This Could Be the Most Important Part of Your Kickstarter Campaign

3-D Printer on Kickstarter

Kickstarter’s all the rage, in part because it makes fundraising look so easy. But dive just a bit beneath the surface, and you’ll find that mounting a successful campaign takes a lot of planning and a lot of pre-launch legwork, just like any other outreach effort.

Kickstarter can generate more than just money. Anne-Marie Roussel, co-founder of hardware maker SeeSpace, recently told Dice that her campaign was a great way to test the market and raise money at the same time. Iterations of SeeSpace’s product, an HDMI pass-through that allows Web content to appear seamlessly with TV content, were made available to Kickstarter funders and their comments and suggestions were incorporated into development efforts. “Many of the people pledging are really savvy about tech,” Roussel said about the Kickstarter audience.

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Nearly 20,000 projects were funded on Kickstarter during 2013, the company says, with some 3 million people pledging $480 million. That’s a lot of activity. So how do you make sure you get the attention you need? As in so many other things, the key, at least according to one Seattle entrepreneur, lies in networking.

Mina Yoo needed just six days to raise $20,000 for her invention, the Qlipter — “the Swiss Army knife of carabiners.” Well before she opened up her campaign, she began building a network made up of existing contacts, supporters and reviewers who would give her product some buzz. She sent samples to camping and gear experts, who went on to write reviews, which in turn created excitement and built credibility. “Sending people samples was by far the best thing I did,” she said.

Her tactic speaks to the importance of making your product “real” to as many people as possible. That means having working prototypes and beta versions that can give people the hands-on experience they need to get excited. Excitement leads to demand, and demand leads to funding in the initial stage and to market penetration down the road.

Yoo makes one other important point: Once you’ve raised your money, be prepared to deliver. For one reason or another, too many Kickstarter projects disappear after their campaign’s been successfully completed. Yoo didn’t begin hers until she had a manufacturing solution. She resisted feature creep, and focused on delivering a complete product in a realistic timeframe.

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Image: Kickstarter