5 Lessons I Learned From My Failed Kickstarter Campaign

Failure is often a great chance to discover one of the many paths to success and Kickstarter is no exception. 

In February, I set out to launch a Kickstarter campaign for YogoMat, an eco-friendly yoga mat that folds and secures to fit in bags. My goal was to raise $36,000 in 36 days. However, as the clock reached zero on March 15, I had raised just over $10,000. It was frustrating to watch the failure happen gradually over the seven-week campaign and during that time reasons for the failure became painfully obvious -- most of my mistakes were made before the campaign even started. 

Instead of crawling in a hole and drowning my sorrows, I decided to give Kickstarter another shot. My second campaign is currently running with an end date of May 20. With a less ambitious goal of $16,000, I have already surpassed it and just hit the $30,000 milestone. 

Here are five lessons I learned from my first failure that have made my second campaign a success: 

1) Listen to your backers. 
Aside from your friends and family who back your project because they love you, backers are people who want the rewards you're offering and are part of the same group of consumers who'd buy your product. 

After my initial fail, I listened directly to backers' advice and also utilized Kickstarter's “Creator Dashboard,” a feature that provides insight into who is visiting your campaign and backer activity. I took it a step further and downloaded a free Google Chrome extension called Kickstarter Status Board, a tool that tracks feedback across various social networks, referrals and news pieces pertaining to a campaign. By doing so, I had better understanding about my target audience.

2) Your Kickstarter “story” and rewards should be limited, simple and clear. 
During my first campaign, in addition to having a YogoMat as a reward, I also offered other yoga accessories and T-shirts. Backers loved the YogoMat but were not excited about the additional reward items. Finding them too numerous and distracting, they overwhelmingly selected only YogoMats as rewards. In the redux campaign, I took the hint and only offered single and multiple YogoMats. 

As for what to write about for each reward and the Kickstarter "story," I learned simple is best. In my initial campaign I went way overboard with too much background. I discovered more than three to five lines of straightforward content is too much text to expect someone to quickly read and digest. And when they get overwhelmed, they miss the core message.

3) Be conservative and realistic in setting your fundraising goal. 
The original YogoMat campaign sought to raise enough funds to pay not just for one run of YogoMats but two, in order to allow for different color combinations. In addition, the other yoga accessories and t-shirts added to the overhead, causing my campaign goal to balloon well above the bare minimum I needed to get my product in production. 

For my second attempt, I only looked to raise enough funds to bootstrap a starting run. Additionally, I've communicated with my backers that if I raised more than my goal, I could expand to other color options. By lowering my fundraising goal, I drastically increased my chance of reaching it, while leaving contingent room for campaign expansion and inclusion of additional bonus goals. 

4) The length of your campaign matters. 
As news of my first YogoMat Kickstarter campaign spread, it grew both in backers and funds. However, when it failed after 36 days, it was only 30 percent funded. Had the campaign run for another 24 days (the Kickstarter maximum campaign time is 60 days) and it went viral, it's entirely possible the campaign might have reached its goal of $36,000. With the current campaign, the word-of-mouth from the first attempt helped me raise $24,000 in 30 days.


5) You've got to be social and show the value you're providing. 
A video is wonderful if it conveys how awesome your product is and shows enough credibility about you. But not many of us are filmmakers, so the chances that your video alone is going to set your campaign apart is slim. 

To ramp up buzz, you need to talk to people about your product, both online and in-person. Not only does communicating directly with potential backers build trust, but you also get instant feedback. Potential backers won't have confidence in the product, unless they have confidence in the person. Give them plenty of reasons to support your endeavor.