Pfft, whenever, it doesn't matter. Just launch! If you build it, they will come!
(Please, please don't do this. It's a joke, no, please, take your hand of the launch button. Please, NO!)
Jokes aside, it's one of the biggest campaign questions that has massive implications to your entire campaign's eventual fundraising.
· Should I launch now so we don't lose ground to competitors who might scoop my idea?
· Should I build up 10,000 facebook followers first?
· I've gotten in touch with an influencer with a 40,000 person email list, should I wait until she's able to send out a promo email?
These are all good thoughts and angles, but they're not the most important factors in a successful campaign. Pay attention to the 40-72 rule.
Your campaign is ready to launch when you can fund at least 40% of your whole goal within 72 hours using only your email list.
This is the litmus test I personally use to determine whether or not a campaign is ready to launch, or if they'll need a few extra months to prep.
According to Kickstarter's official stats, campaigns that raise at least 20% over the course of the entire campaign have a 78% chance of funding. That probability is fine if you're running a couple thousand dollar campaign for a niche comic book printing, but if your brand needs an excess of $100k, there's no need to risk all your hard work for such a low chance. At 40% funding, our campaigns reach a 98% chance of being reaching their goal (at bare minimum). Considering how much work you're putting in your campaign, let's do this right.
While Kickstarter's stats only refer to campaigns that have raised 40% at some point in their campaign, I include the limitation of 72 hours to emphasize two important points. One, I want to emphasize that these emails should be quality, ready-to-convert leads, not "buy them on some social media like farm" site, but also because raising money for a campaign that fast positions your campaign to catch the eye of Kickstarter staff. Getting your project labeled as a Staff Pick, Project We Love, or other sponsorship from KS can increase your campaign's revenue by nearly 8% in some cases. And there's no better way to catch the eye of KS than have a project that funds extremely fast with an actively engaged audience from day one. Campaign velocity begets more campaign velocity.
Is it a high hurdle to jump? Of course, but that's the point. Six figure launches aren't overnight successes, they're months and often years worth of buildup of good will and customer focus.
Why not social media followers?
They don’t convert at even close to the same rate.
Personal story first. During the Joking Hazard campaign, Cyanide & Happiness had 11 million Facebook fans, eight million monthly website unique visitors, and five million YouTube subscribers. However, the Joking Hazard campaign only had 63,758 backers, less than 1% of our total fan base reach. Out of those 11 million Facebook fans, only 8,360 came without having to pay for advertising. *That's a 0.076% conversion rate!* Imagine how much time we would have wasted if all we did was rely on unpaid social media to fund out campaign.
Surprising, sure, a little bit. But let's be real, you can't half-ass post memes on your social media page for a few months, buy 10,000 followers on Instagram, run a “viral” referral campaign, and expect to make $50,000 on your new immersion blender. Getting purchases is about engagement, and social media followers aren’t as nearly as engaged as followers on email lists. Depending on the source you look at, one email address is worth between 6 and 40 times as much as a single social media follower / tweet.
What about my friend of a friend who has 20k connections on linkedin and promised an email blast?
Fantastic! Aim to have it go out during your campaign for sure, but don’t rest your start date on this alone. Remember, their list is their list. Followers might convert, in some black swan cases a whole bunch of them might convert, but relying solely on someone else to find customers for your campaign is short sighted. Appreciate black swan events for what they are, but don’t build your business resting only on chance favoring you. Many a campaign has been blindsided when a "for sure promo thing we have lined up" miraculously disappeared as soon as the campaign went live.
But email list is haaaaaard, can’t I just pay someone to run ads for me?
Advertising is definitely an important piece of the puzzle, but don’t forget that you’re paying for followers either way. Unpaid followers cost time instead of money, but they’re of higher quality and with higher margins than paid followers because unpaid volunteered to opt-in to your marketing. They’ve already behaviorally identified themselves as someone who wants to hear your message, instead of having to pay to put your message in front of them.
So that’s it? Once I can fund 40% of my campaign with only my email list I can launch?
Not only does that ensure you an excellent chance of funding as per KS’ own stats, but the process of acquiring these followers will build out all your other metrics. In this process, you’ll develop personal connections with backers, and with that, a better understanding of how to manage social and influencer channels. What a nifty side benefit.
It’s long, it’s slow, but using the 40-72 Rule as a guideline to prepare your campaign is the simplest and most reliable way to prepare for a giant launch.
(*One caveat, the industry of the campaign did influence the impact social media had on the campaigns in their study. Liquor and Spirits based campaigns actually did get significantly larger leverage on a per-follower base than other campaigns. More on this when we talk about backer idenity in future posts. For now, let that little nugget stew.