It’s been three weeks since we launched the Scout pre-order site to the world. Scout is a hassle-free, do-it-yourself home security system. You can check it out here: scoutalarm.com. As we mentioned in our last post, we “rolled our own” crowdfunding site. Following in the footsteps of Lockitron, and having forked their Self Starter project, we made the decision to forgo Kickstarter. If you haven’t read Part I of this post, you can check it out here.
Scout is currently ahead of pace to hit our campaign goal. We’ve learned a lot in the last two weeks and wanted to build on the first post. Once the press hits start to dry up, you have to get creative. (Read: Hustle like crazy.) Some of the things we’ve learned, we wish we would have learned BEFORE the campaign started. Our hope is that this post better prepares the next startup to follow in our path.
Here’s what we’ve learned from weeks two and three:
Talk to Your Backers Early and Often
When you launch a crowdfunding site, you’ll probably plan on checking in with your backers mid-campaign and during the last week, but you can be much more aggressive than that. We had backers asking for press pieces to share within days of launching. We should have been better prepared to leverage their interest and the excitement about their recent purchases. At minimum, talk to your backers once a week and give them simple ways to share your news.
Have a Second Angle on Press
If you’re lucky, you’ll get press hits through the first two weeks. After that, things are going to dry up. You’ll go from selling 100 units in a day to fewer than five. Instead of fretting that you’ll never reach your campaign goal, know in advance that you’ll need another angle on your story for the press to cover it in weeks three and four. Find the unique thing about your product or your journey that is pressworthy, beyond what you said in the initial release. When you email your contacts, have a simple, well-thought-out angle that helps them pick up the story.
Get a “Retargeting” Campaign Setup from Day One
Without Kickstarter’s built-in platform, you need to figure out how to reach the same eyeballs a few times throughout the month. For a variety of reasons, interested visitors may not have purchased their first time on site. Retargeting is perfect for this. We knew at the outset of our project that we wanted to use Adroll to retarget visitors to our site. Don’t worry about creating the ads at first, but you’ll want to have it set up so that every visitor who comes to your site is “cookied” right away. Then, when the press starts to dry up, create a few ads and ramp up your retargeting. It’s cheap, too. We’ve spent $340 to get 43K impressions and 81 clicks in two weeks.
Incentivize Your Evangelists
Lots of people will talk about your project just because they want to help. This is great! However, you can reach a whole new subset of your backers and motivate them to evangelize about your product if you incentivize their efforts – something we should have learned earlier. In the third week of our campaign, we offered a referral program to backers and it was a big success. We created unique URLs for each backer willing to send referrals through their networks and pitched it as a competition. The person who sends the most referrals gets a $100 gift certificate and a free product. You should do this, every week.
People Don’t Read. Help Them Not Read.
People love demo videos. They’ll love your pictures and renderings. They’ll love your diagrams. But people do not take time to read. Half of the emails you receive will be questions about things that you covered on your site in text. Everyone is in a hurry and, as maddening as it is, you need to accept that they will not read most of what is on your site. So, help them not read by making information more visual, doing more product demo videos and keeping copy at a minimum.
Entrepreneurs Want to Help Other Entrepreneurs
No matter how successful an entrepreneur has become, they remember what it is like to be at square one, and most of them love getting the chance to help another entrepreneur out. Reach out to them for help, but don’t just ask for shameless plugs. The platform they worked long and hard to build is not an advertising channel for you. Give other entrepreneurs an actionable way to help that helps every entrepreneur. We’ve had an amazing response rate from other entrepreneurs when we reached out because, through these posts, we can help the whole community.
Create a “Surround Sound Effect” Through Social Media
Tim Ferriss has an excellent article about running a successful Kickstarter campaign in which he talks about creating a “surround sound effect” through the social media sharing of your backers. Basically, his team sent out a super simple sharing template with each of their update emails that allowed backers to “like” their press coverage on Facebook. Instead of asking people to copy and paste links, their templates only require a click. In doing so, you will help your message reach a whole new audience that will also share and comment. The sharing templates are open source. Use them.
Don’t Just Talk to Backers, Talk to “Almost-Backers” Too
You’re going to have a few unique groups of people that have interacted with your site: visitors you will reach through retargeting, backers you will reach through email, and remind-me-laters whom you will reach through email as well. There is a fourth, unique group that we call “almost backers.” These are people who started the checkout process (gave their email), but didn’t finish when they were sent to Amazon. Now that you have their emails, figure out how you can help them finish the order. The intent is there, now seal the deal.
Hire a Virtual Assistant
We didn’t and it has been painful. Some press hits generate as many as 200 emails on top of the dozens you are receiving anyway. You will develop canned responses, so it is irrelevant who sends them. Responding to emails can turn into a three-to-four hours per day task, if you let it – all time that you aren’t spending promoting your campaign. A virtual assistant can help you respond to the softball questions, while you focus on the business and the tougher, most promising emails
Ask for the Sale
You’ll get all kinds of questions and requests when you launch your crowdfunding campaign. People will ask for custom orders, to be a beta tester, to be an exclusive distributor, etc. If they’re serious, they should be willing to pre-order a unit (even if you comp it later). Don’t be afraid to ask for the sale. The only exception here is press – send press review units, if you have them, and they are ready for prime time.
Track Referral Sites and Conversions from Day One
You don’t want to have to back into your approximate conversions from each press hit or referring site. Make sure your analytics and tracking are up to par so that you can pinpoint who is having the biggest effects on your campaign. Tie each backer to a referral link to get exact results. We did an OK job of this, but not perfect. This is not only helpful for you in the moment, but is crucial for determining your long-term target demographic and the best ways to reach them.
That’s the latest from weeks two and three. Please ask us questions below and stop by to see how we’re doing at www.scoutalarm.com.
A version of this post originally appeared on the Scout blog.
Lindsay Cohen is VP of Sandbox Industries and an advisor to Scout.