Over the years I’ve launched a few different products and offerings in various ways, and with physical products, it’s usually been through website pre-orders. When I started planning out how I wanted to bring the Inner Star Oracle deck into the world, I decided to give crowdfunding a go. So earlier this year in February I launched my first Kickstarter campaign.
In a few short hours after clicking the button to go live, I was over the moon to see such a beautiful, uplifting and reaffirming response. The deck reached the funding goal of $16,500 in just under 12 hours and went on to raise almost $44,000 by the end of the campaign. It all unravelled in a way in which I felt incredibly loved, supported and aligned, not only through the campaign but the whole process of creating this deck.
I’ve been meaning to share my experience with launching the deck and Kickstarter campaign, so here it all is! It may give some insight into what’s involved, maybe help you decide whether Kickstarter may be the platform for you, as well as getting some info about the product development and fulfilment of a new and successfully backed project.
There are a few crowdfunding platforms around now, some offer different features and options. Kickstarter is a worldwide platform and backers can be located anywhere. My decision to use Kickstarter was based on these factors:
It’s a large platform and many people who were interested in the deck were already familiar with Kickstarter and had pledged there before, But it was also simple enough for new users to back a project for the first time.
It’s an all or nothing system. If you don’t reach your funding goal, your project doesn’t receive any of the pledged funds. I feel like this method is pretty effective in encouraging people to pledge.
With a huge number of people using Kickstarter, I thought it may create some new customers who did not already know about me or the deck. If they had pledged for a similar project previously it may be suggested to them, or my project could also be featured on the site if it’s going well. I believe that around 15% of backers came from within the Kickstarter website and not directly from me or my audience.
A few friends had seen success in their campaigns which was wonderful to witness. With launching a physical product with a large upfront cost, this was a better way forward than doing pre-orders on the website. Deciding to launch the deck in this method would give me more reassurance in moving into production, and the funds to do so.
So the platform to use felt like an easy decision, though not without some nerves of course. The next main thing I had to consider was what exactly I’d be offering.
I am absolutely certain that what you offer should be as simple as you can make it. Your objective with launching on Kickstarter is to focus on one main product. There are a few thoughts around that:
It’s far less complicated for people to understand what they are pledging for. Each reward level that increases in price should really be an extension of the previous level, or something similar like a different quantity or variation of the product. Add additional value to each reward level that builds on a previous level.
Having different reward levels for different type of products means backers are limited to only selecting one of those products (unless they are bundled together in another reward level). If you do this, it’s very likely there’ll be people who want to select more than one reward level.
The only way around this is for them to add the extra cost for another item to their current pledge. This requires extra admin on your end, and to be very organised when you are actually fulfilling everyone’s pledges. When you have hundreds of backers, it will be more difficult to keep track of individual changes to pledges.
If your main product is something that is higher in value, for example $30 or over, you might included a lower priced option that is somehow related to the product. Just so people who can’t afford to pay more can still be involved in supporting the campaign. In my own campaign only a handful of these were selected, I’ve seen the same thing happen with others. The best example I’ve seen is in Emma Kate’s campaign, where she offered a digital download of her planner for pledges of $1 and above.
Most campaigns also include a much higher priced reward level, mine was for a bundle of decks for retailers to sell or coaches to give to clients. I do plan to wholesale the deck later this year, but this was a way for me to offer that on a smaller scale. I’ve seen other people offer one-to-one mentoring, retreats, commissions and other time based offerings of higher value. Again, I don’t usually see these reward levels filling up but it’s nice to include as an option. People will almost always choose the reward level that simply includes the product you’re launching. As seen below, the magic edition of the deck was the most popular, followed by each of the early-bird reward levels, which were all limited to 50 backers.
I think it’s ideal to have around 10 reward levels to keep it simple, plus some special early-bird levels. I had 15 levels, mainly because there were two versions of the deck. Had there only been one version, it would have stayed around 10.
This is definitely one of the hardest things to decide on in a Kickstarter campaign. On the one hand you want to be sure to reach your goal and on other hand still push yourself a little to make it high enough to perhaps cover the cost of more product. With printing costs, it’s often beneficial to order a higher quantity to bring the cost per item down. Of course this only applies if you sell the extra stock, there’s no savings if your product is just sitting in a box in your spare room!
It’s something that might not seem obvious at first, but the shipping costs that are added to pledges are added to your funding total. In my case with 490 backers, I had to account for a large part of the funding goal including these additional shipping costs, not just the amounts set for the rewards. By planning out your own breakdown of costs, it will help you decide, at the very least, what your absolute minimum goal would need to be to make your project happen.
Reaching my funding goal of $16,500 would have allowed me to print 500 decks. At the end of the campaign I had around 490 pledges that included 700 decks, and I ordered the production of 1,250 decks. At the end of the year I’ll be ready to do a second print run.
Costs + Fees
The money side of the campaign is definitely one that takes a lot of thought. Knowing all of your costs in creating your product on various amounts of orders and the minimum you need to actually go into production will determine what the funding goal should be. As well as production of your product, keep in mind the costs for packaging, postage, payment processing and kickstarter fees, tax and, if you’re registered in Australia, GST (Yes, you will need to work out how much of your final funding payout is from Australian customers and pay GST on that).
To help you out, this is the breakdown of where all my received funding went:
As you can see, the majority of the funding went to cost of production, fulfillment, and business expenses. In my case, the profit from the deck primarily comes from selling the additional stock on my website. Keep in mind that if you reach higher than your goal, this will likely increase your costs as well. Make sure that no matter what target you reach, that you are able to cover the costs.
At the end of your campaign, Kickstarter will beginning processing everyone’s pledges. Some credit card payments are declined or there may be other issues around collecting the money from a backer. Kickstarter sends reminder emails to have them processed. After a week or so, if payment hasn’t successfully been made, their pledge will be cancelled. It’s something to keep in mind, that your final funding amount may be a little lower due to some cancelled pledges. I personally contacted all of these backers to check if they still wanted to go ahead with their pledge and pay via paypal instead. It just requires some extra admin.
Also, it takes around 2 weeks from the end of the campaign to receive your money from Kickstarter. This allows them time to process and try and sort out any of these payment issues.
So of course, there’s lots of work involved ahead of a launch, and there’s a few things I wanted to share here that I felt were important ahead of and during the campaign.
One of the first things I did with the deck, 6 months before this Kickstarter project went live, was have a digital version of the clarity edition available to use on my website. That is several months of people already using the deck and seeing if it resonates with them. This also allowed people to play with it while I was still finishing the design of the magic edition. Also on the same web page, I had a mailing list sign up for people who were interested in the physical deck, who would be added to a specific group on my main list. I had over 300 people in that group, and I believe around 3,000 in total on my newsletter list at the time of the launch. The reason for creating the group is so I had the option to send an extra email to them, knowing they really wanted the physical deck.
At the end of last year, I added a link in one of my newsletters to ask people if they’d be interested in helping to share the Kickstarter campaign when it launched. Over 200 people said they’d love to help, and their names were added to a segment on my list. So, when the campaign launched, I was able to shoot them an email to let me know how they could help share the campaign. I created 20 or so graphics and photos that I uploaded to Dropbox and created a link to, so they could pick any image they liked the most to share.
I used a unique domain name www.innerstaroracle.com that redirected to the kickstarter campaign, rather than sharing the super long kickstarter page url or a url shortening service. There were two main reasons. Firstly, it’s easier to remember and share. Secondly, once the campaign was over and I was opening up pre-orders on my website while the deck was in production, I could then redirect that domain name to the sales or product page on my website. If people heard about the deck or clicked to the campaign after it finished, they would be directed to the right place.
I sent out email campaigns and scheduled some social media posts to let others know the campaign was beginning soon, and when it had launched. During the campaign I mostly shared small updates about how the campaign was going, some of the stretch goals that were happening, and lots of thank you’s for everyone supporting it. Fortunately, lots of people were sharing simply because they wanted to, which did mean that people didn’t always have to hear about it solely from me.
Now for actually created the Kickstarter project page, one thing everyone needs to do is create a video for your campaign, as it’s featured at the very top of the page. I had thought I would just attempt to create the video myself, but fortunately a wonderful friend of mine, Masa from 11Past11Studio, offered to help me out. He did a wonderful job, and most definitely contributed to 40% of over 2000 who played the video, watching til the very end. While I’m no expert on video engagement, that seemed like a high percentage to me! Having the video really helped to share the story behind creating the deck, and to see and hear straight from me as the creator.
As for the rest of the project page, I included lots of images and info about each edition of the deck and the stretch goals. I created a graphic to explain each of the reward levels in a way that would make it easier to understand the different between them. I also included a link to the digital version of the deck for people to experience using it, as well as a couple of testimonials. Kickstarter does allow you to add a prototype gallery, and I uploaded videos showing all the cards of the deck, and opening up the boxes of each edition to see each part of the deck. However, there’s no stats provided for that section so I’m not aware of how people engaged with it. I made updates to my campaign page throughout the 30 days, to share more about the stretch goals and when new funding targets were reached.
Just a final note, You need to allow around 2-3 days for Kickstarter to approve your project. But you can launch any time you want, or make any edits you need, once it’s approved.
Creating the project page on Kickstarter is fairly straight forward if you have already planned out all the different areas I’ve mentioned, ahead of time.
I have to admit, the aspect of a Kickstarter campaign that I was a little anxious about, was how to create and keep up momentum over the 30 days. Of course it requires a fair amount of marketing, but what I really wanted was for the campaign to roll out organically. I didn’t plan a whole schedule of guest posts or interviews, and other than asking people on my mailing list if they’d be interested in sharing, I directly asked only a handful of friends to share. I completely understand the value of doing things like guest posts and interviews, particularly if your audience is small. But I trusted that my sharing the process of creating the deck over a few months, as well as having an online version of the deck people were already using, that lots of people were ready to jump on the campaign when it launched.
So keep in mind what you are doing months ahead of a launch, not only about how you will promote the launch when it’s happening. If people have never heard of your product until launch, it will take more time to get them on board. These were a couple fun things I planned for during the campaign to help keep up momentum, and most of these are things that I had seen others do well in their campaigns.
Creating a special early-bird offer. I think this is one of the most important and effective ways to get your campaign off to a good start. You need to make sure the price you offer still works for your overall budget and funding goal. One thing you can keep in mind is possibly planning it so that if your early-bird offers fill up it means you would already reach your initial funding goal.
In my case, the early-birds filled up incredibly fast. I believe, aside from the general excitement of the launch, that’s why it reached the initial goal so quickly. My early-bird rewards levels, when sold out, totalled just under my funding goal, but with the added shipping costs it pushed the funding amount higher than that goal.
The second way I wanted to keep people engaged was to have stretch goals after the initial goal was met. The first 5 targets at $21k, $23k, $25k, $27k and $29k, if raised, would add an extra 5 new cards to the deck, making it a 55 card deck. The next stretch goal was $36k, which was a custom screen printed deck pouch to be included with every pledge for a deck. My next stretch goal, which wasn’t reached, was for a die cut vinyl sticker.
All of these were closely related to the product I was launching or featured designs from the deck. I think it keeps things simple when everything you offer, as rewards levels or stretch goals, fits in well with the product you are launching. You must plan for the costs of any stretch goals ahead of time. Calculate how many backers you will need to supply extra goodies to, especially if they are given to everyone even as your number of backers and funding amount increases.
As you can see above, the campaign increased stadily during the 30 days, with the slowest increase happening just after the first week of the campaign.
In doing these two things, I saw lots of engagement throughout the campaign. Lots of people were sharing simply because they wanted to. They loved the products, wanted to support me and the kickstarter, and also really wanted some extra goodies!
Production + Fulfilment
Before I launched the Kickstarter campaign, I knew all the suppliers I would be using and the costs involved, had seen and approved samples and knew all the turnaround times for production. This included any items that would be added as stretch goals. It was important for me to be able to move straight into production as soon as I received the funds, and be able to ship out the decks as soon as possible. Here’s a few insights around having the product made and delivered:
As well as the knowing the costs of the product, I knew exactly what packaging I would be using. I’d worked out the postage weight and cost for each reward level. I had plastic sleeves to put each deck into, wrap around cardboard mailers (in two different sizes because the postage slips were larger for international packages) that were the most time efficient to pack, postcards, white sticker labels for Australian orders and invoice envelopes for international orders. It’s surprising how much you have to think about in addition to creating the product itself. If you don’t want to end up spending excessively or unexpectedly on packaging and postage, do your research beforehand to find the most cost effective solution.
The one thing that did and continues to frustrate me is how expensive it is to ship internationally with Australia Post, as a small business who doesn’t have thousands of orders to negotiate better prices. I am so grateful to wonderful customers who are willing to pay the extra to get the product. If the majority of your audience is in the same country as you, it definitely makes things a little easier. With the deck, I knew ahead of time that I needed the weight of each deck including packaging to stay under 500g, as going over that doubles the cost of shipping internationally. I encourage you to ask printers or suppliers to estimate the weight of the product your creating while you are getting quotes.
For my deck, the cards and booklets were printed with a local Brisbane supplier that I knew and trusted. They had printed the Unicorn Project journals and all the moon energy calenders previously. The boxes were outsourced to China via a local contact. As much as I wanted these also to be done locally, the costs were just too high, and I wanted a really high quality and sturdy box to house the deck. I found the process really easy regardless, they communicated well, delivered quickly and the end result was of high quality.
If you are able to get all items of your product created and assembled at the one place, that is ideal. because the boxes for my deck were printed with a different supplier, I had to assembled all the boxes myself. Adding a deck of cards and booklet into each box and placing that into a plastic sleeve for protection, a few hundred times over, does take some extra time!
The overall timeframe between receiving the funding to having all the products ready to ship was around 5 weeks, and I spent just over 2 weeks after that on packing and shipping all the orders out.
So that’s really it! Everything that I could think of around the whole Kickstarter campaign. I really hope it was helpful and useful. If there is anything you want to ask me about it, feel free to shoot me an email!