Plane flying over burning fireballWe look at a lot of projects, here at Crowdfunding Dojo. we see successfully funded, failed and unlaunched projects every day. After a while the pattern of mistakes sending many hopeful Kickstarter projects  down in flames becomes pretty obvious. Below we've listed 5 of the most common (and devastating) mistakes, and the best way to avoid them and give your project a fighting chance:


Problem 1: Lack of clarity about what's being Kickstarted

Ok. You've thought about your project inside out, what's great about it and how everything will work. This is where you have to beware of what is known as "The Curse of Knowledge".

We tend to assume that most people are aware of roughly the same things that we are, until we find out otherwise. This means that it's very easy to tell people what you think is enough to understand your project, but still leave them scratching their heads.

Solution: Write it so they can't misunderstand it. After writing what you think is a clear description, add images or videos, and show it to a bunch of people. If you can do it in person, but make sure they have no idea what you're working on when they first hear your idea. Ask them to watch / read your description and then, afterwards, ask them to describe the project back to you. Never correct them, just take note of where you got it wrong (yes you, not them), fix your description and try again.


Problem 2: No call to action

Say you wanted to borrow $5 from a friend. How would you do it? You'd ask them, of course. Now imagine you were going to try and borrow it without asking. How much harder would it be, and how much lower would be your chances of success? It's exactly the same with your Kickstarter video and description. If you don't ask, there's an excellent chance you won't get anything.

Solution: Ask them to help. Tell them how. Ask people to support your project, by showing them exactly, step-by-step how to do so (remember problem 1?). The best place to ask is right at the end, just before they're thinking about what they'll do next. It doesn't have to be hard sell. Just like with a friend, let people know why you need it, how you plan on repaying them and ask. If you're really uncomfortable, at least thank them for watching or reading and make a request that they "support {project X} to help make {kickstarted thing Y} real. Thanks!"


Problem 3: Expecting to be found, rather than showing the way

Take a look at the discover section of Kickstarter. They don't show all projects by default, just a couple of select categories like "Staff Pick","Popular this week", "Recently successfully funded" and "Most funded". Now there's no consistent, predictable way to get staff pick, and some people who have had it more than once report that it doesn't make that much difference, anyway. Notice though that all of the other categories depend on having already done well? If you want their help, you need to start the funding ball rolling first.

Solution: Spark your own wildfire. Kickstarter's categories promote people who promote themselves. This is why you need to be bringing whatever connections / social networks you have to the party at the very start of your campaign and reaching out to media who may be interested as well. Once you create the initial push, you can use that to get into one of the categories above which will boost funding even further. You have to get it started first though.


Problem 4: Making it about you

Rocket exploding on launchPeople want to empathize with the person or people behind the projects they back. That said, no one empathizes with a pushy person who comes up and just starts telling them all their personal reasons they want money and favors. If you spend your whole time talking about what you want, or how it's going to let your business release some product line, backers just don't care.

Solution: Address their interests, over yours. Talk mainly about what they will get and the reasons why they might want to back you. Talk to them directly to find out their concerns and address them head on in the risks and challenges section. Give people easy ways to get in touch and ask questions, whether they're used to using email, Twitter, Facebook or Kickstarter's message system. Update your description, updates and even video to better match the feedback you get. Make sure that at every time you're tempted to talk about you, your business or idea that you ask yourself whether they would be better served talking about how it can help make their life better. Sometimes there are legitimate reasons to talk about yourself, like explaining where the idea came from or to helping them get to know parts of you or the project they'd relate to. Most failed projects though just don't realize how little in their project page is actually about their backers needs, problems or desires.


Problem 5: Bloat

Antoine de Saint-Exupery once said "Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away." Your backers are busy. If they're not intrigued by your project quickly, they leave. While most Kickstarter videos average around 6-10 minutes or longer, the million dollar earnning Kickstarter projects had a median length of only 3 minutes 57 seconds. Think about that.

Solution: Remove the fluff. Repeatedly. You have only moments to grab backers attention, and then seconds to help them understand how your project helps something they care about. It's important to be brutally honest about asking what you could possibly remove from your video / project page rather than asking what information you could add. Go over it again and again, until you just couldn't bare to remove another thing. If unsure it's better to either leave it out or tuck it away in an FAQ (accessible after you launch). If you get a lot of questions about it, by all means, put it back in, but just realize that every second of video, and every line of text that isn't making your audience more interested, is a chance of losing them. Remove those chances.




So there are the 5 mistakes that we see often, and with startling frequency in the projects that really bomb. They're also the mistakes that are hardly ever found in the projects that get successfully funded for any sizeable amount. Even if you think you've made none of these Kickstarter killing mistakes, take a look again once you've read this. Likely, you'll be surprised.

Afterwards, look at projects from friends, family and other people you care about, and when you find these problems in their projects, help them out by sending them the link to this article. These are problems that make Kickstarter less enjoyable for everyone, creators and backers, both.

Together we can stamp them out once and for all. Let's do it.

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