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How Conor Lewis Became King Of Kickstarter

Posted by Lucas Walker on
How Conor Lewis Became King Of Kickstarter

Conor Lewis, founder of FORT, joins Lucas Walker on Pitstop to reveal how he raised over $2 million in under 12 hours on Kickstarter.


While Kickstarter remains one of the best platforms creators can use to get interest and investments in their new innovations, it has lost some of its luster over the decade since it first debuted, and is far from the only hot spot for fresh ideas anymore.  Rather than hosting the first looks at new and exciting products and services, Kickstarter has found an unexpected niche,  allowing consumers to invest in innovations they're already excited about, and have been eagerly awaiting. That's how founder of FORT, Conor Lewis, was able to raise over $2 million in his first 10 hours on Kickstarter alone to fund magnetic pillow fort construction sets, by building a huge, highly involved and emotionally invested following and fandom off-platform, then channeling them to the fundraising page at the exact moment their excitement peaks. Here's how Lewis and FORT unleashed the true power of crowdfunding.

Grow Your Audience Where They Are. Like it or loathe it, Facebook is one of the central hubs for users online, always on the look out for novel and original content. A minor investment in a page and Facebook based advertising can result in a massive audience, with pre-existing features for collecting further contact information, and disseminating wide-scale product updates and brand messaging. Before you've sold a single product, make sure your customers are there.

Identify Your Customers. Thanks to your use of Facebook ads, you now have data about who responds positively to your brand and product. Focus your next round of promotion and advertising around the demographics those details are telling you are most interested. Chances are they will remain your core consumer base.

Incentivize Your Supporters.  If you want fans to spread the word about your idea, you have to make it worth their time and effort. Incentivize them with discounts, contests and special offers, just for those who take part in sharing posts, bringing in new followers and helping to raise brand awareness. Consumers love feeling involved, but no one likes feeling used, so make sure the potential reward far exceeds the effort.

Talk About Your Product. It may seem obvious, but so often new developers get bogged down in the daily grind, and lose track of what brought people to them in the first place; the exciting new product. Never stop promoting, updating and showcasing your product, document as much as you can, and turn that into content to further promote and raise brand awareness, no matter how long you've been going.

Educate Your Followers. Not everyone has a good instinct for navigating online and despite being nearly 30 years old, some users still have a hard time with the internet, especially when it comes to spending money. If you want your supporters, and their wallets, to follow you to Kickstarter, explain to them the process, show them exactly how to donate, share and take part in promoting your fundraiser. Their support will be far more profitable and effective when properly applied. This goes double for making sure customers understand and know how to use your product long before they ever get their hands on one. The deeper they grasp what you're selling, the better they can promote it to others, and the fewer problems you'll run into with customers at launch.

Build Your Kickstarter Kingdom

FORT founder and King of Kickstarter Conor Lewis returns to Pitstop with his top tactics for keeping the curious customers coming in.

Raising over $3 million through Kickstarter, over $2 million of that in less than half a day, doesn't come easy, even for the Conor Lewis, who did just that. Investors didn't just flock to the page for FORT by coincidence or a passing curiosity, Lewis and his team carefully built their ad campaign brick by brick to make sure their kid friendly castle concept didn't topple under siege. Here are some of the insights and brand-awareness battle tactics he shared with Lucas and Pitstop for crafting a clear and cost effective advertising strategy.

Everyone Starts Somewhere. Don't worry if you're not an expert on how to best market your Kickstarter page, GoFundMe drive or Shopify store, Conor certainly wasn't when he started out. Like many in e-commerce, he had the tools and expertise for working with Shopify, Facebook and other online, user based markets. While bringing over his lists to Kickstarter gave FORT a terrific break out of the gates, there was no campaign plan beyond initially getting them to follow from one site to another, or to keep them engaged once there.  Don't worry if you don't have a plan, have faith that your followers and supporters will get you through the first few days, more than enough time to strategize your next step.

Spend Money To Make Money. The vast majority of Kickstarter campaigns are built entirely off ads, rather than from organic traffic or SEO. As such, anyone who relies on their imported followers from before they launched on Kickstarter for too long will soon see their well of potential wealth dry up. No matter how much money is spent on sites like Facebook to funnel users to your Kickstarter page, you'll find your money is better spent on Kickstarter ads directly, speaking to interested customers already in a culture, and mood, for spending , rather than the looky-loos and maybe-laters who will inevitably overtake your external lists. Every dollar spent on ads within Kickstarter itself will stretch much farther than on social media.

Your Medium May Be Your Message. Study your list data and make smart ad-buying decisions based on what it tells you about your demographics. Are you mostly dealing with young, trendy parents? Why not invest in automated SMS, which will put you a step ahead of the competition in vying for their attention, in a much more personal and intimate matter. Are they older, or are many fo them outside your region? Then keep the hassle, and cost down, by relying on classic email messaging, which some older consumers still trust more than a text, which they may find intrusive. Consider how you are communicating with your customers, and adapt to the medium they prefer.

Make The Most Of Your Messaging. If you know what mediums your paying public positively respond to, then you should also have the data about what specifically it is about that medium that they enjoy. Don't just settle for sending them the bare minimum, make that medium work extra hard for you. Make your texts or emails engaging, challenging, curious, insightful, informative, fun or creative. Let people take a peak into your design process if its visually exciting, or explain the technical specs if it's complicated, or include call and response challenges for social media. Test the waters fearlessly and frequently, and when in doubt, simply ask some of your most loyal supporters what they think is and isn't working.

Be King Of Your Own Castle

The King of Kickstarter, Conor Lewis of FORT, returns to Pitstop one last time to show you how to make the leap from crowdfunding to launching your own e-commerce store.


Over the last two episodes, Conor and Lucas have shown you how to build brand anticipation, how to capitalize on it using crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and how to continue to grow from there, but what happens when you've gotten too big for that small kickstarting-pond?

It's high time for you to break out, and found your own online realm to reign over, says Conor, who shares how he took FORT from one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns ever, to one of the hottest up and coming  companies for safe and fun children's furniture.

My Kickstarter has plateaued, where do I go now?

At this point, you really have two options, depending on how much faith you have in your product, and how prepared you feel your team is. You can either:

  • Consider baby steps to the next level. Try IndieGoGo's  Indemand platform, which features a blend of crowdfunding and e-commerce features, without the restrictions or resource-investment of either. Use this to keep one foot in the crowdfunding sphere, raising additional capital, while freeing yourself to grow beyond.
  • Make the big leap. Build your own e-commerce site with Shopify, start taking pre-orders and hit the ground running. If you're confident in your brand, and the data shows you've grown as much as you can with just crowdfunding, then there's no reason to hesitate. Don't forget to turn off your crowdfunding campaign once you no longer need it.

I'm ready to dive right into pre-orders. What do I need?

There's a big difference in behaviour and expectations between people who support innovations on Kickstarter, and buying customers who expect merchandise for their money. Take the time between platforms to build your benchmarks.

  • Don't lose track of your fulfillments. Many successful crowdfunders have collapsed under the strain of actually delivering on their promised products. Don't worry if it's not the best quality yet, you're shipping out first-generations to early adopters, customers understand these growing pains. But do no fail to ship each and every order, your brand reputation and consumer base are too fragile at this point to handle it.
  • Figure out your cost of acquisition. Sourcing manufacturing for prototypes and limited special order runs are one thing, but if you turn that tap on and start getting flooded with orders, you need a supply chain that can handle it without breaking your bank. Manufacturing and resource costs may quickly rise, so make sure your bottom line can handle it without shocking the price tag too much.
  • Know your retention rate for returning customers. Most crowdfunders don't donate repeatedly to the same campaign, but people can spend years buying from the same company. You need to figure out if people keep coming back to your store, in how great a number, and most importantly, what drives them to return. Only then can you focus and capitalize on them.
  • Have a clear strategy for converting your lists. Your momentum may quickly disappear if your social media supporters don't  join you on the new platform. Have data driven expectations of how many will, and  design messaging campaigns to entice anyone who havn't already followed  through.

How do I get my followers to migrate over to my new store?

It's a lot harder for an e-commerce store to catch the attention of potential customers than a crowdfunding campaign. Unless you have a plan for growing new followers and retaining the old, your traffic will get very quiet very quick.

  • Build an email and SMS list from your crowdfunders just for  moving customers from one spot to another, removing them from the list once they've signed up with your new store.
  • Include special offers and exclusives for supporters who share and promote your new site within the community of supporters, and beyond.
  • Introduce new products to your inventory, even if they're just colour-swaps of the original product. FOMO is an incredible market driver, and including ideas and suggestions from excited customers will only grow their sense of engagement. Basic changes are also cheap and easy to apply to your manufacturing and supply process, while potentially multiplying sales.

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