The Kickstarter Chronicles: From List Building To Reward Shipping And Everything In Between

Here’s the thing about being a content strategist and story editor for a PRX podcast: it’s really, really hard not to fangirl-squeal every time I have a client meeting.

I’ve been listening to podcasts on a near-daily basis for the past six years. According to my Stitcher profile, I’ve logged 1,651 listening hours — that’s 9,006 episodes. I’m a proud contributor to Snap Judgement and Radiotopia . One of the faint glimmers of hope I had during the darkest moments of 2017 was from a direct message from Al Letson , host of Reveal , on Twitter. If it weren’t for shows like This American Life , Terrible Thanks For Asking and Strangers , I would never get laundry folded or dishes done.
Aside from my theatre training, I attribute everything I’ve learned about writing, storytelling and audience engagement to the talented people behind the microphones of my favorite podcasts. Thank you, invisible people.
Which is why, when a fellow member of The Copywriter Club podcast Facebook Group put the word out that one of her colleagues was looking for a content marketing expert, I didn’t leap — I LUNGED at the opportunity.
Typically, I hold my cards somewhat close to my chest during an initial client consultation. After all, it may sound like the best project in the world, but you learn pretty quickly as a freelancer that the best thing you can do in a first client consult is to listen — listen for bad client red-flags or signs that they don’t have a budget, listen for whether they’re out to hire an order-taker or a consultant (Pro-tip: never agree to work for a client who tells you “we’ve already done all the research — all you have to do is plug in the words”).
Now: when poor Lauren Schiller got on the phone with me to discuss the details of the podcast content marketing gig, I’m embarrassed to say I GUSHED over how passionate I was about storytelling and podcasting. There was no professional detachment involved in this conversation. I pretty much BEGGED her for the job. So much for the upper hand.
Thankfully, Lauren saw that despite my lack of cool, I was indeed an expert in incorporating storytelling into content . Soon after hiring me to write a few podcast descriptions and social media posts, she invited me on as a creative collaborator to help shape a narrative framework around her interviews with history-making women.
That was nearly a year ago. Since then, I’ve had the honor to listen in on the raw feed from interviews with amazing, trail-blazing sheroes: people like Sabaah Folayan , the documentarian behind Whose Streets? , a look at the Ferguson uprising and the people behind it.
People like Christina Psarra , Director of Mission at Doctors Without Borders, who works on the front lines of the refugee crisis.
And people like Ijeoma Oluo , author of So You Want To Talk About Race , one of the most accessible and frank explorations of today’s racial landscape. ( Ijeoma’s interview is coming out in the new season. If you want to hear it, subscribe to the podcast on iTunes) .

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Seriously, people: I’m working with the Terry Gross of the feminist movement.

In late 2016, Lauren was accepted into Project Catapult , a cohort of up-and-coming podcasters in the PRX ecosystem who were ready to take the next step from part time podcast hobbyists to full-time podcasting geniuses. The cohort participated in a 20-week curriculum designed to help them level up their digital content creation abilities while also running sustainable, profitable businesses.
With the grant money awarded by Project Catapult, Lauren was able to hire me, bring sharper focus to her digital content a core message of the show (“How Women Rise Up”), and increase her marketing efforts. And so far, so good: our listenership grows each month and we’ve gotten some rave reviews on iTunes.
But now it’s time for the baby bird to leave the nest and raise her own funding.
So…it’s Kickstarter time.

Welcome To The Kickstarter Chronicles

In addition to being a content and product launch strategist, I’ve also had the good fortune to be the copywriter for two highly successful crowdfunding campaigns: the first raised over $500,000 and broke the Swiss record for crowdfunding (my client, Slicks Backpacks, was based in Switzerland). The second raised over $100,000 and my client went on to make a deal on Shark Tank .
Between crowdfunding and startups, I’ve discovered what all successful launches have in common: a great story and an audience of die-hard fans. (That’s right: it’s possible to build fandom around your product before you even ship it).
So here’s what we’re going to find out over the next few months: can a podcast with no physical product apply the same success factors to its crowdfunding campaign and hit an ambitious funding goal?
I’ll chronicle the ups and downs of running a Kickstarter campaign: the strategy, the headaches, the excitement…all in living color for your voyeuristic enjoyment.

Why am I doing this?

  1. Writing things down makes things happen. The productivity rule of thumb is that if you want to get something done, write it down. Chronicling our journey is my way of articulating my strategy, processing any lessons I need to learn, evaluating my path, and giving context to anything new that I discover.

    2. Sharing my journey brings value to my audience. If you’re an entrepreneur reading this, there’s a chance you’ve thought about running a crowdfunding campaign but feel too bogged down in your day-to-day, too intimidated, or too broke to do it. I want you to see that with the right product, strategy and tools, anyone can run a successful Kickstarter campaign.
    3. Creating practical content is smart marketing. Finally, let’s face it: I’m a content strategist. If writing about this process wins me or my client new subscribers and fans, all the better. And if you want to follow this journey and get access to the tools and templates I’ll be using, please do sign up for Speaking Human at the end of this post.

The Campaign Timeline

Here’s an overview of the journey we’ll be taking. This timeline is more like an atlas than a trail map: you can see the major stops on our path, but I’ll get into the nitty gritty of what each phase involves in future posts.

Phase 1: List Building (60–90 days before campaign launch: ongoing)

We already have tens of thousands of subscribers to the podcast —problem is, our email list is woefully small. Not surprising, since most of our audience interacts with us through their podcasting apps rather than our website.
But a crowdfunding campaign is only as successful as the community it creates around the product it seeks to fund. So our challenge is to get our listeners engaged with Inflection Point outside of the podcast environment: through email, social media and content platforms like Medium.
For a new product without customers, I advise my clients to begin the list building process at least three months before campaign launch to determine product/market fit and nurture and fine-tune messaging to their audience.
Since Inflection Point already has a growing audience, we’re focusing the next month on expanding our interactions with that audience through content marketing efforts.

Phase 2: Community Engagement (30–60 days before campaign launch: ongoing)

This is my favorite part: getting to know our audience on an individual level. We’ll be launching a Medium publication and Facebook group where listeners can interact directly with one another and with our team.
During this phase, we’ll create and promote blog and video content and pitch guest content to authority publications and podcasts. We’ll also foster conversations with our Facebook group to discover what matters to them, what kinds of topics they want to discuss, and what motivates them to take action.
Additionally, we’ll begin building relationships with journalists who cover podcasts, feminism and crowdfunding.

Phase 3: Campaign Creation (30 days before campaign launch)

Once we’ve put our content marketing strategy in place, it will be time to focus on our sales strategy. Our goal during this phase will be to combine assets like images, video, and sales copy to create an email campaign and Kickstarter page that get people excited about funding another season of Inflection Point.
We’ll determine our minimum and reach goals, reward levels and timeline to delivery of the rewards. We’ll also map out our backer experience flow, so people aren’t left hanging once they click the “Fund This Project” button.

Phase 4: Campaign Launch (Day 0)

While pre-launch was focused on rallying our biggest supporters to our cause, campaign is about generating traffic to our Kickstarter page. For that, we’ll need to tap media contacts and social media influencers to spread the word.

Phase 5: Campaign Maintenance (Day 5)

After all the hubbub of the first week of the campaign, there’s certain to be a plateau in traffic and conversions. This is the opportunity for us to assess our trajectory and make any tweaks to our messaging, content and outreach as needed.

Phase 6: Campaign End (5–10 days before end of campaign)

The final push toward our goal (or hopefully, to reach a milestone beyond our goal) is an important time for any crowdfunding campaign. We’ll create an email and social media campaign that will help create as sense of urgency and excitement.

Phase 7: Shipping Rewards (approx. 30 days after campaign end)

Assuming we reach our goal (I like that assumption), we’ll send word to our backers that their rewards are on their way.
Whew! This is gonna be a trek! Luckily, we’re fueled with a deep passion for telling the stories of women rising up — and we want to inspire millions of new rising up stories.
Let the work begin!
If you want to follow along and you don’t want to miss an update, come join the journey! When you sign up below you’ll get access to the tools and templates I’ve used to take my clients from flat broke to fully funded.

This content was originally published here.

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