8 tips on how to kick ass on Kickstarter — a personal story

Imaged sourced fro kickstarter.com

Imaged sourced fro kickstarter.com

I've got another life experience t-shirt. This t-shirt has 'BOOM! Kicked ass on Kickstarter!' written all over it. It was a great way to end 2013 and the story goes something like this.

I have a crush on Zambia. I am a co-founder of the Best of Zambia. I've followed a bright spark called Ngosa Chungu on Twitter for a while. Based on nothing other than her Twitter stream I decided I liked her a while ago. Members of my team meet Ngosa in the flesh at a Startup Junction event in Lusaka. We discover we have the same vision for quality online content on Zambia. We want to make videos but we don't have the money to do it. We scratch heads. Some crazy person (not me) has the idea of crowd funding, probably because we recently were inspired by, and supported the Fest Gurus crowd funding campaign (they too were successful :-). Before I know what the heck I am doing I am the face of the #ZedVideoProject campaign. The 20 days I spent refreshing our Kickstarter page and incessantly checking my email for new backer alerts began on 11th of November 2013. This weird mix of euphoria when there was a backer to depression when nothing happened for 24 hours was a living hell. My hell ended well on 1st December 2013.

A more detailed account of this story is given by Ngosa in her blog, #ZedVideoProject: Kwachas and Ngwees Add Up to Thousands of Pounds. It's well worth a read.

The journey to achieving our funding goal was rife with lessons. I like to share lessons I learn. I like to think that maybe some soul out there will be searching for answers and my experience may light up their path.

1. Stick your neck out

For reasons I should account for in another blog, my Dad's family actually has the motto, 'Don't stick your neck out'! That wasn't a great start for a Kickstarter campaign. Being successful on Kickstarter requires you to have a strong opinion, to be brave enough to put your idea out there and to make a big noise about it. Yes you've got to shout about something that may fail knowing that this very public failure will be really embarrassing! Do it anyway. 

2. Plan, plan and plan some more

We had little time for planning. The campaign team was made up of Joseph and Julia Brown who work crazy hours running the Best of Zambia, Sara Drawwater and Luke Brown who work crazy hours developing and marketing the Best of Zambia and running Something Beckons; Ngosa Chungu who works crazy hours running Purple Tembo and a myriad of other projects; Nambeye Katebe an awesome team member of the Best of Zambia who deserves a medal for working for this crazy team; and lots of other volunteers who had to fit this freebie in on top of their crazy hour commitments - wonderful people like Chosa Mweemba, Jacqueline Hunter, Adam McGuigan and members of the Barefeet Theatre troop; people at Bongo Hive; people at Asikana Network...

This project had to fit in with a crazy hour lifestyle which meant we were sometimes more reactive than we should have been. But I believe because we were flexible enough to adapt (see below), we succeeded. So, whatever your excuse, make time to plan. Plan your pitch, plan your timing, plan the approach with the people that can help you achieve your goal, plan the favors you can call in, plan your social media campaign, plan your PR campaign, plan your Kickstarter rewards... Get it? Literally plan each day of your campaign, from all the pre-work, to launch, to the countdown to the deadline. Have plan A, B and C in place, answering all the possible, 'What if' questions you can think of. 

However, do not let this level of planning stop you from taking action. Maybe it was actually better that we threw ourselves into our Kickstarter campaign, a bit like riding bare back in the rockies. (I have no experience whatsoever of horses or the rocky mountains. I just think it illustrates my point well).

3. Have a clear campaign strategy

We didn't have a clear campaign strategy from day one. Maybe Ngosa did in her head, but I didn't! No chosen Twitter hashtag (until later), no clear campaign concept (until later), no idea of what radio stations, TV stations, websites, leaflets or anything we were going to use (until later). So #ZedVideoProject was born a few days in. #100ProudZambians was born even later. Fliers were handed out somewhere in the middle, around about the time radio and TV hosts were approached. And two major business sponsors was an idea in the 12th hour. I'm not saying any of these campaign ideas were misplaced. If we had had a clear campaign strategy, maybe it would have contained all these ideas. Maybe having this strategy would have limited us and stopped us from thinking on our feet. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe... I do think it is well worth you carefully considering how you will promote your Kickstarter campaign.

4. Consider your timing carefully

We'd originally planned for a 15 day Kickstarter fund raising window. Thank goodness we changed that to 20 days before we clicked 'publish'. And 30 days would have been less stressful! We may even have raised more to go towards other videos we are planning. I learnt that it takes time to get the word out and build up momentum. There are lulls in the campaign storm where nothing you do results in anything! 

Consider when you start and end your campaign. Our campaign ended on a Sunday. Not good in Zambia where there is a significant drop in online traffic at the weekend. Consider when you make announcements, ask for action and when key coverage goes out. 

5. Be flexible and adapt fast

No matter how little or how much planning you do, remain fluid. There are elements of impulsiveness and absolute refusal of failure in our story that made us think and adapt fast. This will serve you well in your campaign.

6. Stay positive no matter what

In point 4 I said, 'There are lulls in the campaign storm where nothing you do results in anything!' In those moments you need to keep the faith. Without faith you can't think clearly and you can't make the changes you need to make. A big tip is to work as part of a team. Each of us on the team had bad days, thankfully on different days. This allowed stronger members of the team to step up on the days a team member felt the inevitable fear, doubt, numbness, hopelessness and fatigue you are bound to feel at some point. But pick yourself up and give yourself the talking to you need to get up and carry on!

7.  Do not be afraid to ask

I have come to understand the meaning of 'ask and you shall receive' in a different light. We asked for money. We asked for coverage. We asked for air time. We asked for the power of social sharing. We asked friends. We asked family. We asked social media channel followers, fans and circlers. We asked strangers. 

Don't be mislead. More people said no (or just ignored us) than said yes. But enough people said yes. Asking got our story shared and funded. Thank you to DJ Luchi at Radio Phoenix, Twaambo at Zambia Blog Talk Radio who helped get our story out there. If there were others during the blur of that 20 days, I thank you also. 

8.  Value your relationships

31 backers pledged their way to the successful funding of this project. I noticed the power of my network and how it related to financial backers. Not only did they back the project, they shared it with their networks too. I'm sure other members of our team will be able to do the same but I could trace 10 backers to people I knew or had connected with in some way in the past. Richard Bishop — a gentleman I know from business networking around Cambridgeshire. Benny Blow — a contributor and friend to us at the Best of Zambia. Liam Drawwater — my husband. My parents in-law Trevor Drawwater and Shirley Drawwater. Joan Coppen — my grandmother. Marvin Brown — my cousin. In'utu Mubanga — a young lady I have gotten to know through collaborating and volunteering on the #TopZedBrands project. Mary Earnshaw — a fan of Zambia and someone I've engaged with on Twitter before. Marisa Findlay — a fellow Zambian, Twitter friend, photographer I admire and client via the Autoworld Zambia project. And then there were people who backed us with cash on the ground in Zambia. They were also a key part of our success story. 

It is a really humbling experience to receive like this. I learnt that what goes around comes around. If you want to receive anything like help, support and even financial support, then take the time to give what you can. It feels good to treat people with respect and kindness, to give them time and true value. But it can also pay very literal dividends in the long run.

Closing thoughts

I am very grateful of this experience, for the success and for the people I have worked with on it. May our mission to raise Zambia's profile and tell it's true story be one that brings great value to the country and its people. Here's to many more lessons!