Last month we wrote about a leather bag startup called Linjer that bootstrapped its way to $5 million in sales in only two years. In the story, we interviewed Linjer’s two founders (and only employees), Jenn Chong and Roman, and asked them how they’ve been able create such a successful company with such few resources.
Their answer? They’re badasses.
But seriously. Chong and Khan explained what they’ve done to make it all happen. However, you people asked for more. So, I went back and asked Linjer’s two founders about their recent watch launch on Kickstarter in which they raised $100,000 in their first hour (the campaign now has $300,000+ with 15 days to go).
Sam Parr from The Hustle: Your watch collection raised $100,000 on Kickstarter in 6 hours. What the hell?
Jenn Chong: It’s been crazy! We’re real perfectionists, so it took us 18 months to get the design perfect. We were very happy with our end product. But until you hit launch, you really have no idea whether other people will like it – and like it enough to be willing to give you money for it!
SP: What do you think made your campaign so successful?
JC: Our simple, logo-free watch designs are very appealing to many, and I think our product quality and attention to detail really come through. We invested in photography. It’s so important to show your products in the best light. We sent our watches to a professional watch photography studio and also did a lookbook shoot to put the watches in context and help drive home the story of quality.
SP: Walk me through how you got to $100,000 in 6 hours.
JC: When we were preparing for the campaign we read Tim Ferriss’ guides. He has one on building a pre-launch list, with Harry’s as the case study; and another on raising $100,000 on Kickstarter in 10 days, with Soma Water as a case study.
SP: Ah, we actually did a Harry’s style campaign for The Hustle. It was enormously successful for us.
JC: Yes, Tim’s guides are amazing. The basic premise is that you need to build a big email list of hot leads before you launch – you can’t launch to crickets.
We put a lot of effort into building a big community of people who were really psyched about our watches. By the end we had a list of 2,000 people.
SP: 2,000 sounds like a small email list, but it must be an insanely high quality list if it could drive $100,000 in pledges in a matter of hours. How did you get these email addresses?
JC: We built a beautiful landing page on our website, solely dedicated to our watches. The goal of the page was to excite people about our watches and entice them to give us their email addresses so they could be notified when we launched.
It was a simple page with 6 rows. We had a video of the story behind the watches, photos of our watches and information about the materials and components.
SP: So, you built your landing page – then what? How did you get traffic to your page?
JC: It all started by just sitting down and personally emailed/messaged hundreds of our friends, showing them our landing page and asking them to share the page with their own networks. Really basic tactic, but people kept on sharing and sharing, and from this alone we had thousands of people visit our site.
Naturally, we let our existing customers for our leather goods know about our campaign, and a substantial number of them signed up to learn more about our watches.
We also got hunted on Product Hunt. This was huge for us. That community is a great fit for what we’re doing as it’s full of early adopters who are very smart and curious.
SP: And after they signed up, you just told them when you were launching, and that was that?
JC: Far from it! We ran a very honest and personal email drip campaign to this list. Through three emails spread over three days, we told the story of our passion for design, why we decided to launch a watch collection, how we chose the materials and components for our watches, and also shared feedback that we had gotten from our early testers.
SP: I’m intrigued – I’m subscribed to a lot of brands’ newsletter but I’ve never seen something like what you described. As a bootstrapped company that got its start with crowdfunding, I imagine the personal narrative is much more important in your relationship with your customer. What kind of open rates were you getting?
JC: Our emails had open rates that were consistently in the high 60s – even the final email in the series. For a lot of people it was really special to see the behind-the-scenes: why we decided to make watches, our design inspiration, the inner workings of watch manufacturing, how we chose our materials…
We look like a luxury brand, but you’d never see a traditional luxury brand share content like this. For them it’s all about exclusivity and creating a wall between them and the customer; for us, it’s about respecting the intelligence of our customers and connecting with them. It’s a totally different approach.
It seemed to work. You know, we got a lot of responses to those emails–people who simply wanted to share their excitement about our watches . That was super uplifting, getting emails from strangers around the world who were just as enthusiastic about our watches as we were.
SP: That’s insane!! How long did you spend on “pre-launch”?
JC: We spent 10 days on pre-launch. We wanted to run pre-launch for 30 days but we had a few delays, and also couldn’t postpone our campaign any longer. We just made do with the shortened timeframe. I wish we’d had more time for building and strengthening our list but hey, start-up life.
SP: What kind of conversion rate did you have on your page?
JC: Initially, it was horrendous — 5% which is very, very low according to any benchmark.
Then, we installed live chat from Zopim on our webpage. It changed everything!
With Zopim installed, our landing page had a little tab in the bottom right corner that said “Chat with us!” and our faces actually show up if you click it. Roman and I personally manned the live chat on the first night. We spoke to 25 people and got the same questions over and over. Really basic stuff. How do I get a watch? When are you launching? How much will it cost?
The copy on our page was quite cryptic, just like the Harry’s campaign profiled in Tim’s guide. Through these interactions with our site visitors, we realized it didn’t work at all for our product.
That night we changed the copy on our webpage entirely, so everything was crystal clear and people knew exactly what they were getting into if they signed up. Overnight, our conversion rate jumped from 5% to 15-20%!
SP: Amazing. Really cool to hear about your success and I’m sure lots of other entrepreneurs – not just aspiring crowdfunders – could learn a lot from what you’ve done. Best of luck with the rest of your campaign.