Ross Pruden, the founder of the Dimeword kickstarter project to write a hundred 100-word stories I mentioned the other day, has posted a lengthy piece to Techdirt going over ten lessons he learned from the project, which has currently reached $2,670 from 129 backers with 81 minutes to go. (Fewer by the time I actually post this, of course.)
Some of these lessons are pretty obvious, and things that I’ve talked about in various pieces before—starting small, using abundance to sell scarcity. He talks about the importance of making fans, not money—attempting to go for quantity of donors rather than amount of cash—though notes that this part hadn’t worked out quite like he had expected:
As of this writing, I have 59 $10+ donors and 12 $1 donors. This is mainly my fault because I haven't been as active as I should have been to reach out and let ALL my friends and followers know about Dimeword. On the other hand, I found five $100 backers and one $500 backer, so I suppose it balances out. My hope is that I get another 100 $1 donors by the end of the campaign. If I'd worked harder and longer at this, I might have gotten 1,000 $1 backers. Still, it's not bad for a first campaign. And my next campaign will have this campaign as part of its backstory -- word of mouth about the quality of my perks should get exponentially greater as I do more Kickstarters.
He also discusses the importance of both high-end donation tiers (he’s spending $62 per printed book to produce only seven copies for his seven $100-and-up donors, because he wants to impress the people who cared enough to kick in so much) and low-end donation tiers (many Kickstarters don’t give anything more for $1 buy-ins than “our gratitude,” but giving people a reason to kick in at least $1 means that more people will, and lots of little $1s for zero-marginal-cost digital media adds up fast).
Pruden talks about marketing with pull techniques rather than push—talk about the content, don’t just tell people to buy it. He talks about delighting people who kick in money, and making sure to offer gratitude to people for what they do for you. It’s important to have fun, because fun is contagious, and transparency in your process helps build loyalty.
The most important lesson he learned, Pruden notes, is the importance of connecting with people. You don’t just try to sell them something, you try to connect with them as people and treat them as such.
[W]thout Dimeword, I might have never found my highly dedicated fans. If there's one lesson that should linger here, it's this: the heart of business, the heart of providing solutions to customers and, indeed, any interaction with anyone for anything, is about connecting. Artists aren't in the business of making art. They're in the business of connecting with others through art. You can connect with others 1000 different ways -- Techdirt is rife with examples of exactly that -- but they're all essentially a variation of being human enough to discover what you have in common with others and then allowing them a chance to converse with you about it. From those connections, sales happen naturally.
At the moment, there’s just over an hour to go, and kicking in $1 will get you an email of every story that gets written as part of the project—not a bad value. Because I had a little free cash, and figured why not, I went ahead and kicked in $10 myself, making me a patron of one of the stories that gets written. It will be interesting to see just what my money buys me.