What happens when the marketplace fails to provide us with what we exactly need?
For Alphonso Ngiam, founder of Modest Mark, it led him on a journey to reinvent the things we use every day: wallets, jackets, and notebooks – and bring these product to life on Kickstarter.
But these aren’t ordinary every day items.
The Mark Bifold, his latest creation, was funded over 500% in just five days.
At the time of writing the wallet has been funded over 1,600%, and the numbers are still growing.
We had a chat with Alphonso to find out how he did it.
Winning Over Kickstarter Backers
Being a veteran on Kickstarter, Alphonso believes that there’s a certain formula to winning your audience over. Building a well-funded campaign is not foolproof. It takes time to understand your users, plan a marketing campaign, and solid execution.
His one advice – most of that should be done before a campaign even launches.
The first part of the formula is the product design and development phase.
I design products based on how I would want to use them, and Kickstarter tells me if someone out there wants to utilise it in the same way that I do.
Some campaign creators miss out the fact that the Kickstarter platform is about product validation for the creators. He spends much of his time chatting with backers and doing live webcasts to gather product feedback, even while the campaign is on-going.
For the Mark Bifold, he points out three scenarios where his user interviews have led to him designing a wallet that fills a market gap:
1) Finding a pen to fill out immigration forms to enter into another country.
Not everyone carries a pen in their back pocket. The inspiration to include the ultra slim Walkie Pens from Japan came when Alphonso needed a pen to fill in the China immigration forms during one of his many product meetings with his partners. The convenience of having a pen
literally in your back pocket is now available!
2) You have bought the local sim card of the country you have travelled to, but have no where to store your current one.
Scotch-taping our current sim cards to another card might be yesterday’s news as the Mark Bifold has 2 sim and memory card slots. One will be able to switch sim cards in a more efficient manner without the worry of losing his/her sim card.
3) Tapping out of your commuter ride, and you have to fumble for the card in your wallet because it’s RFID-protected.
When the wallet is flipped open, users can scan their commuter card stored in the front half of the wallet without needing to remove it. The back portion is RFID-protected which ensures maximum security for cards stored in this half. Genius!
Next, a pre-launch phase to build traction and interest for the product before launching.
You can’t launch to crickets, and the first 48 hours are crucial to your campaign’s success.
“You’ll want to build an email list, and hype about your campaign so that you have backers ready to support your project the moment you launch. This helps promote your campaign throughout Kickstarter, which gives you more visibility and more backers.”
“Think about where your users hang out, hang out with them and think of ways to get them excited and rally around your launch.”
Alphonso shares that this gets easier as you move into subsequent campaigns, as you’ve already built an audience and established trust that you’ve fulfilled your promise for your previous campaigns.
Lastly, follow up with consistent marketing throughout the campaign via various channels to reach out to the intended audience. Getting the right exposure was key to the success of Alphonso’s campaigns.
He’s worked with press and marketing partners to get the word out, and is always on the lookout to find new channels of promotion because “what works on Kickstarter keeps changing”.
Cross promotion on Kickstarter has also been a vital tool in getting more backers.
By putting himself into the shoes of the intended audience, he was able to link up with various other Kickstarter campaigns that had the same lifestyle vibes that the Mark Bifold wallet carried.
Kickstarting His Product Design Journey
Having begun his crowdfunding and product design journey on a simple quest to find a new wallet, he stumbled upon Kickstarter and purchased five wallets in a span of two weeks.
After receiving the wallets one after the other over a period of three months, it dawned upon him that he could create his own wallet that would match his specific needs.
His first wallet idea was conceived during a lunch break at work.
Immediately, he headed to Alibaba and requested for quotes to bring his idea to life.
The design phase of the first prototype was simple. When the factory asked for the design to make samples, he “found a ruler and just started drawing.”
This was Alphonso’s first exposure to working with factories and designing products.
It always starts out by piecing fabric together, cloth or paper, then trying new ways to fit things in and carry them around.
Alphonso’s creations are built upon the principles of “One Thing Less” — One thing less to carry around, one thing less to worry about.
Fast forward to 2017, and with many lessons learned from previous campaigns, Alphonso believes that the Mark Bifold is “probably the best wallet that I have designed to date, and it would be tough to top this design. I think this might be my final bifold wallet!”
Alphonso is travelling to China again to do more designing and prototyping for another product which is still under the wraps.
As much as we are excited to hear about his next product, do check out his current Kickstarter campaign here.
This article is part of an ongoing crowdfunding series which aims to elevate the profiles of innovative brands who design leading-edge and original products. Brought to you by Vulcan Post’s official crowdfunding partner Grouphunt.sg.