Ask an Expert: Carol Benovic-Bradley, Kickstarter Food Outreach Lead

If you’ve never crowdfunded before, the process might be daunting. But there’s a reason so many food and beverage companies are choosing to raise money this way! Crowdfunding can be a great marketing tool and brand builder in addition to fundraising platform. It takes work to get the most from your campaign, so we sat down with Carol Benovic-Bradley, the Food Outreach Lead for Kickstarter, to learn more. She gave us expert advice on building a successful food campaign that adds to your brand value.

What sort of daily support do you provide to makers as part of your job?

As the Food Outreach Lead, I help creators through the process of running a Kickstarter project. In the beginning, it’s a lot of listening. It’s listening to them about what their idea is, what their goal is, and how we can help them accomplish that goal.

What can makers do in real life to support their projects online?

An outreach method that works for one creator might not work for another. If you want to go door to door, that might work for you! If you can get a table at a farmer’s market and talk about what you’re doing, that might work too! Or if you can send personal emails to everyone you’ve done catering for, do that. The more that you can talk to people one-on-one, the better.

And get creative! Posting on social media every day for a 30-day campaign sounds exhausting. And it probably won’t work, because you’re talking to the same people over and over. So think about ways that you can talk to people who will be interested.

Besides a great video, what sort of marketing assets should a maker have in place before they undergo a campaign?

The video is important, but the main project image is equally important. That’s the first thing that most people are going to see when they come across a campaign online. So make sure that it’s a hi-def, super clear image with no text on it. If you’re making food, your food should be in the picture. This is the one opportunity you have to make your project shine, so I really encourage people to start documenting their process as early on as possible so they have options they can use for the main image.

What sorts of food and beverage projects get funded the most often?

We have a solid history of restaurants and food trucks, and I think that’s because they’ve done work in their local community – like pop-ups and events. So they have a group of supporters that will back them when they launch the project. Also, it’s an investment in the community – people want to see others in their community start new things. But in recent years, we have seen a lot more CPGs coming and those are also great. We’ve seen some exciting projects that connect with a more global audience of people who are interested in supporting innovative new food brands.

How do the “Projects We Love” get chosen?

Simply put, those are projects that Kickstarter’s staff loves! We’re looking for people who have put together a thoughtful campaign – a nice video, solid imagery, they’ve clearly described what they’re doing and why it’s important – and it’s something that’s good for the world and seems like a unique idea. That’s what we’re looking for.

Why might a project not do well?

Every creator needs to have a solid plan for how they’re going to spread the word once their project goes live. Knowing how you’re going to reach out to people is so important, and you really need to hit the ground running. When you hit launch, that’s just the beginning.

Can you talk about the benefits of product versus experiential rewards? Does a good project utilize a mix of both?

You should always try to offer the thing you’re making. That’s why people are interested in supporting you! If you’re making a soda, offer the soda. If you’re opening a restaurant, offer a meal. The best rewards are the ones that get backers more invested in what you’re doing, so trying to think of unique things people can only get as part of backing your project. If you’re starting a restaurant, maybe a reward is an invite to an opening party.

“Thinking about how you can get these folks engaged in part of your long-term community, not just this campaign, can open up exciting opportunities for you.”

How often do you recommend makers post updates?

During the campaign, I recommend posting 3-4 updates. One should be thanking your early adopters and motivating them to help you keep the campaign going. Sometimes people don’t do this because they’re just grateful to have support, but it’s a small ask to ask your backers to share your project on social media or with a friend. Those little things can really help to expand your reach.

Once a campaign is over, I recommend once a month sharing progress so that people know what you’re doing. Hit on specific milestones – like choosing packaging, or going to the factory – because those give a glimpse into your process.

Who are some great recent Kickstarter projects?

Chirps Cricket Protein Powder – they ran a campaign a few years ago for Cricket Chips, before cricket protein was as popular as it is today. I’d recommend people watch the video – it really conveys the team’s personality and what they’re making. There’s also a recent project called Return of Japanese Food Truck – run by two guys in Houston. Their food truck was broken into and they need support to keep their operation going.

What are the best online resources for utilizing Kickstarter effectively?

The creator handbook is the most thorough resource we have. But our blog has tons of content as well. One post is called 96 Reward Ideas, which is great for inspiration. If you’re a visual learner, we also have a YouTube channel where we interview creators and Kickstarter staff. If you have a project idea or a questions, you can also always email me at carol@kickstarter.com!

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