The Ultimate Kickass Kickstarter Guide for Makers

The Evergreen Bandana Game

How it Began: A Bandana and a Dream

I’m Kevin Misiuda, a product developer and retailer based in Bellingham, Washington. 

In early 2020, my partner, Brad Lockhart (a designer and animator) and I had an idea for a new product.  

We run a small, Bellingham-based merchandise design company called NW Corner Goods, and up until this point we had produced fairly specific products such as patches based on country music song titles and various items based around the Bellingham City Flag for online sales and local wholesale.  

Most of our products could be produced in small quantities for minimal upfront investment, but our new idea—a bandana that doubles as a board game themed around Washington State—was shaping up to require larger minimum order quantities for the components than we were used to, and was both a product type and broader subject matter than we had experience with.

The Evergreen Bandana. Photo Credit: NW Corner Goods

Given these unknowns, we turned to Kickstarter—a platform Brad had previously had success with when he launched the now-official Bellingham Flag—as we felt this would be an ideal way for us to raise funds and determine interest before placing any large orders for components.  

Ultimately, this was the best move for us: The Evergreen Bandana Game was funded 1,000% on Kickstarter, we were able to order extra products for later sale, we received some great publicity, and we had several months after receiving our funding to get everything manufactured and shipped out.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the considerations we made every step of the way, following the campaign chronologically from fresh idea to thinking about what to do after everything is done.

While this guide will primarily focus on launching products through Kickstarter, as that’s the main focus of our business, it should be applicable for all types of projects, especially considering many non-product based creative Kickstarters will wish to include merch for backer reward tiers and stretch goals.

A Question of Capacity—Are you Ready?

Before you’re ready to launch your Kickstarter campaign, there’re a few questions you should ask yourself first:

Planning Funding Goals & Logistics 

Figuring out your ultimate funding goal to get your project off the ground is more complicated than it seems. It’s not just about covering the cost of manufacturing, but also about the months of work you'll put into the project.

The Bandana Game helped me hit my personal income target for the first six months of 2020, and the inventory we were able to purchase in addition to the rewards owed to backers helped smooth out our revenue into the next year.

Here are  some more pre-campaign questions to think about:

It’s ideal to be working through this process ahead of the campaign. All this will help you understand what you're selling and ensure timely fulfillment to your backers.

Dealing with Suppliers & Vendors

Our first copy of the game was printed on a pillow case from a print-on-demand website well before our supplier was even able to produce a sample. 

If you are working "face-to-face" (have a direct contact) with your suppliers, be clear about the nature of your project and when you expect to order.

Without an understanding of the "pre-order" nature of Kickstarter, they may be expecting an order to be placed quickly, or be looking for order quantity to plan for space in their production calendar.

Clearly articulate you won't have final numbers or be ready to order for a few months, this will help to maintain a positive working relationship with your manufacturing partner.

Getting the Word Out 

However you reach your audience, letting people know you are launching a campaign is vital to the success of your campaign.  Advertising early, hyping the launch, posting throughout, and pushing for the finish, you’ll want to be thoughtful and deliberate when marketing your campaign.

Marketing is always important, and getting it right is an article on it’s own.  Check out this Whipsmart article [[Link]]  for a marketing guide tailored to Washington creatives.

Good graphic design is really important. We are designers so this part came naturally for us, but if this isn’t the case for you, don’t be afraid to invest in getting clean visuals for your campaign page.  

Your campaign will need multiple visuals for your  Kickstarter page as well as for social media posts. You’ll also need graphics for packaging. You may accomplish this through illustration, photography, or by some other means, but however you approach it, it’s important to keep things simple and to-the-point, highlighting the strongest features and benefits of your product.

For our Kickstarter page, we included some simple snapshots of the illustrations on the bandana, showed all the components of the game together, and included an illustrated timeline of stretch goals unlocked throughout the campaign. (Check out Whipsmart’s Crowdfunding How To Guide for more info on what you need to make your graphics pop.)

Making Your Video

It’s extremely important to produce a video for your Kickstarter page that shares who you are and what your product is about with potential backers. . Your banner video will feature on the top of your campaign page, and can be shared to social media platforms with captions to capture a much wider audience.

And We’re Live!

Once your campaign is live, there’s a lot of work that will need to be done! Be ready to be actively engaged for the duration of the campaign.

You will need to be ready to engage with the public and the press in a timely manner. Be regularly boosting your campaign through promoted social media posts, Reddit engagement, and seeking out news outlets that have yet to cover your campaign:

In the final days and hours of the campaign, you’ll want to amplify your marketing efforts. No need to be fancy. 

Our campaign was lucky enough to be discovered by King5 on Reddit (of all places), and we were featured on Evening, leading to a huge influx of new backers (and a second wave of sales months later when they re-ran the segment). 

You’ll want to be sure to post in local and statewide subreddits for the best exposure - we made sure to post ours in r/Bellingham, both r/Seattle and r/SeattleWA, and r/Washington, to name a few. You never know where people are looking to discover cool things like your campaign, so it’s important to engage with online communities where you might not personally spend most of your time.

Dealing with feedback

Think about how you might address negative comments. Be generous, humble, and confident in your responses—you know your product is great, but that doesn't mean it has to be for everyone, and you don't have to stress over the things it doesn't do, just celebrate what it does do!

Responding to feedback isn’t always about winning over the person you’re directly responding to, but also showing any potential backers who see those interactions that you’re someone they can support.

Setting Stretch Goals

You may hit your initial funding goal quickly, and thus will need to add stretch goals throughout the campaign. Be flexible—be ready to add, subtract, or adjust stretch goals. Make sure you can afford what you're giving away!

Consider products for your stretch goals that you can sell a la carte post campaign. We added an enamel Sasquatch pin that we now retail for $10.

You Did It! Now What?

Now that your campaign is successful, you’ll want to look at your backer report, which contains all the information about your backers except their address, which they’ll provide later.  

The report can be exported to a CSV document which you can use to sort through your list of backers and is extremely valuable if you have multiple support tiers with multiple bundles of rewards and stretch goals.  

Looking at these numbers now will be key to understanding the quantities you’ll need to order from your suppliers, as well as getting you a head start on thinking about how you’ll batch your shipments when the time comes.

From this point forward, communicating directly and regularly with your backers becomes much more important.  

Write a post on your campaign page thanking your backers and setting expectations. Here’s what ours looked like:

Provide regular production updates to maintain engagement with your backer community. Send out backer surveys (basic info on what it is) (Kickstarter doesn't provide you with any addresses, so backers need to provide them individually).

Be ready to answer a lot of emails and comments about the backer survey—some backers will not fill out their survey. Many will say they can't find it. Some won't return to the website (almost a year out from our campaign I still have 16 backers who have not provided an address!).

Getting Out Your Rewards 

Your campaign is over and hopefully at this point your page says “Successfully Funded” at the top, but while it may feel that you’ve scaled the mountain and there’s nothing left to do but kick back and wait for your cash to come in, there’s still much to be done to make sure your backers are die-hards for your brand in the end.

Now’s the time to make a plan for shipping and fulfillment. Here are some things to think about: 

Download your backer report and sort out your backers by support tier. This will make setting aside the right number of rewards for each tier possible ahead of your shipping day.

Contact your suppliers. Once you've finalized your numbers, you'll want to order your product as quickly as possible, as production and shipping to you may take some time (less risky).

Make sure to get a clear picture of the price breaks available to you for quantity ordered so you can make the best purchasing decision—optimally you'll be able to purchase a good amount more of your product than you sold through Kickstarter.

Shipping Day!

Schedule a shipping day. Get help if you need to (we shipped over 500 individual rewards packages out to backers!). Be organized with your shipping labels since it's easy to get things scrambled and you'll save a lot of stress and time by presorting labels into tiers.

Unassembled rewards. Photo credit: NW Corner Goods

Get to know your post office! Find out if you can schedule a home pickup. Also, did you know you can usually do a bulk drop off behind the post office? That area isn't just for mail trucks.

Be ready to correct errors—You will likely leave some things out of a package here or there, some packages will not arrive, and you will need to ship a replacement package occasionally.

Reaping (Your Own) Rewards

I know I said earlier it wasn’t time to celebrate yet, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for it! Successfully funding a Kickstarter campaign should be a huge boost for your business, and hopefully there’s a nice chunk of cash coming your way.  

Here’s what the payout looks like:

Celebrate your wins on social media. Your backers will post about receiving or using the product—make sure to re-post, highlight, and celebrate!

How to Leverage Your Kickstarter Win into Bigger Things

While a successfully funded campaign is exciting, it's not the end! 

Kickstarter is a proof of concept, you can leverage your success in taking your product to market, whether wholesale or direct to consumer. Getting the word out about your success will move you from a one-time payday to regular sales.

Launching The Evergreen Bandana Game through Kickstarter was an exhilarating experience, but more than just the excitement of seeing our project reach and exceed its goal, it was also a major stepping stone for our company, NW Corner Goods.  

The funds from our campaign made up about a quarter of our overall revenue for the year, and the added confidence and exposure from launching a product outside our comfort zone helped build our confidence to expand the types of designs we would bring to market going forward.

The Evergreen Bandana Game was the focus of a lot of our time for the majority of 2020, and we rang in the new year anxiously awaiting a re-stock from a second wave of interest that oversold our supply.  

In 2021 we launched a small retail space, and our game has proven to be the highest volume product we sell. At the time of writing, we’re just starting to discuss a new Kickstarter campaign for a new Washington State Flag we designed, and it’s a humbling reminder that even if we do everything right, it could still be unsuccessful.  

Despite that, it’s still worth it to put the idea out there and see what people think.  However it goes, I know we’ll make some strong connections with our supporters and truly have an opportunity to test our design.

Kickstarter is a fantastic tool for helping your brand find direction when you’re not sure whether an idea has broad appeal, and while it can really save you from sinking money into a product with no legs, it can really accelerate a product that resonates with its supporters, and we’d strongly recommend the platform for the right products.

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