If you are you interested in launching a Kickstarter campaign, take a look at the top eight things you should consider to run highly successful campaign. This article is especially focused on apps, but a lot of the insights are valid for other Kickstarter campaigns as well. Gabriel Wyner, who has to date run the most successful Kickstarter campaign for an app, shares his experience for the benefit of other Kickstarter campaigners.
In a recent interview for Yozzi, Gabriel tells how he managed his Kickstarter campaign and how he succeeded at raising more than half a million dollars to help prepare to launch the upcoming language-learning app, Fluent Forever.
It’s been since 2012 that Gabriel had been dreaming about designing the kind of app that builds on the success he experienced by learning languages with the help of the Anki app. With his technique he also used images to study four languages to an advanced level within a few years time. So now that Gabriel has so far gathered more than $600,000 for the Fluent Forever app, let’s take a look at the top nine things he did to accomplish this.
1. HAVE AN EXISTING EMAIL LIST AND AN AUDIENCE OF POTENTIAL BACKERS
With the kind of preparation and email lists that Gabriel had before launching on Kickstarter, no wonder he was able to surpass a quarter of a million dollars in pledges by the end of the launch day.
Gabriel had a large advantage over many would-be Kickstarter campaigners, because he had already accumulated a base of users from those who had already purchased his pronunciation trainers in his previous Kickstarter.
That project in 2013 had 1,858 backers on Kickstarter who pledged a total of $96,276. Gabriel also had a mailing list of 50,000 people related to this previous campaign.
2. USE A LEAD MAGNET
Gabriel created a new lead magnet by offering something for free to anybody who signed up an provided their email address. That generated nearly 30,000 new leads.
3. HAVE A PRE-CAMPAIGN PHASE AND ENGAGE WITH YOUR POTENTIAL BACKERS
Gabriel says that he spent about two months in advance preparing for the actual launch. Some of that time he spent focusing on app design. For example, Gabriel used surveys to find out what language-learning problems the potential backers have trouble with. Armed with that information, Gabriel began to create an app that would find a solution to their problems. Gabriel recommends that you get help from the potential backers to fine-tune your app before you launch, so you have a product that people will pay for and use.
During the pre-campaign phase, Gabriel engaged his customer base with surveys. He asked an open question: “what is challenging’ about language learning?” He engaged with those who had already bought the pronunciation trainers from the previous Kickstarter campaign. They shared two important pieces of information with Gabriel. First, they said that Anki was too hard to use. Second, they said that they spend too much time making flashcards.
Then Gabriel shared his second version of his prototype with potential users. He observed people’s facial expressions as they used the prototype of the app. Each time a user looked confused, he would write it down. Gabriel created an iterative design process. He kept improving the design of the app each time he observed that people were struggling or confused.
This step-by-step process only required ten people during a one-month design sprint that lead to the current version of the app.
4. ENGAGE WITH YOUR AUDIENCE ABOUT PLEDGE LEVELS
Gabriel also engaged with the audience when it came to pledge levels. He shared ideas with them and offered the audience a chance to comment and potentially change the award level and the package that it included. There was a lot of audience participation in the pre-launch phase, with about 300 comments on the discussion.
5. LAUNCH WITH INCENTIVES TO REALLY TAKE OFF
Offer extras to those who back your campaign within the first hour that you launch your campaign and within the first 24 hours of your campaign. This helps create greater visibility around your campaign. About half of the pledges for Gabriel’s campaign arrived within the first 24 hours.
6. OFFER A REALLY CHEAP CONTRIBUTION LEVEL WHILE OFFERING SOMETHING IN RETURN
Offer an inexpensive way for people to back your campaign. Offer something for about $5 and provide some sort of incentive for such backers. Make it something that is easy for you to offer. For example, Forever Fluent offers ‘inside track’ to such supporters, which lets them vote of features and languages.
7. OFFER THE APP IN A PRICE RANGE WHERE VOLUME ADDS UP
Offer the actual app itself for somewhere in the $30 to $50 range. For example, Fluent Forever is offering the ‘early-intermediate speaker’ for $50, which includes a limited-time subscription and a lifetime discount.
8. VIDEO IS VITAL
Have a high-quality video.
You can see Gabriel Wyner’s Kickstarter campaign video here:
9. KEEP IT EASY ON THE EYE
Make your campaign page visual. Don’t have dense text. Forever Fluent created an infographic that visually explains what the app is all about. Use a flow chart to explain how an app works.
10. ADD ‘STRETCH GOALS’
It requires a certain amount of money to develop a product. You can continue to raise more money for your Kickstarter campaign by adding ‘stretch goals,’ Gabriel adds. By adding ‘stretch goals’
people continue to see why they should contribute to your campaign.
In the case of Fluent Forever, as of the interview date on November 6th 2017, Gabriel had raised more than 61,000 dollars. The stretch goal of covering all languages of the world is 850,000 dollars. When I asked Gabriel about whether he was concerned that he might not reach that goal, he said there is no need to worry. He’s confident in his team and believes they will be able to make it. If needed, there is always the possibility of giving up some equity in order to scale up. For now, that isn’t a goal, says Gabriel, although there are already are a number of investors interested in helping out for a share in the equity. Even Indiegogo has a platform for equity, Gabriel adds.
Behind the Scenes on the Kickstarter Campaign
Now that we’ve taken a look at the most important eight points to consider when running a successful Kickstarter campaign, let’s look further at a few details that you may also find interesting.
First of all, it is becoming more and more common to run a campaign on Kickstarter and then to relaunch it on Indiegogo. Once the campaign on Kickstarter is over, the link to contribute redirects straight to the same campaign on Indiegogo. Even Indiegogo is pushing for this method, says Gabriel.
Second of all, be aware that Kickstarter has a dropout rate. With Indiegogo, this isn’t such a concern. When you make a pledge with Kickstarter, you can rescind, let your credit card expire, cancel your credit card, and so forth. With Indiegogo, when you make a pledge you are immediately charged for your purchase.
HOW HIGH IS THE KICKSTARTER DROPOUT RATE?
According to this blogger one could expect a cancellation rate of about 5%.
In the case of Gabriel’s experience, the dropout rate was much less. Forever Fluent’s Kickstarter campaign experienced a cancellation of about 8700 dollars worth of pledges, with 68 backers dropping out. That amounts to about a 1.5% drop-out rate in the case of the Fluent Forever app.
ABOUT THE TARGET AUDIENCE
Forever Fluent focused mostly on the US audience, along with the UK and Australia. However, Kickstarter’s website is supported in English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish. While Indiegogo’s site supports the same languages except for Japanese. If you have a campaign in other languages you would need to check with the platform first to see about putting the campaign details up in those particular languages.
PAY PER CLICK ADS
Forever Fluent also has advertisers who engaged in campaigns using Facebook and Google pay per click ads. Gabriel estimates that they probably received in return about the same amount of money that they put into such campaigns. He adds that it was worth it mostly for the sake of building awareness of the app.
Forever Fluent also engaged in Thunderclap as a way to harness the social media mentions together so that they would launch into cyberspace at the same time. Forever Fluent offered entries into drawings for prizes for certain pledge levels. To incentivize people to use Thunderclap, each Thunderclap share would earn three entries into the drawing for example, while a regular Facebook post would only earn one entry. Gabriel says it was a successful campaign and that it is worthwhile to use Thunderclap. You can see more about how to incorporate Thunderclap into your campaign from Luc Dudler on Medium.
PUBLIC RELATIONS AND THE KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN
Gabriel says that hiring a PR firm is expensive. To avoid the expense, he spent about four to eight hours a day doing his own PR. Gabriel said he is not a big fan of doing PR, but he says it is a necessary part of doing a Kickstarter campaign. You either do it yourself or you pay somebody to handle it.
LEARNING FROM MISTAKES OF THE KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN
When asked about any mistakes he learned from during the campaign, Gabriel said that he made the mistake of sending out mass emails to reporters. He says it’s important to read up ahead of time to know which people are leaders in their field. He recommends targeting pitches to journalists individually and personalizing each pitch. Gabriel also has a blog post that he shares about the lessons he learned from his Kickstarter experience.
HOW GABRIEL WYNER’S EXPERIENCE LEARNING JAPANESE INSPIRES THE APP’S CREATION
Gabriel had a fairly easy time learning European languages. When decided to take on Japanese, things become more complicated.
In an interview with Kris Broholm, for the Actual Fluency Podcast, Gabriel outlined his methods of learning Japanese with an Italki tutor and Anki. So I asked him to elaborate more on that here and to tie it in with app that is due out next year.
Gabriel says, “getting content from a tutor is a great way to find out what you need.” Since each student has a different level, a language learner can focus on making many different flashcards around a single sentence as a was a way to build vocabulary and to include grammatical structures.
Gabriel notes that certain constructions are more commonly found in books, but not so much in conversation. So when we learn a language, it is a good idea to cover issues of informal and formal speech and to be aware of which structures are used in formal writing and which structures are common in colloquial speech. During this process, Gabriel says that it is good to focus on relevant grammatical concepts.
“You train yourself to spot what you need,” Gabriel emphaizes, “You are not passively sitting there. You stop and ask for sentences and jump at things that you need. You tune each lesson into your needs.”
By recording each session with a tutor, Gabriel finds that he is able to go back and put the information from the lesson into the database of the app. Once the material is in the app, The Forever Fluent app seeks out pictures that will complement the material.
Later on, everybody else who is studying the same language can also access the material and benefit from it.
Gabriel adds that the key is to create solid content at a variety of levels for all supported languages. “That means that regardless of level, there will be something for you. Once you train people to use the existing material then they should learn how to add their own material.”
GABRIEL WYNER’S LANGUAGE-LEARNING JOURNEY
Gabriel mentioned that he tried Hebrew as an adolescent but didn’t make much progress. He later studied five and a half years of Russian. Once again, he didn’t make much progress. He later discovered that immersion would be the method that would work best for him. In 2004, at the age of 21, in Middlebury, Vermont, Gabriel participated in an immersion German course. No other language was allowed than German. You made a pledge to only speak German there entire time and anybody who violated that pledge would be kicked out. Gabriel estimates that after that experience, he was able to reach a B1 level (lower intermediate) after seven weeks.
He repeated the experience in Italy, but found that the pledge to only speak German helped a lot. The immersion program in Italy wasn’t strict and during breaks, the students generally spoke English with each other.
FURTHER RESOURCES AND INTERVIEWS WITH GABRIEL WYNER
Gabriel published an article in Life Hacker about his experience learning four languages in a short space of time and is the author of the book Fluent Forever published by Random House in 2014.
Gabriel has also participated in a few interviews which are available on YouTube.
Interview with Olly Richards:
Interview in German with Gabriel Gelman
Interview with ‘Italy Made Easy’