There are many tools for email marketing. I personally advise you to use MailChimp. Using it will help you get past spam filters. And as for cost, MailChimp gives you the opportunity to contact up to 2000 subscribers and send 12000 emails per month with its free version. This can help you grow your community and run your email marketing strategy for no cost.
Some other good feature of MailChimp is the automation, which will help you send email automatically to your community. You just need to set the parameters and let it do the rest. You can for example send welcome emails, birthday wishes or newsletters twice a month to let your community know how your project is moving forward.
Another good feature is the beautiful MailChimp templates, also provided with the free version. Using them will help you save time, effort and money on code and design.
Something that I thought about is to send the llamas newsletter each Sunday. This newsletter would be a good opportunity to update my community about the llamas village, the crazy stories of the llamas and the project’s progression.
9. Focus on quality, not quantity
It sounds like another cool sentence to write in an article I know, but if you want to keep your community’s engagement, you’ll have to share updates on your project advancement and content that interests them. The important thing is: these touch points don’t need to be shared everyday but when it’s done, it needs to make people excited to hear more about the project and its launch.
Harassing your community with emails, ads or notifications everyday can be really annoying. It will also dilute the quality of your content and lower its relevance.
One piece of advice, is to set specific touch points with your community. For example, you can set a newsletter each week to update them about your project’s progress or set a Facebook live each Sunday to answer all of your community’s question or debate about the project.
This will give them something to wait for every week and thus excites them to know more and more about the next meetup and the launch. I mean you’re also waiting for the latest episode of Game of Thrones, that is coming out this week, aren’t you?
10. Help other creators to build their community.
Have you ever heard of the adage?
The more you give, the more you receive!
Well, this is one of the things I believe in the most. Through my experience in the different communities I am engaged in, the more I gave without waiting for anything in return, the more I received some invaluable experiences and lessons.
So now that you have built a small community (at least), you can start to help other creators that are going through the same process as you did, to gain more exposure.
You can for example, share with them tips to get things started, or introduce them to your community so that they (and their project) gain exposure. This is a great way to build trust and to shape strong links within your community, and the more you give when people need it, the more they’ll give back when you’ll need help.
Now that I’ve shared with you this piece of advice, I believe you’ve got an interesting method to build a huge community before launching a successful kickstarter campaign. I would love to know what are your thoughts about it and what would you do for growing and engaging your crowd!