As soon as the month-long campaign was over, these thoughts pop into my mind:
- We did it! We raised 45.000 Australian Dollars. Amazing.
- It was tough! I’ve realized now that launching something in golf (a conservative and very niche environment) during COVID (a pretty shitty and very niche virus), in Australia (a cool country but I’ve lived here less than two years) was a bit naive and ambitious but here we are!
(For those who would like to see our campaign again, click on this link.)
Four months have passed, and I felt it necessary to write down all lessons learned, from the beginning, middle, and end of this experience. Now I will share these lessons with you in chronological order.
1/ Campaign preparation – I should have taken it easy and enjoyed the ride
If I did the campaign preparation over again, I wouldn’t spend so much time and money obsessing over every detail and making everything perfect. I wouldn’t worry so much about everything. I would go quicker, even if it would mean delivering something "unfinished".
Why? Because crowdfunding is about testing and learning. In crowdfunding, if you’re solving a problem for people, if you have a decent prototype, if your storytelling is consistent and clear, you already have what you need to start your campaign.
If I had to do it all over again, I would spend more energy on what's really important in crowdfunding: building a strong community and creating great communication tools to be as visible as possible (video, pictures, and other cool creative content).
If you start a campaign you should see it as a way to test the water rather than to launch a company. Don't overthink it, don't work alone, and ask for people's feedback during every stage of your campaign preparation.
To summarize; be lean, be open, be simple in your approach, and have fun!
2/ Fundraising - a lot of likes led to very few orders
This is both positive and negative. Positive, because we've had a lot of visibility and some amazing feedback. People were enthusiastic about our mission and the problem we were trying to solve. We felt we were spot on and it was great to receive so much support.
On the other hand, it was negative and frustrating because only a few people were ordering our products. At the end of our campaign, 1,5% of all our visitors had bought a polo or a jacket. Still today, I can’t figure out if this number is good or bad (in my mind it’s bad...) but I have learned that sales depend on these three factors:
The pricing strategy is super important, it has to be well thought out and tested before being released. In our case, we did it too quickly and our prices turned out to be our biggest problem.
I realized how wrong we were when we received this message:
“I think your idea is fantastic and I would love to be a part of it, but I think it is a bit ironic that a single polo shirt costs $150 (retail price) and a jacket costs $450 (retail price). It is almost like your tagline is redundant and rather said ‘hey, let’s not make this game about old wealthy men but only the old wealthy men can wear our products’.”
We could have lowered our prices, but a small detail was blocking us: reducing our prices would mean we wouldn’t be able to cover future production costs. Choosing the best materials (100% recycled and Bluesign approved) and choosing local manufacturing is pretty cool but also really expensive… We were stuck!
That's what I mean when I say that the pricing strategy has to be well thought out and tested. We could have avoided this problem if we started by crunching the numbers and asking for feedback from customers rather than developing the product first.
If I had to do everything again, I would definitely start by looking at the numbers and who knows, maybe I would come up with a completely different product...
The funding goal is, in theory, the minimum amount of money you need to start your project. Easy. But in reality, it’s a bit more complex and strategic because the funding goal is also a marketing tool.
You have two choices: go with a low funding goal and play the marketing game or go with a high funding goal and be more transparent about your real financial needs.
If you choose a low funding goal, you may increase your chances of being funded quickly which gives confidence to your backers, the press, and any incoming traffic. Be careful because you run the risk of losing investors if they see you’re already 100% funded.
If you go for a high funding goal, you might be able to afford to have all your dreams come true. Although, if you don’t reach your goal, your campaign could be cancelled, and you end up with nothing.
In our case, we went for the first option and we reached our funding goal in three days. Then, we had a lot of trouble making people understand we still needed them. If I had to do it again, I would go for the second option and take more of a risk.
Be smart when setting up this funding goal and please don’t choose a funding goal that is below what you need to cover all your future costs. This is a silly bet.
Smaller is better
In crowdfunding today, smaller is better! A smaller product is easier for campaign makers to handle. A smaller price point is easier for backers to handle.
Unless you have a very innovative and cool tech product or you’re already a well-established brand, don't go selling big products at high prices. Most backers won't be keen to spend more than 100 USD on your product. There are some exceptions, but don’t take them as examples.
Maybe some people won't agree with me on that point, but this is how I feel. Crowdfunding today is dominated by technology and competitive prices, I should have realized this before.
3/ After the campaign - a personal note
Personally, I have kept four lessons from this campaign.
Choose facts and numbers over intuition
We all have an intuition that we should be listening to every day. Clearly. But when it comes to setting up a business, only facts and numbers are important.
If I had to start our project again, I would start with numbers and the financial side (boring but very important). In our case, we have built a fantastic product based on our own values and this could have been a problem. In the end, we were fortunate because we got our campaign funded but this will remain a very good lesson for the future.
Don't compare yourself to others
Don't compare yourself to big campaigns that have raised millions of dollars. They are good examples and great sources of inspiration but don't take them as references.
I personally did that mistake, and then I realized that each project is different, every mission, brand, context, and country is different. Keep in mind that the biggest campaigns are often less profitable because they spend a crazy amount of money on marketing. Do your own thing, don't be driven by crazy numbers, and be proud of what you've reached.
Don't assume your friends and family will like what you’ve done
It’s important! Don't think all your friends and family are early adopters just because you’re setting up a crowdfunding campaign. Don't pretend to know how they will react and don't think that everyone will be amazed by your project because it’s not true … and this is totally normal and fine!
Start with big ambitions, just be sure to manage your expectations.
Haters are your friends
You will be criticized. Whatever you do, whatever you build, you will always be the target of one or two (or more) people. The one’s who love your project will silently support you and people who don't like your project will leave long and destructive comments.
Sometimes, those comments are really helpful, and haters may even become your best promoters! Hard to believe, right? Just keep in mind that they’re contributing to your story and then find a way to turn their negativity into a marketing boost. It’s a win, win.
Don't ignore critics and negative feedback, but don’t give them too much attention either.
You’ve reached the end of The Origin Story of Untraced! This story has been written from my perspective, my name is Arthur, and I am the founder of Untraced. If you have any questions or comments, I invite you to get in touch with me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org