Today I’m excited to bring you an interview with Eric Due – one of the cofounders of Bullz-i Inc, a company who just completed a very successful Kickstarter campaign for their new product called THE RiNG.
THE RiNG is an ingenious little device that attaches to your mobile phone or other electronic device and allows you to more easily hold the device with one hand. I wanted to speak with Eric because I was really impressed with the way he and his team handled the campaign and hoped he would be willing to share some of his tips with the rest of us.
Lucky for us, he was! Let’s see what he had to say.
[AOC] Congratulations on a successful Kickstarter campaign! You have managed to better your goal by 28%. Were you confident that funding would be successful from the start or was this a nailbiter all the way through?
[Eric] We knew before we began that the two crucial windows of the campaign are at the beginning and end. In fact, a good general rule of thumb is if you reach a third of your goal within the first couple of days you have a very good chance of reaching your goal by the end. We did, so in that respect we weren’t nervous, but there were a couple of days in between where order flow dwindled momentarily, which can definitely keep you on your toes.
We are very happy having met and surpassed our minimum, but we found Kickstarter proved to be useful in many other ways as well. It allowed us to clarify our message further. It also allowed us to get a pre-market response before some other critical decisions were fully committed. We received a lot of great feedback and connections from the campaign that was certainly enabled by Kickstarter.
[AOC] You’ve come up with a very elegant solution to a problem that all of us have experienced with dropped electronics. What inspired you to create THE RiNG? Did it arise from a (presumably bad) personal experience?
[Eric] THE RiNG was inspired by a culmination of the pain points we all experience. We started by wanting an effective stand that did not add a bulky case or needed to be carried separately. We also wanted to create something stylish, minimally intrusive, and highly functional that addressed other pain points such as holding your mobile device, using the camera, easily rotating between portrait and landscape modes, to name a few. It was also important to maintain a desirable branding environment that would allow complementary branding of any logo on the device that would embolden the brand applied by the quality of our product.
[AOC] It’s clear that a lot of planning went into making both your product and campaign a success. What drove you to take the crowdfunding route as opposed to traditional financing, and why Kickstarter in particular? Secondly, how much time in advance before hitting the launch button would you recommend others allot when preparing for a crowdfunding campaign?
[Eric] We had always entertained using crowdfunding as a pre-order platform, as it’s a great alternative and less expensive than other traditional options. It also allowed us to effectively test the market and get various feedback before making some key business decisions based on the response from the Kickstarter campaign. Kickstarter was chosen based on the community, resources, and general awareness of the platform.
We had already prepared much of our material based on the possibility of using Kickstarter. However we spent only one month getting fully ready and producing our campaign after deciding to go with Kickstarter. I would think any company in a similar scenario should be able to prepare an effective campaign in one to two months. There are so many factors that go into timing, it would be hard to set anything other than a very general expectation.
[AOC] What was your primary means of marketing to get the word out about your campaign? Did you make extensive use of social media and if so how much do you figure that contributed to your success?
[Eric] We used several methods to get the word out. Traditional guerrilla marketing being one. We would talk to people in person and hand out cards with our website information as a reminder to check the site. This allowed us to get instant feedback on our messaging, learning what was important to convey.
We also utilized Facebook advertising. Facebook allowed us to run some great campaign advertising that also gave us great response and metrics on differing messages. We learned a lot based on the demographics, keywords, and responses to our Facebook advertising. They provide a great platform for key business metrics.
Email campaigning was also utilized to spread the initial word about Bullz-i Inc. and THE RiNG. This was the most effective initially to spread the word to friends and family. MailChimp was a great resource to enable our email Campaigns.
Each piece provided its own insights. The most important decisions were based on utilizing readily available resources that provided the most metrics that we could gather and tailor our message. Each was very effective in our learning process utilizing Kickstarter and preparing for a full market entry.
[AOC] Are there any pitfalls to be aware of specifically related to a crowdfunding campaign that you perhaps weren’t aware of prior to launching your campaign that you’d like to make others aware of?
The biggest pitfalls were related to the barrage of advertisers focused on new campaigns. One resource we had decided to utilize was an attractive marketing resource that we found through a message from our Kickstarter campaign. Everything presented seemed legit. However, we quickly realized the business was fraudulent and backed out. The hardest part in trying to bring something good to market is realizing there are still a lot of sharks in the water waiting to prey on new players in fraudulent strategies.
[AOC] If you had to give three tips to someone else embarking on a Kickstarter campaign, what would they be and why?
[Eric] Kickstarter is a tool to back up your marketing efforts. You will hear it elsewhere, and it is true, the start of your campaign is the start of what should have been a lot of hard work already and just increased. It becomes your landing page for spreading your word. Three tips that we believe you should keep in mind are:
Have as much media ready as possible. Media being pictures, video, and simple messaging that you would want to see. Show it to others. Get feedback, tailor your message, all before entering Kickstarter. Then be ready to change it up throughout your campaign. Your initial marketing should be two ways. The message you are pushing, and the response you are perceiving.
Line up as many contacts in your industry prior to launch. This can be difficult if you do not have product or contacts already. However, get out, network, and get as much information and contacts as possible in the months leading up to your campaign. Our time spent prior to Kickstarter was invaluable. CES, meetups, case studies, people of all walks of life gave us great feedback that allowed us to reach out and spread our message.
Relax. Amid all the time and effort you have spent so far, and the immediacy Kickstarter can assume, take regular steps back and relax. Keep your Kickstarter campaign in perspective and remember this is just the beginning. Maintaining a calm perspective on the process allows better decision making.
[AOC] To bring THE RiNG to fruition, Bullz-i has opted to partner with a number of experts in design, marketing, and sales. So many startups on Kickstarter attempt to make a go of it alone. What advice can you give to them in this regard?
[Eric] There are many paths to success and weighing the risks you take will be a personal and business decision every time. Partnering with companies and individuals has been beneficial for Bullz-i Inc. in forming good relationships with quality companies and individuals.
In this way we are able to partner with professionals as well as refrain from the complexities and commitments of full time employment at a stage that can’t reliably give that commitment for a steady income. The best way to get feedback not only on your idea but your intended business plan is to engage and discuss with professionals in each area of your intended business.
[AOC] And finally, with the success of The Ring, does Bullz-i have any plans for another crowdfunding campaign in the future?
Perhaps, but not something we are planning on at the moment. The most importantly reinforced lesson we have gotten is to remain flexible. There are so many factors that influence every decision along the way. The best preparation for any campaign and stage of our development has been to list all of our options and knowing what they are before we need to make critical decisions. Another campaign is in our list of options. Whether we use it will depend on other options that currently take priority.
Thank you so much for your questions and time in spreading some information about the crowdfunding campaign and Kickstarter in particular. Stay tuned as we have a lot of exciting products developing based around THE RiNG.
[AOC] And thank YOU Eric for taking the time to share your experience with us. I appreciate your time and I know my readers do as well. I hope we’ll get the opportunity to talk again in the future – hopefully after yet another successful campaign!
Eric Due is one of the cofounders of Bullz-i Inc. I encourage all of you to check out THE RiNG on their website as well as the Kickstarter campaign page. If you found what Eric had to say helpful please consider showing your support by buying your very own RiNG.