Feb. 2, 2017
What happens when a small cookware startup hires professional marketers to run its crowdfunding?
Have a great idea but can’t get it to market? Since 2008, the answer for many inventors has been to turn to crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo and GoFundMe. Let the marketplace evaluate the merits of your contraption. Seems nice.
Yet not all crowdfunding campaigns are created equal. While some entrepreneurs may turn to crowdfunding as a way to avoid the trappings of marketing, it’s clear crowdfunding platforms can be a potent tool in the hands of a skilled marketer.
Polygons Design is a small company, headed by Indian designer Rahul Agarwal, that produces a single, small product: the measuring spoon. Agarwal’s creations, dubbed Polygons, are simple shapeshifting kitchen utensils that fold along different angles, allowing cooks to toggle between teaspoon and tablespoon quantities with ease.
“Polygons are inspired by the human hand, the same way it lies flat, but cupping itself to different sizes depending on the amount of the substance it is holding,” Agarwal says.
Reinventing the spoon was merely the start of Agarwal’s quest to bring a new idea to market. To launch, he’d have to raise a good deal of capital, and he needed powerful, persuasive professionals to secure that funding. He reached out to Command Partners, a North Carolina-based agency specializing in crowdfunding endeavors.
Command Partners founder and president Roy Morejon says his company receives more than 100 inquiries a day from inventors like Agarwal. He believes good ideas on their own are no longer enough to gain traction, and crowdfunding darlings need a high-powered campaign behind them if they are to achieve their funding goals.
“There’re hundreds, if not thousands, of projects that now launch every single day,” Morejon says. “If you truly want to move the needle—raise significant six, seven figures for campaigns—you need marketing support, period.”
Agarwal says he was drawn to the agency for its crowdfunding track record. “They had an impressive history and experience in this space, and we didn’t want a good product to be let down by mismanaged marketing,” he says.
The feeling was mutual. “They’re just so cool,” Morejon says of Polygons. “It’s cheap enough where people have that wow factor. It’s really utilitarian where anybody can use it. It makes sense.”
After an initial round of meetings, Agarwal and Morejon decided an external goal of $10,000 was needed to go forward.
The Polygons/Command Partners partnership was unusual in the length of time the two parties worked together before launching the funding project. The initial contact between the two was in July 2015, more than a year before crowdfunding commenced.
They spent much of that time identifying people who were likely to be interested in the campaign once it went live. The earliest steps involved building up a database of prospective customers and influencers. “Building up our e-mail database is our No. 1 factor of success upon launching a campaign,” Morejon says.
The final list of e-mail addresses they amassed numbers in the tens of thousands, the majority belonging to users fitting into one or more of roughly two dozen personas. Morejon’s team felt that stay-at-home moms, people who like cooking and people who like crowdfunding projects would be more inclined to purchase the measuring spoons.
The users behind the e-mail addresses were then blasted with hot Polygon content authored by Command Partners. A short video shows the spoons at work, measuring out heaps of spices and dollops of oils. At every turn early in the process, the team asked viewers for their thoughts on improving the product. “It’s not necessarily about vanity numbers of likes and followers, but truly trying to have a conversation with people beforehand, asking them their advice,” Morejon says.
The early feedback suggested there was demand for measuring spoons in metric sizes, which Morejon says never would have occurred to them had it not been for the pre-funding efforts. “The feedback channel is one of those beautiful elements of crowdfunding that you just don’t have putting a product on a store shelf,” he says.
The $10,000 number was a balance of necessity and psychology. On one hand, it was the absolute minimum needed to guarantee that Polygons could be manufactured. But the figure was intentionally set low enough that the goal would be reached as early as possible.
According to Morejon, that’s because people are more inclined to donate to a proven winner than to respond to calls to help reach a threshold while still climbing.
“Part of our strategy is to build the crowd before the campaign begins, build that groundswell of excitement for the campaign. … People want to feel like they’re not the last one to the party or the first one on the dance floor,” Morejon says. “We want to reach those funding goals within the first day.”
The campaign went live on Oct. 11, 2016. The $10,000 threshold was breached almost immediately. By the end of day one, the Polygons Kickstarter banked close to 10 times that amount. When it closed 45 days later, it had surpassed the $1 million benchmark. The efforts of Morejon and Command Partners had turned Polygon Design from a wannabe small business hoping to fund a shoestring operation into a seven-figure startup.
The campaign garnered 36,800 individual backers, the majority of whom kicked in between $10 and $12 for a single set of spoons. But larger funders took notice as well, including more than 500 people who Morejon says have expressed interest in wholesaling the product once it’s in regular production.
Eight backers made a pledge of at least $500 in exchange for 50 sets of Polygons. And one generous patron ponied up $1,000 for 100 customized spoons, though there was a little funny business behind that bid. “That was me. I backed that so I could get product for everyone in my office,” Morejon says.
Agarwal himself was floored by the response.
“Though we’d already gotten a hint of it from the response to the precampaign marketing, the huge support we got from so many backers was absolutely overwhelming and humbling. The funds raised have allowed us to go for an even superior product than earlier planned, and we’re quite excited to get it into people’s hands,” he says.
After securing $1 million for a product that only exists on paper, fulfilling the orders may prove to be the easy part.
Recommended For You: