How To Launch A Six-Figure Kickstarter Campaign

Want to launch a six figure Kickstarter campaign? You can do it with the right preparation. Read on to learn how.

This year I worked on a Kickstarter campaign that broke six figures in 24 hours and drove $394k in total pledges. Kickstarter has come up a few times on Twitter, so I thought I’d compile everything I learned into one place.

Kickstarter was founded in 2009 to provide aspiring entrepreneurs a more democratic source of funding for their new product ideas. 

Try to think back to 2009: Shopify was three years old, “DTC” did not exist, and the ~building in public~ revolution was years away. If you wanted to start a capital-intensive, R&D-led business, you needed to be well-networked or loaded. But if you were neither of those things, a Kickstarter campaign let you pitch the masses to crowdfund startup capital.

Although founders have a lot more options in 2023, Kickstarter is still a great way to raise funding for your new product idea up front. Instead of investing five figures in R&D and Meta or Google ads–and potentially failing to find an audience–you can use Kickstarter to get a read on market interest and collect cash for pre-orders.

At least that is the theory. In reality it’s not that simple.

Marketing Strategy For A Six Figure Kickstarter Campaign

Who Is The Kickstarter Audience?

Kickstarter has cultivated a broad audience that is bought into the crowd-funding model: people who are willing to pay up-front for innovative products and wait up to a year to receive them.

The audience for a successful six-figure Kickstarter campaign is going to come from two sources: (1) existing Kickstarter backers and (2) an audience you cultivate who is passionate about your product.

Kickstarter does not lend itself to impulse purchases (you have to wait up to a year to get what you ordered). Because the platform has been around for so long, most folks who are willing to wait for innovative products have already backed at least one campaign.

If the average engaged Meta buyer skews female, the average engaged Kickstarer backer skews male. The Kickstarter audience is also a lot more international than you might expect (this will be important later).

Take a look at the “taking off” section of the Kickstarter homepage. While I’m writing this in May 2023, the projects featured in this section are a mix of tabletop games, optimized travel accessories, and electronics. This gives you a pretty good idea of what interests the average Kickstarter backer. I would put them into two psychographic profiles:

Gaming Culture Vulture: Identifies with “geek” culture–sci-fi, fantasy, comic books, gaming etc. Is into gaming in all forms–tabletop, PC and console. It’s how he connects with his friends. Because he’s often hosting, there’s also a cooking and entertaining angle here.

The Life Hacker: Probably read The 4 Hour Workweek and probably listens to the Huberman podcast. Really invests in his hobbies, which are likely outdoors- or fitness-adjacent: camping, hiking, cycling, etc. Because he’s into health and longevity, he may also be into cooking, and is probably into coffee.

If your product has obvious appeal to one of these segments, you’ll have a leg up in launching a six figure Kickstarter campaign. But don’t worry if your product doesn’t seem like a good fit–the six figure Kickstarter launch I worked on was a modern stovetop popcorn popper

What Makes A Successful Kickstarter Product?

There are three aspects of a “winning” product. If you have these things, a six figure Kickstarter campaign will be easier to achieve.

Genuine Founder Story

If you view the campaign videos for six- and seven-figure campaigns, you’ll notice that the founders often started as frustrated consumers. “I loved making espresso at home. I tried every espresso maker on the market but they all______. That’s why I had to make_______.”

The Kickstarter audience is suspicious of a quick cash grab. Real passion and authenticity will help sell your campaign. That said, a founder story isn’t 100% necessary if you’re solving a burning problem.

Solves A Problem

All great products solve a problem or address an unmet need in the marketplace. You’ll go further on Kickstarter if you stick to tangible needs instead of psychological needs. 

Some of the biggest campaigns address problems that you’d only notice if you were deeply embedded in a specific hobby. For example: this hand strap for mirrorless cameras has raised close to a million dollars.

If your product is too niche to work with Meta ads and targets a niche that overlaps with Kickstarter’s core personas, you can do really well here.

Real Innovation

Kickstarter is not the place to sell white labeled products. You an idea that you developed from scratch, even if you work with a 3rd party manufacturer to produce it. The more you can show off the R&D process, the better. Shoot footage when you test prototypes, save photos of your sketches and technical drawings, etc.

The Importance Of Trust

Unfortunately there is a history of Kickstarter campaigns that raised six and even seven figures but never delivered on their promises. Historically this happened when the founder failed to model out all the costs of the business properly or neglected to do any research on suppliers before launching. 

There are also straight-up scams, where a “founder” has no intention of producing the product and disappears with the backers’ money.

This history is why building trust is so important. Some things you can do to build trust:

  • Feature yourself in the founder’s video
  • Highlight your relevant experience–other products or businesses you’ve launched, or relevant industry experience.
  • Have a working prototype of the product and feature it in your Kickstarter video.
  • Shoot some iPhone footage with close-ups of the product in action.
  • If you’re able, develop multiple prototypes and gift them to friends or influencers who are willing to shoot a quick walkthrough video.
  • If you’ve run other successful Kickstarer campaigns, highlight that.

A Big Launch Day Is Important

If you don’t build up some kind of audience before you launch, your campaign will get buried on the site pretty quickly. But if you do drive $50-100k worth of pledges in the first 24-48 hours, Kickstarter will promote your campaign on the algo-driven sections of the homepage. This will help you win even more backers.

Big momentum in the first 24-48 hours = promotion from the Kickstarter aglo = more momentum.

Kickstarter is a relatively mature platform. The shopping experience is unique: you put down money for a product that doesn’t exist yet, potentially created by a newbie founder, and then wait six to 12 months for that product to arrive. Sometimes, campaigns don’t work out, and the product never arrives.

It’s really hard to convert a cold audience to this shopping model. Most of the folks who will ever use Kickstarter are already on Kickstarter. So your objective is reaching as many of these folks as you can at the lowest cost.

There is one exception to this rule: an established brand/creator with a loyal customer/fan base. You can use Kickstarter to fund the launch of a new, more ambitious product or project. And you may be able to shift your own customers/fans onto the platform successfully.

Financial Considerations For A Profitable Six-Figure Campaign

Kickstarter might seem like a win-win for the frustrated eCommerce entrepreneur: no middle men siphoning off your profits and production costs are funded up-front. Not so fast…If you want a six figure Kickstarter campaign, you’re going to need the following at the bare minimum:

  • A large, qualified, engaged audience or a marketing agency that can help connect you with the existing Kickstarter audience.
  • Someone to script and shoot your campaign video.
  • Someone to write and design your campaign page.
  • An email service provider.
  • A post-campaign survey provider.
  • A 3PL that can provide international fulfillment at a reasonable cost to the consumer.

If you’re truly starting from scratch, ie. no existing audience, you’re also going to need a media budget. That’s right: Google, Meta and potentially an affiliate program.

Without a pre-qualified audience, these are the costs you can expect:

  • Kickstarter Video: $10-20,000+
  • Campaign Page Copy: $500-2,000
  • Campaign Page Design: $250-1,000
  • Kickstarter Marketing Agency: 7-10% of total pledges
  • Kickstarter Platform Fee: 5% of total pledges
  • Payment Processing Fee: 3% of total pledges
  • Product Prototypes & 3D Renders: ??? (depends on your product)
  • Google/Meta/Affiliate: Try to target 10-20% of your total pledge dollars
  • Meta Ads Content Production: free – $5,000

As you’re building out a budget forecast, keep the following things in mind:

  1. Between 3-10% of your backers will cancel their pledges by the time you collect payment.
  2. Kickstarter backers expect to pay shipping, so you won’t have to incur this cost.
  3. You can reduce costs by doing some of the asset production in-house, but it has to be good. Don’t cheap out on the main video.
  4. Kickstarter backers are going to expect some discount on your eventual MSRP. $99-149 is a sweet spot price.
  5. You’re probably going to want to offer early backers a further discount. This is called an “Early Bird” offer, and it usually runs for the first 48 hours of the campaign.

As you can see, Kickstarter is not a sliver bullet for the biggest challenge in eCom: finding your audience at an affordable cost.

If you want to walk away from your campaign with some money in your pocket, model out all of these costs before you begin. And create a “worst case” and a “best case” model in terms of funding outcomes. You don’t want to be $20k in the hole if your launch doesn’t go as planned.

Campaign Demand & Forecasting

Your campaign is going to have two peaks: the first 24-48 hours and the last 24-48 hours. 

During the launch you untap all of the demand you’ve built up in the pre-marketing phase. During the “final hours” you reach out to that same pool of people and remind them that the opportunity to own your product has almost passed.

The middle of the campaign, which lasts from three to five weeks, is a relative lull. You can try driving new demand during this time via influencer seeding, PR outreach or paid social ads, but it’s challenging.

Let’s say you’re gunning for a $100k campaign and you’ve budgeted $15k in media. You spend $7k in the pre-launch phase. During your first 48 hours you raise $60k, then your pledges drop off to a few hundred dollars per day.

In all likelihood, you’ll raise another $10-30k during the remainder of your campaign. That puts you 10-30k short of your goal. You’ll now have to decide: do I stop spending on media entirely, or do I continue to invest in order to get myself as close to $100k as possible?

There’s no right answer. It’s up to each individual founder’s risk tolerance. But be sure to track all your expenses carefully. If not, it’s easy to walk away from the campaign having lost money.

Your Kickstarter Funding Goal, Pricing And Your Rewards

Your funding goal is the minimum amount of money you need to raise to go forward with the project. If your project does not hit its funding goal you do not collect any of your backers’ money.

You want to select a goal that you have a reasonable chance of achieving and a goal that enables you to carry out the project. A goal between $10-30k is good. If you need more money to deliver on your promises, set your goal higher.

Kickstarter backers expect some kind of discount. If you’re using the campaign as a springboard for a full eCommerce or wholesale business, you need to offer backers a discount on your eventual MSRP. If you plan to sell your product for $150 in your own eCommerce store, offer it for $129-139 on Kickstarter.

You’ll also want to offer some additional discount during the first 48 hours of the campaign to drive urgency. So if your normal Kickstarter price is $139, offer it for $129 during those first 48 hours.

You’ll want to structure your rewards to hit 2-4 price points between $0-200. So you could do one product for $99, one product and an add-on for $139, and two products for $189. Price your rewards so that there is a slight discount for purchasing multiples.

After the $200 mark you should include a few higher priced “fun” rewards for your biggest fans. These can be straightforward: 3-5 units of the product. You can also do something creative, like offer a “lifetime supply” of the product or access to the founder(s) for your biggest backers.

The rewards priced up to $139 will drive the bulk of your pledges.

Operational Needs: What I Wish I Knew About Kickstarter Before I Started

I have been working with Tal and Dave on the overall brand strategy for their new brand Popsmith. This was the first Kickstarer campaign I’ve worked on personally. 

We worked with an agency to help prepare us for all of the nuances of the platform. But as a team who was experienced in “traditional” eCom, there were a number of things we didn’t expect.

Once you have your product idea and your budget model, these are the things you’ll need to keep in mind to successfully execute a six figure Kickstarter campaign.

Run Of Show

This is the general timeline for a four to six week campaign. You can choose to do things differently, but some pre-launch marketing is definitely required for a six figure launch.

6-10 weeks before launch: start developing marketing assets and set up a Klaviyo account for your brand/campaign. You should give yourself 8-10 weeks to produce the main Kickstarter video from scripting through final edit.

You should also confirm your rewards tiers along with “early bird” and regular pricing for each.

4-6 weeks before launch: kick off pre-launch marketing. We used Facebook ads to collect email addresses from folks who expressed interest in the Popper and did some other outreach.

3-4 weeks before launch: start building out the campaign page in Kickstarter.

2 weeks before launch: submit your campaign to Kickstarter for approval. You’ll typically go through 1-3 rounds of approval where Kickstarter will request that you make edits to the page. If you’re writing everything yourself and this is your first campaign, give yourself at least two weeks for this process.

Launch Day: you’ll email your list and let them know you’ve launched. Mention that the early bird pricing only lasts for a limited time. Get the word out however you can. Email friends personally and post about it on social media.

Think of ways you can create urgency for your email list–”early bird” is almost over, only one week left to back us, etc.

During the Campaign: Kickstarter members can post comments and questions on your campaign page. Try to answer each one within 24 hours. If your campaign exceeds its funding goal you may want to share “stretch rewards”. These can be new product add-ons or new colorways of the main product.

After The Campaign: If you reach your funding goal, you’ll use a survey tool to collect your backers’ shipping information and SKU preferences (if relevant). Then it’s up to you to get that information to your 3PL when the product is ready to ship. You may also opt to do this yourself.

Kickstarter vs Shopify: Know The Differences

If you’re used to operating a business on Shopify, there are some aspects of the Kickstarter experience that might come as a surprise:

Each bundle/reward is its own SKU. On Shopify you create a single product listing for each item you carry. Customers add them to their cart in the desired combination. On Kickstarter you create a listing for each reward with its own price. So “One Widget” gets its own listing and “Two Widgets and a Gidget” gets its own listing.

There Are No SKU Options. If your product has multiple sizes and colors there is no way for your backer to select their preferences on Kickstarter. Do not create a separate listing for each SKU. Instead, ask backers for their preferences once the campaign ends, via survey.

There IS Inventory…Kind Of. You can place limits on the number of backers who can select each reward (but you don’t have to). You can also use an app to make the remaining quantities of each reward artificially low to enhance the feeling of urgency.

Your Page Is Kind Of Like A Longform Sales Letter. The “story” section of your Kickstarter is a combination of a PDP, an “About Us” page, and a sales letter. Use images with text call-outs and GIFs to bring the most important features of your product to life. Lead with 3-5 images that tell the viewer all they need to know. Then you can get into the problem you’re solving and deeper features/benefits/outcomes storytelling.

Customer Service Is 100% Public. All of the needling questions you typically receive via customer care email or chat box are 100% public in the “Comments” tab. If you’re not comfortable with this level of transparency, turn back now. 

Expect members of the Kickstarter community to ask very specific questions about your product specs. If they don’t like your shipping rates, they’ll tell you. Be prepared to answer these comments within 24 hours to keep sentiment positive. 

Cash Flow Is A Bit Different. Backers can cancel their pledge or change their rewards tier up to 24 hours before the end of the campaign. This will accelerate in your final week. Kickstarter collects 5% of your total pledges once the campaign is closed. You’ll also have to pay a 3% processing fee. The money is transferred to you 14 days after the end of the campaign.

Have A Plan For International. 20-30% of your backers will come from outside the US. They’ll come from all over Europe and Asia–this won’t be as simple as shipping to Canada. 

To prevent those backers from canceling, have a plan for international fulfillment before you launch. If you’re manufacturing in China, see if it’s possible to ship to Europe/Asia directly from the factory. 

Try to get shipping quotes for the following regions and list them on your campaign page when you launch: USA, Eastern Canada, Western Canada, UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Australia, Singapore, Israel, Iceland, Hong Kong, Mexico City.

This will hit a lot of the major international backer locations and give most other backers whose countries are not listed a sense of the shipping price they can expect. Kickstarter backers are used to paying shipping and any applicable local taxes.