Part 1 - Validating and refining your idea (below)
Part 1 - Validating and refining your idea
So you’ve got this innovative idea that solves a problem or enhances your life. It hasn’t been done yet, but you’re finding it’s a bit harder for you to raise money than it was for Elizabeth Holmes.
Enter Kickstarter! Many are familiar with the leading crowdfunding platform and may want to try this avenue for funding, but it’s often overlooked that 86% of Kickstarter users are male (data from 2016)*. This becomes even more evident in the product design category, where young (66% of KS backers are under 45*), tech-happy men demonstrate strong engagement and tribal-like support with each other’s projects.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a great thing. Communities of any kind that help lift each other up are critical for entrepreneurial innovation. Kickstarter Backers are one of the most loyal and encouraging groups I’ve experienced, but they tend to fall into an early adopter, tech-loving archetype. What this means is you have to try a few more tactics to ensure the visibility and reach of a female centered product that goes beyond the ethos of Kickstarter backers. Here are the steps we used, what we learned, and what we’ll do next time for a successful Kickstarter campaign.
*This is not meant to be prescriptive and there are product- related complexities within each step. Rather, this is a high-level framework that can be followed.
Step 1: You've got a product idea - is it viable?
Research what the alternative ‘product’ is for your demographic currently, where it’s falling short and what people are willing to pay for it. Ask yourself honestly: am I solving a big enough problem for enough people, or am I providing an innovation that helps people in a tangible way? Get feedback from others who are direct. Before we started Dorai, Jason and I talked through it, explored the landscape and asked friends before we felt like the world needed another bath mat.
Finally, it is important to get pricing upfront. This may take a little time and digging, but it heavily influences whether or not your idea will be a success. You need to have a sense of what it will cost to manufacture in the MOQ (minimum order quantity), because it’s very rare that a Kickstarter campaign will fund a substantial volume of inventory and all associated costs. Do you plan to have custom packaging? Add $1.00-3.00, depending on the size. If importing, take the base price and add on 10-30% for tariffs and other fees. If it has to be transported to you or to a fulfillment center add another 10-20% depending on your location. If you require boxes to ship it out, add $1.00-$2.00 to cover box cost. If you plan to use a fulfillment center, add $3 per item as an average for storage, prep, etc. If fulfilling yourself, ensure you have space to store it and software to help such as Shipstation. This is roughly your landed cost to get the finished product here.
In order to be profitable in the future, your customers have to be willing to pay 3-6x the cost of goods, and by the way, they don’t like paying for shipping. Can you deliver this product at a competitive price and still make a profit? Remember, this is a business not a hobby and it will consume your life for a few months. If the answer is yes, and if you can manage to work in flat rate or free shipping, you’ve passed the first hurdle!
About 75% raise something less than $10,000. You may surpass that but it’s worth keeping in mind.
Step 2 Basic brand strategy - Just because you ‘get it’ does not mean they will.
Before even thinking about pressing record on your phone, take a step back and establish the condensed brand principles: personas, value proposition, competitive differentiator and positioning statement. These will help to create the elevator pitch, which becomes a framework for how to make design, production and marketing decisions going forward.
- Personas: 2-5 articulations of your different customer types, which illustrate their values, motivational drivers, interests and activities.
- Value Proposition: A concise explanation of the functional and emotional benefits of the brand.
- Competitive Differentiator: Identify the others in the market on a 2 x 2 chart, figure out where your product can stand out and what claims or attributes can be uniquely to your brand.
- Positioning Statement: The expression of what differentiates you in the landscape and how you want to be perceived in the minds of customers.
- Elevator Pitch: We are the [product/solution] for [market/customer segment], that helps [problem statement] by [unique value proposition]. We deliver [competitive differentiator] that results in [the outcome your product creates for people].
Here’s an example of that for Dorai Home:
- Personas: Eco-chic consumers between 30 - 65, further segmented as: Conscientious moms, house-proud host, health & wellness seeker, interior design lovers, newlyweds and hip guys who value sustainability or innovation.
- Value Proposition: To eliminate unwanted moisture in every home through eco-chic design and sustainable material technology.
- Competitive Differentiator: Dorai is the best solution for bathrooms because it dries better than the alternatives, prevents mold and bacteria, and introduces a sophisticated, minimal design aesthetic.
- Positioning Statement: We are the world’s driest bath mat and made of 100% sustainable materials.
- Elevator Pitch: Dorai creates home products for eco-chic consumers who are looking for better solutions for the wet surfaces in their home. Our trademarked Diomat technology is a sustainable, mold-preventing material that helps eliminate unwanted moisture with thoughtfully designed home accessories.
Step 3 Visualize your brand: give it a personality, look and tone.
Customers are savvy enough to see right through an inauthentic brand. Your campaign is much more likely to be successful if you can align the product with your lifestyle and values, and translate that for others.
Why is it important they have this? Who is it helping them become? How has it improved your life and how will it change theirs? These are all questions you should be asking as you create a moodboard of images that represent this idealistic brand.
I usually start by grabbing a bunch of images, logos, packaging, etc. of brands that communicate the desired positioning and go from there in brand identity. I’d strongly recommend hiring someone to create your basic brand identity. It doesn’t need to be expensive, but when a prospective backer comes to your page, it instills a much greater sense of confidence and resonates with their lifestyle if the page looks professional. You can find young designers on dribbble, behance, through local colleges.
Don’t get hung up on being the next Nike, agree on a logo, typeface, color palette and image style. It will evolve in time, but for now this is enough to move onto step 4.
A best practice example of cohesive brand is Touchland Sanitizers.
Step 4: Prototype your idea: keep the product offering simple & on brand.
It’s likely you personally won’t have the skillset to prototype your product, but there are companies who can. Fortunately my co-founder Jason has a product design and development company, Klugonyx, so he was able to handle this phase. I’d suggest working with someone who has experience manufacturing overseas, as the prototype should be designed for cost effective production. Find a group with consumer product experience who will bring a focus towards human centered design and ensure the brand is built upon the functional differentiator. If the product is a hard good you can likely have it 3D printed to save on costs, or soft goods can be handled by a skilled seamstress. Either way, you’ll want quality design files to help make your life easier post-campaign and Kickstarter requires a working prototype for any campaign to be approved.
If targeting a female audience, you need to get feedback from a diverse group of women on the product. Too often those designing and developing the product are men, and by no fault of their own they overlook simple things that a female would consider. For example, we would not have our patent-pending cover if we didn’t have any female input. Jason and team loved the mat, I love the mat too, but I like a soft texture when I step out of the shower. We brainstormed and came up with the idea for a cover on the mat, a new innovation to enhance the product. We now see about a 50/50 split in consumers who want a firm mat or a mat with cover.
The biggest learning from this phase is to SIMPLIFY! We started with 2 mat designs, 3 mat colors, 2 mat covers. While people like options, every option adds cost to develop and increases your MOQ, which means higher cost to deliver. We cut down on one mat style and looking back we had to put in extra time and energy to create 2 mat covers. After your campaign you’ll ask customers which variant they want. If you find big discrepancies I’d suggest picking the leaders and sacrificing the poor performers. You’ll have to email those customers and tell them you are only offering colors X and Y, but it will save you down the line and they’re usually quite understanding.
Once you've made it to physical prototype, it's time to start planning for the launch! Follow along in Part 2 - Preparing your Kickstarter for a memorable launch.*Sources for this post: