Going from a product idea to the design phase is not easy. Nevertheless, it’s vital to put up a decent product prototype in front of your backers before launching your crowdfunding campaign. However, many campaign creators are skeptical about going through this phase. They often wonder whether they should simply sketch their idea on paper or actually develop a product prototype before going for a crowdfunding campaign. While the former seems like an easy way out, we recommend going for the latter. Having a product prototype gives maximum credibility to your campaign. As Nick, Editor at Large at Leardon Solutions, says “a prototype shows you are willing to put skin in the game.”
You need not spend your entire budget on the prototype. But, at the same time, you can’t leave it as a “Do-It-Later” task. Like we always say, crowdfunding is not just another way of raising business capital. It’s the only form of fundraising where your story matters. The journey of going from an idea to execution is what makes this form of fundraising one of a kind. Your potential backers need to know your dedication to the project. Having a product prototype adds more weight to your presentation.
How to Go Through the Product Prototype Design Phase
1. Sketch It Out – At first, you need to chalk out your product on a piece of paper. It need not have all the details, but you should be clear of what you are building. This first blueprint might be totally different from the final product because of all the iterations you go through. However, to begin a conversation, you need that first spark.
2. Minimum Viable Prototype – Just like a minimum viable product, a minimum viable prototype shows the basic and the most important functions of your product. It should demonstrate the functionalities you explain in the crowdfunding video.
3. Building a DIY Version – It’s always good to have a clear idea of how your product is going to look in 3D before actually giving it a try. So, get your hands dirty and build your prototype with simple glue, tape, and cardboard. This will not only broaden your mind but also give you a clear idea of what you are about to build.
4. 3D-Printed Prototypes – Turnaround time has been massively reduced thanks to 3D printers. Now, you can give shape to your ideas even within a day. As Scott Miller explains:
“Initially, in the early-stage where you’re just doing some sketching and 3D printing, it’s really easy to change things without repercussion. In the later stages where you’ve bought—it could be tens of thousands of dollars in inventory and tooling—then, you have a lot more invested in the game.”
5. Show Your Backers the Building Phase – Apart from highlighting your product images; you can always show your backers a more realistic scene. It could be pictures of your workshop or circuit boards or anything related to the product design phase.
6. Show Use Cases – Having a product prototype also gives you the opportunity to shoot a proper use case. That way, you can let your backers know where and how to use the product in the real world.
7. Have CAD Files – CAD, or Computer Aided Design, files are the mechanical files that show how your product works. They will prove to be of great use when you head for the mass-production after your campaign is over.
8. Have a Bill of Materials – While designing your prototype, it’s always good to prepare a bill of materials. These should include the things you have used while creating your product. You can write it out in the form of a spreadsheet and add part names, part numbers, part description, the phase when a part is introduced to building life cycle, procurement type, quantity required, and so on.
9. Be More Press-Friendly – Having a prototype opens the door for hands-on reviews. So, you can send them out to the press reporters and have them review your product for more credibility.
10. Be Vocal About the Development Process – Make sure your backers have an idea about the stage of development your product is in. You should have a dedicated section under your crowdfunding page that gives more information on the same.
Tools to Use
There are several tools and platforms out there you can use during the design phase of your product. Some of our favorites are –
4. Fusion 360
5. 3D printers
For more tips and tactics on crowdfunding, please feel free to go through our checklist here.