For this episode of Art of the Kickstart, we spoke with crowdfunding advisor and host of the Crowdfunding Uncut podcast, Khierstyn Ross! Tune in to hear from her about how she got involved in crowdfunding, why she thinks it’s a great option for many hoping to launch a new business and how to launch a successful campaign.

Key Crowdfunding Takeaways

  • How to learn from a failed crowdfunding campaign and go on to a successful one
  • The benefits crowdfunding offers to creators
  • What makes a product a good fit for crowdfunding
  • How to choose whether to launch on Kickstarter or Indiegogo
  • Why it’s important to have an audience before launching a crowdfunding campaign
  • How to increase customer interaction using Facebook groups
  • How to market your crowdfunding campaign on a smaller budget
  • How to use Kickstarter’s algorithm to get more views for your campaign

Links

Connect with Khierstyn

Sponsors

FIN 2000X2000Art 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 buyer’s guide for cool luxury gadgets and creative gifts. Click here to learn more and list your product – use coupon code ATOKK16 for 25% off!

backerkitArt of the Kickstart is honored to be sponsored by BackerKit. BackerKit makes software that crowdfunding project creators use to survey backers, organize data, raise additional funds with add-ons and manage orders for fulfillment, saving creators hundreds of hours. To learn more and get started, click here.

Transcript

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Roy Morejon:

This episode of Art of the Kickstart is sponsored by BackerKit. BackerKit makes software that crowdfunding project creators use to survey backers, organize data and manage orders for fulfillment by automating your operations and helping you print and ship faster. Plus, if you want to create and send surveys, offer add-ons, and pledge upgrades or begin accepting pre-orders, BackerKit makes it simple. Over 2,000 projects and four million backers have used Backer Kit, including many of the projects featured on Art of the Kickstart. Ready to try BackerKit? Visit backerkit.com and sign up today.

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 70 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 buyer’s 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 is a very special episode. I am joined by Khierstyn Ross. Khierstyn, thank you so much for joining us on Art of the Kickstart.

Khierstyn Ross:

I am so excited to be here. Thanks for having me.

Roy Morejon:

My pleasure. I know we’ve done podcasts before. A little background information on Khierstyn, she is a crowdfunding advisor and a very good one at that. She is host of Crowdfunding Uncut, another podcast that kicks butt in the crowdfunding industry. You’ve helped raise millions of dollars. You’ve worked with some awesome clients. Tell me a little bit about your background and how you ended up getting into crowdfunding.

Khierstyn Ross:

Yeah. How far back do you want me to go?

Roy Morejon:

As far back as time.

Khierstyn Ross:

Well, November 16th, 1986, the day I was born, I’m kidding. No. People, they find out what I do now and they think, “Wow. That’s a bit of a tangent.” because I’m actually a biochemistry undergrad and in university I got recruited by a franchise to run a student house painting business in Ottawa. Ottawa, Canada. I ended up realizing, after three years of running a franchise, that I was really passionate about business, sales and marketing. Because I was a really successful franchise operator, I actually stepped into becoming a start-up advisor with them. I worked across Canada helping new business owners launch from scratch to doing over five or six figures in a six month period with offline businesses. After traveling the world for a bit, finding myself after reading The 4-Hour Work Week, I knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and I was really good at consulting. I really loved helping start-ups launch businesses, but I didn’t really figure out how I could make that work.

I wasn’t a niche into crowdfunding for a bit, but after two or three years of freelance consulting of helping start-ups just doing anything sales-related, I was living in the UK at the time, and I moved back to Toronto and about a week after I moved back here I went to a [inaudible 00:03:38] event where the founder of the first Indiegogo campaign I was on was in the room and he’s like, “Oh it’s really cool what you do. You seem to understand the digital space a bit and I have this really cool idea for a product that I want to launch here on Kickstarter, but I don’t know anything about Kickstarter.” I was like, “Neither do I, but let’s partner up and figure this out because how hard can it be?” We ended up partnering up on it, spending two months prepping for a launch, making all the classic mistakes and that time we launched we ended up flopping on the first campaign. We had a goal of $50,000 and we only raised $17,000.

To everyone it looked like we failed and we really did, like in crowdfunding terms you can’t do anything with 17,000 considering we needed that capital to go to manufacturing. Left with no other options because angel investors are not keen to give you money when you show that you can’t sell something. We’re like, “Okay. Well, what can we do? We really want to bring this thing to life.” We decided to re-strategize and fix nearly everything. We relaunched that same product two months later on Indiegogo and ended up raising $600,000 with it. When people locally were like, “What did you do? How did you go from 17,000 to 600, like tell me about it.” I got a couple speaking gigs from it. In the audience of one of the gigs was TappLock which was my second campaign. They’re like, “Can you do this for us? We need help with crowdfunding?” I ended up working with another few creators and having really successful campaigns. I’ve done no less than a hundred and fifty thousand to date for campaigns that have ended and it’s been a really awesome last 18 months and here we are.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome background. What do you think are the biggest benefits that crowdfunding offers to creators? Obviously, back in the day they had so many different options to launch product out there, usually just through PR or some weird event. What do you think crowdfunding nowadays offers creators that they didn’t have seven to 10 years ago?

Khierstyn Ross:

I think it gives them a platform for validating their idea and getting real customer feedback. I mean, if done properly you do have to launch and make sure that you have a few initial backers of your own before you can be discoverable on Kickstarter and what not, but once you have the traffic and the audience, it gives you a place to create a business. Not only is it validating your idea, your baby that you’ve been dreaming of for a long time, it allows you capital to bring it to market, but it’s also your go-to market strategy. If you want the freedom to be able to quit your job and run an e-commerce business from anywhere in the world and you have a great product behind you, that’s exactly what crowdfunding lets you do.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. What do you believe makes a product a good fit for crowdfunding? I know this is something that we always toss back and forth, in terms of whether or not something would be good fits for reward-based crowdfunding, even equity-based crowdfunding these days, but on the product side what do you think is that check list that you look for when you’re taking on a client that makes it a good fit for crowdfunding, in general?

Khierstyn Ross:

You ever heard the term the “me too products”? Like something that just looks like a cheap knock-off of something that’s already been done on the market?

Roy Morejon:

Right.

Khierstyn Ross:

Those make terrible products. What you’re looking for is something that is truly innovative or and has never been done before or if you launching something that has been done before, just say you’re trying to do another version of Skully, which is the super deluxe motorcycle helmet, don’t look to [copy 00:07:24] their campaign and do it better, what you’re looking to do is see if you can fill a niche and a need that maybe they didn’t. What are some features that you can focus on to be better and make your product truly different because when you’re pitching this to press, you really have to show why it’s something new and innovative and that they should care about, as well. That’s what I look for, is something truly different and truly unique and it fills a need in the market that people are really hungry for and that they’ll pay for.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. When a potential client comes to you and says, “Khierstyn, we’re thinking about launching a crowdfunding campaign, which platform do we launch on? Kickstarter or Indiegogo?” What do you tell them?

Khierstyn Ross:

Oh, you had to ask this question.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah. You know because we both get it. Right? I think it’s only fair to get additional insight on it.

Khierstyn Ross:

I know. I believe that it depends on so many different things. I’ve run the majority of my campaigns on Indiegogo. I love the level of support that they give you. Kickstarter has the benefit of a huge audience, big platform. That is the Kleenex brand of the industry. When you say, “I’m launching on Kickstarter,” there’s so much credibility there, but in terms of the creators I’ve spoken to in my personal experience, when I was looking to bring JamStack to Kickstarter we elevated it to CEO level because Indiegogo was after us to launch on their platform. We were able to get someone on the phone at Indiegogo. They gave us some tips for launch strategy for optimizing our page. They gave us a few perks to try to get us over there, but when we told Kickstarter that we have this really cool project that could raise a couple hundred thousand dollars, they’re like, “Yeah. You know, we can’t give special attention to different campaigns, but we’re going to make sure our staff knows about you.”

That’s just like the level of human interaction you get. If you’re working with a consultant, like one of us, the platform doesn’t really matter, but if you are not working with a consultant and you have a great product, it would really help to have those connections at Indiegogo. It’s a toss up because I love both platforms. Kickstarter doesn’t have as much analytics and they’re very strict with what you can do on it. Indiegogo is more of a free for all. They’re both good. They both have pros. They both have cons. I don’t have one that I would tell you to absolutely go with or not.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah. Neither do we. Again, we try to remain platform agnostic, if there is such a thing. Each platform obviously has it’s strengths. What would you say is the most important thing that a creator should do before launching their crowdfunding project?

Khierstyn Ross:

You need an audience. By an audience, some people are like, “Great. I’ll go spend a thousand dollars and buy an e-mail list.” I don’t mean that. I mean people who are really excited to have your product in their hands. It’s a very specific, very engaged audience. By audience, e-mail lists, Facebook group, something where you can interact one-on-one with these people and not necessarily Twitter followers.

Roy Morejon:

Indeed. Of all those different marketing tactics and strategies that you’ve applied over the years to doing crowdfunding campaigns, where have you seen the greatest return?

Khierstyn Ross:

I’ve seen the greatest return in something I saw on Nathan Chan’s campaign. He’s the founder of Foundr Magazine. They just raised around 200,000 for a coffee table book for entrepreneurs. I did help them with their campaign, but one thing that they did was this Facebook insider strategy. Picture a Facebook group, which everyone’s harping about how amazing Facebook groups are, but it’s just the way that they did it, created a very engaged audience. They built an e-mail list and used their current audience to get people really excited about it, but instead of just keeping the conversation over e-mail, they invited people to apply to become an ambassador on their insider’s group.

Instead of just saying, “Hey. You’ve been selected to come to this Facebook group,” which people may not engage with, he actually framed the conversation to be around, “Hey. We’re looking for brand ambassadors. Help us promote the campaign. In exchange for that you get exclusive perks that nobody else is going to get unless if you’re in this Facebook group, so apply now go through the application process and should you be chosen, you can win all this free stuff in exchange to help us get funded and get promoted.” I saw the interaction level with that group and what they were able to raise from that. We applied that to JamStack, another campaign that I’m on right now, actually we’re both on that, and we raised from that, we had a group of about 500 insiders and we raised 50% of our goal in four hours, specifically from that group.

That is the one strategy if you really want to take your e-mail list to the next level and your customer interaction with the Foundr, that has been the best strategy I’ve seen work so far.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. You know, put the people to work. Right? Feel like their incentivized and have a voice. It always helps when you’re building the crowd to at least listen to what they’re saying.

Khierstyn Ross:

Yeah and they really love to be able to interact with the founder as well.

Roy Morejon:

That is always a nice perk as well. You and I both, we talk to a lot of crowdfunders, many of whom have limited budgets. What would you say is the best investment if they don’t have much money to spend on their crowdfunding marketing needs?

Khierstyn Ross:

What are we talking, like a budget of a thousand dollars, maybe?

Roy Morejon:

Sure.

Khierstyn Ross:

Okay. Let’s say a thousand bucks. Don’t spend it all on your video. You want to spend it in a way that’s going to help you understand your audience or build your audience. Personally, I would recommend you either spend that, a quarter of that on minimal Facebook testing to make sure that you have the right audiences that you’re targeting for your project or spending that money on, part of that money not all of it, a SurveyMonkey where you can ask random people in your demographic what their perception is on the product and their experience in the industry. What you want to understand is really how someone is going to perceive your solution in their market. I feel that you should spend some of that money really getting to know your customer more because from that you can tap into your network on LinkedIn, your friends and family. You can do that organically without having to have a big reach on it. If you understand your audience, I think that’s going to really help you selectively target where you need to go and then you can do the rest on a budget.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. Where is that you think most unsuccessful crowdfunders go wrong?

Khierstyn Ross:

They launch and they’re like, “Wow. Kickstarter has this huge audience and great I’m just going to throw out my great idea. I’ve never spoken to a single person about this. I just think I  believe in it so much.” They put up their campaign without doing any research and just assuming that Kickstarter, because they have thousands of people perusing the site every day, that they’re just going to get funded. Doesn’t work.

You have to realize that Kickstarter has a popularity algorithm which says that because they make 5% of every dollar raised on the platform, they’re going to give attention to the campaigns that are making the money. What makes you think that just because you launch your campaign with no audience that, they’re just going to give you a bunch of their audience? You have to earn that. That’s where, the one thing you need to do is you need to build your own audience and have a group of backers really keen to buy as soon as you go live. Then that is going to trip the algorithm in terms of showing Kickstarter like, “Hey, this is a cool and new product,” and that’s how you’re going to get your rankings on Kickstarter and really start to see the momentum on your campaign. It’s having that audience.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. It’s impressive, truly, the amount of shoppers, if you will, that just go to Kickstarter looking for new product and just being in that top 20 really can move the needle for the campaign of just showing up and being a popular project.

Khierstyn Ross:

Yeah. Exactly. It’s hard not to back because now that I’m in the space, I’m on it all day, just like, “Wow. Look at this cool new ladle that sits vertically on top of your soup.” I mean, just things you don’t see anywhere else. It’s just an amazing experience being on Kickstarter.

Roy Morejon:

Or like a cool origami measuring spoon.

Khierstyn Ross:

Right. How can you not want to buy that?

Roy Morejon:

Exactly. Exactly. You’ve been in the industry a few years now. How have you seen crowdfunding change over those few years?

Khierstyn Ross:

I haven’t been in it since 2012, but I’ve seen it become very, very competitive. Where before creators could just launch a campaign around their idea, now you really need to have proof that you have a prototype and you need to be further along in the development stages because not only are backers getting smarter, but crowdfunding is getting a really bad reputation for campaigns that just don’t deliver or they deliver really late. The barrier to entry’s a lot higher with what can make a successful campaign. I just feel that, where anyone could raise money before, now people are getting really smart with the campaigns that they’re backing and what I’m seeing is that you do need to be further along in the process to be successful.

Roy Morejon:

Absolutely. What’s the most rewarding aspect of what you do?

Khierstyn Ross:

I love helping creators take this amazing idea that they have and show them how they can make it a business. It’s not just a product launch. It’s not three months out of your life. This is a chance for you to change your life and get out of whatever rut you’re in or just bring this great idea to market. I love being a part of that and to see how excited backers are about the new product. I love it.

Roy Morejon:

Yeah. I’m with you there. What would be your biggest piece of advice for someone planning to launch their own crowdfunding campaign in 2017?

Khierstyn Ross:

Know that you need to put money into a campaign. You should not launch if you don’t have at least, I say a minimum 5k in the bank to spend on this. If you have something great, you don’t want to be limited with no advertising budget to really push it to that next level. It’s having realistic expectations and know exactly what crowdfunding is. I’d recommend reaching out to a past project creator, who’s been successful just to really see what the process is like. It’s not easy. Do your research and build an audience. Just make sure you have something that people really want. I don’t want to see you remortgage your house on a hunch.

Roy Morejon:

Neither do I. Neither does the bank or your significant other. Awesome. This gets us into our launch round, where I’m going to rapid fire a few questions at you. You good to go, Khierstyn?

Khierstyn Ross:

I am.

Roy Morejon:

Firing away. What inspired you to be a crowdfunding entrepreneur?

Khierstyn Ross:

A failure and then a major success and to see how you can create a business from this.

Roy Morejon:

If you can meet with any entrepreneur throughout history, who would it be?

Khierstyn Ross:

Tim Ferriss, again.

Roy Morejon:

Haven’t you already met Tim?

Khierstyn Ross:

I got five minutes with the guy, but I’d like more time.

Roy Morejon:

All right, say you have a half hour with Tim, what would be your first question for him?

Khierstyn Ross:

My first question would be, “What is one thing you wish you did differently,” and I guess, “One piece of advice you would give to your 20-year-old self.”

Roy Morejon:

Solid questions. What book’s on your nightstand or what book would you recommend to our listeners?

Khierstyn Ross:

I would recommend the 4-Hour Work Week. I would recommend E-Myth and I would recommend, I just read The Big Leap, which is all about mindset. That one’s pretty great, too.

Roy Morejon:

You’re not going to mention Tim’s newest book? The Tools of Titans.

Khierstyn Ross:

I haven’t read it yet. It’s at my dads.

Roy Morejon:

It’s huge. Have you seen it?

Khierstyn Ross:

I’m ready to go get it. No, but it’s like a brick. I saw it on Amazon.

Roy Morejon:

It is massive.

Khierstyn Ross:

I’m going to get that next week.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome. What’s your favorite crowdfunding project? Not including ones that you’ve worked on.

Khierstyn Ross:

Man. I wish I could say Squatty Potty, but that’s not crowdfunding. I would say Purple Pillow.

Roy Morejon:

That was a fun one. We had a fun interview with them a few weeks back. Where do you see yourself in five years?

Khierstyn Ross:

I see myself as a Marie Forleo advising awesome start-ups.

Roy Morejon:

What does the future of crowdfunding look like?

Khierstyn Ross:

I think we are going to go through a transition where, I think there might be a time where backers are not keen to back a lot of projects, but then it will filter out a lot of the bad stuff that’s on crowdfunding and then the quality will eventually level out and increase with what you’re going to see online.

Roy Morejon:

Awesome. Last question in the launch round. What is the big thing you want to accomplish?
Khierstyn Ross:

Big thing I want to accomplish is I want to help creators raise 25 million dollars online.

Roy Morejon:

Boom. Khierstyn Ross you have been amazing. Please give our audience your pitch. Tell us what you’re all about, where people should go, and why they should check you out online.

Khierstyn Ross:

Yeah. Well, guys, if you are planning a crowdfunding campaign, I have created a physical product launch checklist at crowdfundinguncut.com. You could pick that up, it’s a full launch plan that outlines what you should be doing six months before launch. It’s the plan that I’ve put together after having many successful crowdfunding campaigns, so crowdfundinguncut.com and just another crowdfunding podcast you can check out there as well.

Roy Morejon:

Khierstyn Ross you’ve been awesome. Everyone thank you, again, for tuning in. I hope you enjoyed this episode as much as I did. Make sure to visit artkick.wpengine.com for all of the show notes, a full transcript, and links to everything we talked about today, plus coupon codes for The Gadget Flow and a link to BackerKit. Khierstyn, thank you so much for joining us on Art of the Kickstart.

Khierstyn Ross:

Yeah. Thanks for having me.

Roy Morejon:

Thanks for tuning into 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 in our Kickstarter guide to crushing it. If you loved 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.