Where I have been working on ReKixx cool sneakers 100% recyclable (www.rekixx.com) for over 3 years now, only hitting my go-to-market strategy this month (November/December), I would consider my path to be a bit above the average wild ride. Aside from the usual, expected hurdles, and required developments in starting your own business, what I have done in appearing on the entrepreneurial ABC show Shark Tank (May 18, 2012) and in launching a successful crowd-funding project, I have learned a few things along the way that ultimately has kept me rolling along.
First to Shark Tank, that was an absolutely wonderful experience and a once in a lifetime event, I summarize that event as a crazy time that I am of course glad to have had the opportunity to show my product on a national scale and meet some good people. All the Sharks and the TV time was fun and I am very fortunate to have had interest from Daymond John. And to note, while my deal with Daymond that aired on TV did not close for fair and mutual reasons, I am extremely pleased with the relationship that I developed with Daymond during the process that he is an acting advisor to me and very interested to see me get ReKixx off the ground. Otherwise, Shark Tank was great to bring me 100+ contacts, with 3 or 4 connections that will last a lifetime, a group of friends among my fellow Shark Tank Pals, and a cheering section that comes from my wife and two boys that will never be beat.
Moving forward, I say, TV is TV and business is business that I am happy to pass along to you my tips and “secrets” to my success in completing a crowd-funding project. In what has been my biggest success to-date in raising $44,000 on Kickstarter to start ReKixx cool sneakers 100% recyclable, my first statement is, thank you to my 496 backers for believing in me, understanding my mission, and liking my sneakers. Obviously, if not for my backers, my project, would not have been completed, I would not be writing this article, and most likely, my ReKixx company would still be floating around in the idea stage. So to the contrary, I am moving forward vigorously with ReKixx in the market with 400+ sneakers shipping to backers in December and my ecommerce website www.rekixx.com now up and running ready to take new orders today with 6 sneaker designs soon to be in-stock.
Now to my tips, and what I would not consider secrets, but more like deep thought, collaborations, study, and in some points, my opinion. . . . Enjoy and I hope they help.
- VIDEO. Have a stong video. We all know people are visual creatures. Be creative but short, to the point, engaging with the story, and clear on what you want and what you offer. Whatever you can do that is clever and funny with video is perhaps your best chance to make it go viral. Be sure to look at other videos in your category and outside of your category. If you are not the best videographer, it can still be done OK but having a friend with a high level of producing and editing skills would be a plus.
- PEOPLE. First, have prepared a list of people that will pledge you as soon as you launch (family and friends) to give yourself credibility and a push at the beginning. Second, have a list of influential people to go to next and ask them to pledge and to spread the word to their network. For all, you need to be ready to engage the people who back you that in turn, they will reach out for new backers.
- PRESS PITCH. With your live project link, have ready a short direct story with additional email-able, post-able images, that you will send to bloggers, online magazines, and writers. Ultimately this email with your press pitch will be your only chance to capture the attention of the online writers. You should prepare this list in advance gathering as many direct emails as possible. In your press pitch you need to “do their job for them” by writing the story for them so all then need to do is drop you into their post. You need to reach out to as many as possible that can relate to your product with like interest. The online bloggers are what seem to be the lifeline of success for any project. Tech is the best for obvious reasons, fashion can be difficult, art and music seem to do well. Hit them right away as soon as you go live and then as most will not respond, hit them again, and again.
- SOCIAL MEDIA. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest, Tumblr, Reddit etc. Be frequent and varied with your posts, emails, blogs, and tweets to both your internal social network and to the web writers/bloggers. I am afraid in many cases, it may be more about quantity than quality (measuring what works here does not seem possible). I put out FB, tweets, and emails on most of all my live days.
- UPDATES. Once you have backers, plan out a few short updates with good content (do not update just for the sake of updating) that can keep the conversation going. Include visual content if applicable, not just text. The point is not only to update backers who already buy-in to your project but to remind them they need your help.
- SURPRISE REWARDS. Have some surprise rewards for the last weeks. To engage more and keep people interested where some visitors to your project may not have bought yet, these new rewards could get them to finally buy and if you plan it right, you could get your current backers to upgrade to a higher reward level (more money).
- SIMPLE OFFERS. Be simple with the rewards, you don’t want to have a big problem with shipments and fulfillment of the pledges; you can receive thousands of orders that you will have to attend. And you are building your company, so make it easy for you and easy for the backers.
- REWARD SPECIFICS. I find the best projects are those with rewards that are specific to the product or project. There seems no reason to offer a reward that is not related to your project. Offer a good price, show the value to getting it first as a crowd-funding project, and keep it simple. And at each reward level the price for what you offer must make sequential sense.
- TARGET-MARKET. In your target-marketing, make a list of anyone who would be interested in your product including how it can crossover to other fields and like minded individuals. For ReKixx, my market was fashion, eco-fashion, innovative fashion, footwear, sneaker-heads, entertainment (Shark Tank), innovation, entrepreneurship, and green-living. Find as many blogs, forums, magazines, and any media that could be interested in helping you spread the word. Search for a product exactly the same as you, for similar products, and in other related categories. Find those writers/bloggers/magazines who wrote about that product to specifically reach out to them to write about your product. This is where your spelled out press pitch will come into play. Say to them, “I saw that you wrote about XYZ, I thought you and your readers would find my product of interest as well . . .” Get to as many targets as possible and keep trying them.
- RESPONSIBILITY. Be responsible in what you say and do not say. You have to fulfill every expectation so think before you speak. Always answer messages and comments and take good care of your backers. Be nice, and reply to everyone. These people are helping you. They trust you where, very significantly, the after-crowd-funding market will be very important for you when you deliver to your backers they will be the best advertising for your continued success.
- REVIEW. Read, reread, and review your project carefully before you launch. Send the preview link to friends who will read it thoroughly to tell you what they like and don’t like.
- INTERNAL-EXPECTATION. Ask yourself, “Is this something I really want to do, is this something that I am prepared to do?” Understand what happens if your project is funded and what if your project is not funded. Can you deliver on all your promises if you reach the funding goal? Do you have the time and extra money it may/will take to deliver? And respectfully so, will you quit if you are not funded?
For ReKixx, in my campaign I asked for the exact penny in what I needed to start my company at the minimum amount to pay for tooling, material, and a limited amount of stock that I could get sneakers to my backers and also some stock of my own to bring to the open market. Anything additional monies would have to come out of my pocket after already spending $30,000 to get to where I was at that point. Plus, and even more substantial than the money, putting my ReKixx venture out to the crowd-funding community was about proving product viability with real consumer interest. At this stage of the game, after exhibiting at one of the largest footwear-apparel tradeshows, having deep conversations with sneaker buyers and industry experts, and appearing on national television, having counted 500+ people, all with positive feedback, my Kickstarter project was serving as a turning point to starting ReKixx. The bottom line was, I needed to know for certain if anybody would buy my sneakers!!?? The result, with what I could not possibly say in any written word, I happily point you here >> www.rekixx.com.
I hope this was helpful and GOOD LUCK in any of your crowd-funding and entrepreneurial ventures. Where you can expect it is not easy, it is certainly an adventure.
This post was written by Gary Gagnon, Founder and CEO of ReKixx™ cool sneakers 100% recyclable, the world’s first and only completely Landfill-Free Sneakers™
ReKixx is a brand, that not only represents design & fashion, but also awareness & sustainability. www.ReKixx.com