Marketing / 06.22.2016

Brian Quach

How To Hack Kickstarter – The Tree To Tub Story

We live in an amazing age where we have the opportunity to raise money from the masses and get immediate feedback on products before launching. Not taking advantage of this in our opinion is madness. We launched our own Kickstarter and raised closed to $83,000 more than 6 months ago.

 

We live in an amazing age where we have the opportunity to raise money from the masses and get immediate feedback on products before launching. Not taking advantage of this in our opinion is madness. We launched our own Kickstarter and raised closed to $83,000 more than 6 months ago.

Today, we have our good friend Brian Quach who launched his own successful Kickstarter campaign answering some questions on why he started his company and some quick tips and tricks on how you can run a successful Kickstarter.

 How did you get inspired to start Tree To Tub?

Working in agriculture, I learned a lot about the food economy and made a vast change in my diet away from processed foods. But I realized I had no idea where any of the ingredients from my shampoo or body wash came from! I could barely pronounce benzophenone-2, but later learned that this chemical was destroying young coral reefs around the world, that parabens and others yet were doing similarly terrible things. It didn’t make sense to me that we use so many chemicals to wash, so my co-founder Michael and I began our search for a better way to clean.

What is Tree To Tub all about?

Back in Taiwan, Michael’s grandma and her generation never had to worry about these chemicals.  They used a fruit called the soapberry. It’s literally nature’s soap, you pick from the tree, give it rub, and it creates a gentle cleansing lather. So we decided to revive this ancient tradition and extract these berries into organic shampoo and body wash. They are not only biodegradable and safe to the environment, but are also the gentlest solution for our skin and hair. Check it out at www.treetotub.com!

How did you do on Kickstarter?

We ended up raising $42K on our Kickstarter, which blew past our original funding goal by 400%. We were originally looking for $10K to invest in product development and production, and were able to raise this goal in just 13 hours. Check out our campaign here.

How did you prepare your pre-launch strategy?

We focused our pre-launch strategy on building up our marketing assets and generating our pre-launch leads. We started preparation a full 3 months before the launch of our Kickstarter. We made a landing page to collect emails, and used all of our other channels to drive traffic to our landing page.

It’s important to create a beautiful yet short and simple landing page that shows what your brand is all about. Most people use a platform such as Squarespace to create a landing page – we opted to code it ourselves. We used SumoMe for bounce rate analytics – we were able to see how far down our average visitor read before leaving the page. We also use CloudStitch to collect email signups into a Google sheet.

We continually referred back to a couple of good articles on pre-launch campaigns – here they are:

http://fourhourworkweek.com/2012/12/18/hacking-kickstarter-how-to-raise-100000-in-10-days-includes-successful-templates-e-mails-etc/

http://crowdfundinghacks.com/how-kittyo-gathered-13000-opt-in-emails-in-only-5-months-part-1-includes-successful-templates-strategies-etc/

For the first couple of months, our Instagram account gave us the most email signups by far. We used an awesome tool called ChompSocial, which essentially lets you automate following and unfollowing people based on either hashtags or associations with other accounts. The tool was quite powerful for its negligible cost, especially when compared to other tools we used in the past such as Instagress and Crowdfire.

*Pro-tip for Instagram: when growing your followings (i.e., following up to 1,440 targeted accounts a day), leave your account on private. People won’t be able to see your content, which will do two things: drive traffic to what they can see…your bio and website link, and obviously get people to follow you back.

We also reached out to a number of blogs to help promote us. There are so many blogs out there, that you could spend a bunch of time writing personal emails to a number of blogs, and not get any meaningful traction. We completely hacked our way through blog reach-out by first using this tool called Google News Downloader, which allows you to essentially scrape Google News for specific terms, and returns you an Excel output with fields for article description, audience reach, and geography – all of which are extremely important in determining whether the blog is worth your time to reach out to. Then, which a list of say, 300 blogs or so that we wanted to work with, we used a worker UpWork and Fiverr to find contact details for each of these blogs. Then, we used a mass Gmail plug-in called GMass to distribute personalized emails to reach out to each blog. Essentially, we wanted to make sure that we understood each blogs’ content, aesthetic, and/or lifestyle. It also definitely helps to pre-write your content, and make sure it is as easy as possible for these blogs to basically copy and paste your content to their site. And of course, make sure the blogs you work with promote your landing page!

What channels / strategies gave you the highest ROI?

Email marketing was probably the single most important and time consuming activity during our Kickstarter. We carefully planned our email engagement for the two weeks leading up to the campaign launch, and the two weeks after launch. During this month, we wanted to build up excitement for our campaign, make our audience feel special, and get our audience to share our campaign.

To build excitement for the campaign, we wanted to communicate some of the things that were going behind the scenes of Tree to Tub, such as our personal stories and inspiration to create the company. We also asked our audience for their opinions on certain things (e.g., the look of our product label, what shampoo they were currently using, etc.) because we wanted our audience to be a part of our movement. We also made sure to send personal emails to anyone who expressed excitement for our campaign, which was really important in motivating these early backers to become our first brand ambassadors.

To make our audience feel special, we made a special discounted Kickstarter tier that we told only our email list about (i.e., a “Super Early Bird” tier). We also sent an email saying we decided to throw in a free bag of soapberries for all backers, which received a lot of positive feedback.

We wanted to entice our email list to share our campaign by rewarding them with a free digital product. So we created a beautiful e-book about the soapberry, its uses and its history, and asked our audience if they could share on social media. We coded a simple page that offered the download link to the e-book once the share buttons for Facebook and Twitter were clicked on. This alone gave us nearly a thousand shares on social media.

To execute the email distribution, we decided to use MailGun and code in the email on Python ourselves. The biggest advantages of MailGun was the fact that each email is sent individually, which allowed us to hit Gmail’s “Primary” box, rather than the “Promotion” box, which is a huge deal. We made sure to A/B test different subject lines to optimize open rates, as well as A/B test different email body content styles to optimize click through rates. We used each email we sent as a learning opportunity.

Our friends and family was the most powerful driver of our Kickstarter campaign early on. We raised our funding goal in just 13 hours, most of which was from our personal network. We spent the first two days on the phone a lot, reminding friends that have previously expressed interest in backing our campaign to get in on the limited early bird deals.

Kickstarter itself contributed the most funds on our campaign (around 35%). Getting attention on Kickstarter is extremely important, so make sure you get that initial boost on your first couple of days from your friends.  We were lucky enough to connect with the community manager of the crafts category and win the “Projects We Love” award, which ended up giving us more than 100 backers. We were also ranked “Most Popular” on the craft category for a while, which definitely helped out. It also pays to contribute to the Kickstarter community by backing other projects and creating cross-marketing coalitions with projects targeting similar audiences.

Also, an easy but extremely effective way to boost post-Kickstarter sales is to use BackerKit, a tool that helps businesses transition from the Kickstarter campaign to product fulfillment. The main purpose of BackerKit is to enable campaigns to track backer rewards, complete backer surveys, and manage the rewards through fulfillment. But the biggest advantage is the add-on and pre-order functions, where backers and anyone else can order additional products after the closing of your project. We raised an additional 15% of funds just from this alone.

What didn’t work out so well, and what would you have done differently?

To maximize converting our visitors to email signups, we offered a limited number of freebies for our signups. We didn’t realize that this would actually catch attention by some deal sites. We ended up getting posted on a bunch of these deal sites (think Slick Deals) and saw our email signups absolutely explode to the tens of thousands. At first we thought this was great news, but the quality of these leads is extremely poor, and we ended up spending a lot of unnecessary time developing email marketing methods to extract sales out of a poor email list. Watch out for this! If not handled correctly, it could become a huge time sink to sort out. If this ever happens to you, make sure to at least include a timestamp on your email collection so you try can sort them out from your other leads.

We spent a fair amount of time trying to break into PR. Our takeaway was that unless you wanted to spend a good amount of money (at least $10,000), there’s not really a way that a PR agency would be able to help you. We also talked to several companies that used a Kickstarter-specific PR agency – every single one of them have said it wasn’t worth it. From our conversations, these PR agencies tend to not do very much, and take credit away from the hard work that successful founders do themselves.

We also looked into influencer marketing – this always was quite expensive to get an endorsement from a celebrity or YouTube star. We tried pitching an affiliate program, where we would split profits with or otherwise incentivize the brand ambassador – but the influencers we reached out to opted for a flat, one-time payment. These influencers on YouTube or Instagram supposedly get blasted with promotion requests like this all the time, and most of already settled on rate terms. In our opinion, we’d rather pay to drive business to our actual online site, rather than a Kickstarter campaign.

Closing

Going through a Kickstarter can and should be one of the most enduring parts of launching your business. But if prepared thoughtfully and executed efficiently, it can be an extremely powerful way to getting your product out there. If you want to know some more information on how we did it, feel free to shoot me an email at [email protected]. Definitely check out our Kickstarter campaign (http://bit.ly/soapberriKS) website (www.treetotub.com) for an idea of how we quickly transitioned to fully capable e-commerce a month afterward.