Kickstarter is a very good platform to go if you want to crowdfund a creative project that would be too expensive to do on your own. You have to always be on the lookout for scams, though, as some unscrupulous people might take advantage of an opportunity to cheat their way to a quick buck. How would you know if you’ve been had in your Kickstarter campaign? Tom Hazzard and Tracy Hazzard share their experience with their Kickstarter campaign that failed to kick off. Take away from their learning experience and learn how to spot red flags and avoid such scams in the future, as well as some tips in getting the attention of the right audience for your campaign.
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Kickstarting Campaign Scams
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In this episode, I’m asking the question because I am frustrated.
I am too, quite honestly.
Why did our Kickstarter fail to take off? What was wrong? What did we do wrong? It’s got 24 hours left but it’s not happening. There are so many things about it that I have heard that are positive like the colors. People absolutely love the colors.
It makes sense to a lot of people we’ve talked to in the industry and personally that there is a need for these colors and a market opportunity for them. Although if you base everything on the results of this Kickstarter campaign, you would have a cause to question that.
I would have had to personally talk to 400 or 500 people because every time I did talk to someone personally, they backed it. It’s a matter of attention-getting and I don’t think it’s a matter of our message because our message was simple and people loved our video. The video was funny.
Especially the little one on Facebook.
The social media video was funny. Our baby is disgusted by the fact that we don’t have good color. Rightfully so because she’s been taught well. Let’s back up and tell everybody what our Kickstarter campaign is about.
Most of our audience probably knows about it, but a recap.
We get a lot of new people who start at the end and work their way back. We decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign to test out and see what would happen from an organic standpoint. We didn’t start with a mail list. We wanted to see if you’ve got a great product idea and go on Kickstarter, what’s going to happen to you. That was the first thing we wanted to test.
Although we did understand that a lot of 3D printing projects on Kickstarter get a lot of attention and the Kickstarter audience seems to be, in general, interested in products or projects related to 3D printing.
We decided to do something that was low hanging fruit. It’s easy for us to do, but too expensive for us to do ourselves and that’s what we started with.
It is to create custom filament colors that don’t exist in the market out there.
If you’ve read our past episodes, we’ve had a lot of them about color, but we had a great one with Toner Plastics CEO Jack Warren. Jack talks about the fact that it’s not cost-effective because they have to buy all those pallets of plastic colorants.
The custom color, they have to buy so much of it in order to get the color right.
It makes 300 rolls of color. It’s 300 spools minimum. That’s a minimum run for any custom color. We’ve gone around and a lot of people are even higher than that.
There were 500 and 1,000 spool minimums from some suppliers’ toner. I thought it was reasonable at 300.
We decided that we were going with the premise of buying 300 rolls of each of these colors. Let’s see how low we can get the cost and let’s have a Kickstarter that gives that reward of each one of those rolls at what is coop.
We’re trying to share the cost. We weren’t trying to make a big profit on this. We set our Kickstarter goal at about half of what it needed to be to cover all six colors in 300 rolls each. We decided, if we can get enough people interested to share the cost in this to cover half of our costs, which is what the total campaign amount was, we would be willing to commit to the other half and perhaps either sell it to distributors after the fact or sell it on Amazon or something.
We were covering our costs for buying the roll, getting the custom colors made, delivering, transporting them to the warehouse and to the backers. All of the Kickstarter fees and that’s what it was.
Aren’t there some credit card processing fees too?
It was exactly at that dollar amount and it says it right in the campaign. If you were to look at the details, you’d see that number was outlined. Essentially for what was $35 to $40, depending on when you go back to how many of you chose to buy 1, 6, or whatever rolls, you would get the filament which is pretty much market value for a roll of filament, but you would get a color that nobody else had.
It’s premium quality filament too. You can find filament out there for $20 for a 1-kilogram spool but the quality is not as good. This is a premium quality that the best 3D printer manufacturers are carrying and selling.
I chose six colors.
Tracy did choose. I did not choose the colors. I’m not a color person.
All I’ve gotten back from Google Plus, our social media is these colors are much needed. We had Crimson we called it, in there. It covers half of the sports teams out there.
It’s like USC and Harvard.
It’s colleges, sports teams and everything. We’ve got a lot of college alumni from various colleges across the country saying, “Finally, because we need Crimson.” That one was easy. We had Ice Queen Blue because our daughters are in love with Elsa and Anna. We’ve got blues and purples. Every time they ask us to print, they look at the colors and go, “Baby Pink again.” Those colors out there but on top of it is blue, we call it the Audrey Aqua, but who doesn’t want Tiffany Blue. If you’re making something for your girlfriend and wedding favors, it’s the perfect color. It’s a hot color everywhere. That one’s a great one. One Christmas, we had the problem that all the greens are too green.
We could not find the right thing. It’s amazing because everybody has a green but it’s either Grass Green, Mint Green, or Lime Green.
It’s not right for the holidays so we developed a slightly darker and deeper evergreen, which is nice. I want to buy that one before the holidays. Somehow, we’ll have to figure that out. These are the colors and also coral because all the oranges are too orange. They are very orange.A Kickstarter campaign can be a great way to kick off your creative project, but it’s not a magic bullet. Click To Tweet
If you know anything about color and you look at the wheel or the spectrum of colors that are out there, there is a big hole in the color that’s out there. It’s no wonder. Most filament manufacturers or distributors are primarily selling black and white, and small amounts of everything else. They don’t want to invest in a new color because it’s tying up dollars in inventory.
That’s the other reason that I don’t understand why our Kickstarter didn’t take off. We did send emails to a bunch of distributors. If you’re a distributor and you could buy 10 or 20 rolls of any one color that was missing in your lines like the Burgundy or Crimson, and you could buy 10, 20, or whatever rolls for a relatively reasonable amount of money. It’s like $125 or something like that but it was reasonable. You can sell them for $50 a roll because this is a color no one carries so you could sell it for a good margin. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t have backed it. You shouldn’t have come in but what we discovered is that it’s a marketing problem.
In Kickstarter campaigns, there are few that succeed organically because people build it, put it up there, and the backers come. I don’t think that happens.
A lot of them have huge mailing lists. That’s what they don’t tell you at the beginning of it. They have thousands and thousands of people on their mailing list already before they launched that campaign so it pre-fills. We didn’t even try to get one either. We didn’t do it that way.
Others spend lots of money on PR and try to get media attention especially on television. That’s how the Coolest Cooler took off. It was through its media attention. If you don’t have an end to get attention or have a backers list already, you’re fighting an uphill battle.
We decided, as we were going through the process, you get a lot of spam. You don’t realize this but when you start a campaign, people send you emails soliciting you to join their list. They’ll sell you likes on Twitter.
They’re selling you a PR service saying, “We know all the people to communicate your campaign to and for $300, $400, or whatever it is that this is how you make your campaign go.” We tried a couple of these.
We tried two of them. We tried BackersHub and Dwight could not be the nicer guy.
Dwight of BackersHub, fortunately, was one of the only one of these types of companies that I could get him on the phone, talk to him about it and learn more about their service and it sounded good. They have a newsletter that goes out to what we’re told as 12,000 plus known Kickstarter backers. That doesn’t mean they’re known to back something in our field of interest or what our campaign is about. They know their people want to receive a newsletter about new campaigns because they do back campaigns on a regular basis.
I have to say that the other reason that we chose them was not only Dwight’s personal attention, which was nice but the fact that their actual newsletter was not cheesy looking. It was a nice-looking newsletter.
They put something together. They seem to know their backers or think they do anyway and what would appeal to them, what’s going to speak to them, and get them to click through. We tried it, but we got two people that backed it as a result of that.
Either they don’t have a 3D print audience or they don’t have a percentage return that they claim to have. Either way, I have nothing against them, but it’s not a viable way to generate traffic if that’s what you’re thinking. The other one is ZaptoPress because the press is the problem. Press is the biggest problem and press pickup is incredibly difficult. Although the funny part is we see the biggest crap pick up on all sorts of junk on 3D print news, 3D errors, and all of these places where we follow the news.
It’s different sites that are aggregators of news.
They pick up dumb stories sometimes.
It seems they pick up all sorts of things, but why are they not picking up anything about new Kickstarter projects unless your name is Stratasys, MakerBot, or you’re one of the biggies in the industry.
They wouldn’t be picking up a Kickstarter from them. The point is that we solicited them directly. We sent them through social media and all different ways in which to get their attention and not one pickup happened. Yet here we are, we’ve been putting out a lot of news and there are a lot of you guys paying attention to it, to the podcast, the topics in our podcasts, the interviews and the people that we’ve done. Not one pickup happened, which shocks me that the press wasn’t paying attention. More to the point ZaptoPress is a scam.
We couldn’t get anybody on the phone to talk about it. They didn’t respond in any timely fashion.
It wasn’t until I reported them back to Kickstarter as a scam that we got an email back from them saying, “We’re working on your press release. Here it is.” That press release had the most typos I have ever seen. It was the most poorly written thing I’ve ever read. It was horrible.
It looked to me like a poor English translation from another language.
It did. It was bad and that in and of itself. The other red flag is they have two websites, ZeptoPress or ZaptoPress. It’s like they spelled it wrong and they are exact mirror sites. This is a big red flag for you guys out there. Don’t hire these guys. It’s not worth it, not going to happen and they won’t send it out. They’re going to take your money.
They’re preying on new Kickstarter backers.
Don’t start your Kickstarter campaign unless you have a mailing list, you’ve obtained it, got a partnership with someone, have a press plan, and maybe even a guaranteed editorial placement somewhere.
That’s where this term we’ve heard called pre-launch comes into play. Maybe you wait to launch a Kickstarter campaign until you pre-launch it, announce it to the media and you wait until you get some interest in some hits where somebody’s going to write about it or publish about it. You maybe have more attention out there and a better chance of making it. We’re not Kickstarter experts by any means. We don’t claim to be, but if you have another method or another way to go out there and find backers, great.
If you guys are ZaptoPresses or BackersHubs who are out there reading, don’t send a solicitation. I don’t want to hear it. I’m not going to support you. I’m not going to talk about you. You would have to give me such conclusive proof now so I don’t want to hear from you telling me you have a way because I had twenty of those in our email easily.
If your company is going to do a Kickstarter and you’ve got 10 or 15 employees to put behind doing grassroots social media out there going to find backers and you can afford to pay them to do it, maybe you could make it without already having a list of some kind. Most people launching campaigns don’t have that.
We’re not going to totally give up on our filament. We are not giving up on that. I want it. I’m going to find a way. I may have to compromise.
Maybe we’ll have to do one color at a time. Who knows what?
You guys missed out because when I sell it to you next time, it’s going to be $50 a roll because I have to make back my investment. It’s such a mistake in a sense for us not doing our job and getting that message out to you means that we can afford to give it to you above the cost.
Everybody where this is not trying to have a great session over Kickstarter. We were a little frustrated with it for sure but we’re trying to share this experience with you.
You don’t make the same mistakes when you go out there and think that Kickstarter is going to save you. For us, this was not a critical part of our business. It’s not important to us. We either do the color or we don’t, I’d love to have new colors, but it’s not going to change anything that we do. It doesn’t hurt. It was not a big plan for us but for you guys, some of you I hear it all the time that Kickstarter is a critical part of your launch plan.
It’s not a magic bullet. That’s the point.
It’s not and I don’t want you to make those mistakes. If you have anything that you’re working on and want to run by us, we would love to hear it. If you have questions about anything related to Kickstarter or custom color filament, by all means, get in touch with us at @HazzDesign everywhere. For those seven people who backed us, we love you. Thank you for recognizing custom color.
As we find a way to bring some of these colors to the market we’ll make sure we keep in touch with you or more to the point if you’re reading this and you’re one of those backers, send us an email at Info@HazzDesign.com. Let us know that you’d like to be notified specifically about it when some of these colors become available, whether through us or a distributor partner or something.
We’ll make sure you get them. Thanks again for reading.
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- Toner Plastics
- Jack Warren – Previous episode
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