Becoming a Successful Kickstarter Project Creator: Communicating With Your Audience

Welcome!

Hello, and welcome to my guide on becoming a successful Kickstarter project creator. In this article, I will be discussing the importance of connection literacy, or understanding how to communicate effectively with everyone who you interact with while you are a project creator.

I have catered this guide to recent college grads looking to get into the startup industry.

However, anyone can benefit from reading this article. As long as you’re interested in Kickstarter and how it functions, you’ll find this piece interesting.

What is Kickstarter?

Chances are, if you frequent this website, you’ve heard about the nifty crowdfunding website called Kickstarter where cool projects like the Pebble Watch got their start. In case you haven’t, here’s a quick lowdown:

In a nutshell, Kickstarter is a community built around the idea of projects.

Kickstarter allows people to share their project ideas and make them into reality through crowd funding, or gathering resources from the masses. People are not only funding projects but also the project creator’s dream. All projects must meet a set of guidelines outlined on the Kickstarter website. People show their support for projects by “backing” or “pledging,” or promising to pay a certain amount of money if the project reaches its funding goal. As a thank you, project creators offer varying rewards to backers (depending on the project).

Why should you care?

For people like you – young college grads – Kickstarter provides an accessible outlet to joining the startup world. It’s a heavily publicized alternative to seeking private funding from a few investors, and it allows you to reach a broader audience – the world. With the right background and knowledge, you have a good chance at becoming success story to have Kickstarter roots.

This is where I come in.

I’ve spent the past few months researching Kickstarter projects, backers, and creators. I studied what makes a person an expert technology or design project creator by looking at the elements of a successful Kickstarter project and the different types of literacies, or experiences and knowledge, project creators need in order to find success in those fields.

What makes a successful project creator?

First of all, let’s clear up a common misconception: A successfully funded Kickstarter project alone is not an indication of a successful Kickstarter project creator. Since Kickstarter is a community rather than a store, you must not only be able to get a project successfully funded but also be well liked by your backers and win their loyalty.

Getting backers to buy in in helping you in achieving your dreams and supporting you afterwards is the hallmark of a successful project creator.

Backers aren’t just helping you sell a product so you can profit. Sure, you might find some financial success if you are just looking to sell a product, but your relationship (and therefore your future) with your backers won’t be going anywhere.

Some very successful project creators are Natalie and Allen, the creators of two Jiva Coffee Cube projects. They’ve gained a following of backers who not only love their products but also are happy with the way the creators handle issues and are willing to defend the project creators.

I’ve previously concluded that successful Kickstarter project creators have the three following literacies: marketing literacy, visual presentation literacy, and connections literacy. In this article, I will be focusing on connection literacy.

What is Literacy?

Don’t think of literacy as just being able to read and write a language. Instead, in the context of communities such as Kickstarter, think of literacy as having the necessary skills, being able to perform the correct actions, and possessing the proper knowledge to build relationships with members of the community.

What is Connection Literacy?

You’ve heard me talk about connection literacy for the past page, so you probably want to know what it is.

Connections literacy simply entails understanding how to build personal connections with other Kickstarter members using communication.

I’ve boiled connection literacy down to three guidelines.

  1. Be as transparent and professional as possible in communication
  2. Show people not just your project but who you are as a person
  3. Make people feel like they’re a part of your project

Why is Connection Literacy important?

It’s obvious that being able to sell product or present visual information effectively is extremely helpful to a project creator looking to become successful. Connection literacy, however, should not be under looked. Why?

Kickstarter is a community where people want to interact with people, not faceless corporations and emotionless human beings.

As with any kind of investing, connections are extremely important because marketing and presenting your product effectively only gets you as far as a successful project. Win the hearts of your investors (Kickstarter backers) and they’ll always be there for you like friends. Got a delay in the project? No problem, they’ll understand. Got a new project you want funded? They’ll be there. Without connections, all you have is a project that looks like any old retail shop. Once you run out of products (rewards) to offer, people will look to other options. This was just a short overview of the importance of connection literacy, but I’ll show how each guideline is important in the coming sections.

How do I obtain Connection Literacy?

In order to obtain connection literacy, you must understand each guideline of connection literacy and be able to carry all of the rules out.

In the following sections, I will be breaking down each guideline of connection literacy and showing you examples of success and failures.

Guideline 1: Mastering the art of effective communication

Guideline 1 is all about the three aspects of communicating well with backers: transparency, professionalism, and friendliness. Transparency involves giving backers a clear view into what’s going on with your project at all times. Professionalism is pretty self-explanatory – respond to people in a timely manner, be respectful in language use, and use proper English grammar. Finally, friendliness is just as it sounds; treat your backers as not just customers or business partners but friends who you’ll be there for. Now let’s go into detail into each of these three aspects.

Transparency

Transparency is important to backers because Kickstarter projects deals with two things: money and time. Since people have limited amounts of time and money, they will want to know what’s going on with both.

The bottom line is, don’t let people doubt a decision to back your project.

When a person reads your project page, he should know exactly where his money is going and how long everything will take. During the backing and post-backing phases of your project, communicate any anticipated delays or speed-ups to potential backers. If you don’t know the answer to something, be honest and tell all of the details to your backers. This way, backers won’t feel neglected, and they’ll be more understanding of any problems that may occur.

The CaptCase project is an example of when being transparent is helpful. The project creators ran into delays due to manufacturing errors, but they informed backers of each delay with updates such as this one, and people were generally understanding of delays.

What if creators aren’t transparent? Just look at the Pebble Watch project. People have long been complaining in the comments, saying that they’ve waited over a year for a watch that has yet to arrive or for shipping problems that were never resolved, or just to complain about a lack of communication. Some people bluntly stated they had lost their faith in the project creators.

Professionalism

Professionalism deals with not only the language project creators use in communication but also the way in which they deal with problems.

The rule of thumb is, don’t say anything you wouldn’t want said to you.

As cliché as that rule sounds, I must state it in bold because many adults working in business don’t understand the concept of being professional. You wouldn’t want to hear someone say to you, “hey, we got delays coming so too bad for you,” so don’t say something like that to your backers! Here are several rules you should follow to ensure professional communication:

  1. Address your backers in the first line each communication. Say something to acknowledge your backers, even if it’s something as simple as “Hey guys” if you don’t want to sound too distant. This way, your backers will know that you kept them in mind while writing.
  2. Use proper English grammar. Pretty self-explanatory. In any situation (not exclusive to Kickstarter), you’ll find it hard to be taken seriously if you are not writing up to your age as an adult with a college education.
  3. Clearly state the purpose and points of communication. Don’t beat around the bush; people want to know exactly what’s going on when updates are released. Say what you need to say and say no more.
  4. Address any issues promptly and follow up on them. Does your backer have a question? Answer it as soon as you see the question. Did a shipping issue come up? Let your backers know as soon as possible. If you leave issues unresolved (like the creators of Pebble Watch did), you’ll find yourself dealing with very frustrated and unhappy backers.

I don’t have any examples of unprofessional language use because I instinctively avoid people who communicate in such a manner. Also, Kickstarter automatically sends failed projects to the depths of the browsing page, making it hard to find unsuccessful projects. However, one project creator who communicated quite professionally was Ryan Crabtree, the creator of the highly successful CRABBY Wallet project. Out of all of their communications, only one project update missed the first rule of professionalism. The rest of their communication was spot on in following the rules I gave – they addressed all questions through updates, FAQs, personal messages, and project updates (this one, for example). See for yourself; look through all of the comments and see how Ryan answers specific questions from hundreds of backers. I have found few, if any, displeased remarks from backers on how Ryan communicated.

Results

What happens if you’re successful in all three aspects? You end up with very supportive backers who are willing to fund your future projects, such as the backers of the first Jiva Cube project. The project creators provided very clear and professionally written updates (such as this one) that addressed many of the delays and concerns their backers had, including taste issues, packaging issues, and ordering concerns,. They generally received positive feedback, and when the project creators made a second project involving coffee cubes, they immediately started receiving funding from their previous backers as well as new backers.

Guideline 2: Showing who you are as a person

Let me just say this important fact one more time.

Kickstarter is a community where people want to interact with people.

You need to show people that they’re interacting with an actual human being, not just a project that will give people some product they want. Like I said before, you can make money by using Kickstarter as a store, but you’ll need to be friendly and likeable to be successful.

Being friendly is a simple task to do in most cases. Show people that you have emotions by using emoticons and exclamation points. Don’t just say “Thank you,” say, ”Thank you for answering, [insert name!]” just like the creators of the Smart Herb Garden did (once again, I do not have examples of unfriendly communication because I ignore unfriendly projects and posts). Show them that you’re excited when your project gets successfully funded – go out and have fun and tell your backers that you can’t wait to get your project completed.

However, even when times turn rough, you should try your best to remain friendly. It definitely can be frustrating to do so when your backers ask questions that you’ve already answered, such as “when are surveys coming out?” or “does your product have [x] feature?” (See Smart Herb Garden’s comment page for more examples) Keeping friendly will pay off because people will be happier to interact with you, and they won’t be turned away by unfriendly behavior.

Guideline 3: Making your backers feel important and involved

By making backers feel involved in your project, you’ll be able to keep backers for longer than the duration of the Kickstarter campaign, even if your campaign fails.

Let me stress again that success is measured basically by how loyal and understanding your backers are to you.

Do whatever you can to get your backers involved. Give them a shoutout on your website/Twitter/Facebook (nearly all projects have this as the first reward tier). Give them exclusive updates (most projects start giving backer only updates after completion, such as the Jiva Cube project I mentioned earlier). Show them how they will be helping you achieve your goals (see the CRABBY Wallet project) video for a great example. Or even give them Kickstarter exclusive rewards, such as those found on the HEX MMO Trading Card Game project.

The creators of HEX did a great job of getting backers involved; they gave exclusive rewards to backers (such as limited edition cards), they released game footage for everyone to see (to show people what their money was going towards), and they constantly updated their project with new stretch goals and reward changes to show that they are taking in backers’ input.

Putting it together

By using all the tips I gave, you should be well on your way to obtaining connection literacy. Just remember that two other literacies are involved in becoming a successful project creator on Kickstarter. However, since connection literacy is the hardest to master, the other two literacies shouldn’t be a problem.

Conclusion

Well, here we are at the end of this lengthy article! First of all, I want to thank you for reading this piece. I love browsing Kickstarter, researching it, and writing about it, and I’m glad to have had this chance to share my enthusiasm for Kickstarter with you. I hope that you’ll take at least some of the knowledge I’ve imparted to you with you as you move on in life, hopefully to start innovative and involved projects on Kickstarter!

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