Jon Troutman, Co-founder & Chief Design Officer of Canary
How Jon Troutman and Canary Raised 20x its $100K Crowdfunding Goal on Indiegogo
The Canary team didn’t start their company with crowdfunding. In fact, they had been working on the idea for roughly a year before turning to Indiegogo.
“We decided that crowdfunding would be a great way for us to validate the market a little bit,” says Jon Troutman, co-founder of the company, which offers networked home security systems.
It took the team about a month and a half to plan and prepare the campaign, but Troutman notes that they had already developed a voice for their brand and a story for their product. They didn’t devote as much time to preparation as some campaigns because they could already picture the puzzle. They just had to fit the pieces together.
And getting users involved in the process would be key to doing so. After working on Canary for a whole year, they needed an outside view. “What we’re building is so much about filling a need for people, that it felt weird to go too far into product development without bringing more people into the process,” Troutman says.
One of the great things about crowdfunding is that it lets the market decide in real time whether or not to validate your idea. In Canary’s case, it did.
- The right way to communicate your message to your audience
- Where to go when you’re looking for expert help
- How to analyse the competition and what you can learn from doing so
- What questions you need to ask yourself before you launch your crowdfunding campaign
- How much time you need to devote to your campaign in order for it to be successful
Full Transcript of the Podcast with Jon Troutman
Nathan: Hey, guys. Welcome to another episode of the Foundr Podcast. My name is Nathan Chan and I am your host coming to you live from Melbourne, Australia. So this is episode number three of…well, it’s part number three of the crowd funding series out of number six.So we’ve got three out of six and the reason we’re doing this is because we are actually running a crowd funding campaign right now and we’re producing a beautifully designed coffee table book with the best of from the greatest entrepreneurs around the world. Have shared all these tips and advice and we’ve put it all into this coffee table book. So we’ve been doing research, so much research, and we’re live now.
I’d love your support. So if you go to Foundr Mag, F-O-U-N-D-R-M-A-G.com/book. You can go and check out that campaign, you can go and see how it’s doing. Getting close to getting funded in almost three days. We’re at 75% of recording this and, yeah, look, it’s really, really exciting times. This stuff is working, guys. So everything that you’re hearing in each one of these series episodes is…it’s gold. It’s absolute gold. And Jon Troutman is no exception of that. The guys at Canary, they did an Indiegogo campaign and they got 20x their funding. So I think you’re in for an absolute treat, take notes.
I hope that this inspires you to wanna do a crowdfunding campaign. Go and check out our campaign, I think you’re gonna love it. And if you’ve got any gold from any of our content, the magazine, the podcast, the blog, our newsletter, the social channels, anything at all I’d love your support. It would help us more than you can imagine. We need to get this book into the hands of as many entrepreneurs as possible because it’s gonna be truly game changing. Imagine sitting at, you know, the round table with Richard Branson, Barbara Corcoran, Arianna Huffington, Daymond John, Tim Ferriss…you name it, it’s all compiled in this book. And if you know any of our content you know it’s gonna be beautifully designed, it’s gonna be super rock solid, we really don’t hold back. We wanna just build the best ever coffee table book.
There’s nothing out there like this right now that exists. And I also should mention that each book sold, we also donate portion of our own revenue. And if we can get this campaign funded we’ll be able to provide over 1,000 nourishing meals to kids in South Africa and people in need. So I’d love your help, I’d love your support. I cannot stress this enough. Please go to foundermag.com, F-O-U-N-D-R-M-A-G.com/book and now let’s jump into the show.
So, yeah, look. I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to join me and talk to me about what you guys have created with Canary. So, I’m curious, what was the biggest struggle? Let’s start off with the hard parts of the campaign.
Jon: Yeah. I mean, it’s always hard to sort of identify, like, what the one thing is. Either the most struggling part or the, you know, most effective aspect or whatever. But I would say one thing that was difficult during the month of crowdfunding was the realization that crowdfunding had to be, like, the number one thing that we were all doing during that month. Meaning that it took us away from any sort of product development work we were doing and we just realize, like, “Wow, this is,” like, in order for the campaign to be, you know, as big as we want it to be we had to be all all hands on deck and, like, the whole time. Although I don’t know if I would say that was the biggest struggle, necessarily. But it was definitely something that we sort of anticipated, “Yeah, it’s gonna be a lot of work,” but we didn’t necessarily realize that it was gonna be so time consuming. And so that was one thing that kind of we experienced as we were going through the campaign.
Nathan: Well, you mentioned around how you guys had to focus, take your focus away from product. Can you tell a little bit about how big your team is? Which will be interesting.
Jon: Yeah. Well, we don’t share our team numbers, exactly, like, publicly.
Tom: Oh, okay. Yep.
Jon: But we definitely are a team. And one of the reasons for that is because if I told you how big our team it right now it would be different by the time this was published, even, just because we’re growing so fast. But our team, you know, the size that we were a year ago was very…like when we launched our campaign there was six of us that were, you know, like full time working on the product as part of the company. And then we were…at that point we were working mainly with, like, consultants and contractors. You know, prior to the campaign we had a lot of people that we working on our project that were actually…we’d hire just on a contractual basis.
Some of them were like shops, like we had an engineering shop based out of Boston that was helping us kind of develop the guts of the product. And then what…you know, one thing that happened since crowdfunding is we had, you know, maybe 30 people that were working on it that were helping us with the product that weren’t part of the team and since that time we’ve been able to bring all of that work we were doing externally in house into the team.
Jon: So it’s been really great. So our team has, you know, grown like 10x what it was when we did crowd funding.
Tom: Wow. And how many people were roughly working on the campaign?
Jon: It was just the…it was six of us that were…that launched it, were the ones really working on it. I would say probably the four that were most involved were myself and Adam and Chris who are my co-founders and then our IOS engineer, actually, was very involved. It was funny, he actually ended up kind of doing a lot of our…almost managing our Twitter account during the campaign. He actually signed up for Twitter when we launcher our campaign so he was, like, brand new to Twitter but then, you know, just there was no, like, strategies around Twitter so much as just, I guess, trying to talk to the…talk to people and, you know, respond to them right away and just…so it was fun because it wasn’t actually, like, a social media team or anything doing the campaign. You know? It was just us. So that was fun.
Tom: Yeah. Okay. Interesting. And how long did planning take?
Jon: Well, we’d been working on…if you include, you know, working on the product as planning we’ve been…it was about a year in the making. But, actually, from the point that we decided, “Hey, let’s do crowdfunding,” I think we were maybe a month or a month and a half. So we actually…it was pretty quick. Pretty quick for us. I don’t know if that’s quick. I’d be curious to hear what others that you talk to say. But, for us, we kind of…we’d been working on the project for a while, we knew we wanted to. You know, we’d raised the seed so we’d already brought some money in to kind of help us build enough of a team and engage with some contractors to get it started. And then we decided that crowdfunding would be a great way for us to…I don’t know.
Kind of validate the market a little bit. And, you know, we wanted…I guess when you’re building a product like this because it’s so…it’s so much about the user, like, what we’re building is so much about filling a need for people that it felt weird to go too far into product development without bringing more people into the process. So that’s why we really decided to do crowdfunding is because we were…we wanted to actually have the community that was gonna be using this product and real individuals to be more engaged and involved in the product development, you know, from the beginning as much as possible. So, yeah, we decided to do it and then just because of our own product timelines and wanting to get things rolling we only gave ourselves about a month and a half of prep time before we pushed the button to make the campaign live.
Nathan: That actually is kind of short. A lot of…quite a few people that I’ve spoken to so far, sometimes they take months, like, you know, six months. But it’s kind of like working on it, you know, slowly.
Tom: Right. Well, and I think some…and I think some of these projects that happen, that six months is like, “Hey, we have this idea, let’s start putting things together to get ready. You know? To start working on this idea and then we’ll do crowdfunding. Whereas, like, we already had…we had the idea and we’d been working on it for, you know, roughly a year. And then we decided, “Now, let’s start telling people about it,” and through crowdfunding. So a lot of the…obviously the product work we’ve been doing, we’d already been working on our…what our brand, sort of voice, and story, and language, and style.
We’d been working on all of that before we even decided to do crowdfunding. So that’s why it’s a little hard to say that exactly how long was spent prepping for crowdfunding because so much of the work we’d been doing over the past year had been leverage…was then leveraged in our crowdfunding. If that makes sense.
Nathan: Yeah. Yeah. No, that makes 100% sense. So what are the key attributes for Canary that you think made your campaign so successful? Or what are the key elements that allowed you or allowed the community to be really engaged with Canary?
Tom: I think the first thing is that we were…is that the product itself is something that people…it was filling a void that people had. So rather than just be a…rather than being something and somewhat…rather than being sort of a, “Gee whiz, oh, that thing looks cool,” it was more of a product that people saw and we heard so many people say that immediately they thought, like…they saw it and they said, “Oh, I want that. I need that.” Which was so, you know, so validating and exciting for us because we’d been feeling that way as we were building this.
We, like, knew that this was a product that we wanted and that we needed but then the immediate response from hundreds and then thousands of people was that, you know, other people felt the exact same way. That, “Hey, you know, we rent or we move often. We don’t have…we’re not home owners.” A lot of people that live in New York City and other cities like us that saw this and it was filling the exact same need that we…that we built it to fill in our lives. Was, you know, home security that works for people that, you know, don’t have expendable amounts of income that they can just throw at signing up for long contracts and, you know, for a traditional home security system.
So I think to answer your question the first key ingredient was just that we knew we were launching not just a project but a product and so we built our campaign around that product and around the needs that would be filled in peoples’ lives by, you know, preordering this product or backing this campaign. And I think that’s a…I mean, I don’t know if that comes out in my answer but the key difference there is I think when you’re doing a crowdfunding campaign there’s a lot…there’s so many different ways you can frame it. You can frame it as a product or you can frame it as an idea. You can frame it as, you know, a project. You can frame it as a team.
Meaning, like, some people support campaigns because they see the team that’s building it or the individuals that are building it and they wanna get in and they like those people and they think that they’re brilliant and they wanna help them do this goal that they have set. Other times it’s more of, like, a project. Like an art project or a video or things like this and people will get on board because they’re sort of inspired by the creative pursuit. And then for other projects that are product based, you know, it’s important that all the story-telling around it is framed to really highlight the fact that this is…it’s not for us, it’s not about us, it wasn’t about us wanting to go through this journey or do crowdfunding, it was really…
We tried to frame it so that it was about them, it was about those that would support the campaign, it was about people that were gonna be the users of this product. So our story-telling was very much around what the product is and then how it can fit into peoples’ lives. And we left out, you know, we didn’t really tell the story about us very much. We didn’t say, like, what our journey was. We didn’t focus on us. It was totally focused on the product and how it would fit into peoples’ lives. And I think that’s really the number one ingredient was that people saw it and then they’re like, “Hey, I can see right away how this would fit into my life and why it makes sense for me,” and therefore they wanted it right away.
Nathan: So what I’m hearing is…and when you were explaining that to me I was just thinking about the video and the copy and everything you used for the landing page and it really…like, that really hits the nail on the head in the sense that when I was watching your video for the first time you really were just showcasing the problem and how it can be solved.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah, we like to…and we always kind of…I think we even have it quoted in our video or say that we, like…I can’t remember the exact quote, but the idea is that it’s not about the technology, it’s about the experience that the technology enables. And that was really the story that we tried to tell with our campaign. We didn’t go into too many details about the technology or the, you know, the tech specs or the…exactly the guts of the engineering of the product. Because there’s an audience for that and some people…some campaigns are backed because people are excited simply about the tech. You know what I mean?
But that wasn’t…I mean, that’s not what Canary’s about. Like, we are doing amazing, innovative things with technology. No doubt. On the hardware side we’re doing incredible things by packing so many sensors and capabilities into a single device. On the software side we’re doing…we’re approaching computer vision and machine learning algorithms in a way that no other company is doing. So we’re definitely innovating with technology and doing amazing things there but we just didn’t feel, and I still feel this way, that most people…that’s not what resonates with them. People don’t care so much about the technology.
They just care about, like, you know, their lives. Like, I care about in my life what’s gonna help me, you know, be more connected to my family, what’s gonna help me, you know, get through the day and feel happier and feel safer. And so when we were building our campaign we had to kind of weigh the benefits or the pros and cons of telling a technology-focused story or telling a people-focused story. And, you know, the clear winner for us and for our product and for our brand is to tell the people-focused story because that’s really what it’s all about. It’s about enabling people through technology and, you know, filling peoples’ everyday needs and making them safer and…so, that was the…
Anyways, that’s the story we told was about people and it was about use so when people watched our video there was more shots of people using our product than there was of, you know, us building it. And so I think people saw that and they could immediately kind of put themselves in the shoes of the people in that video or of the people…or the stories we tell in the copy. And they’re like, “Yeah. I can see how I’ll use that.” And, anyways, that was our approach and I think it made…it worked for us.
Nathan: Yeah. No. You’ve broke that down really well. I’m curious, when you said you had to make a decision around whether you would focus on, I guess, your ideal customer when you focus on the story-telling whether people would be interested in supporting the campaign because of the tech or because of the experience. How did you diagnose that your target audience would more resonate with the story behind the problem that you guys are solving and the experience that you would give them? Was that something that you guys just made an assumption on or did you get feedback or…
Tom: Yeah. I mean I think it’s a little bit of an assumption and it was actually a…it’s sort of nuance. There’s kind of a fine line there because we, like most technology crowdfunding projects the people that are gonna support it, at least the early ones that support it, are probably early adopters who do care about the tech side of things. Right?
Nathan: Yeah. That’s why I was curious.
Tom: Yeah. Yeah. So, I mean, we recognized that. I mean, listen, the people that care about technology, they’re still people. And they care about things that aren’t technology, also. So the fact that we are building a technologically advanced product, unless we completely sort of eclipse that…you know, we just, I guess, had the assumption or belief that it was still…it was gonna resonate with those that were looking for hot, new technology. But to sort of go beyond that scope which, you know, it’s hard to know exactly how many of our backers are…fit the category of just the early adopter and how many sort of start to get outside of that bubble.
But I like to think that we kind of broke outside of simply early adopters. I think we broke outside of it a little bit with our backer base because we didn’t just focus on the technology. You know what I mean? So there’s a little bit of the…I don’t know, trying to appeal to both audience. Does that make sense?
Tom: But, I guess, just recognizing that even the people that were gonna get excited about tech would also get excited about something that just would fit seamlessly into their life that just fills a need that they have. So, yeah, we kind of made the assumption that it would be better from a brand perspective and from a, you know, reach perspective to focus more on a story that, you know, is more universal rather than just a technology-focused one.
Nathan: Let’s switch gears and talk around tactics.
Nathan: You mentioned your sales copy. Was there anything, strategies or tactics that you could recommend around the sales copy for your Indiegogo or Kickstarter, whatever landing page it is?
Tom: Well, the first thing I would recommend…and this actually applies even more broadly than just about the copy. Which is to be honest with yourself about what your strengths are and then what thing…be honest with yourself about the areas that you’re strong in and the areas that you could use help in. So if copy is a strength of yours, if writing is a strength, then you should write the copy, you should, you know, circle it around, get feedback from as many people as possible. And I’ll go into that. We can talk more detail about the copy in a minute.
But also be honest. Like, if you’re not great at writing then consider hiring a copywriter or consider hiring a brand strategist. You know? Bring on freelancers or, you know, spend money to hire people that complement your strengths. I think it’s just like a…it’s a more broad, you know, answer to your question but I think that a lot of times with crowdfunding campaigns, like, you know, usually you’re doing it because you might be strapped for cash or you wanna…you know, you’re trying to raise money and so you might feel like, you know, you need to bootstrap everything and do it all yourself completely.
But that, I mean, our approach was to…we tried to be really honest with ourselves that, “Hey, here’s things that we feel confident doing ourselves and here’s things that we could really, you know, use some outside help on.” And, you know, we hired people to help us with…on the PR side. We hired someone to help us make the video for us. And then on the copy and the brand strategy side, that’s something that we do have internal strength in. Like, that’s one of the things that I do. But I also needed…you know, we wanted some external opinions and help on that, as well, so we did bring in, like, a marketing…
A brand strategy marketing person to help us and she spent a few days with us and helped us kind of craft the story in a way that…well, I don’t know. I guess I’ll just say that. And she helped us pull out the ideas that we had in a way that felt concise and would resonate with people.
Nathan: Yeah. No. That’s actually something that keeps coming up quite a lot is you see…I don’t know. I guess from my perspective there’s this assumption that, yeah, when you do a Kickstarter or Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign it’s just like a small, little team and you’ve done it all yourself and you hustle and do everything yourself. But the more and more things that I keep seeing coming up is, is you got a lot of people like the successful people that I’m talking to and the teams and the companies is, yeah, they’re getting outside help.
Nathan: They’re getting PR people involved, they’re getting brand strategists involved and they have decent sized teams.
Tom: Yeah. I think you kind of have to do that. I mean, you don’t have to but if you don’t it shows. You know? Either in your video…it either is gonna show up in your video, it’s gonna show in your messaging, it’s gonna show in your imagery, it’s gonna show in the way that you are responding to people. I think unless you’re just an amazing unicorn Jack of all trades there’s probably gonna be some areas that you could use some extra help with. Either that or if you have happen to have built up your team and you’re already a…you know, a big company or organization. There’s probably gonna be areas that outside help can really benefit, so…
Nathan: Okay. Well, I’m curious around tactical strategies for driving traffic, growing awareness around your campaign.
Nathan: We’ve mentioned that you guys…yeah, you guys have smashed your target so let’s…can you give us some really good gold in regards to how others can just, yeah, absolutely smash it?
Tom: Yeah. Sure. So I would say the first thing is you wanna have a lot of stuff set up prior to when you actually, you know, hit the button to make your page live. So, you know, don’t wait until the last minute to start planning out, you know, the first day. The first day is really the most…you’ll hear this, probably, from everyone you talk to which is the first day and the first hour when your campaign goes live is really the most important part, probably, of the whole month or however long your campaign is. So, for the one thing I mentioned that we did hire a PR firm that helped us and some tactical things that they did was they aligned…they arranged for interviews with, you know, select press to happen, you know, prior to when the campaign was gonna go live.
So, you know, the couple weeks before the campaign launching we did some interviews so that articles were lined up to actually go live on the day that we launched our campaign. So that’s really important and that’s, you know…this was sort of the strategy and the tactics that we learned from working with the PR agency. We probably wouldn’t have, you know, known how to do all this ourselves. So we had some articles lined up that were, you know…and there wasn’t a lot. We had hundreds of articles written about us and, obviously, we didn’t line all of those up. But you wanna line up a few. We had a few that were set to go up that day and then immediately, you know, if those go up and if they get some traction then other articles, other press will start picking up on those and then writing new ones.
But if you don’t have any set up I think you’re gonna lose out on having that initial traction. We also, through our own personal networks, we were, I guess, sort of unashamed to ask anyone and everyone we knew to just be ready to support us right when we launched. And that’s kind of, I guess, crowdfunding 101. But, you know, I think I emailed probably like 600 people through my email contacts, people I haven’t even talked to in years, and just said, “Hey, remember me?” No, but we, so we…you know, we reached out to, like, everybody we knew and we said…and we asked them to…we let them know what we were doing.
Oh, I guess, getting even more tactical. When we emailed friends and contacts saying that this campaign was launching it wasn’t just a, you know, quick two sentence note. We actually typed out and we worked on this together, we like, edited, reedited, made sure we had a draft that we really liked. But we typed out an email that explained clearly what the campaign was, why we were doing it, and then specifically, like, “Here’s how you can help,” and we gave them…we asked them to visit…actually, I’m trying to remember. What we did is we sent out an email telling them that this was gonna go live on a certain day and then we also said, like, “If you want, we’ll send you a reminder, like, day of.” Actually, I don’t think we asked them.
We just said, “We’ll send you a reminder day of.” So we sent out that email, like, a couple days ahead of time letting them know, “This campaign’s gonna go live on Monday. Here’s what you can do. You can go to the page, you can support it, you can send this block of copy to friends of yours,” and then we gave, like…we wrote some text that was easy for them to share. So, like, “If you wanna tell your friends about it here’s what you can say.” Basically, you wanna, like, remove roadblocks from having other people share it and make it as easy as possible. So we did that and then we…and then some of our closest friends, we asked them to kind of do the same thing we were doing which was, “Are there people you know that, you know, we don’t know that you can ask them ahead of time to be one of our…you know, to be early backers and to support early.”
So, basically, we wanted to have, you know, as many people set up…like, and not just invited but actually committed saying, like, “Yes, I love what you guys are doing. I’ll definitely support it on the first day.” And, you know, we had a lot of people that were…already knew we’d been working on this for the past year and they were excited about it, they knew we were gonna get ready to launch a campaign, so we just game them the instructions and then, luckily, you know a lot of those people followed through on what they said and they… you know, first day they went and support…they backed it right away and then they shared it with people. I wish I had numbers around. I’m really curious.
Like, I don’t know how many of those, you know, early, early backers on that…the morning when we launched were people that we’d committed and how many were then just the organic results. I’m sure the ones we committed were, you know, weren’t that many. Maybe a couple hundred people, maybe, tops that, like, promised, like, “Yeah, I’ll definitely back it on the first day.” But I think just the fact that we’d gotten the word out so much, you know, allowed it to…it didn’t start the day we launched it. It actually…people were already ready to back the campaign and excited about it prior to when we launched.
Nathan: Yeah. Okay. I see. And just to touch on that how many…so you had around six in your team at that time.
Nathan: So there was around six people writing personal emails to contacts, friends, family, anyone in your personal networks.
Tom: Yeah. And to be clear, I mean, it’s gonna be a really difficult uphill battle if you’re saying, “I’m gonna write, like, a very individual, personal email to everybody I know.” So, you know, we wrote some boiler plate, you know, copy that just explained, “Here’s what the project is, here’s what we’re asking you to do,” and then the personalization of those emails was very much like, “Hey, Dave. You know, we wrote up some notes below about what we’re doing next week. Wanted to share it with you.” You know what I mean? So it was less like…it wasn’t like we had to every time open up a blank email and write an email.
The whole point with this stuff is if you want it to be…you know, you want everything you do in planning and executing your campaign you want it to be scalable because that’s the whole point is you want this to reach as many people as possible. So I would just, like, encourage people to, you know, try to do things that can be reused when you’re spreading the word. You know?
Nathan: And did you guys have virtual assistants or anybody just going out and you’ve got, like, a spreadsheet or something with all the specific names and email addresses that you need to send the followups to and if you’ve sent them or not? Or you just hacked away at it?
Tom: I think that you just gave me a good answer for that first question. The biggest mistake, we didn’t get virtual assistants. No. We didn’t. Actually, we didn’t do that at all. You know, we put processes in place ourselves to just try to be very nice about it but I had…you know, I had a lot of Evernote, you know, tabs open and we had some Excel spreadsheets and we just had a…I think we just had kind of our each…each had our own individual process of going through that and trying to reach out to everybody. I know I had a lot of lists of people that…and people that I wanted to reach out to and then I kind of kept tallies of which friends or family of mine had agreed to order and, you know, that sort of thing. But we weren’t…I mean, we probably weren’t nearly as scientific about it as we could have been, so…
Nathan: Okay. And…
Tom: And then…
Nathan: Sorry. Go on.
Tom: Oh, I was just gonna say, one other thing in regards to the…you know, trying to have it build traction right away and get people to share it is we had, like, on our website we had, like, an…I think we got this…I can’t remember where we got this idea from. Obviously we’d done a lot of research looking at other campaigns. But on our website we sort of briefly, briefly…our website was like a one pager that just explained, “Here’s what the product is, you know, pre order on Indiegogo.” And then at the…at the bottom of that site we had sort of, like, three steps. Like three things you can do to help support the campaign.
And it was, like, Tweet about it, you know, share it on Facebook, and watch the video. And the watching the video one took you to the Indiegogo campaign. So that was just another example, of, like trying to really break it down. Like, really obvious. I know this is pretty 101 but it’s like, you know, very, very obvious and easy ways for people to either help you get the word out or support the campaign with a minimal amount of effort on their part.
Nathan: Okay. And, I’m curious also when you talked about teeing up interviews and stuff like that. You got the PR company to handle that. You had a PR company handle that. So were you guys pitching the venture beats and the first companies beforehand or during the campaign?
Tom: I think it was both. Definitely some of them beforehand. And, again, like I said, like, since this was in our…like, it’s definitely not my strength, so I don’t have experience with, you know, doing PR work so we sort of worked with our PR team but they took the lead they have relationships with these news outlets and the venture beats and the fast companies and they kind of know, like, “If we reach out to this person, now they’re likely to meet with you,” or, “If we reach out to this person now they’ll probably say no, but if we reach out to them two days into the campaign when it’s going well then they’ll definitely say yes.”
So, we kind of took the PR…our PR team’s lead with a lot of this and or took their recommendations as far as, like, there’s certain reporters or journalists that if you…the ones that we anticipated would be willing to meet and excited and write positive things ahead of time and then others that it would be better to kind of wait and then jump on board after which is something that I would not…we would not at all have known if we were going about it ourselves.
Tom: Because we would have just been, you know, cold calling people and probably, you know…
Nathan: Just hacking away.
Tom: It’s a lot harder to do it that way. Yeah.
Nathan: Okay. So let’s keep moving.
Nathan: So you had a big focus on your first day. What happened next?
Tom: I mean, the first day was more…it was more planned meaning we had stuff set up that was, like, “Hey, we know these articles are gonna go live,” or, “We hope these articles are gonna go live and we have these people that have agreed to do it.” And then, from there, it just became totally, you know, it became more organic. So people were sharing it, the people backing it weren’t people we knew. I mean, that happened pretty quickly on the first day. It kind of went from the people we’d asked to do it and then quickly turned into, you know, extended beyond our circles.
And at that point it was really…I kind of mentioned this in the beginning, our full time job for the next 30 days was answering peoples’ questions and, you know, responding to people right away. We did that both digitally and even…we did some, I guess, non-scalable more human tactics which was we actually wrote, like, hand-written notes to people that were, you know, that backed our campaign, that were in the big…those that were, like, sharing it a lot or those that were our earliest backers.
Nathan: Oh, wow.
Tom: It wasn’t scalable, it was hard to do, we didn’t write nearly as many as we wanted to. But, you know, we wrote hand-written notes, we sent stickers to people, we…I guess we just felt so, like, not only excited but just, like, really thankful and, like, I don’t know…I just felt, like…we felt touched in a lot of ways by the people that were willing to back this and then tell people about it and just be…like they quickly…so many people quickly turned into, I guess they turned into fans but I also felt like they turned into friends.
Like, people right away were just having conversations with us on social media and so I think so much of the continued organic success over that month long time period was because we actually, you know, developed some great, like, real relationships with our early backers and that happened on social media. It also happened…some of it happened via email, it happened on the comment threads on the discussion board on the Indiegogo page itself. And we were just having…it was so fun, too. It was like, you know, we had our IOS developer and then I’m a designer and my co-founders…you know, none of us are…we don’t do this. We don’t, like, social…we don’t do a lot of social media in our day-to-day, you know, work.
And so this was just a great experience where we’re, like, realizing, “Wow, this is so cool. These people are joining us on this kind of journey and we’re talking to so many of them and kind of building these relationships then. And, in my opinion, so much of what happened over the next month and the continued, you know, growth and success of the campaign was a result of becoming, you know, friends and developing relationships with as many people as was possible that backed the campaign because then they went out and they wanted to tell more people about it and we had so many people that came to it and they were like, “Hey, you know, my friend told me about this,” or, “I heard about this on this blog,” and we just had a lot of bloggers writing about it. And it was like the epitome of, you know, viral sort of organic internet awesomeness.
Nathan: Yeah. Wow. Okay. Yeah. This is really good. So I’m curious, on the first day what percentage of your target did you hit?
Tom: We hit our goal before lunch time on the first day.
Nathan: Oh, wow.
Tom: So, yeah. If I remember correctly we had like a $100,000 goal and we hit that before lunch time and we were like, “Wow. This is going well.”
Nathan: Oh, geeze.
Tom: And then I think we…I think we maybe hit, like…I think we raised, like, $300,000 by the end of the first day.
Nathan: Wow. Geeze. So a lot of it was the planning beforehand and you think…how much of it, I’m just curious just to touch on this.
Nathan: How much of it do you think was your personal contacts and your personal network and that hacking and hustling you guys did beforehand? You’re not sure.
Tom: Yeah. I have no idea. Honestly, Nathan, I have no idea. But I think it was that initial…you know, it definitely wasn’t a big percentage of that. It was maybe the initial few hundred people that backed it. If that. But, definitely, I mean I would owe much of the success on the first day to the fact that we had…I think the…I mean, we can’t…you can’t underestimate the press. I would owe much of the success to the fact that we had articles lined up, ready to go out. Because, you know, that’s how you’re gonna have the biggest reach. Especially with Indiegogo. I know it’s different on Kickstarter because on Kickstarter you…they actually, you know, if the staff likes it they do, like, staff picks and they feature campaigns that they like.
But on Indiegogo it’s very much… it’s all algorithmic so, like, you’re not gonna get featured and get an extra bump from Indiegogo just because you, like, know someone there or, like, you…or because they like your project. You actually have to…it actually has to do well for it to get featured. I think if we hadn’t kind of hit the press right away and, like…or, I guess, hit more people, you know, gotten in front of more people due to articles then it wouldn’t have…you know, our start wouldn’t have been as strong. I mean, I’m sure our campaign still would have been successful eventually but it just would have been slower and probably wouldn’t have had as much impact if we hadn’t done some sort of PR prep work ahead of time.
Nathan: I see. And you talked about platforms. Let’s just quickly touch on the platform pace. Why did you guys choose Indiegogo over Kickstarter?
Tom: I mean, they’re both great. Honestly, they’re both great platforms and it’s hard to know, like, which one for…depending on, you know, what you’re doing probably either platform could work and, I mean, honestly I love both of them. For us Indiegogo felt a little bit more flexible. It felt more like they give you a platform…and, actually, I mean, I don’t wanna…I definitely wouldn’t want anything I saw to come across, like, negative towards Kickstarter because I love Kickstarter, also. But we, you know, Indiegogo felt right for us because it just has flexibility, it allows you to sort of do what you want with your campaign.
Like, you can, you know, sell multiple units of a product, of your product as a perk. You can have, like, a single perk that has multiple units as part of the perk. And maybe Kickstarter does that now. I know. But at the time that seemed, like, unique to Indiegogo and it just felt very much more…there felt like less rules on Indiegogo just, like, “Hey, here’s a platform.” And then you can kind of do what you want with it. So we like that flexibility of just being able to kind of get access to it and then, you know, craft it however we wanted to. And then, although this wasn’t necessarily one of the deciding factors, we found working with Kickstarter…or, with Indiegogo to be really fantastic.
There’s a few key people there that kind of worked on our campaign with us and helped us, you know, as we were crafting the strategy around it there was people at Indiegogo that were just really willing to kind of give us advice and then once it was going…especially, I guess, because it was being successful, like, they were definitely helpful in, like, helping us manage it and answer questions.
Tom: And then since that time they’ve been…I don’t know, we have a good relationship with Indiegogo. They’re just really…I mean, I think what they’re doing is amazing and they have a great team and it’s been cool to kind of work with them as they’ve…as they helped us and then we’ve been able to help them in various ways as far as they reach out to us sometimes and we talk about our campaign with them. And so it was a good relationship to build and it was a great platform.
Nathan: Okay. I see. Let’s go back to the tactics. Do you have any more tips that you would recommend for people looking to run a successful campaign around marketing, PR? I know we touched on a lot but I really wanna make sure we delve really deep and get it all from you because, yeah, man, that’s unbelievable.
Nathan: The first day…by the end of the first day you hit 300% and then it just kept rolling through.
Tom: Yeah. Well, I mean, I mentioned a little bit at the beginning about the video. Developing a really compelling video is one of the most important factors for a successful campaign because so many people will, like…you know, so many people will start by watching the video. So if you get there and the video is either not high quality enough or it feels too cheesy or it…you know, isn’t as…you know, it’s not exciting enough then a lot of people won’t bother to read the rest of the content on the page. So the way that, you know, most of these crowdfunding platforms are set up they really…the video is the hero.
So I think you really have to treat it as that when you’re creating the content for the campaign. And if you don’t do anything else right you should probably…you should make a compelling video. So, you know, when we did that we…of course we watched a lot of other videos. Both crowdfunding videos as well as commercials that we liked and we, you know, analyzed kind of what we liked about them, what we felt like was compelling, what was engaging, what the pacing was. I even went through and transcript…some of the ones that I thought were the most effective I actually went through and transcribed.
This is a good…this was a good exercise for me, at least. I transcribed, like…I wrote out the script of other crowdfunding videos, if that makes sense, because I wanted to see…as you’re writing the script for your video sometimes it’s hard to know, like, “Well, how is this gonna play out? Like, how long is this? Like, when I’m actually saying this in front of the camera will it be too wordy, will it come across weird? Like, should one person be talking the whole time or should we switch between people?” And so I actually wrote out, you know, what some of the other videos that I thought were, you know, compelling the way they did it.
And that was a good exercise for me to sort of analyze, you know, the ones that I liked. This is how the pacing went, you know? And then that helped us to compare the script that we’d written to, you know, other scripts that I thought were successful. And, you know, I found that, like, a lot of our early drafts, our script for our video, is way too long. We tried to, like, say way too many things in it. So, you know, we edited the script down, made it more concise, and then we…like I said we hired a professional director to shoot our video for us and we spent money on it and it was definitely worth the money because it, you know, ended up being such a…
I mean we still…actually, we’re still using that video. We’ve used it most of this year as our product video because it turned out to be a really great…you know, a really great asset in telling a story. So, definitely, that’s a long winded to say, “Make a great video.” It’s super important.
Nathan: Yeah, man. No, you’ve really explained that really well. If there’s anything else, like, please, keep going deep. I’m mindful of your time but, you know, I’m really appreciative that you’re really going deep into these tactics and strategies. So, was there anything else that you would like to share with us, Jon?
Jon: That kind of covers it. I wish that there was other…some other, like, silver bullets or, like, great ideas that would be…that wouldn’t sound, you know, cliché but it was kind of…that was kind of it. It’s like, make a great video, work with a PR team if you don’t have that, define your goal ahead of time so your team is aligned on, like, what your story is and…yeah. Oh, I guess another thing I hadn’t mentioned it…I haven’t mentioned yet is you need to put a lot of thought into how you’re gonna answer questions.
Because, I mention this a little bit, so much of, you know, the continued success of the campaign past the first day, you know, over the next month was based on the fact that we were answering peoples’ questions. Like, a lot of the people on the first day they’ll back it because they find it right away, they wanna be one of the early backers, maybe you know them. So the first day the people that backed it they didn’t need as much, maybe as much hand-holding. But, then, as the campaign went on you had a lot of people that, you know…
and this is where it gets to what I was mentioning earlier on the early adopters versus, like, kind of expanding beyond that early adopter circle. Like, a lot of the early adopters that back other campaigns, they’ll just back it because, “Hey, I discovered this thing, it looks really cool. I’m gonna sign up and I’m on board no matter what.” But, then, as you sort of expand beyond that circle you have people that…they wanna understand more about it, they wanna…they want answers to things that aren’t necessarily covered on the page, they want to know that, like, you’re real and this is something…you know, a lot of our people that backed it, the campaign, were new to crowdfunding.
They’d never backed anything before. And so people would ask us questions around things that, had we not been ready to answer their questions, had we not been quick to respond to them, they probably wouldn’t have backed the campaign. And we also…and there’s no way we would have been able to answer all the questions if we were coming up with the answers as they were coming in. So, prior to launching the campaign we had written out, brainstormed, “What are all of the possible things that people might ask us about this?” And then we, you know did as good as we could to go through and write out answers to everything so that when people started coming at us with questions we weren’t like, “Oh, great. What do we say to this?”
It was like, “Oh, cool. We already know the answer to that. We’re all on the same page. This is how we’re gonna address this, this is the technical answer to this, this is the plan for this feature.” So it was very much, like, think ahead to what people are gonna ask so that you’re not, like, scrambling and then, you know, not responding to people because you have too many requests coming in. So that was super key and I think we did good at that. I think we could have done even better because, you know, there’s a lot of influx of questions that come in that you might not be able to handle if you haven’t prepped ahead of time.
Nathan: I’m curious. Did you guys run any competitions? I know that you can now do competitions or something like that?
Tom: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, thanks for reminding me. It’s funny, this has been like a year ago now so I forgot some of these things.
Nathan: That’s okay.
Tom: We did. We, actually, yeah we did run…Indiegogo…was it through Indiegogo? I can’t remember if Indiegogo had a thing for this. We did a comp…
Nathan: They do now. I don’t know if they did a year ago.
Tom: Yeah. I’m not sure if it was actually…I think they did have a thing but it was a little bit hackey, it wasn’t really…it wasn’t very easy as far as, like, the process, but we did run a competition that was just…we asked people to…we asked people to, you know, to spread the word and then we, each day…we did this, like, the last, I think, two weeks of the campaign. Where, like, each day whoever had the highest…whoever had referred the most people that came and supported the project, I think they won a free…like, another Canary, another device. So that was a lot.
I mean, it was a lot of fun, also, just because it got…you know, competitions are really fun and it’s cool to, like, get people trying really hard to win and then people are so excited when they actually…we’re like, “Hey, you won a Canary.” And people are so excited about it. So that was a lot of fun. I don’t think that necessarily…well, yeah, I mean, that probably did…that probably was significant in the amount of… amount of orders. Yeah. I mean, it’s hard to know. There’s definitely a lull. Like, the beginning of the campaign is usually, you know, the biggest and then you kind of drops down and you have this little…
if you plot it out, you know, you have this little trough in the middle of the campaign when, you know, it’s not a brand new thing that just launched and it’s not…and it’s not about to end. But it’s just kind of happening. So you have a little bit of a lull, kind of a couple weeks in the middle. And then as it gets close to ending you get another spike a little bit. So I think the competition helped to remind people that, “Hey, this is gonna end soon. Tell your friends.” And, yeah.
Nathan: You’ve been awesome, Jon. We’ve got a lot from this. Especially around deep dive tactics and really understanding some of the processes that you guys were going through beforehand.
Tom: Oh, good. Okay. Cool. I hope that was helpful.
Nathan: Wow. I really hope you enjoyed that one, guys. How good was that? Jon really didn’t hold back and really just showcases how much hustle is involved when you wanna create a Kickstarter campaign and get it, you know, well above funded. You know, they did 20x what they’d planned which was an incredible result. Now, if you’d like to check out what we have going on and all the stuff we’re implementing from all of these episodes in this six-part series make sure you do check it out. Go to Foundr Mag, F-O-U-N-D-R-mag.COM/book. Absolutely love your support.
You know, this book, I know you are going to love it and a portion of each book sold goes to charity out of our own revenues. So, guys, we want to make this an absolute no brainer for you. Okay, guys. Thank you so much for taking the time, I hope you have a fantastic day, and I’ll see you next week.
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