More then 10 years ago, Ryan Grepper decided he wanted to be able to make frozen mixed drinks while picnicking with his friends and family. Fast forward a couple more years and Ryan launched a crowdfunding campaign, seeking to raise $50,000 for large-scale production. The campaign for the Coolest Cooler has since raised more than $13 million. Perhaps the most remarkable component of Ryan’s story, though, is not that his product raised mega money, but that six months earlier, The Coolest Cooler was a failed Kickstarter campaign. That’s right — in its first Kickstarter campaign The Coolest Cooler FAILED to make its $125,000 goal. How did Ryan’s crowdfunding campaign fail the first time and, a few short months later, rock to the top of the most funded list? Below are some tips from Ryan himself on what to look for when launching your campaign.
1. Have a functional prototype available to show in photos and videos.
Ryan had built a version of The Coolest Cooler when he launched on Kickstarter the first time, but he wasn’t able to showcase all of the features promised. For example, having a USB charger in The Coolest was a “stretch goal” that would be included if the campaign hit a threshold, but it was not embedded in the prototype featured. Also, the wide-wheels and space divider were not built into the first prototype. By the time he launched his second campaign, he had a fully retrofitted prototype.
“Kickstarter is such a visual medium that I think that is one of those minimum steps I would suggest people make is bring their design to a state where people can see what the product is going to be rather than imagine how great this will be.”
2. Make sure your video is short and customer-focused.
Ryan watched scores of videos on crowdfunding campaign pages for products in a similar product category to The Coolest Cooler and analyzed what he liked, didn’t like and what was successful in getting him interested in the product and what was offputting. First and foremost, you need to keep your video short. You don’t have much time: 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 minutes tops, estimates Ryan.
Also, successful videos aren’t narcissistic: They focus on the customer. “So many people focus on the features [of their product] and they focus on how they came up with this idea, and really it needs to be primarily about the benefits of your potential backer. How is this going to improve their life, their situation, their day to day experience?”
3. Your launch timing.
Launching the initial crowdfunding campaign for the cooler in December was a bit of an error in judgement, said Ryan. He had thought that launching in the holiday shopping spree might boost his campaign, but “the obvious hindsight observation is that one of the coldest months of the year is not the time to trying to get people excited about coolers,” said Ryan. “And so relaunching here in the summer was a big help.”
4. Tell people about your crowdfunding campaign before you even launch it.
So much of what makes a crowdfunding campaign successful is the work that is done before it ever goes live. You have to get people excited about your product, aware of your crowdfunding campaign and lining up to donate when you finally officially launch.
Ryan’s Kickstarter failure the first time worked to his benefit, as he was able to launch his second campaign with support from his initial group of backers. “When we launched [the second time], we had this larger group who would be with us on day one to help make a big splash. And just like throwing rocks in a pond. If you throw pebbles, the ripples you get from a pebble are significantly different from throwing a big rock in. And the big splash helps us attain that multiplier effect and that is what really helped our project get the momentum it did early on.”
5. Successful crowdfunding requires marketing.
You can’t expect everyone to love your idea the way you do — you have to sell it to them. “That first Kickstarter campaign, I made what I would call, one of the most rookie mistakes of crowdfunding, which is thinking that when you launch with a good idea, that’s all that’s required,” said Ryan. Raising money from the crowd requires preparation, elbow grease, and honest analysis of your idea. “That’s the biggest mistake most inventors make — is they look at an idea from a passion perspective rather than analyzing it as a business opportunity.”
6. A crowdfunding failure doesn’t mean “game over.”
“I think the biggest lesson from that first campaign was recognizing that failure isn’t permanent,” said Ryan. “It is an opportunity to either give up and move on to the next project, if that’s what the data and what the feedback shows, or it is a chance to recognize and learn from those mistakes, dive deeper into best practices and launch again.”