The Story of M.H.I Products, a company that designs cool stuff, and their latest product BitBuckle, an awesome multitool. Learn about how they prepared to launch their Kickstarter!
Who are you and tell us about the BitBuckle!
Describe the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing the BitBuckle.
Kickstarter Marketing Strategy
Walk us through your pre-launch marketing…
Do you have any advice for other entrepreneurs about Kickstarter?
What are your sources of inspiration and favorite tools?
How are things today and what are your plans for the future?
Where can we learn more about the BitBuckle?
I’m Markus, I guess the best way to describe me is a mixture of a designer / engineer and entrepreneur. I have formal education in engineering and my entrepreneurial education is learn by doing, which I believe is the best kind of education – especially in entrepreneurship.
I have been a wheelchair user my whole life and this has “forced” me to design tools, etc.. early on to help myself do various tasks, this experience of inventing stuff sparked a passion for making physical products which I’m now trying to make a living off.
My first business venture – that’s still going is called BarMachina, in short, it’s like a coffee machine but for cocktails that we rent out to bars and so on.
Since then I have tried my luck with various things including a cleaning business (it totally sucked) selling air conditioners (Great in the summer).
Anyways, This project started as an idea of me wanting to design a simple multitool, like a keychain organizer that I could sell on Amazon. It was supposed to be a quick project that I could test in 2-3 months. I have this problem though, that I can’t stop when I first begin working on something.
So I decided to see if I could make something “new” instead of taking a known design and changing it a little. I somehow got the idea of combining a multitool with a belt buckle, so I asked the “EDC” crowd (people who love multitools, sometimes too much) what tools were essential and then I built it into a belt buckle.
After a few months the result was “The BitBuckle”, a multitool without the pocket bulk, and it’s also ridiculously fast to deploy.
So from the EDC forums I had determined that the tool should have 6 screwdriver bits, a blade and a driver. This had to fit inside a belt buckle without being bulky and be easy to utilize, that was the requirements of the product.
I think every person has a different process when designing and prototyping, some like to draw sketches, some like to physical prototype, like cutting cardboard and hot gluing it. Personally I always start in the CAD software, trying out different designs, 3D print them to test and then repeat until it’s perfect. Since I already have 3D printers and cnc machines I can prototype quickly.
After I was satisfied with the design and feature 3D printed plastic prototype, it was time to move to CNC machining in the correct materials. It’s way more expensive and time consuming to make CNC prototypes but for a product like this it’s required. Because not only does it have to function, it has to feel nice and tactile to use. The BitBuckle utilizes two mechanisms mostly controlled by magnets so it’s very satisfying to use, this would not have been possible to achieve by only using 3D printed prototypes.
I had access to some great manufactures that I knew from earlier projects and that made it possible to go from prototype to pre production sample that I could use for media and videos relatively quick.
With the sample I shot some short videos and pictures on my phone that I used for a landing page I set up ( thebitbuckle.com ) and facebook ad media.
I ran ads on Facebook and posted on forums and Reddit over a few weeks to see the response. The responses were very positive and I decided to go on with the project. And prepare for an actual Kickstarter.
You need to have some kind of opt in that you can measure. I used email for this, if people don’t even want to hand you their email then there’s no chance they’ll buy your product either.
For paid advertising I use facebook ads, it’s easy to measure and test on, I got my cost per lead from $2.5 to $0.8 by testing different audiences and visuals. The idea is that this will be useful for when we change the intent from lead gathering to actually selling.
For “free” advertising I’ve had great success with Reddit. A single comment gave about 200 emails from an relevant audience, I’ve done that a couple of times. When posting on Reddit with the purpose of exposure it’s really important to make it non obvious. If your post is self promotion without any value for the readers you will get shut down. Of course this method isn’t scalable but it’s quick and free and it provides great feedback, if your product sucks people on Reddit won’t hesitate to tell you .
200 emails and a lot of feedback from just this comment:
I also tried Instagram, but I never really understood it, it’s like it’s 90% companies/sellers battling for the 10% of actual users and I just can’t figure it out.
Remember that since I haven’t actually launched yet, take everything I say with a grain of salt, as I’m unsure what worked and didn’t work. Would love to do an update after launch though.
For me, the pre launch has 2 purposes: Testing, like what audiences work best, what people think of your product and so on. The testing will help you decide what audience to focus on.
The second purpose of the pre-launch is to get a list of people that you hope will buy your product at launch to get off a strong start on Kickstarter.
I made my website and landing page in Shopify, I use Shopify because after Kickstarter I can turn the website into a store very fast, and keep the SEO and backlinks that I used in the pre launch. I see a lot of successful Kickstarters failing to keep momentum and becoming businesses after their campaign. I have tried to plan it so that if my Kickstarter is successful I can begin selling right after delivering the first batch to backers.
Since this is a 1 man venture I’m trying to keep costs down in the pre launch as I’m paying out of pocket, pre launch is 100% risk as you can’t see the ROI. I’d rather risk my time than money in the early stage of a project.
Luckily, I possess most of the skills required / needed to prepare a Kickstarter without hiring help, I could design and make the product, the visuals / media for the web and Kickstarter pages, and do renderings and video editing. I only outsourced copywriting and hired a camera crew to shoot the Kickstarter video that I then edited myself.
Even If this project doesn’t work out, I learned a bunch and will be able to start over and try again much faster, I the mindset that losing isn’t bad if you learn from it.
I don’t think I’m in a position to give out lectures since I haven’t even launched yet but I have some tips for the preparations:
There are so many “Kickstarter agencies”, and they Some are very good, some are very bad, a rule of thumb is that if they find you, be cautious. The good ones are usually overbooked and don’t actively search for customers.
I recommend doing research on each of them and to speak to the bad ones too, to get a feeling of how to detect a bad agency or a scammer. This isn’t limited to Kickstarter agencies only.
My favorite, and probably very unprofessional method of researching a company is checking the staff / owners Facebook profile. If their profile is real, and lists their agency as owner/work, the chance of them being scammers decreases.
If I were to do something different next time, I would do what I’ve done so far, but much quicker.
When doing a Kickstarter, I think it’s important to keep up to date with what is currently trending and selling on the platform, for that I use Kickstarter itself and websites like https://coolbacker.com/ and https://blog.producthype.co/
Software / service
Shopify store platform
Omnisend for email / messenger marketing
Facebook/Google Ads: running paid ads, target audiences
Google/Facebook pixel Analytics
Lucky Orange website recordings
Protolabs for fast cnc machining
G Suite for file sharing and email
Adobe package for video and ad imagery
Keyshot for rendering and animations
The plan is to launch within 8 weeks, right now I’m focusing on testing on price, I’m unsure about the selling price, so I’m working with some with crowdfunding experience to help decide on the selling price.
WEBSITE : https://www.thebitbuckle.com/
Kickstarter pre launch: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mhi/thebitbuckle-a-belt-buckle-multitool-for-everyday-carry
Write me on firstname.lastname@example.org