Their first Kickstarter, for an iPhone dock, raised $1.4 million in 2012. It hit its initial funding goal of $75,000 in 8 hours, tripling the previous 24-hour Kickstarter record, and was the first crowdfunded project to top $1 million. "That was crazy and scary at the same time," ElevationLab founder Casey Hopkins says. "Probably more scary. Now we’re more established, and our manufacturing is in place. We’ve got a bunch of new products that’ll come out in the next 6 months."
Any other company might be preparing a barrage of emails in advance of those new products. But ElevationLab isn’t like any other company.
Send sparingly, test frequently
Casey started ElevationLab on his own in 2011, and the company has grown along with each successful product. They’ve got five people in the office now, and 3 to 10 people working on the manufacturing side, depending on sales spikes.
"It’s good," Casey says of the company’s growth. "It’s also a huge pain in the ass. But it’s pretty fun to be able to design and make our own stuff, and send it off to people around the world."
ElevationLab has only sent a handful campaigns in the two years they’ve been MailChimp customers, but that’s by design. Well, mostly. "We have 20,000 customers that we send to, but we don’t do it enough," Casey says. "We’ve found that it’s the most effective [marketing tool] by far. We do it for new product announcements, about 75% of people open it, and we get a ton of business from it."
While he appreciates email as a tool, he also often finds it irritating as a medium. As such, he’s careful with his company’s e-missives, reserving them for when they have new products or a sale to promote. "I unsubscribe from everything, and I try to treat [our newsletters] like if I was getting an email," he says. "I don’t want to send anything if there’s not a real reason for it."
ElevationLab only sends a couple times per year—and they test like crazy. "We iterate a lot," Casey says. "A couple dozen of those to whittle [each email] down until it’s good and concise. We’re all in the same office, looking over each other’s shoulders. I always get real nervous when we hit ‘Send.'"
Email + crowdfunding = growth
Much like Robocat, ElevationLab quickly learned that email marketing and crowdfunding play nice together. Plus, when you’re a company that sells things online that’s getting ready to announce a new product, you’ve already got a loyal group of fans in your email list.
"Right when we launched, we sent out an email, and I bet half our backers [came from that campaign]," Casey says. "It’s a pretty niche product. Not a lot of people have Mac monitors. I know like two friends who have Mac monitors. The upfront cost was so much, I wasn’t gonna risk it without knowing if there were enough people who wanted them."
So, why make a niche product with a ton of upfront cost? "Well, I wanted it for myself," he says, laughing. "You kinda figure if it’s something you want there’s a good chance there’s other people out there who think the same way. We’ve got some mass consumer products in the pipeline, though."
When those products are ready for purchase, ElevationLab will let the world know by email. Just not too much email.