5 Ways That a Kickstarter Campaign Can Launch You Into Retail

Latest posts by Matthew Damman (see all)

Seven months. That’s how long it took from the day our Kickstarter campaign ended until we were delivering a purchase order to Toys R Us. And soon after came Bed Bath & Beyond, Hobby Lobby and Michaels, distributing our invention called Walkie Chalk, a standup sidewalk chalk holder that allows you to “Stand Up and Draw” with chalk.

Only about 200 days from Kickstarter to the shelves of national retail. Not bad, huh? Now, that’s about four dog years, but if we stick to human timelines, we launched our product and delivered tens of thousands of pieces to mass retail in less than a year. We get asked all the time, “How’d you guys do that?”

It’s a long story, but we have one quick answer: Kickstarter.

Our Kickstarter campaign was a big factor of our early success in getting Walkie Chalk out into the world, and below are five main reasons that you may want to consider a crowdfunding campaign for accomplishing similar goals.

Keep in mind that your crowdfunding campaign must be executed well, and StartupNation provides countless resources for how to do so.

But why Kickstarter?

  1. Visibility for the startup

When you have a product idea, getting eyeballs on your invention is hard, especially if you’re a small startup or if you’re just a guy and his wife, like we were.

Build a website, they say.

Yes, of course you do – and then nobody comes to it.

Do some digital marketing, they say.

As a bootstrapped entrepreneur, how do you effectively run digital marketing campaigns on a product THAT DOES NOT EXIST YET? Waste of money right there.

Kickstarter allows you to effectively build a startup product page that lives on for years in its system. Not only that, the site can get millions of visitors per day, and it’s free! No Google Adwords expense (yet), no Facebook Ad expense (yet), and the page will rank on Google just because, Kickstarter! You can build a killer page on a platform with millions of visitors per day and do it for next to nothing.

Plus, you can tell your story and do it on a site where people WANT to hear it. Isn’t that the whole point of a story, to have people see and hear it?

  1. Buyer credibility

A few years ago, having your product on Kickstarter may have been viewed as some niche thing that nobody really understood. Not anymore. When we launched our campaign in early 2016, I would guess about 80 percent of people we talked to hadn’t heard of Kickstarter.

Now, in early 2018 when I spoke to an 8th grade class about inventions, I asked how many of them knew about Kickstarter and every single hand went up.

So, now kids know about it and so do retail buyers.

Buyers from every major chain are more than aware of Kickstarter. Not only do they know of it, they realize something very critical: a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign shows that people will purchase your product.

That is very important, because buyers want to know the product will sell – or at least have some history to fall back on.

In every pitch we made to retail buyers, we held our Kickstarter campaign up proudly. We could say, “See our story? Look how many backers we had. Look at the great comments!”

As retailers evolve, the lines between online sales and in-store sales blend, so showing how your product appealed to hundreds or thousands of folks in a short period of time online will certainly help your cause with buyers.

You can establish a sales track record before you’ve even made your product. That’s cool and that’s valuable!

  1. Money. Capital. Cash.

Yes, Kickstarter is a crowdfunding platform. If you’ve gotten this far, I’m guessing you know what that means. Everyone needs capital and startups certainly do, so this is a really good thing: you’re getting money! The funds will help you produce your product, which is critical to our next point….

  1. Production samples

To get into retail as a startup, you can certainly take prototypes to a buyer. Good buyers will have a vision for the item and packaging. However, a finished production sample of your product is WAY better. By running a Kickstarter campaign, closing on your funding and going into production, you now have real samples of your product you can send buyers to review.

The idea that you could prototype your product and hope a retailer picks you up (which would fund your production) can happen. It’s rare and financially a real challenge for most folks, with substantial risk. Use Kickstarter to get that first production run done. You’ll learn a number of things that you don’t want to be working through on your first retail shipment.

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  1. Networking

Maybe the most valuable aspect to come out of our Kickstarter campaign was the network we built. Just prior to launching and soon after, I reached out to dozens of other project owners. We traded notes, ideas and also backed each other’s projects. Even better is that we traded contacts, including marketing folks, sales reps in different geographies and retail buyers.

Kickstarter contains a likeminded, friendly community of inventors, and if you have a project on the site, you can connect with a number of really creative people. Don’t miss out on that opportunity! See something neat, send the creator a note about their project and say hello! If you give up front, you’ll get a lot back from these relationships.

Our journey with Walkie Chalk from Kickstarter to the shelves of Bed Bath & Beyond, Walgreens, Toys R Us and Michaels wasn’t easy, but it was much more doable because we funded a campaign.

So, if you dream of one day walking into a store and seeing your product for sale, think about launching your idea on Kickstarter.

What are you waiting for?

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