E261: How to Launch an Effective Kickstarter Campaign

For many up-and-coming businesses, a Kickstarter campaign is a way to fund the cost of manufacturing a product by generating interest for it.

It’s a pretty straightforward goal but there’s so much work that goes into a campaign leading up to the actual launch date. But, as today’s podcast guest will tell you, it can all be worth it.

Meet Caleb

Those of you who’ve dabbled in creating videos for YouTube might have come across Caleb Wojcik. Also known as the DIY Video Guy, Caleb is known for his video production courses and his collaborations with well-known influencers.

And it is one of these collaborations with Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income that’s brought him here today.

The Switchpod

Being vloggers themselves, Caleb and Pat knew the importance of having a sturdy handheld tripod. So they came up with Switchpod, a product that could rival the more popular GorillaPod in terms of ease of use and flexibility. They knew right away that they would need a platform that will fund those aluminum alloy molds and help them recoup the $30,000 spent to launch Switchpod.

Getting into Kickstarter

Caleb and Pat launched Switchpod’s Kickstarter campaign on January 29, 2019. Their goal was to raise $100,000 within a 60-day period, something they were able to do in less than a day.

How did they do this? Listen as Caleb takes us behind-the-scenes on how they were able to come up with such an effective Kickstarter campaign.


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Full Audio Transcript

Intro: This is Mike and welcome to episode number 261 of the EcomCrew Podcast. So glad to have you guys along with us today. Before jumping into today's episode, I do want to mention that EcomCrew Premium is open right now. Go over to EcomCrew.com/premium to check that out. You guys know that we don't do a lot of fluff or salesy stuff on the EcomCrew Podcast. We'd like to keep it that way for a reason. But every now and then, I do need to put my salesman hat on and tell you about EcomCrew Premium. 

It's the one paid offering that we have, which includes all of our courses, which includes one on importing from China, how to launch a seven figure brand, how to launch products on Amazon the white hat way, Facebook Messenger course which is still a really important marketing way to do business in 2019 and beyond, and our newest course which is flows to riches all about creating email flows that make you tons of money. We just sold ColorIt for seven figures and a large part of why we're able do that was because of our email strategy and it's all documented in this course step by step. So go over to EcomCrew.com/premium to check that out. 

All right, enough of my salesman hat. Let's get into today's episode which is Caleb. They have made an awesome product. Caleb partnered up with Pat Flynn from Smart Passive Income. As you guys know, Pat Flynn was one of our guest judges at the 5 Minute Pitch which was awesome getting to meet him. Smart Passive income is something that I've been following for a very long time. Pat is one of the OGs in this space. He happens to also be one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. I'm looking forward to meeting Caleb in person sometime. But Caleb helped deliver or create this product with Pat. 

I don't want to give away too much. Let's hop into today's episode. If you have any questions or comments about it, you can go to EcomCrew.com/261. But this is an awesome project that these guys did to create a from scratch product that they came up with. It was their idea, and they're crushing it. So without further ado, let's get into this episode with Caleb. 

Mike: Hey Caleb, welcome to the EcomCrew Podcast. 

Caleb: Yeah, thanks for having me. 

Mike: No problem. It's been a while coming. I tried to get you on a while back and we had a scheduling conflict and really excited to have you on the show today. I met you through Pat Flynn, who you've partnered up with to sell a physical product now. And Pat's been known for a very long time doing things online with like affiliate marketing, and obviously with his blog, Smart Passive Income and podcast, and has jumped into the foray of physical products now. So it should be fun to talk about how you guys caught up and all that. But first, maybe just like a little bit of background on you and how you got on e-commerce yourself.

Caleb: So I've been running a video production company for almost five years now. And Pat Flynn who you mentioned is one of my main clients. But I do a lot of online course filming YouTube content, product launches, some documentary style stuff, kind of whatever online entrepreneurs or startups in the more like software space that are serving, those online entrepreneurs need video wise, sometimes live events, a lot of different stuff. So Pat and I were at a conference called VidSummit, where a lot of people were using a specific product called the GorillaPod which this bendable tripod thing that bloggers use YouTubers, it's meant to wrap around trees and railings and things like that, and also hold up your camera. 

A lot of people were using that. And I turned to Pat and I said, there's got to be a better way than what these people are using this thing for. And that was how everything kind of started with our first product.

Mike: Awesome. I love the background. I know what GorillaPod is, I have one. As good as it is, I still don't quite understand why it's so popular but it does a great job of wrapping around trees and things like that, like as you mentioned, but it doesn't really feel great in your hand when you're using it to vlog or something like that. So I agree there's definitely got to be a better way. And I've seen pictures of what you guys developed, which is amazing. I don't have one yet. I'm going to talk to Pat and see if I can get him to give me one for free or something. If not, I'll go buy one because I'm cheap, I guess. But I mean, obviously there's got to be a better way. But how do you get from that to what you guys ultimately developed because it's doesn't really look like the GorillaPod very much. I mean it's somewhat but not really.

Caleb: Yeah, so the initial thoughts behind SwitchPod were not to just copy something that already exists. The GorillaPod is versatile and it's useful for a lot of different things. But that means that it's not great at a very specific thing, which is holding your camera out a couple feet away from you, about a foot away from you, and vlogging with the camera pointed towards you. And then when you want to set that down, turning it into a tripod takes forever with that specific device that people are using for that purpose. So we wanted to make something that could switch between those two modes quickly and also last a long time. 

So GorillaPods kind of get weaker over time, all the ball joints get weaker, people's cameras fall over, they break lenses and camera bodies and microphones and things like that. So those were kind of the first couple of things we wanted to hit on for sure, which was speed of switching between those two modes handheld and tripod and then also being something that's rough and can take a beating, and also make sure your camera doesn't fall over.

Mike: Gotcha, makes a lot of sense. So I mean you have like all those concepts in mind, of the things you mentioned. But it's always easier to go from that in your head to a physical product. So what was the process of that like? Because we've obviously developed tons of products but we've always taken an approach of looking at something that exists already out there in the marketplace and improving upon it the best that we can. But it's never been designing something from scratch. I'm definitely curious to hear how that process went.

Caleb: So the first thing we did was we just started talking to people at that event, what they liked about GorillaPod, what they didn't like, what they would want out of a tripod, how big that sort of thing. So a lot of market research first and foremost with people that were around us at the event. And then we also started to sketch things on our own and think about what the product would really have to be, what it wouldn't be, what we would be willing to sacrifice when it came to design. And then after doing some of that internal stuff that we could do for no money, we hired a product development team to do some engineering, to do some CAD drawings, do some sketches. 

And then over the course of a year plus, we worked with them to 3D print prototypes, to make modifications, to work with actual manufacturers to get more high quality ones made out of metal. And so that was kind of the next step, do some research, do some internal sketching and mind dumping stuff of what we wanted, and then hire somebody to help us because we didn't know how to do physical stuff. We've only been doing digital products before.

Mike: Right. Yeah, makes total sense. So the process you mentioned, it took about a year, which it goes to show you, I mean if you want to have a successful product and anything in life, you got to be willing to put the time and hard work into and be patient. But also I'm sure there was a significant cost involved to that. So I mean, in rough magnitude, what did it cost to hire an engineering firm and get the sketches done, the prototypes, and 3d printing and all that stuff done?

Caleb: I mean, it wasn't all one big chunk in total, we probably spent somewhere between 25 and $30,000 leading up to our Kickstarter campaign. But that's a mixture of some legal stuff, getting patents filed, trademarks done, logo work as well. But the initial kind of cost was about $3,000 to just start the project, to get some engineering work done, to get some early prototypes. And then from there over the next year is when we spent the other money on more prototypes, or on more of the administrative stuff like design, logos and legal stuff.

Mike: Got you. So it sounds like you were spending 2500 to 3k a month on average, just kind of throughout that process for a year. 

Caleb: Mm-hmm.

Mike: Cool. Fair enough. So I mean, you get the prototype, and you got to a point where you're ready to manufacture this thing. And I already kind of know that you guys preliminary launched this thing on Kickstarter and had a great Kickstarter, we'll talk about that. What was the timing there? I mean did you do the Kickstarter first and make sure that there was the demand for this thing that you thought was going to be successful? Did you just jump right to let's get this thing manufactured; we're going to use Kickstarter as just the platform to get our initial sales and hopefully get some additional buzz around it. What did that look like?

Caleb: So we wanted to get to a finished product, which meant a final prototype, something that's 99% what people would be buying when they backed the Kickstarter campaign. But we did a Kickstarter campaign to raise money to place the order for the molds to be made. Because the molds for this were going to be close to $70,000 and that wasn't a bet we were willing to make before we validated whether or not people would want this product. 

Mike: Got you. 

Caleb: So that was why we went to Kickstarter was 70,000 for the molds and roughly 30,000 we'd spent so far. That was where the goal of $100,000 to raise on that platform came from. And so not only was it marketing, and also our first chunk of sales, but it was also validating the idea before we went even further into the hole.

Mike: Got it, makes perfect sense. And so I mean, I guess the basic business case, just so we're on the same page here kind of falling through the timeline, you were willing to put $30,000 into it, and you did over the course of a year. And you got to a point where you felt like you had a good piece of marketing material and something you could put up on Kickstarter, before you were willing to take the next leap and spend 70k to get molds made. That was kind of the impetus behind doing Kickstarter and you put this $100,000 goal out there, which was basically what you had put into it up to that point, and what it would take to get the molds done, but it wasn't going to cover manufacturing the first 1,000 units or 2,000 units, whatever you're going to make at that point.

Caleb: Correct. So as we sold more than 100,000, that's when it would start to break even on the cost of the per unit order basically.

Mike: Makes perfect sense. Yeah. Because they’re molds, is this injection mold a plastic, is that what the primary material is for the item?

Caleb: So it's actually going to be an aluminum alloy. So that means the molds were more expensive. We didn't look at plastic as an option for the product. But a few determining factors for the strength of the unit as well as people are going to be putting on cameras that are worth thousands of dollars. And we didn't want an item that would snap or bend or anything like that. So we tried a bunch of different plastic, but we really decided on metal and making more of a premium product.

Mike: Got you. Okay, that makes perfect sense and I love that. I mean, I love making a durable product. I mean, obviously, any type of negative press is really tough to deal with. And if you got people that are breaking $1,000 cameras, that's not a good thing so very cool. So I mean, now, I don't believe that you or Pat had any previous Kickstarter experience, right? So you were going into this for the first time, or did you guys have previous experience I’m not aware about?

Caleb: The only experience I had is I made a Kickstarter video for a client of mine, for John Lee Dumas’s Freedom journal that he launched on there, but I wasn't involved in any other part of the Kickstarter campaign for him. And then Pat had done one for a book that also had tiers to buy tickets to an event or get his online courses and things like that. So he did a kind of a book launch on Kickstarter. But that was to his existing audience. Very few people outside of his audience ended up buying it. This was something that we were hoping would spread beyond both of our existing audiences.

Mike: Got you. Yeah, it makes perfect sense. That's what's great about Kickstarter is you get that exposure. So all right so you mean, you put the Kickstarter listing together, you hold your breath, you hit go, what happens at that point?

Caleb: So even before that I put a lot of research into what made a successful Kickstarter campaign. There's so much that goes into it between the page, and the imagery and the video and the pricing tiers, and then the marketing behind it, and getting other people to write about on their websites or influencers to make videos about it. So that was a month straight of just doing all that to get it ready. And then once it launched, Pat and I basically launched to our own audiences. I had a couple of friends that made some videos that launched within the first hour or so of the campaign going live. And within the first six hours or so, we were halfway to our goal; we were at about $52,000. 

And then a very large YouTuber named Peter McKinnon, we had sent him one of the first four SwitchPods that we made final prototypes of and he launched a video about six or seven hours into our campaign and another six hours later, we had reached our $100,000 goal. So we reached it in half a day and we still had 59 and a half days left of the campaign to continue to grow it and try to figure out what else to do to get the SwitchPod in front of more people and to get more backers.

Mike: That's definitely a stroke of luck. That's amazing that you got him to do that video. And did Pat have a like a previous relationship with him? He's like a million plus follower YouTuber. I mean, I've watched quite a few of his videos. He's an amazing, amazing YouTuber.

Caleb: Yeah, he's an incredible guy. He's very down to earth and very honest. And he was about 3 million subscribers on YouTube when we launched January 29th, of 2019. And we had the opportunity to meet him and have a few minutes of his time at VidSummit the next year, so VidSummit 2018. About three to four months before the campaign launched, we had a chance to show him our final prototype. And from there, we stayed in contact with him, had another prototype made for about 1,500 dollars and sent it to him, and just sent it to him because we wanted to see what he thought of it and to see if anything would come of it. 

Mike: Awesome. So definitely $1,500 well spent. That's amazing that that relationship was there, and you get another chance to meet him and everything and then he got it in his hands and he loved it, which is cool. So I mean, congrats on getting the campaign funded. That was in the first 24 hours, I mean, you're at 100k in 24 hours, what happened beyond that?

Caleb: So you definitely get a peak at the beginning of the campaign. We ended up doing about $250,000 in the first four days. And then in the remaining 56 days, we did less than that. So you definitely get a big peak in the very, very beginning. And it starts to uptick again at the end, because of more of the urgency of however many days are left of the campaign. But one thing we did on purpose that a lot of other campaigns don't do is we stuck to our original tiers and we didn't add anything. We didn't add accessories or different colors or stretch goals or anything like that. We just said you can get one, you can get two or you can get five.

Mike: Got you. 

Caleb: And they're all the same size. They're all the same color. And certain campaigns that I've studied will plan to have new announcements mid campaign, or when they reached stretch goals, other things will unlock. So people are more likely to try to help get them to those stretch goals. But we chose not to do that. We chose to keep it really simple for our first product. And another thing that other campaigns do is they'll kind of fake the scarcity of it. So it might in the sidebar say there's only five left of a certain tier, but they might continually update that. So it always looks like there's only five left. We chose not to do that. We were sold out of our early bird tiers within the first day or so. And we didn't add on any more arbitrarily to make it so that it just looked like there was scarcity. We just wanted to run completely a transparent and honest campaign that way.

Mike: Got you. And that kind of fits Pat’s personality anyway, so it makes perfect sense.

Caleb: Yeah, definitely.

Mike: Cool. So I mean, amazing. Congrats. It's an amazing story. I'm curious man, it sounds like now that you've run a Kickstarter campaign, you might have some tips and tricks up your sleeve besides the stuff you kind of mentioned in the first one. You kind of mentioned in between the lines of you better get as much as you can out of it when you first launch. So I mean, obviously Pat has a huge audience, that really helps. You have an audience, you had Peter push traffic over there. What are some other things that people can do if they're not lucky enough to have the size audiences that you guys all had?

Caleb: I mean, yes, Pat had an audience, I had an audience and we leveraged some other friends of ours and other creators as well, and that was a big part of the push the first day or so. But we also didn't stop there. We even before that were building buzz by sharing the process and telling people when it was going to come and getting a lot of feedback in person from people and handing the business cards and having them get on our list early on. So I mean, we were doing what I call like boots on the ground work to get some buzz built for this thing so that once it finally came, there were a bunch of people that were interested right in the beginning. 

And so if someone else is trying to launch a new product for the first time, you might be tempted to keep it completely secret until someone can buy it or until someone can pre order it because you might be afraid of someone else stealing your idea. Or you just want everything already before anyone sees it ever. But we tried as much as we could to put out videos, to post on social media and try to tease it so that it's not just something that comes out of the blue, because we wanted people to be buying on that very first day because they knew what to expect.

Mike: Got you, makes perfect sense. And I mean did you use any — there's like a lot of tools out there, SaaS tools that help you manage a Kickstarter campaign. Did you guys use anything for that?

Caleb: No, we didn't end up using anything advanced for our surveys or for emailing our people or anything like that. The only third party thing that I can think of that we used was for affiliates of the campaign. We used a service called Kickbooster, where if someone made a video about it, or posted it on a PR website, or they could even sign up and just share it with whatever audience they had, they could get varying degrees of percentages based on if they just signed up, they could get 5% of what they referred to the campaign. And then our friends, other people that we talked to might have gotten a higher percent, that sort of thing. So it's kind of like an affiliate program for Kickstarter. And it tracks who referred who and then even if they paid through their credit card at the end of the campaign, so that it is accurate.

Mike: Got you. Okay very cool. So what other things stand out? Like what was the timing in terms of when this thing actually launched? And we're recording this in June; it's going to go probably go live in August, just what are some of the timings as far is the thing being manufactured now? Is it being shipped? Do you have a comment yet? What's the order of events I guess after running a successful Kickstarter?

Caleb: Yeah, so the whole grand timeline was – the initial idea was October 2017. We had final prototypes almost exactly 12 months later so October 2018. We launched at the end of January 2019 and did a 60 day campaign. So how Kickstarter works is you don't get the actual money until the campaign ends. And that's about another week or two. And so once we got the money, then we could actually begin the manufacturing. We were doing other things with the manufacturer and figuring out distribution and that sort of thing, finalizing the designs before they were going to the manufacturer and all that leading up to that point. But it wasn't until we could pay in April to have them actually start the manufacturing of the bigger order. And those will be ready by August or September of this year is the current timeframe.

Mike: Got you. And what did you put as far as the delivery date promise on Kickstarter?

Caleb: We used August for the delivery date. I wanted to be a little conservative, because I knew that just based on how the process had gone so far that physical products take longer than you might want them to. So I was conservative with that August date. And it's still possible to hit that date, we're still communicating that we will hit that date but if it slides at all, it should just be a few weeks. So we don't want to be a Kickstarter campaign that doesn't deliver years and years later, because that definitely does happen. 

Mike: Yeah, there's plenty of them out there. 

Caleb: Yeah.

Mike: So it sounds like you guys are — I mean in terms of Kickstarter, the Kickstarter running, you guys are really on time because I mean, I've been a part of a few Kickstarters and they're really ever close to their anticipated date, unless they're an established big company like Peak Design, another thing that's on the camera space, they're usually pretty good about their Kickstarters, but that's awesome. I mean, so another thing that's happened in the meantime, as you were developing all this is these tariffs have now kicked in. So how is that affecting you guys because there's going to be a 25% tariff when this thing hits the border?

Caleb: Yeah. So we have been keeping an eye on tariffs and the categories and what was included in what and what percentages were changing and going from lower to higher and that sort of thing. So our product, tripods was in this third category that got bumped to 25% in the mid May of 2019 timeframe. I'm still optimistic that come the G20 Summit, and what have you that maybe some negotiations and deals may be made between the US and China. But honestly, we’d love to get these made in the US and it would have cost us two and a half to three times as much was what we were looking at which, to have the same profit margin means we need to charge twice as much. 

And so the expertise for this kind of thing, this kind of manufacturing and these kinds of materials that we're using, the specialty is in China and we were using Chinese manufacturers to do all the prototyping process. And we were happy with the results from that. So we're going to continue to stick with them. But that does mean that we will pay — unless anything changes the 25% tariff on what each of the units cost when they hit US soil before we ship them out.

Mike: Yeah, frustrating. So there's some things you can do to get around that and we can talk about that just real quick, some advice and something probably people think about that are in this particular position. But there is this concept of De Minimis tariffs in importing. So if it's under $800, then you don't pay any tariff. And so you can actually do fulfillment from China on these orders and just ship out each individual one to the customer directly from China and there's companies that specialize in this, and they've been out there for a very long time but now they're even more economically feasible. It's always been actually cheaper to do it that way. But to save the tariff and ship directly from there, you could potentially fill all those orders and pay zero tariffs on any of it. So something to keep in mind and if you want to talk about that offline, I'm happy to chat with you about that.

Caleb: Okay. Yeah, that's the first I've ever heard of something like that. This is also new to me and tariffs being very recent in the last couple weeks of us considering the impact of them on our business.

Mike: We did a whole episode about this recently. And just kind of wait and see, that's the best we can do and it's kind of frustrating. But it is what it is. And I think that what you have here is going to be successful no matter what, and you have a great product. And eventually if you got to raise the price because of the tariff, you'll do that and probably still do just as well.

Caleb: Yeah. And one thing that we did, I'm sure you covered it in your episode about who pays the tariffs, like it's going to be Pat and I in our business that pays the tariffs. And we sold these at a price at a time when there were not tariffs to pre order to customers. And so we've communicated to the people through Kickstarter that have backed the campaign that we're not going to try to pass through any of that to them and that we will do our duty and pay the tariffs as we're legally required to and that'll come out of our pocket. But like you said, depending on tariffs and how they go, that might change the future retail price and that sort of thing. But if things don't change, this first order for us will cost us tens of thousands of dollars. Our business will pay that not the Chinese factories, which I know you probably know, but feel like people in charge don't necessarily know that. 

Mike: Yeah. It’s another whole story. I wish we could get that through; it is definitely not the Chinese factory paying the tariff that is for sure. Awesome so I mean, one thing we didn't cover is what are you guys selling this thing for? If someone wants to buy one, how much does it cost? And now that the Kickstarter is done, where can they go to try to buy one?

Caleb: So when we launched on Kickstarter, we did want to reward people as early backers. So we sold about 1,000 of them at $69 US. And then for the rest of the campaign, it was $79 US. And during all that we shared that after the campaign, the price will go up to $99 US. So that's what you can currently order them for either on our site. If you go to SwitchPod.co, that will redirect to the Kickstarter campaign page or you can click through from the campaign page to our website. But then by the time this comes out, you might be able to get it on Amazon. Right now we have pre orders on B&H and Adorama. So you will start to see it at more places as we get inventory. But right now ordering from our site is the fastest way to get it.

Mike: Cool. And besides the SwitchPod, I mean, as you mentioned, you do video stuff and you've been doing Pat's video production, which always looks just so spot on. So talk a little bit about that. We didn't get a chance to get into that yet. But where can people find you and learn more about that stuff as well.

Caleb: So the best place to learn about that sort of thing is to go to Calebw.com, that's C-A-L-E-B-W.com. My last name Wojcik is hard to spell. So I also bought the domain where it's just the first letter of my last name.

Mike: I love it.

Caleb: But I teach video production. I do a lot of gear tutorials and reviews as well. And through there, you can also — there's like a hire me button at the top if you're more interested in actually bringing me and my team on to film projects for you. But a lot of what I do on the digital side of my business is course based YouTube videos, tutorials and that sort of thing.

Mike: Got you. And from my understanding you have like some courses as well for doing some other stuff. What's the place where people can find that as well?

Caleb: Yeah, so DIYvideoschool.com will take you to my courses. I have a few on editing software like Final Cut Pro 10 or Adobe Premiere Pro. And then I have some both free and paid courses that are video based and are about teaching you how to make better videos by yourself.

Mike: Got you, very cool. Yeah, people should definitely go check it out. Like I said, if anybody that hasn't followed Pat stuff, I mean the YouTube stuff, a lot of videos Pat puts out there, it looks great. And if you're the one helping, you definitely know what you're doing. Obviously it looks great. So definitely check out that stuff. And if you don't know who Pat Flynn is, if you've been hiding under a rock, that's Smartpassiveincome.com and Smart Passive Income in the iTunes Store, great content, great guy. 

We got lucky enough to have him be one of our guest judges at 5 Minute Pitch. So I got to hang out with him for the day and it was just a blast. And we're going to be hanging out again in Texas at Scott Voelker's event down there as well. So definitely looking forward to that and hopefully Caleb hopefully our paths cross. We're both locals here in San Diego so hopefully one day we can grab lunch or something. It’d be great to catch up.

Caleb: Yeah, sounds great.

Mike: Cool. Anything I missed? We covered a bunch, anything else about the product or you or things that I might have not thought of that you think that might be interesting to the audience?

Caleb: I think I could talk a little bit about advertising and PR and things that we kind of tried that didn't necessarily work as well as we thought they would be. 

Mike: Yeah, I think that's awesome. So this is specific to the Kickstarter, so things that you spent a bunch of money on hoping to get a bunch of good results, but just kind of didn't really get the impact you're looking for?

Caleb: Yeah, so we wanted to do advertising for the campaign, we knew that it would be a good time because the Kickstarter campaign, there's a lot of momentum and a lot of the other campaigns that we had studied did use advertising during their campaign. But I don't know if it went as well as it could have. We got our money back, basically. So whatever we invested, we got back in the campaign. But I think that just overall we had better results, when someone heard about the product from someone they trusted, and not from an ad. 

So the same goes with PR. There were — we could track pretty much any one that bought and see where they came from. And most of the people came from emails, which would have been from our list or from YouTube, which was our videos and other influencers videos. So those are two of the top places that referrals and backers came from. We did get some from ads, from PR, from websites that wrote about us, from other people that signed up through Kickbooster, or people just finding it on the Kickstarter website in the navigation and directories and stuff like that. 

But if I were to do another Kickstarter campaign, knowing what I know now for all the backers and where they came from, I would put a lot of energy into building an audience before I launched that was mine, and that knew me and trusted me and I brought them along the journey of making the thing or making something else that they trusted me from like Pat has been doing stuff online and blogging and podcasting, and doing courses and teaching for 10 years. And so people have this trust with him that people don't have with an ad that they see on Facebook or Instagram or from an article on a news website. 

So I would just recommend that if someone is doing a product launch of their own, that they really think about how they can grow the audience before they launch it, bring them along for the journey, and also continue to grow their network of people and friends and other companies that can have an overlapping audience of customers that are a perfect fit for your thing too.

Mike: Got it, makes perfect sense. Yeah, definitely good advice. I'm curious, one other thing that I wanted to ask was kind of, think about the conversation we're having. You mentioned that you had four of these prototypes made and one of them you sent over to Peter, what did you do with the other three?

Caleb: So that's a good question. I mean, we definitely used him for a lot of the promo purposes. So a lot of the photography, the video, we did send a couple of them around to YouTuber friends of mine, so they could borrow them for a week, make a video, give it back, that sort of thing. And we were also — we wanted to make more than one in case something happened to them or if we had an opportunity to get one to a bigger name person somehow to have them use them. But I mean if I were to do it again, I would have had more on hand earlier so that we could send them around and have more people try them out and review them and that sort of thing. 

I know that Peak Design does a really good job at this; you mentioned them already. But they will make a way more of their final products and prototypes for the reason of letting other people have them in their hands for launch day so they can post content about them. And that was something that going back I wish I would have had more of, but that's also increases the cost and the risk and all that stuff. 

Mike: Yeah, it's such a catch 22; you're talking about 1,500 bucks per prototype. That's not an insignificant amount of money. And so it's just chicken and egg. You can't make a cheaper version of it until you have the molds done. And if you don't want to put the 70k and then get the molds done, then you got to pay 1,500 bucks per cracker getting a final one done. And you can spend $70,000 pretty quickly just getting not that many prototypes done. So it's just the whole thing – an inventory based businesses is tough. And it's funny how these little idiosyncrasies present particular challenges that people don't think about a lot. And it's pretty cool that you guys overcame those obstacles.

Caleb: And then once we've made thousands of them now, because we've sold about 5,000 of them, and we're making more than that, so that we have inventory after we ship out all those to our backers, once we have those and once the molds are made, then we can make them for a fraction of that $1,500, those other ones aren't worth that much. So now it's get the use out of those until we have a ton of them. And then it is not going to matter if we need to send one to somebody, we’ll have them. So it's a timeline where they're worth a lot of money until there are a lot of them, and then they're not worth it anymore. 

Mike: Right, right. But the cool thing is that at some point, you'll be able to kind of do a second round of a promotion, because when the cheaper versions do come in, I mean, the ones that ultimately are costing you 25 bucks, whatever it is it costs you guys to make one of these things, then you could send hundreds of them to a bunch of different people pretty economically and hope to get some additional traction that way either on Amazon or your own website or wherever else you're going to be selling it.

Caleb: Yeah, I do see another big marketing push come the time when we have inventory and we can send them out to people right when it's on Amazon, because I know that that's where a lot of people are going to want to buy them and have prime shipping and all of that. So another big push probably doesn't– is not going to seem as big of a push from the outside as the Kickstarter campaign but I think internally it'll take almost as much work. 

Mike: Yeah, makes sense. So where do you guys go from here? Do you guys have a vision for this brand and this company? Is it a single product company or do you guys think you're the next Peak Design with a bunch of other amazing cool products for the photography and travel niche?

Caleb: We would love to have other products and we're trying to think of other things that can be what we think are revolutionary for individual pain points for creators, both video, photo, maybe audio, who knows. So we're working through some other ideas as well as ways to make this product better in a version two or accessories that would give users of SwitchPod even more features or flexibility, while also still fitting into the theme of being lightweight and portable and super quick to use. So we're working through other product ideas and SKUs. So I do see us having other things to sell. Right now it is nice and simplified though in having one product to sell. 

I can only imagine the complexities of a bigger company and the more resources we would need human wise to facilitate all of that. So right now we're staying lean and we're working with a team called Prouduct, that's proud product all in one word. And they've really been helping us with the engineering, the manufacturing and they are the people in between us and the factory and the packaging plant and distributor and all that stuff. So they've really been helpful along this process to get it as far as it has gone. 

Mike: Got you. So you guys haven't actually been over to China and all that stuff. You were able to do everything from here. 

Caleb: No, I'm planning to go when they're manufacturing a bunch of them and they're coming off the line and that sort of thing because we want to bring our Kickstarter backers along for that story as well. 

Mike: Right for that journey. 

Caleb: So trying to time when we should be there with when would it timing wise work best for the factory? 

Mike: Very cool. Would that be your first time in China?

Caleb: I have been as close to China as you can get without going to China, I've been…

Mike: That sounds like Hong Kong.

Caleb: Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau. I've been all three of those places. 

Mike: Fair enough, nice. 

Caleb: I don't remember which of those China still thinks is China. So I've been very close to China, but I haven't been to Mainland China before.

Mike: I think that China puts their claim on all three of those to varying degrees. But it's a pretty interesting relationship between those three jurisdictions over there. And yeah, I've been to all of them as well and yeah it's definitely– it's very interesting. I don't think that dynamic really exist anywhere else in the world. Cool, man. Well, really appreciate you coming on, awesome story. Congratulations on all the success. Hopefully, people that are listening, their interest is piqued and they'll head over — give them the URL one more time, SwitchPod.co, correct?

Caleb: Yes.

Mike: SwitchPod.co, S-W-I-T-C-H-P-O-D.co. If nothing else, I mean just head over there, check out the product. I mean, just see what they did there. Look at the GorillaPod to just give you an idea of things you can do for your own products and things moving forward. And I think that I talk about this all the time. But the best products, the best businesses in this niche are always born out of a personal need. And almost everybody whether they realize it or not has something like this that they can come up with. You don't need an engineering background because you guys didn't have that. You just need to be very familiar like you had been with blogging or filming and just having something that's always been nagging you like I can do a better job. I can build a better mousetrap. And you guys have done that. And it's an awesome success story so congratulations, man.

Caleb: Yeah, thank you. We were just actually talking on stage at a conference, Pat and I together at Craft & Commerce up in Boise this last weekend, put on by Convert Kit. And the first lesson that we talked about, and what kind of kickstarted this whole entire project was that little friction, that thing that annoyed us about something. And I think that if you find a product that's popular enough, or an item that everyone has, or something like that, but you can make it just a little bit better, that can be really successful. You don't have to reinvent everything. You just have to make incremental improvements or bigger improvements if you can, but just removing those little frictions from people's lives to make their lives easier, or faster or cheaper or what have you. That can be where there's a home run for you.

Mike: Awesome. We'll end it there. I can't think of anything better to add to that. So perfect, man. Thank you so much for coming on.

Caleb: Yeah of course. Thanks for having me.

Mike: All right guys, that's going to wrap it up for the 261st edition of the EcomCrew Podcast. Thanks again for Caleb coming on the episode today, really appreciate it my friend. EcomCrew.com/261 to get to the show notes for this episode if you have any questions. And again guys don't forget about EcomCrew Premium at EcomCrewpremium.com. All the courses I mentioned, including our new flows to riches course which is included in there. We have a monthly and an annual plan for EcomCrew Premium. You also get access to twice monthly webinars. One is a open Q&A to ask us anything you want. These usually last a couple of hours. We also do a secret sauce webinar. 

This month we actually had Scott who was on the podcast come in and do a whole bunch of stuff just for our private community. We've had Dave Huss come in and talk about building an Instagram list, we've had John come in and talk about copywriting. We do all kinds of really cool stuff and that lets you get access to our private Facebook group and you get access to Dave and I. We respond to all your emails within one to two business days. Any questions you have. It's us responding not our VAs, not anything like that. Dave and I take the time every day to respond to all the emails that come in, so EcomCrew.com/premium. Don't delay; it's going to be about three months before we open it back up again, EcomCrew.com/premium. All right guys, that's going to wrap it up for this episode. Sorry for the salesy stuff. And until the next episode, happy selling and we'll talk to you soon.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the EcomCrew Podcast. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/EcomCrew for weekly live recordings of the EcomCrew Podcast every Monday. And please, do us a favor, and leave an honest review on iTunes, it would really help us out. Again, thanks for listening, and until next week, happy selling.

Michael Jackness

Michael started his first business when he was 18 and is a serial entrepreneur. He got his start in the online world way back in 2004 as an affiliate marketer. From there he grew as an SEO expert and has transitioned into ecommerce, running several sites that bring in a total of 7-figures of revenue each year.
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