Bob James and the team at Trinity Air worked hard to bring their customers the perfect set of wireless earbuds. Tune in to this episode of Art of the Kickstart to learn more about what to do after a failed Kickstarter campaign, what kinds of difficulties to expect when developing a new tech product and why communication with backers is so important.

World’s First Tuneable Wireless Earbuds

Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • How to learn from a failed Kickstarter campaign
  • What kinds of hardware difficulties to expect when creating an audio product
  • How to build up your audience before a Kickstarter campaign
  • Why open communication with Kickstarter backers is important
  • Why marketing is an important part of any crowdfunding project

Links

Connect with Trinity

Sponsors

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Transcript

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Roy:

Welcome to Art of the Kickstart. Your source for crowdfunding campaign success. I’m your host Roy Morejon, president of Command Partners, the top full service crowdfunding marketing agency in the world. We have helped raise over seventy million dollars for our clients since 2010. Each week I’ll interview a crowdfunding success story, an inspirational entrepreneur or a business expert in order to help take your start up to the next level with crowdfunding. Art of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by The Gadget Flow, a product discovery platform that helps you discover, save,and buy awesome products. The Gadget Flow is the ultimate buyers’ guide for cool luxury gadgets and creative gifts. To learn more, visit thegadgetflow.com. Now let’s get on with the show.

Welcome to another edition of Art of the Kickstart. Today I’m joined by Bob James with Trinity Audio Engineering. Bob, thank you so much for joining us.

Bob:

Pleasure to be here.

Roy:

Bob, you’re the head of design and development at Trinity Audio. Where does this all start in terms of the back story for Trinity Audio?

Bob:

Well, I mean Trinity Audio was born out of frustration. I was originally working for another company that was doing reasonably well for itself, but I didn’t particularly like their direction or should I say perhaps, lack of enthusiasm for taking things further. They were very safe and steady. I thought we could do a lot more, but the way that it worked out that it couldn’t work within that company. We branched off on our own. We’re still good buddies with the other company, but we branched off on our own and decided we wanted to make something that was affordable but high-end. Which usually those two words just don’t go together. We spent around eight months prototyping different products. We used a lot of community feedback within the headphone community. Asking people for their input. What would they change? What would they like? Did they like the sound, the materials, everything. Once we were ready we launched our first kickstarter a couple of years back. We were blown away because we didn’t market what we were doing. We had a reasonable target of forty thousand Pounds to hit and we blew past at a hundred and seven. Which absolutely floored us. Clearly there was a market there, but that’s where we started …

Roy:

Impressive.

Bob:

… from. Out of frustration.

Roy:

That’s always a good place to start, right? Is fix the pain point. Obviously, you mentioned you’ve run a few campaigns before. I guess tell me a little bit more about those campaigns and how we’ve gotten to here now.

Bob:

Okay, well the first campaign, as I’ve just said, it blew us away. We weren’t expecting to go over our target by sixty-seven thousand Pounds. There’s so many campaigns and Kickstarter that have one horrendous amounts more, but for us, in the early stages, that was huge for us. Unfortunately, well I want to say unfortunately, I’ll get to that bit in a moment.

When we did the first campaign we actually had quite a few people say, “I’d like to have an earphone that was high-end, but at the same time was good for sports, for the gym, for running.” Whatever they wanted to do. With those Kickstarter backers from the first campaign we came up with a new model called the Atlas. Which was designed with different length cables so if you were running and you wanted to wear your phone on your armband you had a short cable rather than a big long one that you had to wrap up. We made it a hybrid model with two drivers in each ear piece. That was all born, purely, from what kickstarter backers wanted on the first campaign. We ran that. We did another campaign. Again, it was a lowish target that we were looking for and we went past that. Not by the same margin. No where near. We went about eighteen thousand Pounds over, but it was a great little product. Not without it’s issues as we soon found out later on some connectors, will kind of like, made some wrong choices, but we built something that the customer wanted.

That kind of made us a little bit cocky. We decided to do another campaign for a set of full size headphones. Something that’s still in the background now, but we thought we’re going to go in, we’re going to launch this. We know people want it and we fell on our butts. We can see the project wasn’t going to fund, so we canceled. We relaunched. We tweaked the pricing. Went again, did a little better, but we still knew that if we left it til the end it wasn’t going to work, so we canceled. We walked away from doing anymore campaigns thinking we thought we could do this. This was easy because we’d had two successful campaigns in front, and it’s not. We put that project to bed, which has actually been brought back to life again now and we’re working away in the background, and we concentrated on building the core products. Tweaking some. Removing some. What sells well and it brings up towards our latest campaign.

Roy:

Absolutely. You’re one of those companies that I love working with. Basically, you engage the community, you get their feedback, and you try to produce as close of a product as they’re asking for. What are some of the features that you decided were most important to include in the newest product line?

Bob:

Well the one thing that became immediately apparent is that there’s been a big cry out for purely wireless, truly wireless earbuds. There’s been big demand for it. There’s been quite a slew of campaigns on Kickstarter that have done exceptionally well financially. We’ve sat back for some time watching what these guys are doing. For, probably, since we first started Trinity. We’ve been watching what they’ve been doing. We’ve been watching rather than actively doing anything for a while because the technology wasn’t there to give what we wanted. The thing that the public had been telling us that they want is they don’t necessarily want heart monitors and this and that and the other. They want something that sounds good.

Unfortunately a lot of these guys doing campaigns, they’re exceptionally clever at what they do, which is a technology aspect, but they’re not audio guys. They try and do things the best as possible by using the smallest components for the speakers without really any understanding what’s going to happen as to the sound. We sat back and we watched and we went back to our little … We’ve got a select little group that we work with, which is within the community and they’re pretty hard on us. They don’t pull any punches when it comes to giving feedback. The resounding answer was is I want a wireless earbud that plays audio like some of our other range. It’s just got to sound good. It’s got to have a reasonable battery life, which you can’t have a gigantic battery life in something so tiny no matter what anybody claims, but you have a reasonable battery life. Something you can recharge on the go and it’s just got to sound great. That simple.

Roy:

Well you say it’s that simple with certainly, obviously there’s a lot of engineering that goes into that. Then obviously, you mentioned, you’re getting some of the feedback from people outside of potential backers from the campaign, but how has it gone about in terms of engaging your community that you’ve built on Kickstarter and the local community, in terms of getting that feedback.

Bob:

Well with the new project, with the Phantom Air, it’s been a little bit of a different approach because of the experience that we’ve gained over the years. Making it sound great was actually the easy bit because we literally had to take what we have in another product and transport it over to the Phantom Air. The problem is, is actually, the technology side of things. The PCP boards, which Bluetooth chips to use. How you’re going to manage your battery life and all of that while trying to make something as small as possible because the smaller it is the lighter it is and also the more aesthetically pleasing it is to look at. Rather than some of these great big gigantic things that stick out your ear. You want something that looks … Something that’s aesthetically pleasing.

Most of what we did with this, we didn’t need to take community feedback as far as the sound is concerned, we just needed to take feedback as to what kind of battery life would acceptable. How many times do you need it to be out of charge while you’re out. There’s always compromises. We didn’t go with the worlds smallest Bluetooth system because we’d get a really bad battery life. We didn’t go with the world’s smallest charger because you can only charge it once or twice, which is kind of pointless. You want to be able to take these things out for a day or two and then charge it up when you’re finished.

It’s been quite a hard time to get everything to work right as far as getting the technology right, getting the signal … The signal’s the biggest thing. Is with Bluetooth, we’ve probably all experienced, you’ll be using the Bluetooth device and all of a sudden the signal drops and what you’re listening to, if you’re on a conversation, vanishes or if it’s music, it drops off and then it comes back. That’s been the biggest challenge is to get the thing to stay connected as well as it can. Because Bluetooth is fundamentally flawed in lots of ways. We haven’t tried to reinvent the wheel, like a lot of other people have been trying to do.  We’ve tried to build on tried, proven and tested technology and just make it better.

Roy:

That’s always good when you’re making things better. That’s what people expect, right?

Bob:

That’s true.

Roy:

You’re talking about improving product, improving technology, it always goes into the marketing materials and how you’re presenting the product itself in terms of being newer, better, faster in terms of in the marketplace. Talk about some of things that you and your team have done in terms of preparing this campaign that’s been different than the first or second or fifth campaigns that you guys had done.

Bob:

Well, we took a very different approach this time. With this campaign we decided, some of it deliberately and some of it not, we took quite a slow burn towards this campaign. We let everybody know that was on our database, that was previous customers, previous backers, outside in the community on head-fi dot org and let them know, listen guys we’re working on, at the time we had like three or four projects on the go and the Phantom Air was one of them. We went to everybody and said listen, this is what we’re doing. Come and register your interest with us and we’ll keep you posted. We’ll let you know what’s going on.

We have been sort of slowly but surely within the community drip feeding bits of information. Showing them bits of prototypes. Discussing what we’ve done. How we’ve done it. Why it worked. Why it didn’t work or what we’re going to do to change. That’s proved really effective for us because, again, we’re still getting feedback all the time, but it’s been a great way for some of our other products that even before we’re ready to finish sending out the product we’ve opened our order books up for pre-orders via our website. Some of the stuff that we’ve been working on has gone absolutely crazy. We had a huge amount of interest in some of the products and the Phantom Air gained a lot of registered interest. That’s the way that we approached it. We didn’t do any particular external marketing other than trying to get people to register interest, let us know what they’re looking for, and then just drip feeding them information in the build up to Kickstarter.

Roy:

Yeah, absolutely. No and it’s been definitely a success in the making. What’s been the biggest surprise so far you’ve encountered on this campaign?

Bob:

Well having done the few others, some that worked some that haven’t, the one thing that I was expecting on this campaign was because we’ve been drip feeding this information because we have been collecting the data from the customers that they’d asked us to give … You know, they’d given to us. We was actually expecting, at the beginning of the campaign, to see actually quite a bigger uplift at the beginning than we have. The problem is because we’ve had such a long gestation period because we’re one of those companies that even if it really aggravates people we won’t release a product if it’s not right. We just won’t do it. Even if that means giving a refund. If it means they don’t like us anymore. We still won’t do it.

We’ve had this long gestation period. I mean this product the Phantom Air it should have actually been ready to launch on Kickstarter on March of this year, but we wasn’t happy, so we have set it back and set it back. I think that’s maybe our undoing a little bit, but at the same time the product’s got to be right. We’ve had a great influx of people very quickly. It’s been exciting. A lot of feedback. The one thing that’s actually been surprised us is that because we have that experience behind us, we’re surprised that we weren’t bombarded with the usual thousand and one questions. I think we’re quite fortunate that a lot of people know who we are. That can see who we are. We’re very publicly visible. We don’t behave like a corporate identity. We’re kind of like the guys down the street in the garage. You can go and talk to them. It’s the same thing. It’s been very smooth so far. It hasn’t been as intensive with questions like we would usually expect. Usually you get bombarded with hundreds of questions really fast and it does drain you. It’s not been like that. It’s been quite nice this time.

Roy:

Well that’s good. That’s good. What advice would you give to someone else looking to kickstart their product?

Bob:

Well, the product … The one thing I would say to anybody is if you’re going to launch on Kickstarter, don’t expect miracles because there is you and the other however many thousand other people that are trying to launch project. Make sure you have a USP. You’ve got to stand out from everybody else. Even if it is just one small change that makes you unique and makes whatever it is you’re offering better than the next guy. Be prepared to fail, but if you fail don’t take it as a failure. Every failure is a learning process. Every failure is taking something that you can apply to relaunching a campaign.

Be honest. Be honest with the backers. Don’t ever try and lie or smooth over the truth. If there’s something that’s not quite right or if there’s something that needs improvement, something that needs working on, whatever it is, be honest. Because there’s a lot of backers on Kickstarter that are quite seasoned. They go there regularly for their fix of new technology or whatever it might be and they’ve seen it most of the time. Be honest. Be open. Be prepared to put in every hour that you’re awake during your campaign. Lastly, marketing. You need to have either in house or outsourced, somebody that you trust that knows what they’re doing to get it out to the rest of the world because you can’t do it on your own.

Roy:

Sound advice Bob. This gets us into our launch round where I rapid fire a few questions at you. You good to go?

Bob:

Shoot.

Roy:

Are there any business books or life books that you’d like to recommend to our listeners?

Bob:

Quite honestly no. The best book is the book of life. It’s the one where you get knocked down then you get back up again. The one thing is if you’re going to succeed you have to get your mistakes out of the way. You’re always going to make mistakes no matter how long you been in business. Learn from it. Move on. Apply it to what you’re doing … To the next time you try and do something. The best learning … You can read whatever you like in a book, but with like so many successful people out there, some of it is hard work, some of it’s luck, some of it’s right place right time. For you it’s whatever you learn on your journey.

Roy:

Nice advice. What would you say the companies biggest weakness is?

Bob:

Well I’ve just mentioned it. Marketing. We’re not … We never have had a corporate face. We’ve just been a bunch of guys. Which some people think is actually a marketing ploy. That we’re very available. We’re very open. We’re very honest. We join in with discussions very publicly as well that are completely off topic. We like to enjoy what we’re doing. We do enjoy what we’re doing, but marketing is our Achilles heel. The problem is that marketing is not the same for everybody. Every company’s unique. You can apply certain techniques to the same or different businesses, but yeah … Marketing. We are … Yeah, is our weakest point.

Roy:

Fair enough. Well we’re here to help and that’s what we’re looking forward to working with you guys.

Bob:

That’s why you’re there.

Roy:

Where do you see your company in five years?

Bob:

Well that is a tough one. We’ve kind of reached the point now where we’ve finished our line up. Now we need to push that line up. We need to market it. We’ve been very lucky in that we have some spectacular dealers around the world that have been very supportive of us. We’ve been supportive of them too. We’re doing a lot better than we would ever have dreamed. It’s, sort of in the five years time, it’s about being in more markets. Having the brand better recognized and it’s getting over the barrier that we have in front of us. Is that people generally have the notion in their head that expensive equals the better sound and it just isn’t always the case. With us we are a different company. We approach how we price things very differently. We want to get that message across and get a lot more people educated that great sound and audio doesn’t have to cost the earth but you do have to choose wisely. For us just to be in, you know, on every continent somewhere is what we want to be.

Roy:

Excellent. Where does the future of crowdfunding look like to you?

Bob:

Tough. Very, very tough. I mean we’ve seen a change in the past two years. It’s becoming such a highly competitive place. Companies small and large are turning to crowdfunding to either get some product validation, is there a market demand for what they’re producing, and with those guys, especially the bigger companies, come big budgets. You could have a product that launches on the same month as one of the big guys. You’ve probably going to struggle unless you can get the attention in the media or whatever marketing you’re doing. It’s becoming more cutthroat. I think there has become … There’s definitely a culture of less scrupulous marketers trying to take advantage of Kickstarter project creators. Offering to promote their products to three billion people for just sixty-five bucks. The problem is a lot of people are wasting money. A lot of creators will become disheartened, never come back. It’s all part of the experience. It’s just going to become a lot more cutthroat. As crowdfunding progresses you going to have to be far more savvy. You’re going to have to be a lot more marketing savvy. You’re going to have to have something better than the competition. It’s going to get tougher.

Roy:

Absolutely. Last question in the rapid round. What big thing do you want to accomplish?

Bob:

Whooh. The big thing to accomplish. Wow. That’s a tough one. We have a whole slew of ideas. Some of them on the drawing board. Some of them on the engineering desk. What we would like … We would like to just accomplish everything that we set out to do. One step at a time. We do everything in baby steps. We don’t try and run before we can walk, so there’s no huge thing. It’s we would just like to have everything that we have on the table that, some the public can see and some the public can’t, is we’d like to see them all, you know, the majority work well, be well received, and hopefully get the recognition for what we do. That’s about it really. Just to have people to understand us. What we’re about and what we’re trying to achieve for ourselves and for them as a consumer.

Roy:

No, that’s great Bob. I appreciate it. Please give our audience your pitch. Tell everybody what you’re all about. Where people should go and why they should go buy your product.

Bob:

Well, we’re Trinity Audio so you can check us out on TrinityAudioEngineering.com. We are a British company. We design and engineer everything here in the UK. Everything we do is designed so it’s an acceptable cost but a high-end product on the back end. Everything we do is based on premium materials. We don’t use any plastics in our shells or anything. Everything we use is CNC machined, aluminum or titanium. We’re very unique.

Everything, nearly everything, we sell is customizable. It’s customizable for you. We have different sound signatures with the same products. There are tuning filters, but the thing we would like you to look at the most is our new Phantom Air. Because it is the world’s first and only customizable and tunable in ear monitor that you can … That has no wires at all. Each unit comes with a selection of filters so you can alter the bass frequencies, the high ends, how smooth it is, whether you like something that’s a bass head unit or you want something very neutral. You can tune it to your tastes. You have your own perfect earbud. It’s truly wireless. It will work up to about thirty feet away from your device. We have a very unique dual antenna system so we get around most of the drop out problems that everybody else experiences with their wireless. Everything is still beautifully made. It’s still CNC machined aluminum. It’s very beautiful looking. It’s very, very small as well. It’s the right kind of price if you go and check us out on Kickstarter.

Roy:

Awesome. Bob, thank you so much for joining us. Everyone in the audience, thank you again for tuning in. Make sure to visit artkick.wpengine.com for all of the show notes, the full transcript, and of course, links to everything we talked about including the campaign.

Bob, thank you so much for joining us.

Bob:

It’s been a pleasure. Thank you.

Roy:

Cheers.

Bob:

Thanks.

Roy:

Thanks for tuning in to another episode of Art of the Kickstart the show about building a better business, world, and life with crowdfunding. If you’ve enjoyed today’s episode be sure to visit artkick.wpengine.com and tell us about it. There you’ll find additional information about past episodes and our Kickstarter guide to crushing it. If you love this episode leave us a review at artkick.wpengine.com/iTunes. It helps more inventors and entrepreneurs find the show and helps us get better guests on here to help build your business. If you need a more hands on crowdfunding strategy please feel free to request a quote on commandpartners.com.

Thanks again for tuning in. We’ll see you soon