[Note from Rae – Since I’m at SMX West for the week, we have another great guest post today – this time from Dave Snyder of CopyPress. He’s going to discuss his experience with Crowdfunding. Cheers!]

On March 1, 2013 a group of people sat in the CopyPress office looking at the prototype for a bamboo keyboard and mouse that Charlie Qi, one of our employees, had created when he went home for Chinese New Year.

The item was sleek, but not totally unique. There are several bamboo keyboards on the market, that are essentially what you would by for $10 in plastic form, but made from bamboo. They look sleek and are made from a renewable resource.

This prototype we had on our hands was different in some key ways:

  1. It worked off a very different design. It was a mix between an Apple keyboard and your standard laptop keyboard, except it used the plastic scissor switches that are accustomed to Apple computers
  2. We had put together a Bluetooth, Wired, and Wireless version, so you could use it on an iPad or other device.

I really didn’t know if this was enough to set it apart from the competition, and furthermore we still had the question about how we would distribute such a product. Several other people in the project have experience in importing and exporting, however distribution deals in the US were a new concept to us all.

I felt the best way to get brutally honest feedback was post an image of the setup to Reddit.com on my personal account.

First I uploaded it to Imgur.

Crowdfunding Screnshot 1

Then I added it to Reddit > Hardware

Crowdfunding Screenshot 2

and to Reddit > Entrepreneur for advice…

Crowdfunding Screenshot 3

…and based on feedback we also posted to Reddit > Mechanical Keyboards to see what they thought…

Crowdfunding Screenshot 4

As you can see the reaction was pretty amazing. We got a ton of feedback, and drove over 30,000 pageviews to the Imgur image.

I spent most of my Friday night and Saturday morning that weekend answering comments and a slew of personal messages. What’s interesting is I didn’t set out for this to be a viral marketing campaign, I just wanted to get clear feedback.

There wasn’t a product page up, and nothing linked to.

A lot of the advice I got was similar to the following…

Crowdfunding Screenshot 5

We took at the mounting pageview count, and thought we needed to act fast.

We quickly contacted our manufacturer and made sure we could make some basic feature changes from what we had heard in the threads, including the development of a mechanical keyboard at a great price point.

We took a series of pictures, and opted for IndieGoGo.com, because we were more interested in pre-orders since we could fund our first product run ourselves.

And then we failed.

Crowdfunding screenshot 7

We are 8 days into our campaign and we have only sold 9 units. From what I have been told, if you aren’t around 30% to your funding goal in Day 1 you have little chance of driving visibility from IndieGoGo.com itself.

So we were 100% reliant on Reddit.com traffic.

I reposted our work over the few short hours we had gotten feedback, and we got the exact same amazing support…

Crowdfunding Screenshot 8

Crowdfunding Screenshot 9

However, this didn’t equate to sales, and the fault lies with us. From this experience, a clear formula has been laid out regarding Crowdfunding, and I thought I would lay out the basics for those of you looking to plunge in.

Crowdfunding Screenshot 10

Tip 1

Pre-Launch PR is Something Every Campaign Should Look Into – Does every successful Crowdfunding campaign use PR pre-launch, I would say no, but from what we saw you have a small amount of time to make a big impression, and PR can help here.

I would stick to the hits, blogger outreach, product giveaways, social ads. I wouldn’t try to get to aggressive on sites like Reddit.com. I want to stress that what we saw was 100% organic, and we were super transparent about what we were doing. I don’t condone Reddit spamming.

Tip 2

Creative and Copy is Everything – This is where I failed hardest, and the irony of me working for a content based company does not escape me. We were plagued with people wanting better imagery, video, and copy. We ran before we walked and it bit us hard.

IndieGoGo actually does a great job laying out what you should do and supplying examples.

Tip 3

Working our Inner Circle – We completely rested on the traction from Reddit to push the funding. The reality is we should have been working Facebook, Twitter, email, and phones to get our networks to help support us. I did do some Twitter posting, but most of my time was spent responding to Reddit comments and questions.

Tip 4

Remember the GoGo Factor – I didn’t even really know what this was until it was too late. The GoGo Factor decides what funding campaigns will get visibility through the IndieGoGo.com home page.

The reality is that if we would have held off on launching our campaign and subsequent Reddit x-posts to get,

  1. A high quality video
  2. High quality images and imagery for specs
  3. Clear specs, and component information
  4. Create a compelling story through our copy
  5. Setup an off-IndieGoGo page to seed via blogger outreach and product give aways
  6. Have an email list of our network queued to push hard, along with personal social network accounts

We would have seen a ton of success if we could have had the same Reddit traffic.

So in our failure comes some really valuable lessons on not only how to manage a crowdfunding campaign, but also how to run a product launch of any size that has some early social traction. Patience is key, and we didn’t have any.

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