Remember Tamagotchis, the electronic pet from the mid-90s? It hatched from an egg and then it went through various stages of growth, and if you didn't pay it enough attention, it just died.
I'm at the end of the first week of my 30-day crowdfunding campaign and it hit me: my campaign is exactly like owning a Tamagotchi.
Our product is loopit, stylish headphones that have a unique magnetic clasp that prevents tangling and allows you to wear it as a necklace if you choose. We hatched our egg on January 26th on Kickstarter and, in less than a week we exceeded our initial goal of $15,000 thanks to friends, families and others who love our product. (Extra points for hatching a thriving newborn; unfortunately many campaigns don't even get to that point.)
We are now in the "need to go viral" growth stage and it's like running a 24/7 press campaign that mirrors the ownership of a Tamagotchi pet. In my experience I've found that there are different phases to nurturing your campaign through to a successful end product (without letting it die in the process.)
1. The "Reassuring my Parents they Didn't Waste Money on My Tamagotchi By Actually Nurturing It" Phase
Make sure you correspond with backers to keep them updated. They already believe in you and your product and you will appreciate their support/energy. As such, be ready to react like a Pavolovian dog every time you get a pledge from someone by thanking them as soon as possible.
2. The "OMG Can you Believe it? I got a Tamagotchi!" Phase
If no one knows about your campaign, then you won't get sales. So, reach out to bloggers, journalists, basically anyone who has any kind of following to get the word out. Reaching out will become a full-time job and many times you won't hear back. So it's exciting when they call back and actually want to cover you and the plunge you take into the entrepreneurial world. You never know who will pick up your story, so blitz the outreach. Our highlight so far is Vittoria Woodill from CBS news, taping my daughters and I for a segment on loopit to air on February 15th.
3. The "I'm SO into My Tamagotchi" Phase (or the "My Friends Want me to Quit Talking About My Tamagotchi" Phase)
Without friends & family, your campaign would be nowhere. It's critical to build momentum early and that happens with friends backing your campaign and sharing it with their friends. Hopefully you have patient friends who really like you, because you will need them to constantly share and reshare the campaign, post comments on your crowdfunding page to drive activity and hold your hand (or pour you a stiff drink) when you hit bumps along the way.
Also, if you have a physical product, be prepared to bring it EVERYWHERE and share it with friends and strangers, because you never know who might want it.
4. The "Ummm, Why Does Tommy Want to Trade Me Three of His Tamagotchis for Mine?" Phase
As soon as your campaign launches, you will be inundated with outreach from third party vendors insisting they can help make your campaign go viral. So far I've gotten 30 emails, Twitter, and LinkedIn messages in less than a week from people who want to help. Some want as much as 35% of the total raised (including what you've done so far); others just want $5 to help you.
Treat all of these with a lot of skepticism. Many will have scary undertones ("We've seen campaigns like yours plateau without our help!") - that's when you need your friend to pour you that drink. Others will claim to have helped some very well known campaigns succeed - ask for references to check if that is the case. I had several who went silent when I asked for references, and I had others whose references did not pan out and the founders of those companies were livid that they were being used as references.
You also will have campaigns reaching out to potentially cross-promote with you. That is when in your update to backers, you talk about their campaign - basically subjecting my backers to other people's Tamagotchis and vice versa in the hope that we can get more backers. This is a tricky situation to be in, so handle it with care.
5. The "Get Advice from the First Kid at School Who Got a Tamagotchi so you Don't Kill Yours" Phase
One thing I highly encourage you to do is to talk to other entrepreneurs who have had very successful crowdfunding campaigns or product launches. It's amazing how giving they are of their time and more often than not, they respond to cold calls. They are usually THRILLED that you decided to go the Tamagotchi route too and can't wait to help make yours thrive. For example, Yasmine Mustafa from ROAR, Mark Aramil from BedJet, and Nikki Narvaez from Nikki's Magic Wand all made time to give advice to a complete stranger.
6. The "Wait, My Tamagotchi really has to be nurtured ALL THE TIME or it Will Die" Phase
Once you launch, you will be inundated with dashboard pages to check how you are doing (Kickstarter, Facebook, Google analytics & other third party vendors) which will let you know if your campaign is thriving. You will be able to see what drives the most sales. Besides my friends, Facebook ad campaigns have been the most fruitful.
One thing you will also obsessively do is see where your project is ranked. You will quickly find on Kickstarter that the algorithm behind this is murky at best. Some campaigns with fewer backers and dollars will be ranked higher. The lower you are on the page, though, the less likely you are to get traffic from the site. So all you can do is pull random levers (increase number of comments your friends make on the page, try some of the third party vendors of the world) to try to get higher up on the page.
You will also want to tweak the campaign website itself (we shortened the video, improved the pictures) and if you decide to use Facebook ads, change the messaging of those. It's not an exact science but you can then monitor the dashboards to see if it's helped.
I'm a mother of two children, ages 7 and 9, and it's like I have a newborn all over again. Except with this newborn, you're not exactly sure what it needs to thrive, so all you can do is try everything, including writing op-eds about the experience. So, be prepared during your campaign to have an obsessive focus on it (just like you did with your Tamagotchi in 1997) Hopefully your friends will stay supportive, even while you're driving them crazy.
Vanessa Chan is a newly minted mompreneur who left as a partner of McKinsey & Company after 14 years to launch re.design. Its first product, loopit, is currently accepting discounted pre-orders until February 25th on kickstarter.
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