Crowdfunding is a popular topic and it’s one that continues to pick up steam as bigger companies and cooler products get launched on platforms like Kickstarter. And we’ve finally discovered the secret sauce of crafting a killer Kickstarter campaign strategy from start to finish.
Jason Feinberg, founder of FCTRY, is here to talk about the Holy Grail of Kickstarter Marketing: getting funded in under a day.
Andrew: Welcome to the eCommerceFuel Podcast, the show dedicated to helping high six- and seven-figure entrepreneurs build amazing online companies and incredible lives. I’m your host and fellow eCommerce entrepreneur, Andrew Youderian. Hey guys, it’s Andrew here, and welcome to the eCommerceFuel Podcast. Thanks so much for tuning in today. Today on the show I’m joined by Jason Feinberg, a friend of mine and the founder of FCTRY.com, which is a brand that sells a bunch of really unique toys, interesting products, like Unicorn Snot, and is really well known for their line of political action figures. Jason and the team has released, I think, a McCain action figure, an Obama action figure, Hillary Clinton, and most recently the Bernie Sanders action figure which was funded incredibly quickly, in like eight hours.
It has raised more than $200,000 on Kickstarter. It’s done really well and Jason knows this stuff, having done three campaigns, seeing a lot of success with Kickstarter. He actually built a custom template cheat sheet for our private forum members on how to do this stuff. He’s an expert, and that’s what we’re going to be talking about today, how to build a Kickstarter marketing plan that gets you funded quickly. Without further ado, here’s my conversation with Jason. I hope you enjoy.
Jason, so what’s the quick and dirty about how FCTRY came to be?
Jason: FCTRY started in 2006. Actually Jailbreak Toys was the original name. At the time I was working as an English teacher and trying to figure out what I could do with my life, and I had studied sculpture in college, and I came up with this idea where I was like, I don’t want to try to sell sculptures to people, but instead of trying to sell one sculpture for $5,000, I was like, what if I could sell $5,000 sculptures for $1? That was sort of the epiphany moment that led me to starting the company.
Andrew: So it’s like the Costco model for sculptures. Just sculptures in bulk.
Jason: More or less, yeah. It was this different idea. Everyone thinks art has to be expensive and inaccessible, and I was like, I think I can do this differently. That was just sort of a jumping off point for making cheap art.
Creating Action Figures for Adults
Andrew: FCTRY sells a ton of really cool stuff, very interesting, fun, creative items, but what you’ve had a lot of success with as well is the action figures, the Obama action figure, the Clinton, Bernie Sanders. Was that what it started with? Or did you start doing other toys and then kind of the action figure thing came out of that?
Jason: It started with a line that preceded the Obama action figures. I’ll take you back through it. It’s a fun story. I had the idea for the company in about 2003 or 2004 initially. That was when I started, “Hey, I’m going to do this,” but then as I’m sure plenty of people can relate to, it took me about four years until I actually got to the doing part. So I knew I wanted to make an action figure for sort of a niche market, and that I couldn’t afford to pay any licenses, and those were sort of my criteria. I had to find something that people would be into that I didn’t have to pay for.
Andrew: One of the things I really want to do a deep dive on is Kickstarter marketing, because it’s something you’ve had a lot of success with, but last question before we get into the core topic, you had an Obama action figure as well, which sold incredibly well in 2008 when he was elected, but I was on your site and was looking for it. I wasn’t able to find it on the FCTRY site or other places. What happened? How come it’s not for sale anymore? Did Secret Service people show up at your door and confiscate all the inventory?
Jason: Yeah, it was the exact opposite of that actually. We weren’t able to find them either. It’s a really funny story. In 2008 the product took off. Literally we sold 200,000 of them in a year, maybe even a handful more than that, and then in January 2009, right after the inauguration, it was just like a train that hit a wall. The Obama everything sales just stopped. So we got stuck with 20,000 units of Obama that we weren’t able to sell. At first it was like, he’s President now. Surely we’ll sell 10,000 a year and we’ll be fine. In 2013 we still had 20,000 units of Obama left and no one would touch the things. Basically there are these guys out there who buy your leftover inventory for pennies on the dollar.
Andrew: Like a liquidator.
Jason: A liquidator. Thank you. It was just like, get this stuff out of your warehouse. You’re practically paying them to take it. So we found this liquidator who took our 20,000 units for 25 cents a piece.
Andrew: This sounds like, 20,000 Obama action figures sounds like the makings, potentially, of the world’s most epic prank joke. Can you imagine delivering box after box of this to the NRA, all their offices, for two years straight? You could make some news with it.
Jason: Funny you should say that. If you dig back into YouTube you will see that there were also 7,000 McCain action figures that we were stuck with after the election that we immediately dumped to Conan O’Brien, who more than willingly took them and worked them into a skit on the show where they dropped bags full of McCain action figures onto all of the fans who came into the show that night. So to get back to the question, upon launching the Bernie campaign we had to reacquire Obama action figures from the liquidator who bought it from us, which we did somewhat surreptitiously.
Andrew: Because it was part of one of the rewards for the Bernie campaign.
Jason: Yes. We had like 20 left in the office, but they sold out in five minutes. So I had to track down this liquidator who’d bought them all from us in 2013. I couldn’t tell them who we were and why we were buying them because there’s clearly demand for them on Kickstarter now, and we’re selling them for a lot more than 25 cents apiece. So I bought back as many as I could from them without tipping my hand as to what they were being used for.
Getting Started on Kickstarter
Andrew: So Jason, one thing I’m excited to dive into with you is Kickstarter and specifically putting together a marketing plan and PR and outreach because you’ve had a lot of success in numerous times. How many different Kickstarters have you done and when did you start?
Jason:: This is my third one right now. I only started a year ago, exactly a year ago. February 2015 was when I did my very first one, which was the Hillary Clinton action figure.
Andrew: Given that you’ve got three under your belt now, would you ever not use Kickstarter to launch a product? Is there a downside to doing it? Is it kind of your MO going forward for all new products or does it really need to have a certain fit to be a good ROI and a good use of your time?
Jason: It really needs to be that certain fit. To give you an idea of what it’s been like for us, in the span of the last year or so we’ve released about 10 new products. I would say on average I would only want to do one in 10 new products as a Kickstarter going forward. There are different reasons why. The first one is that running a Kickstarter campaign is a ton of work, and we’re going to discuss that more later, I’m sure, but basically when you’re running the campaign it sidetracks the whole normal operation of your business. So unless you have a team that’s built out just to do this stuff on a regular basis, it will be a huge drain on all of your other resources, and it’s hard to keep track of your day-to-day business while also running a campaign on Kickstarter.
The first two campaigns I largely ran by myself. One of them I had basically an assistant helping me on. The second one was really just a solo venture. Then I wouldn’t have gone back in and done it if I hadn’t augmented my staff to support this. I would say somewhere in the range of probably 400 hours total. It’s a lot of time. It’s kind of like a microcosm of starting a business, which I think is obviously something you can relate to and I think a lot of people who listen to this podcast will relate to. If you can imagine everything that went into launching your business and then condense that down to one month, that’s what it feels like to run a Kickstarter.
Product Attributes That Fit Kickstarter
Andrew: Perfect. So you were saying things that make for a great Kickstarter product versus what attributes should a product have to be uniquely suited for Kickstarter?
Jason: Yeah. One thing that I would avoid just right out of the gate, you can have a great item that has a low price point, just not right for Kickstarter. Just to give you an example, we have one line called Unicorn Snot, which is another story in itself.
Andrew: I love that product name.
Jason: Yeah. It’s a really successful line. The flagship product, which is a glitter gel, retails for between $8 and $10. That, I think, is already too low for a good Kickstarter campaign, but this year we’re releasing a lip gloss version of Unicorn Snot which is going to retail for about $5, and I know this product is going to kill it at wholesale. We’re going to sell tons of it, but you can’t do a $5 product on Kickstarter. So that’s something I would take off the table right away. Besides that I would also avoid anything that is not super newsworthy or novel. You could have a great product, you could have a wonderful new deodorant that you could sell thousands and thousands of units of, but marketing deodorant on Kickstarter, marketing a brand of towels that you’re working on, again, these could be good products that you could sell on an ecommerce store, but it’s just not going to fly in the crowd-funding environment.
Andrew: So you need some kind of news angle or you need some kind of hook, some kind of angle on it that, you don’t want to build a slightly better mousetrap for Kickstarter. That’s not going to work.
Jason: That’s interesting because the more I look at it the more I realize that it is really just people building slightly better mousetraps. The products that win on Kickstarter are definitely products that are solving a problem that hasn’t been solved well before. It’s just that that phenomenon is getting more and more niche. That’s where Kickstarter really thrives. If you can find a product that speaks strongly to an activated affinity group like, for example, Bernie Sanders backers, that’s where the magic happens. I’ve seen this work in totally non-related fields. If you look at Kickstarter you’ll see there are a lot of successful bike projects for biking enthusiasts, a lot of video games, a lot of card games, and a lot of tech gadgets. The reason that these products seem to stand out on Kickstarter is because they are each addressing the needs of a really strong internet-based affinity group or tribe, and if you can find a tribe that your product speaks strongly to, everything will fall into place with your Kickstarter.
Andrew: What do you think it is about some campaigns that maybe don’t fit into that mold? For example, are you familiar with the everyday messenger bag from Peak Design? Have you seen that campaign?
Jason: I am, yeah.
Indicators of a Successful Product
Andrew: Obviously amazing product, really great video, and it just killed it, but to be honest, it’s a better mousetrap. There are tons of messenger bags on the market, but it did incredibly well. What was it about a campaign like that you think that did really well, that caused it to be so successful?
Jason: Yeah, that’s a good question. That gets back to something I mentioned before. I said I am now building out a team that is engineered toward running successful Kickstarter campaigns. I don’t think I’m alone in this practice, and Peak Designs is a great example of a company that’s way ahead of me in doing this. They have built a business model around Kickstarter. What they’ve done is sort of the next level. If I can walk you back for a second, when I was launching my first Kickstarter campaign I had a phone call with the guys who created Cards Against Humanity, which I’m sure you’ve heard of. I got a phone call arranged with them. My question to them was just like, “What’s the secret to having an amazing Kickstarter campaign?” He gave me a one-word answer, “Community.” At the time Exploding Kittens was the number one project on Kickstarter.
It was live at the moment when I was talking to the Cards Against Humanity guys. They had consulted the Exploding Kittens guys on their campaign, and he told me, “If you look at Exploding Kittens right now, the reason that they’re doing great is not because it’s a great product, which it is. It’s because he runs his blog called The Oatmeal, and he has 2 million readers on there,” or whatever it is, 5 million readers. So you can forget everything I said before about the product reaching an affinity group if you have your own community. Peak Designs has gone and through their successful campaigns built a community that they’re now able to activate at will when they launch a new product. That’s sort of the Kickstarter holy grail.
Getting Press, Getting Traction
Andrew: What did you do on the press side? You got incredible press for the Bernie action figure. Reuters, Mashable, Politico, big names, a dozen others. How did you do that? How much of that was organic and just happened, and how much of it was you being an evil scientist behind the scenes having everything lined up and executing really well on that?
Jason: You’re going to hate me when I tell you this. It was like 95% organic. My evil scientist PR side largely failed on this project. The plan was to reach out to a bunch of top tier blogs who I’d already worked with or who’d covered my stuff in the past and just offer them an exclusive or a launch day story about Bernie. These are people who had covered the Hillary Clinton action figures and they seemed like super likely targets. I wrote to about 10 of them. One of them wrote back to me, wrote back at all. The other nine who were my best friends when I was giving them the Hillary Clinton story and they wanted it, if they don’t want a story they don’t write back, but the one guy who wrote back was a writer for Gizmodo. His story came out virtually in sync with the launch of the actual action figure, and having that one piece there from a top tier publication like Gizmodo was really essential in getting the first day to go well. I can’t say if it would have made a big difference if there were three or five on the first day, but just having one top tier piece of press validate the product and drive traffic to it, which helps in the Kickstarter algorithm a lot, I think was really essential to kickstarting the success of my own campaign.
Andrew: What about your previous campaigns for the other action figures? Was that something where you took a more intentional approach to press? Or did it just happen to kind of organically take off?
Jason: Yeah, the Hillary Clinton campaign was the first time that I ran my own PR, personally just doing it. In the past I had hired publicists to do stuff for the company, but I’ve never actually gotten into the trenches myself. I pretty much worked every day of that campaign just writing to reporters, bloggers, and journalists, asking them to cover it. And actually I had really good results with it, but I think I learned a lot from doing it the first time that made me scale back the efforts the next time and the time after it.
Andrew: What did you learn from that first one? What works with reporters? What pisses them off? What’s effective? What’s the 80/20 for getting major news outlets to cover your stuff?
Jason: The first thing, I would tip a book that’s really great on this subject, which is called Trust Me, I’m Lying, by Ryan Holiday. It really explains very clearly how the blogging industry works, and I think it really helps to understand from the writer’s perspective how this whole game looks. With that said, basically they are people who are doing a job, just like you and me, and if you’re giving them something that they want, you’re making their job easier. If you’re giving them something that they’re not interested in, they just don’t care because they’ve got to get back to work. So basically what you’re trying to do is figure out who actually wants this story. Don’t waste any time trying to sell your story to a blogger who doesn’t cover very similar topics already. Then, even among those who’ve covered similar topics, there is probably a 90% chance that they are too busy or not interested in your story, and don’t bug them if they’re not. I never write back to someone after the first contact. If they don’t bite at it, it’s just kind of like, all right. Cool. It’s not that my story sucks, but they’re not interested. Move on.
Andrew: Take a hint, right?
Work Hardest on the Pre-Launch
Andrew: In terms of looking at the entire life cycle of the campaign, the pre-launch, when you’re live, and post-campaign, what are some of the critical things you really try to nail in each of those three phases? Maybe just one key thing that is the most important to get right at each one of those stages.
Jason: Yes, honestly the pre-launch is where most of the work happens. So I’m going to focus on that stage, and then I’ll touch a little more on what to do during the live campaign and post, but really all of the magic is going to happen in the pre-launch. So I’ll walk you through a sort of outline of what we did. The first thing that I find really essential is before you launch your campaign, set up a landing page for it. We use a platform called Kickoff Labs, which actually generates unique referral links and you can sort of “gamify” the whole process. If people refer five other people who sign up, then they get a free something. We’ve had some success with that, but I don’t think the referral program is essential, but I do think a landing page is. I’ll tell you why in a moment. One thing I’m just going to throw in, before you even get the landing page, get a catchy URL for your project. In this case we’re using bernieactionfigure.com. You’re going to need that because in the beginning you’re going to point that URL to a landing page. Then during the actual campaign you’re going to take that same URL and re-point it to Kickstarter.
Then as soon as your Kickstarter campaign is done you’re going to take that URL which has now been published out in the media and various places and gain some SEO, and you’re going to point that to your web store. So taking it back, you want to set up that landing page and what you’re going to do there is twofold. You’re going to be acquiring email addresses of people who are interested in your product that’s going to become your launch day email list. What you’re also doing at the same time, this is what I consider now the secret sauce of Kickstarter campaigns, you’re going to start testing your Facebook ads because basically at this point now you can take the creative and the pitch for your product, start displaying it to various audiences on Facebook, and see which ones are converting as email addresses, which are cheaper conversion rates than trying to sell a product. So we had it down with Bernie. We knew we were going to do great on this product, by the way, because we were testing these Facebook ads just to get email addresses and it was costing us like 3 cents apiece to get them.
Andrew: Because so many people were interested.
Andrew: So are you doing this both to build an email list for the product but also to see what the interest is, and if you’re having to spend $5-$6 per email on the Bernie Sanders action figure it gives you a gut check to say, “Maybe we shouldn’t launch this out on Kickstarter”?
Jason: That’s a good question. Because that didn’t happen to us I can’t say if we would have held back the campaign if we were failing on there. I think we still would have launched the campaign and possibly just failed publicly with it. Our intention was actually more to test the creative of the ads, basically AB testing and optimizing the ads so that once the Kickstarter campaign went live, we would have our pretested ad sets that we could, right out of the gate, point at the campaign, because remember you only have 30 days to convert.
Andrew: So you’re not wasting time. You’re ready to run it at peak efficiency.
Jason: We know which ads work and which audiences work the day the campaign goes live, and I can’t emphasize how big that was. If you looked at our campaign over the long haul, the biggest driver of traffic was Facebook because it was paid ads, and it was well worth it. That’s something that I hadn’t done on previous campaigns that I would strongly recommend to everyone. It’s a huge component of the ongoing success after the first two or three days where you get the PR and new product bought.
The Breakdown of Their $200K Funded Project
Andrew: You guys are roughly about $200,000 I think for Bernie Sanders, plus or minus. What percentage of that is from Kickstarter, just kind of news coverage, and what percentage of that is from the paid campaigns that you’re using?
Jason: That’s a good question. I would estimate that probably about 35% of it comes from paid and probably about 20-25% maybe comes from the Kickstarter user base, and the remainder are coming from just organic effort.
Andrew: Got you, perfect. Sorry to interrupt. Jumping back in, you’ve got your landing page, you’re building an email list more importantly, you’re testing your creative for things that are working, and you’ve got to get your ads really well optimized.
The Landing Page is Integral
Jason: Yeah, a couple more parts to that trick. So this landing page actually becomes a pretty integral part of your campaign strategy. So now you’re collecting these email addresses. In the case of Bernie we collected in a week, I think we collected about 3,000 email addresses, I want to say, which is huge. So now we have a list of qualified people to email on the day of the launch, but in addition to that, coming back to Facebook marketing, what you have is a really great template for a lookalike audience. That will carry you an awful long way during the course of the campaign.
Andrew: And your landing page, sorry to backtrack a little bit, but how involved is it? Just a picture of the action figure with a headline that says, “Bernie Sanders action figure launching soon. Enter email for updates”? Or is this a full-on, much more detailed, almost like a Kickstarter page? Did it have the video? How detailed was it?
Jason: It was what you said. It was super basic. It had a countdown clock and an email capture, and a photo in the background.
Andrew: Perfect, kind of moving on with what you’re doing pre-launch still.
Great Copy & Great Images, But A Killer Movie First
Jason: Yeah, so I’ll move on. I’ve covered the pre-campaign landing page. There are some other things which should be obvious, but I should address them anyway. There is basically the creating of the actual campaign, all the creative that goes behind the Kickstarter campaign. Honestly, this entire campaign, the Bernie action figure campaign, from scratch we put it together in three weeks. So you don’t need to spend a ton of time, but it does have to look awesome and the copy has to be great. Again, I’ve sort of built a team that was designed to do this stuff quickly and well. If it’s not your forte this is where you’ll probably have to spend a lot of time.
The copy has to be great, the imagery has to be great, and the movie has to not suck. One tip that I would give people after having done it a few times, if you’re doing the creative yourself, which I think you should unless you’re just terrible at it, it helps to write your movie as the very first step, because it’s so hard to condense your story down into a handful of words and images that you think are compelling, but once you’ve done it and you feel good about it, then you understand your campaign, and writing all the rest and marketing all the rest becomes a lot easier. It’s really easy to procrastinate the movie thing because it is like a creative writing block sort of opportunity, but I’ve done it the other way in the past where I wound up with this whole perfectly structured campaign, but I don’t know the story behind it. I can’t do the movie until I get the story, and then once I finished writing the movie it was like, shit, I have to redo the whole campaign now.
Andrew: Nail the movie first, get all of your thoughts in one place, and it makes you really think through to the core of your message, and then build everything else out.
Jason: Yeah. Then the rest I would just follow the same rules that anyone who’s got a good ecommerce site is following. You need good product photos and you need good copy. You need to really think carefully about your pricing structures including shipping costs, and coming back again, you do want to have that catchy URL that I mentioned before, because when you’re making your pitch out to reporters now, you don’t want to say, “Go to Kickstarter.com/projects/FCTRY/berniesandersactionfigure.” You want to be able to say, “Check out bernieactionfigure.com.”
Figuring Out Rewards
Andrew: Makes sense. What do you think about when you’re setting up pre-launch to the rewards? Is it pretty straightforward? Or are there any interesting psychological tricks or things that people should be maybe considering?
Jason: Yeah, there definitely are. If you look at my first campaign I basically just, again, it was the Hillary action figure. I think almost all of the orders were just for one Hillary action figure, which was $15 plus shipping. So we actually got a decent amount of backers. We had I think about 1,000-1,200 backers on that campaign, but when they’re converting at $15 each, it still doesn’t add up to that much money. In retrospect it should have been simple math. I would have had to sell 30,000 units to hit the kind of numbers I was dreaming of, and that’s really tough to do. So in the ensuing two campaigns that I’ve launched I focused on making basically cross-sells and up-sells in Kickstarter form.
Andrew: That’s why you had to go out and reacquire your Obama action figure dolls.
Jason: Yeah, and we also did a cross-sell with the Hillary action figure on the Bernie page. A lot of people bought that. We also have an up-sell where it’s two Bernies, and another up-sell where it’s six Bernies. I actually learned these through the course of running the Hillary campaign. I just had a lot of people writing in being like, “I want more than one. How do I do that?” The only way to do it was to offer a kit, a bundle, and I put it on at the very end, when I had two days left on the Hillary campaign. I put up a six pack and I sold 10 of them for $75 each, and I was like, if that was there all along I might have doubled what I made on the campaign.
Andrew: Have you considered an MMA-style octagon arena where Bernie and Clinton can just duke it out?
Jason: You outed my next campaign. Now what?
Andrew: You heard it here first. You’ve got the pre-launch. I think I have a good sense of how that works. So you’ve got all your ads, you’ve got your landing page, you’ve got tested creative and Facebook ads that you know are working well, you’ve got a really polished video that’s on-message with corresponding, a really well-built out page on Kickstarter. It’s time to flip the switch to go live. What do you focus on one you go live and move from pre-launch to live?
Your Campaign Goes Live. Now What?
Jason: Day one is all about PR. Kickstarter is similar to Google or Amazon in that you’re trying to game an algorithm. That’s what the Kickstarter seller community is aiming for. How do you get into the top 10? Ideally you’re in the top 10 most popular products, but there are also sub-top 10s. Top 10 design, top 10 product design, but you want to be in a top 10 something because that’s where the organic lift starts kicking in. This is universally known stuff if you read up on Kickstarter. The way to get into the top 10 list at the beginning is to drive an awful lot of traffic to your page on the first day and have a high percentage of those convert. Once you’ve done that you kind of get locked in because there’s this virtuous cycle that takes hold where now that you’re in the top products more people see you, therefore more people buy it, therefore you stay in the top products.
So really day one is all about getting as many eyes as you can, sending mass emails to everyone that you think is interested, getting the PR press releases out there, saying something and posting something on all of your social media networks, asking your friends to help, any of that should all probably happen on day one. You should be prepared before flipping the switch for, the moment that it’s flipped, all those networks get activated. After that you’re just kind of keeping up with it.
Getting a Third Party to Help Out
Andrew: I know on your campaign obviously you did a lot of your own ad work up front, test things, get your creative good, but at some point you kind of transitioned over to have a third party help out with some of your paid advertisement. Why did you make the deicsion to do that and at what point did you actually bring them in?
Jason: We worked with a company called Funded Today, who has a pretty stellar reputation for helping to manage already successful Kickstarter campaigns basically for their second half. This is something that you’ll see universally. If you look on a site called Kicklytics and another called Kicktraq where you can basically see graphs of Kickstarter campaigns and pretty much any Kickstarter campaign in the whole history of Kickstarter, there tends to be a strong burst at the beginning of a successful project. In our case I think we did about $30,000 on the first day. Maybe that burst lasts for three days of four days, and then it starts to tail off and you’ll sort of hit into the trough that is the rest of your campaign. Funded Today is particularly successful at taking a campaign when it’s about halfway through that cycle and it’s riding out the trough and getting it to start peaking again. They reached out to us I think on day two of our campaign saying, “Hey, we would like to work with you guys when the time is right.” I was excited to hear from them because I know that they don’t take every campaign that comes their way. We turned over the advertising and, I guess to an extent, the PR of the campaign to them on about day 10 or 11.
Andrew: How does that work? You pay a percentage of just the revenue they generate through Kickstarter, is that how it works? It’s purely revenue-based?
Jason: Yeah. They get 35% of the total take from the moment when they come on. So way we did those first 10 days. In our case they came in when we had already taken in about $130,000. That money goes with us. Anything that was earned thereafter they take 35% of, and on our part it was really just a calculation of they’re going to be paying for all of our Facebook ads now. Do we think we could do better than a 35% ROI with Facebook ads? And we were like, “Not really.” So it made sense to try it.
Andrew: Any reason why you wouldn’t? Because obvioulsy you guys are doing of course, it sounds like, a great job, even thinking through just doing the ads, testing what works before you even launch, so there’s a lot of thought on your side going into the advertisement and the Facebook ads, but these guys are arguable one of, if not the best people in the industry for this. It’s what they do nonstop. Why not have them come in from the very get-go?
Jason: That’s a good question. What I’ve learned from working with them is that you will get more of a boost from them if your product has audience overlap with some products that they’ve already worked on. Essentially they have a huge database of Kickstarter backers from previous projects, an immense database because they’ve worked on some of the biggest Kickstarter campaigns ever. So they don’t email directly. Like say you’re selling a parka. They’re not going to email the backers of the last parka campaign and be like, “Hey, you liked that one. You might like this one too,” but they have access to huge amounts of data which they’re able to use in their advertising. So if you have something that is remarkably similar to a product that they have been successful with and you don’t have good Facebook advertising skills, I would say it would be a fine idea to start with them from the beginning if they want to.
Andrew: I guess in your case, I thought of that after I asked the question, but you probably are able if you bring them on right at the front, then you probably have to pay for a lot of the organic traction that you’re going to generate with your own efforts, but if you bring them in after things start to dip you don’t have to…obviously you pay them for what they bring but you don’t have to pay them for things that otherwise you could have probably done on your own with the PR, with your email list, etc.
Jason: Yeah, but you could know that you’re not good at that stuff. You might be a great product developer or designer and not have PR skills or advertising skills. In that case I could make an argument for working with them from the beginning. Basically just outsourcing that work at 35% is not unreasonable.
Andrew: Moving finally into the post-campaign, obviously there are all the fulfillments issues you need to take care of and wrapping things up, there are bugs that you’re probably going to have to work out with various issues, but what I’m most interested in is how do you parlay a successful Kickstarter campaign into momentum for the product? You mentioned you redirect that site, that flashy website that you’ve put up, over to your independent ecommerce store after everything closes, but any other thoughts on how to capture that momentum for the product and try to turn it into a sustainable business that you can sell year over year?
Jason: Honestly I don’t know yet. We haven’t done that to the extent that I can give you a playbook to go by. I’ll tell you after this one, to be honest, because in this case I don’t think we’re ever going to wholesale this product. Well, let me step back because I say that and I’ve left aside the fact that we have a really strong wholesale business. I sort of take that for granted when I’m talking about ecommerce, but look, we’ve sold probably 20,000 or 30,000 Hillary action figures since the Kickstarter campaign, and we were able to use its Kickstarter success to pick up wholesale accounts all over the board. That was pretty easy. We’re activating existing wholesale accounts and being like, “Hey, not sure if you saw this, but we had a hit on Kickstarter. You might want to carry this.” That was a pretty easy pitch. In fact, a lot of our accounts right now are reaching out to us being like, “Can we have Bernie, too?” Although in this case we’re not letting them have it yet. So if you have a wholesale business it’s really easy. As far as parlaying it into ecommerce success, that gets a little trickier because there might be other sellers out there. I have a feeling I’m going to have to re-record all of this.
Andrew: I’m hearing police chases in the background, birds. Are you recording this-
Jason: Andrew, I’ve got to go. They found me.
Andrew: I’ve got to go. I’ll call you back later from a safe location.
Jason: Like Eddie Murphy doing Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood on Saturday Night Live. “I’m sorry, kids. I’ve got to go.”
Andrew: We were joking about this. Normally we would take this out, but I think it’s interesting. I want to leave it in. Based on both of our kids’ situations you’re recording from a fire escape right outside your Brooklyn loft and I’m recording from inside my van in California. It might be the strangest recording dual location I think ever for a podcast.
Jason: The glamorous life of an entrepreneur.
Andrew: I love it. Jason, this has been super helpful, the stuff that you talked about, especially with thinking through pre-campaign and testing creative and the redirection for having that landing site. A ton of good stuff. Thanks for sharing all of it, and I’m curious what’s ahead for FCTRY apart from the MMA smack down ring that people can buy to put all these guys in the same arena and have them duke it out, what’s the future look like for you?
Jason: I mentioned earlier that what I’m working on really is building a team and a company that’s oriented to this sort of stuff. The idea is basically to launch multiple products a year using Kickstarter and then transition them over to ecommerce and wholesale once they’ve been successfully launched. The big difference going forward is that more and more of what we’re looking to do is to act sort of like a record label where we’re going to seek out artists and creatives who have great ideas and ideally have a community behind them, and collaborate with them on projects rather than just inventing things that we’re pulling out of our own sleeves every time.
Andrew: Interesting. So you really want to move away from coming up with products as your core function to being someone who can partner with amazing product developers and help them bring all of these things successfully to market through Kickstarter.
Jason: Yeah. I don’t think we’re ever going to stop doing it ourselves. I come from an arts background. I am a creator actually, and I’m pretty good at it. I have a good track record at it, I’ll say. So I’m sure I’m going to come up with ideas of my own, but A, I don’t want to always have to keep on pumping out ideas on my own, and B, I really like the idea of opening up a sort of platform based on what I’ve learned and then the skills that my company has acquired to connect creatives with something they would never be able to do themselves. When you look at Kickstarter, everything that we’ve just talked about, that’s still the proposition. If you have a great product idea, awesome. Go and learn marketing and learn how to manufacture a product and set up a Kickstarter campaign and then figure out how to ship it. It’s super dissuasive. I do it, but if I just was a person with an idea, I would never do this. Like I said, it’s just as bad as starting your own company. It’s just condensed down into a month.
I think for a lot of people having a successful Kickstarter campaign winds up just being the start of their problems. It’s like, now I have to deliver. So the pitch here is basically, we know how to do this. We’re good at it. We already have the infrastructure for it. If you have that great idea and you just want to make some money off of it and relax, we’ll make it for you. That’s sort of where we’re headed.
Andrew: So cool, Jason. It’s been a real pleasure getting to know you the last couple years. Thanks a ton for coming on and sharing all your inside tips on Kickstarter and getting it off the ground. If you’re listening and you haven’t checked out Jason’s business, FCTRY.com, that’s F-C-T-R-Y.com, a ton of really fun, interesting, and unique products over there including all of the action figure dolls with the exception of the Obama one as we talked about. Jason, thanks so much. I’m looking forward to our next ping pong duel. A pleasure to have you on, sir.
Jason: Thank you, Andrew.
Andrew: Want to connect with and learn from other proven eCommerce entrepreneurs? Join us in the eCommerce Fuel private community. It’s our tight-knit, vetted group for store owners with at least $250,000 dollars in annual sales. You can learn more and apply for membership at eCommerceFuel.com. Thanks so much to our podcast producer, Laura Serino, for all of her hard work in making this show possible, and to you for tuning in. Thank you for listening. That’ll do it for this week, but looking forward to seeing you again next Friday.
What Was Mentioned
- Connect with Jonathan: FCTRY | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest
- Kickstarter Projects: Bernie Sanders | Hillary Clinton
- YouTube: Conan Gives Away 6000 John McCain Dolls
- eCommercefuel Forum: We Just Hit #1 on Kickstarters Most Popular List in 1 hour
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- Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator by Ryan Holiday
- Funded Today
- Kickoff Labs
- Peak Design
- Cards Against Humanity
- Exploding Kittens
- The Oatmeal