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John Lee Dumas. You’ve probably heard the name since he has one of the most popular business podcasts in the world, Entrepreneurs on Fire. But did you know he has also led the sixth most funded publishing campaign and the second most funded journal on Kickstarter ever with his launch of The Freedom Journal? Amazing.
Because of the Kickstarter success John Lee Dumas has had, I knew that one day I’d ask him for advice on how he did all of that. Well, that day has come, and I’m excited to have John (and Kate too!) share their knowledge publicly here in a guest post on SPI to help me and anyone else thinking about going down the crowdfunding route with their new product idea. Take it away, John!
In January 2015, I had an idea.
But, as you know, entrepreneurs have a lot of ideas. This idea, however, was different. I knew this idea was different because my audience, Fire Nation, told me so. Fire Nation played a very critical role in the success of my idea, as you will see throughout this guide.
At the time I’m writing this, it’s been eighteen months since I launched my idea on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform for a vast range of projects. My Kickstarter campaign ran for thirty-three days, and since the launch I’ve made over $1 million in revenue.
What was my idea?
To create a hardcover journal called The Freedom Journal: Accomplish Your #1 Goal in 100 Days.
Why Launch on Kickstarter?
Typically people launch on Kickstarter for two reasons:
- To prove their concept (they don’t have an existing audience to help with this part), and/or;
- To generate revenue so they can create their concept (they don’t have funds to cover what it would cost to create it).
I already had both of these things: an audience and the funds to create The Freedom Journal on my own. But I knew there had to be more behind why one would choose to launch on Kickstarter.
After some research, I decided to launch on Kickstarter for the following reasons:
People trust the Kickstarter platform, and I know that, like Amazon, if backers are unhappy with their decision, they have a simple way to request and receive refunds directly through Kickstarter.
“Backers” are the individuals who support a project on Kickstarter.
I knew Kickstarter’s reach would go way beyond what I could muster on my own.
There are A LOT of people who would probably never find me or The Freedom Journal on their own. With the help of those who discovered The Freedom Journal on the Kickstarter platform, the campaign had a great opportunity to receive a lot of word-of-mouth marketing.
An event-like aspect
I wanted this launch to be BIG.
Pledge levels and special rewards
Instead of re-creating the wheel with an entire product suite, I would be able to offer multiple things in one place.
It wouldn’t just be me on this journey alone. Kickstarter provided a platform where I could create community around The Freedom Journal.
Here are a few stats that back up my research:
Fun Fact: I have accounted for .0023 percent of the total dollars pledged to Kickstarter projects.
Of all of these numbers, the one that really got me is the Repeat backers statistic: well over four million people revisit Kickstarter and pledge to multiple campaigns.
That’s a lot of people coming back to Kickstarter to search for campaigns. Turns out I was right about there being more behind why one would choose to launch on Kickstarter.
Each of the reasons why I chose to launch on Kickstarter contributed to $453k in revenue in thirty-three days and The Freedom Journal becoming the sixth most funded publishing campaign of all time.
How to Launch on Kickstarter
Throughout this post I’m going to share the step-by-step approach my team and I followed to launch The Freedom Journal on Kickstarter. That way, if you’re thinking about doing your own launch, you’ll know exactly what to do. You can think of this like your own guide to launching on Kickstarter!
But before we dive in, I want to be sure to make one thing crystal clear: launching on Kickstarter is no small feat. It takes time, planning, patience, and a lot of work. The great news is that it’s totally worth it!
As is true with any big project, breaking down the steps you need to take in order to accomplish your goal is important.
Let’s think of you launching on Kickstarter as your big project and end goal, and from there break it down into four phases:
- The Idea Phase
- The Brainstorming & Planning Phase
- The Hiring Phase
- The Marketing & Launch Phase
Here’s what should happen in each of these phases:
The Idea Phase
Every project—no matter how big or small—starts with an idea.
While this phase may seem like a minor one, it’s actually the most important: this is the foundation of your entire project and requires special attention. Get this phase wrong, and it’s going to be very difficult—and nearly impossible—to make your launch successful.
Successfully completing the Idea Phase includes the following steps:
- Deciding what it is you want to create
- Talking to others about your idea
- Becoming crystal clear on your goal
- Getting some type of proof of concept (typically in the form of money, but in my case it was through building an interest list)
Let’s do a deep dive into each of these steps.
Deciding What It Is You Want to Create
If you’re interested in learning more about launching on Kickstarter, chances are you already have an idea in mind. Whatever your idea may be, an important piece of the puzzle is making sure it’s something you’re passionate about.
As I mentioned earlier, launching on Kickstarter takes time, planning, patience, and a lot of work. So if you’re going to put a ton of work into launching your idea on Kickstarter, you want to make sure it’s not something you’re going to lose interest in six months or a year from now.
Granted, the way I approached my Kickstarter launch was a bit different from most. I essentially “did it backwards.”
But to give you an idea of the timeline, it took me about one year from the moment I had my idea to create The Freedom Journal to actually launching it on Kickstarter.
I’m going to be touching on each of these milestones in this guide, but here’s a sneak peek at my timeline:
Note: I used this image of my timeline on my actual Kickstarter page to help tell the story of The Freedom Journal and how it came to be. We’ll be getting into everything that’s required to create an engaging Kickstarter page later.
Your timeline will likely vary depending on how you’re approaching your launch on Kickstarter. For example, maybe you’re going at it in more of a traditional sense, meaning you aren’t going to actually create your concept until your campaign is done and it’s a success.
If that’s the case, I would still plan on your pre-launch period taking anywhere from three to four months.
There are A LOT of moving pieces! Once you’ve decided what it is you want to create, it’s time to dig in and confirm you’re on the right track.
Talking to Others About Your Idea
Whether it’s with your family, friends, an online community, or members of a networking group, talking about your idea will help with a few things:
- It will make it real
- It will, by default, solicit feedback
- That feedback will encourage further research
I strongly believe there is power in putting your idea out into the world. It not only makes the idea real, but it cements accountability. Once others know about your idea, they’ll continue to ask about it, which can serve as important accountability for you along the way. When you know others will be asking you about your idea, you’re more likely to continue making progress.
Talking to others about your idea will also help you solicit feedback. Naturally, when you share an idea with people, they want to give you “their take.” Some of the feedback may not amount to much, but keep your ears open for recurring themes and any confusion that might come up over and over again.
The questions you receive from those who you’re sharing your idea with can result in clarity, which means you’ll be able to talk more clearly about your idea, your mission, and your end goal. But don’t just take the feedback you receive at face value. Actually use the feedback you receive to become more curious about your idea and how it fits into the marketplace or industry you’re in.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- What other products already exist that are similar to my idea?
- How do the creators market to, sell to, and engage their audience?
- How will my idea stand out in a unique way?
Putting your idea out into the world is your stake in the ground. You’re making it real, you’re gaining valuable feedback, and you’re researching what else is out there. A combination of these things will result in a crystal clear understanding of your goal.
As a direct result of putting my idea out into the world, I not only accomplished everything above, but I also connected with three key team members who I couldn’t have launched on Kickstarter without—all just from talking about my idea.
But we’ll dive deeper into the Hiring Phase in just a minute.
Becoming Crystal Clear on Your Goal
It’s incredibly difficult to start taking steps toward accomplishing your goal if you’re not crystal clear on what that goal is.
You have your idea, and you’ve shared it with others, gathered feedback, and done some research. Now it’s time to write it out on paper.
Given everything you’ve learned about your idea and what it is you want to create, what is your S.M.A.R.T. goal that will help you make it happen?
Take fifteen to twenty minutes to actually write out your S.M.A.R.T. goal. Having this in place will serve you over and over again on your journey to launching on Kickstarter.
Getting Proof of Concept
You have your idea, you’ve gathered feedback and done your research, and you’ve formulated your S.M.A.R.T. goal. Now it’s time to get proof of concept.
In most cases, getting proof of concept means you’re sharing an idea and then asking your audience to pay you money for it. The saying, “people speak with their wallets” is SO TRUE.
However, depending on how you’re approaching your launch on Kickstarter, your strategy for getting proof of concept might vary. For me, getting proof of concept came in the form of an interest list.
Remember in the very beginning of this post when I said that Fire Nation played a very critical role in the success of my idea? Well, I say that because Fire Nation actually gave me my idea.
Let me explain.
I launched my podcast Entrepreneurs On Fire in September 2012. Since that day I’ve continued to provide my audience with free, valuable, and consistent content (to the tune of over 1,700 episodes published to date!).
As a result, I’ve grown an incredibly loyal audience, Fire Nation, who turns to me to ask questions, share their struggles, and celebrate their wins.
After about two years of intent listening, it hit me: one of the most commonly asked questions I get from Fire Nation is:
“What’s the one thing that sets the successful entrepreneurs who you interview apart from everyone else?”
Their ability to set and accomplish goals.
Because I had heard this same question thousands of times, I knew the answer was incredibly valuable to my audience. Otherwise, that same question wouldn’t have come up over and over again.
That was my first proof of concept: my audience needed help when it came to setting and accomplishing goals. But I knew this first piece in and of itself wasn’t enough for me to go and invest thousands of dollars in such a huge project.
And so I set up a landing page where I shared my idea for The Freedom Journal with Fire Nation, and I asked them on that page to sign up for an interest list if they wanted to learn more. Nearly 10,000 individuals entered their email address, giving me a rather LARGE proof of concept— enough to call it ready to move forward.
That’s when I set my S.M.A.R.T. goal to launch The Freedom Journal on Kickstarter in January 2016 and to have 10,000 copies printed and ready to ship.
Sound like a familiar “idea validation” process?
That’s because it works, and countless successful entrepreneurs will back me up on this—Pat Flynn included.
But as Zig Ziglar says, “A goal properly set is halfway reached.”
Next up comes The Brainstorming & Planning Phase.
Whew! We know this is a lot of info to take in, and we’re just getting started! If you’re enjoying the content and interested in joining our free course on How to Launch on Kickstarter, be sure to grab your spot here.
The Brainstorming & Planning Phase
The Brainstorming & Planning Phase is where you’ll start to put the many moving pieces and steps you need to take together. As you create your plan, you’ll also be setting critical due dates to help you reach your goal.
The Brainstorming Process
The brainstorming part of this phase is pretty simple. Well, simple, but not easy. Here’s how it goes:
Take out of a piece of paper, and just start writing. Write out every step you know you need to take (or think you need to take) in order to accomplish your goal.
This not only involves brainstorming on your own, but also researching and reaching out to others who you know have already been where you want to go.
Here’s an example of my initial brainstorming, starting with the steps I knew I needed to take, and then also accounting for any research I’d need to do:
Sometimes all the steps you need to take to successfully finish a project or reach your goal won’t be completely clear, or even obvious. And sometimes you might think you have all the steps down, but then extra ones start popping up here and there—things you simply didn’t think about.
The most important part of the brainstorming process is that you’re gaining as much knowledge and insight about the steps you need to take as possible. This will prevent you from being massively surprised along the way.
Now that you have at least some of your steps and ideas out on paper, continue on with your research and ask questions to those who have already been where you want to go.
Once complete, it’s time to start creating your project plan.
The Planning Process
Your project plan is at the core of everything. It will include individual deliverables, dependencies, and deadlines that will ultimately help you reach your goal on time.
This is also an important time to really dig into what your budget will be for your project.
Starting with all the knowledge and insights gained during your brainstorming process, begin to lay it all out. That might mean writing it out on paper, documenting it in an Excel or Google spreadsheet, or inputting it in your favorite project management software (I love Asana for this).
The goal is to get everything in one place, in a logical order, with due dates attached. Again, it’s okay if you don’t know ALL of the steps right now. In order to get started, you just have to know the first step.
Another critical part of the Brainstorming & Planning Phase is figuring out what type of help you’ll need along the way. Now that you have your plan laid out, you might see there are a lot of steps you’re not really sure how to execute.
Whether it’s that you’ve never done them before, it’s not in your “wheelhouse” to do them, or you simply don’t want to do them, there will be a number of things you’ll need to delegate. Now is the time to identify those things, because as you start to execute your plan, you’ll be moving quickly into The Hiring Phase.
The Hiring Phase
The Hiring Phase is where you get to step into your project manager role and start delegating! Perhaps you have someone else who is managing this project for you, and if so, they should pay close attention to this phase.
It is here that you (or your project manager) will be responsible for:
- Identifying what you want and/or need to delegate
- Reaching out to people you know or have been referred to for help
- Setting expectations with your team so everyone is on the same page
Also, keep in mind there will likely be new steps that come up along the way, ones you didn’t anticipate or know about before.
Therefore, hiring your team may not be a single event, so be prepared to be fluid and quick on your feet if a new team member is necessary. Otherwise, your project could be delayed.
This is an EXCITING phase, because once you hire your team, it’s full speed ahead!
A Look Inside My Hiring Phase
My Hiring Phase ended up being very linear, and I was incredibly lucky to come in contact with the BEST of the best.
But it wasn’t easy. The Freedom Journal project started out strong with the help of my partner Kate, who took on the project manager role. Once I had Kate on board to help me oversee all the moving pieces, it was time to take the first step toward creation.
This is about the time we were introduced to Sutton Long, who took all my messy notes and sketches and put The Freedom Journal together for us. This introduction came as a result of me reaching out to those I knew in the industry who had recently published a book. Who better to ask about this step of the process than someone who had just been through it?
So while talking with my good friend Jonathan Fields one day, I simply made the ask:
“Who helped you format and put everything together?”
As Sutton was putting The Freedom Journal together, we quickly realized that illustrations and an actual book cover would be necessary. This is where our designer, Brandy Shea, who we have on retainer here at Entrepreneurs On Fire, came into the picture.
Note: if you do end up hiring externally for the design aspects of your project, be sure you’re explaining in detail exactly what it is you’re looking for.
If you find it difficult to describe, or you’re not really sure what you’re looking for, do some research. Find other examples and styles of products, pages, and layouts that you like, and share those with your designer.
Luckily, Brandy is very familiar with our brand.
Even still, Kate didn’t hold anything back when it came to explaining what we were looking for—in detail:
Once we had the design aspects of the project underway, Sutton started sending us final revisions of The Freedom Journal. It was at that point Whitney Henry, our editor, came into the picture.
What originally started out as a step we were going to manage in-house turned out to be a massive—and integral—piece to delegate. After all, we were printing 10,000 copies of The Freedom Journal, making a single mistake equal to 10,000 mistakes.
Here’s a look at just four of the pages that came back from Whitney with edits, (and The Freedom Journal is nearly 300 pages long!):
Luckily, we didn’t take the risk of editing in-house!
Now we had the journal put together, illustrated, and edited, it was time to find someone who could help us print it! Turns out I had recently interviewed Richie Norton on Entrepreneurs On Fire, who does product creation through his business Prouduct.
You can also check out Richie’s interview right here on Smart Passive Income.
As a result of our post-interview chat, Richie ended up being the guy behind the actual creation of the Journal—figuratively and literally:
As the creation fell into place, we turned our attention to finding team members who could help us market and launch it.
Tom Morkes, who helped us put together our entire outreach plan (a massive part of our marketing strategy), reached out to me after hearing me talk about The Freedom Journal on Entrepreneurs On Fire. With his expertise and background in helping others launch best-selling books, I was sold.
And Brandon T. Adams—our crowdfunding expert—was someone I found during my brainstorming. He proved priceless to the success of our launch given his knowledge and expertise with crowdfunding platforms.
But what if I don’t have the means to hire a team?
I’m glad you asked, because when you’re first getting started you don’t always have extra funds lying around. In this case, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and do the work!
If there’s a step in your plan you’re not sure how to execute on, there are a couple of options:
Turn to your community for help
While you may not have experience doing everything required to meet your launch goal, chances are others in your community do.
Jump into the Facebook Groups you’re a part of, or reach out to those who you’ve built relationships with in your industry or niche, and simply ask for help.
Something as simple as:
“Hey! I’m looking to publish a book. Do you happen to have any resources you can share on how I might manage the editing process?”
If you’ve been good about building your community and always providing value, you’ll have no trouble finding people who are willing to help—even if that means your friend reaching out to another friend for help.
One of the greatest strengths you can have as an entrepreneur is being resourceful. Leverage the incredible access you have to the internet to do some research! Chances are there are articles or YouTube videos that can help you along the way with the steps you’re not too sure how to accomplish.
And if you get stuck—like there’s just no getting around a certain roadblock—find a way to go over it instead.
Some other things to consider if you’re managing your launch on Kickstarter solo: productivity, discipline, and FOCUS!
Yes, it is going to be a lot of work for one person to manage; and yes, it is possible.
How? By mastering productivity.
Once you have your plan and your team (even if that’s just yourself) in place, the only step left is to move into The Marketing & Launch Phase.
Let’s do this!
The Marketing & Launch Phase
The marketing strategies you choose and how you approach your launch will vary depending on what your current foundation (if any) looks like.
For example, if you don’t have an audience, reaching out to them wouldn’t be an option. Likewise, if you don’t have a big budget, advertising might not be a main focus for you.
During The Marketing & Launch Phase it’s important to follow these steps:
- Set up shop on your launch platform (e.g., for me, that was Kickstarter).
- Create a communications plan (i.e., how you’re going to get people there).
- Start executing!
There are going to be a lot of moving pieces and important deadlines to hit during this phase, but there’s no time to panic. Keep your project plan close (and your project manager even closer).
Before I dive into some of the key marketing strategies used throughout The Freedom Journal campaign, let’s talk about how to setup your Kickstarter page.
How to Create an Engaging Kickstarter Page
As is the case with everything you create in your business, including your business itself, you have to be able to clearly talk about and present what it is you have to offer, who it’s for, and why they should care. This is critical to the success of your Kickstarter campaign, and it all happens on your Kickstarter page.
So, how do you do it?
“The best way to engage an audience and get them attracted to a Kickstarter campaign is by telling a great story through the video and the campaign page.”
This advice came straight from our crowdfunding expert Brandon.
Let’s break it down.
You know you need a great video, a great design and layout, and a great story to engage your visitor and make them want to learn more. But, of course, it’s not just as simple as slapping a few images together and talking on the mic about why you’re on Kickstarter in the first place.
Here’s the scoop.
The Story and Video
Telling a great story includes giving your audience an opportunity to identify with you, in addition to sharing a compelling reason why they should care. What can your idea do for them?
For me, that started with sharing the power of setting and accomplishing goals.
First, I hired a video guy, Caleb Wojcik, to create the video. Knowing how important this aspect of the Kickstarter page would be, I didn’t want to take any chances.
Caleb helped me storyboard the flow of the video, which quickly became our guide for the overall story we were going to share on The Freedom Journal Kickstarter page.
Once we had a storyboard to follow, it was time to press record. In the video I not only explained what The Freedom Journal is, I also shared where I was personally before and after setting and accomplishing one big goal.
I then made a promise to anyone who chose to back The Freedom Journal: The Freedom Journal won’t let you fail in setting and accomplishing your #1 goal.
Check out our Kickstarter video and notice how I give you an opportunity to identify with me as an individual, in addition to sharing a compelling reason why you should care (i.e., what The Freedom Journal can do for you).
You can also check out this behind-the-scenes video from Caleb where he talks about the process of creating the video for The Freedom Journal campaign.
So we had our video, which is incredibly powerful, but to take it a step further—so viewers weren’t just hearing the story from me—we also reached out to other industry experts and successful entrepreneurs and got their take. We asked them how setting and accomplishing goals has impacted their life and where they are today.
Each of the images below was clickable and led to a video of these individuals sharing their journey as it relates to goal-setting.
With the help of things like this image and the videos that accompanied it, every section of The Freedom Journal Kickstarter page shared another part of the story.
Remember to keep this in mind: once you have your story and your video, it’s time to implement layout and design of your Kickstarter page in a way that helps you continue to visually communicate that story.
The Layout and Design
First tip when it comes to the overall layout and design: make it easy for visitors to consume.
Second tip: maximize the space available.
When I say make it easy for visitors to consume, I mean, instead of having long, chunky paragraphs and excessive and busy graphics—both of which will contribute to confusion, overwhelm, and a quick exit for your visitor—make the flow simple. This includes easy navigation down the page, which can be accomplished with a variety of content like:
- Bullet points
In terms of maximizing your available space, you can play around with different layouts and collages that help you tell more of your story in less space.
For example, instead of using one large image to show your visitor what it is you’re creating, use multiple smaller images to help communicate what actually owning your product “looks like.”
Here, instead of just putting a single image of The Freedom Journal on the page, we’ve communicated a whole lifestyle that the visitor is now associating with owning the Journal.
And finally, a quick time-saving tip for your layout and design: mock up your design beforehand in a program like Photoshop so you can make tweaks and changes outside of the Kickstarter platform.
Once you’re happy with the overall layout and look, then you can format it in Kickstarter. This will make the implementation of your Kickstarter page design a lot easier—and quicker.
Now that you have your Kickstarter video and page created, you might be thinking:
Will I get featured by Kickstarter?
Of course the hope is YES! But you have to be realistic. There are thousands of campaigns launching on Kickstarter at all hours of the day, seven days a week. The chances of being featured are quite slim, and unfortunately there isn’t a guide on “how to get featured” (although there are certain things people suspect can help).
Case in point: we had a crowdfunding expert on our team and followed every step he recommended. Our trajectory and the consistency of our campaign was very good. Plus, we hit our funding goal of $25k in less than three hours.
But even with the success of The Freedom Journal campaign, we were never featured by Kickstarter.
Interestingly enough, one year later we launched another journal on Kickstarter called The Mastery Journal: Master Productivity, Discipline and Focus in 100 Days.
We were not only featured by Kickstarter and listed under “popular campaigns,” but we were also marked as a “Project We Love” for almost the entirety of our campaign.
Same exact process, different results.
Now that you have a beautifully crafted and engaging Kickstarter page with all the main elements, let’s talk about the strategies you can use to get people there!
Key Marketing Strategies
Here are some of the key marketing strategies I put in place leading up to and during The Freedom Journal launch:
The Ask to My Network
At the time, I had interviewed nearly 1,200 successful entrepreneurs, many of whom I went on to build great relationships with as a result of having them on my podcast.
My big ask to them?
“Will you share The Freedom Journal with your audience?”
My ask was of course a lot more detailed than this, but I essentially described what I was creating, gave them a “sneak peak” at the final product, and let them know how I felt this could benefit their audience.
To give you an idea of how seriously I took this ask, here are the stats on the emails sent, starting in early December 2015, and going all the way through February 2016:
Our 33-Day Push
This involved everything we were doing with our own content here at Entrepreneurs On Fire and included thirty-three days of Freedom Journal-focused interviews, blog posts, and emails.
That meant for every day The Freedom Journal campaign was live, Kate and I were producing multiple pieces of content directly related to The Freedom Journal and setting and accomplishing goals so we could lead people to the Kickstarter campaign.
Involving My Audience, Fire Nation
The interest campaign that helped me gain proof of concept proved to be an incredibly valuable asset during this phase, as it gave me a direct connection to those who had raised their hand and let me know they were interested. I wanted to make sure those who had expressed early interest were on this journey with me in real time—not just on the outside looking in.
In order to accomplish this, I sent out live updates around key milestones throughout our project and shared a ton of behind-the-scenes content around how the team was making it all happen.
A Partnership with Pencils of Promise
“From success to significance” is a saying I’m very passionate about, and The Freedom Journal launch was a perfect time to put it into practice.
Pencils of Promise (PoP) is an organization that helps build schools in developing countries, and I decided to partner with PoP in a special way. For every funding goal hit during our Kickstarter campaign, I personally donated $25k to PoP, which is the cost to build a school.
This partnership allowed backers to not only feel great about giving themselves the gift of The Freedom Journal, but also about helping give the gift of education to those less fortunate.
Social Media & Paid Advertising
Throughout the Kickstarter campaign I knew I wanted to run ads on social media in addition to our regular promotional efforts on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
I chose Facebook as my main paid advertising channel because I felt that would give the highest return on investment (ROI).
Here’s a look at the numbers:
I ran Facebook ads every day The Freedom Journal campaign was live on Kickstarter.
The total ad spend was $3,036, and the conversions from those ads resulted in over $17,000 for the campaign! That’s a 490 percent ROI!
Here are my top two performing Facebook ad images from the campaign:
The marketing strategy my team put together and executed resulted in a huge push. Remember, the more places you can be found—especially during your launch—the better.
To give you an idea of the reach of our marketing efforts, here’s what was created and published leading up to and during launch:
- The Freedom Journal interest campaign (nearly 20 emails long)
- A 30-day PDF giveaway (opt-in offer once we went live)
- Your Goal Setting Guide giveaway (opt-in offer once we went live)
- 40 guest podcast appearances
- 11 guest blog posts
- 11 email updates sent out via Kickstarter
- 27 broadcast emails sent from Infusionsoft to our interest list
- 34 interviews on EOFire
- 10 episodes on Kate’s Take
All of this content being sent out, shared, and consumed over those thirty-three days kept us top of mind and visible in A LOT of different places.
Now that you have your marketing plan together, it’s time to focus on making your launch day an EVENT.
For us, that meant hosting an in-person launch party in San Diego, where we invited friends, family members, and followers to join us in celebrating the launch of The Freedom Journal.
The launch party not only generated added excitement around The Freedom Journal going live, it also gave us the opportunity to connect with some of our biggest fans and share the physical Journal with them.
John Lee Dumas/Kate Erickson launch their Freedom Journal in San Diego, CA at Co-mmunity Shared Workspace. Photo credit: Paul Gero.
This was a huge benefit for those who attended because they were the first to receive a physical copy of The Freedom Journal if they pledged at a certain level. This “open pledge” strategy at the launch party resulted in dozens of additional pledges, along with multiple up-pledges.
But that’s not all.
Once you make sure your launch day is an event, you then have to be prepared to keep your momentum going strong throughout your campaign. Otherwise, it could fizzle out fast.
Successfully keeping your momentum going is not easy; it will require a lot of creativity and time. But I can assure you (and I speak from personal experience) that much of the overall success of The Freedom Journal had to do with my dedication to Kickstarter communications and pushes throughout.
Keeping Your Kickstarter Momentum High
One strategy I used to keep the momentum going strong during The Freedom Journal campaign: The “Up Pledge” strategy. The “Up Pledge” strategy is just what it sounds like: I leveraged the access Kickstarter gave me to those who had already pledged to the campaign and gave them incentives if they upped their pledge.
For example, I might email every backer who already pledged at the one or two-pack level and tell them if they up their pledge within the next twenty-four hours to a four-pack, then I would send them a fifth copy of The Freedom Journal, for free, on the same day.
This strategy as a whole resulted in over 413 backers upping their pledges!
Another strategy I used throughout the campaign was introducing new pledge levels based on brainstorming sessions with my team and the feedback I was receiving from visitors (what people were emailing and asking me for that wasn’t already available).
I introduced a total of four new pledge levels during the campaign, and these four levels ended up bringing in an additional $33,000 in pledges.
Sometimes small tweaks can make a big difference!
Closing Out Strong
Anyone who is familiar with Kickstarter will tell you that the very beginning of a campaign and the very end of a campaign are the most important parts. This is where you either have added excitement or added urgency for people to take action.
So, as your campaign is coming to an end, think about ways you can leverage that urgency to get an even wider reach and more eyes on your campaign. For us, that was celebrating the final three hours of The Freedom Journal campaign with a worldwide audience on live stream.
The simplest way to do this would be starting a Facebook Live, and inviting people to join you so they can ask questions and chat about what has happened during the course of the campaign.
What Happens Next
You’ve not only made it to the end of this guide, but you’ve also just learned exactly what it takes to go from idea to launch on Kickstarter.
Take a few minutes to visualize yourself at the end of your Kickstarter campaign, just having poured your blood, sweat and tears into an incredible project that now has a worldwide reach.
Doesn’t it feel amazing?
Hopefully you’re now onto the fulfillment stage, which is when you’ll figure out how to get your product created, perfected, and shipped to your backers!
Your journey has only just begun, and I can assure you it’s not only going to be an exciting one, it’ll also change your life. Launching The Freedom Journal on Kickstarter definitely changed my life, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
But not just because of its success:
- Named 6th most funded publishing campaign of all time
- Over $453k pledged
- More than 7,000 backers
- $50,000 donated to build two schools through Pencils of Promise
It’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made because it has created the exact ripple effect I visualized when I was just starting my project. Since launch, countless individuals have reached out to me and shared that they found me and The Freedom Journal through Kickstarter.
They took a leap of faith. Even though they didn’t know who I was, they chose to back the campaign.
Now, they’ve gone on to accomplish their #1 goal in 100 days.
Our Freedom and Mastery Journal Facebook group has nearly 9,000 individuals who are sharing their journey with one another every single day.
Elizabeth Granados is one of them, and she reached out to me to tell me her story:
Minutes away from folding up shop and giving up on her entrepreneurial dreams, Elizabeth jumped on Kickstarter to research some successful projects to see if her idea might make it.
During her research, she came across The Freedom Journal. Skeptical and apprehensive, she clicked the pledge button. A month later, The Freedom Journal arrived on Elizabeth’s doorstep, and over the next 100 days she used her Freedom Journal to set and accomplish her #1 goal of launching her own Kickstarter campaign.
Elizabeth’s campaign for Little Nomad was funded in just three days.
Our launch of The Freedom Journal on Kickstarter went far beyond what I ever could have imagined, and that’s the beauty of it. You can either spend a lot of time wondering what might happen if you actually launch your idea, or you can follow the proven steps I’ve shared here and just LAUNCH IT!
I decided to believe in my idea and trust the process, and because I just launched it, I’ve now had the amazing opportunity to impact tens of thousands of people worldwide.
Ready to set and accomplish your #1 goal in 100 days? Check out The Freedom Journal today and use promo code “PAT” for a special SPI discount.
If you’re following along, this is the fifth installment of my Physical Product Experiment, a step-by-step blog post series where I share a behind-the-scenes look at each stage in the process of building my first physical product: a productivity calendar and workbook. It’s been an exhilarating ride and a really amazing learning process. For a full recap, you can check out the previous installments here:
- In Physical Product Experiment [PPE #1], I introduce what the experiment is all about, and why I chose to explore physical products.
- In Physical Product Experiment [PPE #2], I discuss two of the most important components to the experiment’s success: validation and feedback.
- In Physical Product Experiment [PPE #3], I get into the nitty-gritty with prototypes!
- In Physical Product Experiment [PPE #4], I share my thoughts on the sometimes challenging manufacturing and shipping process.
Last month, I mentioned that we sent out the prototype testing packages, with medium fidelity versions of the physical product (wall calendar, workbook, and stickers), to our twenty-one beta students. I’m happy to say that product testing is in full swing!
If you recall, in this first iteration of the productivity calendar/workbook combo, the students are testing it out in their pursuit of achieving one specific goal they’ve expressed passion in pursuing: writing the draft of a book in ninety days—all the while providing feedback along the way!
In addition to the physical product testing packages, the beta students have access to the SPI Goal Quest Slack Community, where they are actively sharing their essential feedback about the process. We’re already learning so much (thanks, students!), which we’ll get into in more depth later in this post. At this point in the process, we’ve already learned so much thanks to the beta students, which will enable us to further fine-tune and make changes to the product so we can eventually deliver the best possible calendar/workbook to the public.
But before we get into the lessons we’ve already learned, I’d like to share a couple of behind-the-scenes snapshots of the beta testing packages we sent out.
Fun, right? Thanks to my team for the hard work at putting those packages together and shipping them out to the students! There’s something special about the fact that it’s a physical, tangible product (as opposed to a digital one), that just makes it seem more real—for me and the students.
Physical Products vs. Digital Products
During this experiment, it’s been clear that testing actual physical representations of the calendar and workbook (medium-fidelity versions of the final product) has been a good choice.
Interacting with something that you can feel and touch is a more engaging experience. As students play around with the product, they have the ability to take note of how the material feels in their hands, if the stickers adhere in a way that’s expected, and so on. It’s a more powerful experience compared to a digital experience with the same type of product.
In fact, before we had even sent out the testing packages, we received feedback from a number of excited beta students eager to open their testing packages to get started.
A post shared by Pat Flynn (@patflynn) on Jul 19, 2017 at 6:07pm PDT
Engaging with a physical product is a different experience than engaging with a digital product. With a physical product, there’s an extra, sensory level of experience that can’t be replicated with digital documents.
But with physical products there’s also an aspect that’s unknown—not just because I’m new to the world of physical products, but because there’s a lot that can potentially go wrong, from things being misprinted to products getting damaged during the shipping process. When things like that happen, changes are much more difficult to make on a physical product because the damages may be permanent (e.g., If a calendar was delivered torn and damaged, we couldn’t just send some tape over; we’d of course need to send a brand new one).
It’s my job, and my team’s job, to make sure we don’t get stuck going down a particular path simply because we’ve already made decisions about the look, feel, and design of the product. We have to be flexible, especially considering we’re getting feedback from the beta testers. And with a physical product, that takes more time and patience.
Product Testing Begins!
As I mentioned before, our beta testers have started testing the product (they’re about two weeks into the ninety-day process). While they test, we’re working with the manufacturer to determine the final product materials and to produce samples of the calendars and workbooks that more closely resemble the final version.
Our first hiccup in product testing came as a result of unclear instructions we sent to our beta testers. The instructions were related to the Slack community, but we realized after we sent out the packages (which also included a welcome letter from me) the instructions were actually intended to be read online, so there were calls-to-action like “click here” on a physical piece of paper. Oops!
To fix this, we quickly sent our beta testers the links they needed to join the Slack community. It was a small hiccup, but it highlights why we run beta tests. When you test, that’s when you iron out all of the little issues so that when you launch publicly, you don’t run into any problems.
It might seem obvious that this hiccup shouldn’t have happened, but when you are deep in the trenches of a project and there are several moving parts, it’s actually very easy to miss little things like this.
This is why you test and test and test again.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen episodes of Shark Tank in which people come in with a physical product to sell, and they go on and on about how they built the product, how much they spent on the product, but clearly they didn’t test the product based on the reactions from the panelists.
Going through this now with my physical product, I totally understand how the excitement for the product you’re building and hoping to put out into the world can easily take you away from the nitty gritty details. But that’s why you have a team. That’s why you have a beta-testing group to help cover that part of the process.
As the product owner, I need to remind my beta testers that they didn’t receive final versions of the product—and so there may be rough spots that still need to be polished. At the same time, I need to help them understand that there is value, even with the “beta” version of the product.
One other hiccup we ran into was the die-cutting on the stickers was not perfectly aligned, so the stickers themselves were a bit off. That’s a manufacturing-related bump we didn’t expect, but thanks to the feedback from the beta group, we will resolve the issue before the final launch.
SPI Goal Quest Slack Community Update!
Mikky, our SPI Goal Quest Slack community manager, has three updates to share about the goings-on in our Slack community. Here’s what she has to say:
- Accountability and motivation. “So far, I’ve seen how powerful a community can be. Surrounding yourself with a community of people working toward the same goal boosts accountability and motivation.”
- Sharing unique perspectives. “The community has been very active. Pat chimes in regularly and the beta testers have been frequently sharing their wins, struggles, and advice with each other, providing unique perspectives and fast, relevant feedback.”
- More relevant writing prompts. “One integral piece of feedback we’ve heard from the Slack community is regarding the daily writing prompts that Team Flynn came up with beforehand. The community would rather see daily writing prompts that are directly related to the final goal and parallel with the chapters, as opposed to some of the more creative/less focused that we had been sharing (e.g., ‘Write about the typical day of your avatar’). We’re already making adjustments to make the writing prompts more relevant to the final goal.”
Thanks for the update, Mikky!
Listening and Paying Attention
Overall, I’m happy to say that the feedback from the beta group has been very positive. There’s a consensus about how the workbooks helps to focus the user’s mindset toward the goal of writing. Write the First Draft of Your Book is the ninety-day goal they are seeking to accomplish in this first go-around, so that focus is what we want!
The overall calendar/workbook product is about the process of starting and finishing a goal in ninety days so that we can determine whether or not this is an actual process that may work with other goals down the road. Our big idea is to have other goals available for people to choose from, a library of goals to seek and accomplish. That would be really cool!
Our ongoing job is to make sure we listen to our beta testers, take in their feedback, and make the necessary changes. We also need to pay careful attention to the whole process, and ask questions of our beta testers (and of ourselves) to make sure we’re looking at this from every angle. We’ve already learned so much, which is inspiring and motivating.
Failure is an Option
Internally, we’ve been talking about marketing the product. We’re really excited with the branding so far, and can’t wait to get the final versions ready for later this year! Then, the idea is to add different calendar/workbook products targeting specific goals ready for early next year, and build that library as long as it’s going well.
But, like with anything, it may not go well. It may fail. And failure is okay. Failure teaches you something. Failure gives you the opportunity to improve it for next time, or try something different. And we can’t know the outcome until we try, right?
So we’re moving forward!
And, to finish it off, here are a couple of images from Kristie Winget on our beta testing team!
As someone who’s been in online business for almost a decade now, I’m grateful to have met and built friendships with many amazing people, such as Amanda Bond and Greg Hickman, who’ve been successfully selling products online for years. I’ve learned so much from these people over the years, and have been truly inspired by all of them.
As I continue to learn more (there’s always more to learn!) about selling and promoting products online, there’s one question that I keep asking myself (and, as I’ve realized, I’m not alone in this). That question is:
Open cart or closed cart?
When it comes to the promotion of your product, is it better to leave the cart open all the time and work on an automated long-term promotion sequence? Or should you pack the promotion and campaign into a shorter time period and have a closed cart during specific times of year?
Which is better? That’s what we’re going to tackle in this post today.
An Open Cart Is an Open Opportunity
When you keep the cart open, you can continually promote your product with the goal of getting more people to buy it. That makes sense in a lot of ways. If people want your product, why would you want to close the cart and deny them the opportunity? The truth is that you don’t, of course.
Another positive reason for keeping your cart open is the generous timeframe you have to focus on building funnels and sequences that can help promote your product as soon as people enter your email list. After those funnels and sequences are constructed, you can really hone in on marketing and getting people to jump excitedly into that sales funnel.
With an open cart, you can also keep tweaking the sequence over time, like a scientist testing a hypothesis again and again. By doing that, you’ll collect a lot of valuable data, which will allow you to more fully understand what works and what doesn’t.
You’re also going to decipher the times of year that are best to promote and sell your product. Summertime between June and August may work well, and perhaps it’s slower during the winter months. These are details that will inform your strategy going forward.
You will also begin to learn how outside marketing channels might affect your sales. With an open cart, you have all the time to figure out what external factors can do to your selling and promotion efforts. And with time comes data, and with data comes opportunities for making tweaks.
Once you really nail down those sequences after tweaking and testing based on the data you’ve collected, you’re going to have a much more successful go at converting the people who enter your funnel into customers.
With that said, I have to mention two recent guest posts on the Smart Passive Income blog that do an amazing job of explaining sales funnels and how you can use sales funnels to fuel your business:
- A Beginner’s Guide to Predictable Sales Funnels by Greg Hickman of System.ly
- How to Fuel Your Predictable Marketing Funnel with Facebook Ads by Amanda Bond of The Ad Strategist
Special thanks again to Greg and Amanda for your knowledge and insight!
The Disadvantages of Having an Open Cart
Like with anything, there’s also a downside to having an open cart. One disadvantage is that you limit the opportunity to include scarcity into your marketing efforts. Scarcity instills the “fear of missing out” (FOMO) into your audience. This is done in a few different ways–either by giving your audience a specific timeframe to purchase your product, or emphasizing that there is a limited amount of whatever you are selling. The FOMO increases the number of people who will take action, especially those who are on the fence. When your cart is open all time, you don’t have that sense of urgency. We will discuss more about how to create scarcity when we talk about the advantages of having a closed cart in the section below.
Another downside of having an open cart is that there’s a possibility that you may, if you don’t carefully construct your sequences and your funnels, overwhelm your subscribers. If your subscribers feel like you’re always promoting, it’s easy for them to take it for granted. and they won’t really ever take action. If you always have the opportunity to buy something, there’s always going to be time to make excuses to not buy.
You also risk coming off as overly aggressive in your promotion. Nobody wants that, especially if they don’t necessarily need what you’re offering at the moment, which is all the more reason why it’s important to know exactly what’s going on with your email list.
With an open cart, with everything automated and hands-off, there’s also a chance that you’ll forget about your cart altogether. You won’t forget about sales, obviously, but there’s definitely a chance you will, once things are automated and set in motion, become a little complacent about improving the workflow or fine-tuning the sales funnel. Things may be working, to an extent, but think of how much better they could work if you took the time to analyze the process you’ve set up, in addition to having some automation.
Mining Gold in a Closed Cart
The approach that I’ve used, and I think successfully, is the closed cart. And by that I mean there’s a specific timeframe in which the cart is open and closed. Part of the time, the cart is open. Part of the time (most of the time), the cart is closed. And in both time periods, you’re strategic about the timeline, the process, and whole funnel.
The pros in going with a limited open cart and then a deadline closed cart are that you can, as I mentioned earlier, inject a feeling of scarcity. So there is a time limit in a closed cart, and that has the potential of inspiring a rush of people to buy before they’ll no longer have access. Let me give you an example:
Here’s how it went during my recent Smart From Scratch launch.
The cart was only open for a specific period of time, and my audience knew when it was going to close. But, even with that knowledge, a whopping 44 percent of total sales came in on that last day because of the sense of scarcity I injected into an email:
Here’s a screenshot of the gross sales from the launch. As you can see, on that last day, Friday, a big spike in sales.
Note: As you can also see, there were some sales on Saturday, after the cart close date, but those were individuals who were having technical difficulties prior to the closing, and we wanted to make sure we didn’t punish them for something that was out of their control.
It’s also important to honor the deadlines you create. It just adds more clarity to the process, for your audience and for business.
In addition to creating scarcity and FOMO, with a closed cart setup you are more able to make an event out of it, because it’s not something that happens all the time. You can pour your energy into it, build momentum, promote it across multiple platforms and touchpoints before the cart closes. A closed cart also empowers you to be more persistent and regular with email communication and promotion to your audience. Since you have an end date, people will know that your promotion and emailing has an end date too.
One aspect of the closed cart approach I really love is it allows you to work closely with your students, or new members, or new customers after the launch period (i.e., open cart) is closed. You can keep your focus on the students (if you’re selling an online course) or your customers. You can be there for them, making sure that they are having a great experience, that the course or product is living up to their expectations. And, if you get feedback from your customers that it’s not doing what it needs to be doing, you have the time to make sure that things improve without actually worrying about the marketing side at the same time.
The Challenges of an Open-Closed Launch
Before I go any further, I just wanted to clarify here that I’m leaning heavily on selling and promoting an online course, specifically. That’s what I’ve had the most experience with so far (with a physical product experiment happening now!), so that’s what I’ll be talking about for the most part.
To be more accurate about what I’ve done for previous product launches, I’ve really used an open-closed cart launch. Because, at times it’s open, at times it’s closed—and everything in between is thoroughly planned and managed.
So that’s the challenge of an open-closed cart launch like that. It’s exhausting. It takes a ton of energy and time from myself and the team. It’s an “all hands on deck” approach to creating, promoting, selling, and managing your product funnel for the long-term.
Another facet of the open-closed cart approach is that it demands more hands-on attention. While the cart is closed, especially as it pertains to an online course where you have students (and more so if you have office hours, which I do for my courses), you spend a lot of time in customer service mode—giving everyone an opportunity to ask questions, whether it’s through live chat or on social media or through email.
The quicker you can get to the questions from your audience, the more likely it is they will follow through on purchasing your product because they’re going to know a person (you and/or your team) is actually there on the other end paying attention to them.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by an open-closed cart launch, there is a middle ground. It’s a way to produce what feels like an open-closed situation, just with a little added boost of automation from a tool called Deadline Funnel, which helps to add scarcity even in an evergreen sales funnel.
David Siteman Garland, of the Create Awesome Online Courses Cheat Sheet, originally recommended Deadline Funnel to me. [Full Disclosure: As an affiliate, I receive compensation if you purchase through this link.] He was a guest on Smart Passive Income Podcast Session 136.
Deadline Funnel allows you to, as people come into your sequence or email list, create time-based promotions. So, after someone comes into your sequence or email list, Deadline Funnel creates scarcity by giving them only a specific amount of time to take action before that opportunity disappears. So it’s an automated form of scarcity.
And that’s your open-closed cart variant. Again, you can try that out with Deadline Funnel.
Closing Your Cart on a Digital Product
You may be thinking perhaps, “why would you close a digital product when it could be open all the time?” Let me reiterate why I recommend, based on my experience, going with an open-closed cart approach.
- First, if you’re going to market your product—which is a must if you want to get it in front of people—you need to inject scarcity into the funnel, and create moments that say, “you need to take action now.”
- Second, it’s much easier to manage your customers and ensure they get the support they deserve. You’re there with them, taking feedback, answering questions, making improvements for an additional product down the road.
- Third, it works. I can only speak to my experience (with my online course launches most recently, Smart From Scratch and Power-Up Podcasting), but the open-closed cart approach has worked well. It takes a lot of energy and time, but sometimes those most challenging approaches are the most validating and rewarding.
I know some people who have started with open-closed cart approach, and then have converted their courses to more of an evergreen kind of launch. That’s definitely something that I’m willing to experiment with as well.
Now it’s your turn.
To You: Open or Closed? Share Your Experiences!
I know there are a lot of you in the SPI audience who know even better than I do what works and what doesn’t when it comes to open and closed carts. So, I want to give you the opportunity to share those experiences!
In the comments below, tell us: What has worked for you? What hasn’t? Share your advice. I really want this to be a collaborative, ongoing discussion. One of the greatest joys about the Smart Passive Income audience is that it’s a learning environment. It’s a place to learn, for me and for you! That aspect of the community is so important to me.
That’s what SPI is all about. Learning from each other. Learning from our experiences. Learning on our paths toward bigger and brighter things.