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Why aren’t there more Kickstarter consultants?

I’ve been a fan of Kickstarter since it launched back in 2009. I love its very 21st-century take on patronage. It’s also my favourite example of a particular kind of startup idea. Back in 2009, I wrote “it’s a terrific example of spotting something that people are doing in an ad hoc basis, and creating a site to formally organize and enable that behaviour.”

I’ve been delighted to watch it grow, and work its way into the mainstream. There are plenty of indicators of its success, but one is all of the Kickstarter imitators that have emerged.

Kickstarter now processes some serious coin. They’ve recently had several projects raise more than a million dollars, and in 2011 their projects collectively generated just under US $100 million That’s up from $27 million in 2010.

With all that money floating around, there must be an emergent demand for a professional marketer or fundraiser who can help Kickstarter projects achieve their goals. After all, Kickstarter (and its ilk) are simply a particular kind of fundraising, which is itself a popular profession.

Accidental consultants

I did some searches for ‘Kickstarter consultant’ and the like, but Google’s cupboards were surprisingly bare. I found this guy and this guy, both of whom more or less admit to accidentally becoming crowdfunding consultants. Interestingly, they’re both filmmakers who had their own successful Kickstarter projects. I’m always been a little leery of the “I did this, so you can too” approach, but I have no reason to doubt their capabilities. I was surprised not to find any professional marketers or fundraisers positioning themselves for this kind of work. Even searches for the more general ‘crowdfunding consultant’ (and some variations) didn’t produce as many convincing results as I would have expected.

The average Kickstarter project in 2011 only asked for about $8400. If you’re earning a few percentage points, there’s not a lot of money there. But many of the projects are worth tens and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Most projects seem to be founded by artists, musicians, filmmakers and designers. These are, in my experience, people who, on average, aren’t great at marketing themselves and their projects. Most of the artists I know would prefer to make art.

On the other hand, it’s still early days for Kickstarter. So perhaps it’s a prerequisite for a successful project that the people behind it be savvy marketers? In essence, Kickstater filters out the creative people who are bad at crowdfunding?

Obviously, crowdfunding is becoming big business. And it’s about to become a lot bigger, thanks to a new bill that President Obama is soon expected to sign into law. I expect to meet more and more crowdfunding experts at conferences in the coming months.

8 Responses to “Why aren’t there more Kickstarter consultants?”

  1. John Biehler

    One annoying thing with Kickstarter, I recently found out while working on a 3d printer project with a friend, is that Canadians can’t use it.

    In order to get paid, you need a US based Amazon account with a valid US residence and credit card to even set up a Kickstarter profile.

    This forces us to go with one of the competitors like Indiegogo that does work internationally which aren’t nearly as financially lucrative due to high percentage cuts so we’re looking at other options for our project.

  2. James

    Ze Frank posted a fairly in-depth review of his Kickstarter campaign here:

    http://zefrank.tumblr.com/post/20122841731/kickstarter-post-mortem

    I found it pretty interesting to read.

    I also think you’re right that the industry seems ripe for a consultant approach because similar mechanics and best practices seem lead to the best outcomes. So a scalable, repeatable process would be really valuable.

  3. Steve Hardy

    I’m a big fan of crowdfunding in general and Kickstarter in particular. A great way to test/discover product-market fit and potentially source pre-orders quickly.

    I’ve run a couple of my own projects – unsuccessful but loads of learning – and am consulting on a couple by others. There’s more to a project than one might think; not easy money for most ideas.

    As for John’s comment, Kickstarter’s (actually Amazon Payment’s) US only requirements are annoying but can be legitimately overcome. And in addition to IndieGoGo there’s also RocketHub which is more international.

  4. John Biehler

    Steve: I’d love to hear any suggestions to getting our project legitimately onto Kickstarter. I’m guessing this is where the consulting piece comes into play :)

    Which is an interesting point as many projects don’t have any money up front…so would the consulting fees come from a successful campaign (“we don’t get paid if you don’t”). I could see some folks be reluctant to engage for paid help for a self-starting service without knowing what the outcome will be.

  5. Steve Hardy

    John: Canadians can post projects but just need a willing US partner. We’ve been lucky in that respect.

    I think the fairest model is ~50/50 fee + commission. Kickstarter says 46% of projects tip – which is too much exposure for substantial time, and a likely small-ish goal amount.

  6. Hilary Henegar

    I’m actually in the process of adding crowdfunding to the menu of services I offer in my consulting business. I’m just starting my first project this month.

    It’s a fascinating model for something much broader than simply funding a one-off project, offering donors a sort of membership to a club or movement and giving them a sense of ownership on something that inspires them.

    And, like a gym membership, the fee reminds them through their wallet of that thing – that feeling, idea, sense of hope, whatever – that moved their finger to click the donate button in the first place.

    It then becomes a high quality list of all your members – people who believe in your project or what it represents so heartily that they’ve paid to stay looped in.

    I see crowdfunding as having excellent potential as a community management tool – and part of a larger engagement strategy – and can’t help but be reminded of the success and the momentum that microfinancing brought to the Obama campaign in 2008.

  7. Marty Koenig

    When you have a well thought out, well planned Kickstarter or crowdfunding campaign, it’s the fuel that turns your social capital into money capital. That’s what Eric Migicovsky did with Pebble. He raised $10M+. An awesome product helps, too.

    Figure out who are your fans and who are your evangelists. They all have their own networks that you’ll want them to tap. It’s a network of networks game.

    I found this great Kickstarter crowdfunding checklist, road map, plan, plus lots of additional advice. It helps you get funded on Kickstarter. Over 200 things to consider for a successful Kickstarter or crowd funding campaign. http://bit.ly/La0IQg

  8. Jared McQuarrie

    Kickstarter is the best thing to happen to small business since the LLC! I have participated in about a dozen projects and plan to launch my first one in August 2012.

    In my opinion the reason you don’t see more consultants is because marketers haven’t figured this thing out yet. So far, you have artists and entrepreneurs or inventors, not marketers launching projects. So once they are successful with their project there done; their business is up and running.

    You you video guys because their trade is doing videos. That makes sense that they would continue to offer their services.

    The big question is, where are all the social media pros? Social media seems to be the main factor in the scale of sucess on Kickstarter. I see this as being a potential consulting opportunity. Imagine a consultant that had influence to spread the word to thousands or millions of people specifically interested in backing projects or in specific categories. That would be worth an investment.

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