Crowdfunding has a whole host of brilliant benefits. At the most basic level it gives you a cash injection that you don’t have to pay back, and which doesn’t take equity from your business. And in addition to this it helps you build a customer base, validate your idea, and – crucially – make those important first sales. When it comes to approaching buyers, investors, or even manufacturers, showing solid proof that there’s demand for your product will get you a long way.
VSU-funded One Third Stories are running a Kickstarter campaign to make a book that starts in English and ends in a different language. They’re revolutionizing the way that children learn languages by making it as easy as reading a story. Here are their tips for running an awesome crowdfunding campaign, and getting those pre-orders in. Be sure to check out their Kickstarter campaign too!
Why did you decide to choose crowdfunding above other ways of raising finance?
Crowdfunding is unique as far as raising finance goes, in that it helps you prove the market, gain traction, and get that all important cash injection at the same time. As this is our first complete product, all of those things felt equally important.
On top of that, we crowdsourced - or rather kidsourced - the book, by getting over 1500 ideas from children across the country, so it felt like a very natural fit. We want to make languages more popular and accessible, and that means getting lots of people involved and turning it into a bit of a movement, which crowdfunding is perfect for.
How did you prepare before the crowdfunding campaign?
It’s well-documented that you’ve got to build a community if you want to run a successful crowdfunding campaign, so we started with that 6 months ago. That meant building a mailing list by giving away free audiobooks, forming relationships with schools, setting up focus groups - anything to get as many people as possible involved in our idea.
As the launch date drew closer, we put a lot of time into the video and page. I think the key was sharing it with lots of people and then making little tweaks based on their feedback. After all, if you’re going to spend all that time building a community, you’ve got to listen to them afterwards!
How are you marketing it?
So far, it’s all been pretty organic. We’re got an amazing following on social media who have helped to promote it, various organisations have pushed us out in emails, and we’ve been doing our best to contact as many people we’ve made in the process of starting this business as possible.
We’ve always known that was only going to take us so far though, so we’re planning to run some ads on Facebook and we’ve also got some influencer marketing with vloggers relevant to our audience in the pipeline. Thankfully, Kickstarter let’s you monitor everything with Google Analytics so we’ll be able to stay on top of what works and adjust accordingly.
What are your goals for the campaign aside from raising the finance?
We’re certainly hoping to get some PR out of the campaign, and building the customer base is a huge bonus. For us though, crowdfunding is about expanding this community of people who want to improve children’s language education. It’s about people getting in on the ground floor of this idea, and helping to shape the way it progresses.
That’s reflected in our rewards. For just a £3 pledge, people can vote on which ideas go into the story and really influence the way the final product turns out. For £35, you can actually join the storyboarding team, get early access to the story and give us feedback on what we’re doing along the way.
Building a business where you have that kind of relationship with your customers is really exciting, and I think it benefits all parties. Crowdfunding is a great way to get things started in that respect.
How have you prepared for fulfilling the orders, or does it depend on the finance raised?
Lots of crowdfunding campaigns end up getting delayed because of fulfillment issues so we’ve really tried to learn from their mistakes. We’ve given ourselves a very realistic timeline (we’re not aiming to ship until November) and lined up lots of different options for printers. Which one we chose depends on how many books we end up selling throughout the campaign.
What will happen when the campaign ends – what’s next?
I’d like to say a holiday, but the reality is we’re going to be cracking right on with the next stage of product development. There’s more illustrations to be drawn by the amazing Hannah Hutchings, more writing that needs to happen with the help of our committed backers, and of course the development of the accompanying app.
On top of that, we’ve got to put our plans to take this from crowdfunded campaign to sustainable business into action. The last thing we want is for this just to be a flash in the pan- we’re aiming to make it the first step in a true and lasting transformation of the way that children learn languages.