A version of this article previously appeared in Forbes.
With the 4th of July around the corner, Zack Brown had potato salad on his mind. As any enterprising entrepreneur would do, he initiated a Kickstarter campaign with the goal of raising $10.
His appeal is written in a hilarious, deadpan style. For instance, he notes in the Risks section of his campaign that, "It might not be that good. It's my first potato salad." At the time I am writing this, he has enticed nearly 6,000 backers to commit over $49,500, and counting.
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Lessons Learned From Potato Salad
Although Zack's submitted his Kickstarter campaign with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, there are still a number of valid lessons that can be drawn from his success.
Timing – Posting his campaign shortly before the 4th of July was perfect timing, as picnic foods are on many peoples' minds. In addition, during the summer, many of the professionals who read Kickstarter are on vacation and have a bit more time for frivolity. It is doubtful the campaign would have been noticed in the dead of winter.
Humor – Zack relies on humor to engage the reader. He walks a fine line between total sarcasm, which would have led to few contributions, and a serious intention to actually make a batch of potato salad. For instance, for contributors who pledge $1, Zack has committed to ,"say your name out loud while making the potato salad." For those donating at the $20 "POTATO MADNESS" level, Zack will, "write a (personalized) potato-salad themed haiku." He will also, "carve your name into a potato that will be used in the potato salad." So far, Zack will be writing 4 haikus.
Engagement – As of this writing, Zack has updated his submission 13 times. He has included links to articles about his potato salad "venture," as well as offering additional rewards to contributors, including a trucker-style hat declaring, "I <heart> Potato Salad."
Brevity – Zack kept his initial verbiage short and to the point, stating, "Basically I'm just making potato salad. I haven't decided what kind yet." He was making a batch of potato salad and he needed $10. Period. Entrepreneurs' would be well served to craft similarly straight-forward calls to action, while eschewing verbosity.
Simple – Avoid words such as eschewing and verbosity! Unfortunately, many people think a college education is a license to write at a level that is uncomfortable for most people (including college graduates) to read. When writing anything that you want people to effortlessly internalize, use simple words and avoid industry jargon. If you are "basically just making potato salad," simply say so.
Pictures – Advertisers have long known that images cause a reader to hover their gaze, as eye candy is generally more appealing than text. Zack's selected a delectable photo of a heaping plate of potato salad.
All of these alleged "insights" are essentially common sense. Even so, it remains worthwhile to examine the components of an effective Kickstarter campaign before launching your own. Once you find one that is particularly applicable to your venture, reach out to the entrepreneur who authored the campaign and offer them a brimming plate of virtual potato salad in exchange for a quick email exchange to help you hone your Kickstarter message.
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