For many entrepreneurs, crowdfunding is a mystery. Celebrity music videos can flop, while simple, silly ideas can go viral overnight. Some campaigns are all about grassroots fundraising, while others can succeed on the strength of one or two wealthy backers.
On closer inspection, however, there are a few signals in the noise. We looked at the thousand most successful Kickstarter projects ever based on percent funded — campaigns that raised more than 15 times as much money as they asked for — then compared those numbers to every Kickstarter campaign in history, over 220,000 in all.
The following six trends emerged.
1. Tabletop games and physical products are king
If you want your crowdfunding campaign to be a viral hit, consider making a tabletop game. Just under 3% of all Kickstarter campaigns in history have featured tabletop games, and yet nearly 25% of the thousand most successful fall in that category. Compared to the average campaign, tabletop games — Conan and Zombicide — are 9.6 times as likely to go viral.
Hardware, tech gadgets and other physical products aren't quite as successful, on average, as board games, but they're still approximately five times as likely to be mega-hits compared to the average crowdfunding project. Famous examples include Pebble watches, 3D printing and the Coolest Cooler.
2. Documentaries, shorts, music and film are prone to flopping
The three most popular categories on Kickstarter are music, documentaries and shorts, each of which has seen over 10,000 campaigns. They're also the least likely to succeed — only 25 have cracked the top 1,000. Overall, these three categories are roughly 10 times less likely to go viral than the average project.
3. The best campaigns don't get too fancy with campaign duration
It's tempting to play around with the length of your campaign to tease out a few more pledges. Perhaps a 60-day funding period would leave backers more time to get on board? Or maybe a 10-day blitz will spur backers to action through urgency?
In reality, the data says that 30 days — the Kickstarter standard — is just fine. Of the thousand most successful Kickstarters, 322 had a funding period of 30 days. The next most popular period for viral hits? 29 days.
4. The $50 pledge is key
Crowdfunding is all about offering incentives. If a backer is willing to throw you $5, you give them a shout-out on your blog. If they want to pledge $5,000? You fly them out to your campaign headquarters and take them to lunch.
As a result, most great Kickstarter campaigns will offer rewards at both low and high pledge amounts. Regardless of whether a given backer is a causal supporter or wealthy super fan, you'll want incentives to attract either individual.
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