Too many inventors and entrepreneurs view crowdfunding as an end game. And honest it makes sense. You’ve spent months, if not years building, designing and testing this product, you’re probably pretty pooped at this point. But come on really?
All that effort, innovation…those god damn blood, sweat and tears it took to make invention, your campaign happen. Now is not the quit.
Whether you raised $10k or $10 million, every Kickstarter has an afterlife. Let’s make yours heavenly 🙂 PUN INTENDED!
Life After Kickstarter
Are you an inventor or an entrepreneur? This unexpected yet critical distinction will dictate your future. Not sure? Check out this post to see which prolific powerhouse you fall under. Still confused, asked people who know you best if your starter or a finisher.
But really the answer’s as simple is do you want to build this business or not? If the answer is HELL YES then let’s get to work.
Can’t quite pull the trigger? Talk it over with friends, family, and loved ones. Worse case scenario you sell out, find a promising partner or try to license the technology.
Startup Strategies After Funding
If you’re tuned to the Art of the Kickstart, odds are you’re a product creator, an inventor, a designer…someone creating something real, physical and freaking amazing for the world to experience. If you are and your crowdfunding campaign was a success then you are in luck(of your own making), your options are pretty enormous going forward.
From ecommerce to going retail, licensing your inventions to even potential partnerships or acquisitions the options are out there. Having proven that product-market fit, you’ve validated your business for all to see. Anyone from banks to sharks in Shark Tanks will be clamoring to make money on your behalf and help move your startup forward.
You can and should leverage this excitement and anticipation as often as possible. Never again will media outlets, distributors and individuals everywhere be as interested and involved with your company as they are now so Carpe Diem.
It’s not cut and dry but after a successful Kickstarter I’d say every startup should start their own ecommerce store. Seriously, what do you have to lose?
And building an online store’s actually easier than you think. Getting sales thought, that’s another story.
The advantages of ecommerce:
- Low startup costs
- No Net30 pricing
- No brick and mortar BS
- Higher margins
- You look like a real company
- Post-Kickstarter preorders!
- Scalable and saleable
That said ecommerce isn’t everything. Retail shops still control an incredible portion of the commerce pie and make and break massive brands and businesses everyday.
Starting an Online Store
But let’s assume you’ve got your heart set on an online business. Whether your margins make retail impossible or it’s not up your alley at the moment it’s time to get your ecommerce engine running.
If you’re yet to launch or even in campaign mode it’s time to start considering your site now. While waiting until you’ve finished and fulfilled your campaign makes inherent sense, it’s all wrong.
Think about crowdfunding. It’s the initial build up that blasts your momentum on launch day and keeps your campaign rocketing down the tracks. Wait for the PR push til you’ve launched and you’re already too late.
The same applies in a lesser degree to dominating your ecommerce store. Why wait?
The Post-Kickstarter Push
Crowdfunding campaigns are like soup kitchens: without lines of people to serve they’re useless and if they open late hungry folks miss a meal. You want your business to serve as many customers, backers and consumers as possible!
The line to your kitchen isn’t gonna end when that bell rings. People keep finding you, finding your campaign and wanting to get your product. You need a site to send them to, somewhere to take pre-orders.
But what if you’re running behind? Got too much to do?
Think about it this way: your cash strapped startup is not only turning away business, you’re also failing your potential backer. This individual, this potential early adopter and ambassador of your product just got the door slammed in their face. Keep that kitchen open.
Step 0) Domain Names
Please tell me you have a domain name already. If you’ve went through an entire crowdfunding campaign without one I’m a bit in awe but now is the time to get serious. If instead you are planning and preparing for your business then I salute you. You’re looking into the ins-and-outs of true business success in advance and you should be set come game time.
So what should you look for in a domain name, a business name? First and foremost it has to be easy: both short and simple to spell. This is the brand around which you’re building your business, your empire of incredible products. It’s the name people will remember and refer to you by and plays a pretty critical role in success.
But don’t delay either. Wasting weeks on a domain name is dumb but it’s something we’ve all done. Crowdfunding’s all about being lean. Lean with your time, lean with your money and rapidly progressing. People understand if you change your name, it’s not the end of the world. Find something catchy and roll with it.
Step 1. Ecommerce Options
There’s a ton of options when it comes to creating your own online store. Where five or ten years ago custom sites cost tens of thousands of dollars to develop and manage and a Master’s degree to understand, they are oh so easy now. That’s good, the only issue is decision fatigue. Which one is best?
Well are you a developer, a web savvy creator and interested in hosting your own store or looking more for an all-in-one option? As entrepreneurs this ought to be a pretty easy analysis but it’s not. People, especially the innovative crowdfunders out there creating businesses are almost always DIYers.
My advice: unless you’ve done this before, leave the open cart options to the pros. Stick with Shopify, easily the best ecommerce platform for product and brand creators. Note: That’s an affiliate link and if you don’t want to use it it’s fine with me. Shopify honestly is the best, easiest ecommerce company out there. Trust me I built my old stores on BigCommerce back in the day and regretted it forever.
Step 2. Fulfillment
Most ecommerce companies coming right from Kickstarter aren’t ready to own their own warehouse. You’re in that puberty-esque stage businesses go through as they pass infancy but haven’t fully matured.
After the hassles of fulfillment and shipping out all of those rewards most founders have to find a way to outsource this. It’s impossibly time consuming and throttles the business from booming as it should.
Instead I’d recommend ecomm entrepreneurs out there to consider fulfillment companies to make it happen. Companies like Shipwire, Amazon FBA or even eFulfillment Service are designed to help you grow and scale from Kickstarter and beyond.
Step 3. Customers!
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is your business. You’ve seen serious success via crowdfunding, built up an awesome backer base and funded a critical first manufacturing run…now it’s time to get serious.
The possibilities are virtually endless when it comes to driving traffic, customers and conversions to your store. From paid advertising, content marketing and even social media shares there are tons of ways to go about building out the business. Unfortunately there’s no one size fits all solution to scaling and acquiring customers.
Unlike Kickstarter where a big enough BOOM on launch day can drive sales, stats and success your ecommerce store is an island. You’ve got to find ways to bring audiences there or risk deserted desert island disaster.
Try out all the channels, see what works for your startup. Different niches respond differently so research competitors, find where they’re advertising, actively engaging and join the party.
Step 4. Email Marketing
Repeat customers rock. Having backers is excellent but increasing the lifetime value and creating a backer for life is significantly sexier in the long run. Past customers are almost always more receptive to sales and easier to sell to.
So be sure to treat your backers right. Give them consistent updates not only during the campaign but following funding of your project. Stay in contact with email newsletters, updates about sales and even startup stories so these early adopters can feel like a part of the action.
But don’t stop with the audiences you already have. One great way to grow a mailing list, arguably the lifeblood of any business, is to use a lead magnet: something incredible that delivers value to your visitors. Throw up a HelloBar, the little bar you see at the top of the page and put an offer out there. Whether it’s free shipping, special sales or a custom style guide you’re engaging with potential customers and pulling them deeper into the funnel.
Once they opt in you can use most any email marketing software to keep the conversation going. The two big ones I’d recommend are MailChimp and AWeber but either way it works. That way your startup stays in the minds, hearts and hopefully wallets of your customer base….just don’t sell to often and you’re set.
Building a business around ecommerce is getting easier and easier. After crushing your crowdfunding campaign it’s not too tough to keep the company going. Sure going and growing aren’t the same but by continuing to take orders you’re allowing the brand and business to progress.
And who knows….maybe later on it’s time for a follow up Kickstarter, a push for retail or even licensing but at the moment ecommerce is an option any inventor can manage.
What do you think? What are the next steps for you in your business? Anyone with interesting or insightful experiences in the area, we’d love to hear your feedback, thoughts and suggestions for startups in a similar situation.
What’s the best strategy post-crowdfunding to create a sustainable and successful business? Look forward to the comments!