Crowdfunding Checklist: Step 7, the Pre-Launch Checklist
Are you ready to launch your crowdfunding campaign yet?
We’ve already gone through many of the critical steps for campaign success, from making sure your idea has legs to getting ready to actually produce your product. But with the big day fast approaching, it’s imperative to have all your ducks (and prospective backers) in a row before you go live.
The difference between a tightly-executed campaign launch and one that’s thrown together at the last minute can add up to tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Executing on your final pre-launch sprint can make all the difference between success and failure.
This checklist will cover only the critical steps between the most recent step on our checklist (the pre-production process) and the campaign launch itself.
1. Set up legal protections
If you’re running a campaign to gin up interest in a new product for an existing company, you may already have this handled, but this step is primarily for those newer to the game.
A large-scale crowdfunding campaign is very much a business operation, and you may run into significant legal trouble if you have issues with production or delivery. Establishing an LLC that can handle the campaign, manage its money, and address any complaints will give you an arms-length distance from potential lawsuits. It also confers tax benefits, particularly since the passage of recent tax cuts that have made pass-through entities like LLCs more tax-friendly.
The LLC should have a business bank account established in its name to manage all the money you raise as well. Don’t commingle your personal finances with your campaign’s! Keep all of it at arms length from you to minimize any risks.
Speaking of taxes, make sure you work with a skilled accountant and/or CPA. The complexities of financing a crowdfunding campaign, and paying your suppliers to fulfill it, can be extremely hard to handle if you’re not well-versed in the ins and outs of bookkeeping and tax reporting. Consider retaining a corporate attorney as well, to handle any legal issues that might arise and to make sure you’re compliant every step of the way.
2. Determine campaign length
Kickstarter campaigns can run from anywhere between one and 60 days, and Indiegogo campaigns are also capped at 60 days. Kickstarter suggests keeping your campaign active for less than 30 days for the best chance of reaching full funding, while Indiegogo suggests 40 days or less.
However, many ambitious projects will run for longer periods of time -- a number of million-dollar campaigns for tech-product projects on both platforms ran for more than 45 days, and the average length of successful tech campaigns seems to be roughly 44 days. Kickstarter’s higher visibility can help you reach your goal faster, but your pre-launch promotional efforts will be critical to building that early hype that will get you noticed and featured on a crowdfunding platform’s main page.
A campaign that runs for too much time can squander their momentum and lose their prospective backers’ interest. Make sure you can sustain interest through marketing and public outreach for the duration of your campaign, no matter what that duration happens to be.
3. Know how much you need to raise
Your funding goal is an absolutely critical element that you need to lock down before launch. The main goal of this number is to give you the resources necessary for cost-effective production volumes. In order to know what those volumes might be, you’ll need to do your production research. You did do your production research already, right?
The funding goal can be significantly impacted by any “extras” you offer, so it’s best to make sure that these extras will be profitable even at very modest volumes. Many campaigns underestimate the cost of their core offers, but many campaigns also dramatically underestimate the cost of producing high-quality extras, such as miniatures for board games, or accessories for tech products. Anything manufactured comes with its own cost considerations, so lock those down before you set your headline number.
4. Create sensible reward tiers
Your campaign builds around your core offer, whether it’s a board game, a pair of cool headphones, a personalized drawing of cats playing poker, or anything else. Set the price point for this offer to both maximize your backing and to ensure that you can produce the offer at breakeven or better.
You should also build a set of reward tiers at both lower and higher price points than your core offer. An “intro” tier at the lowest price point might be something like a hat or t-shirt with your campaign’s logo, and a top-level tier may bundle several copies of your core offer with premium features like custom figurines or creator-signed limited editions. Give backers value at all price points without simply giving stuff away and forcing your eventual production to operate at a loss.
5. Set up your campaign marketing
If you haven’t done so already, you should get your campaign marketing materials ready for launch. This includes setting up the campaign page itself (Kickstarter and Indiegogo will allow you to develop the presentation of your campaign before it goes live) and any external outreach efforts that will run during the campaign.
Social media posts and emails can be automated, and paid ads can be developed in advance. No matter what tools you use, you’ll need to have a comprehensive set of promotional mechanisms ready to swing into action in the days leading up to launch, and for the entirety of the time the campaign’s active. The early days of the campaign are critical, and your ability to attract significant backing within your first 48 hours can make or break the entire effort. Do not skimp on the promotion or you could fall well short of your goal.
Are you ready?
So much of a successful crowdfunding campaign happens beneath the surface that it can be easy to overlook any number of critical steps. You made the right choice by doing your research and getting informed, but execution is what matters now. Launch day is coming quickly, but with proper preparation, you’ll be ready to blow the doors off of your goals and turn your dream into a crowdfunding phenomenon.